Aug 9, 2016

Crisis: Fascism, Assange*2, National Security, Sovereignty, Trump Is Mad
Sections                                                                                             crisis index

The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of
     American Fascism

2. WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: Attacks Against Jill Stein
     Are "Going to Go Through the Roof"

3. Google in the White House? Assange Warns of Close
     Ties Between Hillary Clinton & Internet Giant

4. 50 Former National Security Officials and Advisers
     From GOP Administrations Denounce Donald Trump

5. The Real Threat to American Sovereignty
6. Calling Someone Crazy Is Not an Insult to the Mentally

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is a repeat of an article by Chris Hedges (who is on holiday), which is mirrored by a repeat of my review; item 2 and item 3 are about some general opinions of Julian Assange (and I agree and somewhat disagree); item 4 is about an excellent letter by 50 U.S. security officials and others, who denounce Trump; item 5 is about Reich about Trump (I don't wholly agree, but this is again an important reason to vote for Clinton, dislikable as she is); while item 6 is about a crazy idea of Patrick Kennedy, who wants to prevent anyone (including medics and psychologists) calling anyone (possibly especially) Donald Trump mad, apparently because he has crazy ideas about political correctness: Kevin Drum's reply is quite good.

Also, here is some news for the few who read my autobiography (in Dutch): I
have yesterday uploaded a new version of Part I (my life
until 1978) that is considerably better and clearer than the previous version. Part II (my life until 42) will follow soon, but I do not yet know when, because there is considerably more to do than in Part I.

The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
  • The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism

This starts with the following:
Chris Hedges is on vacation and will return to writing his weekly Truthdig column on Sept. 5. While Hedges is on break, we will be republishing some of his Truthdig columns. This one was originally published on March 2.
So...what I will do is repeat my own review, which was first published on March 3, 2016. (And no, I don't mind republishing it: I wrote more than 1500 reviews a year the last few years, so some duplicates are allowed.)

This starts as follows:
College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—succeeded for decades. These elites, many from East Coast Ivy League schools, spoke the language of values—civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class—while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters. This game has ended.
I think this is mostly correct except for the last quoted statement, and I will also put it bit more sharply:

First, much of the actual factual dirty work that effectively enriched the already very rich corporate owners or CEOs has been done by "college- educated elites", and second, much of that dirty work was done by politically correct speaking moral degenerates from the same class of elites.

For this is simply what happened in fact:

The very rich were much enriched since the 1980ies (!!); the very rich could not do that alone; they were helped by a large class of people who belonged to the
"college-educated elite"; these people systematically enriched the very rich while talking the politically correct talk; and these "college-educated elites" also systematically confused the left with their own sick politically correct "leftist" verbal drivel (which many also genuinely believed). [1]

Then there is this:

There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.

I do not think they are (boldness added by me) "rightfully enraged".

That is: Their enragement has causes, and one important cause is their poverty, but to be
"rightfully enraged" - as I use these terms - one has to have a moral or ethical right that makes one's anger rightful, and this they precisely lack, because they really do not understand they are being deceived by those they incorrectly trust, like Donald Trump.

But this is a more or less correct description of many of them:

These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave. And they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the liberal state.

The stupid and ignorant want the right to be stupid, ignorant, uncivilized, cruel, violent, and morally degenerate. I think that is more or less true of many of them, and it is also true this is a kind of "cryptofascism" but I doubt this is "fascism". And I also think they should not have these "freedoms".

Next, there is in Chris Hedges' text a long quotation by the - dead - American philosopher Richard Rorty, which I totally skip because I have read philosophy for over 45 years, and I regard Rorty as an utter fraud. [2]

Then we arrive at a description of what "fascism' means in the present USA:

Fascism is aided and advanced by the apathy of those who are tired of being conned and lied to by a bankrupt liberal establishment, whose only reason to vote for a politician or support a political party is to elect the least worst. This, for many voters, is the best Clinton can offer.

But we have not been given a definition of the term "fascism", and the above quoted paragraph also does not define it.

