May 29, 2018

Crisis: Allan Nairn, 1968, Hedges, Trump´s Tax Cuts, America´s Megalomaniac, Extra Bit


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 29, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 29, 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 29, 2018:
1. Allan Nairn on How Trump Dragged a Rightist Revolution to Power
2. 1968: A Look Back at the My Lai Massacre, MLK’s Assassination,
     Columbia Protests & Catonsville Nine

3. Teaching ‘Les Misérables’ in Prison
4. One Dire Prediction for Trump’s Tax Cuts Is Already Coming True
5. America’s Megalomaniac
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. Allan Nairn on How Trump Dragged a Rightist Revolution to Power

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump has been in office 16 months. And the majority of media hours and column inches spent on his administration deal primarily with the Russia investigation, Stormy Daniels, and Trump’s personnel intrigue. It’s not that there isn’t great journalism being done on other issues. It’s that this narrow set of stories consume much of the energy and are on constant repeat pretty much everywhere in corporate media, except for FOX, which generally broadcasts from an alternate reality.

On Intercepted, we have found it useful to occasionally step back from the daily grind of the Trump presidency and take stock of where we are and how we got here. My friend and colleague Allan Nairn is one of the sharpest analysts of the modern history of the American empire. As a journalist, he has played a significant role in exposing the U.S. involvement and sponsorship of brutal regimes and security forces around the globe.
Yes indeed: I think it is a good idea to ¨occasionally step back from the daily grind¨, and in fact would welcome considerably more of the same - that is, if it were done by fine journalists like Jeremy Scahill or Allan Nairn.

Here is a longer quotation than is normal in Nederlog. It also is from the beginning of the article, and I quote it because Nairn has quite similar ideas about Trump´s background as I have.

Here they are:

JS: One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is I really get the sense, paying attention to the New York Times, Washington Post, major media outlets, that we seldom as a society step back and sort of say, “What’s the bigger picture of what has happened under Trump on a foreign policy level, on a domestic level, setting this in the context of broader American history?”

How do you assess where we are a year and a half into the Trump presidency?

AN: Well, Trump dragged a rightist revolution into power. It’s the Paul Ryan agenda which could never have gotten elected in its own right, because it’s anathema to most Americans — slashing Medicare, slashing social security, transferring trillions of dollars from the working people, and even the poor and the middle class to the very rich. Mitt Romney kind of tried to run on that and failed. Ryan, in his own right, could never get elected president. But Trump, with his genius for unleashing the beast in white America, touching these deep chords of racism that succeeded in turning a crucial number of previous white Obama voters into Trump voters, precisely, in large part, because of his racist appeals and his appeals to fear.

He succeeded in dragging the Republican Party into the White House with a minority of the votes. And this is a Republican Party that is one of the most radical mainstream political parties in all of American history, perhaps with the exception of the pro-secessionist Democrats at the time of the Civil War. And they’ve been in there, they’ve been implementing a rightist revolution, doing the massive transfer of wealth in part via the tax bill, but also an important part by systematically, agency by agency, trying to gut the constraints on large corporations and the oligarchs, regarding the environment, their treatment of labor, their ability to discriminate, their ability to commit fraud without fear of being sued by the public, increasing the rights of rich individuals to intervene in politics, decreasing the rights of collectives of working people to intervene in politics, like the Gorsuch-led Supreme Court decision just the other day, inhibiting the ability of workers to file class-action lawsuits against their employers.

It’s a systematic program that’s been in the works since 1980, really. In a sense, it dates back to the old Powell memorandum, where Powell, who later joined the Supreme Court, said we, the representatives of the rich, we’ve got to fight back against this new environmental movement, against this consumer movement, against the labor movement, and also implicitly against the Civil Rights movement. “These people have been making too many gains, we’ve got to organize ourselves.”

And they did! They created Heritage, and this whole other elaborate apparatus, and later the Koch Brothers came in, and they created ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. They sent people down to the state legislature. And they’ve been working on this program for decades.

