1. The Authoritarian President
2. The Many-Sided, Overlapping Meanings of May Day
How Russiagate Got So Much Momentum
4. Donald Trump Is on Course to Be One of the Worst Presidents
in U.S. History
5. Leading Historian Believes 'It's Pretty Much Inevitable' Trump
Will Try to Stage a Coup and Overthrow Democracy
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 2, 2017.
Summary: This is a crisis
log with five items and five links: Item 1 is about an article by Robert Reich, who diagnoses Trump (now) as "an authoritarian" (and I agree more than not); item 2 is a good article about May Day, that told me several things I did not
know; item 3 is about an article about "Russiagate", and I agree that I have not seen
any evidence, for 6 months now, that the Russians did hack the American
elections (which by now makes me think it was merely propaganda from
the Democrats, to obscure Hillary's mistakes); item 4 is about an article by Robert Parry who argues that
Trump is going to be one of the worst U.S. presidents; and item 5 is about a good interview that Chauncey DeVega had with Timothy Snyder.
May 2: As to the
The Danish site was again
on time today. The Dutch site is still running behind at April 26. They
well from 1996
2015, updating within minutes at most. I think
they totally stopped doing this to limit the
readings of my site. I think (but I don't know
anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week,
which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse
than they were between 1996 and 2015.
1. The Authoritarian President
happen now for the 16th month in
succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly,
and it was done properly from
1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these
horrors, then sign in with
"xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)
And I have to
add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others
I have NO idea AT ALL: It
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.)
The first article today is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
After more than 100 days into his presidency, it seems fair to ask: What is Donald Trump’s governing philosophy?
He isn’t really a Republican (he didn’t join the GOP
until 2012). He’s hardly a free-market conservative (he’s eager to block trade
and immigration). No one would mistake him for a libertarian (he’s okay with preventing abortions and gay marriage).
So what is he?
Political scientists use this term to
describe a way of governing that values order and control over personal
freedom, and seeks to concentrate power in the hands of a single “strongman.”
Viewed through the lens of
authoritarianism, Trump’s approach to governing is logical and coherent.
I think this is more or less correct, but
I have two remarks.
The first is that I recall an article by Robert
Reich in 2016, before Trump was elected, in which he said that Trump is
a fascist. I more or less liked it, but rejected it because (i) there
are at least 21 different definitions of the term "fascism", and Reich
did not specify any one; because (ii) I don't think Trump is a fascist,
at least not in the sense in which I define it (see the last link),
though I do think a good case can be made he is a neofascist (but apart
from my own definition - see the last link - I do not know any rational
definition of that); and (iii) I agree with Reich (and disagree with
Chomsky on this) that, seen as either an authoritarian or a neofascist (bolding added) "Trump’s approach to governing is logical and coherent".
Then again, while I think Trump is an
authoritarian or a neofascist, the term authoritariamism (<-
Wikipedia) has a more precise sense which is difficult to combine with
the current (!) laws in the United States and quite difficult to combine
with the Constitution.
Here is more on Trump's authoritarianism
with regards to the judiciary, that is formally independent (in a
democracy) of executives (like Trump):
For example, an
authoritarian wouldn’t follow the normal process in a constitutional democracy for disputing a judicial
decision he dislikes – which is to appeal it to a higher court.
authoritarian would instead assail judges who rule against him, as Trump has done repeatedly. He’d also
threaten to hobble the offending courts, as Trump did last week in urging that the 9th
Circuit (where many of these decisions have originated) be broken up.
And this is about Trump and two of the marks
of political democracy, which are deliberation and compromise between
differing political groups:
authoritarian has no patience for normal legislative rules – designed,
as they are in a democracy, to create opportunities for deliberation.
Which is why Trump
told Mitch McConnell to use the “nuclear option” against the time-honored Senate
filibuster, in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Yes indeed. And there is this is on authoritarians and the freedoms of the press:
An authoritarian also seeks to intimidate the
press, in order to avoid criticism and consolidate his power.
Trump still doesn’t miss an opportunity to assail
the media for publishing “fake news.” His chief of staff has revived Trump’s campaign proposal
to widen libel laws so that he can sue the press for stories he doesn’t like.
Yes indeed. This is from the end of the article:
Yes, I mostly agree, though I have two
remarks: Trump strives for an authoritarian government, but he doesn't
have it, at least not yet, and a more or less real authoritarian
government (see the last link) is incompatible with many American laws,
principles of law, and with the Constitution.
authoritarianism is a consistent and coherent philosophy of governing. But it’s
In fact, the Framers
of the U.S. Constitution created separation of powers, checks and balances, and
federalism precisely to avoid concentrated power. Their goal was to stop
authoritarians like Donald Trump.
