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Nederlog

Monday, Feb 13, 2017

Crisis: The Elites, Trump & CIA, On Chomsky, Obamacare, Trump's Psyche, Hedges & Taibbi

Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
The Elites Won’t Save Us
2. As a Conspiracy Theorist, Trump Has It Out for the CIA
3.
Noam Chomsky’s 'Responsibility of Intellectuals' After 50
     Years: It’s an Even Heavier Responsibility Now

4. The Real Reason Republicans Want To Pull The Plug On
     Obamacare

5. A Psychological Portrait of President Trump
6. On Contact: “Insane Clown President” with Matt Taibbi
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Mon
day, February 13, 2017.

Summary: This file is a crisis log with 5 files and 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about the last article by Chris Hedges; item 2 is about a quite disappointing article about Trump and the CIA; item 3 is about a fine article about Noam Chomsky; item 4 is about a brief article by Robert Reich about the real reason Obamacare will be stopped: Very profitable to the rich; item 5 is about a fairly good psychological portrait of Trump; and item 6 is not an article but a video of Chris Hedges interviewing Matt Taibbi, that
I liked.
As for today (February 13, 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 xs4all.nl 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 it was this morning again incorrect (do they "update" my site every fourth or fifth day now?!); on one.com it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but was correct this morning; and indeed I am sick of being system- atically 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.

Incidentally, if you reached February 1, 2017 on one of my sites you are in the new set-up and from there you can find the latest Nederlog, and all others from there.
1. The Elites Won’t Save Us

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

The four-decade-long assault on our democratic institutions by corporations has left them weak and largely dysfunctional. These institutions, which surrendered their efficacy and credibility to serve corporate interests, should have been our firewall. Instead, they are tottering under the onslaught. 

Labor unions are a spent force. The press is corporatized and distrusted. Universities have been purged of dissidents and independent scholars who criticize neoliberalism and decry the decay of democratic institutions and political parties. Public broadcasting and the arts have been defunded and left on life support. The courts have been stacked with judges whose legal careers were spent serving corporate power, a trend in appointments that continued under Barack Obama. Money has replaced the vote, which is how someone as unqualified as Betsy DeVos can buy herself a Cabinet seat. And the Democratic Party, rather than sever its ties to Wall Street and corporations, is naively waiting in the wings to profit from a Trump debacle.

Yes indeed: I think this is mostly factually adequate. It is also very sad (in my opinion, at least) and it misses one thing I would have added myself:

The few rich did succeed in beating the many non-rich, because a large proportion of the non-rich - left, center and right - is badly educated, has few or no realistic ideas about science and rationality, and therefore believes more in their own kinds of groupthinking and wishful thinking than in real truth or real science.

Then there is this:

The loss of credibility by democratic institutions has thrust the country into an existential as well as economic crisis. The courts, universities and press are no longer trusted by tens of millions of Americans who correctly see them as organs of the corporate elites.
(...)
Once American democratic institutions no longer function, reality becomes whatever absurdity the White House issues.

Hm. I don't really know what is "an existential (..) crisis", but I suppose Hedges'
point is that the rise of Trump may well be the end of the USA as it has been since 1776, and indeed of the whole human world if Trump starts or unleashes a nuclear war. I agree.

My problems with the quotation are mostly that it is about institutions rather than people, but having said that, I skip further criticism. [1]

And here is Ralph Nader, who was interviewed by Chris Hedges by phone:

“He is destroying one code of behavior after another,” Nader said of Trump. “He is so far getting away with it and not paying a price. He is breaking standards of behavior—what he says about women, commercializing the White House, I am the law.”

Nader said he does not think the Republican Party will turn against Trump or consider impeachment unless his presidency appears to threaten its chances of retaining power in the 2018 elections. Nader sees the Democratic Party as too “decadent and incompetent” to mount a serious challenge to Trump.
I agree, and indeed also on both the Republicans (they will mostly support Trump
until he is loosing elections, which may happen in 2018) and on the Democrats: I
think they will continue to support the rich, as they did since Bill Clinton, and I think it is also quite unlikely they can be reformed from within the Democratic Party.

Then there is this:
A sustained, nationwide popular uprising of nonviolent obstruction and noncooperation is the only weapon left to save the republic. The elites will respond once they become afraid. If we do not make them afraid we will fail.
Hm. I agree with Hedges there is little realistic hope at present, and indeed since 2001. Then again, I also think there is very little chance of a "sustained, nationwide popular uprising" without a considerable economical crisis (which will arrive, at least if human civilization is not blown up by a nuclear war).