First, here is a definition of "fascism" that I think is roughly correct. It is by the American Heritage Dictionary:

"fascism" is defined as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Second, if the choice is between Hillary Clinton (and I agree with Hedges that I do not like her at all) and Donald Trump, then the difference is large, and you should vote for Clinton (in my opinion), also if your only reason to do so is that she is "the least worse".

There is some more about Hedges' undefined fascism that I skip, not because it may not be correct, in some sense, but because Hedges does not give a satisfactory definition of "fascism". (I did, above.)

Here is the end of Chris Hedges' article:

We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the college-educated elites to our capitalist democracy. The longer the elites, who oversaw this disemboweling of the country on behalf of corporations—who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit—remain in charge, the worse it is going to get.

Again yes and no.

Yes, "
[w]e are fighting for our political life", in the sense that if Trump wins the USA will turn very much more authoritarian, and most of the present left may be removed, silenced, or disappeared into "night and fog" with the help of the NSA.

But no, the article remains somewhat misleading from my point of view, which amounts to the following in terms of the present presidential candidates:

Bernie Sanders is much better than Hillary Clinton, who is much better than Donald Trump (or any other Republican candidate).

I think my point of view is fairly self-evident for many American voters, but Chris Hedges much dislikes Bernie Sanders, and it also seems that he considers the difference between Clinton and Trump to be much smaller than it seems to me (much as I dislike both Clinton and her program).

Then again, while Chris Hedges does not define fascism, at least he mentions it, which does seem an advantage to me.

And it does so because by the definition I used (which is not mine,  but is adequate) the USA does seem to be  developing into a fascist state, especially if Trump were to win the presidency - but indeed one should clearly define one's terms, and it is also quite true that not anything called "fascist" is fascist.

NOTE: The above text was originally written and published on March 3, 2016.

2. WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: Attacks Against Jill Stein Are "Going to Go Through the Roof"

The second item is by David Cobb (for the Green Party) on Democracy Now!:

  • WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: Attacks Against Jill Stein Are "Going to Go Through the Roof"
This starts as follows (and in case you wonder: This is on Democracy Now! but they are (re-)publishing a conversation between David Cobb and Julian Assange):
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke via video stream to the Green Party convention in Houston, Texas, about the corporate control of information during the 2016 election. He also predicted that attacks against Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein would surge ahead of November’s election.
Here is the first bit that I'll quote:
So, to defend civil liberties and the internet, the first thing is to practice it. That’s the number one thing. That’s what we do. We defend the First Amendment and similar constitutional amendments in other states by practicing them. We have won every single court case that we have been involved in over the last 10 years. And that any right that is not fought for through practice and defense is very, very quickly lost. It is just a piece of paper unless you actually fight for it and practice for it.
Yes, that is mostly true, although it may need a few specifications, like the following:

First of all, most nations do not have a First Amendment. (Holland is one: I have been scolded as "a dirty fascist" from 1977 till 1987, not because I was one in any conceivable sense, but because I opposed the communist student-
organization the ASVA. Nobody defended me. But if I were to say such things
about Amsterdam's mayors (who had me gassed and let me be pestered and threatened with murder for over 3 years by the illegal softdrugs dealers they themselves protected), I am almost certainly in trouble, for Amsterdam's mayors are far superior - in legal practice - to me.)

Second, while Assange is mostly correct that unpracticed rights tend to disappear, in my experience (in Holland, which is in several respects a rather crazy country, if only because illegal drugsdealers have been very well protected since 1987, which may be - very easily! - explained by the billions they have turned over each year since then) only a small minority is willing to defend the rights they have, and especially not if such a defense might put them into danger. [3]

So while I think Assange is mostly correct, in fact he is talking about and to a relatively small minority.

Then there is this:
Google is very different, in an important way, from Lockheed Martin. Yes, Google is building drones. Yes, Lockheed Martin was and is building F-16s. But Google also controls how we communicate with each other. So, Google is, in a sense, like HIV. It doesn’t—it’s not just something that afflicts your arm; it afflicts your ability to understand and fight the infection. That’s true of all media, libraries, communication services, etc. They’re involved in that part of society that we use to understand ourselves, and that is the freedom of communication. So, the freedom of communication, in some sense, is the fundamental right, because it is the enabling right that allows us to speak to each other to understand the importance of all our other rights.
I mostly agree on Google, and indeed have not been using it (other than Youtube, I admit) for at least 6 years: I really very much dislike it, and  especially because of the fact that "Google also controls how we communicate with each other" and the fact that it tries to find out far more about me (and billions of others) than I think they should.

