January 31, 2018

Crisis: Bernie Saders, Progressives, ¨Christian Evangelicals
¨,  Democracy, Deep State


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 31, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 31, 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 31, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Bernie Sanders: What Trump Won't Say in His Big Speech 
2. Fed Up With Democrats, Progressives Forge Own Path
3. Why Do Evangelicals Worship Trump? The Answer Should Be Obvious
4. Is Trump Slowly Killing Democracy?
5. Will Congress Face Down the Deep State?
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. Bernie Sanders: What Trump Won't Say in His Big Speech

This article is by Bernie Sanders on AlterNet. It starts as follows - and I am sorry I do not have more on the State of the Union, but - I think that - most of it is a bore.

Also, I have to grant that the first article I read about it was in the NYT, by one Nicholas Kristof, who was too lazy or too sickly egoistic to write for the NYT but only repeated his Twitters, and managed to get his own name in his own article a mere 39 times.

I do not know who Nicholas Kristof is, and all I want to know is how to avoid that manner of idiotic, sick egoism.

Anyway... here is Bernie Sanders:

Tuesday night is Trump’s State of the Union speech. Nobody knows exactly what he will be discussing, but I’m absolutely certain what he will NOT be talking about.

He will surely not be apologizing for the many lies he told American voters: how he promised to defend the interests of working people, but then sold them out to Wall Street and the billionaire class.

During his campaign he promised to provide health care to “everybody,” but then supported legislation which would have thrown 32 million Americans off of the healthcare they had. Although we managed to stop his effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, 3.2 million fewer Americans today have health insurance than when Trump first came into office, and millions more will lose their health insurance as a result of the repeal of the individual mandate.

During his campaign he promised to pass tax reform legislation designed to help the middle class. The legislation that he signed will, at the end of 10 years, provide 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent, drive up the deficit by $1.7 trillion and raise taxes for millions of middle class families.

Trump´s State of the Union was yesterday evening, and since I write Nederlog in Holland, and start very early in the morning all I have seen from it, as yet, are Twitters or Tweet-like reports.

And I don´t care for Trump´s lies, so I do not know how much more I will read about Trump´s own lies in his State of the Union address.

But here is some more by Bernie Sanders:

During his campaign he promised to take on the outrageously high prices of the pharmaceutical industry which, he told us, was “getting away with murder.” Then, as president, while drug prices continue to soar, he appointed a drug company executive as Secretary of Health and Human Services who worked to triple insulin prices.

During his campaign he promised to take on the greed of Wall Street, but then proceeded to appoint more Wall Street titans to high positions than any president in history. Now, with Wall Street firmly behind him, he is trying to repeal the modest provisions of the Dodd-Frank legislation which provide some consumer protections against Wall Street thievery.

This is again all true. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Trump will also not be talking about the role that he has played in significantly lowering the respect that people all over the planet have for the United States. Once, not so many years ago, we were considered to be the political and moral leader in the world, the country most admired. Now, according to a recent Gallup poll, since Trump has been president median approval of U.S. leadership plummeted to 30 percent, down from 48 percent in 2016.

Trump will not talk about his efforts to undermine democracy in the United States and his support for authoritarianism abroad. He will not mention his encouragement to Republican governors to accelerate efforts for voter suppression, and his admiration for the leaders of countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

Again all true. This is more in the article, that is recommended.

2. Fed Up With Democrats, Progressives Forge Own Path

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:
Far from panicking, America’s political left is organizing, strategizing, mobilizing … and WINNING. Coalitions of local progressive activists (newly energized by an infusion of dynamic, creative young people and people of color) came together after the 2016 election. They recruited and trained candidates from their own ranks; methodically knocked on doors, having thousands of front-porch conversations with voters on basic issues; mobilized supporters for intensive election-day turn-out drives; and elected scores of audaciously populist mayors, council members, legislators, and other officials. This is the mouse hole to watch, for it’s where ordinary people — those fed up with the corporate-rigged, business-as-usual politics and policies of both major parties — are actively rebuilding democracy and beginning to produce real change. It’s a nationwide rebellion made up of spontaneous local rebellions, each sparked by various specific grievances with America’s ruling royalists.
No, I am sorry: I know Jim Hightower is a leftist, and I am also a leftist, although I do not share some characteristics of many leftists.

