January 8, 2018

Crisis: Sick Souls, ¨Stable Genius¨, Dangerous Trump, Overthrow Our Rulers, On Corporations


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 8, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 8, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from January 8, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Corpses of Souls
2. ‘Like, Really Smart’
3. Trump Is Now Dangerous—That Makes His Mental Health a Matter of
     Public Interest

4. Time to Overthrow Our Rulers
5. The Rapid Rise of a Digital-Corporate Neo-Feudalist Dystopia
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Corpses of Souls

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Walker Percy in his 1971 dystopian novel “Love in the Ruins” paints a picture of a morally degenerate America consumed by hedonism, wallowing in ignorance, led by kleptocrats and fools, fragmented into warring and often violent cultural extremes and on the cusp of a nuclear war. It is a country cursed by its failure to address or atone for its original sins of genocide and slavery. The ethos of ceaseless capitalist expansion, white supremacy and American exceptionalism, perpetuated overseas in the country’s imperial wars, eventually consumes the nation itself.
I never heard of Walker Percy (American, 1916-1990) before today, but indeed in spite of my massive reading there is very much more that I did not read than I did (as is the case for everyone). And Percy seems to have seen some things quite correctly, as shown by the above introduction.

Also, Percy and his wife converted to Catholicism in 1947, and Percy started as ¨a Catholic writer¨ in 1956 - which makes him probably a bit more interesting to the Protestant minister Chris Hedges. I cannot judge this very well (but indeed I am a philosopher and an atheist).

Here is more about Percy´s ideas (in his
Love in the Ruins”):
Percy, echoing the Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, argues that the capitalist, rationalist ethic that crushed empathy and understanding and replaced it with the primacy of personal gain, cruelty and profit doomed Western civilization. The basest lusts are celebrated by capitalism. Success is defined by material advancement, power and the attainment of celebrity. Those, like Donald Trump, who amass enormous wealth, often by cheating, abusing and defrauding their employees and associates, are treated like pagan idols.
I think that is quite correct. Here is more:
Our capitalist elites have used propaganda, money and the marginalizing of their critics to erase the first three of philosopher John Locke’s elements of the perfect state: liberty, equality and freedom. They exclusively empower the fourth, property. Liberty and freedom in the corporate state mean the liberty and freedom of corporations and the rich to exploit and pillage without government interference or regulatory oversight. And the single most important characteristic of government is its willingness to use force, at home and abroad, to protect the interests of the property classes. This abject surrender of the state to the rich is expressed at this moment in the United States in the new tax code and the dismantling of environmental regulations.
And this also seems correct to me.

In fact, I also have something like ¨a solution¨ (in principle: it will be very difficult to realize it), namely the legal restrictions of property and power and the introduction of a liberal kind of socialism, where the state does not control or own the means of production.

There is some more in my ¨On Socialism¨ that I recommend that you read if you have not, but I think none of it will be realized without a foregoing deep economical crisis - and even if there is a deep economical crisis, it still may turn towards neofascism or feudalism rather than socialism: I do not believe in the necessity of moral progress.

Back to Percy or in fact Hedges:
All of our institutions are corrupted by a neoliberal ideology. It has contaminated the press, the academy, the arts, the courts and religious institutions. (..) The liberal church, like the bankrupt liberal class, holds up multiculturalism and identity politics as an ethical imperative and ignores the primacy of economic justice.
Yes indeed, but I have two rather general but pertinent remarks on this.

First, I think ¨neoliberalism¨ is and was a propaganda term. In fact most though not all neoliberals are a kind of neofascists (in my sense: read my definition!). I have explained this quite a few times before, and here will only insist on it: Milton Friedman (and others of similar convictions) was not so much an economist as an ideologist, and his ideology was for profit and for the rich, and indeed it strongly assisted the growth of neofascism in Chili, after the murder of Salvador Allende.

Second, in my experience ¨
multiculturalism¨ and ¨identity politics¨, that incidentally always were combined (in my experience) with political correctness, started in Holland in the Dutch universities in the later 1970ies, indeed propelled by early forms of postmodernism. And Hedges is also correct that in fact from the later 1970ies onwards, these corruptions of real leftism were presented by many (in the universities) as if they were the Real Left, which they were not at all. [2]

Here is Hedges on ¨today´s secularists¨, which I think he should have widened to something like ¨today´s ordinary men¨ or ¨today´s typical ¨civilization¨ in the West¨:
Today’s secularists have their own forms of hedonism, self-worship and idolatry. Spirituality is framed by puerile questions: How is it with me? Am I in touch with myself? Have I achieved happiness and inner peace? Have I, along with my life coach, ensured that I have reached my full career potential? Am I still young-looking?

