October 23, 2018

Crisis: On The Uber-Rich, Trump´s Lies, Nuclear Arms, Fascist Bolsonaro, On The Democrats


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 23, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 23, 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 23, 2018:
1. The Rule of the Uber-Rich Means Tyranny or Revolution
2. Donald Trump Is Lyin’ Up a Storm
3. Nuclear Arms Race Feared as U.S. Quits Key Treaty with Russia
4. Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro Is the Fascist Face of Neoliberalism
5. Democrats: Don’t Go High or Low. Go Big and Bold
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 Rule of the Uber-Rich Means Tyranny or Revolution

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

At the age of 10 I was sent as a scholarship student to a boarding school for the uber-rich in Massachusetts. I lived among the wealthiest Americans for the next eight years. I listened to their prejudices and saw their cloying sense of entitlement. They insisted they were privileged and wealthy because they were smarter and more talented. They had a sneering disdain for those ranked below them in material and social status, even the merely rich. Most of the uber-rich lacked the capacity for empathy and compassion. They formed elite cliques that hazed, bullied and taunted any nonconformist who defied or did not fit into their self-adulatory universe.

It was impossible to build a friendship with most of the sons of the uber-rich. Friendship for them was defined by “what’s in it for me?” They were surrounded from the moment they came out of the womb by people catering to their desires and needs. They were incapable of reaching out to others in distress—whatever petty whim or problem they had at the moment dominated their universe and took precedence over the suffering of others, even those within their own families. They knew only how to take. They could not give. They were deformed and deeply unhappy people in the grip of an unquenchable narcissism.

It is essential to understand the pathologies of the uber-rich. They have seized total political power. These pathologies inform Donald Trump, his children, the Brett Kavanaughs, and the billionaires who run his administration.
I copied this because this bit is rather essential to understand Chris Hedges in what follows, and also because I had a somewhat opposite experience:

I did an entrance examination to a school that was essentially for the children of those who were better-off than most, which I did pass and which put me in that school as a quite poor boy who also did not speak (then) proper middle class or higher class Dutch (like everybody else there).

And I also wasn´t happy there, but the reasons were more or less the opposite of Hedges´ experiences, though they were also less extreme than his experiences.

Then again, I did learn, between 12 and 15, more or less the same as Hedges seems to have learned: The rich, that is those who belong to the top 10%, in majority seem to think that they are qualitatively and humanly better than the 90% non-rich, and that different norms apply to them because of that.

I agree to that and move back to Hedges:
The uber-rich are almost always amoral. Right. Wrong. Truth. Lies. Justice. Injustice. These concepts are beyond them. Whatever benefits or pleases them is good. What does not must be destroyed.
Well... I certainly have far less experience with the uber-rich than Hedges does have, but I think this is a bit misleading: The rich and uber-rich do have moral norms, such as solidarity with the rich, but their moral norms are indeed not those of the non-rich.

Here is an elucidation by Hedges:
The rule of the uber-rich, for this reason, is terrifying. They know no limits. They have never abided by the norms of society and never will. We pay taxes—they don’t. We work hard to get into an elite university or get a job—they don’t. We have to pay for our failures—they don’t. We are prosecuted for our crimes—they are not.
This is more or less correct, but with a restriction I formulated below the previous quotation: The rich have moral (and legal) norms, but these moral (and legal) norms apply to those who are rich and not to those who are not.

Here is more:
Political theorists, from Aristotle and Karl Marx to Sheldon Wolin, have warned against the rule of the uber-rich. Once the uber-rich take over, Aristotle writes, the only options are tyranny and revolution. They do not know how to nurture or build. They know only how to feed their bottomless greed. It’s a funny thing about the uber-rich: No matter how many billions they possess, they never have enough.
I think Hedges is correct about Aristotle, but would have liked a reference. He certainly is correct about Sheldon Wolin, and I have my own list of references to a series of interesting interviews Hedges had with Wolin. It is here and strongly recommended.

Also, I think Hedges is correct about his more comprehensive theme: ¨
Once the uber-rich take over, Aristotle writes, the only options are tyranny and revolution¨. I think that is the most probable future (the one or the other) and the revolution I favor is a socialist revolution, in which it will be illegal to own or earn more than twenty times than the poorest earn (who should be able to live decently on what they earn). In fact, my motivations are quite simple: (i) without such a rule, the rich will rapidly re-establish the rich as those in power, while (ii) such a rule is in fact little else than the rule against stealing under capitalism, although I grant it is more comprehensive.

