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Nederlog

Tuesday, Apr 4, 2017

Crisis: Chomsky On Trump, Trumpcare, Russians & Deep State, The LA Times


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Chomsky: Why Trump Is Pushing the Doomsday Clock to the
     Brink of Midnight

2.
Trumpcare Is Dying. Now Let’s Kill the Insane Ideology Behind
     It.

3. The Russians Aren’t Coming—the Deep State Is (Audio)
4. Guaranteed: You Have Never Read a Major Newspaper
     Editorial Quite Like This One About Donald Trump

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, April 4, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about a good interview with Noam Chomsky who is quite worried about nuclear weapons and Trump's insanity; item 2 is about an article in The Intercept on Trumpcare, that I thought a little bit too optimistic; item 3 is about an audio + a brief article by Robert Scheer who - like me - has not seen any good factual evidence (for five months now) that the Russians did manipulate the American elections; and item 4 is about an article
in the Los Angeles Times (a mainstream medium) that does speak the truth about Trump (in a way the other mainstream media so far have not followed).
April 4: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and got stuck on Sunday. These horrors happen now for the 16th month.

I still have to add that where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Chomsky: Why Trump Is Pushing the Doomsday Clock to the Brink of Midnight

The first article today is by David Gibbs on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

David Gibbs: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has emphasized the extreme danger that Trump poses, due to the augmented risk of nuclear war and uncontrolled climate change. After inauguration, the Bulletin’s metaphoric clock has been repositioned at two and a half minutes to midnight, with “midnight” signifying catastrophe. Do you agree with the Bulletin regarding the alleged dangers posed by the Trump presidency?

Noam Chomsky: One of the dangers is unquestionable. Of the two existential threats – the threats to the termination of the species basically and most other species – one of them, climate change, on that I think there’s no basis for discussion. Trump has been very inconsistent on many things; on Twitter he’s been all over the place, but some of it is very consistent. That is: Do nothing about climate change except make it worse. And he’s not just speaking for himself, but for the whole Republican Party, the whole leadership. It’s already had impact, it will have worse impact.

Yes, I think that is correct: According to the Republican Party there is no climate change.

As to nuclear weapons (Chomsky talking):

With regard to nuclear weapons, it’s kind of hard to say. He’s said lots of things. As you mentioned, the national security experts are terrified. But they’re more terrified by his personality than by his statements. So if you read people like say Bruce Blair (..), one of the leading, most  sober, knowledgeable specialists, he says, look, his statements are all over the map, but his personality is frightening, he’s a complete megalomaniac. You never know how he’s going to react. When he learned for example that he’d lost the election by about three million votes, his instant reaction was insanity; you know, three to five million illegal immigrants somehow were organized in some incredible fashion to vote. On any little issue – Miss Universe, or whatever it may be – he’s completely unpredictable, he’ll go off into outer space. His guru Steve Bannon is worse, he’s much scarier. He probably knows what he’s doing.

I mostly agree, except - perhaps - for a psychological detail: I agree with Chomsky (since over a year) that Trump is a megalomaniac and, as such, is insane. In case you doubt this, consider the last link, which is by three professors of psychiatry and of clinical psychology (who warned Obama in late November of 2016).

What I might disagree with (and I am a psychologist) is that I think Trump is a bit predictable from the diagnosis (or personal opinion) that he is a megalomaniac. Thus, while I agree with Chomsky that Trump's reaction was insane, it was also the kind of
insanity that marks the megalomaniac.

Then again, I do not know how much this helps.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote, on Trump's banning immigrants and again on his insanity:

This crazy ban on the seven states, where we can’t accept immigrants, almost every analyst points out the obvious: It just increases the threat of terror. It lays the basis for terror. It’s just like the atrocities in Abu Ghraib and Bagram and Guantanamo.
(..)
But it’s this kind of wild unpredictability, megalomania, thin-skinned craziness that really has me worried, more than his statements.

I agree. There is considerably more in this interview, and this is a recommended article.

2. Trumpcare Is Dying. Now Let’s Kill the Insane Ideology Behind It.

The second article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The first reports said the Republican dream of repealing Obamacare was dead. Now it turns out that, after heroic measures, it’s on a ventilator in the intensive care unit with no sign of brain activity. Ironically, thanks to the Affordable Care Act itself, Medicare will cover the “death panel” end of life counseling that will hopefully allow the Republicans to let their loved one go.

Meanwhile, the progenitor of the GOP dream — the entire right-wing ideology that justified the obsession with Obamacare in the first place — is also quite ill. That ideology is so freakish, and so violently violates human nature, that it’s hard to believe the conservatives who believe in it have ever actually met a person.