It is a culture based on self-absorption, a vain quest for eternal youth, and narcissism. Any form of suffering, which is always part of self-sacrifice, is to be avoided. The plight of our neighbor is irrelevant.
Yes indeed - but as I said, this does not apply merely to secularists, but simply to the majority anywhere in the West: They are hedonistic, they worship themselves, and they are only interested in their own welfare, their own incomes, and - at best - some of their own family and friends.

In fact, this is why I referred to ¨Sick Souls¨ in the title of today´s Nederlog: I agree with Hedges, but not just about secularists, but simply about the majority of persons alive in the West.

But I don´t quite agree with Hedges about this judgement:
The single-minded pursuit of happiness, with happiness equated with wealth and power, creates a population consumed by anxiety and self-loathing. Few achieve the imagined pinnacle of success, and those who do are often psychopaths.
My reasons are mostly philosophical: Happiness - in some sense, that is usually not well-defined - is supposed to be the main end by very many, and indeed for quite a few happiness seems to be identified with wealth and power.

I disagree with that identification, as does Chris Hedges, but it is quite common. Then again, Hedges is quite corrrect in saying that ¨
[f]ew achieve the imagined pinnacle of success¨ for the very simple reason that only a small percentage of everyone can be really rich, as things are set up politically, economically and legally: At least 90% of everyone will not owe much or anything, and will have to work in order to live (somewhat tolerably).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article (and it is well to remember that it seems Percy in fact descrined the universities in the USA from the late 1960ies):
Students in the universities, radical multiculturalists and moral purists “are a shaky dogmatic lot,” Percy writes. “And the ‘freer’ they are, the more dogmatic. At heart they’re totalitarians: they want either total dogmatic freedom or total dogmatic unfreedom, and the one thing that makes them unhappy is something in between.”
And in fact I quite agree with Percy on totalitarianism, though I should add that Percy, and Orwell, and Arendt, and very many other persons who did write on totalitarianism since the early 1940ies are quite mistaken according to the anonymous falsifiers Wikipedia employs these days, for these falsifiers insist that no person, no ideology, no political party, no book, no plan, no proposal, no attitude, and no mode of thinking, of valueing or of feeling can ever be totalitarian, for the only thing that can be totalitatian, according to the utterly lying or totally ignorant falsifiers of Wikipedia, are states.

Also, I did meet very many of these totalitarians in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, where it seems many also were - until ca. 1984 - members of the Dutch Communist Party (and nowadays all are ¨neoconservatives¨, according to themselves).

Ah well... this is a strongly recommended article (even though Hedges must be an obscurantist - who knows, a fascist, like I was depicted falsely in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam
[2] - according to the anonymous figures who are destroying the Wikipedia, for these insist only states can be totalitarian).

2. ‘Like, Really Smart’

This article is by Charles M. Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows - and you should understand that this article continues Trump´s assessment of Trump as ¨a very stable genius¨:

I resist applying clinical diagnoses to people, and that includes Donald Trump. I’m not a doctor, and a proper diagnosis would require a personal evaluation.

But I would be basking in false virtue if I simply pretended that I’m not aware that some of the behaviors displayed by this man line up with the symptoms of certain personality disorders.

So I must couch my concerns this way: There is no way for me to know for sure, but all indications lead me to believe that Donald Trump struggles to fit into the frame of what we call normal behavior, and he often fails at it in spectacular ways.

And it is not only you and I worried about the president’s mental stability. According to Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the book that has so gotten under the president’s skin and into his mind, those closest to him also worry about his mental health.

Well... I am not a doctor either, but I am a psychologist (and a philosopher). And since ¨clinical diagnoses¨ are made by clinicians, who are normally - in case of mental diagnoses - either psychiatrists or psychologists, it is not merely a matter of personal resistance but a mere matter of logic that Blow cannot clinically diagnose other people.

Then again, and in various good senses, everybody diagnoses a great lot of things in some ways, that may be rational or reasonable or not, and such diagnoses indeed are the right of everybody (and may be quite mistaken).

