June 12, 2018

Crisis: Neoliberal Fascism, Nuclear War, Trump-Kim Summit, Financial Elite, On U.S. Politics


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 12, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 12, 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 12, 2018:
1. The Nightmare of Neoliberal Fascism
2. Preventing Trump From Starting a Nuclear War
3. How Corporate Media Got the Trump-Kim Summit All Wrong
4. Here's What the Financial Elite Doesn’t Want You to Know
5. Republicans Lost Their Way Long Before Trump (But So Did the
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 Nightmare of Neoliberal Fascism

This article is by Mark Karlin on Truthout.

In fact, it is about Henry Giroux, who is 74 at the moment. It is also the last time he will appear in Nederlog, because I think he is a fraud in the same way as my professors of the "University" of Amsterdam were nearly all both frauds and incompetents (and most of them also were members
of the Dutch "Social Democrats", who are not social democrats at all, but rich elitarians with a "leftist" propaganda story).

I am sorry, but I wanted to give Giroux one more try. Here is why this was the last try. The article starts as follows:
Is there a chance to defeat the forces of neoliberal fascism? Henry A. Giroux explains why we must understand the historical and contemporary context of fascism to understand what we are up against.

Mark Karlin: Why is it important to have an historical understanding of fascism to shed light on the age of Trump?

Henry A. Giroux: The conditions leading to fascism do not exist in some ethereal space outside of history. Nor are they fixed in a static moment in the past. As Hannah Arendt reminds us, the protean elements of fascism always run the risk of crystallizing into new forms. Historical memory is a prerequisite to the political and moral witnessing necessary to successfully counter growing fascism in the United States today. As Richard Evans, the renowned historian of modern Germany, observes, the Trump administration may not replicate all the features of Germany and Italy in the 1930s, but the legacy of fascism is important because it echoes a “warning from history” that cannot be dismissed.
Reduced to more or less clear English: There is something like fascism in the USA and it helps to understand its history.

Here is more:
When selected elements of history are suppressed and historical consciousness and memory no longer provide insights into the workings of repression, exploitation and resistance, people are easily trapped in forms of historical and social amnesia that limit their sense of perspective, their understanding of how power works and the ways in which the elements of fascism sustain themselves in different practices. Fascism is not unvarying and expresses its most fundamental attacks on democracy in different arrangements, which is all the more reason for people to develop what Timothy Snyder calls “an active relationship to history” in order to prevent a normalizing relationship to authoritarian regimes such as the United States under Trump’s rule. Surely, a critical understanding of history would go a long way in enabling the American people to recognize the elements of a fascist discourse in much of Trump’s racist tweets, speeches and policies.
Reduced to more or less clear English: There is something like fascism in the USA and it helps to understand its history.

And here is the last bit that I quote from this article (in which there is a lot more, all in the same manner of "English"):
History unexpurgated provides us with a vital resource that helps inform the ethical ground for resistance, an antidote to Trump’s politics of disinformation, division, diversion and fragmentation. Moreover, history reminds us that in the face of emerging forms of authoritarianism, solidarity is essential. If there is one thing that the important lessons of history in the work of writers such as George Orwell have taught us, it is that we must refuse to be complicit in the mockery of truth.
Reduced to more or less clear English: "History unexpurgated" (?!) helps us to understand society.

As I said, there is a whole lot more, but it is all written or said in the same mode of "English".
I do not think Mr. Giroux is worth reading (and although he is 74 he also published a picture of himself in his early thirties in this very article - I take it that is a clear indication of his honesty). You may disagree, but this is the last time he occurred in Nederlog.

2. Preventing Trump From Starting a Nuclear War

This article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Last March at the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump joked, “I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un — I just won’t. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”

This may be the only genuinely funny thing Trump has ever said. And it was funny ’cause it’s true. Trump’s behavior toward North Korea in 2017 was berserk and terrifying. Equally so was his recent hiring of ultrahawk John Bolton — who believes it would be perfectly legal and admirable for the U.S. to attack North Korea right this second — as his national security adviser. Trump’s bombastic exchange of threats with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was a key reason why the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its “Doomsday Clock” to two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s ever been.

