Nov 17, 2016

Crisis: Constitution, Drones, Sachs, Palast, Pilger, Rigged Economy
Sections                                                                     crisis index

We Are One GOP-Controlled Statehouse Away From a
     Convention to Rewrite the Constitution

2. Donald Trump Is About to Inherit Obama’s Unchecked
     Drone Program

Jeffrey Sachs: The U.S. Will Become a Pariah State If
    Trump Pulls Out of Paris Climate Accord

4. Investigative Reporter Greg Palast: GOP Stole 2016
     Election Using Voter Suppression, Purging Ploys

5. Why Trump’s Victory Wasn’t a Surprise
6. After Railing Against 'Rigged' Economy, Trump Readies
     to Rig It Even More

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 17, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 6 items and 6 dotted links and it consists of some further deliberations on the meanings of Trump's election as president of the USA:

Item 1 is about the extreme dangers of a GOP-controlled convention to rewrite the Constitution on GOP/Trump principles: Only one more state is required; item 2 is about the secret drone program and the secret surveillance of everyone that will be inherited by Trump (and especially the surveillance is extremely dangerous); item 3 is about Jeffrey Sachs, but I admit that I do not like him, while I think he will rapidly disappear; item 4 is about Greg Palast who says the 2016 elections, like the 2000 elections, were rigged (and I think he may be right but this is very difficult to prove); item 5 is about John Pilger, who wasn't surprised by Trump's winning (but the interview is not very good); and item 6 is about Trump's readiness to rig the American economy even more to the interests of the rich, and only the rich.

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days. And it still does (on 11 - 15.xi.2016).

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This worked correctly on 11 and 12 xi.2016, but not the day before nor on 13.xi.2016. It was OK on 14.xi.2016 and on 15.xi.2016.

And I think now this happens intentionally on both my sites, for this did not happen for 20 years on the one, nor for 12 years on the other.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. We Are One GOP-Controlled Statehouse Away From a Convention to Rewrite the Constitution

The first item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows and concerns a major danger for the continued existence of the USA (as designed by the Founding Fathers):

Republicans are one state legislature away from acquiring the legal authority to call a new constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution, reports Charles Pierce at Esquire.

The GOP currently controls 33 state legislatures. It needs 34 to call a convention.

An Article V convention has been a lollipop on the political right for some time now. To constitutional experts, a new convention is like talking about the neutron bomb. Advocates of the Article V movement insist that they can limit a convention to certain topics. (Most of these topics are pretty awful on their own as they seem to be directed at re-establishment of the Articles of Confederation, if not the Confederate States of America.) The problem with that is that there [is] absolutely no precedent in law or in history to back up that contention.

Since the Constitution is the foundation of the USA, any convention to rewrite the Constitution is an attempt to refound the USA. And such a convention can be called if the Republicans win one more state.

Here are some of the - extreme - dangers that such a convention probably raises:

In a 2014 article for The Washington Post, Robert Greenstein, founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, called a constitutional convention “the single most dangerous way to ‘fix’ American government.”

The implications are enormous. At stake, potentially, are the freedoms we take for granted under the Bill of Rights; the powers of the president, Congress and the courts; and the policies the government can or cannot pursue. Conventioneers could alter absolutely anything about the way the United States is governed. Some say they want to terminate all federal taxes and to require super-majorities in the House and the Senate to put any new taxes in their place. Others want to bar the government from carrying out a number of its functions, for example by constraining its ability to regulate interstate commerce. Whatever changes a convention approved would be enshrined in the Constitution if three-fourths of the states ratified them.

This is something that may happen two years from now. If so, it will be the legal end of the United States of America (as designed in the 18th Century).

2. Donald Trump Is About to Inherit Obama’s Unchecked Drone Program

The second item is by Ryan Devereaux on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

As the former deputy legal director of the ACLU, Jameel Jaffer made many arguments challenging the Obama administration’s drone program over the years, both in and out of court. While those critiques frequently included complex legal challenges, one of them was fairly straightforward. Jaffer would often make the case that even if many people considered President Barack Obama a good and honest man, his bureaucracy for secret killing should not be built on trust alone. Rather, it required publicly demonstrable legality and efficacy — the idea being that those powers would one day be handed off to a new president.

Last week, the scenario at the heart of Jaffer’s argument ceased to be rhetorical.

Incidentally (i) it is bullshit to put your faith in any president of the USA on the extraordinarily slight basis that you consider him to be "a good and honest man" (for what does that mean?!), and (ii) it is total bullshit to put your faith in any president of the USA who maintains a secret killing machine - as does Obama with his drone program, for that has no "publicly demonstrable legality".

But it seems that the non-legal killing machine will be politely handed over by Obama to Trump. Here is some more:

For Jaffer, who now heads the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the implications of that reality are profound.