For more, see what I wrote about socialism, and consider that I think Hedges is quite right in saying ¨
No matter how many billions [the uber-rich] possess, they never have enough¨. (One psychological reason is that power = wealth under capitalism, at least approximately so, and that in the end all power that is non-institutional is personal.)

Then there is this:

C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite,” one of the finest studies of the pathologies of the uber-rich, wrote:

They exploited national resources, waged economic wars among themselves, entered into combinations, made private capital out of the public domain, and used any and every method to achieve their ends. They made agreements with railroads for rebates; they purchased newspapers and bought editors; they killed off competing and independent businesses and employed lawyers of skill and statesmen of repute to sustain their rights and secure their privileges. There is something demonic about these lords of creation; it is not merely rhetoric to call them robber barons.

I really like C. Wright Mills, who wrote the above in the early 1950ies, and who died in 1962, aged 45. Here is a link to a site about him by his family. Also, I agree on The Power Elite” but I think anybody interested in good sociology should also read his The Sociological Imagination.

Here is more on corporate capitalism:
Corporate capitalism, which has destroyed our democracy, has given unchecked power to the uber-rich. And once we understand the pathologies of these oligarchic elites, it is easy to chart our future. The state apparatus the uber-rich controls now exclusively serves their interests. They are deaf to the cries of the dispossessed. They empower those institutions that keep us oppressed—the security and surveillance systems of domestic control, militarized police, Homeland Security and the military—and gut or degrade those institutions or programs that blunt social, economic and political inequality, among them public education, health care, welfare, Social Security, an equitable tax system, food stamps, public transportation and infrastructure, and the courts. The uber-rich extract greater and greater sums of money from those they steadily impoverish. And when citizens object or resist, they crush or kill them.
Yes, I think this is fundamentally correct - and for those interested, here is a link to my own longest analysis of corporate capitalism, which was written in 2012 (before knowing anything about Edward Snowden).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:
The uber-rich, as Karl Polanyi wrote, celebrate the worst kind of freedom—the freedom “to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.” At the same time, as Polanyi noted, the uber-rich make war on the “freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s own job.”
Yes indeed - and I am for socialism (which does require a revolution, because I agree with Aristotle that the alternative is indeed tyranny, and the tyranny we face us based on the internet´s capacity to know or find out everything about anyone, that is, for the very few who have a sufficiently large amount of money, and my socialism is in the end based on an alteration of the only means to keep people in hand: the law, and the principal alteration is that it should be legally impossible for anyone to own or earn more than 20 times what the poor earn.

And this is a very strongly recommended article.

2. Donald Trump Is Lyin’ Up a Storm

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

There he goes again.

With Republicans struggling to keep their grip on Congress, President Trump is dialing up the demagogy. At campaign rallies and on social media, he’s spewing dark warnings about a Democratic mob clamoring to usher in an era of open borders, rampant crime, social chaos and economic radicalism.

As is so often the case, Mr. Trump is not letting reality interfere with his performance. At a rally in Nevada this weekend, the president told the crowd that Californians were rioting to “get out of their sanctuary cities.” (They aren’t.) He also suggested that Democrats will soon be looking to hand out free luxury cars to illegal immigrants. (They won’t.)
Yes, and there is more in this article about ¨Mr. Trump is not letting reality interfere with his performance¨. And while I agree this is characteristic of Trump, I would like - also as a psychologist - some reference to the fact that according to thousands of psychologists and psychiatrists Trump is mad (and I quite agree, since nearly three years now). But such a reference is missing.

Here is more:

Mr. Trump plays the polarization game because he enjoys it — he does love a brawl — and because he doesn’t appear to care about much beyond his political and personal fortunes. And, more practically speaking, these days he doesn’t have much else to talk about.

It’s not that this president has failed to achieve anything in his first couple of years in office. The economy is chugging along right now, and many Republican candidates would be happy for him to play that up on the campaign trail.

But his most notable achievements do not resonate beyond Mr. Trump’s base. He has overseen a conservative overhaul of the federal judiciary, seating a record number of judges, including two Supreme Court justices. And he has been an aggressive deregulator in areas ranging from education to transportation to health care to the environment.

Yes - and as to deregulations (about which the NYT is correct), see here.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is about Trump´s lies (and in effect also his madness):

It is notable if not surprising that two of the widely popular policy issues Mr. Trump has been talking up — his commitment to protecting health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and his promise to put forward “a very major tax cut” for middle-income people in the next few weeks — have no basis in reality. This administration has specifically declined to defend pre-existing conditions against pending legal challenges. And with Congress out of session until after the elections, there can be no serious movement on tax policy until the lame-duck session.

Yes. This is a recommended article.
3. Nuclear Arms Race Feared as U.S. Quits Key Treaty with Russia

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
President Trump has announced plans to pull the United States out of a landmark nuclear arms pact with Russia, in a move that could spark a new arms race. President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987. The INF banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges. The treaty helped to eliminate thousands of land-based missiles. On Saturday, Trump vowed to build new nuclear weapons. We speak with Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association. He previously led the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers. He has been advocating for the U.S. and Russia to preserve the Treaty.
Quite so. Here is more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Trump did not offer details on how Russia was violating the INF Treaty. Over the years, Russia has also accused the United States of violating the agreement by deploying a missile defense shield in Romania. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has advocated against the treaty, is now in Moscow for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin. Bolton has also opposed the extension of the 2010 New START agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed nuclear warheads on either side to 1,550.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump’s plan to pull out of the nuclear arms deal has been criticized around the globe. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who co-signed the deal in 1987, said, quote, “Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to? Quitting the INF is a mistake,” Gorbachev said. China and France spoke out against the move, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry saying, “The document has an important role in developing international relations, in nuclear disarmament, and in maintaining global strategic balance and stability,” unquote.

Again quite so. Here is Daryl Kimball:

DARYL KIMBALL: Well, I was not shocked, because this appears to be a John Bolton-inspired decision by Donald Trump to pull out of this very important agreement, which has eliminated, as you said, an entire class of intermediate- range missiles that once threatened Europe; 2,692 U.S. and Soviet missiles were verifiably eliminated as a result of this treaty.
And what Trump has done is, I think, he has very prematurely, at best, to put a kind interpretation on it, pulled the United States out of the treaty, shifting blame from Russia to President Trump for blowing up this very important agreement, that’s important for U.S. and European and Russian security. And it does absolutely nothing to bring Russia back into compliance with the treaty, and it opens the door for Russia to deploy, in greater numbers, this missile of concern, which is known as the 9M729, if Russia wants to. If this treaty is gone, all the constraints on the testing, the production and the deployment of these missiles in Europe and elsewhere will be gone.
So, for a number of reasons, this is counterproductive, it’s dangerous, and it does open the door to the possibility of renewed nuclear competition in this area. And it could threaten another important treaty, the New Strategic Arms Treaty, the main treaty limiting the two sides’ strategic arsenals, which is due to expire in 2021 if Trump and Putin don’t extend it.

And again quite so - and please observe that ¨If this treaty is gone, all the constraints on the testing, the production and the deployment of these missiles in Europe and elsewhere will be gone¨ - which is quite true.

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

DARYL KIMBALL: (..) You know, even though the Cold War is over, so to speak, the weapons that were created during the Cold War still exist. And the nuclear strategies that the United States and Russia had at that time are still very much in place. So, as we sit here this morning chatting about this, the United States deploys about 1,400 warheads on long-range bombers and missiles on land and on sea. The Russians have equivalent numbers. About 800 of those could be launched on an order from the president within about 20 minutes. So that means that both sides remain on hair-trigger. If there is a warning of an attack, the nuclear strategies call for the immediate launch of 800 or more nuclear warheads in retaliation. So, that creates the chance for miscalculation.

So, we have massive overkill. We have a situation in which the fate of literally hundreds of millions of people rests in the hands of a small number of people—specifically two gentlemen, Trump and Putin.

Quite so - and my own conclusion about any nuclear war is that it almost certainly will kill human civilization, precisely because there more than enough nuclear bombs to blow up absolutely everyone. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro Is the Fascist Face of Neoliberalism

This article is by Luísa Abbott Galvão on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In less than a week, Brazil will vote to elect its next president in what’s widely considered the most consequential election in Brazil’s history.

On one side is Fernando Haddad — a soft-spoken academic, former Minister of Education for the Workers Party (PT), and recent mayor of São Paulo most remembered for painting bike lanes across Brazil’s economic capital. Haddad faces Jair Bolsonaro — a former military man and long-time member of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies representing Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro’s extreme far-right overtures have earned him the distinction of being compared to TrumpDuterte, and Hitler.

Yes indeed, and given the sayings of Bolsonaro, he is most like a Duterte or a Hitler - and please note that Brazil has far more inhabitants than Hitler´s Germany had.

Here is more:

Bolsonaro, whose running mate is a retired army general, has built a campaign on his disdain for democracy and glorification of authoritarianism. He’s gained infamy worldwide for past comments praising torturers and for asserting during a 1999 televised appearance that the Brazilian dictatorship should have executed “at least 30,000” people. As a presidential candidate, Bolsonaro has called for political opponents to be shot, promised to deny the legitimacy of any election results that don’t declare him the winner, and refused to partake in debates ahead of the general elections.

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

Recent surveys have found that 55 percent of Brazilians wouldn’t mind a non-democratic form of government if it “solved problems.” And Brazilians have legitimate problems, among which healthcare, citizen security, corruption, unemployment, and education have ranked as highly important in recent polls.

Bolsonaro’s campaign recipe has not only been to promote — through no shortage of lies and misinformation — shortcuts to democratic and civic processes. He’s also aligned himself with corporate and financial interests, attracting support from moderates willing to overlook, understate, and ultimately masque his fascist nature by leaning into his recently-adopted free-market agenda.

Yes again, though I should remark that I think that if Bolsonaro is elected, he will be elected because of the stupidity and ignorance of his voters. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Democrats: Don’t Go High or Low. Go Big and Bold

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

Donald Trump says the midterm elections are a “referendum about me.” Of course they are. Everything is about him.

Anyone who still believes the political divide runs between Republicans and Democrats hasn’t been paying attention. There’s no longer a Republican Party. The GOP is now just pro-Trump.

Meanwhile Trump is doing all he can to make the Democratic Party the anti-Trump Party. “Democrats,” he declares, are “too dangerous to govern.” They’re “an angry left-wing mob,”leading an “assault on our country.”

Never before has a president of the United States been so determined not to be president of all Americans. He’s president of his supporters.  

Tyrants create cults of personality. Trump is beyond that. He equates America with himself, and disloyalty to him with insufficient patriotism. In his mind, a giant “Trump” sign hangs over the nation. “We” are his supporters, acolytes, and toadies. “They” are the rest of us.

When everything and everyone is either pro- or anti-Trump, there’s no room for neutral expertise, professional norms, good public policy, or the rule of law.

This is more or less correct, although I do have a remark about ¨Tyrants create cults of personality. Trump is beyond that. He equates America with himself, and disloyalty to him with insufficient patriotism.¨: Yes, he does, but I think - and I am a psychologist - that one important reason for Trump to do so is that he has megalomania aka a narcissistic personality disorder.

Here is more about Trump:

He believes the nation’s press is either for him or against him. Fox News is indubitably for him – now a virtual propaganda arm of the White House. The rest are against him even when they merely report the news.

We’re all being taken in by this Trumpian dichotomy – even those of us in the anti-Trump camp.

When Trump is the defining issue in America, he gets to set the national agenda. All major debate in this country revolves around him, his goals, and the objects of his vilification.

The Trumpification of America hardly ends if Democrats take over the House or possibly the Senate. Trump will blame them for everything that goes wrong. He’ll make up problems they’re supposedly responsible for. He’ll ridicule them and call them traitors.

He’ll do the same to anyone who shows serious interest in running for president against him in 2020.

I don´t think this is quite cogent. In fact, I am one of those who does not believe in Trump´s dichotomy into everyone-for-him vs. the-rest-against him, but then again he is the president of the USA, and therefore one has to deal with his suppositions somehow.

This is the ending of this article:

Of course Democrats have to fight him. But they also have to lift America beyond him.

The central question shouldn’t be whether we’re pro- or anti-Trump, or whether we go low or high in fighting him.  

The question is where America should go – and what we, together, can become.

Well... one problem is that the Democrats are divided between the rich (led by Clinton, Pelosi and Perez) and the non-rich, and another is that while I recommend voting a Democrat in any case, I do not like the leading rich Democrats. Anyway... 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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