Yet the Washington, D.C., foreign policy “Blob” (as dubbed by Ben Rhodes, one of Barack Obama’s top aides) cannot perceive what’s right in front of its face – that the danger in this situation comes almost wholly from the United States in general and Trump in particular. Under these circumstances, Trump’s willingness to spurn the Blob and meet Kim in Singapore on Tuesday is an unmitigated good, and the only thing that matters about the outcome is whether it will place roadblocks between Trump and a catastrophic, potentially nuclear war.
In fact - as you very probably know - today Trump and Kim will meet in Singapore. I think both are dangerous men, but I agree with the last paragraph of Schwarz that I just quoted - and incidentally, if this develops into a nuclear war, then both Koreas will very probably be totally destroyed, and the Chinese will enter as well, with nuclear arms, and we all risk being killed soon.

Here is some more:

Daniel Ellsberg, famed for leaking the Pentagon Papers, began his career studying U.S. nuclear strategy at the RAND corporation. He recently published “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” which warns that the risk of humanity destroying itself with nuclear weapons is far higher than Americans understand. Ellsberg agrees entirely, and wholeheartedly” that the Blob’s handwringing is ludicrous. “I personally can’t imagine” says Ellsberg, “an agreement that would be worse — which would not be incomparably better — than a war with North Korea.”
I agree with Ellsberg, although I can imagine at least two situations that are even worse than an atomic war with North Korea: An atomic war with Russia or with China, and the last possibility is genuine as soon as there is an atomic war in North Korea.

Here is the ending of Schwarz's article:

We should all pray that Tuesday is the beginning of long, drawn-out negotiations — whether extremely successful or empty and fruitless — since as long as discussions continue in any form, it will be exceedingly difficult for Trump to mobilize the necessary support for war. Should we open 37 McDonald’s locations in Pyongyang? Invite Kim Jong Un to the Mar-a-Lago Christmas party? Ask him to host “Saturday Night Live”? Sure, why not. All that truly matters is that the world just holds on until the United States has another president.
Yes, I agree. And this is a recommended article.

3. How Corporate Media Got the Trump-Kim Summit All Wrong

This article is by Gareth Porter on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

For weeks, the corporate media have been saying that the Trump-Kim summit could have only two possible results: Either Trump will walk away angrily or Kim Jong Un will trick him into a deal in which he extracts concessions from Trump but never commits to complete denuclearization.

The idea that North Korea could not possibly agree to give up its nuclear weapons or its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) has become an article of faith among the journalists covering the issue for big media. Two themes that have appeared again and again in their coverage are that the wily North Koreans are “playing” Trump and that previous administrations had also been taken by North Korea after signing agreements in good faith.

Actually, I don't know. I read parts of The Guardian and parts of The New York Times every day and while I don't think either is a good or reliable paper, and both do belong to "the corporate media", I did not - quite - have Porter's impressions.

Next, here is Joel S. Wit, who is presented as "
One of the few Americans who can speak with authority on North Korea’s calculus regarding nuclear weapons":
Wit revealed in an article last month that the North Koreans had informed the American participants in those 2013 meetings that Kim was already anticipating negotiations with the United States in which North Korea would agree to give up nuclear weapons in return for steps by the United States that removed its threatening posture toward North Korea. Wit said his North Korean interlocutors had pointed to a June 2013 statement by the National Defense Commission of North Korea—the nation’s highest policymaking body—which they stated emphatically had been ordered by Kim himself to indicate a readiness to negotiate with the United States on denuclearization. The statement declared, “The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the behest of our leader” and “must be carried out . . . without fail.”
I am not much impressed by this because Kim is a dictator (as were his grandfather and his father), although I agree that - very probably - Kim knows that in any nuclear war he and most of North Korea will be be decimated by the USA, which indeed may make some difference in his policies.

Here is some more:

Kim has made major adjustments in the North Korean negotiating posture that prevailed when the 2013 meetings were held with nonofficial Americans. The North Koreans had insisted then that the United States would have to remove their troops from South Korea as part of any agreement, according to Wit. But that demand has now been dropped, as Moon told Trump in mid-April.

