June 18, 2018

Crisis: On Bernie Sanders, Children In Cages, Mental Health, Trump Cult, ¨Vietnam War¨


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 18, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 18, 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 18, 2018:
1. Et Tu, Bernie?
2. Hundreds of Children Wait in Cages in Texas Warehouse
3. Eon McLeary and Manuel Ruiz on Documentary 'The Work' and Mental
     Health in Prison

4. The Psychology Behind the Trump Cult
5. Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
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. Et Tu, Bernie?

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

There are two versions of Bernie Sanders. There is the old Bernie Sanders, who mounted a quixotic campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination as a democratic socialist who refused corporate cash and excoriated corporate Democrats. And there is the new Bernie Sanders, who dutifully plays by the party’s rules, courts billionaires, refused to speak out in support of the lawsuit brought against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for rigging the primaries against him and endorses Democratic candidates who espouse the economic and political positions he once denounced.

Sanders’ metamorphosis began in December 2015 when he saw the groundswell of support for his candidacy and thought he could win the nomination. He dropped the fiery, socialist rhetoric that first characterized his campaign—he had given whole speeches on democratic socialism shortly after he announced his candidacy in May 2015. He hired establishment Democratic Party consultants such as Ted Devine, who, ironically, played a role in the creation of the superdelegates that helped fix the nomination victory of Hillary Clinton. He would spend tens of millions of the some $230 million he raised during the campaign on professional consultants. When it was clear he would lose, Sanders and his influential campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, began coordinating closely with the Clinton campaign. By May of 2016, Sanders had muted his criticisms of Clinton and surrendered to the Democratic Party machine. He has been an obedient servant of the party establishment ever since.

I say, for I did not know everything that Hedges says here. In fact, I knew little of this, although I did know that there are several versions of Sanders. Also, while I trust Chris Hedges more than I do Bernie Sanders, indeed simply on the basis of what I do know about their lives, which is meanwhile considerable (and much more so than it would have been before internet), I also do not trust Chris Hedges unconditionally.

So let´s see. First my attitudes to Bernie Sanders. Of everyone who reaches some political prominence in the USA he and Elizabeth Warren are about the only ones I trust more than not (for I think all the other more or less prominent politicians in the current USA incline more towards personal corruption/personal enrichment than defending the rights of their voters), and in fact this is built mostly on what they did and said politically, and also on what other more or less prominent American politicians did and said.

And here is Hedges on Sanders:

Sanders was always problematic. His refusal to condemn imperialism and the war industry—a condemnation central to the message of the socialist leader Eugene V. Debs—meant his socialism was stillborn. It is impossible to be a socialist without being an anti-imperialist. But at least Sanders addressed the reality of social inequality, which the Republican and Democratic establishment pretended did not exist. He returned political discourse to reality. And he restored the good name of socialism.

Well... I do agree Sanders was (and is) less opposed to American imperialism and the American war industry than I am, but there are several possible reasons for this. Here are two.

First, Sanders is one of the very few American political radicals there were in the last 50 years or so, and the only one who has been active since the mid 1970ies. And second, I don´t think Sanders is quite a socialist (as I would define ¨socialism¨: see here) or indeed a democratic socialist: I think - and I am allowing here for the considerable political differences that exist  between the USA and Europe - that Sanders is (mostly) more of a social democrat than either a socialist or a democratic socialist.

And - in case you did not know - most European social democrats have been (and were, for a long time, also) for imperialism (of some sort), and against socialist or communist revolutions and revolutionaries, while being otherwise for the most part fairly or faintly leftist.

As far as I know, this may be the position of Sanders as well, and while I do not like European social democrats, in the USA being both a social democrat and a leading politician is quite rare and for that reason, at least in my eyes, more sympathetic.

Here is more from a considerably longer discussion by Hedges, that relates to Donna Brazile´s revelations about the manipulations by the DNC:

“The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Clinton would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised,” Brazile wrote. “Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”

Sanders, although he knew by September 2016 that the process was rigged, said nothing to his supporters. He was tacitly complicit in the cover-up. It was left to one of the architects of the fraud, Brazile, to reveal the scam. But by then it was too late.

Well... yes and no, and I have two remarks.

The first remark is that Hilary Clinton apparently had (and probably still has) the absolute power in the DNC, and she has acquired the absolute power by ... raising money (from mega-rich bankers, undoubtedly) for the DNC, and therefore Hilary Clinton ¨would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised¨. That is not democracy: that is complete manipulation by the rich for the rich.