Nader seems a bit more optimistic than Hedges:

“The resiliency of democratic institutions has been encouraging—the courts, the protests,” Nader said. “Trump boomerangs himself. He personally outrages people around the country based on race, gender, class, geography, his lies, his false statements, his narcissism, his lack of knowledge, his flippancy and his morbid desire to respond to slurs with tweets. He is not a smart autocrat. He weakens himself daily. He allows the opposition to have more effect than it ordinarily would.”

“Most dictatorial heads of state deal with abstract ideologies—the fatherland and so forth,” Nader went on. “He doesn’t do much of that. He attacks personally, low on the sensuality ladder. You are a fake. You are a loser. You are a crook. You are a liar. This arouses people more, especially when he does this based on gender, race and religion. The best thing going for the democratic awakening is Donald Trump.”

Yes, I agree with everything quoted except - perhaps - the very last sentence.

Then there is this:

The tension between the Trump White House and segments of the establishment, including the courts, the intelligence community and the State Department, has been misconstrued as evidence that the elites will remove Trump from power. If the elites can work out a relationship with the Trump regime to maximize profits and protect their personal and class interests they will gladly endure the embarrassment of having a demagogue in the Oval Office.

I don't know. I more or less agree with Hedges about his analysis of the elites, but
"the elites" is a vague term, and - whoever they are, and however bad they are - I believe they have a far greater problem than "
having a demagogue in the OvalOffice": 

Trump may blow up the world in a fit of temper, and I think he is not sane (and I am meanwhile by far not the only one who is seriously worried about Trump's lack of sanity and his violent and autocratic personality).

Here is a bit by Thomas Mann, whom I dislike as a novelist, but who had some sane judgements:

The German novelist Thomas Mann wrote in his diary two months after the Nazis came to power that he had witnessed a revolution “without underlying ideas, against ideas, against everything nobler, better, decent, against freedom, truth and justice.” He lamented that the “common scum” had taken power “accompanied by vast rejoicing on the part of the masses.” The business elites in Germany may not have liked this “scum,” but they were willing to work with them. And our business elites will do likewise now.

I think Mann saw this correctly. And there is a major difference between Hitler's time and the present time, and the difference is that a nuclear war will destroy human civilization.

Here is the last bit of Hedges' article:

We are in the twilight stages of the rolling corporate coup d’Útat begun four decades ago. We do not have much left to work with. We cannot trust our elites. We cannot trust our institutions. We must mobilize to carry out repeated and sustained mass actions. Waiting for the establishment to decapitate Trump and restore democracy would be collective suicide.

I more or less agree, but I am a bit less pessimistic, it seems:

While I agree "we cannot trust our elites", there are some - such as Hedges, Chomsky, and indeed quite a few others - who I think are of sound mind and good intentions, also if I disagree with them; and while I agree "w
e cannot trust our institutions" there still are people in the institutions who make sound decisions (e.g. the three judges of the federal court who decided the appeal Trump's government made against an earlier decision by a court) and who seem to want to make them.

But the overall situation indeed is bad, and this is a recommended article.

2. As a Conspiracy Theorist, Trump Has It Out for the CIA

The second item is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet:

This is from near the beginning (and this was a disappointing article):

Trump’s tough guy pose betrayed some hard political realities.

The president’s hostility to the CIA is a mixed bag. He disdains the factuality of the Agency’s work. He dismisses the value of the Agency’s daily briefings.
(..)
As a conspiracy theorist, Trump is more interested in demonizing and discrediting the CIA, a $15 billion-a-year agency and a possible check on his power. As an aspiring autocrat, Trump regards the Agency (whether it is liberal or illiberal or both) as a rival and a threat. Therefore the CIA must be humiliated.
Perhaps, if one speaks about Trump's psychology.

But my problem about the CIA, and in fact also about the FBI and the Pentagon, is that I see all three as massive and very well funded institutions that always supported the president and the government, while Trump has been mostly dismissive of all three.

And this is apart from the probable fact that all three institutions play an important part in the Deep State, which I will wholly leave out of consideration here.

But I did not get anything about the quite puzzling fact that the president of the USA is attacking his own secret service.

This is from near the end of the article:

If Hillary Clinton had been elected, the CIA would have received a sympathetic hearing from the White House. In the language of Washington policymakers, the Agency’s “equities" would have been protected. The CIA's last JFK secrets probably would have stayed secret.

Not so with Donald Trump. This president would love to see the Agency’s dirtiest secrets in his Twitter feed. So would his friend Putin, the former Russian intelligence officer.