Kim also has frozen his entire nuclear weapons and ICBM programs by suspending testing and blowing up facilities and tunnels at its nuclear test facility in front of foreign journalists in advance of negotiations with the United States. What gives the freeze far-reaching significance is the fact that North Korea still has not shown that it has mastered the reentry technology or the guidance system necessary to have a convincing deterrent capability (...)
I think the main point in the above quotation is the last sentence. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Trump and Kim will be able to agree only on a broad statement of principles that reflect Pompeo’s meetings with the North Koreans, leaving significant differences remaining to be resolved in negotiations over the coming weeks. But this summit between what is surely the oddest couple in modern diplomatic history may well launch the most serious effort yet to end the U.S.-North Korean  conflict.
Well... let's hope so, indeed for the same reasons as Schwarz gave above. And this is a recommended article. 
4. Here's What the Financial Elite Doesn’t Want You to Know

This article is by Andrew O'Hehir on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It is about Yanis Varoufakis, whom O'Hehir depicts as little different from A Star. Here are some quotations that explain why O'Hehir thinks so:

Varoufakis argues that the entire Western economy has become a massive con game, on a scale thousands or millions of times larger than anything Bernie Madoff could have imagined. Furthermore, in his telling, it’s a con game run by intelligent and not necessarily malevolent people who understand perfectly well that the whole enterprise is a fraud that’s bound to come crashing down eventually. He says he knows that to be true because those people told him so, in the kinds of closed-door meetings where the uppermost level of the managerial caste discuss such things. That’s where the “Greek tragedy” enters the Greek tragedy: Those who supposedly control the system have instead become its prisoners.

Varoufakis is an economist, who tells O'Hehir's readers here that "the entire Western economy has become a massive con game", which he - Varoufakis - knows because some of his friends, who are also economists in leading positions in the academic or the political world "told him so".

I say. And it seems these same people in leading positions in the academic or the political world told Varoufakis that they are all guiltless: "the system" has made them "its prisoners".

Varoufakis believes all of that, and indeed also believes capitalism has ceased to be, or at least he says so. You may believe him, but I do not.

Here is more on the powerful insiders Varoufakis considers his friends and (it seems) equals:

He depicts powerful insiders whom many progressives would be inclined to view as duplicitous villains, like Summers or International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, in almost sympathetic terms. His title refers to an infamous remark by Lagarde during the final stages of the Greek crisis in June 2015, when she appeared to dismiss the left-wing government Varoufakis represented as children: “The key emergency is to restore the dialogue with adults in the room.” Despite that obvious insult, Varoufakis says he got along well with Lagarde personally.

You see, Larry Summers and Christine Lagarde are also not responsible for anything that happened (and he really likes them). In fact, what Varoufakis thinks about his friends is this (or so he says to O'Hehir):

It’s neither fair nor accurate, Varoufakis told me during our Salon Talks conversation last fall, to depict such people as scheming masterminds of the neoliberal economy, pulling the strings from atop capitalism’s equivalent of Mount Olympus. “What I experienced was people who were neither good nor bad trying to do their best under circumstances not of their own choosing,” he said, “and then using neoliberal narratives in order to justify themselves, ex post facto. The question is, if they were not in control, if they were powerful and at the same time powerless, what on Earth is going on? Who is running the shop?”

See? And no, Varoufakis does not answer his own question, but he does know one more thing, namely that capitalism ceased to be:

Capitalism collapsed in 2008, just as communism had collapsed in 1991 — the system we have now is something else

This is an argument Varoufakis has made many times, including in his 2011 book “The Global Minotaur.” As he expressed it to me, the financial crisis of 2008 led to “a wholesale collapse of what used to be called capitalism,” which has not recovered nearly as much as most people believe. What we have instead is an almost galactic-scale system of moving debt around to conceal the various flaws and shortfalls in the system. Varoufakis calls it “bankrupt-ocracy,” in which enormous but endangered or bankrupt financial institutions wield enormous power over the rest of society. “That’s not capitalism.”

See? You just should believe Varoufakis, and there is no more capitalism, also - or especially - not when "financial institutions wield enormous power over the rest of society": "That’s not capitalism." What capitalism is Varoufakis does not tell.

I am sorry, but I think Varoufakis has all the marks of a TV-star, and none of a decent thinker. He will also not figure in Nederlog anymore.

5. Republicans Lost Their Way Long Before Trump (But So Did the Democrats)

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

There's been a spate of articles about how Trump has "taken over" the Republican Party.  For example, New York Times columnist Charles Blow opened a recent column saying, "In one way, Donald Trump’s presidency has been a raging success: He stole a political party.” And former House Speaker John Bohner said, "There is no Republican Party. There's a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere."

