August 6, 2018

Crisis: Idiotic Trump, Sea of Deception, Extreme Views, On Julian Assange, U.S. Democracy


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 6, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 6, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 6, 2018:
1. The Useful Idiocy of Donald Trump
2. The American Sea of Deception
3. Mainstream Media Should Stop Giving Extreme Views a Platform
4. Journalists Are All Julian Assange
5. The Biggest Threat to Our Democracy
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

In fact, this is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig that was first published on January 28, 2018. Truthdig repeats it because Hedges is on holiday, and I repeat my review from January 29, 2018 because I like that as well. Here it is:

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. The American Sea of Deception

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Four days ago, The Washington Post reported that the epic pathological liar Donald Trump made 4,229 false statements during his first 558 days as United States president. Trump spoke or tweeted falsely, on average, an astonishing 7.6 times per day during that time.

We have no historical database of presidential untruth on which to rely to make detailed comparisons, but it is certain that Trump’s rate of falsehood is beyond anything ever seen in the White House. Armed with Twitter and a mad and malignantly narcissistic penchant for twisting facts and truth in accord with his own ever-shifting sense of what serves his interests and hurts his perceived foes, this monstrosity is gaslighting the last flickering embers of civic democracy at a velocity that would make Goebbels green with envy.

Yes, I quite agree (and have said, as a psychologist, since 2016 (in fact, since its beginning) that Trump is not sane and thay Trump is a neofascist - and for the last bit see above.

Here is more:

Still, if much of the populace has become inured to presidential lying and misstatement, it’s hardly all the current president’s fault.

Deception and misstatement are “as American as Cherry Pie” (to quote H. Rap Brown on violence)—though here perhaps I should say “as American as George Washington’s childhood cherry tree fable.”

While we’ve never seen anything on Trump’s psychotic scale, the problem of U.S. presidential deception goes way back in American history.

Yes, I quite agree again. Also, in the original a long review of American presidential deceptions is given, from which I select just a few bits.

Here is the first:

Regarding Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg recalled 17 years ago that his 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers exposed U.S. military and intelligence documents “proving that the government had long lied to the country. Indeed, the papers revealed a policy of concealment and quite deliberate deception from the Truman administration onward. … A generation of presidents,” Ellsberg noted, “chose to conceal from Congress and the public what the real policy was. …”

President Richard Nixon lied about wanting peace in Vietnam (his agent, Henry Kissinger, actively undermined a peace accord with Hanoi before the 1968 election) and about respecting the neutrality of Cambodia. He lied through secrecy and omission about the criminal and fateful U.S. bombing of Cambodia—a far bigger crime than the burglarizing of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate complex, about which he of course famously lied.

Quite so. Here is some more:

Bill Clinton (subject of a useful Christopher Hitchens book titled “No One Left to Lie To”) and Barack Obama were both silver-tongued corporate-neoliberal Wall Street and Pentagon Democrats who falsely claimed to be progressive friends of working people and the poor. President Obama lied repeatedly, as when he falsely claimed that he would have his Department of Justice investigate and prosecute abusive lenders for cheating and defrauding ordinary homeowners.

Yes, I agree (and am also prepared to argue that the real point of both Clinton´s and Obama´s presidency was - for them - to become a millionaire with more than $100 million, in which both succeeded).

Here is some more - and this bit is severally edited:

But presidential lies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an American political, media, intellectual and educational culture that has long been drenched in a vast sea of fable, deception, ideological selection and flat-out propagandistic falsification. The biggest and most relevant lies of our time don’t just issue from the mouths, press releases and now, sadly, Twitter feeds of presidents. They are major historical and societal myths and grand narratives of broad falsehood widely shared across the major party spectrum by “responsible” and “respectable” authorities in politics, business, education, literature, religion, media and public affairs.

I recently asked a dozen or so online associates and friends for their top five nominations under the category of the Big Lies of Our Time in the United States.
Here are my nominations for the Top 10 Big National Lies:

 1. We live in a democracy.
 2. Capitalism is about democracy.
 3. Capitalism is about the free market.
 4. Big business and its political agents are freedom-loving libertarians
      who hate “big government.”
 5. The United States is a great land of liberty.
 6. The United States is a great monument to classlessness.
 7. Hard work and individual brilliance is the key to individual wealth,
     and the lack of such work and brains is the source of individual
 8. Growth is good.
 9. We have an “independent” and “mainstream” media.
 10. The U.S. is a force for good and peace in the world

The severe editing I mentioned above concerns the ten bold points above: In the original, the bold points are the titles, and each bold point consists of an explanation - that I have all deleted in this review.

In case you disagree with any of these ¨Top 10 Big National Lies¨, read the original.

Here is the ending of the article:

Trump deserves a special place in the Totalitarian Hall of Shame’s special Lying Head of State exhibit, but all these grand national deceptions were in place under Obama, Bush 43, Clinton, Bush 41 and Ronald Reagan. Most of them have been operational under most of modern U.S. history. Impeaching or un-electing the uber-dissembler who now occupies the Oval Office will not magically make them go away. Only a great people’s rebellion on behalf of liberty, equality, solidarity, the common(s) good—and truth—can do that.

I agree again, and include my addition to the very last quoted statement: And that seems only possible after another major collapse of the economy. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Mainstream Media Should Stop Giving Extreme Views a Platform

This article is by Anonymous on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:

In recent weeks, a number of quite astounding articles have appeared in the British press. These have included among others, a Times columnopining the benefit to Britain in the current climate of having a political leader like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; referred to as “strongmen”. In the Daily Telegraph, a similarly toned piece contemplated the reinstatement of the death penalty after Brexit.

Somewhat appealing to the lowest common denominator, these and similar articles prompt questions about the extent to which Britain’s mainstream media is shifting towards the right of the political spectrum. Even more worrying is the extent to which it is “normalising” extreme right-wing ideas and ideologies.

I dislike AlterNet more each time I see it (every day, so far) and this dates from when AlterNet was sold, after which the program or the person called ¨Cody Fenwick¨ started to write tweets that mock articles (that also all end with horribly colored pictures of horrible persons).

In fact, I think AlterNet is dead and if I see much more of the name of ¨Cody Fenwick¨ I will very probably delete it from the 35 sites I look at every day: I do not want any ¨Cody Fenwick¨.

And this is another crazy article on AlterNet. Here is more from the article:

Indeed, one of the goals of right-wing extremists has always been to appear “normal”. In recent years, the British National Party (BNP) was transformed under the leadership of Nick Griffin. By trying to look more like mainstream politicians, Griffin believed that the BNP would become more electable. Despite the outward change, its nationalist agenda remained constant.

While the BNP achieved relative success in local and European elections, Griffin’s appearance on BBC1’s Question Time pretty much destroyed his credibility both inside and outside the BNP. Describing the treatment he received as being akin to a “lynch mob” highlights the stark difference between then and now.

Here is the crazy ending of this article:

I’m not advocating censorship or limiting free speech – far from it. What I am saying is that the mainstream media has a responsibility for ensuring objectivity and impartiality. The zeal to maintain what is obviously a false balance by giving a platform to such extremists is not part of that remit. Big media organisations must be aware that legitimisation of the far right is not acceptable. They cannot normalise nor be seen to give permission to what are, in truth, hateful ideas and ideologies.

I am a leftist and I am a liberal, and I have been so for nearly 50 years now. The anonymous writer of this article seems a ¨leftist¨ (that is, one who is pretending) and a ¨liberal¨ (also pretending), but really seems to be saying that the rightist mainstream media should publish only what he/she approves of - which is totalitarian idiocy in my mind. (And if you who are a ¨leftist¨ want to forbid rightist views, what is to keep the rightists from forbidding leftist views?!)

4. Journalists Are All Julian Assange

This article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews. If fact, Parry died fairly recently, and this article was originally written and published in 2010, but it is still well worth reading, especially as Assange now has been shut up and is awaiting delivery to the English police, who probably will soon deliver him to the CIA.

