April 1, 2018

Crisis: Trumpian Cult, On John Bolton*2, On Julian Assange, The GOP Tax Law


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 1, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, April 1, 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, but since 2010 in English) 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 April 1, 2018
1. The Cult of Trump
2. Here Comes Bolton, There Goes Arms Control
3. In Defense of Julian Assange and Free Speech
4. Trump Finds Fellow Bully in Bolton
5. Under GOP Tax Law, Top 1% Get Extra $33,000 Per Year. The Poor? $40
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. The Cult of Trump

This article is by Paul Morantz on Truthdig. It starts in fact with two quotations I reproduce:

A group is extraordinarily credulous and open to influence … anyone who wishes to produce an effect upon it needs no logical arguments; he must paint in forcible colors, must exaggerate, and he must repeat the same thing again and again. … (The group) wants to be ruled and impressed, and to fear its masters. … And, finally, groups have never thirst after truth. … They are almost as influenced by what is not true as by what is true. … A group is an obedient herd, which could never live without a master.”
Sigmund Freud

Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”
George Orwell

First about the quotations: I have to admit that the Freud quotation is about the first more or less reasonable bit that I read from Freud in a very long time (and I did read Freud, but not anymore since the early 1980ies), and incidentally, here is myself on groups, while Orwell had - I am quite sure - a much better mind than Freud.

And this is from not far from the article's beginning:

I’ve been repeating that phrase for many months now, after each unconscionable act, events that would have torpedoed any other political campaign. And yet, here we are, on the precipice of calamity, with Trump eviscerating regulations that will loose the beasts of Wall Street and the energy industry, threatening to build a wall that will waste billions of dollars, spreading chaos in health and education, proposing massive cuts to programs that benefit the poor and promising to shut down any program or agency that could protect us from climate change and environmental abuses. Do you remember the megalomaniacal general played by Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove? Don’t look now, but he’s President and commander-in-chief, the man with his finger on the button. Isn’t that a sobering thought?

I am a psychologist and a philosopher by academic degrees, and I agree more with Morantz than I  disagree, but I fear my reasons may not be quite the same as for Morantz, for he is neither a psychologist nor a philosopher, but an attorney.

In brief, my reasons are these.

First, I know rather a lot about fascism and nazism, mostly because both of my parents and one grandparent were in the real communist resistance against the nazis between 1940 and 1945. The nazis also murdered by grandfather (as a "political terrorist") and condemned my father, for the same reason, to four different nazi concentration camps. He survived three years, nine months and fifteen days in these camps (and survived so long because he again met communists in the camps).

Second, having a logical mind I tried to find a decent definition of "fascism" on the internet; reviewed no less than 23 such definitions (many of which were neither real nor proper definitions) and in the end gave my own definition, which you can see here: Fascism.

Third, I tried to find a somewhat reasonable definition of "neofascism" on the internet. What I found was mostly baloney, that were not even real and proper definitions. So I compiled my own - proper, real - definition. Here it is:

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.

Fourth, being a psychologist, I became aware in the beginning of 2016 - see here - that some psychologists and psychiatrists had called Trump a megalomaniac (which is the proper term, rather than "narcissist", but this proper English word has since completely disappeared from the ever worsening Wikipedia) and being a psychologist, and having checked the (operational) definition I agreed (an agree) Trump is a megalomaniac, and he also is a neofascist (compare my definition with Trump's positions!!!) and I published both diagnoses late in 2016.

Fifth, I probably substantially disagree in my judgements from Morantz, who writes as follows:

Of course, you want to know who to blame for this mess. But be careful what you wish for, because here’s the awful truth: Go look in the mirror. We elected this guy, something for which we will all have to atone. But for a variety of reasons, we may not have been in our right minds, a condition that must be fixed if we are to extricate ourselves from this Trumped-up world.  After all, this has been the repeated course of history.

I am sorry, but in the first place I did not elect Trump (I am a Dutchman) and, more importantly, I very much dislike this utterly generalized usage of "we", "we", "we" and especially a usage that says that "we may not have been in our right minds", if the "we" comprises thousands, tenthousands or millions.

