Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

Sunday, Apr 9, 2017

Crisis: Bannon & Kushner, Adam Curtis, American War Machine, Trampled Constitution


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Bannon, Kushner, and Trump’s Upside-Down Populism
2.
Adam Curtis: Donald Trump Has Become a Deep State Puppet
3. America Has Become a War Machine—and It Has Destroyed
     Our Ability to Function as a Democracy

4.
Trampling the US Constitution for War
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, April 9, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four links: Item 1 is about an article by Robert Reich on Bannon & Kushner: I find it quite odd this doesn't even mention the facts that Bannon is an anti-semite and Kushner a Jew, also by faith; item 2 is about an interview with Adam Curtis, whom I like, but I found this interview not very sensible; item 3 is about a good article on the modern American war machine; and item 4 is another good article about the trampling of the American constitution and the
responsibility of the American people.
April 9: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and now is stuck on Saturday, April 8. These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Bannon, Kushner, and Trump’s Upside-Down Populism

The first article today is
by Robert Reich on Truthdig and RobertReich.org:
This starts as follows:

The White House war between Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner wouldn’t matter in a normal administration with a normal president. But there’s nothing normal about the Trump White House, whose major occupant exists in a giant narcissistic bubble impenetrable by anyone but close relatives and a few strong personalities.

Which makes this brawl especially important. 

Kushner is his trusted son-in-law, a 36-year-old scion of New Jersey and New York real estate who knows nothing about government but a great deal about Trump, and whose portfolio of responsibilities keeps growing by the day.

Bannon is the rumpled hero of the anti-establishment populist base that drove Trump’s Electoral College victory, but who appears to be losing clout.
I am sorry, but by now I get quite irritated with people who are supposed to inform me, but who leave out imporant things, such as here the fact that Jared Kushner is a Jew (by birth and by religious faith) while Steve Bannon is an anti-semite who would not even allow his children to go to school with Jewish children.

And these facts are reasonably well-known and incontrovertible, and I think they are quite relevant. So why are these facts not mentioned?!

But they are not, and instead we get more irrelevant myths:

The fundamental difference between Kushner and Bannon is over populism. Kushner is a politically moderate multi-millionaire with business interests all over the world – some of which pose considerable conflicts of interest with his current duties – and who’s quite comfortable with all the CEOs, billionaires and Wall Street moguls Trump has lured into his administration.

Bannon hates the establishment. “There is a growing global anti-establishment revolt against the permanent political class at home, and the global elites that influence them, which impacts everyone from Lubbock, Tex., to London, England,” he told the New York Times when he took the helm at Breitbart News in 2014.

All of that may be true - but Kushner is a Jew and son-in-law to the president, whereas Bannon is an anti-semite who was the president's chief coordinator during his presidential campaign. So why are these facts not mentioned?!

Then there is this about Steve Bannon:

If Bannon meant trimming back regulations emanating from administrative agencies, it’s an idea that Wall Street and CEOs love. Trump has wholeheartedly embraced it. “We are absolutely destroying these horrible regulations that have been placed on your heads,” Trump declared last Tuesday to a group of enthusiastic chief executives from big companies like Citigroup, MasterCard, and Jet Blue.

But Bannon actually meant something quite different. To Bannon, “deconstructing the administrative state” means destroying the “state” – that is, our system of government.

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon told a reporter for the Daily Beast a few years back (he now says now he doesn’t recall the conversation). “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

First of all, clearly Bannon never meant what is raised in the first paragraph. The rest seems more or less correct, but I think it would have been more correct to say that
Bannon is an anti-semite rather than quote (again and again) his "Leninist" saying (that might be explained - I don't know, but it is possible - by saying that in his Breitbart days Bannon was out to shock people): It does seem more relevant.

Anyway... I could quote more, but I think this article is misleading because it totally not mentions the fact that Kushner is a Jew, and Bannon an anti-semite.

Are these things not mentioned because mentioning them is supposed to be indecent?!
(I am sorry, but I find this quite odd. And no, I am neither a Jew nor an anti-semite.)

2. Adam Curtis: Donald Trump Has Become a Deep State Puppet

The second article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

The 2016 election has made soothsayers of any number of historians, academics and philosophers, but one of the few filmmakers who saw Donald Trump coming was the documentarian Adam Curtis. One might even argue that Trump's victory was the closing argument of a thesis he has been refining and developing for the last 15 years.