Quite so (and I added the links) ¨It’s a systematic program that’s been in the works since 1980, really. In a sense, it dates back to the old Powell memorandum, where Powell, who later joined  the Supreme Court, said we, the representatives of the rich, we’ve got to fight back against this new environmental movement, against this consumer movement, against the labor movement, and also implicitly against the Civil Rights movement. “These people have been making too many gains, we’ve got to organize ourselves.”

Then there is this (spoken by Allan Nairn) on the freedom of the press in the USA, that - still, at least - exists and is being used, versus what MSNBC and CNN are doing with the freedom of the press: Dump it and go after ¨Russia-gate¨, which is utter bullshit according to any well-informed source I read in the last two years:

So, almost everything, almost every atrocity committed in the U.S. system is on the public record somewhere, it’s somewhere in a library, it’s somewhere in a posting on the Internet, somebody has done a good investigative piece on it. It’s all out there somewhere.

But unless it’s repeated, hammered away, day after day, on the big media outlets, it may be on the public record but it’s not in the public consciousness. And that’s all that matters in politics: What is in the public consciousness? And those that set the rhythm of repetition that determine the public consciousness — in this case, the media outlets like MSNBC and CNN, which today play an absolutely central role, even more important than the old Walter Cronkite broadcast back in the ’60s and ’70s, and [Dan] Rather in the ’80s, ’90s — they have seized on this Russia scandal as their theme. They want to attack Trump. They want to go after Trump. But they devote vast portions of their airtime to speculation about this Russiagate scandal, to the exclusion of hammering away on all these other themes about the outright decimation and crushing and theft of the American working class at the hands of this administration.

I´d say: more or less. Here are two points of mine.

The first is on ¨the public consciousness¨, which is not being reached by what´s in the public record but by what is on ¨the big media outlets¨:

If you say this, it means that what you are saying is that ¨the public consciousness¨ these days consists of people with a maximum IQ of 115 (this was the average IQ in 1984 of the students at the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam) and a high school diploma, who gather (functionally anonymous, often) on Facebook, where there are about 2 billion more of these folks, of whom hardly anyone has the intellect to write their own sites in html, but who now are all promoted to be ¨publishers¨, and who mainly read as ¨news¨ what their billions of fellows regard as ¨news¨, and who commonly react to that in Tweet-length ¨ideas¨ full of the grossest scoldings and insults.

I am sorry: I despise Facebook, but I fear its extremely low standards (set by billions of the most stupid folks) may be the standards of the future - which means that I am extremely glad to have been born in 1950 instead of later.

My second point is about Nairn´s ¨They want to attack Trump. They want to go after Trump. But they devote vast portions of their airtime to speculation about this Russia-gate scandal¨:

No, not after more than one and a half years of continuous Russia-gate baloney: That is not dictated by the MSNBC´s and CNN´s blindness to the facts; that is dictated by precisely the same norm as made CBS give millions of free airtime to Trump before the elections: That CBS would get financially a lot better of it. (And they were quite right: They may have given Trump enough votes to win the elections, but they did get financially a lot better from it).

And here is Nairn (still quoting from near the beginning) on Russia-gate:

AN: I’d say: Pursue it, investigate it and then put it on the front burner when you’ve got the facts nailed down. Look, Trump is a guy who’s guilty of almost everything, in a meaningful sense. Yet, here, the Democrats have pinned the political future of the world on nailing him for the one thing of which he may in fact be innocent: Russia collusion. I mean, he’s guilty of just about everything else.

I agree - and I note as an aside that Cambridge Analytica + Steve Bannon are FAR more likely candidates that explain how Trump could win the elections than ¨Russia-gate¨. But this does not seem to be taken up by Mueller (?!?!?).

And this is (after skipping a whole lot) from near the end, about the facts about torturing people as organized by the USA:

Because the Obama ban and the actual Haspel activities related to torture committed by actual U.S. citizens, actual U.S. personnel, be they CIA or be they military, who are the ones who lay the hands on the torture victim and do the waterboarding, or the suffocation, or the burning, or the cutting, or whatever.

In fact, in the vast majority of cases it is not directly U.S. citizens who do it, it’s U.S. clients. So it’s personnel from Thai intelligence, from Israeli intelligence, from the Palestinian Authority, from Libya, from Syria, from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from Colombia, from the Philippines, from Indonesia, et cetera, et cetera, cetera, on through dozens of countries, where the U.S. has sponsored, armed, paid for, trained and often, in cases of interrogation, directly supervised foreign nationalists as they carry out interrogations using torture, sometimes with questions fed to them by the American personnel.