For - in the first place - no one knows the more than 60 million Americans who voted for Trump (aside from the supersecretive NSA, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica), and neither myself nor Morantz knows more than a very small fraction of them.

Second, I am a psychologist, and I think it is crude nonsense to accuse 60 million Americans (as an attorney) that they are not sane. I think you may safely say that most of them are not very intelligent and also not very knowledgeable, but this is not the same as insisting they (and "we") "may not have been in our right minds".

Next, Mr. Morantz has a concept ready in terms of which he analyses the present USA. Here it is:

What I have learned in my 40-year career as an attorney, most of it spent freeing people from the oppressive cults, is that totalist thinking infiltrates our everyday lives in ways both mundane and terrifying.

What is "totalism"? For me - and I read a very great amount, in many different source - this is the first time I heard or read the term. According to Wikipedia (in the first place, and I quote): "Totalism is a style of art music that arose in the 1980s and 1990s as a response to minimalism."

But this is not what Morantz meant, I take it. What he does mean is - very probably - a concept that has been used by Robert Jay Lifton, that seems only discussed in the Wikipedia article on Lifton, from which I quote again:

Totalism, a word first used in Thought Reform, is Lifton's term for the characteristics of ideological movements and organizations that desire total control over human behavior and thought. Lifton's usage differs from theories of totalitarianism in that it can be applied to the ideology of groups that do not wield governmental power.

I say - which I do because I completely disagree with the utterly false, intentionally misleading redefinition of "totalitarianism" on Wikipedia, for originally totalitarianism - quite correctly - referred to both the states that result from totalitarian thinking, and the thinking that, in case it is successful, produces totalitarian states.

But then "totalitarianism" was redefined (quite possibly again by the neofascist Brzezinski) to mean what rightists mean by it, which excludes any and all reference to any person, any plan, any politics, any ideas and any values that is not part of a totalitarian state. (Thus, a totalitarian Nazi like Hitler never could be called a totalitarian - according to the false usage of "totalitarian" now propounded by the Wikipedia - as long as he lived in "a democratic state".)

Here is more by Morantz:

For years, I have seen the specter of totalist thinking in everything from self-help groups to religious fanaticism and even the overreaching fiats of our prior two Presidents.

Perhaps. But I would have much appreciated a reference to Robert Jay Lifton.

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

But under the right circumstances, unfortunately, right-minded people can be induced into doing wrong-headed things. In 1974, for example, psychologist Stanley Milgram, attempting to make sense of atrocities like the Holocaust, induced volunteers to deliver increasingly heavy electric shocks to patients who answered questions wrong. The volunteers were told they were contributing to an important study aimed at improving people’s memories under stress. While the shocks were faked, along with the patients’ screaming, 92% of the volunteer pool who tested as “obedient—about two-thirds of the total pool—were willing to deliver lethal doses when paired with more aggressive, willing partners. And these subjects weren’t feeble or addled; they were drawn from a typical working class pool, including professionals and manager.

Yes, with this I quite agree and indeed I have also referred to Stanley Milgram for something like forty years, meanwhile. And what I agree with is that ordinary people may be rather easily convinced that they ought to give painful or possibly lethal electric shocks to people and to make them do so.

Also, the experiment has been quite convincing in that it showed that two-thirds (66%) of ordinary men could be (quite easily also) brought to do so, while around 4-5 % of psychiatrist (who did not know Milgram's theories) predicted they would (which may teach you about the degree of knowledge of
ordinary men that psychiatrists have, or had).

Anyway... I think this article would have been much better if it had explained the term "totalism", for now it took me considerable time to sort it out. (And that is not what good journalism should be.) 

2. Here Comes Bolton, There Goes Arms Control

This article is by Ray McGovern on Truthdig and originally on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser to President Donald Trump is the latest blow to hopes for a less confrontational U.S.-Russia relationship that would include new talks on arms control. Mutual trust is now hanging by a very thin thread.
Yes indeed. Here is more:

On March 20, two days after Putin was re-elected President of Russia, President Trump decided to congratulate the winner — as is the custom — without insulting him. For this he was excoriated by mainstream media for squandering the chance to point his finger, once again, at alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Sitting atop Mark Landler’s New York Times article that day was this headline: “Trump Congratulates Putin, but Doesn’t Mention Meddling in U.S.”