“I know as well as anyone how broad those powers are and how much damage somebody could do with them,” he told The Intercept in an interview last week. “I’m very aware of the risks that we now face.”

Jaffer has outlined those dangers in a new book, “The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy and the Law.” Published this week, the book does not mention the president-elect. Instead, it outlines the legal and policy framework of the remote killing program Trump will soon inherit.
And more specifically:
Above all, he drives home the point that what the Obama administration created over the last eight years was a formalized structure for killing individuals in secret — one that that will soon be passed to Donald Trump.

For many civil liberties advocates working on issues of national security, the oncoming Trump administration is already being viewed as an unprecedented threat, and so-called targeted killing is only one part of the concern. “It would be wrong not to be deeply worried about the way that President Trump will use those powers, but this goes beyond the drone campaign,” Jaffer said. “Something similar is true of the surveillance powers.”

While surveillance may have more legal oversight than drone operations, “the oversight is conducted by a secret court in proceedings that are one-sided,” Jaffer explained. “The congressional committees that are tasked with supervising the intelligence agencies have proven themselves, over and over again, not up to the task.”

So really there are at least two major dangers Jaffer sees (and I think he is quite correct): (i) the secret drone killing program that is being handed to Trump; (ii) the secret surveillance program of everybody by the NSA that is being handed to Trump.

Both are completely anti-democratic, and in fact the second is far more dangerous than the first for it will allow Trump to know everything about any of his opponents (and to have them abused in secret by his secret services).

3. Jeffrey Sachs: The U.S. Will Become a Pariah State If Trump Pulls Out of Paris Climate Accord

The third item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

As Democracy Now! broadcasts from the United Nations climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, Jonathan Pershing, says no one from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has reached out to him to discuss U.S. climate policy. This all comes as the World Meteorological Organization is projecting 2016 to be the warmest year on record, and Trump has vowed to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. "Legally he can’t, and politically it would be a disaster," says economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "If Donald Trump goes in the way that his rhetoric … ha[s] portrayed, we’re going to have a brawl in the United States.

I say, and should start this review by saying that I've never believed in the Paris climate agreement, not because I share Trump's disbelief in climate change, but because I think it was too little too late.

There is first this on the French president Hollande:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, here at the United Nations climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco. French President François Hollande has called on President-elect Donald Trump to respect the Paris climate accord, saying the deal is irreversible. Trump is a longtime climate change denier, who has described global warming as a Chinese hoax. He has threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris deal. President Hollande addressed the plenary here in Marrakech Tuesday.

[translated] The agreement was historic. And what we have to say here is that this agreement is irreversible. It is irreversible in law. It came into force on the 4th of November. More than 100 states, accounting for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, ratified it. The United States, the largest economic power in the world, the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, must respect the commitments they have undertaken.

I think Hollande is waffling. Nothing is "irreversibible in law" (for in the end law consists only of verbal agreements), and if the largest economic power and the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter says "Fuck you, we go for our profits and don't care about the world!", you have a major problem.

Here is Democracy Now!'s summary on Jeffrey Sachs (<- Wikipedia)
We’re joined now by the economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. He served as an adviser to Bernie Sanders in his presidential campaign and continues to advise Bernie Sanders (...)
I must say I am not much impressed by Jeffrey Sachs (he seems to me far too much like a leading Dutch social democrat, who also make excellent and very well-paid careers Doing The Good The Government Desires), and I will only quote the end of the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean, that kind of organizing? What does that mean? For example, Donald Trump says he’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement. What does it mean to resist it?

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, first of all, legally he can’t, and politically it would be a disaster, and diplomatically it would be a disaster. The whole world would put the U.S. as a pariah. What it means for me, first of all, is if terrible names are proposed, I expect the Democrats to filibuster, plain and simple. We cannot let people that are going to wreck the country, wreck the future, into office just because somebody’s named. We know that Democrats have a lot of power if they choose to use it. I expect them to use it. I expect Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and other progressive leaders to be saying, "We’re not going to let our country get wrecked." That’s what politics is.

I am sorry, but this is a contradiction: You can't say consistently that an agreement cannot be broken, and that if it is broken it will be a double disaster.

And as to the filibustering: Perhaps. But then again the filibustering may be declared illegal by the Republican majority.

So basically the lesson I draw from this is that Jeffrey Sachs will disappear soon from political power.

4. Investigative Reporter Greg Palast: GOP Stole 2016 Election Using Voter Suppression, Purging Ploys

The fourth item is by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Americans who think the 2016 presidential election was far too reminiscent of the 2000 edition might be on to something. What’s more, like a busted clock, President-elect Donald Trump could actually be right twice: that the “swamp” of Washington, D.C., needs draining, and that U.S. elections can be stolen. In fact, investigative reporter Greg Palast thinks Trump and his party may have just made off with this one.