And my second remark is that, granting that Sanders ¨knew by September 2016 that the process" - in the DNC - ¨was rigged¨, what was he supposed to say less than 2 months before the elections? In fact Trump won the elections (at least formally), but if Sanders had been loudly calling the DNC corrupt (or ¨rigged¨) briefly before the elections, this probably (as well) would have meant that Trump would have won.

So I don´t quite agree with Hedges. Here is more by him:

Those who support Sanders’ capitulation, including his high-priced establishment consultants, will argue that politics is about compromise and the practical. This is true. But playing politics in a system that is not democratic is about becoming part of the charade. We need to overthrow this system, not placate it. Revolution is almost always a doomed enterprise, one that succeeds only because its leaders eschew the practical and are endowed with what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr calls “sublime madness.” Sanders lacks this sublime madness. The quality defined Debs. And for this reason Sanders is morally and temperamentally unfit to lead this fight.

No, I disagree with both points.

First, I know that politics is supposed to be ¨about compromise and the practical¨, but that is not what is relevant here. What is relevant is that the USA is no longer a real democracy, while Sanders is one of the few politicians who is not corrupt and often criticizes the government and other politicians as (for the most part) a social democrat.

Second, one major problem that Hedges does not discuss at all in this article is that in the USA there are but two parties that have political power - and both parties have been vastly corrupted by money from the very rich.

And my third point is that I don´t quite believe in ¨sublime madness¨ (and both of my parents were real communists for 45 years or more, as was a grandfather: I do know something about real leftist families and real leftist idealism), and in so far as I believe in it, I would rewrite it as ¨personal talent, personal courage and personal honesty¨. I do believe that Sanders has some personal talent, personal courage and personal honesty, certainly when compared with almost any other American politician, though indeed I do not know whether he has enough.

Then there is this point, which is quite correct:

The Democratic Party is neither democratic nor in any real sense a political party. It is a corporate mirage. The members of its base can, at best, select preapproved candidates and act as props in a choreographed party convention. Voters have zero influence on party politics.

I agree this is correct, but note the implication: In present-day American politics the choice is between the rich rightists and the rich quasi-leftists, and in the end nearly all of both dominant American political parties are for the rich because these pay them very well.

This is from Hedges´ ending:

The Democratic Party elites in an open process and without corporate backing would not be in power. They are creations of the corporate state. They are not about to permit reforms that will see themselves toppled. Yes, this tactic of fixing elections and serving corporate power may ensure a second term for Donald Trump and election of fringe candidates who pledge their loyalty to Trump, but the Democratic elites would rather sink the ship of state than give up their first-class cabins.

The Democratic Party is as much to blame for Trump as the Republicans.
Sanders won’t help us. He has made that clear. We must do it without him.
No, I don´t think so, though indeed I am also not certain how much Sanders will or can help those with - let´s say - genuine leftist feelings in the present USA.

You can be for Hedges (which is a fairly consistent and honest position, I think) but the problem with that is that you have to give up nearly all ordinary politics in the USA, and this will defeat you almost certainly (as well), at least without a major recession.

You can be for Sanders, but the problem with that is that (at least in my case) he is more of a compromising politician than seems fair from a real leftist point of view, and besides, he will be 77 within three months time.

For the moment, I think I remain for both. And this is a recommended article.

2. Hundreds of Children Wait in Cages in Texas Warehouse

This article is by Nomaan Merchant on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait away from their parents in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.

One teenager told an advocate who visited that she was helping care for a young child she didn’t know because the child’s aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girl’s diaper.

The U.S. Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern U.S. border, responding to new criticism and protests over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and resulting separation of families.

Actually, this reminds me quite strongly of Stalin´s policies and laws, for Stalin from the early 1930ies onwards made members of one´s family, whether they knew anything or not: simply because thry were family, co-responsible for the (asserted) crimes a family-member was accused of: One could get 10 years in some concentration camp (that these days are not called ¨concen- tration camps¨ anymore on the ever worsening Wikipedia) simply for being the wife or aunt of some (asserted) criminal.

Then again, I do not know whether Stalin intentionally arrested persons and took away their five year olds for doing nothing (other than seeking asylum).

Here is some more:

Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.

Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs Homeland Security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the United States for prosecution. Church groups and human rights advocates have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane.

I agree, but it is well to know that Sessions seems to reason as Joseph Stalin did. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

“The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions,” Brane said. “If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they’d be held accountable.”

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.

