Monday, May 15, 2017

Crisis: Trump As Symptom, Trump Impeachable *2, What If Trump Is Not An Idiot

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Trump Is the Symptom, Not the Disease
2. Trump Shows His Hand in Firing Comey
The End of Trump
But What If He's Not an Idiot?

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, May 15, 2017.

This is a crisis log with four items and four dotted links (and I am a bit sorry it's - again - only about Trump): Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges; item 2 is about Trump's (deliberate(?)) confusions about his executive powers and the judiciary powers of the courts; item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich that starts frrom a similar point, which Reich thinks (and I agree) are impeachable offenses, but the chances that Trump will be impeached are, at present, very small; and item 4 is about an article by John Atcheson that asks the rather fair and appropriate question what if Trump is not an idiot (as most Americans may think now).

And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for more than 1 1/2 years, though now only at one of my two sites:
May 15: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site was not on time today, probably because it is not Sunday, for that is the only time my site has a half-decent chance of beinh properly updated...

They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most and without any problem, as indeed is the work of ISPs.

I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And what changed is that you have to refresh (and refresh and refresh and refresh) to get the latest, which is again NOT as it was before, from 1996 till 2015, and which for me this only serves to make it extremely difficult for naive users to get the latest from my site - that for them may seem to have stuck somewhere in 2016 or 2015.

And I have to add that about 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. Trump Is the Symptom, Not the Disease

The first article today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Forget the firing of James Comey. Forget the paralysis in Congress. Forget the idiocy of a press that covers our descent into tyranny as if it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats or a reality show starring our maniacal president and the idiots that surround him. Forget the noise. The crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians that run our dysfunctional government. The crisis we face is the result of a four-decade-long, slow-motion corporate coup that has rendered the citizen impotent, left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent. This crisis has spawned a corrupt electoral system of legalized bribery and empowered those public figures that master the arts of entertainment and artifice. And if we do not overthrow the neoliberal, corporate forces that have destroyed our democracy we will continue to vomit up more monstrosities as dangerous as Donald Trump. Trump is the symptom, not the disease.
I don't altogether agree, but let's see. There are - I think - three general propositions involved in the above. Here they are:

(1) "
The crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians that run our dysfunctional government", and (2) "The crisis we face is the result of a four-decade-long, slow-motion corporate coup that has rendered the citizen impotent, left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent" and (3) "And if we do not overthrow the neoliberal, corporate forces that have destroyed our democracy we will continue to vomit up more monstrosities as dangerous as Donald Trump."

I can't agree with (1): A major part of the problem of American democracy are "
the paralysis in Congress" and (especially) "the idiocy of" the mainstream "press" (which do produce "the public images of the" leading politicians, in good part, at least. Many Congress members lie these days, and can do so because they are protected in various ways by the lies and the propaganda of the mainstream press. And the general result of a lying an propagandizing press are voters who are systematically misinformed about what is the matter and about who controlled what went wrong.

As to (2): I more or less agree, except that what I have seen happening since 1980, which is about when it began, is citizens made impotent by propaganda, lies, misinformation, ever declining standards of education for the non-rich, and ever growing stupidity and ignorance in the majority of voters and of people who rely on the ordinary mainstream channels of "news" and "information".

And these changes have been produced mostly by growths in stupidity and ignorance of ordinary voters, that have been intentionally contrived for the most part.

As to (3): Yes and no, for it seems to me that to "
overthrow the neoliberal, corporate forces that have destroyed our democracy" there first needs to be a majority of properly informed and more or less rational and reasonable voters - and that seems quite unlikely.

Here is more:
Our descent into despotism began with the pardoning of Richard Nixon, all of whose impeachable crimes are now legal, and the extrajudicial assault, including targeted assassinations and imprisonment, carried out on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals. It began with the creation of corporate-funded foundations and organizations that took control of the press, the courts, the universities, scientific research and the two major political parties. It began with empowering militarized police to kill unarmed citizens and the spread of our horrendous system of mass incarceration and the death penalty. It began with the stripping away of our most basic constitutional rights—privacy, due process, habeas corpus, fair elections and dissent. (..) On all these fronts we have lost. We are trapped like rats in a cage. A narcissist and imbecile may be turning the electric shocks on and off, but the problem is the corporate state, and unless we dismantle that, we are doomed.
I mostly agree, but for me the problem is less the corporate state (which is one of the major ends of neofascism, which is quite probably the ideology of Trump and of quite a few other very rich men), but the fact that its policies are fascistic, as I said in 2012, when I concluded that the problem is corporate fascism.