And in fact, psychologists and psychiatrists (some, not all) have been warning that either Trump is not mentally sane for a rather long time (and now know he regards himself as ¨a very stable genius¨) or else that they are - at least - seriously worried about his mental health.

Here is more about Trump´s diagnosis of Trump:

Trump was so bothered by the book that he took to Twitter over the weekend to defend himself against the damaging portrait it contains: that of a mentally unstable simpleton.

Trump wrote that “throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart” and then upped the self-accolades by writing that being elected would “qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”

So Trump´s opinion of Trump is that Trump is ¨a very stable genius¨. He also seems to be one of the comparatively few who thinks so, for those who know him generally disagree that he is a genius in any sense (quite correctly so), while those who do not know him and agree that he is a genius will in majority be quite ignorant and very probably have a low average IQ.

Here is more Blow, in fact on diagnosing:

But can I also have legitimate, nonpartisan, nonpolitical concern about Trump’s stability, fitness and basic intellectual capacity? Of course I can, and so should everyone else.

Let’s start here: From everything I have ever read about the man, he is not particularly smart. This is sometimes hard for people to understand. They equate financial gain with intellectual gifts, but the two are hardly synonymous.

Being gifted at exploitation is not the same as intellectualism. It is a skill, but one separate from scholarship.
As I said above, in various good senses everybody diagnoses very many things, and is quite justified in doing so, though very probably less justified in the validities they attribute to their own diagnoses, for these tend to depend mostly on specific relevant knowledge and intelligence, and these differ rather a lot, while no one knows everything or indeed most things.

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

But mental instability — whether a diagnosable disorder or just a combination of crippling character traits — is a problem of another magnitude. That goes to basic competence and substantially raises the stakes.

This is the problem we face: We have a person occupying the presidency who is impetuous, fragile, hostile, irrational, intentionally uninformed, information-averse and semiliterate.

The question we have to put to the elected officials protecting this president, and indeed to all those being paid a taxpayer-funded salary and then concealing, distorting or denying the truth to make this man look competent, is: Don’t you have an obligation, either moral, ethical, patriotic or otherwise, to level with America that you, too, are concerned by Trump’s erratic behavior?

I think the question is justified, but I also think that Blow is too much concerned with the - quite idiotic - Goldwater Rule that was adopted by the APA to protect their own psychiatric incomes by outlawing most discussions about ¨diagnoses¨.

My own opinion (as a psychologist) is simply that everyone has the right to diagnose anything whatsoever, and that the sole criterions for the correctness of the diagnosis are the rational knowledge one has of the thing diagnosed and/or its factual truth.

And I think the case of Trump is or should be fairly evident to any intelligent person: He is unfit for president of the USA, and the sooner he leaves the better it is.

3. Trump Is Now Dangerous—That Makes His Mental Health a Matter of Public Interest

This article is by Bandy Lee on AlterNet and originally on The Guardian. It starts as follows:

Eight months ago, a group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. It became an instant bestseller, depleting bookstores within days. We thus discovered that our endeavours resonated with the public.

While we keep within the letter of the Goldwater rule – which prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures without a personal examination and without consent – there is still a lot that mental health professionals can tell before the public reaches awareness. These come from observations of a person’s patterns of responses, of media appearances over time, and from reports of those close to him.
As I explained several times in Nederlog, I am a psychologist (and not a psychiatrist) who rejects the Goldwater rule, if only because virtually no political leader will give his or her consent to examine them psychiatrically while they have power over many millions, or indeed, as is the case for Trump, over seven billions of men (by his Enormous Nuclear Button, that is so much Greater than that of Kim Jong-un).

Here is more, in fact on the vagaries of the term ¨diagnosis¨:
To make a diagnosis one needs all the relevant information – including, I believe, a personal interview. But to assess dangerousness, one only needs enough information to raise alarms. It is about the situation rather than the person. The same person may not be a danger in a different situation, while a diagnosis stays with the person.
In fact, as stated this means hardly anyone can make any diagnosis of hardly anything, for the simple reason that it is quite rare that anyone knows (bolding added) ¨all the relevant information¨, and indeed also it is extremely rare that anyone knows he or she knows all of this.

Also, this is again mostly directed against the not very sane Goldwater rule.