Three differences between myself and most leftists I have known is that I am not totalitarian; I think that most ordinary people are more totalitarian than not (and this is based on more than 50 years of personal experiences); and also I am - still - more of a scientist than of a politician. [2]

And I think the above is simply far too optimistic. I also have another reason, which will emerge after the next and last quotation:

This burgeoning movement is not merely about protesting or lobbying the government — it intends to become the government. It’s a new politics embracing a three-front strategy I call R-I-P:

— Resist the Trumpeteers and corporatists of all parties who’re imposing
    plutocratic rule over us commoners.
— Insist on enacting a positive, aggressively progressive people’s agenda.
— Persist in organizing from the ground up to sustain both “little-d” democratic
    politics and “everybody” policies.

The most common characteristic of last year’s progressive, populist candidates is that they were genuinely of the people, not career pols who were next in line.
In fact, I started to read this article that, given its title, seemed to give some indication how American progressives can avoid both the Republican and the Democratic parties, fundamentally because most of their elected members have been corrupted, while both parties also are heavily financed by the rich or the banks.

But there is nothing about these important issues in this article.

3. Why Do Evangelicals Worship Trump? The Answer Should Be Obvious

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
Why do white right-wing Christian evangelicals support Donald Trump? The answer is quite simple. Their agenda is his agenda. Trump and the Republican Party are working to take away women's reproductive rights, and to extending special "conscience" protections to "Christians" who feel that their faith should somehow supersede the law. They view the poor, the disabled, and others as "useless eaters," and are working to protect white privilege and the power of white right-wing Christians in all areas of American life. Trump is also a petit-fascist and an authoritarian. This vision of the world is embraced in every way by right-wing Christians.
I think this is correct.

There also are at least two quite interesting articles by Chris Hedges - who also is a Protestant minister - on the American Christian evangelists, namely one with Abby Martin, reviewed here:
Is ‘Christianized Fascism’ the Biggest Threat We Face Under Trump?  and one by Chris Hedges himself: Chris Hedges: Trump and the Christian Fascists

I thought both articles quite interesting and quite good, and they do also give considerable background to DeVega´s article.

Here is some more from that article:

Writing at the History News Network, Ed Simon explores this theme:

Well, I don’t believe in a literal anti-Christ, and to accuse Trump of being one gives the president far too much credit. At his core he is simply a consummate narcissist with little intelligence and less curiosity, one who has somehow become the most powerful man in the world. And that’s certainly dangerous enough without invoking anything supernatural. Still, it’s surprising that evangelical Christians, who for years preached about such a figure, seem to lack the self-awareness to identify something so anti-Christian in Trump himself. Or worse yet, they certainly recognize it, but don’t care.
Well... as I said when reviewing item 2, I think ordinary men (left, middle, and right) are considerably more totalitarian than they think they are, and I also think that most ordinary men are characterized by stupidity and ignorance - and besides, they now have the social media in  which everyone can publish who can compose a Tweet (which fundamentally changed the world, I think, and not for the better) and can do so (mostly) anonymously for every ordinary user who is not a leading member of the NSA or of Amazon, Google or Facebook.

And I think American evangelical Christians are as a rule very ignorant, indeed not because they are necessarily stupid (many of them are, but some are not), but because they all tend to look at the same uninformative, progandistic or plainly lying programs, e.g. on Fox News, and to little else.

Here is minister Brandi Miller, quoted from the Huffington Post:

We must consider how one can use the name Jesus ― a marginalized Palestinian who espoused non-violence, love, inclusion and a preferential option for the poor ― to endorse a president whose violence, bigotry and love of money is unprecedented. ...

It seems as if white evangelicals will overlook every moral inconsistency and offense if it means ushering in the Kingdom of White Jesus.
As I just indicated, I explain these events by the stupidity, the ignorance, the totalitarian attitudes and the very many lies they get in their regular ¨news¨, that mark most ¨Christian evangelicals¨. Also, I agree with Chris Hedges that the name ¨Christian evangelicals¨ is grossly misleading, but then again this is what they call themselves, and no doubt most do believe it, even if their actual faith is far removed from the teachings of Jesus.