2. The Many-Sided, Overlapping Meanings of May Day
article is by Paul Street on Truthdig:
This is from near the beginning (and is from a good and fairly long article on May Day):
Only later did I learn that May Day’s real left origins were in the
older revolutionary socialist- and anarchist-led struggle of the U.S.
working class for an eight-hour day. Targeting May 1 as the day for the
introduction of shorter hours, activists brought the issue to a boiling
point in Chicago in the spring of 1886. The fight culminated in the
fateful tossing of the Haymarket bomb,
the savage execution of four of the city’s great radical leaders—“the
Haymarket Martyrs”—and a great wave of anti-union and anti-left
repression across the nation.
Yes indeed. And while I did not know about the Americam 1886 source of May Day, I do
recall about the last May Days in Holland, because my parents were
communists, and liked it. I do recall the one from 1958 and while there
were a few repeats, it never amounted to much in my life.
May 1 became an international day of working-class and left protest in
subsequent years. Well into the 20th century, leftist May Day speakers
and banners would repeat Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’ maxims: “The working men have no country. … Workers of the world unite.”
Here is some more on the reasoning behind May Day:
It might at first seem odd that radical anarchists and Marxists placed
such strong emphasis on a day formed largely around a struggle for
reform under capitalism—a shorter workday with no reduction in income.
But left working-class militants in the late 19th century knew that
overwork robbed workers of the time and energy to engage in critical
reflection and join movements for resistance to what was then commonly
understood to be “wage slavery.” They reasonably saw a reduction of
workers’ time spent under the bosses’ lash as an essential step toward
the building of anti-capitalist consciousness and struggle.
Yes, though I should add that I did get that
justification for May Day from my parents.
Here are two brief remarks
on the workers' time and wage slavery (that may be written without
quotes, for it was quite real): In the 19th Century workers had to work
10 or 12 hours a day, and sometimes more, and were paid extremely
little. Also, even in the 1950ies my father, who was a housepainter,
had to work 6 days a week: Five full days from Monday to Friday, and
half a day on Saturday. This also was true of all workers, though
indeed working on Saturdays was terminated late in the 1950ies.
Then there is this on May Day, about which I had no idea whatsoever:
It is a day of leisure, to be spent outdoors, dancing and wearing flowers. While rooted in custom, it was an official holiday in the British Tudor monarchy by at least the early 16th century.
(The bourgeois- revolutionary Puritan Parliaments of 1649-1660 suspended
the holiday, which was reinstated with the restoration of Charles II.)
Then there is this on the Diggers (<- Wikipedia) who happen to be one of my favorite leftist groups,
because they were very serious, very brave, one of the first socialist/ communist groups, and they were led by a quite
amazing man, Gerrard Winstanley, of whom I only discovered some
writings in the beginning of the 21st Century, but which are quite
interesting (I thought and think):
The Diggers, the first modern communists, were led by Gerrard Winstanley.
They sought to pre-empt the coming new soulless wage, money and
commodity slavery of the capitalist order (the bourgeois regime that
Marx and Engels would justly accuse of “resolv[ing] personal worth into
exchange value”) by claiming earth as “a common treasury for all.”
Writing as England was becoming the first fully capitalist nation where
most of the adult working-age population toiled for wages, Winstanley
and his followers practiced what Linebaugh calls “commoning,” the
merging of “labor” and “natural resources” in the spirit of “all for one
and one for all.”
Yes indeed. The Diggers failed, but - for me at least - some of their writings are still inspiring.
Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
May Day is an official holiday now in many European nations, with its
meaning generally understood to combine the pre-modern folk roots and,
however diluted, the modern labor and left origins.
But not in Holland, and in fact I found just one mentioning of the fact that - outside Holland, is true - May Day is an official holiday in many European nations.
There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended: It is a quite good article on the history of May Day.
3. How Russiagate Got So Much Momentum
This starts as follows:
The third article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig:
A new book about Hillary Clinton’s last campaign for
president—“Shattered,” by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes—has
gotten a lot of publicity since it appeared two weeks ago. But major
media have ignored a revealing passage near the end of the book.
