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Nederlog

Friday, December 29, 2017.

Crisis: Pseudo-Democracy, "Russia-gate", Trump's Deceit * 2, Cheney & North-Korea
 
Sections                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 29, 2017.
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday
, December 29, 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 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from December 29, 2017
1. This Is What Pseudo-Democracy Looks Like
2. What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Russian Hacking
3. Donald Trump Is Forging an America as Greedy, Deceitful and
     Cruel as Its President

4. New Year’s Update for Trump Voters
5. How Cheney and His Allies Created the North Korea Nuclear
     Missile Crisis
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. This Is What Pseudo-Democracy Looks Like

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Oligarchy prevents democracy. That explains the gist of why the United States became more undemocratic in 2017.

With vast income inequality and corporate power, this country’s oligarchy keeps consolidating itself—largely hidden in plain sight—normalized and embossed on the wallpaper of mass-media echo chambers.
Well... yes and no. Yes, I agree mostly with this "analysis". And no, I think there is a considerably better explanation than just "the government of the few", which is what "oligarchy" means.

That explanation is my own, of neofascism as I defined it, namely as follows:

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
As you may see, this does cover Solomon's "oligarchy", but is far more specific, and that also point for point coincides with both the ideology and the practices of Trump's government.

And I do not say Solomon is mistaken; I do say he could have been far more specific. Here is more on Solomon's line:

“In the American republic, the fact of oligarchy is the most dreaded knowledge of all, and our news keeps that knowledge from us,” historian Walter Karp wrote. “By their subjugation of the press, the political powers in America have conferred on themselves the greatest of political blessings—Gyges’ ring of invisibility.” Those words appeared in 1989.

Nearly 30 years later, the power of billionaires, huge banks and Wall Street over U.S. politics is far more dominant, while a propaganda fog diverts attention from their antidemocratic leverage. An array of news media (including big “public” outlets like NPR) and corporate politicians, unwilling to acknowledge let alone challenge the reality of an oligarchy in the United States, love to point accusatory fingers elsewhere.

Yes indeed - but note that e.g. the "subjugation of the press" (that is, the mainstream media) is not covered by mere "oligarchy", while it is explicit in my definition of neofascism.

Here is some evidence for Solomon's line:

Days before the end of 2017, I googled the phrase “American oligarchs” and found that it appeared scarcely one-tenth as often as “Russian oligarchs.” Yet the gravest injuries and threats to democracy in the USA are overwhelmingly coming from massively capitalized individuals and corporations at the top of the U.S. power structure.

I agree with this, simply because (i) Google is American and (ii) there are more oligarchs in the USA than in Russia. Then again, it is only a bit of supportive evidence, and I said I agree with Solomon's analysis, except that I think he could have been more specific.

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

We need an ongoing and escalating grass-roots challenge to the national leadership of the Democratic Party, which remains aligned with Wall Street and the warfare state. The tasks ahead involve strengthening progressive populist movements to gain power inside and outside of electoral arenas.

Well... yes and no. I agree the Democratic Party needs to be challenged, but my main reason is that as is (in fact since Bill Clinton) that at least its top is sold to the banks, which means that the top should go and be replaced by a considerably more radical one, that is not sold to the banks.

But I agree this will be difficult, and this article is recommended.


2. What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Russian Hacking

This article is by Jackson Lears on Truthdig and originally on the London Review of Books. It starts as follows:

American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual—the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington. Neoliberals celebrate market utility as the sole criterion of worth; interventionists exalt military adventure abroad as a means of fighting evil in order to secure global progress. Both agendas have proved calamitous for most Americans.

Yes, I completely agree. Here is more, still from the beginning:

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

Again I agree completely - and I am one of those who have said since 2015 that they do not believe "the evidence", and namely because it is not real evidence, but mostly only unfounded accusations.

Here is more (still from the beginning):

The centerpiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind.

Yes indeed - and please not that the phrase "[d]oubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin" is what I call totalitarian, which is utterly impossible by the false, one-sided and deceitful definition of the term on Wikipedia.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:
Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free “assessment” produced last January by a small number of “hand-picked” analysts (...)

Yes indeed. And this is still from the beginning, that is followed by a lot more, all quite good and recommended.


3. Donald Trump Is Forging an America as Greedy, Deceitful and Cruel as Its President

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Eleven months into his presidency, Donald Trump remains something of an enigma for a large subsection of the political press. Is he a white nationalist, as his affiliation with Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon and his refusal to condemn the marchers in Charlottesville might suggest? Could he be a Western chauvinist, who believes Islam poses an existential threat to America's survival? Or is he just a plutocrat with a potty mouth and a golden toilet, a nominally more vulgar version of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)? What if he's all three at once?

The recent passage of so-called tax reform, which could kick as many as 13 million people off their health insurance and extinguish the last embers of America's middle class, raises yet another possibility: he's none of these things. While the president is indisputably a bigot, a misogynist and a predatory capitalist, one component of the GOP tax bill offers compelling evidence that his sole ideology is his own malignant narcissism, what David Roth at the Baffler calls the "blank sucking nullity of vanity and appetite."

