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Nederlog

Monday, Mar 20, 2017

Crisis: On Resistance, Climate-Change, Free Speech, Wishful Thinking


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. A Last Chance for Resistance
2. U.S. Pressures Group of 20 Into Dropping Climate-Change
     Reference from Joint Statement

3.
Right-Wing Billionaires Are Funding a Cynical Plot to Destroy
     Dissent and Protest in Colleges Across the U.S.

4. Trump Is Already Proving He's a Dunce More Than a Wizard at
     the Game of Politics
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, March 20, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about Chris Hedges' weekly column on Truthdig; item 2 is about the G20-top, which allowed itself to be bullied by Trumpians; item 3 is about how right-wing billionaires
are trying to control free speech in universities; and item 4 is about a bad article that only consists of wishful thinking.

Also, I am glad there is not much news to report, because I am again in a period of little sleep and considerable pain.
March 20: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; and even the Dutch site was updated after a full week of not updating today, as if I didn't publish anything since March 12.

Where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has 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 some secret service is.)
1. A Last Chance for Resistance

The first article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The crawl toward despotism within a failed democracy is always incremental. No regime planning to utterly extinguish civil liberties advertises its intentions in advance. It pays lip service to liberty and justice while obliterating the institutions and laws that make them possible. Its opponents, including those within the establishment, make sporadic attempts to resist, but week by week, month by month, the despot and his reactionary allies methodically consolidate power. Those inside the machinery of government and the courts who assert the rule of law are purged. Critics, including the press, are attacked, ridiculed and silenced. The state is reconfigured until the edifice of tyranny is unassailable.

Actually, I don't know. Chris Hedges is certainly right that some governments that want to turn into dictatorships do so piecemeally, but others - Hitler's, for example - arrived  there pretty quickly. And maybe Hedges is right that most incipient dictatorships are imposed in a mostly hidden way, over a course of time, and against the wishes of a good part of the population.

Next, there is this on Trump's government:

The current administration’s budget proposes to give the war industry, the domestic policing agencies, the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street, billionaires and the national security and surveillance agencies more than they could have imagined possible before the election. These forces, as in all fascist states, will be the pillars of the Trump regime. They will tolerate Donald Trump’s idiocy, ineptitude and unbridled narcissism in exchange for increased profits and power. Despots are often buffoons. Appealing to their vanity and ego is an effective form of manipulation. Skilled sycophants can play despots like musical instruments for personal advancement.

I think that is too much of a free sketch, although it is basically adequate. But the following is not:

Trump, like all despots, has no real ideology.

This is a real mistake in my eyes. In fact, Trump has at least two ideologies.

The first is one every despot has: "Me, me, me, ME!". They know best; they have and must have all power; their words need to be the law for everyone; their desires must be practiced - and everyone who thinks otherwise can be prosecuted. Also this personalist ideology is complicated by the fact that Trump is not sane, for he thinks He Is The Greatest In Everything That Matters, which is an utter delusion.

The second ideology that Trump has is neofascism. Here is how I defined neofascism:

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

I arrived at this myself, indeed without any regard for Trump, but I notice that Trump is in favor of each and every defining characteristic, which seems to me excellent evidence that indeed Trump is a neofascist, according to how I defined neofascism.

This is about Trump's strong preference for abusing the swamp for more profits for the rich:

He has appointed five former Goldman Sachs employees to high posts in his administration. His budget will bleed the poor, the working class and the middle class and swell the bank accounts of the oligarchs. He is calling for abolishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts and the cutting of programs that provide legal service to low-income people and grants to libraries and museums. If Trump’s budget is approved by Congress, there will not even be a pretense of civil society. Trump and his family will profit from his presidency. Corporations will profit from his presidency. Wall Street will profit from his presidency. And the people will be made to pay.

Yes indeed. Then there is this on the three institutions that - nominally, at least - support democracy and truth, and which must be brought down somehow by a government that seeks to impose a dictatorship:

There are three institutions tasked in a functioning democracy with protecting the truth and keeping national discourse rooted in verifiable fact—the courts, the press and universities. Despots must control these three to prevent them from exposing their lies and restricting their power.

Yes, although I have two remarks.

The first is that considerable parts of the courts, the press and the universities already have been taken over by the rich or their paid lawyers or activists. This seems to have been done mostly by corruption (i.e. you pay them and they will repay you).

And the second remark is about "an institution" that is not even mentioned, indeed in part because it isn't there (anymore(?)): A majority of intelligent, honest, truth-telling ordinary individuals, on whose capacities all of democracy is (supposed to be) founded.

It just doesn't seem to exist anymore, for most ordinary individuals are not intelligent, not very honest, and do often also "not believe in truth".

Finally, this is from near the end:

It will be increasingly difficult to carry out mass protests and civil disobedience. Repression will become steadily more overt and severe. Dissent will be equated with terrorism. We must use the space before it is shut. This is a race against time. The forces of despotism seek to keep us complacent and pacified with the false hope that mechanisms within the system will moderate Trump or remove him through impeachment, or that the looming tyranny will never be actualized. There is an emotional incapacity among any population being herded toward despotism or war to grasp what is happening.

Hm. I agree with the outlines and am not optimistic.

2. U.S. Pressures Group of 20 Into Dropping Climate-Change Reference from Joint Statement

The second article is by Nadia Prupis on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Finance ministers for the Group of 20 (G-20), which comprises the world’s biggest economies, dropped a joint statement mentioning funding for the fight against climate change after pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia.

A G-20 official taking part in the annual meeting told Reuters that efforts by this year’s German leadership to keep climate funding in the statement had hit a wall.

“Climate change is out for the time being,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

I say. And what I am at least a little amazed about is not that Trump's government acted as it may have been expected to, nor that the only support they got was from Saudi Arabia, but that G-20 officials let themselves be utterly silenced by these 2 out of 18 (or so it seems).

Here is some more on this strange silence (which is indeed strange, because Trump is the only political leader - of a large economy - who does not believe in climate change, which is strongly supported by nearly all climate scientists):

“There can be a way to overcome disagreements today—that is, not writing about it in the communique,” Sapin told reporters on Friday. “But not writing about it doesn’t mean not talking about it. Not writing about it means that there are difficulties, that there is a disagreement and that we we must work on them in the coming months.”

The statement does mention the need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but overall the language appears weaker than previous communiques, critics said.

It seems to me Sapin was talking bullshit. What he should have said is that 18 out of 20 leaders of "the world’s biggest economies" believe in science and climate change, and that 2 don't, basically because not doing so is in their own financial interests, and that should have been written as well. Instead, he seems to have caved in.

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

At the last G-20 meeting in July 2016, the group’s financial leaders urged all countries that had signed onto the landmark Paris climate accord to bring the deal into action as soon as possible. But President Donald Trump, who has referred to global warming as a “Chinese hoax,” took office vowing to remove the U.S. from the voluntary agreement.

On Thursday, a day before the finance meeting, the Trump administration unveiled its “skinny budget” proposal, which included a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As Friends of the Earth senior political strategist Ben Schreiber said at the time, “With this budget, Trump has made it clear that he is prioritizing Big Oil profits over the health of the American people.”

Schreiber is quite right and this is a recommended article.

3. Right-Wing Billionaires Are Funding a Cynical Plot to Destroy Dissent and Protest in Colleges Across the U.S.

The third article is by Alex Kotch on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

As far-right speakers face loud student opposition at their university speaking gigs, conservative lawmakers in several states are introducing legislation that cracks down on protesters. As uncovered by UnKoch My Campus’ Ralph Wilson, numerous states have borrowed their so-called “campus free speech” bills from the rightwing Goldwater Institute, which is funded by conservative plutocrats including Charles Koch and the Mercer family.

The intent of these bills isn’t to protect student speech; it’s actually to suppress it in favor of guest speakers who, at times, support white nationalism, LGBTQ discrimination and other hateful worldviews. By funding the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, wealthy conservatives are enabling the promotion of hate speech while stifling student dissent.

This is a bit colored but Alex Kotch is right that several states are trying to introduce new laws that are advertised as being for "campus free speech", but which mean the opposite of what most students mean by it: It is the free speech of professors and guest speakers they seek to guarantee, which means suppressing the free speech of the students.

Here is more:

The Goldwater Institute’s model bill allegedly ensures “the fullest degree of…free expression,” but it explicitly states that “protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity shall not be permitted and shall be subject to sanction.”

It goes on to say, “Any student who has twice been found responsible for infringing the expressive rights of others will be suspended for a minimum of one year, or expelled.”

This means in fact that all that is needed to stifle the free speech of the students, is one student (who might perhaps be a mere "student") who insists that his (or her) rights have been somehow repressed - or thus it seems to me.

Here is a sum-up:

This campus "free speech” legislation is essentially an attack on student speech and an elevation of ultra-conservative ideas that many people in university communities think have no place in American society.

Yes indeed. (But this article is a little colored.)

4. Trump Is Already Proving He's a Dunce More Than a Wizard at the Game of Politics

The fourth and last article today is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:

Trump & Company claim they have a sweeping mandate from voters to remake America—but wait, it is just a magic trick—almost half of the electorate chose not to vote in last November's presidential election.

Here's another fact: Those of us fighting for populist justice are stronger than we've been in decades. But how can that be, since Trump is in the White House? Because the vast majority of people agree with the ideals, issues and ideas of progressive populism, not with Trumpism.
This is to me a fairly clear example of wishful thinking.

As to the first paragraph: It is a very long time that only a part of the American people - between half and two-thirds - vote in presidential races.

As to the second paragraph: Possibly so, but countries are not ruled by "
vast majority of people" but by small governments, and it so happens that all of the government now is under control of the Republicans.

This is from near the end:

But wait - in a truly amazing magical act, The Donald has promised to dazzle us with more smoke and mirrors. His new Trumpcare plan, he brags, will guarantee that every American will have access to health coverage. Before you erupt in applause, however, notice the trick word he's using: "Access." That doesn't mean you'll get coverage, you'll just get access to coverage -- if you can afford it. It's the same as promising that everyone will get "access" to owning a private jet and living in a fabulous Florida golf resort, just like Trump. See, he truly is magical!
More wishful thinking. And this was simply a bad article.

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