Also, while it is rather likely Hedges and I agree on that, I do insist that the Keynesianism that ruled the West from 1946 till the late 1970ies, that was also quite explicitly capitalistic, was neither fascistic nor neofascistic, and was also more egalitarian and much more democratic.

Here is more on the present USA:
Racist, violent and despotic forces have always been part of the American landscape and have often been tolerated and empowered by the state to persecute poor people of color and dissidents. These forces are denied absolute power as long as a majority of citizens have a say in their own governance. The corporate elites, however, frightened by what the political scientist Samuel Huntington called an “excess of democracy” that originated in the 1960s, methodically destroyed the democratic edifice. They locked the citizens out of government. And by doing so they made sure that power shifted into the hands of the enemies of the open society. When democratic institutions cease to function, when the consent of the governed becomes a joke, despots, cranks, conspiracy theorists, con artists, generals, billionaires and proto-fascists fill the political void. They give vent to popular anger and frustration while arming the state to do to the majority what it has long done to the minority. This tale is as old as civilization. It was played out in ancient Greece and Rome, the Soviet Union, fascist Germany, fascist Italy and the former Yugoslavia.
Yes, I mostly agree. Then there is this about Trump:
Trump, an acute embarrassment to the corporate state and the organs of internal security, may be removed from the presidency, but such a palace coup would only further consolidate the power of the deep state and intensify internal measures of repression.
I have seen this kind of argument quite a few times now, but I don't think it is very rational: There is something like a deep state at least since 1961, when Eisenhower warned for the military-industrial complex (<-Wikipedia), and while I do not like it at all, I also think - as do many psychologists and psychiatrists - that Trump is not sane, and should be removed, somehow, and the sooner the better. And while I also do not like Pence, he has the relative advantage over Trump, that Pence is probably sane.

There is a lot more, that I'll skip. This is from the end and is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
Our failure to defend those who are demonized and persecuted leaves us all demonized and persecuted. Our failure to demand justice for everyone leaves us all without justice. Our failure to halt the crushing of popular movements that stand unequivocally with the oppressed leaves us all oppressed. Our failure to protect our democracy leaves us without a democracy.
Possibly so, but for my part I think that each of these things, and rather a lot more, may be fairly explained by insisting on two kinds of facts:

First, a large part of the American population are stupid and ignorant, and second, large parts of the American media provide propaganda, lies, half-truths, and bullshit instead of the truth in so far as this could be established by good reporters and honest reporting.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump Shows His Hand in Firing Comey

The second article is by Bill Boyarsky on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

There is a dangerous parallel between President Trump’s firing of James Comey and his efforts to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants and limit immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Both actions show contempt for democracy and its institutions and push the United States farther down the road to authoritarian government. On immigration, Trump is trying to undermine the power of the courts. By firing Comey, the president is threatening the independence of federal prosecutors and agencies to enforce the law without fear of political interference, whether their target is a kidnapper or president of the United States.

Yes I agree, and the general point is that in a real democracy there is a real, effective and maintained division between the legislative, the judiciary and the executive parts of government, while Trump's tweets strongly suggests that he is completely opposed to this division, for he attacks judges if he finds their judgements disagreeable, which is a behavior he doesn't share with democratic presidents, but which he does share with authoritarian or dictatorial presidents.

Here is more on Trump's public criticism of judges and their judgements:

In January, Trump issued an executive order that would have banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days. It also would have halted admission of refugees for 120 days. That order was overturned by a federal court. Federal judges also threw out a new and modified order. When a judge voided his travel ban, Trump tweeted, “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

Trump also attacked the courts when a federal judge overturned his executive order withdrawing federal aid to “sanctuary jurisdictions” —states, counties and cities that limit the assistance local law enforcement are compelled to give to federal immigration officers.

I completely agree and a democratic president also would not do these things. And there now are quite a few who believe that Trump's acts, sayings, decisions and tweets  as president of the USA merit his impeachment:

3. The End of Trump

The third article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party.

Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice – a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House.

Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation about whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election – the most direct assault on American democracy in history (..)

I agree with the first three paragraphs, but not with the fourth, and for a simple reason (and see e.g. yesterday's Nederlog): There is not any evidence known to the public that Russia-gate is true. And after 7 months, and what with 17 secret services in the USA, it seems rather unlikely there will ever be real evidence of this kind.

And I think "Russia-gate" was started by the Democrats to deflect the blame of loosing the elections to Trump from Hillary Clinton to the Russians, while the systematic lack, now for seven months, of any real evidence for it either shows that all of the 17 secret services that are financed by American taxpayers are worthless or else that there is no real evidence to establish Russian interference in the elections, and for me the second alternative is far more probable than the first.