But I don't quite agree about "
the freedom of communication", and my reason is this: Google is quite for "the freedom of communication" - on condition that they can "share", that is: steal, pirate, appropriate - your communications whether or not these are private in any sense.

And I do not at all care for having
"the freedom of communication" if that communication involves that 100 secret services and 100 dataminers - automatically, without me having anything to say in it, and without informing me in any way - steal my emails and steal what is on my harddisk.

Now, I do not know how many secret services steal from me, nor do I know how many dataminers try to understand me, but I think I do know both steal
from me, both try to get anything they can get from me (for they are not punished in any way), and both are protected by "laws" that allows them to
steal all the private information I store on my computer (e.g. by the Patriot Act (<- Wikipedia) and its successor(s)).

So I agree with Edward Snowden here: It is not
"the freedom of communi- cation" that is fundamental: it is the privacy of "the freedom of communi- cation" that is fundamental. If the privacy does not return, everybody (who is not in government nor works for a secret service) will be made a complete and almost fully predictable effective slave of the secret services and the data miners, who will have far larger dossiers on anyone than anyone recalls about
his or her own life.

Finally, there is this:
So, my strong advice is to understand, first of all, the necessity to be very skeptical of the traditional media apparatus, which is ultimately owned by some of the largest industrial conglomerates in the world, that’s firmly connected to other points of power; work around it; become your own media in practice, in small ways, in big ways; to keep—to keep your principles and sense of clarity on principles.
Yes, I mostly agree, although I should add that becoming "your own media in practice" is extremely difficult even if you have a lot of time and a fine brain.

And besides, any successful media will be pirated by the secret services and the dataminers, as long as their illegal stealings of private information are not severely restricted, which is not the case and is unlikely to happen without another major crisis (I think).

3. Google in the White House? Assange Warns of Close Ties Between Hillary Clinton & Internet Giant

The third item is also by
David Cobb (for the Green Party) on Democract Now!:
  • Google in the White House? Assange Warns of Close Ties Between Hillary Clinton & Internet Giant

This starts as follows:

During the Green Party convention in Houston, Texas, over the weekend, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke via video stream about his book "When Google Met WikiLeaks" and the relationship between Hillary Clinton, the State Department and the internet giant Google.

In fact, this is from the same series of interviews with Julian Assange as the previous item came from. There are in fact four such interviews on the current Democracy Now!.

The present article is selected for one bit, that articulates the roles of Google:

The chairman of Google, who was the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, has started, about a year ago, a company to run Hillary Clinton’s digital campaign. Google has been to the White House, on average over the last four years, once per week—more than any other single company. It spends more money lobbying Washington, D.C., than any other single company. Hillary Clinton’s former staffer, Jared Cohen, was hired by Google in 2009 to head up Google’s internal think tank. There’s a lot of other interconnections between Google and the state. Eric Schmidt is now also, at the same time as being chairman of what is now Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is chairman of the Pentagon innovation board.

So you have a connection between Google, the Clinton campaign, which will be almost certainly the next White House, and the Pentagon. And this triangle is extremely worrying, because, as time goes by, Google is understanding that it does have an ability to influence election campaigns. It’s also bought more than 10 drone companies. It’s integrating its mapping data in order to better be able to fly and navigate drones around the world, is expanding into every country in the world.

I quite agree: This is "extremely worrying". (And no, I have no idea about how to end it, except by hoping for another major economic collapse, although that too will be awful.)

4. 50 Former National Security Officials and Advisers From GOP Administrations Denounce Donald Trump

The fourth item is by Eric Ortiz on Truthdig:

  • 50 Former National Security Officials and Advisers From GOP Administrations Denounce Donald Trump

This starts as follows, and is here because I have been saying this kind of thing for a considerable time now (at least since the beginning of this year):

Another day, another public rebuke of Donald Trump. In an open letter, a group of 50 former national security officials and government advisers challenged the Republican nominee’s fitness to be president.

