Monday, Feb 6, 2017

Crisis: On The USA, Trump Dictator, USA & Propaganda, Sanders On Trump, Europe In Spiegel

Sections                                                                     crisis index

Make America Ungovernable
2. Just How Close Is Donald Trump to Becoming a Full-Blown

How US Believes Impossible Things
Bernie Sanders: Trump 'Is a Fraud' Sending Nation in
     'Authoritarian Direction'

5. Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

This is a Nederlog of Mon
day, February 6, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges about Trump's ends and also about the chances of the opposition; item 2 is about whether Trump is aiming at becoming a dictator; item 3 is about how the US believes in impossible things (and gives me an occasion to repeat my definition of "propaganda"); item 4 is about Bernie Sanders who called Trump "a fraud", quite correctly (in my view); and item 5 is about an article in Spiegel that warns against Trump as "a dangerous president" - which he is, although I disbelieve that the editor of
Spiegel feels "pain" when writing that Trump is a pathological liar: if he has done anything the last year, he knows Trump is (because of the statements that Trump made that were checked, 70% was false, all year round).
As for today (February 6, 2017): I have changed my site on February 1, 2017 to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the date it was that day) and of course it was yesterday already not uploading; on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) and it was still February 3 (three days ago); and indeed I am sick of being systematically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers to find it more easily.

For more explanations, see
here - and no: with two different sites in two different countries with two different providers, where this has been happening for a year (and not for over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.
1. Make America Ungovernable

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Donald Trump’s regime is rapidly reconfiguring the United States into an authoritarian state. All forms of dissent will soon be criminalized. Civil liberties will no longer exist. Corporate exploitation, through the abolition of regulations and laws, will be unimpeded. Global warming will accelerate. A repugnant nationalism, amplified by government propaganda, will promote bigotry and racism. Hate crimes will explode. New wars will be launched or expanded.

I agree with the first statement, but the rest of the first paragraph seems more doubtful to me, though I also agree this seems a fair expectation of what Trump is trying to do.

Then there is this:

Flurries of executive orders and memorandums are being issued to demolish the anemic remnants of our bankrupt democracy. Those being placed in power—such as Betsy DeVos, who if confirmed as secretary of education will defund our system of public education and expand schools run by the Christian right, and Scott Pruitt, who if confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency will dismantle it—are agents of destruction. In the eyes of the Christian fascists, generals, billionaires and conspiracy theorists around Trump, the laws, the courts and legislative bodies exist only to silence opponents and swell corporate profits.

Yes, and I think myself that the last bit - for Trump and the Trumpians "the laws, the courts and legislative bodies exist only to silence opponents and swell corporate profits" - is quite correct.

And there is this:

Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief counselor, was behind the ban on Muslims entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries—a ban you can expect to see extended if the Trump administration is successful in removing a stay issued by a district court. He was behind the order to the Department of Homeland Security to draw up lists of Muslim organizations and individuals in the United States that, in the language of the executive action, have been “radicalized” and have “provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States.” Such lists will be used to criminalize Muslim leaders and the institutions and organizations they built. Then, once the Muslims are dealt with domestically, there will be new Homeland Security lists that will allow the government to target the press, activists, labor leaders, dissident intellectuals and the left. It is the beginning of a fascist version of Leon Trotsky’s “permanent revolution.”

I have three remarks on this.

First, the Muslims are - it seems, for Stephen Bannon and his likes, at least - rather like the Jews were to Hitler (and Bannon seems to be an anti-semite i.e. he seems to strongly dislike Jews because of "their race", as Himmler did [1]), so it may be worth to point out that quite a few of the Muslims (not all, but those surrounding Israel, for example) also are supposed to be "semites".

For me, this is all racialist idiocy (the Jews are not a race; the Muslims are not a race; and anyway racism is degenerate) but not according to Bannon, who seems currently Trump's right hand man.

Second, in fact Trump and some of his mates (like Bannon) are targetting "the press, activists, labor leaders, dissident intellectuals and the left" and they will continue to do so, and especially the press (for if they can silence the press, they have won in the USA, or so it seems to me).

And third, I agree that Trump is trying to start a “permanent revolution” and especially against the press, the media and the left, but I would call it neofascist rather than fascist and I explain my distinctions here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions. Another interesting article, that I will return to soon, is here: Crisis: On The Deep State in the USA, TTIP Has 'De Facto Failed'.

