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Nederlog

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Crisis: Irma, ¨Radicalism¨, One-Party State, United Nations, Trump´s Catastrophies


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 9, 2017 

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, September 9, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis Files
These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from September 9, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

This article is by Lizette Alvarez and Marc Santora on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
As Hurricane Irma threatened to engulf virtually the entire state of Florida in deadly winds, driving rain and surging seas, the largest evacuation in the state’s history saw hundreds of thousands of people scrambling into crowded county shelters and jamming highways as they fled north from the storm.

With the clock ticking, some counties issued curfews for Saturday, and more shelters were opened to absorb the crush of people seeking cover from one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit Florida.

Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, described Hurricane Irma as “a threat that is going to devastate the United States, either Florida or some of the southeastern states.”
(...)
Eric Silagy, the chief executive of Florida Power and Light Company, said in a news conference that power losses were expected to affect 4.1 million customers, or 9 million people in the state. He said that every part of Florida would be affected and that people could lose power for an extended period, possibly weeks. The number of customers affected in the state could be the largest ever.

I say, and this is also the reason that this is reviewed by me: A considerable part of Florida may be strongly effected by hurricane Irma, that seems to be (still) the strongest hurricane in a long time, and that is to pass over all of Florida today and tomorrow.

Here is a bit more:

Hurricane Irma stands apart in one way from other storms, including Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 storm that in 1992 devastated south Miami-Dade County: It is huge. Florida, surrounded by water on three sides, is only some 140 miles wide. The storm stretches over 300 miles. Every part of the state is expected to feel its wrath.

There is considerably more in the article. 

2. Advice From Around the Globe in the Age of Trump

This article is by Carlos Lozada on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times
A book edited by Carolina De Robertis

Rules for Resistance: Advice From Around the Globe for the Age of Trump
A book edited by David Cole and Melanie Wachtell Stinnett

How Do I Explain This to My Kids?: Parenting in the Age of Trump
A book edited by Sarah Swong and Diane Wachtell

You saw them. You probably read a few. Maybe you even wrote one.

Seething political takes. Overwrought open letters. Emotional manifestos. They began invading our inboxes and Facebook feeds in the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, and continued for days and weeks. They frothed from keyboards across the country, countless renditions of what became an instantly recognizable genre: the How I Felt on Election Night essay.

Yes indeed, and this is a decent review of parts of this mass hysteria of what seem to be intellectually demented consumers, who have only eyes for their own children, their own selfs, and their own selfies, and who do not seem to have any systematic ideas about politics or any rationally held values.

Here is more on this ¨literature¨ (that seems to me to be rather intimately connected with the billions of eager consumers that partake in ¨Facebook¨):

The first one I recall was by New Yorker editor David Remnick, who proclaimed “revulsion and profound anxiety” at Donald Trump’s victory. But it was Aaron Sorkin, America’s leading purveyor of political self-righteousness, who typified the form in an open letter to his teenage daughter and former wife in which he pledged to “f—ing fight” Trump and reassured Americans that “our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours.”

The impulse to write and share such early thoughts, to grapple with a shocking and disorienting event, is understandable. (...) Put dozens of them together, however, and their timeliness erodes, their echoes annoy, and their inadequacy as self-styled resistance manuals grows clear.
And I agree this is - to some extent - understandable. Then again, someone who affirms that “our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours” seems to know extremely little of human history as it happened in fact. (Try telling this e.g. to people - of whom I have known several - whose total family was murdered by the Nazis: O, don´t you worry (bolding added:) “our darkest days have always—always — been followed by our finest hours.”)

I see this - at least
in part - in the terms that Adam Curtis sketched in his ¨The Century of the Self¨, in which he sketched how the citizens of the USA (and elsewhere) were changed from (somewhat) rational citizens into irrational bundles of sexual and aggressive impulses, that had to be managed secretively to maintain civilization - or at least that is what Sigmund Freud and Edward Bernays told their customers and ¨the people¨. (For more on this see e.g. ¨Silent Good People¨ of the day before yesterday, and the reference to ¨The Century of the Self¨.)

Here is one part of what I have in mind:

Even some of the contributors seeking to reach out to Trump’s base—at least in a think-piecey, theoretical sense—find ways to demean. “Despite months of looking, I never managed to meet a liberal New Yorker who thought of Trump supporters as anything other than an undifferentiated bloc of subhuman troglodytes,” writes Princeton University lecturer Boris Fishman (..)
That is, a Princeton University lecturer who sees all his political opponents as an undifferentiated bloc of subhuman troglodytes”. He seems to have turned himself into an extreme totalitarian - but he doesn´t know it or see it.

There is also this rather sick side to it all:

And that struggle, according to “How Do I Explain This to My Kids?,” is generational. “We must shield our children from the effects of Trump’s policies as best we can and protect them from the worst aspects of his character,” clinical psychologist Ava Siegler writes in the volume’s introduction. “But we must also try to explain to them how someone like this could have been elected to the highest office in the land. … And we must include them in our resistance.”