The thing is, the Republican Party was taken over long ago, and Trump is merely the logical endpoint of that takeover. Moreover, the Democratic Party has also been taken over, and by the same cast of characters.

The fact that it took the election of a narcissistic reality show buffoon to get the media to acknowledge—albeit only reluctantly and tacitly—that the Republican Party is off the rails is one of the greatest stories never told. The fact that they think Trump is the one who did it is a sign of gross incompetence.

I more or less agree with this, indeed mostly because (i) I believe the present developments in capitalism are the consequences of changes that started under Reagan and Thatcher, and indeed in the USA in 1971, by Lewis Powell Jr., and because (ii) the mechanism for corrupting and destroying most of both the Republicans and the Democrats as politicians for those who elected them was the same: Plain corruption of most members of the House and the Senate (each of whom is surrounded by 10 personal lobbyists, it seems, who all try to sell them things).

Here is more:

While rich plutocrats had attempted an actual coup back in the early stages of Roosevelt’s administration, the blueprint for a far more subtle and sophisticated one appeared on August 23, 1971.  On that date, Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer who would soon become a Supreme Court Justice, gave a friend at the Chamber of Commerce a memo entitled, Attack On American Free Enterprise System. As with the previous coup, this one was issued in response to the popularity of the New Deal and the Great Society in general, and regulations limiting corporate power in particular.  Powell outlined a strategy to defend against the "attack" and to counter attack against "disquieting voices."  

The counter attack was a multi-billion dollar campaign funded by a few rich families and corporations who invested in this coup. They focused on: 1) creating a conservative infrastructure composed of foundations, think tanks, academic chairs, and media outlets; 2) discrediting government in general and regulations in particular, while glorifying free markets; and 3) developing sophisticated messaging to equip candidates and influence the public. In short, they set up to shape polls, change the national political dialogue, and virtually take the country over.

I think this is quite correct (and indeed for more you could read the entire Nederlog, although I think that is too much - a mere 400 MB - for anyone), as is the inference that the few rich succeeded tremendously, if indeed slowly and over the course of nearly forty years of - especially - deregulations.

Here is more:

A measure of their success is that we are now in the midst of the second longest period of economic growth in US history, but it features the least equitable distribution of economic gains in our nation's history. 

So, from the beginning, the coup sought to divide, distract, deceive, and dissemble in the interests of gaining an ever-larger share of wealth and power. A key component of their coup was to appeal to prejudice, racism, jingoism, sexism, and a host of other "isms" to keep folks from realizing that wealth wasn't trickling down; supply side strategies were merely enriching the rich; and that deregulating the financial community and the media, while gutting regulations protecting the environment, worker safety, food safety, and drug safety was hurting the vast majority of Americans while benefiting corporations and rich stockholders.

But this divide-and-conquer effort isn't new.  It began in earnest with Reagan (..)
I think this is also quite true, except indeed for speaking of a "coup", and that for a simple linguistic reason: A coup is a brief and sudden (attempted) radical (political) change, while the takeover of most of the powers by the rich for the rich did take quite a long time, and was not "a coup" simply for that reason: It did not happen suddenly; it took tens of years.

And I think it started in 1971 with Powell's memo, mentioned above. When it mostly finished is debatable.

Here is some more, that might suggest the few rich got most of the powers they wanted under Bill Clinton:

The only way Republicans could have gotten away with such an epic con, is if there were no one calling them on it.  And in fact, that's the case.  As noted, what little of the press hadn't been purchased outright by big corporations, neutered itself by a commitment to being "balanced"—as if fact and fiction could somehow be compromised into truth.

Not only did Democrats fail to take on the very obvious failings of the trickle-down, supply-side con, they embraced much of the right's agenda, beginning with the DLC sellout under Clinton.  As Thomas Frank has pointed out:

Clinton had five major achievements as president: NAFTA, the Crime Bill of 1994, welfare reform, the deregulation of banks and telecoms, and the balanced budget. All of them—every single one—were  longstanding Republican objectives.

Democrats did this because they’d become dependent upon campaign contributions from the ultra-rich and corporations.  In short, the coup captured both of the major parties.

I more or less agree (but it was not "a coup", simply because it did not happen suddenly). And this is a recommended article.


[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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