In the turbulent days since last Tuesday’s shocker brought roiling national tensions and divisions out in the open, politicians and pundits have lurched about in an effort to explain the results. Everything from woefully flawed polling models to a complacent electorate, intolerable nominees and third-party “spoiler” candidates has been trotted out in explanation, amounting to a confusing and jumbled picture. What for some constituted an earth-shattering national disaster appeared to others as the dawn of a welcome new era. As anyone with a social media account knows, there hasn’t been much gray area in between. (Among many other things, this campaign season was marred by extremes.)

For Palast, all that speculation misses the point. According to his research, which he’s been conducting since the last time Florida hogged the spotlight on Election Day, there are many ways in which the U.S. voting apparatus can be manipulated to produce a desired result.

This is reviewed because I think that Greg Palast has a point that the American elections can be stolen in various ways. But it should be mentioned at this point that Trump's winning in fact was slight (he doesn't have the majority of the votes, for one thing) and does fit in with the normal patterns of the American elections. Then again, if the advantage was slight, it may have been easier to manipulate in secret, if this is what happened.

Here is one more bit on what Palast thinks has happened in the present elections:

What they’ve really accomplished, according to Palast’s calculations, is the systematic purging of more than a million and a half voters from the rolls in this latest presidential election. Many of them are people of color, who have been deemed more likely to cast ballots for Democrats—and thousands of them live in the swing states that Trump claimed by razor-thin margins on Election Day.

In short, Palast believes Americans have just witnessed a hugely consequential heist on a national scale. He’s been on the trail of alleged voter suppressors and election poachers for years; he landed a cover story in Rolling Stone’s September issue; and he released a documentary this fall, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits.” But he says the fix was in on Nov. 8 despite all these efforts.

There is a lot more text in the original. My own judgement is that Palast may be right, but it will be very difficult to prove (and a real proof may be quite difficult to get publicity for).

5. Why Trump’s Victory Wasn’t a Surprise

The fifth item today is by Dennis J. Bernstein on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

Despite Donald Trump’s long history of stiffing workers, dodging taxes and abusing women, he will become the 45th President of the United States, a remarkable turn of events that has a lot of liberals and Democrats scratching their heads and wondering how he could have beaten the powerful Clinton political/money machine.

One person who was not surprised was journalist and filmmaker John Pilger, who was born in Sydney, Australia, and now is based in London. Pilger has reported from all over the world, covering numerous wars, notably Vietnam. When he was in his 20’s, he became the youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, Journalist of the Year, which he won twice. He also has an Emmy and his most recent book is Hidden Agendas and the New Rulers of the World.

This is reviewed because I like John Pilger (<- Wikipedia): He is a good and courageous journalist. There is this about Pilger's not being surprised by the outcome of the presidential elections:

Dennis Bernstein: I’m going to ask you later on about the new film, which I’m very excited about. But let’s begin with [the Nov. 8] victory over Clinton, by Trump. Were you surprised? What do you think was at the core of the Trump victory?

John Pilger: You know, I wasn’t surprised. Brexit undoubtedly helped this. I wasn’t surprised. I think I’m quite surprised by how decisive his victory is. But I must say I felt rather angry, and I think we probably expended enough anger on Trump. He’ll, no doubt, provide us with plenty of material coming up. But I think it’s time for people, so-called liberal people, to look in the mirror.

Who created Trump? Who created this disastrous election, so-called campaign? In my opinion the enablers of all of this was the liberal class, in the United States. The liberal class has refused to acknowledge, in its arrogance, the huge disaffection and discontent among ordinary people. And painting them in such broad strokes has been… what did Clinton call them?…”deplorables” and “irredeemable”? That’s really disgraceful.

I have two remarks on this, both a bit critical.

First, Trump's victory was not "decisive": He got fewer votes than Clinton did, but more in the Electoral College. And it is a more or less 50/50 win, which again is more or less as many previous presidential elections were.

And second "
the liberal class, in the United States" is far too vague, and should not at all be confused with the political propagandists, in this case Clinton's, who misled them. And I think you can blame this small class of political propagandists, but not the far larger class of "liberals" or "progres- sives" (and while I don't think these are "good people", I also think it is more likely that they have been successfully deceived than that they - tens of millions (?!) - successfully deceived).

And here is John Pilger on propaganda:

I heard a Harvard professor on the BBC, on the very night, before the count began, talk about the hard left in the Democratic Party, and how she would have to embrace the idea of Bernie Sanders and what he stood for. You know, this kind of drivel, and misrepresentation has been everywhere. The media, personally, and I’m speaking of journalists, produced probably the most unfettered propaganda I can remember at any time. In my career, this has been the worst.

Here it should have been explained that for Pilger Bernie Sanders is not much of a radical. I agree with Pilger on the amounts of propaganda, but I think there are far better examples.

