Thursday, Mar 2, 2017

Crisis: Trump & Russia, The US Media, On Bannon, On Wilders

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Trump Retreats on Detente with Russia
2. How the Press Serves the Deep State
A Fish Called Bannon
4. Dutch Populist's Brother Speaks Out

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, March 2, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary crisis log (after some days on the news about ME/CFS). There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is a so-so article from Consortiumnews, as is item 2, for both are rather vague in my opinion; item 3 is a decent article by Michael Winship on Stephen Bannon; and item 4 is a decent interview by Spiegel with
the brother of Geert Wilders.
March 2: As to the updating problem: The Danish site is OK again; the Dutch site once again got stuck on February 27, for me. Where it stuck for others I have no idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. They have been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or someone secret service is.)
1. Trump Retreats on Detente with Russia

The first item today is by Gilbert Doctorow on Consortiumnews:

This has the following summary:

President Trump toned down his combative rhetoric in speaking to Congress but, more significantly, ditched his campaign promises about détente with Russia and a reduced military presence abroad, says Gilbert Doctorow.

I say, for this seems to be a considerable change. And I should say there is a largish amount of text that describes Trump's speech, but I am not reviewing that part.

Here is what Trump did say (and not say) about Russia and the NATO:

Only the last five minutes of Trump’s address to Congress dealt with foreign relations. And his own words were consonant with what his cabinet officers had been saying. Trump’s campaign opinions about NATO’s obsolescence had disappeared. Russia was not mentioned by name once in the speech, while America’s allies in NATO and in the Pacific were reassured that “America is ready to lead.”

I agree this is unclear (as is usual with Trump) but it indeed seems to be considerably more anti-Russia and pro NATO than Trump was in his campaign.

There is also this:

In fact, in the entire speech, there were only a few lines toward the end that might give heart to those who hoped that Trump might pursue a dramatically new foreign policy that drew back from America’s vast network of military bases and the tendency to intervene in other countries’ affairs.

I think that people "who hoped that Trump might pursue a dramatically new foreign policy that drew back from America’s vast network of military bases" were dreaming,
but indeed there may have been a few.

This seems to be the real background:

But it is an inescapable reality that the firing of Flynn and Trump’s retreat from his foreign policy intentions were precipitated by the powerful collusion between the intelligence services, particularly the CIA, and the mainstream media with a clear intent to either neuter Trump by forcing a policy reversal on Russia détente or remove him through some form of impeachment.

I think myself that it is too early for an impeachment. This is the last bit that I"ll quote:

Those with a more conspiratorial turn of mind have long spoken of the Deep State, which ensures continuity of policy whatever the results of U.S. elections with this subterranean power residing largely in the intelligence services, especially the CIA and FBI, in the Pentagon, and in the State Department.
Given the poor state of relations and the minimal trust between Russia and the U.S.-led West, any accident in these areas could quickly escalate. And then we might see the side of Donald Trump’s personality that his Democratic opponents warned us about, his short temper and alpha-male nature which could bring us into an armed clash the outcome of which is unforeseeable but surely not good.

In fact, I dislike the slur of having "a more conspiratorial turn of mind": Eisenhower warned the Americans already in 1961 - over 56 years ago - against the military- industrial complex (<-Wikipedia), and I would say that a warning by a former general while he was president moves this (at least) from "conspiratorial" to "never properly investigated", indeed because the mainstream media keep calling most things they do not want to investigate "conspiracy theories" (which is a term of abuse).

But I agree with the last paragraph and it is something I do fear.

2. How the Press Serves the Deep State

The second item is by Daniel Lazare on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

The New York Times has made it official. In a Sunday front-page article entitled “Trump Ruled the Tabloid Media. Washington Is a Different Story,” the paper gloats that Donald Trump has proved powerless to stop a flood of leaks threatening to capsize his administration.

As reporters Glenn Thrush and Michael M. Grynbaum put it: “This New York-iest of politicians, now an idiosyncratic, write-your-own-rules president, has stumbled into the most conventional of Washington traps: believing he can master an entrenched political press corps with far deeper connections to the permanent government of federal law enforcement and executive department officials than he has.”

Thrush and Grynbaum add a few paragraphs later that Trump “is being force-fed lessons all presidents eventually learn – that the iron triangle of the Washington press corps, West Wing staff and federal bureaucracy is simply too powerful to bully.”

I say? Here is Lazare's comment on these fairly crazy opinions:

Iron triangle? Permanent government? In its tale of how Trump went from being a favorite of the New York Post and Daily News to fodder for the big-time Washington news media, the Times seems to be going out of its way to confirm dark paranoid fears of a “deep state” lurking behind the scenes and dictating what political leaders can and cannot do. “Too powerful to bully” by a “write-your-own-rules president” is another way of saying that the permanent government wants to do things its way and will not put up with a president telling it to take a different approach.

