October 24, 2018

Crisis: American Democracy, Fascist Threat, Medicare For All, On Some Lives, Hedges Interviewed


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 24, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 24, 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 24, 2018:
1. American Democracy Is on the Brink
2. The Fascist Threat Our Political Establishment Won't Acknowledge
3. Democrats Running for Congress in 2018 Back Medicare for All
4. Why Do Only Some Lives Matter?
5. Chris Hedges: Donald Trump “is the product of a failed 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. American Democracy Is on the Brink

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Truthdig and originally on The Independent Media. It starts as follows:

The Republican Party is currently hoping to win nationwide using two simple elements: explicit and overt racism, and voter suppression.

No “ideas”; no pitch for tax cuts; no discussion of their “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act; no push for better schools, hospitals, airports, roads or bridges; no promise for more and better jobs—none of these staples of the 2016 presidential campaign can be found in pretty much any Republican advertising today.

Instead, the public Republican message is all about race or the subset of race, religion (“Muslim” stands in for “brown Arab” in GOP-speak) and “immigration” (aka brown people from south of our border). Republicans across the country are even recruiting white supremacist and neo-Nazi gangs to threaten or assault  Democrats and their supporters, while President Donald Trump praises the criminal assault of reporters in the wake of jurnalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

Yes, I think that is correct. And here is how the GOP does it:

Meanwhile, Republican secretaries of state across the nation are vigorously purging voters from the rolls (over 14 million, more than 10 percent of America’s active voters, in the past two years, according to investigative reporter Greg Palast).

Immediately after the five Republican appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, 14 GOP-controlled states moved, within a year (some within days), to restrict access to the vote, particularly for communities of color, students, and retired people.

And in fact 14 million fewer voters, because these voters have been somehow purged, but who would have voted mostly for the Democrats, is a large step towards the GOP winning the elections of 2018 again.

Here is some more on how this worked in earlier presidential elections:

But it became the foundational go-to tactic for the GOP in 2000.

While they used smear and innuendo to attack Al Gore (ridiculing him for helping write the legislation that created the modern internet, for example), the main thing that got George W. Bush into the White House was voter suppression crimes committed by his brother, then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Bush’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. Throwing somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 African American voters off the rolls, they were able to get the vote close enough that five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court functionally awarded Bush the presidency. (The BBC covered this in 2001 in two major investigative reports here and here that were literally seen all over the world except on any American media.)

By 2016, the Republican Party had fine-tuned their voter suppression and intimidation systems to the point that they ran in nearly 30 states like well-oiled machines. Between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, for example, Ohio had purged more than 2 million voters from its rolls, the vast majority (more than 2:1) in heavily African American and Hispanic counties.

I say, which I do because I did not know most of the specifics. Here is more:

Fortunately for America, investigative reporter Greg Palast is executing such lawsuits right now, and the purge lists he’s acquired in the past two weeks include over 90,000 people in largely Democratic parts of Nevada, 769,436 voters purged in Colorado, 340,134 in Georgia, 550,000 in Illinois, a large but as-yet-uncounted list from Nebraska, and 469,000 just purged in Indiana. More are coming in virtually daily, as Palast continues his lawsuits, along with the NAACP and Rainbow Push.

Note that these are indeed 2 million purged voters. Here is the last bit from this article:

Thomas Paine, in his 1795 Dissertation on First Principles of Government, noted that, “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.”

If we fail to do something large, substantial and dramatic about the scourge of voter suppression, we must all begin learning how to rivet chains.

Those are our options.

I fear this is mostly correct, and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The Fascist Threat Our Political Establishment Won't Acknowledge

This article is by Henry Giroux on Truthdig and originally on CounterPunch. This starts as follows:
Marx was certainly right in arguing that the point is not to understand the world but to change it, but what he underemphasized was that the world cannot be transformed if one does not understand what is to be changed.
I do not like Henry Giroux, and do not mostly because he reminds me far too much of the many Dutch professors I experienced; because he writes an artificial and complicated English; and - among other things - because at 75 he uses (it seems) a portrait of some 40 years ago, as if he is a filmstar.

