May 21, 2018

Crisis: Coming Collapse, Finkelstein on Gaza, Trump´s Idiocies, Steve Bannon, Clinton, Extra


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 21, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 21, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 21, 2018:
1. The Coming Collapse
2. Blacklisted Academic Norman Finkelstein on Gaza, “the World’s Largest
     Concentration Camp”

3. Trump Demands Inquiry Into Whether Justice Dept. ‘Infiltrated or
     Surveilled’ His Campaign

4. Steve Bannon Tried to Suppress Black Vote: Cambridge Analytica

5. Hillary Clinton is Now a Victim of ‘Socialists’
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 Coming Collapse

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.
I mostly agree. I date the radical changes that remade the USA into a paradise for and from the few rich as arising from two important sources: (i) the 1972 neofascistic program by Lewis F. Powell Jr. who called on the few rich to organize themselves against the many poor, and who succeeded, and (ii) the 1979 and 1980 elections of Thatcher and Reagan.

There are more reasons, but these two are the most important ones. Here is more, on the Democratic Party:
The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior. Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.
I think all this is quite reasonable, and the link on inverted totalitarianism that Chris Hedges gives is quite justified. Here is also a link to a Nederlog I wrote in the end of 2014, that links to the same series of interviews that Hedges had with Sheldon Wolin in 2014. 

This is a fine series of interviews that is strongly recommended. And here is more on the Democrats:
This is a doomed tactic, but one that is understandable. The leadership of the party, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, are creations of corporate America. In an open and democratic political process, one not dominated by party elites and corporate money, these people would not hold political power. They know this. They would rather implode the entire system than give up their positions of privilege. And that, I fear, is what will happen. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a bulwark against despotism defies the last three decades of its political activity. It is the guarantor of despotism.
Yes, I agree - and both Clintons seem to have amassed $120 million, mostly from talks to extremely rich bankers, and by selling their autobiographies. And yes, this started with Bill Clinton´s corruptions, in the 1990ies, that continued Reagan´s corruptions.

Here is some on Trump and Albright:

Trump, like all despots, has no ethical core. He chooses his allies and appointees based on their personal loyalty and fawning obsequiousness to him. He will sell anyone out. He is corrupt, amassing money for himself—he made $40 million from his Washington, D.C., hotel alone last year—and his corporate allies. He is dismantling government institutions that once provided some regulation and oversight. He is an enemy of the open society. This makes him dangerous. His turbocharged assault on the last vestiges of democratic institutions and norms means there will soon be nothing, even in name, to protect us from corporate totalitarianism.

But the warnings from the architects of our failed democracy against creeping fascism, Madeleine Albright among them, are risible. They show how disconnected the elites have become from the zeitgeist. None of these elites have credibility.
I mostly agree, although Albright may have been more or less honest, indeed behind a whole lot of falsity and posturing.

There is considerably more, all well done, and it ends as follows:
As a foreign correspondent I covered collapsed societies, including the former Yugoslavia. It is impossible for any doomed population to grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion. All the harbingers of collapse are visible: crumbling infrastructure; chronic underemployment and unemployment; the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police; political paralysis and stagnation; an economy built on the scaffolding of debt; nihilistic mass shootings in schools, universities, workplaces, malls, concert venues and movie theaters; opioid overdoses that kill some 64,000 people a year; an epidemic of suicides; unsustainable military expansion; gambling as a desperate tool of economic development and government revenue; the capture of power by a tiny, corrupt clique; censorship; the physical diminishing of public institutions ranging from schools and libraries to courts and medical facilities; the incessant bombardment by electronic hallucinations to divert us from the depressing sight that has become America and keep us trapped in illusions. We suffer the usual pathologies of impending death. I would be happy to be wrong. But I have seen this before. I know the warning signs. All I can say is get ready.
I more or less agree, with two additions:

First, I agree that the system - capitalism, as changed from the 1970ies onwards in extreme capitalism for the rich only in the USA - seems to be collapsing, but I do not know when (and Hedges has warned of an impending collapse before).

And second, I also think a major collapse is necessary to escape the fate of terroristic neofascism for all but the few rich, in the style of the 1890s till 1930, when the rich also had assembled most of the power, until the depression of Wall Street in 1929.