Then there is this, which may be seen as a precisification of the first paragraph (with which I did not quite agree):

The Trump regime’s demented project of social engineering, which will come wrapped in a Christianized fascism, can be implemented only if it quickly seizes control of the bureaucratic mechanisms, an action that Max Weber pointed out is the prerequisite for exercising power in industrial and technocratic societies. Once what the historian Guglielmo Ferrero calls the “silken threads” of habit, tradition and legality are gone, the “iron chains” of dictatorship will impose social cohesion.

Yes indeed, but Trump still has to do this (and I agree he is trying to do this), but he has not succeeded yet, at least.

There is this on the use of violence:

If nonviolent protest is met with violence, we must never respond with violence. The use of violence, including property destruction, and taunting the police are gifts to the security and surveillance state. It allows the state to demonize and isolate a mass movement. It drives away the bulk of the population. Violence against the state is used by the authorities to justify greater forms of control and repression. The corporate state understands and welcomes the language of force. This is a game the government will always win and we will always lose. If we are perceived as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob that embraces violence, we will be easily crushed.

I more or less agree with this, though I like to add that Trump does have a real problem due to the fact that there are more guns than persons in the USA. And this is a major difference from Europe, where no one but the Swiss (I think) is still allowed to have arms in the house (without a special and not easily awarded permit).

There is this on the "Trump regime":

The Trump regime is populated with blind fanatics. They believe in one truth, which is whatever they proclaim at the moment (any such declaration may contradict what they said a few hours before). They are possessed with one idea—conflict. They venerate a demented hypermasculinity that includes a sacralization of violence, misogyny, a disdain for empathy, and the self-appointed right to engage in bouts of frenzied rage. These characteristics, they believe, are a sign of masculinity. The highest aesthetic is militarism, violence and war.

Yes and no. That is: I agree blind fanaticism is a characteristic of some in Trump's cabinet, and indeed Trump and Bannon seem two fair examples. Then again, it seems better to me to be met by blind fanatics than by wily, scheming, billionaires who are
pro rich and only pro rich, but are rational enough to lie and deceive. And I think these are also in Trump's cabinet.

Then there is this on "moral monsters":

The inability of white supremacists like Trump and Bannon to recognize the humanity of others springs from their spiritual impoverishment. They mistake bigotry for honesty and ignorance for innocence. They cannot separate fantasy from reality. Such people are, as author James Baldwin said, “moral monsters.”

First of all, I definitely agree there are moral monsters and that it is utterly false to declare every human being the equal of everybody else (as "leftists" - who are not real leftists (as my very courageous parents were [2]) - seem to love to do).

Indeed here are a few of them: Hitler, Stalin, Himmler, Goebbels, Beria, Heydrich and indeed very many more from the Gestapo and the KGB who were immoral racists, sadists and torturers.

But second, although I agree Chris Hedges may be correct in saying that Trump and Bannon suffer - or take pride in - "spiritual impoverishment", "bigotry" and "ignorance" it seems to me that they also may be moral monsters because they simply decided that only the rich are real people, and only the rich deserve protection, and that everybody who is not rich is a loser, and that losers deserve to die (and should not be kept alive with welfare or Obamacare: Let them starve for being not rich).

I do not know what is the correct view of Trump, Bannon etc. (and it seems to me that the second view is even sicker than the first, and this view also seems to be practised by - at least - Trump and Bannon).

This is from the end of this article:

We have the power to make the country ungovernable. But we do not have much time. The regime will make it harder and harder to organize, get into the streets and carry out the nationwide strikes, including within the federal bureaucracy. Resistance alone, however, is not enough. It must be accompanied by an alternative vision of a socialist and anti-capitalist society. It must reject the Democratic Party’s attempt to ride anti-Trump sentiment back into power. The enemy is, in the end, not Trump or Bannon, but the corporate state. If we do not dismantle corporate power we will never stop fascism’s seduction of the white working class and unemployed.

I agree. And this is a recommended article.

