Wednesday, Feb 8, 2017

Crisis: Trump's Foreign Policy, Resisting Trump, Corporate State, Democracy, Dark Money

Sections                                                                     crisis index

Stephen Walt: From Israel to Iran to Mexico, Trump Has
     Already Blown It on Foreign Policy

2. The Last Bastions of Resistance to Donald Trump
Trump’s Tweets Are a Sideshow: His Executive Orders Are
     Building a Corporate State

4. Democracy at the Tipping Point
5. How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of
     the Atlantic

This is a Nederlog of Wedne
sday, February 8, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interview with a Harvard professor who says that Trump already has blown it on foreign policy; item 2 is about an article by Robert Reich that explains that the judiciary, the press and the states are "the last bastions of resistance" against Trump; item 3 is about an article by Steven Rosenfeld who argues - correctly, in my view - that Trump is building a corporate state (for the multi-national corporations); item 4 is about an article in Spiegel by the its chief-editor, that this time is good; and item 5 is about an article by George Monbiot, that is again about Trump's building a corporate state for the rich.
As for today (February 8, 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); on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!); 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. Stephen Walt: From Israel to Iran to Mexico, Trump Has Already Blown It on Foreign Policy

The first item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan GonzŠlez on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

We turn now to look at President Trump’s emerging foreign policy. Last week, Trump reportedly abruptly ended a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after complaining about the terms of a refugee deal between the U.S. and Australia. Meanwhile, during a call with Mexican President Enrique PeŮa Nieto, Trump reportedly threatened to send U.S. troops to Mexico. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, also announced the United States was putting Iran "on notice"—but it’s not clear what that means. And Trump’s first covert operation in Yemen went disastrously wrong: One U.S. Navy SEAL and as many as 23 Yemeni civilians died as a result. We speak to Harvard professor Stephen Walt. His recent piece in Foreign Policy is headlined "Trump Has Already Blown It."

To start with, here is a link to some information about Stephen Walt (<-Wikipedia), and here is Walt himself:

STEPHEN WALT: Well, I think you could argue that Trump had an opportunity, when he was elected, to move American foreign policy in a somewhat different direction—and there would actually have been substantial public support for that—away from military interventionism, trying to get a more even distribution of labor with some of our key allies, working for economic arrangements that benefited Main Street as much as they benefited Wall Street. So he could have done that. Of course, he’s done the exact opposite. He has been picking fights with some of our traditional allies, and doing that to no good purpose, with no real end in mind. He’s inexplicably continued to defend the bad behavior of Vladimir Putin. And he’s got a completely contradictory approach to the Middle East that isn’t likely to accomplish any of the objectives we might have there. Now, that’s a lot to do in two weeks, and it’s possible, of course, that there will be some quick corrections, and they’ll get us back on an even keel. But so far, this does not appear to be a foreign policy that’s very promising, even for people who might have supported him.

I mostly agree, although I think that Trump's supposed inexplicable behavior towards Putin probably is explained by Trump's economical interests in Russia (which Trump still has, for he has not put his possessions in a blind trust, like American presidents used to do, and which may, eventually, also lead to Trump's impeachment).

And here is Amy Goodman with a recent quotation from Trump:

AMY GOODMAN: "We’ve got a lot of killers. You think our country is so innocent?" Professor Stephen Walt, your response?

STEPHEN WALT: Well, first of all, Trump is, in fact, correct that the United States has made a lot of mistakes in its foreign policy, and some of those mistakes have had real human consequences. So that’s correct.
My mom used to tell me that two wrongs don’t make a right. And for him to essentially say, "Well, it’s OK what Russia is doing. It’s OK to prosecute, persecute, possibly murder journalists. It’s OK to destabilize other countries. It’s OK to invade the sovereign territory of other countries, etc., because, after all, we’ve done similar things," is not, it seems to me, a constructive way to approach our relationship with Russia. And it’s certainly not a way to try and improve our relations with other countries.

I mostly agree with Walt, but I don't think Trump is saying what Walt says he is "essentially" saying. And I don't think this because Trump is beyond saying these things (although they are more complicated than he seems to handle with ease), but mostly because I think Trump has three dominant other interests: (1) he still seems to have major financial interests in Russia; (2) he is much concerned with corporate profits; and (3) he is most concerned with his own corporate profits.