Entrenched interests are nothing new, of course. But a major news outlet bragging about collaborating with such elements in order to cripple a legally established government is.
Well... I am sorry, but somebody who insists that I have "dark paranoid fears of a “deep state”" does not seem to know who president Eisenhower was (see item 1) and also does not seem to know anything about people like Mike Lofgren and Chuck Spinney. The last link is to a quite interesting article in Nederlog from February 2016.

I am sorry, but I cannot take that ignorance seriously. There is this, that may be more or less correct:
If so, a few things are worth keeping in mind. One is that Trump was elected, even if only by an Eighteenth-Century relic known as the Electoral College, whereas the deep state, permanent government, or whatever else you want to call it was not.
A second thing worth keeping in mind is that if ever there was a case of the unspeakable versus the inedible (to quote Oscar Wilde), the contest between a billionaire president and billionaire-owned press is it.
And this also seems more or less correct:

If the Washington Post and the Times do not agree that bogus assertions about unauthorized contacts with Russia are not poisoning the atmosphere, they should explain very clearly why not. They should also explain what they hope to accomplish with a showdown with Russia and why it will not be a step toward World War III.

But they won’t, of course. The media (with encouragement from parts of the U.S. government) are working themselves into a fit of outrage against Vladimir Putin just as, in past years, they did against Daniel Ortega, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein (again), Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, and Viktor Yanukovych. In each instance, the outcome has been war, and so far the present episode shows all signs of heading in the same direction as well.

Yes, but someone who does not even seem to know what the military-industrial complex (<-Wikipedia) is nor seems to have heard or read about Mike Lofgren and Chuck Spinney I cannot take very seriously.

3. A Fish Called Bannon

The third item is by Michael Winship on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Whenever I read or hear something White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says or thinks, I’m reminded of Otto, the character Kevin Kline plays in A Fish Called Wanda. You know, the self-proclaimed ex-CIA hit man who believes he’s super-intelligent but really, really isn’t?

It finally takes Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Wanda, to put Otto in his place. “Let me correct you on a couple of things, okay?” she tells him. “Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not ‘Every man for himself.’ And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.”

Am I the only one who hears Otto when Steve Bannon speaks? Apparently not, because here’s the redoubtable editor and essayist Andrew Sullivan hitting said same nail on said same head.
I say. I do not, for though I did see "A Fish Called Wanda" (which was published in 1988, which was the last year of the four considerably healthier years I had before my  health was totally destroyed by three years of insufficient sleep because all of political and bureaucratic Amsterdam supported the illegal and murderous drugsdealers that the mayor of Amsterdam had given his written "personal permission" to deal illegal drugs from the bottom floor of the house where I lived), I simply do not know much about Bannon.

Then again Andrew Sullivan (<- Wikipedia) knows more about Bannon than I do and gets quoted as follows:

“I’ve read and reread his 2014 speech at the Vatican to see if I can find any coherence in it, and I confess I failed. It’s a hodgepodge of melodrama, hysteria and a defense of some kind of ‘enlightened capitalism’ along Judeo-Christian lines, in the face of an imminent Islamist takeover of the planet. It’s the 1950s versus jihad, an attempt to convey the gist of the entire Drudge Report every day and turn it into a thesis. He argues that we are just ‘at the very beginning stages of a global conflict’ that could eradicate 2,000 years of Western civilization. It reads like the apocalyptic, paranoid fantasies of someone who writes letters to the editor, single-spaced, in all caps.”
I say. I didn't see the speech, and while I trust Sullivan more than Bannon, all I have here are Sullivan's words (who also seems a bit mistaken: I have seen quite a lot of "single-spaced, in all caps" messages, but not "to the editor" but in Comments-sections on the computer, which indeed is one reason to avoid these completely).

Here is some on more recent Bannon:
Rewind to last Friday’s CPAC conference outside Washington. Here comes Bannon again, announcing to an enthralled audience of right-wingers that Trump’s goal is “the deconstruction of the administrative state” and that Cabinet appointees “were selected for a reason… the deconstruction.” In other words, to destroy government regulations and agencies that might impede his master plan — whatever that is — regardless of how well they protect the public. And you thought all those Cabinet positions were to pay off high-rolling donors and Wall Street executives — no, they’ve been chosen for a mission!

What does Bannon mean by all this? Does he even know?
I don't know, which is why I read about Bannon (<-Wikipedia). Then again, I have learned - see the last link - that Bannon (whom I agree has crazy ideas) is not stupid.
And he seems to mean that his "
goal is “the deconstruction of the administrative state”". But I read little on this in the present article.