2. Just How Close Is Donald Trump to Becoming a Full-Blown Dictator?

The second item is by Phil Torres on AlterNet and originally on Salon:
This starts as follows:

There is widespread agreement among political commentators that Donald Trump is a unique figure in the political history of the United States — and a uniquely dangerous one as well. David Frum recently published a chilling article in The Atlantic titled “How to Build an Autocracy,” and The Washington Post’s John McNeill suggested last year that Trump was a “semi-fascist,” according to a set of robust criteria assembled by “dozens of top historians and political scientists.”

As the comedian Jon Stewart recently said on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “We have never faced this before: purposeful, vindictive chaos.”

Yes, although I would call (and have called) Trump a neofascist rather than a "semi-fascist" (and I did study both fascism and neofascism, and did compile my own definitions, and indeed I stem from strongly anti-fascist parents and grandparents, with two parents and one grandparent in the Dutch resistance against Nazism).

Also, it is worthwile to say that both Trump and his cabinet and some on the left, like Chris Hedges, seem to want to make the USA "ungovernable", though indeed also for opposed reasons.

Then there is this:

But what about the long-term stability of American democracy? What might be the consequences of Trump’s policies for the younger generations among us? Could our democracy sink into autocracy, as some fear? To answer these questions, I contacted Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, professors at New York University and the co-authors of “The Dictator’s Handbook.”

These are decent questions (and I did not read their book).

What are, in your opinions, the most important differences between democracy and dictatorship?

Alastair Smith: We like to think of them as not being distinct but existing on a continuum. They actually share many features. At the top of an organization there’s a person who wants to stay at the top of the organization, and so they generate policies that get people who enable them to stay there to support them. So the difference is a degree of magnitude as to how many people you need.

No, I disagree: There are definite differences between a dictatorship and a democracy, and three imporant ones are the following: (i) the laws are rather different: in a democracy "general interests" prevail somehow (and not always fairly), in a dicatorshop specific interests (generally: those in power and/or the rich) prevail, and they do so (soon enough) in law; (ii) authority is different: im a democracy again "general interests" prevail, while in a democracy only or mostly the interests of specific groups are furthered; and (iii) the media are quite different: in a democracy there is real news that reports real facts, and that does so also from different political directions; im a dictatorship all media are only allowed to publish "the news" that is approved by the government.

I am sorry, but these differences are real and important, and to deny them, and insist only on the amount of support for the government simply is a mistake.

Then there is this:

In your view, how worrisome is Donald Trump’s apparent delegitimizing of the press? For example, Trump called CNN “fake news,” Steve Bannon told the media to “keep its mouth shut.” And both have repeatedly described the media as the “opposition party.” Is this a dangerous push towards a less democratic form of governance?

Smith: People tend to think of democracy as just being about free and fair elections. But democracy is about a lot more than that, at least in the way we view things.
What’s very important is that people have the rights of free speech and an independent media. I don’t see Trump being particularly successful at making the media be quiet. It’s worrying that he gets away with some of it. But he’s now being called out for basically living in a post-factual world where these things don’t matter. So, I’m less concerned in the long run. If Trump were to start banning newspapers and prosecuting them, that’s very much how dictators like to do things: Bankrupt newspaper owners if they print stories that they don’t like and lock up journalists. I don’t think that anybody perceives that Trump is going to do this in the near future. The press will continue to talk about Trump; indeed, you’re writing and you’re not feeling the risk of being censored.
I think this as well seems more naive to me than I think is justified (and this is from an interview with two professors of politics), although I agree Trump is not - yet? - "banning newspapers and prosecuting them".

Then there is this, which is a lot more sensible:

Bueno de Mesquita: I think there are three pillars to an accountable government. Many of the things that people think of as being pillars, like the rule of law, follow from these three pillars. You need freedom of assembly, free speech and free press.

That is, people have to be in a position to exchange information and find out that they’re not alone in disliking what the government is doing — and to organize and coordinate to oppose the government. The two threats to the free press are a) fake news, although “noisy news” has always been prevalent, like if you were to go back to colonial times, you’d find that this was true, and b) self-censorship: When Bannon says the press should shut up, he means censor yourselves. That’s a real danger because, to put it harshly, the press is not in the business of telling the truth. The press is in the business of selling advertising space to make money. So if telling the truth turns out to be a liability, then they might begin to self-censor.
Yes - and I agree that "the press is not in the business of telling the truth. The press is in the business of selling advertising space to make money", although indeed in the 1970ies (!!) the American press seems to have been abled to do both: Make a decent living from the advertisements they sold (which got a whole lot less in the 2000s), and
- more or less, is true - telling the truth about those in power.