Here is some more:
It is Trump in the office of the presidency that poses a danger. Why? Past violence is the best predictor of future violence, and he has shown: verbal aggressiveness, boasting about sexual assaults, inciting violence in others, an attraction to violence and powerful weapons and the continual taunting of a hostile nation with nuclear power. Specific traits that are highly associated with violence include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, a loose grip on reality with a poor understanding of consequences, rage reactions, a lack of empathy, belligerence towards others and a constant need to demonstrate power.
This is all both factually correct and personally relevant for judging - maybe we should speak of judging much rather than of ¨diagnosing¨? - Trump.

Here is more:
There is another pattern by which he is dangerous. His cognitive function, or his ability to process knowledge and thoughts, has begun to be widely questioned. Many have noted a distinct decline in his outward ability to form complete sentences, to stay with a thought, to use complex words and not to make loose associations. This is dangerous because of the critical importance of decision-making capacity in the office that he holds.
This is also correct in my assessment, but it is considerably less important (in my mind) than his lack of sanity.

Then there is this:
Indeed, at no other time in US history has a group of mental health professionals been so collectively concerned about a sitting president’s dangerousness. This is not because he is an unusual person – many of his symptoms are very common – but it is highly unusual to find a person with such signs of danger in the office of presidency. For the US, it may be unprecedented; for parts of the world where this has happened before, the outcome has been uniformly devastating.
This is mostly correct, although I am one of those who says that real mental disorders - which Trump is suffering from, in my psychologist´s opinions - are relatively rare (and who also totally rejects claims of modern psychiatrists that ¨78 % of the British are not sane¨).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
It does not take a mental health professional to see that a person of Trump’s impairments, in the office of the presidency, is a danger to us all. What mental health experts can offer is affirmation that these signs are real, that they may be worse than the untrained person suspects, and that there are more productive ways of handling them than deflection or denial.
Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.
4. Time to Overthrow Our Rulers

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:

Here’s where we are right now:

  • A billionaire oligarch programs his very own entire television news network to promote the interests of the billionaire class, with such effectiveness that average working people are repeating billionaire-helpful memes like “cut regulations,” “shrink government,” and “cut taxes” – policies that will cause more working people and their children to get sick and/or die, will transfer more money and power from “we the people” to a few oligarchs, and will lower working-class wages over time.
  • A small group of billionaires have funneled so much money into our political sphere that “normal” Republicans like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker point out that they couldn’t get elected in today’s environment because they’d face rightwing-billionaire-funded primary challengers.
  • The corporate media (including online media), heavily influenced by the roughly billion dollars the Koch Network, Adelson, Mercers, etc. poured through their advertising coffers and into their profits in the last election, won’t even mention in their “news” reporting that billionaire oligarchs are mainly calling the tunes in American politics, particularly in the GOP. 
  • Former President Jimmy Carter pointed out on my radio show that the US “is now an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery,” in part as a result of the right-wing Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.
  • Nobody in corporate media, even on the “corporate left,” is willing to explicitly point out how billionaires and the companies that made them rich control and define the boundaries of “acceptable” political debate in our country.
  • Thus, there’s no honest discussion in American media of why the GOP denies climate change (to profit petro-billionaires), no discussion of the daily damage being done to our consumer and workplace protections (..)
In fact, this seems to me to be a quite good sum-up of the political situation in the USA. And I should add that this kind of sum-up is - so far, at least - rather rare, though I expect that - if publishing and speech remain more or less uncensored in the USA - there will be considerably more similar analyses in the American (non-mainstream) press.

Here is more - and Hartmann is, I think quite correctly, seeing the present political situation in the USA in terms of a fight between the opponents of Roosevelt´s New Deal, who are mostly rich and Republicans, and the proponents of
Roosevelt´s New Deal, who nowadays - after nearly 40 years of propaganda and corruption directed against them in the name of ¨neoliberalism¨ - seem to be in a minority.

Indeed Hartmann quotes Roosevelt:

Roosevelt, then the president of the United States, even explicitly called for the “overthrow of this kind of power”:

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. 

“Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. 

“In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. 

“Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.” 

The American people overwhelmingly agreed with FDR, particularly after they’d seen how badly “dictatorship by the over-privileged” worked out for us in 1929. The result was that from 1932 until 1980 American politicians knew how important it was for government, representing the best interests of both our nation and all of its people, to hold back the political power that the morbidly rich could marshal with their great wealth.

I think that is mostly correct, although I think that John Maynard Keynes also played an important role in partially taming the role of the very rich:

Big corporations and wealthy businesspeople largely stayed away from politics from the 1930s onward, not wanting to draw the ire of the American people.