That was not Trump’s only offense. He also disregarded instructions to berate Putin with the evidence-and-logic-free accusation that Moscow poisoned, for no apparent reason, a former Russian spy and his daughter living in the UK.
As I explained above, I would have treated these specific actions of specific New York Times journalists under the heading of totalitarianism, but the - very rapidly collapsing - Wikipedia has adopted a new definition of "totalitarianism" that seems inspired by neofascism (but one never knows, for the Wikipedia is based on anonymous contributions, which itself ought to be a reason not to admit it as a valid encyclopedia).

Here is more by McGovern:
Parsing what is allowed to appear in the NYT (sometimes in altered iterations) is not very different from the “Kremlinology” tools that we analysts used to apply, back in the day, to eke insights out of the turgid prose in Pravda, Izvestiya, and other Soviet media.
Quite so, but according to the neofascistic redefinition (Brzezinski's?) absolutely no one in the NYT can ever be called "totalitarian", not even if they become totally fascistic, as long as the USA is not a totalitarian state. (Incidentally, precisely the same style has not - yet?!?! - been applied on the Wikipedia to the terms "fascism" and "communism": it seems that, according to the Wikipedia, one may - still?!?! - be a fascist or a communist without living in a fascist or a communist country. But not if one uses "totalitarian", as the Wikipedia has redefined it.)

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

Another encomium came this week from author Daniel Lazare, who pretty much summed it up:

“John Bolton is without doubt a dangerous man. Not only did he champion the war against Saddam Hussein, but, even before U.S. troops had set foot in Iraq, he told Israeli leaders that the next step would be to take out Syria, Iran, and North Korea, a goal he has pursued with single-minded consistency ever since. For Bolton, the aim is to create a growing cascade of Third World wars so as to propel the U.S. into a position as unchallenged military dictator of the entire globe.  The more numerous the conflicts, the more he’s convinced that the U.S. will come up on top.”

I take it this is correct, and this is a recommended article.

3. In Defense of Julian Assange and Free Speech

This article is by John Pilger on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

If it was ever clear that the case of Julian Assange was never just a legal case, but a struggle for the protection of basic human rights, it is now.

Citing his critical tweets about the recent detention of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Germany, and following pressure from the U.S., Spanish and U.K. governments, the Ecuadorean government has installed an electronic jammer to stop Assange from communicating with the outside world via the internet and phone. As if ensuring his total isolation, the Ecuadorean government is also refusing to allow him to receive visitors. Despite two U.N. rulings describing his detention as unlawful and mandating his immediate release, Assange has been effectively imprisoned since he was first placed in isolation in Wandsworth prison in London in December 2010. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish case against him collapsed and was withdrawn, while the United States has stepped up efforts to prosecute him. His only “crime” is that of a true journalist—telling the world the truths that people have a right to know.

I completely agree with John Pilger - and in fact this whole article is an open letter. Here is more:

Today, under extreme pressure from Washington and its collaborators, another government in Ecuador justifies its gagging of Assange by stating that Assange’s behavior, through his messages on social media, put at risk good relations that Ecuador has with the U.K., the rest of the EU and other nations.

This censorious attack on free speech is not happening in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or China; it is right in the heart of London. If the Ecuadorean government does not cease its unworthy action, it, too, will become an agent of persecution rather than the valiant nation that stood up for freedom and for free speech. If the EU and the U.K. continue to participate in the scandalous silencing of a true dissident in their midst, it will mean that free speech is indeed dying in Europe.

I again completely agree (and free speech is dying in Europe). Here is the last part I quote from this article:

This is not just a matter of showing support and solidarity. We are appealing to all who care about basic human rights to call on the government of Ecuador to continue defending the rights of a courageous free speech activist, journalist and whistleblower.