Since his 2002 opus, The Century of Self, Curtis has traced the myriad ways in which the left has abandoned politics in favor of a radical individualism, online and off, that has allowed reactionary forces to metastasize in the West and across the globe. As he ominously declares at the beginning of his latest film, Hypernormalisation (2016), these forces are now puncturing "the fragile surface of our carefully constructed fake world."

I like Curtis, for he is a good and interesting documentalist. I did see most of his documentaries (which is a bit of a feat, because it seems the BBC is removing them,
so that people - if there are any left - will only be able to see them after 78 or a 100 years, when their relevance is totally dead) and I found them interesting and worthwile
to see (which itself is a bit uncommon for me: I rarely watch 3 or 4 hours of video talk) but I never thought that Curtis is a great mind, though he has interesting ideas.

Here is some more on the documentaries he made (which I do recommend you see, if you can: There are now and then put up copies of these documentaries, but as I said, it seems as if the BBC does its best to see to it that no one who did not pay a BBC licence and saw them when they were first shown, will see them, except if he or she
survives another 78 - or 100 - years, for they want them removed from Youtube):

Drawing from the BBC's vast video archive, Curtis' films are ambitious, addictive and haunting. In The Power of Nightmares (2004), he charts the eery parallels between the neoconservative and radical Islamist movements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the ways in which our political leaders have preyed upon our fears to maintain their grip on power. The documentary also examines the ways in which we're still living in the shadows of the Cold War, decades after perestroika. The Trap (2007) offers a searing look at how Britain's and the United States' attempts to free themselves from bureaucracy have given rise to a bloodless and oppressive managerialism, while their efforts to spread democracy abroad have yielded only violent mayhem. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, released in 2011, explores how our reliance on computers to forge a stable world has produced just the opposite.

The rest is quoted from the interview (in which there is considerably more). Here is Curtis on fascism and the question whether the USA is turning fascistic or neofascistic:

JS: We're more than 70 days into Trump's presidency, just a few weeks short of the juncture when historians and political analysts begin to assess an office in earnest. Do you see America sliding into authoritarianism or fascism, or are the evils of this administration more banal than that?

AC: America is not sliding into fascism. That's just hysteria by the liberals who can't face up to the fact that they lost the election, so they either have to blame the Russians or giant historical forces. Basically, a right-wing president has been elected, and he's created a brilliant machine that captures liberals and keeps them completely preoccupied. What he does is he wakes up in the morning, tweets something that he knows isn't true, they get very upset and spend the whole day writing in big capital letters on social media, "This is outrageous. This is bad. This is fascism." What they're not facing up to is the real question, which is why did Donald Trump win the election? What other forces in the country had they, the liberals, not seen?

This is just an opinion. Curtis may be right, but he does not mention that right wingers are generally rather close to varieties of fascism; he does not mention that the Republicans have been extremists since 9/11; he does not mention that the mainstream media provide less and less politics, and what they provide is mostly propaganda; and he does not mention that many of Trump's appointees are either generals or billionaires.

So I am not much impressed by his opinion. This is about Curtis's most recent documentary:

JS: Your most recent documentary is called Hypernormalisation. Can you explain what a hypernormalised state is and how it creates an opening for somebody like Trump to exploit?

AC: The term was created by a guy called Alexei Yurchak, who wrote a book about the last days of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. What he described was a world where everyone knew that the system in place wasn't working and that the politicians didn't believe it any longer. Yet at the same time, because they didn't have any alternative, everyone just accepted it as normal even though they knew it was abnormal. So he gave it this term hypernormalisation. I'm not trying to say that the West is in any way like the Soviet Union at all. It's very different. What I was trying to argue, or imply in this film gently, was that we may be in a very similar situation where we know that the system has become somewhat corrupted. But more than that, we know that those in charge don't really believe in the system any longer, have no vision of the future. And what's more, they know that we know that.

I did see "Hypernormalisation" and I did not like it. Also, I much doubt whether "those in charge don't really believe in the system any longer", simply because (i) politicians tend to be much more interested in power than in ideas, and because (ii) the politicians who get power are often - in the USA and Europe - capable of enriching themselves through their power. And this is mostly as it always was, the last 50 years, at least in my experience, although I grant that under Trump the rich have both more power and more impertinence than before.

