November 9, 2018

Crisis: About Chris Hedges, Impeaching Trump, Ocasio-Cortez, Constitutional Crisis, Totalitarianism


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 9, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, November 9, 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 November 9, 2018:
1. Chris Hedges on Elections, “Christian Fascists,” and the Rot Within the
     American System

2. Why Democrats Must Impeach the President
3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We Need to Confront Trump’s Creeping

4. 'Constitutional Crisis Already Here'
5. White House Economists Are Obsessed with Socialism
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. Chris Hedges on Elections, “Christian Fascists,” and the Rot Within the American System

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
Politicians love to tell us every election is the “most important of our lifetime.” With Donald Trump in power, it rings true for many voters. This week on Intercepted: Journalist Chris Hedges has spent the past 15 years trying to ring the alarm about the dangers of the U.S. political system and the impact of a corporate and financial coup d’etat that happened long ago. He talks about the growing power of “Christian fascists,” predicts a major financial crash, and offers ideas on how to fight back. In 1923, a year after Mussolini took power in Italy, one radical and visionary woman saw his rise for what it was and warned of the grave dangers the world would face if fascism spread. Her name was Clara Zetkin. Acclaimed writer and actor Deborah Eisenberg performs a selection of Zetkin’s writing, which was recently published as a book, “Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win.” Also, new music from the incredible visual artist and musician Lonnie Holley, who is out with a new album called “MITH.”
This is the complete introductory paragraph to this article, but in fact I will only discuss the part with Chris Hedges, and that also in part - and that because Nederlog is not meant to be endless, and I try to bring about that each daily issue of the crisis series remains within 50 Kb - in which I not always but usually succeed.

Here is more:
JS: Politicians love to tell us that whatever election happens to be the next one is the most important election of our lifetimes. With Donald Trump as president, that stump speech line actually carries weight. Particularly when you have neo-Nazi and fascist attacks on Jews because they’re Jews or on African Americans because they’re African Americans. When you have pipe bombs being mailed to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party and its perceived bankrollers. When you have Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the U.S. When the president openly encourages violence and spews racist propaganda followed by attempts to legalize that violent hate.
Yes indeed. I mostly agree and especially with the distinction that Scahill draws between fascism and neofascism, that he refers to as neo-Nazism. I do not think that Scahill has read my site, and I also strongly doubt his distinctions are my distinctions (and see the last two links for my distinctions), but it is something.

Here is more:

The journalist Chris Hedges has spent the last decade and a half trying to ring the alarm about the dangers of the U.S. political system and he writes about a corporate and financial coup d’etat that happened long ago in this country.

Now before Hedges embarked on this mission, he was a longtime war correspondent for The New York Times. In fact, he was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that covered the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath. Hedges’ book “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” remains a classic work for studying war journalism. Chris Hedges quit the New York Times after being reprimanded for his public denouncement of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. And that largely ended Chris Hedges’ relationship with large, powerful media organizations.

He’s currently a columnist at Truthdig, he hosts a show on Russian television on RT America, and he teaches a college class at a state prison in New Jersey.
Yes, that is all quite correct. It is also true that Hedges is a Christian minister, but this is also mentioned by Scahill.

Here is more, on the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans:

CH: Well, of course, there’s a difference. It’s how you want corporate fascism delivered to you. Do you want it delivered by a Princeton educated, Goldman Sachs criminal or do you want it delivered by racist, nativist, Christian fascist? When this is essentially what the Trump Administration, this is the ideology that the Trump Administration has embraced because Trump has no ideology. So, they’re filling his ideological void.

But you know, and you’ve reported on this, the fundamental engines of oligarchic global corporate power are advanced by both parties and one attempts to present that in a kind of multicultural, inclusive way.
I disagree with Hedges that "Trump has no ideology". I think he is a neofascist, and to show why here is my definition of neofascism (in full):
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
Again, I do not think Trump has ever read my site (or ever will), and he also will deny he is a fascist or a neofascist, but I say he clearly is a neofascist in my sense, because it ought to be evident that he satisfies all ten characteristics that make up my definition (as I first clearly saw in the beginning of 2016).

Then again, I agree with Hedges that the Democrats and the Republicans are two versions of the same kind of politics, which essentially favors the rich and their political plans, which in turn was brought about in Bill Clinton's presidential days, because from then on nearly all politicians, both the Republican and the Democratic ones, were funded by the rich - and whose bread one eats, whose words one speaks.