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

Bueno de Mesquita: My own personal opinion — again, not being a lawyer — is that Trump is much more likely in the next four years to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment, whereby the president is deemed to be incapacitated. I think if he persists in using, as they have called it, “alternative facts,” when the evidence does not support what he is saying, and he nevertheless tries to shape policy on that basis, there’s going to be a point at which there will be a judgment that he is not mentally stable.
I more or less agree and hope he is correct. This is a recommended article (though I don't think there is "a continuum" between democracy and dictatorship).

3. How US Believes Impossible Things

The third item is by William Blum on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:
As the Queen in Alice in Wonderland explained, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Or as new Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said, “Since Yalta, we have a long list of times we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.”

If anyone knows where to find this long list, please send me a copy.

This delusion is repeated periodically by American military officials. A year ago, following the release of Russia’s new national security document, naming as threats both the United States and the expansion of the NATO alliance, a Pentagon spokesman declared: “They have no reason to consider us a threat. We are not looking for conflict with Russia.”

Yes, indeed: Much of what the Pentagon and the American government claim consists of lies and propaganda (though indeed not all).

And here is the reason to select this article:

The entire emphasis has been on whether a particular news item is factually correct or incorrect. However, that is not the main problem with mainstream media. A news item can be factually correct and still be very biased and misleading because of what’s been left out, such as the relevant information about the Russian “invasion” of Crimea mentioned above.

Yes, indeed - as is also obvious from my definition of propaganda:

Propaganda: Slanted, biased, prejudiced or partial presentation of something that is meant to produce a state of belief that is not proportional to the evidence.

Most points of view people get exposed to are kinds of propaganda, whether political, religious or economical. And indeed, the last kind of propaganda, also known as advertising, is the most expensive and well-paid kind of writing or filming there is, and the sort of information most people are most exposed to.

Advertisement and public relations are also kinds of propaganda, intended to mislead a public into buying products or believing institutions, political parties or  governments. Of course, the commercial spreaders or lies that are public relations companies deny this, but then their craft is the art of lying, using the techniques of conmanship.

I repeat it (once again), because I think it is quite clear and deserves to be better known.

4. Bernie Sanders: Trump 'Is a Fraud' Sending Nation in 'Authoritarian Direction'

The fourth item is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

"I don't mean to be disrespectful," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, "but this guy's a fraud."

The immediate reference was to a meeting President Donald Trump held with Wall Street executives on Friday in which he vowed—in what Common Dreams reported as a "spectacular betrayal"—to repeal key elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

"It is hard not to laugh," Sanders said, "to see President Trump sitting alongside these Wall Street guys. This guy ran for the President of the United States saying, 'I'm Donald Trump and I'm gonna take on Wall Street—these guys are getting away with murder...' But suddenly he appoints all these billionaires; his major financial adviser comes from Goldman Sachs; and now he's gonna dismantle legislation that protects consumers. This is a guy who ran for president saying, 'I'm the only Republicans who's not going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid'—and then he appoints all of these guys who are precisely going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

Yes indeed - quite so, although I'd say that calling someone a fraud (<-Wikipedia) is "disrespectful".

Then there is this:

Sanders described the current political moment as  "exceptional times," and said he worries "very much" that "we have a president... moving us in a very authoritarian direction." He explained that he was very worried that Trump, who on Saturday sent a tweet referring to a federal judge who ruled against his immigration order a "so-called judge," is a president "who apparently has contempt for the entire judiciary" and antagonstic towards separation of powers.

Yes indeed - and Trump does not appear to see the difference between the executive power and the judiciary power.

And this is about the nomination of Trump's candidate for the Supreme Court:

"We are living in a dangerous and unprecented moment in modern American history," Sanders said. "What this Supreme Court decision is about is whether we continue Citizens United and allow billionaires to buy elections. It's whether or not we continue Roe vs. Wade and allow a woman to control her own body. It's whether or not we have a court that protects the right of the government to make sure climate change is de[a]lt with and whether workers have the right to join unions. So this is a major, major nomination and it should require sixty votes and a serious debate."

Yes indeed.  

5. Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

The fifth and last item today is by Klaus Brinkbšumer on Spiegel International:
This is from near the beginning:
Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That's difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners -- and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU -- doesn't make the situation any easier.
I say! And I do so mostly because Spiegel is still an important German magazine and not merely a small paper: If Spiegel says that "Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President", as the title of this article has it, this is a widely shared feeling in Germany (or so I think).

Then again, I immediately add that I am not much impressed with both difficulties thay Birkbšumer notes: I don't see that the fact that it is "
from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place" and I take it: in 1945, also thanks to the Marshall Plan (<- Wikipedia), simply because that is all over 60 years ago and the present circumstances are very different from what they were around 1950; and I also don't see why "partners" are necessary at the present point (though I agree that the more who are willing to put pressure on Trump, the better this may be).

Indeed, there is also this:
(...) Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won't take shape. It is, however, absolutely necessary.

It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar. The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this). He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power. He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of "betrayal." This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome. It is the way tyrants think.

I agree with the first of the above two paragraphs (and indeed think Germany should take the initiative in Europe, at least among the governments).

I disbelieve most that is said in the second paragraph.

First, I think it is totally incredible that the chief editor of Spiegel insists that it is "literally painful" to write that "the president of the United States is a pathological liar": He clearly is; he clearly has been lying - for 70% of the time also - for well over a year now; and indeed being a liar, and even being "a pathological liar", seem to me to be quite necessary, also in Europe, to make any political career. (All politicians are liars, and indeed it seems to me that politicians are far more often liars than non-politicians.)

Second, I also do not see why it would "hurt" - the chief editor of Spiegel, specifically - to write that "[t]he president of the U.S. is a ra racist": There have been more racists who also were U.S. presidents, and there have been quite a few racist politicians, who
also - Goldwater, Wallace (<- Wikipedia, both)- got quite far politically plugging racism.

Third, while I agree that Trump "is attempting a coup from the top", I don't think he is aiming a "an illiberal democracy" (and what is that? how does it differ from a square circle, for example?): he is aiming at a dictatorship of himself and his cabinet, and he does so - among other things - by denying there is a difference between the judiciary and the executive powers, and by insisting "the media" consists of liars and opponents (which again is a lie).

Fourth, if it is "literally painful" to write that Trump is a pathological liar (while that is the evident truth for more than a year) and it "hurts" to say Trump is a racist, then why doesn't it hurt to compare Trump to Nero? (And no, I don't believe Birkbšumer is really pained or hurt.)

Then there is this, which I also think is not very clear:

That's why under President Trump, both the justified and the contemptible will be melded. Injustice is a major issue of our times, as are fears of digitalization and globalization -- and rightfully so given that the division of society and the speed of modern life is, in fact, extreme. Trump fuses these worries of his voters with nationalism and xenophobia. That's how demagogues work and it is how they become effective. The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for "America first" and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world's most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him.

For one thing, I don't fear "digitalization": What I fear - and a whole lot more than Birkbšumer seems to do - is the secret spying on everyone who is connected to the internet by a computer or a cellphone. For me that is fascism plain and simple, and it
can only end by being ended altogether by law, or by becoming the dominant force in society, and with Trump as president, it will not be ended by law.

For another thing, I don't fear "globalization": I fear the transportation of most industries to the third world, which has been happening since the 1980ies, and meanwhile has happened; I fear the dominance of the rich over the non-rich and the many; I fear the untold many lies I have read about the needs for austerity and balanced budgets that only systematically helped the few rich to become very much richer.

And I simply do not believe that Birkbšumer - who uses these two awful euphemisms - doesn't see much of the same (indeed while quite possibly not agreeing with me).

Then again, I more or less agree that "the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim", which indeed simply is a lie (although using that term - "lie" - might "pain" or "hurt" the chief editor, especially if this lie is attributed to its source, which is The President Of The United States).

Anyway... here is the end of the article, that I agree with:

What is does mean, though, is that Europe must grow stronger and start planning its political and economic defenses. Against America's dangerous president.

This article is recommended, even though I can't take everything in it seriously.

[1] Because Himmler and the Nazis insisted that the Jews are a race (which they are not according to biology).

[2] Because both of my parents were in the resistance against the Nazis in WW II, and my father and his father were arrested in June 1941 for the same "crime" and convicted to concentration camp imprisonment. My father survived over 3 years and 9 months of this; my grandfather was murdered.

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