Precisely so. And this is a strongly recommended article, which has a lot more than I quoted.

2. 1968: A Look Back at the My Lai Massacre, MLK’s Assassination, Columbia Protests & Catonsville Nine

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts as follows:
Today, in this holiday special, we look back at 1968—a pivotal year in modern American history. It was a year that saw the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, historic student strikes from Columbia to San Francisco State, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Chicago Democratic convention protests and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Over the next hour, we will air highlights from our recent coverage of four key events: the My Lai massacre, the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Columbia student strike and the Catonsville Nine.
I say, which I do because this seems a very good idea, especially on Democracy Now! (which is factually a great lot better and clearer than MSNBC, CNN etc.)

And I think I should add that I was 18 in 1968, and indeed recall each and every fact that got mentioned in the above list (as a -  quite leftist - Dutchman). Then again, I do not have much of an idea how these stories of 1968 strike the people who were born in 2000 (in part because I am childless because I am ill since 1.1.1979 with - what I am only since 2018 allowed to say - ¨a serious chronic disease¨, that ¨a mere 40 years¨ has been denied to exist by virtually all medical people).

Anyway... here is one other bit:

AMY GOODMAN: Today, in this Democracy Now! special, we go back 50 years, to 1968, a pivotal year in modern American history, a year that saw the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, historic student strikes from Columbia University to San Francisco State, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Chicago Democratic convention protests and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Over the next hour, we’ll air highlights from our recent coverage of four key events, including the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Columbia student strike and the Catonsville Nine. But we begin in Vietnam.

Fifty years ago, on March 16, 1968, U.S. soldiers slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese women, children and old men, in what became known as the My Lai massacre. Women were raped. Houses were burned. Bodies were mutilated. Then the U.S. military attempted to keep the massacre a secret. In March, survivors of the massacre gathered at the site to describe the horror of what happened on that day, 50 years ago, in 1968.

This is a fine article with lots of quotations. It is strongly recommended to everybody (and not just to those who can remember 1968 very well, to which I belong).

O, and incidentally (being a European): In Europe there was the enormous explosion of May´68 (that I also attended, both in May and in June of 1968) and worldwide there were very many protests as well: See Protests of 68.

3. Teaching ‘Les Misérables’ in Prison

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

I spent the last four months teaching Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel “Les Misérables” at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey. My students—like Hugo’s main character, Jean Valjean, who served 19 years in prison—struggle with shame, guilt, injustice, poverty and discrimination, and yearn for redemption and transformation. The novel gave them a lens to view their lives and a ruling system every bit as cruel as Hugo’s 19th-century France.

Les Misérables” was wildly successful when it was published, including among Civil War soldiers in the United States, although Hugo’s condemnation of slavery was censored from Confederate copies. It was American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs’ favorite book—he read it in French. The socialist British Prime Minister Lloyd George said “Les Misérables” taught him more about poverty and the human condition than anything else he had ever read and instilled in him a lifelong ambition “to alleviate the distress and the suffering of the poor.” Hugo’s novel, however, enraged the ruling elites. It was panned by French critics. Copies were burned in Spain. Pope Pius IX put it on the church’s list of banned books, along with “Madame Bovary” and all the novels of Stendhal and Honoré de Balzac.

I say. I think this is a good idea - and indeed Chris Hedges these days also is a minister.

Incidentally, I am saying this is a good idea while I am not a strong believer in the efficacy or indeed the science of educating people - formally, in classes, with exams - to read novels: I think novels should be read and should be known, but I also think that nearly everything I have read from things called ¨Literature¨ in universities was trashy.

Then again, Chris Hedhes is certainly not trashy, and the people he is teaching are special in the following sense:

My students will spend their lives condemned as felons. They, like Valjean, will never completely wash away the mark of Cain. Transformation, even when it occurs, will not free them from the criminal caste system. Transformation must be carried out not for what it will achieve, for often it will achieve nothing, or how it will be perceived, for most of the wider society will not perceive it. Transformation is about making peace with yourself. It is about obeying your conscience, which Hugo equates with the divine. It is about never living at the expense of another. Transformation is about rising above the hatred many feel, with justification, for a society that has betrayed them.