Until 1971. In August of that year, Lewis Powell, a lawyer who largely defended tobacco and the interests of the Virginia’s upper classes, wrote an apocalyptic memo to his neighbor and friend who was the head of the US Chamber of Commerce. In it, he suggested that America itself was under attack from “leftists” and people on “college campuses.” 

The solution, Powell proposed, was for a small group of very, very wealthy people to reshape American public opinion through think tanks, funding of universities and schools, and an all-out assault on the media. Take over the courts and at least one of the political parties, he suggested, and wrest control of our economy away from government regulation.

Yes, quite so. And this is followed by a fairly lengthy but good analysis of Powell that I leave to your interests.

Here is more on how the rich acquired vastly more powers than they had between 1932 and 1972, namely by legal changes (often driven through by bought politicians):

And Lewis Powell’s contribution to today’s problems is easily found in the 1976 Buckley v Valeo decision, which struck down many of the campaign finance laws that had been passed in the wake of the Nixon scandals. Money transferred from billionaires to politicians, he and his conservative friends on the court ruled, wasn’t “money” – instead, it was Constitutionally-protected First Amendment Free Speech. 

Just in time for the Reagan Revolution, the morbidly rich could again own individual politicians, and with the 2013 McCutcheon case, the Court ruled that morbidly rich individuals could own a virtually unlimited number of politicians. Citizens United, in 2010, radically expanded corporate personhood and the rights of billionaires and corporations to influence politics.


And this is from the ending of this article:

To save our republic, we must acknowledge that the American aristocracy of the morbidly rich is destroying our country. And then overturn (via constitutional amendment) the twin policies of right-wingers on our Supreme Court that say that billionaires can own their own personal politicians, and that corporations are “persons” with human rights. 

Once we reject America’s new self-appointed royalty, with their billionaire and corporate money fouling our system, our elected officials can restore protections for working people – and we can once again see our wages begin to rise like they did for 40 straight years before the advent of Reaganism.

Again quite so, and this also is a strongly recommended article.

5. The Rapid Rise of a Digital-Corporate Neo-Feudalist Dystopia

This article is by Frank Pasquale on Rigged Game and originally on openDemocracy. It starts as follows:

Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of expanding or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives.

I don´t quite agree with the first paragraph, which also is not very clearly written, and one of my objections is to Hale´s definition of government: He seems to confuse it with power.

But I more or less agree with the second paragraph, and indeed have done so for quite a long time now.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

My answer focused on the identity and aspirations of major digital firms. They are no longer market participants. Rather, in their fields, they are market makers, able to exert regulatory control over the terms on which others can sell goods and services. Moreover, they aspire to displace more government roles over time, replacing the logic of territorial sovereignty with functional sovereignty. In functional arenas from room-letting to transportation to commerce, persons will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.

Yes indeed - and this is rather narrowly connected with my definition of neofascism. There is
considerably more in the article, but I skip reviewing the rest of it because I think it is not very well written, and because the present Nederlog is already more than 53 Kb.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] In fact, I comprised a whole lot in the previous two paragraphs. I will not expand on this here - see Nederlog - but I will say something about my Real Leftness, especially because I have been scolded as ¨a fascist¨, ¨a dirty fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist¨ by very many sick liars of the ASVA:

I think I have the best and most leftist background of absolutely anybody who studied in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam since 1970 or earlier:

Both of my parents were members of the Dutch Communist Party for 45 years; both of my parents were in the communist resistance against the Nazis between 1940 and 1945; my father was arrested in August of 1941, and was put - by collaborating Dutch judges - as a ¨political terrorist¨ in German concentration camps of which he survived over three years and nine months; his father (one of my grandfathers) was a member of the Dutch Communist Party and was also arrested in August of 1941, and murdered in a German concentration camp; while I myself read more of Marx and Engels than any student I ever met in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, which also led to my refutations of Marx and Engels in 1970, after which I became a philosophical anarchist. And my mother´s parents were both anarchists for 45 years.

But I was persecuted from 1977 till 1988 by utter idiots (and sadists) from the ASVA, who just ¨knew¨ that I was ¨a dirty fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist¨ because I had said that I did not believe in Marx but did believe in science and truth.

So I am not nor ever was ¨a fascist¨ or ¨a terrorist¨, but it seems everybody in the ASVA between 1977 and 1988 did think so, and many said or screamed so (at me).

Who were the real fascists in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam?!

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