And this introduction is an example: If Marx was right in his claim that ¨
the point is not to understand the world but to change it¨ (which he did make in his twenties), he contradicted the thesis that ¨the world cannot be transformed if one does not understand what is to be changed¨.

I agree (more or less, for it is again formulated imprecisely) with the latter, and I also believe that the older Marx would have agreed with me, and therefore not with the former, but Giroux mixes up the inconsistency while pretending that he is consistent.

Here is what I mean by his
artificial and complicated English:
Any dissatisfaction with injustice necessitates combining the demands of moral witnessing with the pedagogical power of persuasion and the call to address the tasks of emancipation. We need individuals and social movements willing to disturb the normalization of a fascist politics, oppose racist, sexist, and neoliberal orthodoxy.
I only mark the words that trouble my logical mind: ¨Any¨, ¨dissatisfaction¨, ¨injustice¨, ¨necessitates¨, ¨moral witnessing¨, ¨the pedagogical power of persuasion¨, ¨the tasks of emancipation¨ and ¨a fascist politics¨. And no, I really do not understand the above.

You may say or believe you understand the last quotation above, but I think (very confidently) that you are mistaken.

Here is more:
In a time of increasing tyranny, resistance in many quarters appears to have lost its usefulness as a call to action.  At the same time, the pedagogical force of civic ignorance and illiteracy has morphed into a national ideal. Tyranny and ignorance feed each other in a theater of corporate controlled media ecosystems and function more as a tool of domination than as a pedagogical outlet in pursuit of justice and the practice of freedom.
What is ¨the pedagogical force of civic ignorance and illiteracy¨? I agree (if indeed I do, which again I don´t know) that stupidity and ignorance are very important forces in human history, and I am also quite prepared to agree both appear to be systematically not mentioned in all of the very many writings I have meanwhile read about the American presidential elections.

Again (while I am a psychologist and a philosopher, who has read much difficult prose) I do not know what Giroux might have meant with the last two sentences quoted above.

Here is more:
(..) the most unscrupulous of liberal and conservative politicians such as Madeline Albright, Hilary Clinton, and even James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, are now claiming that they have joined the resistance against Trump’s fascist politics. Even Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief and CIA director under George W. Bush, has joined the ranks of Albright and Clinton in condemning Trump as a proto-fascist. Writing in the New York Times, Hayden, ironically, chastised Trump as a serial liar and in doing so quoted the renowned historian Timothy Snyder, who stated in reference to the Trump regime that “Post-Truth is pre-fascism.” The irony here is hard to miss. Not only did Hayden head Bush’s illegal National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program while the head of the NSA, he also lied repeatedly about his role in Bush’s sanction and implementation of state torture in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This at least is understandable. But then I also know since quite a few years that Albright, Clinton, Clapper etc. belong to the rich Democrats who adopted what used to be a Republican position, in part because the Republicans turned far more rightist, and in part because such a position guarantees their own incomes from rich sponsors, or so it seems to me.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In some cases, liberal critics such as Christopher R. Browning, Yascha Mounk,  and Cass R. Sunstein document insightfully America’s descent into fascism but are too cautious in refusing to conclude that we are living under a fascist political regime. This is more than a retreat from political courage, it is a refusal to name how liberalism itself with its addiction to the financial elite has helped create the conditions that make a fascist politics possible.
This seems also false to me and besides it is rhetoric rather than rational argument: I think Browning is a much better academic than Giroux, and I agree with Browning´s ideas that
the USA is descending into fascism, but has not yet arrived at ¨
a fascist political regime¨.

Anyway... I chose this article because of its title, but it is, once again, mostly not understandable to me, and that is not due to my lack of intelligence but to Giroux´s lack of clarity.

3. Democrats Running for Congress in 2018 Back Medicare for All

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

The majority of Democrats running in congressional races are banking not on centrist healthcare plans in the hopes of appealing to moderate voters, a new survey suggests—but on the increasingly popular Medicare for All proposal, which now has the support of a majority of Americans across the political spectrum.