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

Trump has become a pseudo-Christian savior, to whom evangelicals offer their votes their allegiance and their political donations, worshiping at the altar of this false image of God.

Movement conservatism, after all, can be considered a type of political religion. It relies on untrue fables and faith divorced from empirical reality, it drives out heretics and other non-believers and it offers a creed and rites which are not to be questioned or violated under any circumstances. In total, American conservatism at present is deeply fundamentalist. But it is also deceptively inclusive: authoritarians, bigots, racists, misogynists, white supremacists, nativists, gangster capitalists, the willfully ignorant and anti-intellectual, and those who eschew reason for passion are all welcome.

Yes, I think that is correct. And see the above mentioned articles.

4. Is Trump Slowly Killing Democracy?

This article is by Heather Digby Parton on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near the beginning:
There seems to be a consensus that over the course of the last few months Trump has shown an alarming propensity to abuse his power, but it's still unclear whether there is a clear case that he broke the law. If it can be proven that he has abused his power or broken the law, the one remedy everyone can agree upon -- as with any president -- is impeachment.

Because the Republican majority in Congress is acting as Trump's accomplices rather than a co-equal branch of government with oversight responsibility and an obligation to defend the Constitution, however, impeachment is highly unlikely.
Well... yes and no: I do not know about the ¨consensus¨ Parton speaks of (of the left, perhaps - but that is not a consensus); I think it ought to be clear to everyone who is at least fairly intelligent that Trump abuses his power (over 2000 lies in his first year); and I also think there are clear cases where he broke the law (profiting himself from his presidency), but I do agree
with the conclusion: it is unlikely he will be impeached (before 2019).

Here is more:

This president and his henchmen could create an authoritarian regime within the rough boundaries of the Constitution and the imprimatur of democratic legitimacy. It would hardly be unprecedented. It's the way it happens in the modern world. Political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have written a new book, "How Democracies Die," which surveys how democratic nations can slide into authoritarianism when they lose their willingness to live by two specific norms: mutual toleration and forbearance.

The first is the belief that the opposition is operating in good faith and with a common love of country. The other is the forbearance not to push the boundaries of power, something that all the players in our system have more of than the law can possibly constrain on its own.
In their view, America is in danger of going down that road, having weakened its system going back to the 1980s, when the back-benchers of the Republican Party, led by Newt Gingrich, began to attack democratic norms that had been in place since the end of the Civil War -- the last time American democracy went sideways.
Again yes and no: I have not read Levitsky and Ziblatt, but I have read a whole lot on politics (<- one list of quite interesting books) and I am rather doubtful about the norms they use.

As to ¨mutual toleration¨: There is something to be said for this, but it is also fairly clear that many on the rightist and the leftist side of politics have - in actual fact - little toleration for the ideas, values and acts of their opponents. And besides, if one side (see Newt Gingrich, above) is not at all practising toleration of the the other side, the other side has very little reason to practise toleration of the first side.

And as to ¨forbearance¨: I think it is ill formulated, and it does also not seem to be true.

This is about the many Republicans that have abandoned democratic norms:

Conservative politicians like Gingrich, Dick Cheney and more recently Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, started to abandon democratic norms a long time ago, starting with the slash-and-burn politics of the '90s and through the Bush and Obama years. They eventually evolved into something more closely resembling an organized gang dedicated to protecting their turf by any means necessary than a recognizable American political party. Today, Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, says:

Of course the president ought to be able to expect loyalty. He is the chosen president of the United States by the American people, and he is the chief executive. If they’re not loyal to him, who the hell are they supposed to be loyal to?

Every American used to know that the answer to that was "the Constitution and the rule of law."

I think this is quite justified - and Parton is also right vis à vis Gingrich with regard to loyalty:
The Americans in general and Gingrich in particular must be loyal to their Constitution and the rule of law, for if they are not, what is left of their political system is authoritarianism, greed, and dictatorship - which very well may be the ends of some Republicans.

This is the end of the article:

So far, Trump's administration has been a chaotic mess, and for the most part, the institutions are holding, even if they are starting to fray at the seams. But authoritarianism can happen by accident as much as design. As Jeet Heer writes in this piece in the New Republic, precisely because Trump "is a weak president who doesn’t know how to achieve his agenda, he’s given to strident rhetoric attacking the legitimacy of his political foes and the institutions that stand in his way."