The -  very great - difference is that this time both the few rich and the states´ terrorists that assemble as ¨national securities¨ know everything about anyone, while no one else does (and I do not even know the real names of anonymous offenders). This is one of the most dangerous developments in history, for it enables the very few to have power forever.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Blacklisted Academic Norman Finkelstein on Gaza, “the World’s Largest Concentration Camp”

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts as follows - and I will be quoting only from the introduction to this fine interview:

Israel has once again conducted a premeditated, full-scale massacre in broad daylight, in front of the cameras of the world. Once again, it took place in Gaza.

On May 14, Israeli snipers and other forces gunned down more than 60 Palestinians, and wounded thousands of others, including civilians, journalists, and paramedics. “You try nonlethal means and they don’t work,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “So you’re left with bad choices. It’s a bad deal. You know, you try and you go for below the knee, and sometimes it doesn’t work, and unfortunately these things are avoidable.”

It appears that the only way not to be killed, according to Netanyahu, is to meekly accept imprisonment inside the prison of Gaza. Among those killed by Israeli forces was an 8-month-old infant. Her name was Laila al-Ghandour. They also killed at least seven other children and a man in a wheelchair, and that man had lost his legs after they had to be amputated following an earlier Israeli attack.

Israel has made it clear that it believes that it has the right to systematically murder Palestinians for the crime of continuing to exist. There is no defense for what Israel has done. None.

Yes, indeed. I agree (and I totally give up on Israel under Nethanyahu). Then there is this on the ambassador in the U.N. Nikki Haley:

On Tuesday, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley brought plenty of blame to pass around at the Security Council for the deaths of unarmed Palestinians. She blamed Iran. She blamed Hamas. She blamed the Palestinians who protested. But Nikki Haley placed no blame on Israel. “This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake — Hamas is pleased with the results,” she said. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

After Nikki Haley blamed the Palestinians for murdering themselves with Israeli snipers, she wouldn’t even listen to the Palestinian delegation at the U.N. She walked out when they began speaking.

I agree with Scahill. Here is the last bit that I quote from this introduction to a fine interview with Norman Finkelstein:

Never in modern history has there been such a merciless, sustained campaign of collective punishment like the one that Israel has meted out against the people of Gaza. And that punishment is horrifying enough, just when you consider the humanitarian consequences of the blockade and the poisoning of the environment and the water supply. But then add to that the regular massacres of people literally trapped between the sea and a nuclear-armed nation-state, with the most advanced mass-killing machinery on the planet and you have to ask: What does Israel really want? And the answer, it seems, is submission and acceptance of dehumanization by the Palestinians or they die.

I mostly agree, and this is followed by a long and good interview with Finkelstein, that I leave to your interests. This is a strongly recommended article.

3. Trump Demands Inquiry Into Whether Justice Dept. ‘Infiltrated or Surveilled’ His Campaign

This article is by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Adam Goldman on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
President Trump on Sunday demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the department or the F.B.I. “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign at the behest of the Obama administration, following through on his frequent threats to intervene in the special counsel inquiry as he targets those he views as political enemies.

Mr. Trump made the order on Twitter during a day of public venting about the special counsel investigation, which he charged had turned up no evidence of collusion with Russia and was now casting a worldwide net so that it could harm Republicans’ chances in midterm congressional elections this fall.

But in ordering up a new inquiry, Mr. Trump went beyond his usual tactics of suggesting wrongdoing and political bias by those investigating him, and crossed over into applying overt presidential pressure on the Justice Department to do his bidding, an extraordinary realm where past presidents have hesitated to tread.

The neofascist Trump who leads the neofascistic USA is getting more and more insane. In case you wonder about my explanation, here it is from the article:

Legal experts said such a presidential intervention had little precedent, and could force a clash between the sitting president and his Justice Department that would be reminiscent of the one surrounding Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, when a string of top officials resigned rather than carry out his order to fire a special prosecutor investigating him.

Yes indeed, but there were two major differences in the case of Nixon:

First of all, there were many more non-corrupted Democrats then in the Senate and the House, and second, the Republicans did not have the power in the Senate and the House.

I do not know what difference this makes precisely, but it is no good for real democrats (of which there are to my knowledge precisely two among the so-called Democratic Party: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

While most presidents who have faced investigations have responded with increased discretion to avoid being seen as trying to influence the outcome, Mr. Trump has dispensed with any notion that he is not trying to do so. He and his aides have branded the investigation a witch hunt and a hoax, called for an end to it, and tried to set its boundaries, and now the president has ordered a review of how it was handled.