National Nurses United (NNU) surveyed hundreds of Democratic House candidates and found that 52 percent of them proudly back a universal healthcare program in the form of Medicare for All. Running in races across the nation, 225 Democrats who will appear on ballots for national seats support the proposal.

I say, which I do because I did not know this, and because it seems a good idea. Here is some background information:

The news comes on the same day as the release of a Hill.TV and HarrisX poll which found that 92 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans support Medicare for All. Enthusiasm for the proposal is on the rise despite Republicans' efforts at fearmongering and warning against a system that would expand access to one of the country's most consistently popular social programs to all Americans.

Given these numbers, in fact I fail to understand why not all Democrats support a program that is supported by 92 percent of Democrats, but OK.

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

With their explicit endorsements of Medicare for All, Democratic candidates are offering voters a stark contrast to the Republican Party's attacks on healthcare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened earlier this month to make cuts to Medicare and Medicaid to offset the deficit that has exploded to $779 billion since President Donald Trump took office less than two years ago, thanks in part to that $1.5 trillion tax cut the Republicans passed last year, benefiting corporations and the wealthy.

Quite so, and this is a recommended article.
4. Why Do Only Some Lives Matter?

This article is by Robert C. Koehler on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

What would it take for everyone’s life to matter as much as Jamal Khashoggi’s?

I ask this question over at the edge of the news, looking for a doorway into the human conscience.


“The U.S. sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — up 33 percent from the previous fiscal year, and a near record. In 2017, the U.S. cleared some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals.”

This is from CBS News Moneywatch two weeks ago. No big deal, just a look at the U.S. weapons biz, which has been thrust into the national spotlight recently.

“Mr. Trump,” the story continues, “has dismissed the idea of suspending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia to punish its crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, for any involvement in the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. ‘I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,’ Mr. Trump said this week. . . .”

The last part of the above quote may be reconstructed as: Trump is more concerned with money than with human lives (apart from his own and - perhaps - some family members), and I have seen this done in other articles.

But the main reason I review this article is its first sentence, mostly because I noticed that almost every prominent journalist (regardless of relevant knowledge) did write about Kavanaugh, and them again did write about Kashoggi, which also meant that almost every prominent journalist neglected to write about quite a few other things they may have known more about.

More below, and here is Koehler again:

Why is it, then, that when you multiply these murders by a hundred or a thousand or a million, they become so much easier to talk about and write about and justify — with the focus on strategy, politics, economics and jobs — than is the murder of one man? Why is there not one word in this Moneywatch story as heart-stopping as “bone saw”?

I ask this in no way to belittle the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, but rather to belittle . . . no, to undo, to rip apart . . . what we call news. If it weren’t for news that normalizes and softens war, that turns it — here in the 21st century — into a spectator sport, the military industrialists and their political supplicants could not sell it to the public with such ease.

Well... in journalism one normally cannot pay much or any attention to individual victims if one is reporting on many victims (like tens, hundreds or thousands), while one can do so if there is only one victim.

This explains part of the phenomenon Koehler describes. But more explanations are necessary, and one is simply that prominent journalists are more or less free to decide what they write about, and like to write about prominent horrible things, because doing so makes them even better known than they are already.

Here is the ending of Koehler´s article:

“The report, to be delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council next month, comes not long after a Saudi-coalition strike this month killed 40 children on a school bus.”

Eventually the story tosses in this little moral grenade:

“A report released by Human Rights Watch last week warned Britain, France and the United States that they risked complicity in unlawful attacks in Yemen by continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia.”

But none of this has the shock value of the torture and murder of a man at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, not even the murder of 40 children on a school bus.
Why do only some lives matter?

I have explained the last question above, at least to a considerable extent, and this is a recommended article. 