The CIA is not likely to get any favors this fall, not from Trump, not when the president can bludgeon the liberal smartypants of Langley with the biggest conspiracy theory of them all.
And this is the same: I get personal impressions with few facts. Ah well - and see the next item or the first item.

3. Noam Chomsky’s 'Responsibility of Intellectuals' After 50 Years: It’s an Even Heavier Responsibility Now

The third 
item is by Jay Parini (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet and originally on Salon:
This starts as follows:

There are determining events, especially when we’re young and formulating our sense of the world: Times when we learn how to take ourselves, where to stand, how to move forward in a fresh way. For me, a key moment was stepping into the periodicals room of my college library in late February of 1967 — I was a sophomore — and reading an article in the New York Review of Books that caught my eye. It was “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” written by Noam Chomsky.

Nothing was quite the same for me after reading that piece, which I’ve reread periodically throughout my life, finding things to challenge me each time.
This is a personal memory by Jay Parini, who is two years older than I am. I can't disagree with personal memories, but my own past is probably quite different from Parini's, as is indeed my own interpretation and knowledge of Noam Chomsky.

Here is a short summary:

I am the oldest child of two - intelligent, sincere, honest - Dutch communists, who were both communists all their adult lives, and had both been in the Dutch resistance against the Nazis, and indeed I also was a communist as well until I was 20, when I discarded Marxism (and communism) because I had found faults with Marx's economics (in fact the same - I think - as was crititized by Ian Steedman in his 1977 book "Marx after Sraffa", which I did not know of at the time, and only found in the later 1990ies, with the help of internet); I disagreed with both his (supposed [2]) historical materialism and dialectical materialism, and found the Communist Party stupid, authoritarian and much too totalitarian, while I had already in 1964 decided that I did not believe in Soviet "socialism".

And thus, also because I lived in Amsterdam, I did not know much about Chomsky. I did know - by 1969 or 1970 - a bit about his anarchist politics, but not much, and while I knew considerably more about his linguistics, I did not like his 1968 booklet "Language and Mind" much, which I had bought and read in 1968, while soon after I was appalled by the truly enormous amounts of tree-diagrams that were extremely popular among Dutch linguists around 1970, though that was no fault of Chomsky at
all
[3].

So therefore I only started appreciating Chomsky's from the early 2000s on, since when I discovered that I mostly agree with him on politics, though not completely. [4]

Back to Parini, who continues as follows:

The main point of Chomsky’s essay is beautifully framed after a personal introduction in which he alludes to his early admiration for Dwight Macdonald, an influential writer and editor from the generation before him:

Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology, and class interest through which the events of current history are presented to us.

For those who think of Chomsky as tediously anti-American, I would note that here and countless times in the course of his voluminous writing he says that it is only within a relatively free society that intellectuals have the elbow room to work. In a kind of totalizing line shortly after the above quotation, he writes: “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.”

Yes indeed!!

That is the function of real intellectuals, and that is why real intellectuals are very important. Unfortunately, most academics and most nominal intellectuals are much more interested in their own incomes and their own careers, and their own tiny bits of specialist academic knowledge to care much about others.

And indeed:

It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.

I totally agree, but I know only a small proportion of nominal "intellectuals" are real intellectuals. [5]

Then again, intellectuals - real ones and the majority of the unreal ones - are now much criticized by the majority of the stupid and the ignorant who now "communicate" by the billions, mostly - it seems - on Fuckbook and Twitter:

This imposes a heavy burden on those of us who think of ourselves as “intellectuals,” a term rarely used now, as it sounds like something Lenin or Trotsky would have used and does, indeed, smack of self-satisfaction, even smugness; but (at least in my own head) it remains useful, embracing anyone who has access to good information, who can read this material critically, analyze data logically, and respond frankly in clear and persuasive language to what is discovered.

But why should I or anyone else feel ashamed about the fact that my IQ is much above 130 (which only 2 out of 50 reach), and that I have an excellent B.A. and an excellent M.A. in spite of being ill and very much discriminated [6] during all my studies?!

Why should I admire someone for being able to play soccer much better than I can or indeed ever could? Why should I feel guilty about my talents, my many intellectual efforts or my ability to read very much difficult materials "critically, analyze data logically, and respond frankly in clear and persuasive language to what is discovered"?!

I will tell you: Because people who are really intelligent can do intellectual things much better than people who have an IQ of 115 max and who never could enter a university, they are discriminated by the vast majority of those with lower IQs and hardly any decent education.