“I can’t think of a prior example of a sitting president ordering the Justice Department to conduct an investigation like this one,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “That’s little more than a transparent effort to undermine an ongoing investigation.”

I agree with Vladeck and this is a recommended article.
4. Steve Bannon Tried to Suppress Black Vote: Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower

This article is by Rachel Leah on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower and a former employee of the firm, told Congress Wednesday that the company ran voter suppression campaigns, which targeted black Americans and other liberal demographic groups. He said that those orders came from Steve Bannon, former chief executive of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and later Chief Strategist in the Trump White House.

"Mr. Bannon sees cultural warfare as the means to create enduring change in American politics. It was for this reason Mr. Bannon engaged SCL (Cambridge Analytica's parent company), a foreign military contractor, to build an arsenal of informational weapons he could deploy on the American population," Wylie told CNN after the hearing, adding that "voter disengagement tactics" were used to "discourage or demobilize certain types of people from voting" — specifically, African-Americans.

Yes indeed: quite so. And in fact I agree with more than is stated in the above quotation, for I think that the combination Cambridge Analytica + Facebook + Bannon (who was Trump´s chief strategist during the elections) is a credible explanation for why Clinton lost to Trump.

Here is more from this article:

Political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was partly funded by right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer; Bannon was the firm's vice president until he joined the Donald Trump campaign, which then hired the firm to help win the 2016 election. In March, Wylie came forward and claimed that Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested personal information from some 50 million Facebook users to try to manipulate voters.

"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles," Wylie told the Observer. "And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on."

Quite so - except that it seems Cambridge Analytica harvested over 80 million - mostlt American - sets of personal information from Facebook. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Hillary Clinton is Now a Victim of ‘Socialists’

This article is by Paul Street on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Hillary Clinton’s take on “what happened” in the 2016 election is a running tale of victimization. She was the casualty of FBI Director James Comey and of Vladimir Putin and WikiLeaks. She was unjustly loathed by that “basket” of racist, sexist, nativist, and homophobic “deplorables” that is supposedly the American “heartland,” white working-class and rural population – people she recently painted (at an elite globalist gathering in Mumbai, India) as a bunch of “pessimistic,” slow-witted and retrograde losers. She was victimized by Bernie Sanders, who (Hillary complained) wasn’t even a “real Democrat” but had the unmitigated chutzpah to let his primary campaign challenge her prearranged coronation as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.
I think that is all quite correct, and I want to explain something about there being no links in the extracts I made: There are no links because it is copied from Consortiumnews to text (which removes all links) and only then to html.

The reason is that Consortiumnews was by Robert Parry, who recently died and was followed up by some family members - and these plant spans everywhere in their html, which I am forced to remove if I want to quote html, and I decided to stop being a fool doing that: As long as the texts are abused on Consortiumnews, I will quote only texts, and not html.

So here is the second and last bit I quote from this article:
Never mind the series of stupid, arrogant, and largely unforced errors that crippled her uninspiring and policy-bereft insider campaign that was under her command. And never mind her own epic unpopularity before and during the campaign – disapproval earned over her many years of functioning as a cold and transparently elitist Establishment agent of the wealthy corporate and financial Few.

Now the endlessly put-upon (yet fabulously wealthy) and eye-rolling Hillary has found some more scapegoats for her epic fail: first, “socialists” in the activist cadres and primary and caucus electorate of the Democratic Party, then younger voters, and finally greedy corporate chieftains whose greed has turned good Democrats into “socialists.” The “lying neoliberal warmonger” says she was victimized because of her identification as a “capitalist” after big business executives’ have sadly given capitalism a bad name—especially with young people.
I agree all of this was utter bullshit by Hilary Clinton. And yes, Street is quite right that Hilary + Bill are ¨fabulously wealthy¨, for they seem to have collected around $120 million dollars, mostly from selling their words to megarich bankers, or so it seems (for this is of course carefully kept secret by the Clintons).

And this is a strongly recommended article.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit in the crisis series. I did so before a few times. Today is another time and the reason is Maarten van Rossem, who is Dutch, a historian, and a - local, Dutch - ¨expert on the USA¨ (translated from the Dutch). As regular readers probably noticed, I don´t write Dutch anymore in Nederlog, mostly because I have given up on Holland.

But this is a good bit of Dutch, with which I mostly quite agree:
This is a strongly recommended article for all readers of Dutch who want a decent explanation for the collapse of democracy in the USA.

[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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