But I am quite willing to agree these are my guesses. To end this article, I end in fact with a brief bit from another article on Democracy Now!, but from the same interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you just tweeted, "New theory"—you just tweeted, "The media is NOT covering terrorism? Is #trump serious? Delusional? Incurably dishonest? All of the above?" Donald Trump falsely claiming Monday during a speech to U.S. CENTCOM in Florida at the MacDill Air Base that the media is intentionally covering up terrorist attacks. Your response?

STEPHEN WALT: Well, again, I think that there’s no evidence of this at all. If anything, I think the media has overcovered the problem of terrorism really ever since 9/11. It’s why Americans greatly exaggerate the actual risk they are under. The risk that Americans face from a terrorist attack here in the United States is astronomically small, sort of one chance in 4 million. There are so many other things that are much more of a danger to us, much more of a problem that we should be worrying about.

Yes indeed. But about terrrorism, here is once again Goering's quote, simply because he seems to have spoken correctly about the USA:


And I think myself that Walt's questions about Trump's utter baloney about terrorism that Trump supposes to be intentionally not reported:

Is #trump serious? Delusional? Incurably dishonest? All of the above?"

must be answered with "All of the above": He is serious; he is delusional (for he thinks his fantasies are facts); and he is also incurably dishonest, indeed in good part because he is delusional.

This is a recommended article.

2. The Last Bastions of Resistance to Donald Trump

The second item is by Robert Reich on Truthdig and originally on his site:

This starts as follows:

With congressional Republicans in the majority in Congress and unwilling to cross Donald Trump, the job of containing Trump’s incipient tyranny falls to three groups: the nation’s judges, its independent press, and a few state governments.

Which is why Trump is escalating attacks on all three.

Yes indeed, although the "independent press" puts together the mainstream media, that seem to me mostly corrupted amd far from "independent", and the non-mainstream media, that I am mostly following, and that - still - are mostly independent.

Here is some on each of the three groups. First the law:

The judiciary

After federal Judge James Robart – an appointee of George W. Bush – stayed Trump’s travel ban last Friday, Trump leveled a personal attack on the judge. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

This was followed by another, late Sunday night: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system.”

For a President to personally attack a federal judge who disagrees with him is a dangerous overstepping of presidential power.

Yes indeed, for Trump effectively denies the separation between his executive power and the legal power that the courts are based on. Then there is this on "the media":

The press

Speaking to the U.S. Central Command on Monday, Trump veered off his prepared remarks to make a remarkable claim: The media was intentionally covering up reports of terrorist attacks.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice,” Trump told the assembled military officers. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Trump thereby elevated his advisor Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green massacre” justification for his travel ban – a “massacre” she claimed the press had failed to cover, but which in fact never occurred – to a higher and vaster level of conspiracy.

This is the neofascist fantasist that slightly over 60 million fools elected as president in full flow: Now he insists that the European press "doesn’t want to report" his sick fantasies as if they are facts. This man is a sick liar - and see item 4 below, for one
decent answer by a part of the European media.

And there is this on the American states:

The states

State governments – especially large ones headed by Democratic governors and legislators, such as California – pose a third line of defense against Trump. So he’s directed his ire against them as well.

In a televised interview Sunday, Trump threatened to take federal dollars away from California. “We give tremendous amounts of money to California … California in many ways is out of control …. We may have to [defund California]. Certainly that would be a weapon,” he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

What could Trump have been talking about? The federal government doesn’t give tremendous amounts of money to California, at least not net dollars. In fact, Californians send more tax dollars to the federal government each year than the state gets back from the federal government.

Fiscally, California isn’t “out of control.” Since 2013, the state has operated with a budget surplus. That’s more than can be said for the federal government. Or for Trump’s own business, for that matter.

So the neofascist liar was lying again. Here is Reich's ending of his article:

The judiciary, the press, and the states are the last bastions of resistance to Trump. So he’s escalating his attacks on them. 

Trump doesn’t want any resistance. He wants total control.

Yes, I agree. And this is a recommended article.

3. Trump’s Tweets Are a Sideshow: His Executive Orders Are Building a Corporate State

The third 
item is by Steven Rosenfeld on Truthdig and originally on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
The destructive toll of Donald Trump’s presidency is beginning to emerge, foreshadowing what’s likely to come as the White House and congressional Republicans begin to reverse, repeal and replace federal laws and regulations and downsize agencies.
Yes indeed, and this is - in my view - part and parcel of what I have called Trump's neofascism: It aims at a corporate state that works for the multi-national corporations,
that all have only two norms: (i) the only moral norm we have is to maximize profits,
and (ii) our profits are the most important.