But why should adults explain politics or politicians to their kids? I was raised in a quite intelligent family with very strongly politically committed parents, but I never got explanations as seem to be intended in the last quote (at least not before I was 15 or 16, and even though politics was a common theme in the household I grew up in).

And the reason seems to be quite clear:

My parents could explain - more or less, but rather well, certainly compared with most others - what politics and politicians were llke, and what capitalism was like, and also what many rich people were like, and how they differed from poor ones, but they also knew that much of this was not easily or at all understandable for children. (And they did explain some, but certainly not all they thought they knew and/or feared. [2])

Anyway, there is considerably more about this kind of false and phoney self-help by mostly posing consumerists, who know very little of politics, very little of values, very little of philosophy, very little of psychology, and whose ideas nearly all move on the fast planes of utter trivialities or complete bullshit, but who nevertheless insist that they should explain political, moral and philosophical things to their children, while they don´t have any adequate understandings themselves, and seem mostly hysterical.

This is a recommended article (although I suppose most of Facebook will probably hate it).


3. The Republican Plan for a One-Party State

This article is by Rick Perlstein on AlterNet and originally on The Washington Spectator. It starts as follows:

In September 2015, two months after Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy, I asked in these pages if he could accurately be described as a fascist. I decided against the designation. The true fascist states, I concluded—Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile—“suffered weakness in their institutions that are just about unimaginable in the United States. For instance, it is hard to imagine a President Trump turning America into a one-party state.”

I was looking in the wrong place. Donald Trump’s insults to democracy compound daily. But he’s far too incompetent to accomplish the big prize—a single-party state, I mean. The Republican Party that elevated and abetted him, however: They’re on that path with a vengeance.

Ahem. Rick Perlstein wasn´t merely ¨looking in the wrong place¨: he was - it seems now, in his eyes - rather mistaken, except that he doesn´t want to say so. Also, I think I may be rather certain (and without having read his article from 2015) that he did not define the term ¨fascism¨ in 2015. I do so because while I have seen it used quite a lot recently, I have seen hardly any decent definition of it, and certainly not by any  journalists.

Here are my definitions of ¨fascism¨ and ¨neofascism¨ once again, also with a link to my report on investigating 21 different definitions of ¨fascism¨.

Also, being not politically naive myself, I never held or believed that Trump is a fascist (in almost any sense, and as I said none of the - many - journalists I have seen using it gave any definition of what they had in mind), but I do think he is a neofascist in my sense, which in fact is little different from a ¨neoliberal¨ minus its false moral pretensions to serve all.

But Perlstein does have a point, for he now believes that the Republicans are on the way of introducing a one-party state in the USA (although I have no idea how he relates that to his undefined ¨fascism¨), and he also has fairly good evidence, namely about how they do win the votes they win:

Through assiduous research, his group would pinpoint a handful of vulnerable Democratic seats in states where control of state legislatures was close—Pennsylvania, for example, where Democrats controlled the lower chamber by a single vote—identifying the tipping points that could flip those bodies for the Republicans. They would then control the drawing of U.S. congressional maps after the 2010 census. At the time there were an estimated 25 true “swing” congressional districts. By deploying state-of-the-art software to devise maps to capture the greatest number of U.S. House seats with the fewest number of votes, the party could move every one of them safely into Republican hands for at least the next 10 years. All, he promised, for the low, low price of $30 million—about a tenth of what people are estimating the candidates will spend in the upcoming 2018 Illinois governor’s race alone.

There is considerably more in the article, but this seems to be what was done in quite a few states, which meant i.a. that the Democrat Levdansky just lost in Pennsylvania:

Levdansky lost by 151 votes. As a result, the Republicans now control both chambers of the legislature. And along with states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, they followed a plan laid out by Republican redistricting guru Tom Hofeller to steal Americans’ democratic birthright via gerrymander—and to do it in secret. Advice included: Never communicate by email, the better to cover your tracks. (“Emails are the tool of the devil.” “Make sure your computer is in a private location.”

Note the avoidance of emails: The reason is - I think - that they know that almost each and every email ends up in the secret enormous database of the NSA (indeed usually unread by human eyes, but available to the secret spies of the secret services).

Here is the ending of the article:

Can it happen? At its annual convention in Denver in July, ALEC’s Federalism and International Relations Task Force held a debate on whether to recommend a model bill to state legislatures to repeal the 17th, thereby starting the process of single-party rule. It would be interesting to know how that debate went. But we’ll never know. ALEC meetings are secret. Sinclair Lewis supposedly said when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. But maybe we won’t know how it came. It will happen in secret debates at conferences closed to the press, and in “bunkers” across the street from state capitols, guarded by two-factor encryption and attorney-client privilege, abetted by computer programs with the power to turn citizens into subjects.

In fact ¨the 17th¨ refers to the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution (<-Wikipedia), that insists that Senators have to be elected directly by the voters, instead of being nominated by state legislatures.