Yes indeed. And here are two additional remarks:
Soon after Clinton’s defeat, top strategists decided where to place the
blame. “Within 24 hours of her concession speech,” the authors report,
campaign manager Robby Mook and campaign chair John Podesta “assembled
her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the
case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of
hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over
the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already,
Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”
Six months later, that centerpiece of the argument is rampant—with
claims often lurching from unsubstantiated overreach to outright
First, so far and in all of the last 6 months, I have seen not a single bit of real evidence
that supported the case that Russian hacking had caused Hillary
Clinton's los, and also, which is considerably more important, neither
did the people who write for VIPS (<- Wikipedia), that
comprise William Binney and Ray McGovern, who know about spying.
And second, it may be worth remarking that the supposed (asserted, claimed, but never
proved) statement that Russia had hacked Trump's winning of the
election was probably prepared, since it was in the press within 24
hours, which indeed was precisely the same as in 2001, when I was
rather astonished to hear, also within 24 hours of the attack of 9/11,
that Iraq was responsible for the deed (which was a lie, but a lie that
started the war with Iraq).
There is also this:
The “Moscow Project” is expressly inclined to go over the top, aiming to
help normalize ultra-partisan conjectures as supposedly factual. And
so, the homepage of the “Moscow Project”
prominently declares: “Given Trump’s obedience to Vladimir Putin and
the deep ties between his advisers and the Kremlin, Russia’s actions are
a significant and ongoing cause for concern.”
I agree, though I also admit that Putin seems
quite capable of interfering in the American elections. But mere
capacity is no proof whatsoever that he did so, and
Let’s freeze-frame how that sentence begins: “Given Trump’s obedience to
Vladimir Putin.” It’s a jaw-dropping claim, a preposterous smear.
indeed there has been no proof whatsoever the last 6 months, which makes it very
likely there will be no proof (though there may be a whole lot more propaganda of this type).
Here is the Democrat's Jennifer Palmieri effectively singing the praise of all false propaganda:
In early spring, the former communications director of the 2016 Clinton
presidential campaign, Jennifer Palmieri, summed up the post-election
approach neatly in a Washington Post opinion article:
“If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an
attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk
about it, the more they’ll be with us.”
That is: Our false propaganda will work if we manage to keep it in the news - we can
deceive our public. I grant that so far the Democrats have kept up the
Russia-story, also without any real evidence (for the "evidence" they
give consisted all the times that I read it from assertions by
anonymous persons there will be evidence, which there wasn't, for mere
statements are not evidence).
And here is Solomon's conclusion:
You might think that Wall Street, big banks, hugely funded lobbyists,
fat-check campaign contributors, the fossil fuel industry, insurance
companies, military contractors and the like are calling the shots in
Washington. Maybe you didn’t get the memo.
I agree: They are "calling the shots in
Washington" but ordinary people who read the ordinary mainstream "news"
read little about these main sources of the "news", while
getting a lot of evidence-less propaganda about Russia's hackings.
4. Donald Trump Is on Course to Be One of the Worst Presidents in U.S. History
The fourth article today is by Robert Parry on Truthdig and originally on Consortium- news:
This starts as follows:
The 100-day mark may be an artificial measuring stick for a U.S.
president. Obviously much can happen in the remaining 1,361 days of a
four-year term. But Donald Trump’s decisions in his first three months
in office have put him on an almost irreversible path to failure.
He now appears to be little more than a traditional Republican with
more than a little dash of Kardashian sleaze in him, a boorish
reality-TV star reading from a neocon script that could have been
written for many of his GOP rivals, except he delivers his lines with
worse grammar and a limited vocabulary, favoring imprecise words such as
“beautiful” and “sad.”
Trump also has the look of a conman. He sold himself as a populist
who would fight for the forgotten Americans, but is following domestic
policies aimed at comforting his super-rich friends while afflicting his
most loyal blue-collar supporters.
The 100-day mark, that in fact dates back to Franklin Roosevelt's presidential days, clearly is "an artificial measuring stick", but this does not mean it is not sensible.
About the rest of this first part I am
less certain, indeed because I agree in part, but also do not know to
what extent my or Parry's judgements are shared by "the American
people", while I would guess that Parry's judgements are not shared by more than 45% of the present American voters.
And here is reasonable evidence that there is something like a deep state in the USA:
Despite denials from mainstream commentators about America having a
“deep state,” one does exist in Washington, as should be obvious
watching the cable news shows or reading the major newspapers. Indeed,
there is arguably less diversity allowed in the vaunted “free press” of
America than in some supposedly authoritarian states.