Here is more on what maximizing profits of the multi-national corporations means to those who are not rich:

Add to that whatever is done to undermine Obamacare and Medicaid, and one set of dominos is lining up and poised to fall. A possible doctor shortage in the regions that elected Trump is only the start. Since taking office, a mixture of Trump’s executive orders, new proposed legislation in Congress and directives by just-installed agency heads—the first in a coming wave of appointees—is taking aim to destroy a swath of policies adopted to enhance public health, protect the environment and help ordinary Americans by curbing corporate greed.

This destructive template doesn’t stop in Washington, either. If anything, it gives license to GOP-held state legislatures to step on and pre-empt progressive laws—such as minimum wage, LGBTQ rights, paid sick days, gun control, natural gas drilling, and immigration sanctuaries—passed in cities where Democrats rule and reside.

And these are sum of the things Trump did in his first 17 days as president:

To review, his first was to overturn Obamacare, followed by freezing new federal regulations and hiring of non-military employees; barring funds for international family planning; reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; speeding up issuing of permits to thwart environmental impact review; building a Mexican border wall; expanding the federal deportation machine; deregulating Wall St. finance rules, and more.

And here is a summary of what Rosenfeld expects:

The progressive policies targeted by red states for pre-emption include: new gun controls, anti-fracking ordinances; creation of local utility districts, plastic bag fees and much more. “About 32 states now prohibit localities from regulating ride-hailing companies such as Uber, 23 [states] ban the local minimum wage, 15 [states] ban cities from requiring companies to offer sick days, and three ban [LGBTQ] anti-discrimination ordinance,” Stateline reported.

Surveying the entire spectrum of Trump’s executive orders, his federal agency appointees, the flurry of congressional pro-privatization legislation, and state-side attacks on Democrat-run cities, reveals the true extent of the coming assault on basic government and progressive values that puts people before profits. With Congress and federal agencies swiftly being occupied by corporate privateers, progressives are going to be looking to local lines of defense for the kinds of public services and safety nets they want. But those too are under attack.

Yes indeed. And as I said above, the essence of Trump's program seems to be that profits are far more important than people, and that the executives of the multi- national corporations (like Trump himself) are the best, the most deserving, and the most in need of profits.

This is a recommended article.

4. Democracy at the Tipping Point

The fourth
item is by Klaus Brinkbšumer on Spiegel International:
This starts as follows (and Brinkbšumer is Spiegel's chief editor):

Ultimately, indifference is deadly. The apathy. The feeling of impotence. And the idle silence that follows. People, including journalists, start thinking they can't do anything anyway. That proved to be the case in Turkey and Hungary and it has long been the situation in Russia and China as well. Will it also happen in the United States?

When democracy begins to erode, it seldom happens very quickly. Looking back, one can often determine the moment in which it became serious -- usually it was an election. How could Turkey have elected Erdogan, Russia Putin, Hungary OrbŠn and how could America have chosen Donald Trump with a clear conscience? When political discourse leads to a situation in which the discourse itself is replaced by demagogy, and when that demagogue is brought to power through a democratic process, then it's possible that democracy itself will be replaced by autocracy.

Mostly yes, though the autocratic climates of Turkey, Hungary, Russia and China have several other causes besides journalists "thinking they can't do anything anyway", and also it seems to me these other causes were more important, but OK.

Next, Brinkbšumer starts on a quite decent sum-up of what Trump did so far, in his first two and a half weeks as president:

First, in the two-and-a-half weeks since his awful inauguration speech, he has demonstrated that he will do what he said he would: He is ordering the construction of a wall on the border to Mexico, he is issuing xenophobic decrees and he is rattling America's allies and international institutions and, by doing so, every aspect of global politics. He has already threatened Iran and North Korea.

Yes indeed. Here is more on what Trump  - very probably - will do or attempt to do:

Second, Trump is also showing that he will do much that he did not announce in the campaign. He has ordered scientists not to conduct or publish research on topics of which he does not approve. He says climate change doesn't exist and means it seriously. He stood by as one of his closest confidants invented the term "alternative facts" to create a parallel reality. Trump brings his children with him to high-level meetings, he hired his son-in-law as a White House adviser, he has spared countries in which he does business from his travel ban on citizens of predominately Muslim states, he has not divested himself of his company holdings, he has not released his tax filings (despite pledging to do so) and even had his adviser Kellyanne Conway claim that voters didn't care.