Among the letter’s prominent signers were former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden; Robert Zoellick, former deputy secretary of State and president of the World Bank; James Jeffrey, former deputy national security adviser to the White House; and former secretaries of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. The letter states:

The undersigned individuals have all served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. We have worked directly on national security issues with these Republican Presidents and/or their principal advisers during wartime and other periods of crisis, through successes and failures. We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States.

None of us will vote for Donald Trump.

From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.

Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and U.S. institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.

In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics.

I say - which I do because I probably do not like any of these characters (I don't know about all of them, of course, but those I do know something about  I dislike), but I grant them that all they are saying above is quite true (in my opinion, but that is the only one I really know, as holds for everyone). And not only that: I also think they are honest (here) - and I completely agree with them that "Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President".

So this is a quite important letter and - for me at least - a considerable agreement with a number of prominent Americans who do believe in quite a few respects in the opposites of what I believe.

But we all agree that "Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being."

And in case you want to read
the complete letter: It's under the last link.

5. The Real Threat to American Sovereignty

The fifth item today is by Robert Reich on his site:
  • The Real Threat to American Sovereign
This is from the beginning:
The biggest threats to American sovereignty are invisible digital dollars wired into U.S. election campaigns from abroad.

Yet Trump seems to welcome foreign influence over our democracy.

Sovereignty is mainly about a government’s capacity to govern. A government not fully accountable to its citizens won’t pass laws that benefit and protect those citizens – not just laws about trade and immigration but about national security, the environment, labor standards, the economy, and all else.

To state it another way: Without a functioning democracy, we just don’t have a country.

First, I admit that I do not know enough about "American sovereignty" to be abled to decide what is the "biggest threat" to it. I would myself incline to saying that the effective handing over of many powers to the rich, for one example, is at least as dangerous, but then I also do not have adequate ideas about what Reich thinks "American sovereignty" means.

Second, whatever
"American sovereignty" is, I think Reich is mistaken in saying that "Without a functioning democracy, we just don’t have a country".
He is right it will not be a democracy (although it well may be called one (!)) but it very well may be "a country", albeit an authoritarian one, a fascist one,
or a corporate one.

Next, Reich gives considerable detail about Trump's soliciting foreign money (from the United Kingdom, Australia and Iceland, among others), while it seems as if Trump doesn't know (or doesn't want to know: you never know with him, though I agree he doesn't know much) that this is quite illegal:

Someone should let Trump know it’s illegal for candidates for federal office to solicit foreign money, regardless of whether the donations ever materialize. In addition, foreign individuals, corporations and governments are barred from either giving money directly to U.S. candidates or spending on advertising to influence U.S. elections. 

Why hasn’t Trump been held accountable? Because the Federal Election Commission, charged with enforcing the law, is gridlocked by its Republican appointees. 

So we’re left with a presidential candidate screaming about threats to American sovereignty from trade and immigration, who’s simultaneously urging officials of foreign governments to compromise American sovereignty.

That seems quite correct. (And it is illegal.) The article ends as follows:

Donald Trump is right to worry about American sovereignty. But the real threat to our sovereignty isn’t imports or immigrants. It’s global money influencing our politics.  

Protecting our democracy requires two steps that Trump and his leading supporters oppose: First, enforce our laws against soliciting or receiving foreign money in our election campaigns.

Second, reverse “Citizens United.”
I agree - and I add that reversing Citizens United will be impossible the next 25 or 30 years if Trump becomes president, for he will nominate 4 Scalias, who will be Supreme Court judges for 25 or more years.

6. Calling Someone Crazy Is Not an Insult to the Mentally Ill

The sixth and last item today is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
  • Calling Someone Crazy Is Not an Insult to the Mentally Ill

This starts as follows:

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy is tired of people diagnosing Donald Trump:

What I do know is that we ought to stop casually throwing around terms like “crazy” in this campaign and our daily lives.... When that language is commonplace, it becomes that much harder for those experiencing mental illness to openly seek treatment that works. It discriminates, in subtle and overt ways, and extends its reach into schools, workplaces and the health-care system, where we still don’t provide routine mental health exams. When we use that word the way we have, we perpetuate the dangerous, “separate and unequal” treatment of these illnesses, and continue to pretend that the brain isn’t part of the body.