There is this on Obama and "liberal America":

And, it’s something that liberal America has to start coming to terms with itself. We had Barack Obama presented seriously as a candidate of hope and real change. He was nothing of the kind. He was in fact a warmonger. He’s got four wars going at once. He conducted an international terrorist campaign using drones. He has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in American history. And, you know, when you think of Trump’s disgraceful remarks about throwing people out of the country, and building a wall… who is the Deporter-in-Chief? The liberal Barack Obama. He has deported more people than any other president.

Pilger is right about Obama (I think, who was briefly misled by Obama's propaganda, but recovered from that by the end of 2009), but again I don't think he is quite right in blaiming "liberal America" or "the liberal class", and again my main reason is that these were subjected as well to very much propaganda by the Obamites and Clintonites (and their professionals, who indeed often are prominent professors at prominent universities).

I think Pilger would have been quite correct if he had blaimed the Obamite and Clintonite propagandists, but he is not correct (I think) in blaiming "the liberals": That is far too vague and too general.

And I skipped a lot in this fairly long interview, mostly because I think it should have been shortened and straightened out a bit more.

Here is the ending of the interview (with some italics added by me, and a word added, and two links added):

DB: This is a touchstone for more terrible things. Well, John, I do thank you for spending the hour with us. It’s always enlightening, to have you. I want to tell people that your name is John Pilger. And you’re, really, an inspiration to me and many journalists who really believe in getting down and finding out what’s really going on. One of your latest books is Hidden Agendas and the New Rulers of the World. You’ve got your film coming out The Coming War Against China. And you wrote a piece most recently Inside the Invisible Government War: Propaganda, Clinton and Trump. And you did an excellent interview with Julian Assange.

JP: Yeah, yeah. Interestingly, that interview with Julian Assange went out on, RT, Russia Today, and one of the reasons it did, well they [made] a good job of it, such a good job that it ended up with something like four million viewers. But no other broadcast, mainstream broadcast would take it. They have their own agendas. And that has to be understood by people. If you want to find out what is going on, you abandon the media as it’s presented to us. It’s unwatchable, it’s really just a product of enduring propaganda.

I agree on the propaganda, but as I said earlier, "the liberal class" is too vague to address or to blame, and probably the largest part of that broad and vague class was also much more convinced by propaganda than by real rational and reasonable thinking and knowing.

6. After Railing Against 'Rigged' Economy, Trump Readies to Rig It Even More

The sixth and last item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

After running a campaign that blasted the "rigged" economy, President-elect Donald Trump appears set to rig it even further—in favor of corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which enforces a wide range of financial rules, will see major changes under the Trump administration, mostly in the form of slashed regulations.

"Trump's decision to tap former Republican SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins to help manage the Trump team's transition efforts at the SEC and other financial agencies offers a window into some other changes that could be in store," according to the news agency, which noted: "Atkins' well-known conservative views on everything from enforcement penalties to corporate governance are likely to be reflected in the SEC's agenda."

This is precisely what I expected (and Deirdre Fulton very probably expected as well). Here is more on Paul Atkins:

Indeed, the WSJ separately reported last week that "Atkins became an outspoken critic of the [SEC]'s approach to cracking down on corporate misdeeds through large penalties against firms that agreed to settle fraud charges."

"Proponents argue that large financial penalties deter companies from engaging in illegal behavior," the WSJ wrote, "But Mr.
Atkins maintains they punish shareholders who already have been victimized by a company's fraud, further damaging the value of corporate shares."

Atkins "is a guy in general who wants to let companies do their thing and not get in the way very much," Ian Katz, a financial policy analyst with the research firm Capital Alpha Partners, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. "You would see a lighter touch on enforcement and a lighter hand on corporate governance issues broadly."

Incidentally, here is the utter idiocy/gigantic greed of Atkin's proposal:

First "the shareholders" did not prevent the nomination of a some psychopathic or sociopathic CEO who frauded to increase their profits, but then these CEOs are not only not to be prosecuted for fraud, but the companies are not to be punished anymore even just financially, because this might cost "the shareholders" money. That is: Everything is for the rich, and the rich cannot even be punished anymore either legally or financially.

And here is Elizabeth Warren:

In her searing take-down of Trump's "drain the swamp" rhetoric on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) named Atkins specifically—along with former Bear Stearns chief economist David Malpass and former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Steve Mnuchin—as among the "slew of Wall Street bankers, industry insiders, and special interest lobbyists" the president-elect has elevated to his transition team. 

"Quite frankly," Warren wrote, "the makeup of your transition team suggests that you will not only be 'letting Wall Street get away with murder' during your presidency—you will be letting them write the rules that allow them to get away with it."

Yes, precisely - as in fact also happened under Obama (!).

[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone). 

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