Every such attack undermines the stability of our democratic system, giving succor to those who are anxious to use the opening for their own gain and emboldening those who applauded the dark American world Trump promised back on the campaign trail. It's entirely possible that we are sliding backwards into a new authoritarian system one tweet at a time without even knowing it.

Perhaps. And while I believe it is possible that ¨authoritarianism can happen by accident as much as design¨, I do not think that is the case in the present USA.

5. Will Congress Face Down the Deep State?

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
With the House Intelligence Committee vote yesterday to release its four-page memorandum reportedly based on documentary evidence of possible crimes by top Justice Department and FBI leaders, the die is cast. Russia-gate and FBI-gate are now joined at the hip.

The coming weeks will show whether the U.S. intelligence establishment (the FBI/CIA/NSA, AKA the “Deep State”) will be able to prevent its leaders from being held to account. Past precedent suggests that the cabal that conjured up Russia-gate will not have to pick up a “go-to-jail” card.
Actually, I think the FBI/CIA/NSA does not quite coincide with the Deep State - see e.g. here - because I think in the Deep State there also are some industries or at least some leaders of some industries (notably: the arms industry) included, but OK.

Here is more:
Granted, at first glance Deep State’s efforts to undercut candidate Donald Trump at first seem so risky and audacious as to be unbelievable. By now, though, Americans should be able to wrap their heads around, one, the dire threat that outsider Trump was seen to be posing to the Deep State and to the ease with which it held sway under President Barack Obama; and, two, expected immunity from prosecution if Deep State crimes were eventually discovered after the election, since “everybody knew” Hillary Clinton was going to win. Oops.
Actually, I don´t know whether the ¨Deep State’s efforts to undercut candidate Donald Trump at first seem so risky and audacious as to be unbelievable¨.

I think McGovern is right about Russia- gate (that is: Both he and I have not seen any convincing evidence it is true), but I - for one, and I never met anyone of them, unlike McGovern - have no idea about what Bush, Cheney, Clinton and Obama do think and know about the amounts of propaganda that are mixed in with the American mainstream media.

Then there is this:

It is no exaggeration to suggest that the Republic and the Constitution are at stake. A friend put it the way:

“When GW Bush said of the Constitution, ‘It’s just a goddam piece of paper,’ I thought it was just another toss-off bit of hyperbole as he so often would utter. Not so. He, and many in his administration (and out) sincerely believe it and set out to make it so. They may actually have succeeded.”

I agree with McGovern ¨the Republic and the Constitution are at stake¨, but the rest - which may be true, but I don´t know - is just the opinion of one man.

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

I almost feel sorry for what is called “mainstream media” and – even more so – for the majority of Americans deceived by the prevailing narrative on Russia-gate.  Even though that narrative now lies in shreds, there is no sign so far that the pundits will fess up and admit to spreading a far-fetched, evidence-impoverished story that was full of holes from the get-go.

Even vestigially honest journalists of the old school, who may themselves have been taken in, will have a Herculean challenge if they attempt to write to right the ship of journalism.  As for brainwashed Americans, pity them.  It is far easier to deceive folks than to convince them they have been deceived, as Mark Twain once wrote.

I agree with the first paragraph, were it only because to the best of my knowledge the mainstream media have been lying or propagandizing since 1980 at the latest, and this only got worse since.

As to the second paragraph: Mark Twain was quite right that ¨it is far easier to deceive folks than to convince them they have been deceived¨, indeed because deceiving them does not involve making them admit that they were mistaken or might have been mistaken, whereas trying to undeceive the deceived often flounders right in the beginning, because the deceived don´t easily admit that they have been deceived.

And 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] There is another thing I disagree about with most leftists and ¨leftists¨: I do not believe that ¨all men are equal¨ (in fact) and I don´t because I know intelligence - like beauty and length, and many other characteristics - are not distributed equally about the population.

In fact, I am for equality, but the equality I am for is an equality in law: All human beings (when adult) deserve to get the same rights as everybody else.

And I have heard and seen many leftists who confused equality-in-law with equality-in-fact.

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