No. Just no. There are lots of words that have both ordinary meanings as well as technical medical meanings. When I say that Donald Trump is a cancer on our society, it's not an insult to people with leukemia. When I say that Donald Trump is stupid, it's not an insult to the mentally retarded. And when I say that Donald Trump is crazy, it's not an insult to people with mental illnesses.

This is the kind of thing that helps power people like Trump in the first place.
Mr. Kennedy (<- Wikipedia: I think that's him) either is quite stupid or is an excellent liar [4], and Kevin Drum is quite right:

Being mad has a quite ordinary sense since - at least - 2500 years, so if I say that he or she seems mad to me, I am saying something that others have been saying - rightly or wrongly - for several thousands of years.

What is true (but not discussed by either) is that "being mad" in a psychiatric sense is either not definable at all (for psychiatrists don't really know how to explain madness in a rational way, which they don't because in fact not much is known about the workings of the brain) or else is bullshit (like the wild and wacky DSM-III till DSM 5, which you can see reviewed here, in some detail [5], and in quite a number of Nederlogs).

But none of this implies that no one is mad; none of this implies that being mad is not capable of being judged; none of this implies that maltreating English in the politically correct way Patrick Kennedy desires is sensible in any way; and none of this implies that people - including medical men or psychologists like myself - should not say that a person who talks and behaves like Donald Trump is incompetent to be the next President of the USA, simply because he lacks the knowledge, the temperament, and the brain to behave like one.

And for more on this topic see item 4.

[1] This is also informed by my experiences at the University of Amsterdam, from which I was removed, while seriously ill, briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy, because I was not a marxist, and because I believed in truth and in science.

I learned in the UvA - of the early 1980ies - where I also created a student- party, that between 5 and 10% of the students at the time were interested in science and truth, and that the rest was there only to get a degree, by any feasible means.

Something similar held for "the scientific staff": Only a few were really interested in science and truth; most were there only because they were very well paid for doing extremely little.

And I think that what I learned there, by means of the yearly repeated elections, from 1971 till 1995, namely that about 1 in 20 is seriously interested in science and truth, and the rest pretends, deceives and lies, is correct (and was roughly the same for all the years these elections were held).

You may disagree, but then you did not have my experiences, which also were extremely convincing and quite long:

Most students and most academics simply
lie when they claim an interest in science. What they really mean is: We like easy well-paid jobs, and we are willing to lie a lot for that.

[2] You may disagree, but it is almost certainly true that you did not read philosophy for over 45 years. I did, and it is this that informs my judgement on Rorty, that I also will not defend here, except by saying that I could quote quite a few academically employed philosophers who think the same.

[3] I am sorry, but I have been trying to defend science and truth for over 10 years in the University of Amsterdam, and found that at most 1 in 20 were concerned about science and truth: The rest simply did not care, for all they wanted was an M.A. degree with as little trouble as possible.

My parents (and grandparents) had the same experiences: They went into the resistance in WW II and found out that only a few tenthousands of others did.

You may disagree, but you do not have my parents and you also certainly did not do as I did in the university. And my experience is that at most 1 in 20 is interested in defending the rights they have: The rest really doesn't care. (They do care about money and becoming rich. They don't care for others or for the rights of others.)

[4] I really don't know, but since I did read the Wikipedia item on Kennedy, I think it is fair to add that he didn't work a day in his life (he said so himself) while he has had serious problems with cocaine, with alcohol and with oxycontin - and he is against legalizing marijuana. I say.

[5] I saw - a bit to my amazement - that this dates back to August of 2012, but indeed it is true that between 2010 and 2012 I paid most attention to M.E. (the disease I have since 1.1.1979) and psychiatry (which is a definite
pseudoscience in my - very informed, psychologists' - eyes).

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