We ask that his basic human rights be respected as an Ecuadorean citizen and internationally protected person and that he not be silenced or expelled.

If there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us—regardless of the disparate opinions we hold.

I mostly agree with the above, but not quite, and mostly because I am also a logician: Clearly, it is not a necessary truth that "if there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us" - if only because "most of us" have not been abused as Julian Assange has been abused.

But I agree with the article and the open letter's intent, and I also name some signatories (though not all):

Signatories cover:

Jacob Appelbaum, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, John Kiriakou, Ray McGovern, Oliver Stone, Ai Weiwei

And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Trump Finds Fellow Bully in Bolton

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Nothing Donald Trump has done since his inauguration 14 months ago is more dangerous – to the United States, and indeed, to the world – than his selection of John Bolton for National Security Adviser. It is not surprising the president would feel most comfortable receiving advice from a fellow bully.
This is another article on Bolton, but this time it is an ordinary article, that also stresses other sides of Bolton's personality:

Trump’s fellow bully Bolton also engages in abusive behavior. Melody Townsel, working on a USAID project in Kyrgyzstan, became the object of Bolton’s wrath in 1994. Townsel had complained about incompetence, poor contract performance and inadequate funding of the project by a contractor Bolton represented.

In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Townsel wrote that Bolton “proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and generally behaving like a madman.” Townsel claimed Bolton threatened employees and contractors who refused to cooperate with him. She maintained Bolton’s behavior “wasn’t just unforgivable, it was pathological.”

I haven't seen Bolton's behavior, but based on other reports I have read about it, I think Bolton is not only a neoliberal neoconservative (which in many though not all cases reduces to neofascism) but he also is a sadist.

In case you doubt it, here is more:

Carl W. Ford, former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and a conservative Republican, called Bolton a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” who “abuses his authority with little people,” characterizing him as a “serial abuser.”

Then there is this:

But Bolton doesn’t just bully individuals. He pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, advocates military attacks on North Korea and Iran, favors Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, and falsely claimed that Cuba had biological weapons.

As undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security in the Bush administration, Bolton was instrumental in withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which heightened the risk of nuclear war with Russia.

Anthony J. Blinken, deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, wrote in The New York Times, “Mr. Bolton had a habit of twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and sought to remove anyone who objected.”

And there is this:

In 2002, Bolton orchestrated the ouster of Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to prevent him from inspecting and revealing that Hussein had no chemical weapons. When Bustani argued he should stay in the post, Bolton threatened, “You have to be ready to face the consequences, because we know where your kids live.”

Should I add that “You have to be ready to face the consequences, because we know where your kids live” sounds like a mafia threat?!

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

“Bolton is an unhinged advocate for waging World War III,” according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “Bolton now represents the greatest threat to the United States,” he added, stating, “Trump may have just effectively declared war on Iran.”

Parsi may well be right, and Bolton does not appear to be sane in the eyes of this psychologist, though I do not yet know how I would diagnose him. And this is a recommended article.

5. Under GOP Tax Law, Top 1% Get Extra $33,000 Per Year. The Poor? $40

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In its first analysis of how the GOP tax plan will affect Americans' personal income taxes alone, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) this week underscored what experts and most of the public already knew: that the Republican tax law will pour tens of thousands of extra dollars into pockets of the wealthy few while providing mere crumbs for the poor.

Specifically, according to TPC's new report, the top one percent of earners will receive an average annual tax cut of around $33,000 just from individual tax changes under the GOP law. The poorest Americans, by contrast, will see an average break of about $40 per year.

I say. In fact, the best I can do is copy a graphic, for this makes the differences very clear:

The Post published a visual of the disproportionate gains seen by those at the very top:

                                 Clicking the image leads to the source

As the Post's Jeff Stein noted in a breakdown of TPC's analysis on Friday, the tax break for the wealthiest is even larger—$51,140—when the corporate tax cuts and the reduction of the estate tax are factored in.
This is a strongly recommended article, that should show you who Trump is for (the very rich) and who he is against (everybody else).


[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 (!!).

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