This starts as follows:
I am sorry, but by now I get quite irritated
with people who are supposed to inform me, but who leave out imporant
things, such as here the fact that Jared Kushner is a Jew (by birth and
by religious faith) while Steve Bannon is an anti-semite who would not
even allow his children to go to school with Jewish children.
The White House war between Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner wouldn’t
matter in a normal administration with a normal president. But there’s
nothing normal about the Trump White House, whose major occupant exists
in a giant narcissistic bubble impenetrable by anyone but close
relatives and a few strong personalities.
Which makes this brawl especially important.
Kushner is his trusted son-in-law, a 36-year-old scion of New Jersey
and New York real estate who knows nothing about government but a great
deal about Trump, and whose portfolio of responsibilities keeps growing
by the day.
Bannon is the rumpled hero of the anti-establishment populist base that
drove Trump’s Electoral College victory, but who appears to be losing
And these facts are reasonably well-known and incontrovertible, and I
think they are quite relevant. So why are these facts not mentioned?!
But they are not, and instead we get more irrelevant myths:
The fundamental difference between Kushner and Bannon is over
populism. Kushner is a politically moderate multi-millionaire with
business interests all over the world – some of which pose considerable
conflicts of interest with his current duties – and who’s quite
comfortable with all the CEOs, billionaires and Wall Street moguls Trump
has lured into his administration.
Bannon hates the establishment. “There is a growing global
anti-establishment revolt against the permanent political class at home,
and the global elites that influence them, which impacts everyone from
Lubbock, Tex., to London, England,” he told the New York Times when he took the helm at Breitbart News in 2014.
All of that may be true - but Kushner is a
Jew and son-in-law to the president, whereas Bannon is an anti-semite
who was the president's chief coordinator during his presidential
campaign. So why are these facts not mentioned?!
Then there is this about Steve Bannon:
If Bannon meant trimming back regulations emanating from
administrative agencies, it’s an idea that Wall Street and CEOs love.
Trump has wholeheartedly embraced it. “We are absolutely destroying
these horrible regulations that have been placed on your heads,” Trump declared last Tuesday to a group of enthusiastic chief executives from big companies like Citigroup, MasterCard, and Jet Blue.
But Bannon actually meant something quite different. To Bannon,
“deconstructing the administrative state” means destroying the “state” –
that is, our system of government.
“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon told a reporter
for the Daily Beast a few years back (he now says now he doesn’t recall
the conversation). “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my
goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of
First of all, clearly Bannon never meant
what is raised in the first paragraph. The rest seems more or less
correct, but I think it would have been more correct to say that
Bannon is an anti-semite rather than quote (again and again) his
"Leninist" saying (that might be explained - I don't know, but it is
possible - by saying that in his Breitbart days Bannon was out to shock
people): It does seem more relevant.
Anyway... I could quote more, but I think
this article is misleading because it totally not mentions the fact
that Kushner is a Jew, and Bannon an anti-semite.
Are these things not mentioned because mentioning them is supposed to be indecent?!
2. Adam Curtis: Donald Trump Has Become a Deep State Puppet
(I am sorry, but I find this quite odd. And no, I am neither a Jew nor an anti-semite.)
The second article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
The 2016 election has made soothsayers of any number of historians, academics and philosophers,
but one of the few filmmakers who saw Donald Trump coming was the
documentarian Adam Curtis. One might even argue that Trump's victory was
the closing argument of a thesis he has been refining and developing
for the last 15 years.
Since his 2002 opus, The Century of Self,
Curtis has traced the myriad ways in which the left has abandoned
politics in favor of a radical individualism, online and off, that has
allowed reactionary forces to metastasize in the West and across the
globe. As he ominously declares at the beginning of his latest film, Hypernormalisation (2016), these forces are now puncturing "the fragile surface of our carefully constructed fake world."
I like Curtis, for he is a good and
interesting documentalist. I did see most of his documentaries (which
is a bit of a feat, because it seems the BBC is removing them,
so that people - if there are any left - will only be able to see them
after 78 or a 100 years, when their relevance is totally dead) and I
found them interesting and worthwile
to see (which itself is a bit uncommon
for me: I rarely watch 3 or 4 hours of video talk) but I never thought
that Curtis is a great mind, though he has interesting ideas.