Here is more:

JS: Noam Chomsky who consistently now, for election after election, has openly said that the only choice is to support the Democrats. And more recently, he’s been saying that the GOP — the Republican party — is the single greatest threat to global stability or peace in the world.

Noam Chomsky: Overwhelmingly, the Republican Party is simply a major threat to, not only to the country, but to human survival. I’ve said in the past that I think they’re the most dangerous organization in human history.

CH: I don’t agree with Noam on that issue. I think the problem is that, and I was very involved in the Nader campaign when he was running for president. I was a speechwriter and nobody’s fought corporate power with more integrity and courage and foresight than Nader. And essentially, he was locked out of the legislative process when this corporate coup d’etat, which we have undergone, essentially pushed out the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Well... in fact I do not quite agree with either Hedges or Chomsky.

I will not discuss this fully here, but I think Chomsky is more right given the two premisses that (i) the choice between the Democrats and the Republicans is a choice from two - corporate - evils, but (ii) one should vote if one has a chance (for this is about the least one can do). Given these premisses, I think leftists and liberals should vote for the Democrats, even if they despise most of them.

I do not know whether Hedges agrees (it seems he does in Scum vs Scum, that I reviewed on November 6). But I do not think he is actually meeting Chomsky's argument in the present interview.

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

CH: (..) And this is now where we’ve ended up, in the greatest income inequality in American history, the seizure of power by, and they’re not even traditional capitalist, they don’t make anything. They’re all speculators, global speculators. That’s what Goldman Sachs does. They’ve seized control of our economy and most economies. The breakdown that we experience has been bipartisan. Clinton was, of course, the poster child for this. Clinton understood that if he did corporate bidding, he would get corporate money. And of course, by the 1990s, fundraising parity with the Republicans was equal. And when Barack Obama first ran 2008, he got more.

I think Hedges is quite correct here. There is a lot more in the article, that is strongly recommended.

2. Why Democrats Must Impeach the President

This article is by Tom Steyer on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

On Tuesday, voters across the country demanded accountability in government, insisting their elected representatives not just talk a good game but act in the interests of the American people.

Nationwide, Democrats received 7 percent more votes than Republicans — about three million — in an election that saw a higher percentage of voters than any midterm since 1966. Those voters flipped seven governorships and 367 state legislative seats to Democrats, giving them majorities in seven more state chambers. Most important, voters ended Donald Trump and his Republican enablers’ free rein in Washington by flipping the House.

But this blue wave should have been even bigger. Democrats’ inability to run the table on a Republican Party that depended on lying, race-baiting and suppressing the vote is a sign that the American people do not know what the Democratic Party stands for.
In fact, Tom Steyer is an American billionaire, and is one of the few American billionaires who strongly supports the Democrats since quite a while, also with money. I agree with the facts he mentions, but I do not quite agree with two points in the above quotation:

First, I agree that "
voters across the country demanded accountability in government" - but since almost half of those who voted voted for Trump, this seems only partially true (with the Democrats receiving 7 percent more votes than the Republicans).

Second, if "
the American people do not know what the Democratic Party stands for" then what did all the voters who voted form them vote for? I am willing to agree that the majority of those who voted for the Democrats do not know much about the Democrats, but they do know something and that something seems to have moved many to vote for the Democrats.

Here is more:

As President Trump continues to accelerate his lawlessness, the new Democratic House majority must initiate impeachment proceedings against him as soon as it takes office in January.

For nearly two years, Mr. Trump has publicly flouted his oath of office. He has turned the presidency into a moneymaking enterprise for a family business he refuses to divest from, in direct violation of any plain reading of the Constitution. He is all but an unindicted co-conspirator in two federal felony cases. He has created an atmosphere of criminality through his hateful, violent rhetoric against political opponents, journalists and private citizens alike.

Most egregiously, he has a longstanding pattern of obstructing justice. On Wednesday, he continued this by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installing Matthew Whitaker — who has publicly called for curtailing the special counsel’s investigation — as acting attorney general, sparking a constitutional crisis that threatens the rule of law itself.

I agree with all of the above, although I do not know whether this implies that "the new Democratic House majority must initiate impeachment proceedings against him as soon as it takes office in January".