This ends as follows:

Incompetent and ignorant or not, they can still do a lot of damage. In the movie A Fish Called Wanda, Otto’s character is a comic idiot, but he still wreaks havoc with stupid brute force. Bannon and his boss may not yet have mastered the ins and outs of legislative and political wrangling and it’s possible they never will. But they have time to learn and seem to possess little compunction about stomping on the rules — formal and otherwise — essential to a democracy. That’s a dangerous combination.
Well, yes. But I think Trump and Bannon are more dangerous than that, and while I also think that Trump is not sane (as do many psychologists and psychiatrists), I think it is a mistake to regard them as stupid.

4. Dutch Populist's Brother Speaks Out

The fourth item is by Claus Hecking on Spiegel International:
This starts as follows:
Paul Wilders, 62, is nine years older than his brother Geert, the Dutch right-wing populist best known for his incitement against immigrants and Muslims. General elections are scheduled for March 15 in the country and Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) is currently slightly ahead of the party of incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the polls.
This is here mostly because I am Dutch. And I also know a little more about Paul Wilders, for I did write about him before, and found it in Crisis: "How to be a dictator" + "Wilders warned" which is from the beginnin of 2012. This article is fairly interesting (as is its first part, about being a dictator).

This is from the present interview:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Wilders, for years you did not make any public statements about your brother Geert. But now you have criticized him via Twitter. Why?

Wilders: After the Berlin terrorist attack, Geert sent out a photo montage showing (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel with blood on her hands. It crossed a line. This is no longer political criticism. It spreads hate. My brother knows that some of his supporters take his messages literally, and that they use Facebook to call for acts of violence. Geert doesn't want violence, and yet he accepts the potential consequences of such messages.

Yes, although I doubt myself that "Geert doesn't want violence", though I agree that Wilders publicly says that he doesn't want violence.

Then there is this:

SPIEGEL: Your brother portrays himself as the true representative of the Dutch people ...

Wilders: ... and yet few politicians have as little contact with the people as Geert. He simply cannot go out into the street. He and his wife have been living in a secret location for 12 years, and they need permanent personal security. He has already received several serious death threats from Islamists. There is always security staff outside the door when he is in his apartment. He needs bodyguards when he goes shopping. They even attend our family events. Geert's world has become very small. It consists of the parliament, public events and his apartment. He can hardly go anywhere else. He is socially isolated and alienated from everyday life. This isn't good for anyone.

Yes, I agree. And because I now have Nederlogs from 2004 until 2017 on line, I did check the (Dutch) edition of 2004 and found that the situation then was rather similar to the situation now, also in numbers of votes. The one difference is that in 2004 Wilders had not yet been ejected from the VVD (the "liberals", which is Dutch for "the party for the rich conservatives").

And - having just spoken of Bannon - Geert Wilders sounds rather a lot like Bannon, although I have no idea about how much Bannon knows of Wilders' texts.

Then there is this:

SPIEGEL: And yet he is surprisingly popular among the Dutch.

Wilders: He is a master of short messages. And in this complex age, that is precisely what many people want: a simple political vision without any nuance. Geert gives them that. He creates an identity: We, the Dutch people. And he also creates opposite poles: Muslims, the European Union, the elites.
This is also true although I should add that there are several other relevant factors, one of which is the tremendous decline in decent education of any kind since 1965.

Until the late 1960ies most more or less intelligent Dutchmen had three foreign languages (or five) and - mostly written - exams in 14 to 17 subjects; since then the best examination before university consists of 6 or 7 exams and one foreign language. In 1984, the average IQ of the students in the University of Amsterdam was 115; at present I would be amazed if it is higher than 105.

And this holds for anyone educated in Holland since 1965, and also for the most stupid, of which there are very many in Holland, and they all like simple-minded approaches to political problems they have neither the intellect nor the knowledge to judge properly.

Here is some more:

SPIEGEL: Does your brother really believe what he preaches, or is it all just show?

Wilders: He is a staunch opponent of Islam. But there is, of course, plenty of strategy and thirst for power in the mix. Geert doesn't have much left in life besides politics. His fortunes hinge on his political success.

I think this is again mostly correct, and can add myself that I believe Wilders (an extremely average or sub-average student) does mostly believe in what he says,
in which he is different from nearly all other Dutch politicians.

For those who want some psychology:

SPIEGEL: What was he like as an adolescent?

Wilders: He was a horrible pest, egocentric and aggressive.

He also was the youngest child in the family, and quite spoiled. This is the last bit that I'll quote from this interview:

Wilders: He has blocked me on Twitter since I criticized him in December. That's how it goes with him. Those who contradict him are punished. There is only black and white for Geert, and nothing in between.

Yes indeed. And this does appeal - at least - to the half of the population whose IQs is maximally 100. Then again, Wilders will probably not be politically successful, because he will not get enough seats to reign on his own, and because the other Dutch political parties (of which there are a lot more than in the USA) all do not want to cooperate with him.

And this was a decent interview that is recommended.


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