Again yes indeed. And this is on Trump's person:

Third (...) Trump is a chronic liar and he proves this in one tweet after the other. Trump despises the media (he calls it the "opposition party" and says "As you know, I have a running war with the media") as well as the judicial branch in the form of "this so-called judge" who didn't rule the way that his ruler desired. Meanwhile, Trump claims the people protesting against him are "paid."

As I said, I think Trump is both insane and a neofascist (in my sense), and all of the above much supports my diagnosis - o no, my "considered opinion as an M.A. in psychology" [1].

Then there is this on the last cover of Spiegel:

On Saturday, we published a cover story illustrated with a caricature drawn by Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban immigrant who lives in New Jersey. The image shows a screaming man without eyes or a nose, but easily discernable as Trump, holding the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty in one hand and a bloody sword in the other. "America First," it states -- there is nothing more to see or read -- anything else, as with all art, is a matter of interpretation.

"Stunning," wrote the Washington Post. The political magazine Mother Jones described it as "one helluva statement." Demonstrators also used the cover image on posters at protests on the streets of cities across America.
Yes. And it seems as if quite a few of the rightist media in the USA construed this as an attack of Trump on a persons, which again was the usual lying: What the picture of Trump suggested Trump beheaded was the symbol of the USA's freedom, the Statue of Liberty.

I think it was a true statement on what Trump is trying and planning to do. Here is the ending, and Brinkbšumer is quite correct:

Donald Trump did not decapitate a person on the cover of DER SPIEGEL, he decapitated a symbol. The Statue of Liberty has served as America's symbol of freedom and democracy since 1886 -- one that welcomes refugees, migrants, "the homeless, tempest-tossed," according to the inscription that it bears. Donald Trump despises and threatens liberal democracy, he despises and threatens the world order and he is the most powerful man on the planet. The emergency is already upon us.

Yes indeed, and this was (in my opinion, of course) a good and decent statement by the chief editor of Spiegel. This is a recommended article.

5. How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The fifth and last
item today is by George Monbiot on Truth-out and originally on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

It took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once Trump had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it. Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from.
Yes indeed - and as I said before, I agree that "Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists". In fact, it seems to me that is his program (and that is neofascism, as defined by me).

There is this about "thinktanks":
Soon after the second world war, some of America's richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who fund them.
Yes indeed. And while there are a few "leftist" or "liberal" "thinktanks" as well, I thibk Monbiot is quite right in insisting that the main point of any "thinktank" is to produce propaganda that looks as if it were facts.

There is next this on Trump's planned first budget: In fact, this budget very probabluy will derive from a corporatist plan of the Heritage Foundation, which is a corporate "thinktank" specializing in corporate propaganda:

Trump's extraordinary plan to cut federal spending by $10.5tn was drafted by the Heritage Foundation, which called it a "blueprint for a new administration." Vought and Gray, who moved on to Trump's team from Heritage, are now turning this blueprint into his first budget.

This will, if passed, inflict devastating cuts on healthcare, social security, legal aid, financial regulation and environmental protections; eliminate programmes to prevent violence against women, defend civil rights and fund the arts; and will privatise the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Trump, as you follow this story, begins to look less like a president and more like an intermediary, implementing an agenda that has been handed down to him.

I agree, and I add that the last bit, that "Trump" seems to be "implementing an agenda that has been handed down to him", may be about the Deep State, which is asserted to be behind the elected government, that has most of the real power, and consists of people from the military, the secret services, and the war industries, all of which are part and parcel of what Eisenhower called "the military-industrial complex".

As it happens, I am sympathetic to the notion that there is a Deep State in the USA, but since this is also hidden, it is difficult to get real evidence about it. For more, see Mike Lofgren here and Chuck Spinney here.

George Monbiot is British, and ends his article as follows:

By tying our fortunes to those of the United States, the UK government binds us into this system. This is part of what Brexit was about: European laws protecting the public interest were portrayed by Conservative Eurosceptics as intolerable intrusions on corporate freedom. Taking back control from Europe means closer integration with the US. The transatlantic special relationship is a special relationship between political and corporate power.
In April 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt sent the US Congress the following warning: "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism." It is a warning we would do well to remember.

Yes indeed - and one difference I see between Roosevelt's warning about fascism and Trump's practice of neofascism is that neofascism is about corporate power, and especially the corporate powers of the banks and the energy industries.

[1] In fact, I speak of my "considered opinion" mostly because of the psychiatric bullshit that one can only "diagnose" someone if one has had his or her agreement -
which is bullshit anyway (for it hinders rational reasoning) and especially about the president of the USA.

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