Well... I am not a journalist but I am a philosopher and a psychologist, and in the end I disagree with the above sum-up of possible interpretations of Trump because I think - for a long time, also - that it is rather obvious (for a psychologist and a philosopher) that Trump is both a malignant narcissist (and Sugarman and I agree on that) and a neofascist, for reasons given in section 1.

Besides, I disagree with this listing of hardly credible alternative and very partial journalistic "explanations" for Trump ("white nationalist", "Western chauvinist", "just a plutocrat", "what if he is all three?"): This is just obscure.

Here is some more:
Trump has made no secret of his contempt for America's first black president, but the legacy he has worked hardest to dismantle might not be Barack Obama's but that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As Heather Cox Richardson argues in the Guardian, the Trump administration has launched an all-out assault on the New Deal, not just the welfare state it helped establish but the very idea that government can be used as a mechanism to improve people's material conditions. Ultimately, Trump's presidency represents the culmination of a right-wing movement that has been underway for nearly half a century.
I think this is mostly correct, but I can be more specific, and also the dating is a bit of a problem: First, I think the Republican blowback can be dated rather precisely: It began in 1971 - which is slightly over 45 years ago - with Lewis F. Powell's memorandum. And second, I think Sugarman was correct in saying this targeted Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which was started in 1933 in response to the Wall Street crisis of 1929. So this can be dated back nearly 85 years.

Here is more on what Trump did in his first year of government:
The Trump administration has rolled back dozens of protections for American workers (including an Obama-era rule that entitles servers to their tip money), but its crowning achievement is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In addition to repealing the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which helps ensure the ACA remains solvent by requiring healthy Americans to obtain insurance, the GOP bill entrenches income inequality for at least a generation through the repeal of the estate tax. It creates permanent tax cuts for multinational corporations while those for lower-income earners expire after several years, and the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation predicts it will add $1 trillion to the national deficit. That might be easy enough to dismiss if the GOP weren't planning on using a manufactured budget crisis as a pretext to slash essential government programs like Medicare and Social Security, which was signed into law in 1965 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society.
Yes indeed. There is more in the article, that is recommended.


4. New Year’s Update for Trump Voters

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Almost one year in, it’s time for another update for Trump voters on his election promises:

And what I will do now is collect twenty (!) of the promises that Trump made to his voters, but I will suppress all the accompanying texts (which tend to be short):

1. He told you he’d cut your taxes, and that the super-rich like him
     would pay more.
2. He promised to close “special interest loopholes that have been
     so good for Wall Street investors (...)
3. He told you he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with
     something “beautiful.”
4. He told you he’d invest $1 trillion in our nation’ crumbling
     infrastructure.
5. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp.
6. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White
     House into shape.
7. He told you he’d “bring down drug prices” by making deals with
     drug companies.
8. He promised “a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money
     for American elections.”
9. He told you “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other
     Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.”
10. He promised “six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother
       with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the
       benefit.”
11. He said that on Day One he’d label China a “currency
       manipulator.”

12. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria.
13. He said he’d build a “wall” across the southern border.
14. He promised that the many women who accused him of sexual
       misconduct “will be sued after the election is over.”
15. He said he would not be a president who took vacations.
16. He said he’d force companies to keep jobs in America, and that
       there would be “consequences” for companies that shipped
       jobs abroad.
17. He promised to revive the struggling coal industry and “bring
       back thousands” of lost mining jobs.
18. He promised to protect steel workers.
19. He said he’d make America safer.
20. He said he’d release his taxes.

It should be added that in nearly all of these cases, the Trumpian promise is continued by "You bought it" (addressed by Reich to Trump's voters) followed by - correct - variants of "Trump failed (and he lied and deceived)".

This is a strongly recommended article.


5. How Cheney and His Allies Created the North Korea Nuclear Missile Crisis

This article is by Gareth Porter on Truthout. It starts as follows:

The Trump administration has been telling people for months that the crisis with North Korea is the result of North Korea's relentless pursuit of a nuclear threat to the US homeland and past North Korean cheating on diplomatic agreements. However, North Korea reached agreements with both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations that could have averted that threat, had they been completed.

Instead, a group of Bush administration officials led by then-Vice President Dick Cheney sabotaged both agreements, and Pyongyang went on to make rapid strides on both nuclear and missile development, leading ultimately to the successful late November 2017 North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.

The record shows, moreover, that Cheney and his allies derailed diplomatic efforts to curb North Korean nuclear and missile development, not because they opposed "arms control" (after all, the agreements that were negotiated would have limited only North Korean arms), but because those agreements would have been a political obstacle to fielding the group's main interest: funding and fielding a national missile defense system as quickly as possible. The story of Cheney's maneuvering to kill two agreements shows how a real US national security interest was sacrificed to a massive military boondoggle that served only the interests of the powerful contractors behind it.
I say. In fact, there is considerably more in the article, that is recommended, and that shows that it is less North Korea that created the present great nuclear risk, but the USA, indeed because it seems that this policy served "the interests of the powerful contractors behind it".

------------------------------
Note

[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 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 (!!).

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