Monday, November 20, 2017

Crisis: On ¨The Moderates¨, Civilians, Democrats, ¨Sex Panic¨, Trump´s Lies

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 20, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Monday
, November 20, 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 and since nearly two years (!!!!) 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 November 20, 2017
1. Behind the Mask of the ‘Moderates’
2. Undercounting the Civilian Dead
3. When Will Democrats Stop Being Losers?
4. Is This a 'Sex Panic' or a National Moment of
     Reckoning? Can’t It Be Both?

5. Why Trump Lies
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:

1. Behind the Mask of the ‘Moderates’

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Pity Canada. Its citizens watch the stages of U.S. decline and then, a few years later, inflict on themselves the same cruelties. It is as if the snuffing out of democracy across the globe and the rise of authoritarian regimes are a preordained Greek tragedy and all of us, in spite of our yearning for liberty, must ominously play an assigned part.

Canada is currently in the Barack Obama phase of self-immolation. Its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is—as Obama was—a fresh face with no real political past or established beliefs, a brand. Trudeau excels, like Obama, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in empty symbolism. These “moderates” spew progressive and inclusive rhetoric while facilitating social inequality, a loss of rights and the degradation of the environment by global corporations. They are actors in skillfully crafted corporate advertisements.

“Liberal democracy is bifurcating, giving rise to two new regime forms: ‘illiberal democracy,’ or democracy without rights, and ‘undemocratic liberalism,’ or rights without democracy,” writes political theorist Yascha Mounk.

I think this is mostly correct (but not all, and I am a European, not an American), but I do like to make one initial point:

If democracy - that is: a political situation in which the majorities of citizens DO decide most of their own fates - is loosing, and I agree it is,  in the USA, then the three main reasons are that

(1) a good part of the voters stopped voting because they are much disappointed with politics, for a quite a few different reasons [2], and indeed in part because
(2) most of the voters and the public have been inundated with political lies, political misrepresentations, political falsifications, and many ommissions of real political news, which caused many not to know what to think anymore, and
(3) most of the politicians are bought by the rich, certainly in the USA, and this makes the ¨politicians¨ do mostly what the rich want.

Also, I think my above analysis is more to the point than a split of ¨liberal democracy¨ into a ¨democracy¨ without ¨rights¨ or into ¨rights without ¨democracy¨: That seems to me mostly academic verbal cleverness rather than a real analysis.

But the following is more or less true, or so it seems to me:

The “moderate” politicians espouse “undemocratic liberalism.” Lifestyle choices and expressions of personal identity are respected, even championed, while we are politically disempowered. The focus on multiculturalism and identity politics is anti-politics. (...)

Yes indeed - but I also should add that I saw this style of quasi-politics arise in the 1970ies in Holland. Meanwhile quasi-politics done by quasi-politicians (who are paid by the rich) has been progressing for nearly forty years now, and indeed these days seem to have taken over real politics (which is not paid by the rich) and real politicians (who are not paid by the rich): The rich seem to have taken over politics by buying politicians. (See item 3 below.)

Here is more:

Canada, France, Australia and Germany will not crash their economies trying to maintain an empire they can no longer afford. But they are, nevertheless, steadily marching toward the new authoritarianism, toward joining the despotisms rising up in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. The model for the future is not Liberté, égalité, fraternité—it is China’s ruthless corporate totalitarianism.

Quite possibly so - but if so, the main reason is that the politicians mostly have been bought by the rich while the voters were deceived by propaganda they read in their papers or saw on the news.

Here is more on the backgrounds of the present ¨politics¨ (that started in fact with Thatcher and Reagan in 1979/1980):

The con artists and thieves, no longer hiding behind the curtains, come out to pillage in the open, actively making war on the anemic democratic institutions, from the press to the courts, all of which long ago surrendered to corporate power. These protofascists rely for control on the array of undemocratic tools legalized by their “moderate” predecessors—wholesale surveillance, militarized police, the criminalizing of dissent, the primacy of “law and order” and the revoking of due process and other rights by judicial and legislative fiat.

Yes, I again mostly agree. Here is more on the ¨moderates¨ [3] (whose ¨secret¨ is - it seems to me - that they have been bought by the rich, if they were not rich to start with):

The “moderates,” like those on the far right, refuse to acknowledge reality. They speak and act as if we live in a democracy rather than a system defined by Sheldon Wolin as “inverted totalitarianism,” one where the consent of the governed is a joke, elections are legalized bribery and public policy is determined not by popular will but by corporate lobbyists. It does not matter, as illustrated by the Republican tax plan now before the U.S. Senate, what is just or what the public supports. There are no institutions left in the United States that can authentically be called democratic.

Hedges´ reference to his own interviews with Sheldon Wolin are quite justified (click the last link or this one), and I will add my own reviews as a link, for I did review all of these interviews in 2014 and in 2015 and I think these reviews are quite interesting (for intelligent folks):

Here is the link to a comprehensive review I wrote in 2014, and this is the first link to systematic considerations of points raised by Wolin while this is the second link to systematic considerations of points raised by Wolin.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Nations have surrendered their economies to global banks, corporations, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. This has created political paralysis. The longer this paralysis continues, the more governing institutions and “undemocratic liberalism” are discredited.

Yes indeed. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Undercounting the Civilian Dead

This article is by Paul R. Pillar on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

Anyone willing to think carefully and critically about the use of armed force against a target such as Islamic State (ISIS) would do well to read the intensively researched piece in the New York Times by investigative journalist Azmat Khan and Arizona State professor Anand Gopal about civilian casualties from the air war waged by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The key conclusion is that those casualties are far higher — probably many times higher — than what the U.S. military acknowledges.

In fact, I have been believing this ¨key conclusion¨ for quite a long time now. Here is some more on some of the reasons why:

It is partly a matter of deficient record-keeping. It is in large part a matter of the fog of this kind of war making much faulty and woefully incomplete information almost inevitable. Although some of the civilian casualties represent collateral damage in the form of people who were in the vicinity of bona fide ISIS targets, others were in places that the targeteers mistakenly identified as having an ISIS connection.

Yes indeed. But the following is pretty vague or not well formulated:

These findings provide disturbing food for thought in at least three respects. One concerns the values and morality involved in a U.S. military operation in which so many innocents suffer so much.
A second concerns the counterproductive aspects of an offensive that is supposed to be a combating of terrorism. (..)
A third implication involves the ability of the American public and political class to assess adequately what is going on with a military campaign of this sort. The biggest problem as always is an unwillingness to pay adequate attention to information at our disposal.

For consider these points:

The first seems to be about the American military, although it is unclear to me who are those whose ¨
values and morality¨ are ¨involved in a U.S. military operation¨.

And if this is about the American military, my own concern is less: They are not draftees forced to kill by the law, but they are all voluntary military killers, who also function within a strict authoritarian regime that forbids a lot.

The second seems to be about ¨
the counterproductive aspects of an offensive that is supposed to be a combating of terrorism¨ which to me, at least, strongly suggests that a considerable part of the battle with terrorism is faught with terrorism by the Americans.

But this again is not clearly said.

And the third point is also either extremely vague - ¨
the ability of the American public and political class to assess adequately what is going on with a military campaign¨ - or else rather misleading, for the simple reason that ¨the American public¨ is for the most part consistently misled by the mainstream media, while ¨the political class¨ is again either very vague or refers to a system in which most leading politicians have been bought by the rich.

Again this is not clearly said. O well... I did my best to clarify.

3. When Will Democrats Stop Being Losers?

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Much was made of the “blue wave” some saw on November 7th.  Blue ripple is more like it.  Don’t expect those results to translate into a 2018 landslide for Democrats, unless the Party figures out what it’s for, not simply what it’s against.

Most of the Party leaders are only too eager to tell you what an idiot Trump is, or how mean Ryan, McConnell and the rest of the conservative wrecking crew is.  But they are loath to tell you what, exactly, they, themselves stand for.