5. Chris Hedges: Donald Trump “is the product of a failed democracy”

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon. This is from not far from its beginning:

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges spent several years embedding himself in different communities across the United States investigating our social and cultural disease. In his new "America: The Farewell Tour," Hedges explores what went so wrong with American society over the last few decades that an authoritarian like Trump would be voted into office by tens of millions of the country's citizens.

Can America be salvaged? Is the American experiment in democracy over? How did an unholy union of Christian fascism and unchecked corporate power combine to destroy the American dream and gut the commons? Are the American people fighting back to reclaim democracy and a healthier society?

In addition to his new book, Hedges is the author of numerous award winning and bestselling works including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle," "Death of a Liberal Class," "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" and "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt."

I like and admire Chris Hedges, and that is the main reason to review this article. Most of it is interview, and in the rest of the text that I quote the bold text is by DeVega and the non-bold text is by Hedges.

Here is the first bit of the interview that I quote:

Donald Trump has been president for almost two years. At this point are things better or worse or as expected?

The situation is worse. Donald Trump was always a pretty frightening and repugnant figure. But even I wouldn't have predicted that he was this bad. He and this situation are completely unhinged. By virtue of every benchmark of a functioning democracy -- including the debasing of the political discourse in the United States -- Donald Trump has really accelerated the decay. This includes things such as the tax cut for the rich, deregulating the coal and the fossil fuel industry, opening up public lands for exploitation, the assault against public education, dismantling the EPA and stacking the courts with ideologues from the Federalist Society. As a whole the situation with Trump is pretty grim.

Quite so. Here is more:

You have a Democratic Party running around talking about James Comey or the Podesta emails or WikiLeaks or Russia without addressing the core issue, which is the orchestration of incredible social inequality -- which the Democrats were part of and thus don't address. The longer the Democrats follow this track of believing that Trump will implode and attempting to blame his election on Russian interference, the more dangerous the situation becomes. The Democrats are demonizing outside forces such as Russia without addressing the core issue which has created this largest transference of wealth upwards in American history and a corporate oligarchic elite which at this point is worse than even the Gilded Age.

I think this is quite right. Here is more:

Trump is the symptom, not the disease. He is the product of a failed democracy. Political theorist and philosopher Sheldon Wolin explained this in his book "Democracy Incorporated." Wolin showed how there are no institutions left in America that are authentically democratic. What exists is the leaching of entertainment into politics. It is the manipulation through the public relations industry as well as a system that's calcified the lockout of third parties or insurgent candidates. Substantive social and political issues are marginalized. Manufacturing consent by the news media and popular culture at large is the norm.

Yes, I think this is also quite correct - and for more about Sheldon Wolin, there is a whole series of interesting interviews Hedges had with Wolin. It is here and is strongly recommended (and you can also get Hedges´ original interviews with Wolin from Truthdig).

Here is more:

Is this postmodernism run amok, where people think that reality TV is real?

You are exactly right. Trump does not exist. These are fictional creations and personas. And yet because these fictional creations are so convincing and disseminated nonstop through electronic devices, in many ways they're more real to us than the people who live next door. We build our emotional relationships with these fictional personas, and this leaks into the news because it thrives on celebrity gossip. News has become a mini-drama with a star and a villain and a supporting cast.

Yes, it is postmodernism-for-the-masses, in which "truth does not exist", "truth is relative", "all moral norms are equally relative", "all men are equal" etc. etc.

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

I’m most afraid of climate change. The clock is ticking. We have very little time left. Once we go over two degrees Celsius increase in global temperature we could very well go into a kind of feedback loop where it doesn't matter what we do, it's over. Climate scientists would agree. And of course, a system breakdown like that will  spur on the ultimate imposition of a dystopian corporate totalitarian system that's already set to go.

What I'm most hopeful about is that more people are not buying into this ridiculous neoliberal ideology. It is an ideology used to justify corporate and oligarchic greed.

In fact, I am most afraid of the surveillance of everybody by the secret services and the - quite realistic - possibility of a nuclear war (that will finish human civilization), but I agree climate change is very dangerous as well. And this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a lot more than I quoted.


[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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail