October 17, 2018

Crisis: Authoritarian USA,
Vanishing Insects, Trumpianism,  Ocasio-Cortez, On Max Boot


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 17, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 17, 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 October 17, 2018:
1. America Is Authoritarian by Design
2. Insects Are Vanishing at an Alarming Rate, New Study Finds
3. Trump Is America´s Most Dangerous Export
4. ‘I Want Us to Be That Party Again’
5. Max Boot on the end of conservatism: “The Republican Party needs to
     be burned down”
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. America Is Authoritarian by Design

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. I do not quote from its beginning, because that is too much about individual American persons. This is from roughly half way:

Beyond these dramatic stories, media consumers heard the usual timeworn calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” and clear “paths to citizenship.” Notice, however, what escaped critical examination. As during its breathless coverage of the “unaccompanied minor” migration crisis in 2014, the corporate media this year has had little to say about the following ways in which the United States has helped make Mexico and Central America unlivable for many of its people:

  • Flooding these nations with cheap, subsidized U.S. agricultural exports, devastating campesino communities in the name of “free trade.”
  • Using so-called free trade agreements to force the privatization of government enterprises, the deregulation of corporations, the slashing of social budgets and the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects.
  • Intensifying drug gang violence and power by advancing the militarized “War on Drugs.”
  • Accelerating climate change, which has ravaged Central American coffee and corn production.
  • Funding and equipping authoritarian and violent, mass-murderous “Third World fascist” regimes (including a right-wing junta the Obama administration helped install in Honduras toward the beginning of 2009) and forces allied with U.S. and business interests in Central America.

I agree more or less, but this is also a bit too vague for me to address properly. Also, and once again: if you use the term ¨fascist¨ (and many more rather fundamental political terms (!!)) you should give a clear definition, such as mine.

And in any case, you should know that there are more than 20 different definitions of ¨fascism¨ - but so far I have not read a single journalist in the last 5 to 10 years who could provide a clear definition of fascism, nor did I read a single journalist who simply stated the fact that there are many definitions of fascism. (See here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions).

Here is a bit about Kavanaugh:

It is disgusting almost beyond words that a likely sexual predator and obvious dissembler will render judgment on matters of solemn legal, political and societal relevance for a generation. But as troubling as Kavanaugh’s personal history and untruthfulness are, it’s been even more troubling to see them render important questions about abortion rights, presidential immunity from prosecution, and torture virtually meaningless.

Equally distressing has been our continuing failure to address the authoritarian absurdity of essential political and judicial institutions crafted by 18th century slave owners and merchant capitalists for whom self-governance was the ultimate nightmare. Why in the name of anything remotely akin to democracy should Kavanaugh and his eight high court colleagues hold these powerful positions for life?
Well... I am Dutch and noticed that Supreme Court judges are nominated for life when considering Kavanaugh, and immediately protested. Since then I found the USA is the only country with this rule. And I do not recall it discussed before at all.

Here is something about the lack of a genuine democracy in the USA:

Red Wyoming, home to more than 573,720 Americans, holds U.S. senatorial parity with blue California, where 39.5 million Americans reside. That’s one U.S. senator for every 19.5 million Californians vs. one U.S. senator for every 287,000 Wyoming residents.

Just one of New York City’s five boroughs, Brooklyn, has 2.6 million people. If Brooklyn were a state and U.S. senators were apportioned there at the same populace-to-senator ratio as Wyoming, Brooklyn would have nine U.S. senators. (It’s unlikely that a single one of them would be a Republican.)

The following 13 states together have a combined population of roughly 34.4 million: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Together these 13 red states send 26 Republicans to the U.S. Senate. California, with 5 million more people than these 13 states combined, sends two Democrats to the upper chamber of Congress.

That seems all true, and indeed is quite undemocratic, at least for those that insist that democracy means that the vote of each and every voter counts equally.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, that is itself a quotation:

From Hedges’ aptly titled new book, “America: The Farewell Tour:

The destruction of democratic institutions, places where the citizen has agency and a voice, is far graver than the ascendancy to the White Hose of the demagogue Trump. A creeping corporate coup d’etat has destroyed our two-party system. It destroyed labor unions. It destroyed public education. It destroyed the judiciary. It destroyed the press. It destroyed academia. It destroyed consumer and environmental protection. It destroyed our industrial base. It destroyed communities and cities. And it destroyed the lives of tens of millions of Americans no longer able to find work that provides a living wage, cursed to live in chronic poverty or locked in cages in our monstrous system of mass incarceration.

This coup also destroyed the credibility of liberal democracy. Self-identified liberals such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama mouthed the words of liberal democratic values while making war on these values in the service of corporate power. The revolt we see rippling across the country is a revolt not only against the corporate system that has betrayed workers, but also, for many, liberal democracy itself. This is very dangerous. It will allow the radical right to cement into place an Americanized fascism.

I think this is stronger than I would put it, biut Hedges is certainly correct about the ¨creeping corporate coup d’etat¨ that started under Reagan, and was probably mostly caused by Lewis F. Powell Jr.

2. Insects Are Vanishing at an Alarming Rate, New Study Finds

This article is by Jake Johnson on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

When a scientist who studies the essential role insects play in the health of the ecosystem calls a new study on the dramatic decline of bug populations around the world “one of the most disturbing articles” he’s ever read, it’s time for the world to pay attention.

The article in question is a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that in addition to annihilating hundreds of mammal species, the human-caused climate crisis has also sparked a global “bugpocalypse” that will only continue to accelerate in the absence of systemic action to curb planetary warming.

“This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call—a clarion call—that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” David Wagner, an invertebrate conservation expert at the University of Connecticut, said in response to the new report. “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”

I tend to agree, although I am not a biologist, and I do so in part because I have been reviewing articles in Nederlog about the decline of the bees, that threatens a similar result: Without - a sufficient number of - bees, there will not be enough pollination, and many people will die.

The report just mentioned does not just state that bees are threatened, but suggest large numbers of insects are disappearing.

Here is more:

Authored by Bradford Lister of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Andres Garcia of National Autonomous University of Mexico, the study found that “[a]rthropods, invertebrates including insects that have external skeletons, are declining at an alarming rate.”

“We compared arthropod biomass in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest with data taken during the 1970s and found that biomass had fallen 10 to 60 times,” the researchers write. “Our analyses revealed synchronous declines in the lizards, frogs, and birds that eat arthropods. Over the past 30 years, forest temperatures have risen 2.0 °C, and our study indicates that climate warming is the driving force behind the collapse of the forest’s food web.
And that was a summary. Here is the reaction of a biologist:
“Holy crap,” Wagner of the University of Connecticut told the Washington Post when he learned of the 60-fold drop of bug populations in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest. “If anything, I think their results and caveats are understated. The gravity of their findings and ramifications for other animals, especially vertebrates, is hyperalarming.”

I tend to agree and write it as I did because I am not a biologist. But I do think this is quite disheartening, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Trump Is America´s Most Dangerous Export

This article is by Robert Reich on his site.

Incidentally, and before I go on, I want to notify you of the following two facts: I am now making the following changes in all articles I review:

(1) I dislike all-capitals and much italics, and will replace them. This probably has a little to do with my eyes, but I also dislike screaming, which is what all-capitals means. And I dislike italics and use bold instead. (2) I dislike titles that stretch out over 3, 4 or 5 or more lines - see AlterNet, especially - and notably if the articles are small. In some cases, I simply do not read such articles at all, and if I review them I shorten the titles.

Reich´s article (that on his site has an all-capitals title) starts as follows:

Donald Trump is not only undermining democracy here at home, but he’s also emboldening dangerous authoritarian movements around the world. Trump’s presidency has become America’s most dangerous export. 

FIRST: Trump has provided cover for authoritarian leaders around the world who are actively attacking the media and suppressing the truth to entrench their power.
Yes, I think this is true. Here is more:
SECOND: Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric have lent legitimacy to racist and xenophobic political parties across Europe. His success playing on racial fears and stoking nationalist sentiment has been a model for their efforts.
This is also true. Here is more:
THIRD:  Trump has undermined the international institutions committed to protecting human rights and defending democracy.

Unlike former U.S. presidents, Trump doesn’t publicly mention human rights.

In a break with decades of U.S. foreign policy, Trump has attacked NATO, weakening the alliance as Putin threatens to undermine democracies in Western Europe.
And this is true. Here is Reich´s ending:

As in the 1930s, economic strains are fueling the rise of demagogues who direct anger and resentment toward scapegoats such as immigrants and minorities – lying about them with impunity.

But the truth is still getting through to most people, and democracy is still alive. Yet in sharp contrast to the 1930s when the president of the United States defended our democratic ideals, Trump is now helping lead the charge against them.
Well... I do not insist that democracy is dead in the USA, but what is (still) alive of democracy is far less than there was in the 1970ies. And this is a recommended article.
4. ‘I Want Us to Be That Party Again’

This article is by John Nichols and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is “just the canary in the coal mine.” The twenty-eight-year-old activist and educator from the Bronx became a national phenomenon after she defeated Congressman Joe Crowley, the fourth-highest ranking House Democrat, in a June 26 New York primary.

Pundits and politicians raced to portray Ocasio-Cortez, whose proudly progressive campaign was backed by groups that seek to turn the Democratic Party to the left (including Democratic Socialists of America and Justice Democrats), as an outlier.
But, by the end of the summer, there had been many more primary upsets by progressives who challenged the party’s caution
In a number of cases, the progressives who prevailed in those primaries had gotten a boost from Ocasio-Cortez, who hit the campaign trail nationwide following her primary win. Along the way, she made time to talk with me about how she believes movement politics can and will transform the Democratic Party. Here’s some of what she had to say.
The above quotation is correct as far as it goes, but I am in doubt about the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is listed as a fellow author. I do not think that is a good idea, and my main argument is that journalists should be independent of politicians (indeed also if they or I like the politicians).

Anyway. Here is some more:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I have said that I really think that there is a hunger for an assertive, strong, ambitious, defined effort to establish and advance economic and social and racial justice for working-class Americans. There’s a hunger for it. Not just “Don’t be a racist,” but “What actions are we going to take to be a just society?”
Well... I like justice as well but it is not a precise concept and there certainly are other politically interested persons who have quite different ideas than Ocasio-Cortez, but who would argue similarly.

And in any case, I would have liked Ocasio-Cortez to have said that justice, in her opinion, requires a real democracy and a non-totalitarian free press, and also requires a broad interpretation. (You should allow that those who disagree with you may also be concerned with justice, although it is not quite like your own concept of it.)

Here is some more:

Q: In what ways do you want to see the Democratic Party change?

Ocasio-Cortez: I think we need to be a party that is first and foremost accountable to working-class people again, and to marginalized people. I don’t want that to be something that we just talk about, but something that we are about. I want us to be that party again.
I think this is weak. What Ocasio-Cortez ought to have talked about are the values and ideas of the Democrats rather than the people they ought to appeal to.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this rather unsatisfactory interview:

Ocasio-Cortez: For me, a moral framework informs my political views. If you are really committed to a moral framework, you have to work at it. If you’re serious about justice, if you’re serious about what is good and what is right, you can’t just sit in a church pew or in the middle of a library, or wherever you are, and just engage with it privately. You have to live it publicly.

So, for me, a lot of politics is about moral questions—especially in this time and in this age.

I think this is also weak, for the simple reason that every politician who is honest (!), of whatever political convictions, should agree that politics is about ideas and values, and that the values are mostly moral.

5. Max Boot on the end of conservatism: “The Republican Party needs to be burned down”

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon. It starts as follows:

The Republican Party is no longer a "conservative" organization. Donald Trump has given Republicans and other movement conservatives permission to surrender to their worst temptations and excesses. Rather than embracing some concept of responsible tradition and being averse to change, the Republican Party and movement conservatives are now a destructive and anti-democratic force. Norms about consensus that have dominated American politics for at least four decades have been discarded. Assumptions that Congress should be a coequal branch of government which serves as a "check and balance" against the presidency have been jettisoned.

Donald Trump is more than an imperial president. He is an American fascist and demagogue who is aided and abetted by Republican and other conservative elites.

Possibly so, but I only point out that saying that ¨Donald Trump¨ ¨is an American fascist¨ is (at the very least - and see: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions) a 21-fold ambiguity. Also see here.

Here is some more on Republicans and former Republicans like Max Boot:

Where one would reasonably expect a torrent of "principled" conservatives to abandon Donald Trump and this version of the Republican Party most have chosen to stay put. Donald Trump is their leader. This Republican Party is their home. There is, however, a small cadre of Republicans who have decided that this version of the Republican Party is not to be supported. Some of them have been so bold as to publicly declare that Donald Trump is a threat to American democracy and for that reason they will now support the Democrats. Author, scholar and policy expert Max Boot is one such person.
His newest book is entitled "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

Yes, and here is Boot talking:

Even though I'm not a Democrat -- and don't necessarily agree with Democrats on everything -- I think it is imperative to have the Democratic Party win in November. If the Democrats win, I believe that will be the beginning of a recovery from this Trumpian period. Republicans, a lot of whom are just being very cynical, need to know that Trumpism is not going to succeed.

Moreover, I think a victory by the Democrats will cause the people who are not the hardcore Trump true believers to reassess what they're up to. This is especially true of the politicians, many of whom are deeply hypocritical and cynical. In their hearts, they know exactly how dangerous Trump is. They just lack the courage to act on it.

Well... I also hope that the Democrats win, but I certainly do not think that ¨the Democrats¨ are a single group, and I think I would have added (probably unlike Boot) that I also hope that these are not ¨the Democrats¨ led by Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

Here is some more:

Why did it take so long to accept the obvious truths about the Republican Party?

I asked that about myself. I really grapple with that. The real reason is this tribal instinct, which I feel is probably the most powerful impulse in politics. A desire to be in union with other people that you identify as your confederates, your fellow ideologues, however you define it -- and you're not going to be part of a movement if you focus a bright light on some of the dark, ugly parts of that movement. I might add, this is not a universal problem just on the right.

Yes, I think Boot may well be right about this, and this is also a major reason why I am not a member of any political party since I am 20 (which meanwhile is nearly 50 years ago): I am not a person with a ¨desire to be in union with other people that you identify as your confederates, your fellow ideologues¨, for I always wanted to do my own thinking and valuing.

Here is Boot about the majority of the Republicans (with a seat):

Ultimately, they are cowards. Certainly, the Republican politicians are cowards because they saw what happened to Mark Sanford in South Carolina. He is a Republican congressman who was somewhat critical of Trump and ended up losing his primary. That is the No. 1 fear of every politician in Washington, that they're going to lose their primary, and they know that a tweet from Trump could set them on the road to being out of office. These cowardly politicians then rationalize and come up with explanations for why they're doing the right thing, even though I think in their heart of hearts they know they are not doing the right thing.

Boot certainly knows the Republicans far better than I do, and I think he may be quite right (and not only about Republicans) that they may fear to be ¨going to lose their primary¨ if they disagree with Trump.

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

Can the Republican Party be saved in its present form, or does it need to be burned down and reduced to rubble? What would that look like?

I think the Republican Party needs to be burned down. The Republican Party has to suffer devastation at the ballot box, otherwise they will continue on their current path. They need to understand that they can't win political power by attacking minorities, by engaging in racist and xenophobic rhetoric, by pursuing isolationism and protectionism. This is not a winning political formula. The only way they're going to get that message as if they in fact start losing at the ballot box. So even though the first and only Democrat I've ever voted for was Hillary Clinton, I’m now urging everybody to vote straight party, straight-ticket Democratic in November.

I mainly agree, though I also hope that the Democrats who will be elected will be considerably to the left of Pelosi and Clinton. This is a recommended article, in which there is rather a lot more.


[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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