I tend to agree with this. Here is some more:

So we’re treated to a steady drumbeat of Trump’s latest foibles and failings, or his latest incoherent and fractured rhetoric—and let’s be clear, Trump’s manifest mendacity, idiocy, and incompetence is both startling and frightening.

Well, one should oppose a lying incompetent idiot as president, but I agree with Atcheson - I think - that the Democrats are nearly as bad as the Republicans, for the simple reason that most are bought by the rich.

Here is more:

But the problem is, the majority of Americans know that Trump isn’t fit to be President.  And they’ve known that Republicans have been the Party of, by, and for the rich for a couple of decades now. For a little over a quarter of American voters, that’s just fine.  They’ve been blinded by hate, fear and greed; or they are among the 10 or so percent that prosper under the Republican policies.

But getting a little over 25 to 30 percent of voters has been enough for Republicans to win at every level, because some 45 percent of eligible voters routinely stay home.
I agree with the second part of the above quote, but I am doubtful about the first part, for I do not know that ¨the majority of Americans know that Trump isn’t fit to be President¨, while I am quite doubtful about the assertion that ¨the majority of Americans¨ know ¨that Republicans have been the Party of, by, and for the rich¨.

And indeed a good part part of the reasons I am doubtful is that I agree that no less than ¨
45 percent of eligible voters routinely stay home¨.

Then again, there is this - which I fear is quite true:

Buying politicians pays off, as two studies dramatically show. One, authored by Raquel Meyer Alexander, Steven W. Maza, and Susan Schultz, found the return on investment for lobbying to be 22,000 percent (see; “Measuring Rates of Return for Lobbying Expenditures: And Empirical Case Study of Tax Breaks for Multinational Corporations,” Journal of Law and Politics 25, no. 401 (2009): 401–57). That is, for every dollar spent on lobbying, the companies received $220 in tax benefits. Another, more recent and comprehensive study examining the two hundred most politically active companies found that they got an astounding 76,000 percent return on their lobbying expenditures.

Indeed, let me put it this way: Most ordinary profits that most firms make are - net - around 3%. This may also vary a great amount while
it is also true that some firms loose rather than gain, but this seems to be the average.

Well... what would you do, especially if you were already quite rich, if you can invest in evidently corrupt politicians, whose bought decisions will give you a profit of betwee 22,000 % and 76,000 %?!

And I think that is where American politics is now: Most politicians are rich careerists who increase their riches by their corruption, meanwhile lying about it all.

There are some exceptions - Warren, Sanders - but these are exceptions - or that is what I think, indeed because otherwise American politics becomes totally inunderstandable.

4. Is This a 'Sex Panic' or a National Moment of Reckoning? Can’t It Be Both?

This article is by Andrew O´Hehir on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the “Weinstein moment” created a painful opening for men (and some women too) to ask ourselves why we tolerated or excused this kind of behavior for so long, and what responsibility we had for enabling it. I covered the movie industry, on and off, for 20 years; I heard the rumors about Weinstein, about Kevin Spacey, about Brett Ratner. Everybody did. But I didn’t know those men, except in a severely limited professional context. They were “sleazy guys,” but I never looked into it or really even considered doing so. It wasn’t my problem.

I have been interested a little in Harvey Weinstein, indeed especially because he looks very ugly (I think), while he also did rather sick things, but I am not an American nor do I have an American ¨sexual education¨.

This article gets reviewed because since Weinstein there have been quite a few others - Spacey, Ratner and also Franken and Louis C.K. - who also have been blamed for misbehaving sexually.

Then again, when I am faced by questions like this, in a journalistic article, I get doubtful again:

To frame the question in bigger and more pretentious terms, what do we know about human sexuality and gender relations, and how do we know it?

For in fact the vast majority of the people do not know much about human sexuality, while most of what they learned, in the USA at least, seems to come from their parents or their priests or their pastors, and none of these are quite enlightened to start with (for the most part).

Then there is this:

In that context, it may be foolish to imagine we can ever reach rational consensus on inherently fraught and profoundly political questions about sexual relationships and sexual behavior. “Liberals” and “conservatives,” two words that themselves barely mean anything anymore, don’t even speak the same language or share the same understanding of reality.