3. Eon McLeary and Manuel Ruiz on Documentary 'The Work' and Mental Health in Prison

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
In this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” host and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer discusses the new documentary “The Work” with producer Eon McLeary and with Manuel “Manny” Ruiz, one of the subjects. The documentary follows members of a group therapy program at Folsom State Prison created by the Inside Circle Foundation, which brings together inmates and non-inmates to work through mental health issues. It’s a rare view into the reality of life for the 2.3 million Americans currently behind bars.
In fact, this is a quite long interview with both persons mentioned, of which I will quote just three bits. Here is the second bit:
[W]hat I like about the guests today, they’re involved with a film called “The Work,” which does not convey, really, the excitement of the film. But it’s a chance to see inside this huge population of 2.3 million people in one kind of incarceration or another in the United States. And for most people, they’re kind of a throwaway population; out of sight, out of mind; the assumption that they’re criminals, that they’re not, cannot be rehabilitated.

And what this movie does is it visits a program that I think has been in existence for 17 years, which comes from the opposite way: it says, you know, these are important human beings; they have souls, they have feelings, they have experience; and they can be rehabilitated. And it’s a program that’s been successful, at least for 40 human beings, who, not one has returned, I gathered those statistics.

My own approach is that everyone alive has feelings, experiences, ideas and values, and almost everyone ¨can be rehabilitated¨ (though I except people like Eichmann).

Here is the last bit that I´ll quote from this article - and there is a reason to quote this, which I will give after the quotation:

MR: Well, to me, I recognize that there’s a, in myself, when I got into the group, I was not in touch with my emotions. That’s the gist of it for me. I was out of touch with how I felt. I didn’t know how to deal with how I felt, and I suppressed a lot of what I felt. And that informed my behavior, and informed my decision-making. And the more I worked, doing the weekly groups where I was modeled by other men who had been doing this type of work, how to be in integrity, how to know what it is that I’m feeling and how to respond appropriately with the emotions that come up, I got better at it. And I worked with other men; we all learned how to be emotionally literate, and to work with our feelings.

Then, seeing other people, whether other prisoners or people from the outside who do not know how to deal with their emotions, and just go through life with a mask–just like we would do inside prison, walk the yard and put on a mask. But nobody knows who I really am. Most times I don’t even know who I really am, unless I do that introspective work. Seeing people from the outside who aren’t in touch with themselves, it was easy to spot.

I think what Manny Ruiz is describing is something that is much like alienation - but then I must admit that I had expected again much better from the ever worsening Wikipedia (based on earlier readings, indeed).

So all I´ll do here and now is to insist that (i) the above description is a rather good description of alienation, which (ii) is considerably wider spread than among the poor, the discriminated and the incarcerated. This is a recommended article, in which there is a lot more than I quoted.

4. The Psychology Behind the Trump Cult

This article is by Rick Shenkman on AlterNet and originally on History News Network. This article starts as follows:
A psychological mechanism inclines us toward consistency, especially when our beliefs and behavior are in conflict. While we often hold contradictory views, obvious contradictions make us feel uncomfortable. By nature we aren’t Walt Whitmans. “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes,” Whitman says in his poem “Song of Myself.” But that’s not how the brain operates. The human brain does not like cognitive dissonance—as social psychologist Leon Festinger dubbed the phenomenon in the 1950s. Rather than live with contradiction, we figure out a way to reduce it. How far are we willing to go to do this? Pretty far.
I do not know who Rick Shenkman is, except that he seems to be a historian, and not a psychologist. Well, I am a psychologist, and I somewhat disagree with the above, while I disagree a lot with the next quotation from this article.

But first the above quotation. What I object to is that all 7 billion living persons - geniuses and idiots, brilliant people and frauds, liars and honest persons a.s.o. - are collected under ¨we¨ and ¨us¨, as if there is no difference in family background, in intelligence, in character, in knowledge or in conformism: None of that matters, it seems, for Shenkman´s extreme generalizations.

And here is what Shenkman thinks (or says he thinks):
Once they realized that no flying saucer was whisking them away and that no great flood was coming, they concluded that they had saved the world from destruction. Their example of faith had so moved God that he had decided to spare humanity. They saved us all.

It is easy for us, from our vantage point, to think of these folks as ridiculous believers in magical thinking. But what they fell victim to was a form of thinking to which we are all highly susceptible. We all want to believe what we believe is true. That’s the Perseverance Bias in action. Once we settle on a view of the world, we are inclined to persist in it. If forced to confront inconvenient facts—as the Chicago cultists were forced when life on earth didn’t come to an end—we are capable of going to great lengths to explain them away. That’s because we absolutely hate cognitive dissonance.