Here is some more on the documentaries he
made (which I do recommend you see, if you can: There are now and then
put up copies of these documentaries, but as I said, it seems as if the
BBC does its best to see to it that no one who did not pay a BBC
licence and saw them when they were first shown, will see them, except
if he or she
survives another 78 - or 100 - years, for they want them removed from Youtube):
Drawing from the BBC's vast video archive, Curtis' films are ambitious, addictive and haunting. In The Power of Nightmares
(2004), he charts the eery parallels between the neoconservative and
radical Islamist movements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries,
and the ways in which our political leaders have preyed upon our fears
to maintain their grip on power. The documentary also examines the ways
in which we're still living in the shadows of the Cold War, decades
after perestroika. The Trap
(2007) offers a searing look at how Britain's and the United States'
attempts to free themselves from bureaucracy have given rise to a
bloodless and oppressive managerialism, while their efforts to spread
democracy abroad have yielded only violent mayhem. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, released in 2011, explores how our reliance on computers to forge a stable world has produced just the opposite.
The rest is quoted from the interview (in
which there is considerably more). Here is Curtis on fascism and the
question whether the USA is turning fascistic or neofascistic:
JS: We're more than 70 days into Trump's presidency,
just a few weeks short of the juncture when historians and political
analysts begin to assess an office in earnest. Do you see America
sliding into authoritarianism or fascism, or are the evils of this
administration more banal than that?
is not sliding into fascism. That's just hysteria by the liberals who
can't face up to the fact that they lost the election, so they either
have to blame the Russians or giant historical forces. Basically, a
right-wing president has been elected, and he's created a brilliant
machine that captures liberals and keeps them completely preoccupied.
What he does is he wakes up in the morning, tweets something that he
knows isn't true, they get very upset and spend the whole day writing in
big capital letters on social media, "This is outrageous. This is bad.
This is fascism." What they're not facing up to is the real question,
which is why did Donald Trump win the election? What other forces in the
country had they, the liberals, not seen?
This is just an opinion. Curtis may be
right, but he does not mention that right wingers are generally rather
close to varieties of fascism; he does not mention that the Republicans
have been extremists since 9/11; he does not mention that the mainstream media provide less and less politics, and what they provide is mostly propaganda; and he does not mention that many of Trump's appointees are either generals or billionaires.
So I am not much impressed by his opinion. This is about Curtis's most recent documentary:
JS: Your most recent documentary is called Hypernormalisation. Can you explain what a hypernormalised state is and how it creates an opening for somebody like Trump to exploit?
The term was created by a guy called Alexei Yurchak, who wrote a book
about the last days of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. What he described
was a world where everyone knew that the system in place wasn't working
and that the politicians didn't believe it any longer. Yet at the same
time, because they didn't have any alternative, everyone just accepted
it as normal even though they knew it was abnormal. So he gave it this
term hypernormalisation. I'm not trying to say that the West is in any
way like the Soviet Union at all. It's very different. What I was trying
to argue, or imply in this film gently, was that we may be in a very
similar situation where we know that the system has become somewhat
corrupted. But more than that, we know that those in charge don't really
believe in the system any longer, have no vision of the future. And
what's more, they know that we know that.
I did see "Hypernormalisation" and I did not like it. Also, I much doubt whether "those in charge don't really
believe in the system any longer",
simply because (i) politicians tend to be much more interested in power
than in ideas, and because (ii) the politicians who get power are often
- in the USA and Europe - capable of enriching themselves through their
power. And this is mostly as it always was, the last 50 years, at least in my experience, although I grant that under Trump the rich have both more power and more impertinence than before.
Then again, this seems more or less correct:
AC: I think you should pay more attention to the
traditional, hard-right-wing people who have risen to power with Trump.
Donald comes from the world of finance and he is doing what finance
wants to do. I would argue that actually it shows that really nothing
has changed, which is a very hypernormal situation. We know that many of
the people who possibly should have been prosecuted after the financial
crisis of 2008 were not. Now it's carrying on while liberals boo and
hiss at the man in charge. Behind the scenery, everyone is just carrying
on managing the system in their own interests as they have before.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
AC: The thing that makes me really sad, and to an
extent, angry, is the complete failure of the liberals and the
progressives to actually face up to what people like Trump really mean.