The article starts as follows:
Whatever the unusual aspects of the case, the Obama administration’s reported plan to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for conspiring with Army Pvt. Bradley Manning to obtain U.S. secrets  strikes at the heart of investigative journalism on national security scandals.

That’s because the process for reporters obtaining classified information about crimes of state most often involves a journalist persuading some government official to break the law either by turning over classified documents or at least by talking about the secret information. There is almost always some level of “conspiracy” between reporter and source.

Contrary to what some outsiders might believe, it’s actually quite uncommon for sensitive material to simply arrive “over the transom” unsolicited. Indeed, during three decades of reporting on these kinds of stories, I can only recall a few secret documents arriving that way to me.

In most cases, I played some role – either large or small – in locating the classified information or convincing some government official to divulge some secrets. More often than not, I was the instigator of these “conspiracies.”
Note that this story is in fact about Robert Parry and his motivation to start Consortiumnews. Here is some more:
Indeed, in 1995, was started as a way to publish secret and top-secret information that I had discovered in the files of a closed congressional inquiry during the chaotic period between the Republicans winning the 1994 elections and their actual takeover of Congress in early 1995.
Here is some more - and remember the article was written in 2010:
Yet, in the WikiLeaks case – instead of simply complaining and moving on – the Obama administration appears to be heading in a direction not seen since the Nixon administration sought to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971.

In doing so, the Obama administration, which came to power vowing a new era of openness, is contemplating a novel strategy for criminalizing traditional journalistic practices, while trying to assure major U.S. news outlets that they won’t be swept up in the Assange-Manning dragnet.
I quite agree with Parry (and strongly dislike rich man Obama). Here is one appreciation by Parry:
As for the Obama administration, its sudden aggressiveness in divining new “crimes” in the publication of truthful information is especially stunning when contrasted with its “see no evil” approach toward openly acknowledged crimes committed by President George W. Bush and his subordinates, including major offenses such as torture, kidnapping and aggressive war.
I quite agree. And here is the end of Parry´s article (in 2010):
In other words, the Obama administration appears to be singling out Assange as an outlier in the journalistic community who is already regarded as something of a pariah. In that way, mainstream media personalities can be invited to join in his persecution without thinking that they might be next.

Though American journalists may understandably want to find some protective cover by pretending that Julian Assange is not like us, the reality is – whether we like it or not – we are all Julian Assange.
Well... I do not think we are ever anything but ourselves, and besides, while there probably are a few more journalists like Assange (indeed like Robert Parry), I think Assange´s type is fairly rare.

And in any case, this is a recommended article.

5. The Biggest Threat to Our Democracy

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
The biggest threat to our democracy that nobody is talking about is the real possibility of a rogue Constitutional convention – empowering extremists to radically reshape the Constitution, our laws, and our country.

If just a few more states sign on to what’s called an “Article V convention” for a balanced budget amendment, there’s no limit to the damage they might do.
Actually, I am one of the relatively few who wrote about the possibility of a Constitutional convention, which I did - originally, and it is fairly long ago, and too warm to try to find out more - because I was stimulated to do so by The Young Turks.

Then again, Robert Reich is quite right, and here is why:
There are 2 ways to amend the United States Constitution: One way – the way we’ve passed every amendment since the Bill of Rights – is for two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to vote for a proposed amendment, and then have it ratified by at least three quarters of the states – now 38 in number.

But there’s a second way to amend the Constitution. Two thirds of the states may demand that Congress form a constitutional convention to propose amendments.

Once such a constitutional convention is convened, there are no rules to limit or constrain what comes next.
And this indeed may mean anything whatsoever:
A balanced budget amendment would be crazy enough. But nothing would be safe. A woman’s right to choose. Marriage equality. First Amendment protections for free speech and a free press. Equal protection of the laws. Checks and balances.

An Article V convention would allow delegates to write their own agenda into our Constitution.

Already 28 states have called for a constitutional convention. They only need 6 more to succeed.
Precisely. Here is Reich´s ending:
You’re probably already overwhelmed with political actions you need to take. But, believe me, this is important. With just a few states to go, your voice is needed. Please tell your state lawmakers to reject calls for an Article V convention.
I agree 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 (!!).
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