But indeed probably no one knows (who is not allowed into ALEC´s secret meetings), and it seems as if Perlstein now does believe in the arrival of some kind of ¨fascism¨ (he still doesn´t define it) and he sees it coming ¨in secret debates at conferences closed to the press, and in “bunkers” across the street from state capitols, guarded by two-factor encryption and attorney-client privilege, abetted by computer programs with the power to turn citizens into subjects¨.

I don´t disagree with this. And this is a recommended article (though I don´t quite agree with it).


4. U.N. Enablers of ‘Aggressive War’

This article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

Many people still want to believe that the United Nations engages in impartial investigations and thus is more trustworthy than, say, self-interested governments, whether Russia or the United States. But trust in U.N. agencies is no longer well placed; whatever independence they may have once had has been broken, a reality relevant to recent “investigations” of Syrian chemical weapons use.

There is also the larger issue of the United Nations’ peculiar silence about one of its primary and original responsibilities, shouldered after the horrors of World War II – to stop wars of aggression, which today include “regime change” wars organized, funded and armed by the United States and other Western powers, such as the Iraq invasion in 2003, the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011, and a series of proxy wars including the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Yes indeed, although I should add that I myself lost whatever was left of my beliefs in the United Nations in the early 1980ies, when I had a girlfriend who was quite intelligent and who had worked for the United Nations in various capacities for quite a few years. She had left it, in the late 1970ies, because she thought it was almost completely corrupt and almost only served the interests of the politicians manipulating it.

She did convince me, but we do not all have such well-informed girlfriends, and here is more by Robert Parry, who makes at least a similar point:

After World War II, the Nuremberg Tribunals declared that a “war of aggression … is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

That recognition became a guiding principle of the United Nations Charter, which specifically prohibits aggression or even threats of aggression against sovereign states.

The Charter declares in Article One that it is a chief U.N. purpose “to take effective collective measures … for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.” Article Two, which defines the appropriate behavior of U.N. members, adds that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”

However, instead of enforcing this fundamental rule, the United Nations has, in effect, caved in to the political and financial pressure brought to bear by the United States and its allies. A similar disregard for international law also pervades the U.S. mainstream media and much of the European and Israeli press as well.

There is an assumption that the United States and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at anytime solely at their own discretion. Though U.S. diplomats and mainstream journalists still voice outrage when adversaries deviate from international law – such as denunciations of Russia over Ukraine’s civil war – there is silence or support when a U.S. president or, say, an Israeli prime minister orders military strikes inside another country. Then, we hear only justifications for these attacks.

Yes indeed. There is a lot more in this article, that is recommended.  


5. Trump’s Policy Catastrophe

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. This is from near the beginning:

Look at other Trump decisions – banning transgender people from military service, siding in court with a businessman who doesn’t want to sell his services to gay couples, weakening the standard for responding to sexual violence in universities, demanding money for his “wall,” banning Syrian refugees and reducing by half the number of refugees admitted to the United States.

Each of these is unnecessarily cruel toward people who are vulnerable and needy.

Why is he doing this? To shore up his base, and to deflect attention from investigations into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in helping him win the election.

Meanwhile, Trump is neglecting or worsening the five genuinely big problems facing America:

I mostly agree, although I also insist - and I am a psychologist, which does make a difference - that Trump is not sane (as is also thought by at least 53,000 other psychologists), which indeed is expressed (in part) by his being ¨unnecessarily cruel¨: check out what is meant by (malignant) narcissism, which is what quite a few  psychologists and psychiatrists think Trump is.

And here are ¨the five genuinely big problems facing America¨ that Reich sees and that Trump doesn´t see, is neglecting or denying - and I state just the problems and delete the accompanying texts:

1. The proliferation of nuclear warheads and missiles around the world, most recently the danger posed by North Korea. (..)
2. Climate change, as exemplified by ever larger and more destructive hurricanes and coastal flooding.
(..)
3. The undermining of our democracy through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and interference in our elections by foreign governments.
(..)
4. Widening inequality and a growing population of poor in America.
(..)
5. Racism, hatefulness, and divisiveness. (..)

I agree. Here is Reich´s conclusion of his article:

Imposing unnecessary cruelty is bad enough. Causing the really big problems the nation faces to become worse is criminal.

Trump has his priorities backwards. We will be paying the price for years to come.  

I think Reich is quite right that the USA ¨will be paying the price for years to come¨
but I do not think Trump is merely indulging his sadism: He is indulging his lack of sanity, and that makes it even more dangerous.

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

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2]
Here is one example from my past: My parents did not explain much or most about the Cuban Missile Crisis as it happened in 1962 (when I was 12), which allowed me not to worry much. A friend of my father (who also survived a German concentration camp) did try to explain it to his children, including his five-year old: He told them that he promised them that he would kill them if the worst came to the worst. (And that was not a happy a family.)
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