And I have learned this very well on Phoenix Rising, where I have seen the majorities of the stupid and the ignorant gang up again and again and again against people - and I am not talking about myself here - who were honest, quite intelligent and quite sincere and who tried to help their fellow patients. [7]

Indeed Phoenix Rising is unimportant: It is the billions - it seems literally true - of the intellectually totally ignorant who now have been given the means to utter themselves "in writing“, and who do so, it seems by the billions, or at least by the hundreds of millions, mostly on Twitter and Facebook, and who crowd out and attack anyone who is evidently more capable than they are. [8]

This article ends as follows, indeed after a lot that I skipped:

As I reread Chomsky’s essay on the responsibility of intellectuals, it strikes me forcefully that not one of us who has been trained to think critically and to write lucidly has the option to remain silent now. Too much is at stake, including the survival of some form of American democracy and decency itself, if not an entire ecosystem. With a dangerously ill-informed bully in the White House, a man almost immune to facts and rational thought, we who have training in critical thought and exposition must tirelessly call a spade a spade, a demagogue a demagogue. And the lies that emanate from the Trump administration must be patiently, insistently and thoroughly deconstructed. This is the responsibility of the intellectual, now more than ever.

I agree in principle, for this is "the responsibility of the intellectual" - but as I said,
I also know from my own experiences as an intellectual that only a small percentage
of the nominal "intellectuals" will behave as real intellectuals. I am very sorry, and
indeed originally did not believe this at all, but it is a fact. [9]

And this is a recommended article.

4. The Real Reason Republicans Want To Pull The Plug On Obamacare


The fourth
item is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s and Republican promises to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. They could repeal it, but they can’t and won’t replace it. They’ve tried for years to come up with a replacement that keeps at least as many people covered. Their “replacement” never appears. 

So why do Republicans want to repeal Obamacare and leave millions without insurance?  Because it would mean a huge tax windfall for the wealthy.

Repealing Obamacare will put an average of $33,000 of tax cuts in the hands of the richest 1 percent this year alone, and a whopping $197,000 of tax cuts into the hands of the top 0.1 percent. 

The 400 highest-income taxpayers (with incomes averaging more than $300 million each) will each receive an average annual tax cut of about $7 million. 

It would also increase the taxes of families earning between $10,000 and $75,000 – including just about all of Trump’s working class voters.

Yes, I think this is probably correct, although I can't vouch for the accuracy of Reich's numbers.

But Reich is very probably quite right, and the above quotation also is very adequate
to my diagnosis of neofascism: The rich care for only one thing, and that is their own maximal profit, and all other norms, rules, laws and principles - moral, ethical, legal political and also religious principles - are subject to that principle.

And while this is often denied verbally, words are mere servants to interests, and cash and profits are much more important to the rich than words, principles, ethics or morals.

There is some more in this article, namely how this will work out in fact - 32 million people will use their health insurance, tens of thousands will die unnecessarily, for having no insurance - but I leave this to your interests.

This is a recommended article.

5. A Psychological Portrait of President Trump

The fifth item today is by CÚsar Chelala on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Last October, before he was elected President of the U.S., I, among others, put forward the hypothesis that Mr. Donald Trump was a narcissist. I based my interpretation on the fact that he fulfilled practically all the criteria included in the classification of narcissism established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in many countries all over the world.

The symptoms of this syndrome include the following: Grandiosity; fantasies of power and personal attractiveness; self-perception of being unique; needing constant admiration form others; sense of entitlement; exploitation of others for personal gain; intensely envious of others and pompous and arrogant demeanor. His behavior at the time, which became even more evident since becoming President, only confirmed this hypothesis.

Yes, I basically agree - and I am a psychologist who was a bit earlier than Chelala (who doesn't appear to be a psychologist), for I concluded the same as Chelala did in March of 2016: See here.

There were others who were still earlier, and one reason why I wasn't there earlier myself is that in March Trump was still one of many Republican presidential candidates, while everything I knew about him made me rate him low both intellectually and ethically.

I still think so - Trump is not stupid, but he is no intellectual, he doesn't know much, and he should not have been elected as president even if he were not mad and he had
a much less violent temper - but now he is president, and I agree with Chelala: His obvious insanity makes him very much more dangerous than he would have been had
he been been saner and less temperamental.

There is this about psychiatrists and the American Psychiatric Association:

Shrinks don’t generally analyze public figures. During Barry Goldwater’s 1964 run for the presidency, Fact magazine published a special issue titled “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A special issue on the mind of Barry Goldwater.” The article prompted the American Psychiatric Association to issue what it called the “Goldwater Rule” that says: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination.”

Although many psychologists and psychiatrists accept that their work could never be done without direct contact with the subject of their analysis, there are enough manifestations of Trump’s public persona and character to allow for his psychological characterization, one that is of a deep concern for everyone.