So here it goes: With the help of ¨Perseverance Bias¨ and what ¨we¨ ¨absolutely hate¨, Shenkman at least strongly suggests that a high intelligence, a good education, a great
knowledge, a scientific attitude, and a lack of conformism all are as virtually nothing compared with the Cognitive Dissonance that ¨we¨ all suffer from.

I think he is either bullshitting you and me or stupid or ignorant.

5. Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?

This article is by Doug Rawlings on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
By the time I reached Episode Four in this ten-episode film, I concluded it should not be touted as an Emmy Award-winning documentary.

Episode Four, “Resolve,” is the story of 1966, a year that the producers of this film have designated as the time when doubt began to worm its way into American troops. This doubt sows the breeding ground for what we now call “moral injury.”  

The American soldier in Vietnam begins to realize that his job of killing others, or supporting those who are carrying out the killing, is not divinely ordained. He is not in a just war. In fact, he is being used by others who have much more pedestrian motives—rank, saving face, gaining political favor, selling weapons.

This is three years before I even set foot in country, into a war much different than early 1966. In 1969, we trudged into that muck and mire as reluctant cynics.
In fact, this is about Ken Burns and Lynne Novick’s “Vietnam War” series that I also wrote about on June 1, 2018, with a similar point.

Incidentally, I did not see this series (and will not, for one thing because it is too long), but I do know a fair amount about the Vietnam war, because I was born in 1950 in a genuine communist family, and lived through many demonstrations and actions concerned with Vietnam in the 1960ies (between 1965 and 1970).

But this is by a genuine Vietnam veteran, who was not happy with ¨Vietnam War¨. Here is part of Rawlings´ explanation why:

So, let’s assume that Burns and Novick et al. are somewhat accurate in setting off 1966 as the “turning point” in our slow awakening to the truth. So what? 

First off, this would have been a good point for the auteurs to work in the aforementioned concept of moral injury. 

As that term begins to be thrown around in popular culture, losing any real meaning, it is important to note that it was intended to mean a slow, remorseful process of recognizing one’s complicity in what most religions call “evil,” combined with a soul-shaking sense of betrayal. 

You realize that there is no excuse for your unwillingness or inability to stop human degradation as it unfolds before you as your deeply held moral codes wither away. And now you must accept the consequences of that debilitating malaise that worked its way into your head.

I agree (and indeed for me ¨moral injury¨ when applied to Vietnamese veterans means something rather different than when it is applied to 19-year olds who never faught in their lives).

Here is more:

At this juncture of the film, four episodes into a 10-episode saga, it is evident to me that we are not watching a true documentary film. In my eyes, documentation is rooted in facts and, if at all possible, immutable truths. The documentarian’s function is to get down to historical truths, to discover cause and effect, and to provide us with a trustworthy scaffolding on which to rebuild our memories as soundly as possible. No, we are watching instead a series of anecdotes, each one imbued with the earnestness of the teller. Who dares to question the grieving mother or disillusioned sister or duty-bound soldier? We are not being invited into a logical discussion of facts here—we are being asked to bear witness.

I take it this is more or less true, but I neither saw the series nor served in Vietnam (or any war).
Then again, I should also say that the above problem - what one sees is a series of anecdotes rather than a consistent and sensible story - plagues many so-called filmed documentaries, which again is a reason for me to avoid them if I want to learn something: I normally prefer books.

Here is some more:

As a veteran of that war who has tried to bring to light its utter depravity and as a teacher, I oppose letting this visual extravaganza stand as a definitive historical record that students will turn to in their studies. 

It is a cornucopia of anecdotes that gives us a glimpse of that war that I’m sure the Pentagon and the Koch brothers, who funded it, would approve of, but its priorities are misguided. The war was never “begun in good faith.” It was never just a “mistake.” It was, from the beginning and throughout, a morally depraved undertaking.

Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Three million soldiers from this country sent to Vietnam did not “serve”—we were used. We were blood-sacrificed on the altar of greed and power along with millions of Vietnamese dead. And for what? 

John Pilger, the Australian journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker wrote: “The invasion of Vietnam was deliberate and calculated—as were policies and strategies that bordered on genocide and were designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes. Experimental weapons were used against civilians.” 

Burns and Novick avoid those conclusions although thousands of Vietnam veterans came to realize the soul-devastating truth during the war or soon after. A film that brings their words into the narrative would be a major step forward. This one is far from that.

This is not history we are watching. We are watching theater.
I agree 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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