I agree with the first paragraph, but not quite with the second: It is for me - and since a long time: see 2012 - quite credible that there are quite a few Republicans who rather see poor people die without medical help than helping them with some decent health insurance that the rich might have to pay a little for.

Then there is this:

“Freedom,” House Speaker Paul Ryan explained in February as he rolled out his ACA replacement, “is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.”

The problem here is that no one anywhere has any idea what their “needs” are when it comes to healthcare.
I agree with Jon Scharz that this is one problem, but I also strongly disagree with Paul Ryan: The "freedom" he describes is the "freedom" of stupid consumers who may be completely deceived and manipulated by those they buy from "what they believe they need".

Real freedom is political freedom, the freedom of free speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of association,
the freedom of choice - and all of these require in the existing economical circumstances the guarantees of a fairly strong government  that seeks to maintain these freedoms.

This has nothing to do with the mock "freedom" Ryan holds as bait to the people. Next, there is this on the reason Trump's health care reform failed:

But as ludicrous as Ryan’s perspective is, he at least rhetorically accepts that society has some responsibility to provide healthcare to everyone. The hard-right Freedom Caucus killed Ryan’s bill because they honestly don’t.

The more benign interpretation of the Freedom Caucus view is that they do want everyone to have healthcare but genuinely believe that if you simply get the government out of the way, markets will somehow provide it for everyone. The fact that this has never happened anywhere at any point in history does not faze them.
I doubt it. I think Ryan is probably worse than he is depicted here, and the same holds for the Freedom Caucus, and my main reason is that - as I said - there are quite a few Republicans who rather see poor people die without medical help than helping them with some decent health insurance. And I think Ryan is one of them, and the members of the Freedom Caucus are others.

And this is from the end of the article:

The good news is that the GOP’s healthcare debacle shows that this is palatable to an extremely small number of Americans. Most of us can accept that some people can’t buy a 5,000 square foot house or own four cars. But when they’re face to face with it, almost everyone recoils from a system in which those without enough money can’t afford life.

So it’s never been fair to say Republicans lack a thought out, coherent philosophy behind their healthcare policies. They do have one. It’s just nonsensical and barbaric.

I think Schwarz is right that - at least now, and possibly in the future - most Americans do not think it fair to let people die because they are too poor to pay the health insurance, but it also seems to me as if quite a few Republicans do think that is fair.

And if that is true the Republicans do have a systematic healthcare policy: Healthcare
is only for those who are rich enough to pay for it, or rich enough to pay the hospital and the doctors out of their own pockets. (And those who are not rich enough should blame themselves for failing to get rich enough: That's Republicanism [1].)

I think that is quite credible.

3. The Russians Aren’t Coming—the Deep State Is (Audio) 

The third article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Robert Scheer isn’t buying the Russia narrative surrounding Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election.

On KPFA’s “Sunday Show” this week, the Truthdig editor in chief discussed the allegations of Russian interference in the election and the “Russians did it” hysteria that has followed.

“Donald Trump is a menace … but now we have the deep state destroying a president … and I have not seen any evidence of Russian interference in the election,” Scheer told “Sunday Show” host Philip Maldari. “The methods being used are the methods of the surveillance state, and they are … frightening.”

I completely agree with Scheer in his disbelief that the Russians changed the American elections, and basically for two reasons: The story now lasts 5 months, and no one has produced any credible evidence that the Russians did do so, while if that evidence existed, the NSA, the FBI and other American spying institutions should have been able to find some evidence, and they did not.

Incidentally, Scheer and I very probably also agree that it is possible and not beyond the Russians. What he and I insist on is good evidence that the Russians did it, and that has been lacking now for 5 months.

As to the deep state destroying the president: I very much dislike the deep state, but the military + the national security spies + governmental help + industrial interests (to give one sum-up of the personalities that are probably involved in it) are very powerful, while I agree with Chomsky - see item 1 - that Trump is not sane and quite dangerous. The "methods of the surveillance state" are "frightening", but so is the chance of being blown up in a nuclear war that will finish all human civilization.

Here is Scheer on the evidence that the Russians did significantly intrude in the American elections:

Scheer continued: “I have not seen any evidence of any significant Russian intrusion into this election. Nobody goes to the substance of it. … Until some evidence comes out that our democratic process has been distorted by foreign interference, of the kind we have routinely done, going to back to the 1948 Italian election, which our CIA intervened in and reversed the results … I could go through the thousands examples of our deep state, secret agencies, overturning elections everywhere in the world. Yes, [the 2016 election] has to be investigated to see what happened. But so far, we haven’t had one really important example of [Russians] distorting this election.

