January 29, 2018

Crisis: Trump´s Idiocy,  American "Defense
", On Obama, On Robert Parry, Trump´s America


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 29, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 29, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 29, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. The Useful Idiocy of Donald Trump 
2. Trump to Ask for $716 Billion for Defense Spending
3. Obama's 'Final Year': Epitaph for an Illusion
4. Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews
5. Trump’s America: Open to Global Capital, Not People
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. The Useful Idiocy of Donald Trump

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The problem with Donald Trump is not that he is imbecilic and inept—it is that he has surrendered total power to the oligarchic and military elites. They get what they want. They do what they want. Although the president is a one-man wrecking crew aimed at democratic norms and institutions, although he has turned the United States into a laughingstock around the globe, our national crisis is embodied not in Trump but the corporate state’s now unfettered pillage.

Trump, who has no inclination or ability to govern, has handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals. They are eradicating the few regulations and laws that inhibited a naked kleptocracy. They are dynamiting the institutions, including the State Department, that served interests other than corporate profit and are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues. Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying.

I agree with Hedges that Trump seems to have ¨handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals¨ and I also agree that these folks ¨are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues¨.

And I think I may disagree a little with Hedges on Trump´s intelligence and his madness, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am a psychologist who happens to think that by far
the best explanation for Trump´s extremely many oddities (let´s say) is that (i) he is in fact a madman - as some 70,000 other psychologists and psychiatrists seem to have agreed to, meanwhile, and also because I think that (ii) Trump is in fact a neofascist, as I have defined them:

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.

I have quoted my definition once again, because I think it is correct; and because I know a whole lot about fascism, but have never read a proper definition of it by any journalist whatsoever (because there are more than seven characteristics (?!)), indeed also not by Hedges.

So here is my point-by-point argument why Donald Trump is a neofascist on the basis of the above definition of the term ¨neofascism¨:

1. a government with a centralized powerful authority: Existed already in the USA.
2. the opposition is propagandized, suppressed or censored: Evidently so as regards
    propaganda, while Trump clearly desires to suppress those who criticize him.
3. propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm: Evidently so.
4. has a politics that is rightwing: Evidently so.
has a politics that is nationalistic: Evidently so. (¨Make America Great Again¨)
has a politics that is pro-capitalist: Evidently so.
has a politics that is anti-liberal: Evidently so.
has a politics that is anti-equality: Evidently so.
has a politics that is anti-leftist: Evidently so.
10. wishes a government in which multi-national corporations are strongest: Evidently so.

Besides, Trump indeed also is a racist. And there is one feature that is missing in the above definition:

11. the American government´s secret services have been trying for 17 years now to know
    absolutely everything about absolutely everyone living absolutely anywhere
: in the
   end this is by far the biggest danger of a threatening neofascism, in addition to the
   above 10 criterions that are all satisfied by Trump and his government.

Finally, about Trump´s intelligence: If he is a genius, I am a cucumber, and if he is in any way brilliant I would be quite amazed, but I do not know Trump at all. I take it he is not stupid, though probably also much pampered by a lifetime of riches, but what I am very worried about is that I do think - as a psychologist, which gives me six years of possibly more insight than non- psychologists have [2] - he is both mad and quite irresponsible.

I leave it at this, and return to Hedges´ text:

Once democratic institutions are hollowed out, a process begun before the election of Trump, despotism is inevitable. The press is shackled. Corruption and theft take place on a massive scale. The rights and needs of citizens are irrelevant. Dissent is criminalized. Militarized police monitor, seize and detain Americans without probable cause. The rituals of democracy become farce. This is the road we are traveling. It is a road that leads to internal collapse and tyranny, and we are very far down it.

I agree with Hedges thay the USA is quite far down the road to some form of neofascism, although the outcome is not necessarily despotism. For the amount of despotism that an authoritarian government uses tends to be roughly proportional to the opposition and resistance it faces, and there are at least two alternatives:

The first is inverted totalitarianism, which is a term introduced by the American political philosopher Sheldon Wolin. Wolin was also extensively (and interestingly) interviewed by Hedges in 2014, and here is the last file of my reviews of these interviews in Nederlog (which still ought to be interesting).

The second alternative is that the largest part of the American population has given up intelligent caring for their government and the form of their government, and may proceed more or less as they have been now and the last seventeen years of continuous American wars faught in other continents than the American one.

I do not know how likely either alternative is, but they do exist. Here is more by Hedges:

The elites’ moral and intellectual vacuum produced Trump. They too are con artists. They are slicker than he at selling the lies and more adept at disguising their greed through absurd ideologies such as neoliberalism and globalization, but they belong to the same criminal class and share many of the pathologies that characterize Trump. The grotesque visage of Trump is the true face of politicians such as George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Clintons and Obama, unlike Bush and Trump, are self-aware and therefore cynical, but all lack a moral compass.

While I agree that all American politicians I have seen do remind me of con artists, I think I like to avoid terms like ¨intellectual vacuum¨, ¨criminal class¨ and ¨pathologies¨.

In fact, they may be more or less correct from a left(ish) point of view, but the right does at least have an ideology to put forward (neoliberalism), while I also think most of the rich right do not think of themselves as a ¨criminal class¨ but as a class of leaders, and also do not think they are themselves ¨pathological¨, but in fact that leaders like they are deserve the riches they get.

Then there is this by Hedges:

The elites in dying cultures turn everything into a commodity. Human beings are commodities. The natural world is a commodity. Government and democratic institutions are commodities. All are mined and wrecked for profit.

Yes, I agree mostly - and see yesterday´s ¨A Summary of ¨The Century of the Self¨¨.

There is also this on what commodities are and cannot be:

The elites in a dying culture confuse what the economist Karl Polanyi calls “real” and “fictitious” commodities. A commodity is a product manufactured for sale. The ecosystem, labor and money, therefore, are not commodities. Once these fictitious commodities are treated as real ones for exploitation and manipulation, Polanyi writes, human society devours itself.

I think I agree with Polanyi and Hedges, and indeed it might have been added that one of the real differences between commodities and non-commodities is not whether something can be sold on a market, but whether purported commodities are rapidly or at all replaceable by alternative commodities - and Polanyi is right that e.g. the ecosystem, money and labor (in a sense) are not commodities: they cannot be replaced (as are, in a similar sense, civilization and culture: these may be mostly absent in a given society, but if there are less depraved societies, these will tend to take over).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, on Trump´s impeachment:

The Russia investigation—launched when Robert Mueller became special counsel in May and which appears to be focused on money laundering, fraud and shady business practices, things that have always characterized Trump’s financial empire—is unlikely to unseat the president. He will not be impeached for mental incompetence, over the emoluments clause or for obstruction of justice, although he is guilty on all these counts. He is useful to those who hold real power in the corporate state, however much they would like to domesticate him.

I agree with Hedges (unfortunately) that it ¨is unlikely¨ that Trump will be impeached, at least as long as the Republicans have the majority in the Senate and the House.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Trump to Ask for $716 Billion for Defense Spending

This article is by Emily Wells on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The Trump administration is expected to request a raise in the defense budget to $716 billion in 2019, a significant increase—7 percent—over the prior year, The Washington Post reported Friday. The request is considered by many to be a shift away from the administration’s expressed concerns about rising deficits.

If approved, the new budget would be a victory for Defense Secretary James Mattis, who last week argued in favor of an increase to prepare for the possibility of armed conflict with Russia or China, or perhaps “rouge nations” like North Korea. The Pentagon’s unclassified, 11-page summary of the National Defense Strategy did not provide details on how a shift toward addressing China and Russia would be enacted but did state that spending requests would reflect this goal.
This is reviewed here simply because $716 billion is an enormous amount of money (all from the taxes), and also because Trump and his government do appear to be coursing for a major war.

Here is a bit more:

The increase would cover the Pentagon’s annual budget, as well as spending to support ongoing wars and to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pentagon officials said the budget increase would prioritize preparing for conflict with “major world powers” and “modernize the military’s aging weapons systems.”

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.
3. Obama's 'Final Year': Epitaph for an Illusion

This article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

"The Final Year," with its all-star cast of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. adviser Samantha Power, and national security deputy Ben Rhodes, might be the saddest movie of the year.

It's a fly on the wall, political campaign-style documentary of the last year of Obama’s foreign policy as seen from inside the bubble of power. While Kerry, Power and Rhodes travel the world, seeking to complete Obama’s global legacy, they dismiss the possibility that Republican president candidate Donald Trump might win.

As a result, the HBO-produced film arrived for a limited run in Washington theaters this month with subtext that producers and leading actors did not intend and barely understood. Designed to celebrate Obama & Co’s statesmanship, the movie also illuminates their cluelessness.

I say. I did not know this, but since I do not like Obama at all (I think he was a fraud, like Bill Clinton), I like the news that the film that was designed to hail Obama failed to do so if only for the simple reason that they dismissed ¨the possibility that Republican president candidate Donald Trump might win¨.

Here is a description of the contents of the film, that indeed seem to be mostly propagandistic:

“The Final Year” does little to convey the reality of Obama’s tenure as commander-in-chief, rendering the movie bloodless in more ways than one. We see no video from the brutal Syrian civil war, from which Obama mostly, and wisely, abstained. There’s no aerial footage of U.S. drone strikes, which Obama escalated ten-fold from his much-reviled predecessor George W. Bush.

Instead, we get emotionally charged scenes in which the stars can display their sympathy and intelligence in service of Obama’s second-term diplomatic initiatives: the Paris Climate Agreement, the international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear program and the normalization of relations with Cuba.

The article ends as follows (in part):

In his final year, Obama & Co. made an intelligent case for their policies, not realizing that outside the bubble of power, their elite audience had little appeal to, or credibility with half the American electorate. Around the world, the difference between Bush’s neoconservative crusades and Obama’s restrained interventionism was real and critical. At home, it was a distinction without a difference.

No, I think this is mistaken, if only for the simple reason that the differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in terms of votes were quite small, and because in fact Hillary got more ordinary votes than Trump, but she was not elected because of the particularities of the - non-elective - Electoral College.

4. Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews

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

It is with a heavy heart that we inform Consortiumnews readers that Editor Robert Parry has passed away. As regular readers know, Robert (or Bob, as he was known to friends and family) suffered a stroke in December, which – despite his own speculation that it may have been brought on by the stress of covering Washington politics – was the result of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer that he had been unknowingly living with for the past 4-5 years.

He unfortunately suffered two more debilitating strokes in recent weeks and after the last one, was moved to hospice care on Tuesday. He passed away peacefully Saturday evening. He was 68.

I say. I did know Robert Parry (<-Wikipedia) was seriously ill, but until today I did not think his life was in danger, nor did I know that he died last Saturday.

And indeed I am rather sad, although I never met him nor mailed with him. I am so for three interconnected reasons: He was an honest man, he was a fine journalist, and his site was one of the relatively few sites that was honest, intelligent, and nearly always quite sensible, which indeed also are the three characteristics on which the mainstream media tend to fail.

Besides, Robert Parry was almost a year older than I am, which means - especially since I have been ill for 39 years now, with M.E., which by now is slowly being admitted is a real and serious physical disease, but which will happen in Holland officially (by the bureaucrats and political officials) only after I am dead, I am rather sure, even if I get to be 98.

Here are some memories of Nat Parry about his father:

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, “Kids like me?” He replied, “Yes, kids just like you.”

Here are some more about Obama:

By the time Barack Obama was elected the 44th president, had become a home to a growing number of writers who brought new perspectives to the website’s content. While for years, the writing staff had been limited primarily to Bob, Sam and me, suddenly, Consortiumnews was receiving contributions from journalists, activists and former intelligence analysts who offered a wide range of expertise – on international law, economics, human rights, foreign policy, national security, and even religion and philosophy.

One recurring theme of articles at the website during the Obama era was the enduring effect of unchallenged narratives, how they shaped national politics and dictated government policy. Bob observed that even a supposedly left-of-center president like Obama seemed beholden to the false narratives and national mythologies dating back to the Reagan era. He pointed out that this could be at least partially attributed to the failure to establish a strong foundation for independent journalism.

Yes, I think that is correct - and Obama also was at most a ¨leftish¨ president, where both my term and my quotation-marks indicate that I think both were mostly propaganda, as indeed with the first major deregulator, Bill Clinton.