What it means is that there are groups in this country, many of them
poor, many of them part of the working class, who are feeling
frightened, alone, and afraid of the future. They voted for Trump or for
Brexit in my country as a way of expressing that, because the
traditional politics would not let them do it. The liberals would not go
and connect with those people. What they do is they spend their time
saying they're stupid, which is the most stupid thing you can possibly
No, that is bullshit. It is bullshit for two reasons: First, I have seen extremely few "liberals" who said that many Trump supporters are stupid and ignorant (and I am closely following the news since 2013). And second, it seems to me a clear fact that many Trump
supporters are stupid and ignorant (but I am a real intellectual with a
very high intelligence and a lot of relevant knowledge):
They don't know history, they don't know
politics, they don't know philosophy, they don't know which are the
three powers in their Constitution; few even seem to have read the
Constitution; they have utterly insane ideas about truth (doesn't
exist), about climate change (doesn't exist), about science (should be
terminated if it conflicts with religion) and quite a few more things
(like having sex, having children, having the right for a payable
decent education) - and I am not allowed to speak the factual truth
about many of them?!
In any case, I still believe that two of
the main problems of the current USA are that the majority of its
people are stupid and ignorant, possibly not because they were born
that way, but because they did not get any decent education, and that
those who are stupid and ignorant tend to admire stupid and ignorant ideas and values.
And I thought this interview rather disappointing, as indeed was "Hypernormalisation".
3. America Has Become a War Machine—and It Has Destroyed Our Ability to Function as a Democracy
The third article is by Tom Engelhardt on AlterNet and originally on TomDispatch:
This is from near the beginning:
(..) the vast antiwar movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was
filled with an unexpected cross-section of the country, including
middle-class students and largely working-class vets directly off the
battlefields of Southeast Asia. Both the work force of those World War
II years and the protest movement of their children were, in their own
fashion, citizen wonders of their American mo[ve?]ments. They were artifacts
of a country in which the public was still believed to play a crucial
role and in which government of the people, by the people, and for the
people didn’t yet sound like a late-night laugh line.
Yes, indeed. And in fact there were at
least three things rather different in the Sixties (which I also lived
through, having been born in 1950), next to quite a few more:
First, the U.S. army was not privatized but drafted, and was selected from all U.S. citizens of the appropriate age; second, the press was far better then than it is now: it was - at least - more factual and less propagandistic; and third, it is true that "the public was still believed to play a crucial
role and in which government of the people, by the people, and for the
people didn’t yet sound like a late-night laugh line" - and indeed "the people" did have some more power in the Sixties than before or after.
Then there is this about WW II:
World War II was distinctly a citizen’s war. I was born in 1944 just as
it was reaching its crescendo. My own version of such a mobilization,
two decades later, took me by surprise. In my youth, I had dreamed of serving my country by
becoming a State Department official and representing it abroad. In a
land that still had a citizen’s army and a draft, it never crossed my
mind that I wouldn’t also be in the military at some point, doing my
duty. That my “duty” in those years would instead turn out to involve
joining in a mobilization against war was unexpected. But that an
American citizen should care about the wars that his (or her) country
fought and why it fought them was second nature. Those wars -- both
against fascism globally and against rebellious peasants across much of
Southeast Asia -- were distinctly American projects. That meant they
were our responsibility.
I think these are mostly based on
impressions of Tom Engelhardt. I simply don't know how correct he is,
but he is certainly right that in the Sixties there still was "a citizen’s army and a draft", both of which Nixon removed, and that this meant that far more families were directly touched by war, simply because they had son or sons of the right
military age, who might be drafted.
Then there is this:
Since then, in every sense, victory has gone missing in action and so,
for decades (with a single brief moment of respite), has the very idea
that Americans have a duty of any sort when it comes to the wars their
country chooses to fight. In our era, war, like the Pentagon budget and the growing powers of
the national security state, has been inoculated against the virus of
citizen involvement, and so against any significant form of criticism or
resistance. It’s a process worth contemplating since it reminds us
that we’re truly in a new American age, whether of the plutocrats, by
the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats or of the generals, by the
generals, and for the generals -- but most distinctly not of the people,
by the people, and for the people.
I quite agree, and indeed also with the following bit:
And here’s another question that should (but doesn’t) come to mind in
twenty-first-century America: Why does a war effort that has already
cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars not
involve the slightest mobilization of the American people? No war
taxes, war bonds, war drives, victory gardens, sacrifice of any sort, or
for that matter serious criticism, protest, or resistance?
I think that the basic reason for this is
that removing the draft also meant removing most citizen's feelings for
resposibility, interest and concern with "the military": The only
people to be killed or mained were volunteers, and no one was drafted
who did not want to fight.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
In these years, Americans have largely been convinced that secrecy is
the single most crucial factor in national security; that what we do
know will hurt us; and that ignorance of the workings of our own
government, now enswathed in a penumbra of
secrecy, will help keep us safe from “terror.” In other words,
knowledge is danger and ignorance, safety. However Orwellian that may
sound, it has become the norm of twenty-first-century America.
the government must have the power to surveil you is by now a given;
that you should have the power to surveil (or simply survey) your own
government is a luxury from another time
Quite possibly so, and this is a
recommended article. In fact, here is some more of the same (by another
man, in another publication):
4. Trampling the US Constitution for War
The fourth article is by Daniel C. Maguire on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:
I am old enough to remember the last time the United States declared war
in accord with Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The date
was Dec. 8, 1941, and I was ten-years-old. I remember hearing on the
radio all the Yay votes and I was jarred to hear one female vote saying
Nay. That was Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana.
War, by definition, is state sponsored violence. It kills
people and animals and savages the natural environment. It is
“development” in full reverse, a dreadfully serious undertaking, a power
that kings once wielded arbitrarily on their own impulse and authority.
But the Founders would have none of that.
So, the U.S. Constitution gave the war power to the Congress, “the
immediate representatives of the people.” Congress also received the
crucial power of the purse to continue or discontinue war after it
James Madison, the Constitution’s principal architect, wrote: “In no
part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause
which confides the question of war and peace to the legislature and not
to the executive department.”
Yet, in recent decades, the United States has repeatedly trashed that
wisdom and done so as recently as April 6, 2017, as President Trump
displayed his bully virility and his need to use kill-power to bolster
his sagging ratings.
Yes, all of that is completely true - and
it says quite a lot about the average quality of "the American
population" that the right to declare war was stolen from them, also
with very little protest.
In fact, this already happened in 1945:
As military analyst Robert Previdi writes: “We have distorted the
Constitution by allowing all Presidents since Harry S. Truman to use
military power on their own authority. … For more than 160 years, from
Washington to Roosevelt, no President claimed that he had the power to
move the country from peace to war without first getting authority to do
so from Congress.”
This allowed Truman to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs. It went further in the 1960ies:
But a servile Congress has whittled away its signal prerogative to
make war. In the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964, Congress gave President
Lyndon Johnson a blank check signed by a responsibility-shedding
In 1973, with the War Powers Resolution, it allowed the President to
commit troops anywhere in the world for up to 60 days without
congressional involvement. By that time in modern warfare, the die would
be cast with Congress left holding the President’s coat as he uses the
power abandoned by congressional defection.
The Iraq Resolution in October of 2002 transferred war-making
authority to President George W. Bush for him to use or not use at his
whim and discretion. And so it came to pass that another George in
American history was given kingly power with predictably disastrous
results, much as the arrogance of King George III precipitated Great
Britain’s break with its American colonies.
Barack Obama, after winning the Nobel Peace prize, went on to make
war in places such as Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq Afghanistan,
and Pakistan without a congressional declaration of war. The sort of
abuse of executive power has become “second nature” to us now.
This is also completely true. The article ends as follows:
A president can become the despotic shepherd only when the people become his sheep. In recent decades, the vox populi
has only bleated when it should have been screaming. Teddy Roosevelt
said: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or
that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only
unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American
Yes, members of Congress, with a few noble exceptions, are groveling
wimps and aliens to the lost art of diplomacy, but it’s also true that
an ill-informed, lazy and indolent citizenry is neck high in treasonous
negligence. In the end, the buck stops with us.
Yes, precisely so.