In short, it is a fantasy of a possibility that should remain a fantasy until there has been produced solid evidence, which has not been done for 5 months now.

In fact, here is the reason why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, which had nothing to do with Russia and everything with her combination of dishonesty, greed and neglect of traditional Democratic concerns:

“We know what happened with this election,” Scheer said. “Hillary Clinton failed to address the concerns of working people.”

Scheer views the focus on Russia as a distraction from the heart of the matter.

“The red herring is the new McCarthyism, ‘the Russians are coming,’ and the Russians have been reinvented as if the Communist Party is still in control … which is not the case at all. The whole narrative has been twisted deliberately in a McCarthyite way. That’s the enemy. No one is addressing the real issue here, which is the ability of these secret government agencies to reverse an outcome that the establishment didn’t want—the establishment of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Hm. I agree about halfway, I think. I agree there is an American hysteria about the Russians, which is much like the American opposition to the Soviet Union, while Russia
is quite different from the Soviet Union, that indeed died 26 years ago.

I don't quite agree that "the ability of these secret government agencies to reverse an outcome that the establishment didn’t want" is "the real issue here": First, it still has to happen, and second I do fear a madman who may blow up everyone in a fit of pique more than I fear the deep state, fearsome as it is, and namely for the reason that while they are very bad, they are not also mad. For more, see item 1.

4. Guaranteed: You Have Never Read a Major Newspaper Editorial Quite Like This One About Donald Trump

The fourth article is by Don Hazen on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

The Los Angeles Times skewered President Donald Trump, the "Dishonest President," in an extraordinary, brilliantly written editorial on Sunday, calling him "untethered to reality."

The editors described Trump as "a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation." The editorial added: "nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck." Though there are many who expected a Trump disaster presidency, his actions so far would score quite high on the political Richter scale.

I say. I mostly agree with the diagnosis (the Los Angeles Times are not psychiatrists, so I think they are allowed to diagnose the most powerful man on earth [2]) of Trump as "so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality": I think - as do many psychologsits and many psychiatrists - that Trump is not sane and is a megalomaniac (which is what psychiatrists insist on calling a "grandiose narcissist": I think megalomania is the better English term, at least for those who are not psychiatrists [2]).

And in fact it seems as of the Los Angeles Times may have returned to the tradition of fact-based reporting that seems to have been mostly practised till the 1980ies, but then slowly evaporated as computers and the internet arose, and the paper press lost most its advertisements:

The paper lambasted Trump for just about everything he has done (or failed to do), but especially for peeling back President Obama's regulations aimed at reducing climate change, his crackdown on immigration and his revenge aimed at "sanctuary cities," and his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have had disastrous effects on millions.  
(...)
The paper added that Trump urges his supporters to ignore fact-based evidence, science and what they read in the established media. The message from Trump is to reject long-term institutions like the press and the courts, in favor of ideology and conspiracy theory. This is a "recipe for a divided country," the newspaper asserted.

Yes indeed - this is all true to the best of my knowledge. I do not know whether this marks any change in the orientation of the mainstream media, to which the Los Angeles Times belongs, but it is at least interesting.

Here is the last bit I'll quote from this article:

Read the full editorial at the LA Times.

I agree. And the article in the LA Times is well worth reading, and is the first of a series of four that I may return to.

And this is a recommended article.

---------------
Notes

[1] For Republican propaganda involves the theses that (i) everybody can get rich, and (ii) who doesn't get rich has himself to blame. Both theses are completely false: First, if there are rich, there must be non-rich, and historically, the non-rich have been 90 or 95% of everyone: At best, you have a chance of 1 in 20 or 1 in 10 to get rich, and second, the rich do almost everything to remain rich, and to keep others from becoming rich.

[2] The American Psychiatric Association has a - quite silly - rule that psychiatrists (who belong to that club) are not allowed to diagnose people they have not met and/or people who do not want to be diagnosed. This is silly - at least - for the very rich or the very powerful, but one can avoid the issue by avoiding the term "diagnosis" and replace it by "professional opinion".

Also, according to my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, "megalomania" - defined as: "The insanity of self-exaltation" - is an English term since 1890. I am strongly in favor of not shifting to psychiatrese if there are proper English terms for their concepts, and megalomania is a proper English term that is far clearer than "grandiose narcissism".

And I am strongly against removing "megalomania" from the Wikipedia, and linking instead to "narcissism": That is a medicalization of proper English.


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