And I also think that Robert Parry was quite right about independent journalism: It was already rather bad from 1980 till 2000, but since then, mostly but not solely because of the wars that started in 2001, the journalism of the mainstream media has mostly collapsed, mostly because of a lack of honesty in journalists or (especially) editors, who made the articles they published depend more on their perceived profitability than on its perceived truth or relevance for democracy.

Here is Nat Parry on his father´s death:

My dad’s untimely passing has come as a shock to us all, especially since up until a month ago, there was no indication whatsoever that he was sick in any way. He took good care of himself, never smoked, got regular check-ups, exercised, and ate well. The unexpected health issues starting with a mild stroke Christmas Eve and culminating with his admission into hospice care several days ago offer a stark reminder that nothing should be taken for granted.

And as many Consortiumnews readers have eloquently pointed out in comments left on recent articles regarding Bob’s health, it also reminds us that his brand of journalism is needed today more than ever.

Incidentally, Robert Parry did die of pancreatic cancer that was undiagnosed the last five years. (And I dislike much of modern medicine because I have M.E. and have been mistreated by medics the last 39 years, but I will leave this out, except here, parenthetically.)

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

As someone who has been involved with this website since its inception – as a writer, an editor and a reader – I concur with these sentiments. Readers should rest assured that despite my dad’s death, every effort will be made to ensure that the website will continue going strong.

Indeed, I think that everyone involved with this project wants to uphold the same commitment to truth-telling without fear or favor that inspired Bob and his heroes like George Seldes, I.F. Stone, and Thomas Paine.

I am quite glad, simply because Consortiumnews has shown itself to be a fine site, that I also have quoted and reviewed rather a lot from the last six years. And I do hope they will exist at least another 30 years, indeed because sites like Consortiumnews are both rare and needed by anyone interested in the real and the true news and in reasonable explanations of the news.

This is a recommended article in which there is considerably more than I quoted.

5. Trump’s America: Open to Global Capital, Not People

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

Trump to global CEOs and financiers in Davos, Switzerland: “America is open for business.” We’re now a great place for you to make money. We’ve slashed taxes and regulations so you can make a bundle here.  

Trump to ambitious young immigrants around the world, including those brought here as children: America is closed. We don’t want you. Forget that poem affixed to the Statue of Liberty about bringing us your poor yearning to breathe free. Don’t even try.

In Trump’s America, global capital is welcome, people aren’t.

Yes indeed. Here is some more on the differences between global capital and - non-rich - people:

Well, I have news for the so-called businessman. America was built by ambitious people from all over the world, not by global capital.

Global capital wants just one thing: A high return on its investment.

Global capital has no obligation to any country or community. If there’s another place around the world where taxes are lower and regulations laxer, global capital will move there at the speed of an electronic blip.

Global capital doesn’t care how it gets a high return. If it can get it by slashing wages, outsourcing to contract workers, polluting air and water, defrauding investors, or destroying communities, it will.

People are different. Once they’ve rooted somewhere, they generally stay put. They develop webs of connections and loyalties.
Actually, ¨global capital¨ doesn´t want or care for anything, for the global capitalists do. And they indeed want profit, it seems indeed completely independent of whatever social or ecological harm done: if it is profitable, excellent; if not, we rich try something else.

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

We raised taxes – especially on big corporations and wealthy individuals – in order to finance good schools, public universities, and infrastructure. We regulated business. And we welcomed immigrants and reunited families.

Global capital came our way not because we were a cheap place to do business but because we were fabulously productive and innovative place to do business.  

Now Trump and his rich backers want to undo all this. No one should be surprised. When they look at the economy they only see money. They’ve made lots of it.

But the real economy is people.

I more or less agree, but probably would have added that one difference between the few rich and the many non-rich is that the rich do not care for the non-rich, and therefore are also not interested in their fates.

This is a recommended article.


[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 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] When I studied psychology - in the Seventies and Eighties - an M.A. in psychology officially took 6 years. (Since then it was halved or so, which means in fact that ¨the students¨ get at most half as much to learn as everyone did who studied psychology until 1983 or so.)

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