For instance, even people with solid professional credentials who disagree with the U.S. government’s interpretation
of the evidence on the April 4 chemical incident in Syria are excluded
from participation in the public debate. The major U.S. media even takes pride in that exclusion
because these people are deemed “fringe” or responsible for
“propaganda” or guilty of “fake news.” The tendency toward careerist
“groupthink” is very powerful in Washington and the national media.
I agree: Both the remarkably similar
appearances of the (dominant) cable new shows and the fact that mere
disagreement with the government's interpretations of things
leads to being excluded are evidence for the existence of the deep
state, and of a considerably more totalitarian or authoritarian political
climate, while especially the last fact suggests that groupthinking
(<- good reference) is considerably more widespread than is rational.
Then there is this:
At the outset of his presidency, Trump could have really shaken things
up. But instead he wasted his first days proving that he was the
pumped-up fool that his detractors said he was. Rather than show some
grace toward the defeated Democrats, he insisted absurdly that his
inaugural crowd was bigger than President Obama’s (which it wasn’t). He
failed to appreciate or defuse the anger from the Women’s March, which
filled the streets of dozens of cities the day after his Inauguration
(with women wearing pink pussy hats to chide Trump for his boasts about
grabbing women in the crotch).
Hm. I agree with the first statement, and
explain the rest of this paragraph by my assumption (and that of many
psychologists and psychiatrist) that Trump is a megalomaniac.
Then again, I tend to agree that after
three months, Trump appears - for now, at least: what happens in case of
a war or a major terrorist attack I do not know - a bit less dangerous
than he did right at the beginning, indeed in good part because he
operated quite stupidly (and like a megalomaniac).
Here is Parry's interpretation of what Trump is currently doing:
If anything, Trump is now shifting U.S. foreign policy more into line
with what the neocons demand than Obama did. With Trump’s goal to work
more cooperatively with Russia smashed by Russiagate, he is now
cementing a foreign policy that is almost indistinguishable from what
Trump’s vanquished Republican rivals, such as neocon Senators Marco
Rubio of Florida, or Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, would have
espoused. Or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton.
I don't know, although I agree Parry is
better able to judge these things than I am. What he seems to assume
here is that Trump has been defeated by the deep state,
or at least that is how I interpret it. He may well be right, but I have not seen any
This is the last bit of Parry's article:
The attendant tensions with Russia—and eventually with China—also
could provoke a nuclear confrontation that Trump is psychologically
unfit to manage. Playing madman—and counting on President Putin or
President Xi to play the adult—is not as clever as it may sound. Putin
and Xi have their own internal political pressures to consider—and they
may feel compelled to call one of Trump’s bluffs.
Thus, Trump now appears on course to become a failed U.S. president,
maybe one of the worst. But let’s all hope he is not the last.
This is not optimistic, but then I am
neither: I said at the beginning of Trump's presidency that it was then
50/50 for me that the world will not have a nuclear war between 2017
All that changed now for me, after 3
months of Trump, is that it is now around 55/45 (against/for a nuclear was before 2022). And this will change as soon as
their is war or a major terrorist attack.
5. Leading Historian Believes 'It's Pretty Much Inevitable' Trump Will Try to Stage a Coup and Overthrow Democracy
The fifth article and last article today is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon:
This starts as follows:
American democracy is in crisis. The election of Donald Trump feels like a state of emergency made normal.
has threatened violence against his political enemies. He has made
clear he does not believe in the norms and traditions of American
democracy — unless they serve his interests. Trump and his advisers
consider a free press to be enemies of his regime. Trump repeatedly lies
and has a profoundly estranged relationship with empirical reality. He
uses obvious and naked racism, nativism and bigotry to mobilize his
voters and to disparage entire groups of people such as Latinos and
Trump is threatening to eliminate an independent judiciary,
and wants to punish those judges who dare to stand against his illegal
and unconstitutional mandates. In what appears to be a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution,
Trump is using the office of the presidency to enrich himself, his
family and his inner circle by peddling influence and access to
corporations, foreign countries and wealthy individuals. Trump and his representatives also believe that he is above the law and cannot be prosecuted for any crimes while in office.