I think this is correct, and I leave the rest of the article to your interests. It is recommended.

4. One Dire Prediction for Trump’s Tax Cuts Is Already Coming True

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Six months after Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 into law, “the days of most people getting a pay raise are over.” Those are the findings of a disturbing new report from Axios, which also notes that major corporations are planning on cutting their respective payrolls, despite having secured trillions in savings from Republican legislators.

During a conference held Thursday at the Dallas Fed, several of the country’s leading CEOs were asked if they had any plans to use their collective tax windfall to increase wages. Their answers, according to Axios’ Steve LeVine, were “candid and bracing.”

“It’s just not going to happen,” Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages Florida Troy Taylor told the discussion’s moderator. “Absolutely not in my business.”

Well... Jacob Sugarman very probably is correct when he calls the report from Axios ¨disturbing¨, but it is not for me, for the simple reason that I never believed in ¨trickling down¨ (that is: in the riches of the rich trickling down to take care of the poor: utter bullshit). In fact this was merely the lie that made the rich even richer than they are by cutting their taxes.

And there is this about what CEOs earn these days:

Meanwhile, the chasm separating the incomes of corporate executives from rank-and-file laborers has never yawned wider. Thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which requires major corporations to compare the earnings of CEOs with median-compensation employees, we now know it would take workers at companies like Walmart and Time Warner centuries, even millennia, to match the annual salaries of their higher-ups.

Last week, The New York Times highlighted six outrageous CEO pay packages
that help put this gap in perspective. They include disgraced casino mogul Stephen Wynn, whose $34,522,695 income totaled 909 times that of an average Wynn Resorts staffer; First Data CEO Frank Bisignano, whose compensation was $102,210,396, or 2028 times that of his employees; and former Mattel CEO Margaret Georgiadis, whose $31,275,289 salary registered at 4,987 times that of her workers. 

I think the people named and listed are extremely obscene thieves of millions, and it is one of the reasons why I am for socialism in which the rich do not and cannot earn legally more than 20 times of what the poor earn, and to insist that greed should be controlled by LAW. And this is a recommended article.

5. America’s Megalomaniac

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

I spent last week at a conference in South Korea, during which time Trump went from seeking a meeting with Kim Jong Un to cancelling it, then suggesting it might be back on. 

“What does Trump want?” South Korean officials at the conference kept asking me. Notably, no one asked what the United States wants. They knew it was all about Trump. 

Trump’s goal has nothing to do with peace on the Korean peninsula, or even with making America great again. It’s all about making Trump feel great.

“They are respecting us again,” Trump exulted to graduating cadets at the Naval Academy last Friday. “Winning is such a great feeling, isn’t it? Nothing like winning. You got to win.”

Well... I think I agree with Reich that Trump seems to love dancing with military shoes on the faces of those he beat, but then I am thinking now, and since more than two years, and as a psychologist, that Trump is both a madman and a neofascist.

I think Reich and I agree that Trump is a madman. In fact, I think that the best term for Trump´s madness is ¨megalomania¨.

But then I am also a psychologist (and a philosopher), and I know a lot more about psychology than Reich does, while I may have more experience with doctors than he has. And if I don´t (for Reich has a genetical disorder, which must have cost him a lot of trouble and pain), I certainly have more experiences with doctors who pretend they know you are a madman (for 40 years, and so is your wife, for she has the same disease), while in fact they know shit about your ¨serious chronic disease¨ - since 2018 (!!!) -  and are lying to you and abusing you and totally refusing to help you with anything you ask: ¨There is the hole of the door!¨ as the medic who was part of the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam told me, around 1982.

And as a psychologist I know that Wikipedia has been given to the psychiatrists of the APA - which is a professional organization of frauds, liars, deceivers and pseudoscientists: THESE total assholes and total pseudoscientists now determine what psychiatry is supposed to mean (in an encyclopedia intended for all men, and not just for fraudulent pseudo- scientists), and indeed these pseudoscientists also succeeded in banning the whole term ¨megalomania¨ (proper English since the 1890ies) from Wikipedia, and replacing this by ¨narcissism¨. (The term still was on Wikipedia a few years ago.)