Yes, I agree with the second paragraph, but I also think I know a lot more about psychiatrists and the APA than Chelala does. But I will skip that here and now, and merely say that I fundamentally disagree with the APA.

Here is CÚsar Chelala's ending:

What we have is a situation where the most powerful person in the world is tainted by personality characteristics that can be of serious harm to world peace. The extent to which these harmful characteristics can be controlled may well decide the future of the world.

Yes indeed - and it probably is more dangerous than Chelala thinks or at least says,
for one basic problem with treating people with narcissism is that they completely
reject any diagnosis of their disorder, and insist they know far better than others,
and anyway they are superior, quite as Trump says he is: He Is The Greatest In
Everything That Counts.


6. On Contact: “Insane Clown President” with Matt Taibbi

The sixth item today is a video by Chris Hedges who interviews Matt Taibbi on his latest book:
This takes nearly 25 minutes.

--------------------------------
Notes
[1] But I don't believe that "reality becomes whatever absurdity the White House issues": Trump won the presidential elections, but there are over 300 million Americans, of whom at most 1 in 5 voted for Trump.

[2] Marx wrote a great amount and he is not responsible for what others have made of his ideas. I think myself that his dialectial and historical materialism are more
due to Engels (and later Marxists) than to Marx, which is why I made this note.

Also, while I do disagree with Marx, he was vastly more intelligent than most of his followers, and I feel myself quite certain that he would not have like or admired Soviet style "socialism" that was built in his name (and Lenin's and Stalin's).

[3] If you do not know what tree diagrams are, don't worry: They were popular among linguists because they did not understand the mathematics behind Chomsky's ideas.

[4] And I should add that I have read a considerable amount of linguistics, but still feel lukewarm about Chomsky's linguistic ideas. (Then again, I am not a linguist.)

[5] I am sorry, but I am quite certain about this. There follow four more notes about this, but if you want to see my reasons why only a small minority of the nominal "intellectuals" behaves as real intellectuals, you should know Dutch and read ME in Amsterdam. (But I am by far not the only intellectual, nor by far the first intellectual who said so: Russell and Benda are two others, and there are quite a few more.)

[6] The main reasons for my discrimination - I was called for something like 11 years (but I did not study all these years) "a fascist" or "a dirty fascist" by many tens or several hundreds of mostly quasi-Marxist or postmodernist students. None of them
knew about me or my parents or grandparents (two communist parents; two anarchist
grandparents; one communist grandfather who was murdered for resisting the Nazis) but all hated me for my insisting I was not a Marxist and - especially - for my creating with a few others a student party in the University of Amsterdam, that was effectively communist from 1971 till 1983, and postmodernistic from 1984 till 1995.

The reason the University of Amsterdam was communist is that the Dutch universities
were effectively given to the students in 1971, by a law (of minister Veringa), which was completely unique in the whole world. And the students made an enormous - quite corrupt - mess out of it. For more, see ME in Amsterdam (in Dutch) or the essays I published in 1988 and 1989, which are translated to English. See here: Columns.

[7] I am not talking about myself here, because I was a member of Phoenix Rising for less than four months, and moved out very rapidly after I was slandered by utter idiots. I am talking about several intelligent others to whom the same or considerably worse happened, mostly because they tried to persist for several more years: Almost everyone I knew there who stood out for intelligence was hunted away by the majority of the stupid and the ignorant.

As to the stupid and the ignorant: As soon as you have an M.A. like mine, I will reconsider. Until then, I will not.

[8] Once again: The average IQ is 100, which also means that half of the total human population has that as maximum. This also the reason for the uncounted hundreds of millions of completely ignorant (and often offensive) comments to what others did or wrote.

[9] I am very certain of this because I studied at the University of Amsterdam, where I was called "a dirty fascist" by many for something like ten years (during which I did not study all the time because I was ill and am ill); then was totally illegally denied the right of taking my M.A. in philosophy in 1988, when I was also called "a terrorist, a terrorist, a terrorist, a terrorist", and kicked from the faculty of philosophy as a student, after which the University of Amsterdam simply stopped replying to any of my letters or mails, which they have kept up till 2017, with a brief bit of sick sadistic bullshit of them in 1995.

O and as to "a dirty fascist": I was and am an anti-fascist, like my parents, and my father was knighted for designing and mostly building what became the National Exhibition about the resistance, nazism and concentration camps (which my father survived, unlike his father).

There probably will be more about this soon in Nederlog, for I remain very angry about the sick sadistic abuse the University of Amsterdam meted out to me.

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