I think all of the above is true. Here is
one of DeVega's answers to these problems, which consists of a decent
interview with historian Timothy Snyder, about whom I wrote quite a bit
in earlier Nederlogs - see e.g. "Post-truth is Pre-Fascism", and namely here, here, here and here (and at other places):
And in fact in the above linked original of
the article there is a link to a more extensive podcast that DeVega
made. Since I think Timothy Snyder may well be right, and since he
knows a great amount about Nazism, I will extract some of this
interview, but I will insert a "D." for DeVega and an "S." for Snyder,
that are not in the original, in order to make sure who is talking:
In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University. He is the award-winning author of numerous books including the recent “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” and “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.” Snyder’s new book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,”
explores, among other things, how the American people can fight
back against Donald Trump’s incipient authoritarian regime.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
D.: The election of Donald Trump is a crisis for American democracy. How did this happen?
asked for it by saying that history was over in 1989 [with the end of
the Cold War]. By saying that nothing bad could never happen again, we
were basically inviting something bad to happen.
Our story about
how nothing could never go wrong was a story about how human nature is
the free market and the free market brings democracy, so everything is
hunky-dory — and of course every part of that story is nonsense. The
Greeks understood that democracy is likely to produce oligarchy, because
if you don’t have some mechanism to get inequality under control then
people with the most money will likely take full control.
I agree with the last quoted paragraph,
but not with Snyder's first paragraph: I think and thought that
Fukuyama's claim that history had ended was total bullshit, but I see
no reason to believe this caused Trump's presidency (28 years later).
Then there is this exchange on fascism:
I have been saying, indeed since March 2016 (see here and here, for example) that it is - in my considered
opinion - more plausible to call Trump a neofascist than a
fascist, while I also think since March 2016 that - in my
psychologist's opinion - he is probably a megalomaniac, that is, he has
a personality disorder that is well described as a kind of insanity.
(And I still, after more than a year, agree with both judgements.)
D.: In my writing and interviews, I have consistently referred to Donald
Trump as a fascist. I have received a great deal of resistance to that
claim. Do you think this description is correct? If not, then what
language should we use to describe Donald Trump?
S.: One of the
problems with American discourse is that we just assume everybody is a
friendly democratic parliamentarian pluralist until proven otherwise.
And then even when it’s proven otherwise we don’t have any vocabulary
for it. He’s a “dictator,” he’s an “authoritarian,” he’s “Hitler.” We
just toss these words around. The pushback that you are talking about is
95 percent bad. Americans do not want to think that there is an
alternative to what we have.
Here is more about Trump's asserted fascism:
I mostly agree with Snyder, but like to point
out - see my "On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions" - there are at least 20 different
definitions of what "fascism" means, so more precision would be quite helpful.
S.: I don’t want to dodge your question about whether Trump is a fascist
or not. As I see it, there are certainly elements of his approach which
are fascistic. The straight-on confrontation with the truth is at the
center of the fascist worldview. The attempt to undo the Enlightenment
as a way to undo institutions, that is fascism. Whether he realizes it
or not is a different question, but that’s what fascists did. They said,
“Don’t worry about the facts, don’t worry about logic, think instead in
terms of mystical unities and direct connections between the mystical
leader and the people.” That’s fascism. Whether we see it or not,
whether we like it or not, whether we forget, that is fascism.
Another thing that’s clearly fascist about Trump were the rallies.
Then there is this on Trump and TV:
If so - I do not know, for I am not an
American - this is less the doing or the fault of Trump than it is the
fault of the majority who watches and judges him as if he were a TV
personality, whereas he now is the president of the USA.
D.: Why is Trump not being held accountable for all of his failures, scandals and incompetence?
Trump is primarily a television personality. As such, he is judged by
that standard. This means that a scandal does not call forth a response,
it calls forth the desire for a bigger scandal.
Here is more:
D.: In your book you discuss the idea that Donald Trump will have his own
version of Hitler’s Reichstag fire to expand his power and take full
control of the government by declaring a state of emergency. How do you
think that would play out?
I think I agree with Snyder that Trump will
try to get vastly more personal power, although I don't think his
popularity has much to do with it.
S.: Let me make just two points. The first is that I think it’s pretty much inevitable that they will try. The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this interview:
S.: I hate to sound like a self-help person but I’m going to. Every day you
don’t do something, it makes it less likely that you will ever do
something. So you’ve got to get started right away. “On Tyranny” is a
suggestion of things that everyone can do. There are plenty of other
great ideas from people coming from other traditions, but the basic
thing is you have to change your protocol of daily behavior now.
I think he is right, but I do not know whether this will make much of a difference.
Then again, Timothy Snyder wrote "On Tyranny" and that is a recommended book,
as this is a recommended article.