Then again, what Reich is effectively complaining about is not so much collusion with Russia as attempts by Trump to avoid being investigated and/or to influence witnesses:

The law is reasonably clear. If Trump removed Comey to avoid being investigated, that’s an obstruction of justice – an impeachable offense.

On Friday, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Here, the law is also clear. Seeking to silence, intimidate or even influence someone who is likely to offer evidence in a congressional or criminal proceeding is also an obstruction of justice – and an impeachable offense.

I agree these may be impeachable offenses, but (as I said myself before):

The odds of this occurring in this Congress, under present circumstances, are approximately zero.

So – barring a “smoking gun” that shows Trump’s complicity with Russian operatives in interfering in the 2016 election – Trump’s fate seems to hinge on the midterm elections of 2018.

Since I argued above that there has been delivered no evidence of "Trump’s complicity with Russian operatives in interfering in the 2016 election" the last seven months, this seems probably correct to me.

Here is Reich's ending:

Donald Trump doesn’t have the character or the temperament to be president of the United States. But this obvious fact isn’t enough to get him fired.

He’ll be fired when enough Americans decide they can’t abide him anymore.

I agree with both paragraphs, but as I pointed out under item 1, it would seem as if there first needs to be a majority of properly informed and more or less rational and reasonable voters.

And the likelihood of that is very slim, alas.

4. But What If He's Not an Idiot?

The fourth and last article today is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Turns out, the first word a lot of people think of when it comes to President Donald Trump is this one: idiot.

The White House’s handling of the Comey firing looks a lot like a clip from The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  The Press Secretary hiding in the bushes, Trump sending virtually his entire staff under the bus with his various and rapidly shifting versions of his reasons for the firing, and his unhinged Twitter rants at the press for covering the fiasco as a fiasco.

Once again, pundits are talking about impulse control, the ADD Presidency, rank amateurism in the Oval Office, threats to Democracy—all the stuff that they talked about in the campaign. The stuff that was supposed to doom his bid for the presidency to failure.

I have reviewed the poll that said that Donald Trump is mostly called an "idiot" (namely here) and said there that (i) I do not know the reliability of the poll, while
(ii) I don't think that Trump is an "idiot". I also do not think he is brlliant in any way (unlike himself, who thinks he is brilliant in many ways), but you do not become a president of the USA (however bad) if you are an idiot or very stupid.

Then there is this:

If Trump isn’t an idiot, then here’s where his tactics are brilliant.  The neoliberal elitists who control the Democratic Party have been trying to keep the focus on the Russian intervention in our election as the reason Hillary Clinton lost.  The progressives in the Party have been attacking the Party’s estrangement from the people and its rejection of the New Deal policies as the reason. In short, there’s a battle on for the heart and soul of the Party.

No, I don't think so. In the first place, one is not either an idiot or brilliant, and indeed Trump is neither. And in the second place, the difficulties in the Democratic Party are quite real, but they are for the most part not caused by Trump, but by the present leadership of the Democrats, that still centers around Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

Then there is this:

Two things were working to undermine the establishment’s hold on the Party until Comey’s firing.  First, Sanders continued to poll as the most popular politician in America.  Second, people were beginning to realize that it was the content of Secretary Clinton’s emails that hurt her, not the emails per seAnd that content revealed the soft underbelly of the Democratic Party. To wit: the neoliberal belief in small government, the power and goodness of the market, free trade, deregulation, and fiscal austerity was simply too close to the Republican dogma to generate enough passion among progressives to get a good turnout, and Democrats need a good turnout to win elections.

I quite agree on the present (and indeed quite long lasting) "soft underbelly of the Democratic Party, To wit: the neoliberal belief in small government, the power and goodness of the market, free trade, deregulation, and fiscal austerity was simply too close to the Republican dogma".

Here is the end of the article:

Yeah. What if he’s not an idiot?

He is not an "idiot", that is: he is not as stupid as some seem to think, although I think myself, as a psychologist, that Trump is not sane, and he is also not brilliant in any way.

The great dangers of Trump are his temperament, his ignorance, and what I and other psychologically informed people call his lack of sanity, for he is a narcissist, and narcissism is a personal pathology (that is very difficul to treat). And besides, I also think since quite a long time that he is a neofascist, but that is in my sense of that term, although I do insist that both his cabinet and his policies rather strongly support that.

And this is a recommended article, although I don't quite agree with it.


       home - index - summaries - mail