For me - who has been persecuted for 40 years with the bullshit diagnosis that my complaints, and those of my ex, who also is ill for 40 years, were ¨psychosomatic¨ (which is not even a medical diagnosis) - this (and much more besides, that I won´t mention here and now) is that the Wikipedia is sick and corrupt (and probably is abused by rich corporations in secret - like the APA, that makes hundreds of millions out of its lies).

Here is more by Reich on Trump:

The only thing that’s happened is Trump is now making foreign policy on his own – without America’s allies, without Congress, even without the State Department. Trump may consider this a personal win but it hardly makes America safer.

Some earnest foreign policy experts are seeking to discover some bargaining strategy behind Trump’s moves on North Korea. Hint: There’s no strategy. Only a thin-skinned narcissist needing flattery and fearing ridicule.

Yes, I agree with Reich (and ¨narcissism¨ is what you get if you enter ¨megalomania¨ in the Wikipedia, because some psychiatrist around 1968 said it was the better term: the psychiatri- zation of English).

And here is Reich on Trump and the media:

As you may have noticed, the man doesn’t like to be criticized. As Trump explained to Leslie Stahl of “60 Minutes” during his campaign, his aim is “to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

Trump - who is a madman - will try to ¨discredit¨ and ¨demean¨ everyone who writes anything about him that Trump does not like. The president of the USA! Talking to the press about the press!

Here is the end of Reich´s article:

If peace is truly advanced on the Korean peninsula, the Prize shouldn’t go to Trump. It should go to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who has tirelessly courted the world’s two most dangerous megalomaniacs.

Yes, I quite agree.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit in the crisis series. I did so before a few times. And the following article is quite good, although I fear it is only for the mathematically interested. It is by mathematician
Peter Woit:
It starts as follows:

Jim Holt has a new book out, a collection of essays entitled When Einstein Walked with Gödel. I wrote enthusiastically about his last book (Why Does the World Exist?) here and, if you have any interest at all in the overlap of mathematics, science and philosophy, I recommend this one just as highly. Holt is pretty much a unique example of someone able to regularly write about topics in this area in a manner that is both enlightening and entertaining.

This is a book of essays written on different topics for different venues, of too great a variety to try and itemize here. Most of them have some sort of connection to mathematics and philosophy, typically centering on one idea or one, often historical, figure.
I say, which I do this time because I do have a strong ¨interest (..) in the overlap of mathematics, science and philosophy¨, and while I do not know Jim Holt, I am quite ready to believe Woit´s recommendation of his book.

There is also this in the article:

One of the essays included here is a slightly edited and updated version of a review of my book and Lee Smolin’s written back in 2006 for the New Yorker (my blog post about it is here). Of the many reviews of these books at that time, Holt’s seems to me the most accurate and insightful take on the two books and the issues they were trying to address.

For a very well-executed review of the new book at the New York Times, see here. Jerry Alper has an interview and discussion of the book here.

Bonus micro-review: Another book I just finished reading is Errol Morris’s The Ashtray, which is also about philosophy and science. Morris, one of my favorite filmmakers, started out a career as a Ph.D. student of Thomas Kuhn’s, and that did not go well. For more about the book, see reviews here and here.
In fact, I am regularly following Woit because I agree with him (and Feynman, and some others) about the metaphysics that string theory has imported into physics: I think it is nonsense (as do Woit and Smolin), and while I am certainly neither a physicist nor a mathematician, I am a philosopher with serious interests in both (and some capacities also, that would have been a lot more dominant were it not for the fact that I am ill since 40 years).

Finally, I also like it a lot that Woit likes Errol Morris. I followed some articles by Morris in Nederlog, mostly because he had studied with Kuhn and thought the same about Kuhn as I concluded a few years later: He is a clever con-man (who threw an ashtray at Morris, because Morris criticized Kuhn). So this is a strongly recommended article, although only the mathematically interested will care to read it.


[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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