To be sure, I think that Trump is both a neofascist and a madman, so in abstract principle I would welcome his impeachment, especially because I think a madman should not be in a position to blow up the whole world in a nuclear war.

Then again, it is not only abstract principle that applies here, but also whether the USA is much better off with any successor after a probably long process of impeachment of a madman, that the madman will probably fight like mad. And here one main problem is that the next four (!!) people who would take over as president after Trump does get impeached are nearly as bad as he is, though probably not as mad as he is.

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

An overwhelming majority of people in this country elected them to hold this president accountable. There is no majority without them. That means no one has the votes for a leadership title without their support.

At a moment when just one-third of all Americans trust their government to do what is right, winning a majority has to mean much more than just frustrating Republican legislative goals and scoring debating points. Democrats must stand up for the safety of the American people and our entire democratic system.

We cannot allow this to be an argument about what Republicans will permit — it’s about demanding the truth and protecting the foundations of our free society. Anything less would mean abandoning the Constitution.

Well... the Democrats had 7% more votes than the Republicans, and I do not think that is "an overwhelming majority".

In brief, while I probably agree with Steyer on the abstract principles that apply, I do not know whether impeachment is at present the correct procedure, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We Need to Confront Trump’s Creeping Authoritarianism

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Twenty-nine-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez rose to national prominence in June, when she unseated 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. She was elected to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District by a landslide last night, defeating Republican candidate Anthony Pappas with 78 percent of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez celebrated her victory in Queens last night. Democracy Now! was there with The Intercept for our special election broadcast. We spoke with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about her plans for Congress.
Yes (and I normally copy the introductions of the articles on Democracy Now! that I review).

Here is Ocasio-Cortez:
REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: When I started this campaign a year ago, I was working in a restaurant in downtown Manhattan. And it wasn’t because—and we didn’t launch this campaign because I thought I was special or unique or better than anyone else. We launched this campaign because in the absence of anyone giving a clear voice on the moral issues of our time, then it is up to us to voice them. We launched this campaign because no one was clearly and authentically talking about issues like the corrupting role of money in politics, like the disturbing human rights violations being committed by ICE, by the fact that no one was giving voice to the idea and the notion that an entire generation is graduating with crippling loads of student loan debt, a ticking time bomb for our economy. No one was talking about these issues. And when no one talks about them, we have the duty to stand up for what is right.
Well... I don't quite agree, and I select two points of disagreement:

First, about about her not thinking that she "
was special or unique or better than anyone else".

In fact, I do not believe this, and specifically not that she did not believe that she is "
better than anyone else". And I think in fact she is saying this because she is mistaken about legal equality (which I also am a proponent of) and personal equality (which I do not believe for a moment, and never have believed): On a personal level, clearly many kinds of persons are - for many kinds of reasons, in many kinds of contexts - better choices than other kinds of persons, and the same applies to Ocasio-Cortez (whom I probably like, and whom I think is certainly a better choice than a real moron).

Second, it is definitely false that "
no one was talking about these issues" (in each and everu case Ocasio-Cortez mentions): There clearly were people talking about them and also writing about them: See the crisis index for quite a few of them.

Then again, I would probably have mostly agree with Ocasio-Cortez if she had said that on the issues she mentions there was little honest, informed and rational writing on the mainstream media.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what your stance is on Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, what you feel needs to happen right now, you, coming out of the Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic Party? You’re an organizer for Bernie Sanders. Who do you think needs to lead the House? And would you consider the possibility of being the speaker yourself?

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. I just won my seat. But, you know, what I do think is that in terms of her leadership in context, we need to see what our options are. You know, my fear is, I just wouldn’t want to see candidates running to her right and that being our only option. So, I think that what—no matter who it is, we need to make sure that we are electing party leadership with strong commitments to putting Medicare for all, tuition-free college and more at the top of the agenda, things like a living wage.
Clearly, Ocasio-Cortez avoided answering Goodman's questions. I think she probably does have ideas about them, but it is true that she just won her seat.

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

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump called tonight a success. What is your message for him?

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, he’s bound to call anything a success and just kind of speak it into existence. But the fact of the matter is, we won back the House. We secured a full chamber in our government back, which is a very, very powerful check on the authoritarian creep that this administration has been pursuing. And we need to be powerful about it. We need to take this opportunity. This is not the time to negotiate with an administration that systematically and repeatedly violates human rights. This is a time for us to have a strong response and to really command the power that we secured tonight.