Then again, this seems more or less correct:

AC: I think you should pay more attention to the traditional, hard-right-wing people who have risen to power with Trump. Donald comes from the world of finance and he is doing what finance wants to do. I would argue that actually it shows that really nothing has changed, which is a very hypernormal situation. We know that many of the people who possibly should have been prosecuted after the financial crisis of 2008 were not. Now it's carrying on while liberals boo and hiss at the man in charge. Behind the scenery, everyone is just carrying on managing the system in their own interests as they have before.

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

AC: The thing that makes me really sad, and to an extent, angry, is the complete failure of the liberals and the progressives to actually face up to what people like Trump really mean. What it means is that there are groups in this country, many of them poor, many of them part of the working class, who are feeling frightened, alone, and afraid of the future. They voted for Trump or for Brexit in my country as a way of expressing that, because the traditional politics would not let them do it. The liberals would not go and connect with those people. What they do is they spend their time saying they're stupid, which is the most stupid thing you can possibly do.

No, that is bullshit. It is bullshit for two reasons: First, I have seen extremely few "liberals" who said that many Trump supporters are stupid and ignorant (and I am closely following the news since 2013). And second, it seems to me a clear fact that many Trump supporters are stupid and ignorant (but I am a real intellectual with a very high intelligence and a lot of relevant knowledge):

They don't know history, they don't know politics, they don't know philosophy, they don't know which are the three powers in their Constitution; few even seem to have read the Constitution; they have utterly insane ideas about truth (doesn't exist), about climate change (doesn't exist), about science (should be terminated if it conflicts with religion) and quite a few more things (like having sex, having children, having the right for a payable decent education) - and I am not allowed to speak the factual truth about many of them?!

In any case, I still believe that two of the main problems of the current USA are that the majority of its people are stupid and ignorant, possibly not because they were born that way, but because they did not get any decent education, and that those who are stupid and ignorant tend to admire stupid and ignorant ideas and values.

And I thought this interview rather disappointing, as indeed was "Hypernormalisation".

3. America Has Become a War Machine—and It Has Destroyed Our Ability to Function as a Democracy

The third article is by Tom Engelhardt on AlterNet and originally on TomDispatch:

This is from near the beginning:

(..) the vast antiwar movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was filled with an unexpected cross-section of the country, including middle-class students and largely working-class vets directly off the battlefields of Southeast Asia.  Both the work force of those World War II years and the protest movement of their children were, in their own fashion, citizen wonders of their American mo[ve?]ments.  They were artifacts of a country in which the public was still believed to play a crucial role and in which government of the people, by the people, and for the people didn’t yet sound like a late-night laugh line.

Yes, indeed. And in fact there were at least three things rather different in the Sixties (which I also lived through, having been born in 1950), next to quite a few more:

First, the U.S. army was not privatized but drafted, and was selected from all U.S. citizens of the appropriate age; second, the press was far better then than it is now: it was - at least - more factual and less propagandistic; and third, it is true that "the public was still believed to play a crucial role and in which government of the people, by the people, and for the people didn’t yet sound like a late-night laugh line" - and indeed "the people" did have some more power in the Sixties than before or after.

Then there is this about WW II:

World War II was distinctly a citizen’s war.  I was born in 1944 just as it was reaching its crescendo. My own version of such a mobilization, two decades later, took me by surprise.  In my youth, I had dreamed of serving my country by becoming a State Department official and representing it abroad. In a land that still had a citizen’s army and a draft, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t also be in the military at some point, doing my duty.  That my “duty” in those years would instead turn out to involve joining in a mobilization against war was unexpected.  But that an American citizen should care about the wars that his (or her) country fought and why it fought them was second nature.  Those wars -- both against fascism globally and against rebellious peasants across much of Southeast Asia -- were distinctly American projects.  That meant they were our responsibility.

I think these are mostly based on impressions of Tom Engelhardt. I simply don't know how correct he is, but he is certainly right that in the Sixties there still was "a citizen’s army and a draft", both of which Nixon removed, and that this meant that far more families were directly touched by war, simply because they had son or sons of the right
military age, who might be drafted.

Then there is this:

Since then, in every sense, victory has gone missing in action and so, for decades (with a single brief moment of respite), has the very idea that Americans have a duty of any sort when it comes to the wars their country chooses to fight.  In our era, war, like the Pentagon budget and the growing powers of the national security state, has been inoculated against the virus of citizen involvement, and so against any significant form of criticism or resistance.  It’s a process worth contemplating since it reminds us that we’re truly in a new American age, whether of the plutocrats, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats or of the generals, by the generals, and for the generals -- but most distinctly not of the people, by the people, and for the people.

I quite agree, and indeed also with the following bit:

And here’s another question that should (but doesn’t) come to mind in twenty-first-century America: Why does a war effort that has already cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars not involve the slightest mobilization of the American people?  No war taxes, war bonds, war drives, victory gardens, sacrifice of any sort, or for that matter serious criticism, protest, or resistance?

I think that the basic reason for this is that removing the draft also meant removing most citizen's feelings for resposibility, interest and concern with "the military": The only people to be killed or mained were volunteers, and no one was drafted anymore
who did not want to fight.

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

In these years, Americans have largely been convinced that secrecy is the single most crucial factor in national security; that what we do know will hurt us; and that ignorance of the workings of our own government, now enswathed in a penumbra of secrecy, will help keep us safe from “terror.”  In other words, knowledge is danger and ignorance, safety.  However Orwellian that may sound, it has become the norm of twenty-first-century America.

That the government must have the power to surveil you is by now a given; that you should have the power to surveil (or simply survey) your own government is a luxury from another time

Quite possibly so, and this is a recommended article. In fact, here is some more of the same (by another man, in another publication):

4. Trampling the US Constitution for War

The fourth article is by Daniel C. Maguire on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

I am old enough to remember the last time the United States declared war in accord with Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The date was Dec. 8, 1941, and I was ten-years-old. I remember hearing on the radio all the Yay votes and I was jarred to hear one female vote saying Nay. That was Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana.

War, by definition, is state sponsored violence. It kills people and animals and savages the natural environment. It is “development” in full reverse, a dreadfully serious undertaking, a power that kings once wielded arbitrarily on their own impulse and authority. But the Founders would have none of that.

So, the U.S. Constitution gave the war power to the Congress, “the immediate representatives of the people.” Congress also received the crucial power of the purse to continue or discontinue war after it starts.

James Madison, the Constitution’s principal architect, wrote: “In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war and peace to the legislature and not to the executive department.”

Yet, in recent decades, the United States has repeatedly trashed that wisdom and done so as recently as April 6, 2017, as President Trump displayed his bully virility and his need to use kill-power to bolster his sagging ratings.

Yes, all of that is completely true - and it says quite a lot about the average quality of "the American population" that the right to declare war was stolen from them, also with very little protest.

In fact, this already happened in 1945:

As military analyst Robert Previdi writes: “We have distorted the Constitution by allowing all Presidents since Harry S. Truman to use military power on their own authority. … For more than 160 years, from Washington to Roosevelt, no President claimed that he had the power to move the country from peace to war without first getting authority to do so from Congress.”

This allowed Truman to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs. It went further in the 1960ies:

But a servile Congress has whittled away its signal prerogative to make war. In the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson a blank check signed by a responsibility-shedding Congress.

In 1973, with the War Powers Resolution, it allowed the President to commit troops anywhere in the world for up to 60 days without congressional involvement. By that time in modern warfare, the die would be cast with Congress left holding the President’s coat as he uses the power abandoned by congressional defection.

The Iraq Resolution in October of 2002 transferred war-making authority to President George W. Bush for him to use or not use at his whim and discretion. And so it came to pass that another George in American history was given kingly power with predictably disastrous results, much as the arrogance of King George III precipitated Great Britain’s break with its American colonies.

Barack Obama, after winning the Nobel Peace prize, went on to make war in places such as Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq Afghanistan, and Pakistan without a congressional declaration of war. The sort of abuse of executive power has become “second nature” to us now.

This is also completely true. The article ends as follows:

A president can become the despotic shepherd only when the people become his sheep. In recent decades, the vox populi has only bleated when it should have been screaming. Teddy Roosevelt said: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American People.”

Yes, members of Congress, with a few noble exceptions, are groveling wimps and aliens to the lost art of diplomacy, but it’s also true that an ill-informed, lazy and indolent citizenry is neck high in treasonous negligence. In the end, the buck stops with us.

Yes, precisely so.

---------------


       home - index - summaries - mail