No, this is bullshit for at least two reasons:

First, the questions about ¨sexual relationships¨ and ¨sexual behavior¨ are not about ¨politics¨ - in virtually any sense I know that term may have - but are about sexuality, morality and laws. Of course ¨politics¨ touch on these items as well, but indirectly.

And secondly O´Hehir either seems to pretend or else seems to believe that the battle about truth and science has been won by the relativists, who claim there is no truth and there is no real science (with much relevance for politics) and both are quite mistaken positions.

5. Why Trump Lies

This article is by Lucian K. Truscott IV on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
You want to know how inured we are to Trump’s lies? A headline in the Washington Post this week passed almost without notice. “President Trump has made 1628 false or misleading claims in 298 days.” I’ll bet it went right by you, along with this: “In the past 35 days, Trump has averaged an astonishing nine claims a day.” That would be false claims, in case you were wondering. According to the Post’s calculations, Trump has averaged 5.5 lies a day, putting him “on track to reach 1,999 claims by the end of his first year in office, though he obviously would easily exceed 2,000 if he maintained the pace of the past month.”
No, I am sorry: I am reading 35 sites every day to find out what the news is, and I have read or seen a rather large number of articles that
did make similar points as the Washington Post did.

Then there is this:
But it’s not how many times Trump has lied that makes him remarkable. It is how he lied, and why.  It would appear that Trump lies instinctively, automatically, reflexively, almost as a matter of course. But he doesn’t lie that way at all. Trump tells lies as a way to exercise power. He used lies to accumulate wealth as a businessman. He used lies to accumulate votes as a candidate. He used lies to accumulate power as a president. Now he’s using lies to keep himself from being removed from office.
No, I disagree: Of course the number of - obvious, self-evident - lies that the president of the USA tells is ¨remarkable¨, if only because very few or none of the other persons who were president of the USA can be plausibly accused of lying as much.

Also, I don´t agree that ¨
Trump tells lies as a way to exercise power¨ for at least two reasons:

First, I am a psychologist who agrees with - it seems, currently - over 62,000 other psychologists and psychiatrists that Trump is not sane, while the motives of the insane are more difficult to understand than those of the sane.

Second, Truscott seems to suggest some rational explanation for Trump´s lying. I think that is a mistake: A - somewhat - rational president simply would not lie as much, nor as glaringly, nor as stupidly as Trump does, even if he was as authoritarian as Trump is.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which I also disagree with:
Lies are the way authoritarians exercise power. If you are governed by a set of rules and laws, and then tell lies that enable you to break those rules and laws, the lies give you power. It’s like you’re standing astride the life of the nation and saying, I know I’m lying. You know I’m lying. I’m powerful and you’re not. Fuck you.

First, authoritarians who have the power they want do not need to lie: They simply can lock up or kill anyone (in their territory) who opposes them. (So Trump does not - as yet, at least - have that power.)

Second, the lies you tell will give you power in ¨a set of rules and laws¨ only if they are believed. One major problem with Trump is that many
do not believe his lies, but he insists on telling them anyway (which is one of the reasons this psychologist thinks he is mad).

And third, while there is something to ¨
I know I’m lying. You know I’m lying. I’m powerful and you’re not. Fuck you.¨ I think in many cases - but not all - Trump does not know he is lying when he is lying, basically because he does live in a false made-up ¨reality¨ (where a black man like Obama must be the inferior of a white man like Trump, for example).

Anyway - this was not a good explanation of why Trump lies.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that 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] I gladly admit that I stopped voting in 1971 (46 years ago). Then again, I am not an average man and my reasons not to vote in Holland do not matter here and now.

[3] Here are two remarks on ¨moderates¨: First, what Hedges says is not about any ¨moderates¨ but is merely about those who do have some power and who pretend to be moderates. Second, simply because extremist views are rarely true, I tend to be more sympathetic to people of moderate views than I am here - but see the first remark.
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