I completely agree with the last quotation, and this is a recommended article.

4. 'Constitutional Crisis Already Here'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams (with a title abbreviated by me). It starts as follows:

After President Donald Trump tore through a "red line" on Wednesday by immediately replacing fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Matthew Whitaker—a fervent loyalist who has openly called for the defunding of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe—lawmakers, legal experts, and progressive analysts argued that Trump's presidency has now entered "a dangerous new phase" that many described as a full-blown Constitutional crisis.

Just hours after this move, the Trump administration stripped the press credentials of well-known White House journalist in a move that was denounced as a "clear attack on the First Amendment."

Well... what is "a Constitutional crisis"?

In fact, either I do not know or else I think there was a Constitutional crisis (in principle, at least) for a considerably longer time, say since 2001, when Gore was beaten by Bush Jr. on the basis of - what I think was an invalid - ruling of the Supreme Court, or in 2010, when the Supreme Court adopted in majority a perfectly insane reading of the First Amendment in the case of Citizens United v. FEC (when it decided in fact that money = votes).

Then again, I think that what is a Constitutional crisis is in fact ill defined.

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

As the New York Times observed, it will now be up to Whitaker to decide whether to hand over Mueller's final report on his findings to Congress—or keep it secret and hidden from the public.

"There is really no other way to spin it: This is a cover-up and a Constitutional crisis," argued Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter.

It is my guess that even if Whitaker decides Mueller's final report will be kept secret, it is highly likely it will become public anyway. And the term "Constitutional crisis" seems to be ill defined.
This is a recommended article.

5. White House Economists Are Obsessed with Socialism

This article is by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Trump’s White House seems to be both spooked… and spooky.

Check out a 72-page “spookonomics” report issued right before Halloween by his Council of Economic Advisors. It reads like an endless Trump tweet, focused on his perceived political enemies and riddled with fantasies, lies, and paranoia about the policies of progressives.

la Joe McCarthy, Trump’s economic advisors spew conspiracy theories about the proposals of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other democratic populists, frantically linking them with “Failed Socialist Policies” of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and other communist dictators.

Bernie’s commonsense ideas of Medicare-for-All and free college education, for example, are hysterically decried as totalitarian designs from China and the USSR. Likewise, the report compares Warren’s assertion that corporate giants are dodging their tax obligations to Lenin’s demonization and killing of yeoman farmers.

Well... I am not going to read 72 pages of "an endless Trump tweet", and believe Jim Hightower anyway.

Then again, I think I can possibly explain Trumpian "conspiracy theories"; their linking Sanders and Warren to "“Failed Socialist Policies” of Lenin, Stalin, Mao" and - especially - the fact that Sanders' ideas about "Medicare-for-All and free college education" are presented as "totalitarian designs from China and the USSR".

I think the main reason may well be the intentional redefinition of "totalitarianism" on Wikipedia so that it means what Brzezinski meant by it.

Here is what Brzezinski and the Wikipedia understand by totalitarianism:

Totalitarianism is a political concept that defines a mode of government, which prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism.

This means that - according to Brzezinski and the Wikipedia - it totalitarianism depends on the government, and is about governments.

This was not at all what George Orwell meant by it, nor any of the many tens (possibly hundreds) of writers, intellectuals and academics that I have read on the subject meant by it, in the last 50+ years, which I rendered as follows:
Totalitarian: Ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion.
Totalitairian ideas and values are very widespread, and usually take the following general form in practice, if not as clearly outspoken:

Our Belief is the Only True Belief and Our Believers are the Only Good People, and everyone who does not believe, or do, or feel, or look like Us is inferior (sinful, bad, damned, bound for hell, fit for a concentration camp, and in any case not a proper well-thinking, decently feeling, morally behaving follower of Our True Belief, and hence certainly not comme il faut).

Note that according to the Wikipedia's definition there cannot be any totalitarianism outside a totalitarian state, while according to my definition totalitarianism is not a matter of government but a matter of styles of reasoning, of psychology and of ethical values, and is essentially characterized by the fact that people with totalitarian ideas believe their ideas justify persecuting people who disagree with them.

Anyway... Wikipedia lies, and not only about totalitarianism but about quite a few other political concepts, and it will very probably remain lying as long as it is anonymous and made by anonymous persons.


[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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail