Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017

Crisis: Exit Democracy, Law & Government, White House, Major Corruption, More Hudson

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Time Is Already Running Out on Our Democracy, Says Expert
2. The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious
     — and Wholly Justified — Felonies

The White House Mess
4. With 'Valentine to Corruption,' Trump Officially Kills Big Oil

5. Meet the Renegades: Michael Hudson

This is a Nederlog of Wednes
day, February 15, 2017.

Summary: This file is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a quite interesting article about an American academic who specializes in fascism, and who warns that the American democracy will very soon be dead unless it is opposed by many (and I quite agree); item 2 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald about Gen. Flynn's lies, which I mostly skip: I concentrate on a few general poins about law and government; item 3 us about an article by Robert Reich about the White House, that
Reich - who was Secretary of Labor under Clinton's first presidency - insists is a "mess"; item 4 is about an article on Common Dreams that - correctly, in my opinion - says Trump's gift to the oil company leaves them completely free to corrupt any foreign government; and item 5 is not a text, but is another good video with Michael Hudson, which I recommend you see.
As for today (February 15, 2017): I have changed my site on February 1, 2017 to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the date it was that day), and it was this morning correct again (I honestly say: to my amazement, but it is good that it worked for 2 consecutive days now); on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but was correct this morning; and indeed I am sick of being systematically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers to find it more easily.

For more explanations, see
here - and no: with two different sites in two different countries with two different providers, where this has been happening for a year (and not for over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.

Incidentally, if you reached February 1, 2017 on one of my sites you are in the new set-up and from there you can find the latest Nederlog, and all others from there.
1. Time Is Already Running Out on Our Democracy, Says Expert

The first item today is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:

Timothy Snyder, a Yale scholar and an authority on European political history, has spent decades studying the rise of fascist movements. With the ascension of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Snyder sees echoes from history, and warns that the time to save America from autocracy is in short supply.

“I think things have tightened up very fast; we have at most a year to defend the republic, perhaps less,” Snyder stated in an interview with German outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung. “What happens in the next few weeks is very important.”

I did not know who Timothy Snyder (<-Wikipedia) is, but he is an interesting man, who also knows more languages (and more difficult ones) than I do, for he reads or speaks
11 languages, including Russian. And I agree with him that the Americans must act fast and in considerable number to ward off Trump's neofascism, although I fear this will not happen, though I agree quite a few are trying.

Here is one reason why I like Snyder, for here he is quoted:

“The story that Americans have told themselves from the moment he declared his candidacy for president, was that one institution or another would defeat him or at least change his behavior—he won’t get the nomination; if he gets the nomination, he will be a normal Republican; he will get defeated in the general election; if he wins, the presidency will mature him (that was what Obama said),” Snyder recounts. “I never thought any of that was true. He doesn’t seem to care about the institutions and the laws except insofar as they appear as barriers to the goal of permanent kleptocratic authoritarianism and immediate personal gratification. It is all about him all of time, it is not about the citizens and our political traditions.”

Yes, indeed, although I tihink that my analysis of Trump in terms of neofascism - in my sense - is better than "kleptocratic authoritarianism", although indeed that adequately describes part of what neofascism is. [1]

Here is more from Snyder:

“The temptation in a new situation is to imagine that nothing has changed,” Snyder says. “That is a choice that has political consequences: self-delusion leads to half-conscious anticipatory obedience and then to regime change... Most Americans are exceptionalists; we think we live outside of history. Americans tend to think: ‘We have freedom because we love freedom, we love freedom because we are free.’ It is a bit circular and doesn’t acknowledge the historical structures that can favor or weaken democratic republics. We don’t realize how similar our predicaments are to those of other people.”

“I wanted to remind my fellow Americans that intelligent people, not so different from ourselves, have experienced the collapse of a republic before. It is one example among many. Republics, like other forms of government, exist in history and can rise and fall.”

Yes indeed. And more generally, there is nothing necessary about democracy; there is nothing necessary about laws; and there is nothing necessary about capitalism.

Here is one of Snyder's proposals:

Snyder urges immediate resistance to the administration’s targeting of Muslims, immigrants, blacks and LGBT people, because if it can “slice off one group, it can do the same to others.” He says protest and pushback should continue with regularity.

“The Constitution is worth saving, the rule of law is worth saving, democracy is worth saving, but these things can and will be lost if everyone waits around for someone else.”

Yes indeed, although I also fear that many white Americans will think along the line
"I am not a Muslim; I am not an immigrant; I am not a black; and I am not one of
the LGBT people, so I have got better things to do".

What they forget is that it is not important who or what you are: What is important is the maintenance of democratic laws and equal protections for all. And while I grant that not much of democracy is left in the present USA, and the laws might have been a lot better, and equality is an ideal that never was reached, I also insist all three will be very much worse under neofascism, and that this probably will happen fast.

This ends as follows:

The only way to stop is to not obey, Snyder reiterates.   

For more of Snyder's insights on history’s lessons and how to apply them to Trump, check out his 20-point guide on forms of resistance.

Yes indeed, and the 20-point guide is recommended (and may be reviewed here tomorrow).

This is a recommended article.

2. The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious — and Wholly Justified — Felonies

The second item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

President Trump’s national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on Monday night as a result of getting caught lying about whether he discussed sanctions in a December telephone call with a Russian diplomat. The only reason the public learned about Flynn’s lie is because someone inside the U.S. government violated the criminal law by leaking the contents of Flynn’s intercepted communications.

In the spectrum of crimes involving the leaking of classified information, publicly revealing the contents of SIGINT — signals intelligence — is one of the most serious felonies.
Let me first briefly explain why I paid little attention to "Gen. Michael Flynn", although I did mention him yesterday: I am not and never was interested in him as a person, and while I am glad he resigned, I still am not interested in him. So I will continue to pay very little attention to his person, and concentrate on some larger issues about the law and about government.

And one point I wish to make about "the criminal law" and "
the U.S. government" is that while I agree that certain things that the U.S. government does must be kept secret (while it is happening), far too many of the things the U.S. government does are kept secret by laws that seem to me to be abused or that should not be there at all. One good illustration is the illegal - by the Fourth Amendment [2] - spying the NSA does on all Americans, that was made clear by Edward Snowden's revelations.

Here is some more about the American law:

That all of these officials committed major crimes can hardly be disputed. In January, CNN reported that Flynn’s calls with the Russians “were captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomats.” That means that the contents of those calls were “obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of [a] foreign government,” which in turn means that anyone who discloses them — or reports them to the public — is guilty of a felony under the statute.

Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” — for very good reason: The officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact that they violated the law. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter — his conversations with Russian diplomats — and the public has the absolute right to know this.

Hm. I think Flynn had to resign because he lied to or did not informed vice-president Penn. And possibly - I don't know - his conversations with the Russians had some
claim to be kept secret. (I dislike Trump and his government very much, but this
is a possibility that I, at least, lack the evidence to judge - somewhat - properly.)

For me the point is as I phrased it above: Far too many of the things the U.S. government does are kept secret by laws that seem to me to be abused or that
should not be there at all.

Here is a further point by Glenn Greenwald:

This episode underscores a critical point: The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.

That’s particularly true of whistleblowers — i.e., those who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal, when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits.

Yes indeed.

More generally, what "the law" prescribes or proscribes is one thing; what one considers ethically good or bad is quite another thing. Laws may be bad; laws may be corrupt; and laws may be abused. And while "the rule of law" is desirable as a general principle, this does not mean at all that each and every law is good or desirable (in anyone's ethical sense, that may differ a lot from person to person).

And because this is so, whistleblowers are important, for the reasons Greenfeld indictated.

There is considerably more in the article that I skip and leave to your interests, but here is one final bit about Greenwald himself:

It’s hard to put into words how strange it is to watch the very same people — from both parties, across the ideological spectrum — who called for the heads of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Tom Drake, and so many other Obama-era leakers today heap praise on those who leaked the highly sensitive, classified SIGINT information that brought down Gen. Flynn.

Yes. I deal with this by telling myself that many of these "very same people — from both parties, across the ideological spectrum" are simply deeply dishonest gross liars who are quite capable of defrauding the public as long as it serves their own financial or political interests or the financial or political interests of their groups or leaders, but I certainly was not educated to further myself by grossly lying.

I agree it remains strange to discover how much political leaders (of all kinds) lie and deceive and defraud the public that they lie to that they serve. And there are no human fields of endeavor where there are as many lies and liars as in politics and in religion.

3. The White House Mess

The third 
item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Donald Trump sold himself to voters as a successful businessman who knew how to get things done, a no-nonsense manager who’d whip government into shape.

But he’s showing himself to be about the most inept, disorganized, sloppy, incompetent president in recent memory, whose White House is nearly dysfunctional.

In fact, I don't know. I strongly dislike Trump and his government; I think Trump himself is an obivious case of narcissistic personality disorder, which by itself is more
than enough to completely disqualify him as president; I think his policy amounts to
the introduction of neofascism (in my sense), but I also know he has been there for 26 days now, and it seems to me very early to say - now - that he also is "
the most inept, disorganized, sloppy, incompetent president in recent memory".

He well may be, and Reich knows a lot more about American government and the USA than I do, but I lack Reich's evidence. But he does give some evidence that led him to the above conclusion, and here is some of it:

Meanwhile, Trump’s White House has sprung more leaks than any in memory. Aides are leaking news about other aides. They’re leaking examples of Trump’s incompetence and weirdness. They’re leaking the contents of telephone calls to other heads of state in which Trump was unprepared, didn’t know basic facts, and berated foreign leaders.

I say. This may be straightened out, but I do agree that Trump is incompetent, while
I say as a psychologist that Trump is not just "weird": He is not sane (and this last
link is to three professors of psychiatry who wrote this to Obama in November of 2016).

Then there is this, that I consider myself very "weird", to use Reich's term:

The U.S. intelligence community is so convinced that Trump and his administration have been compromised by Russia that they’re no longer giving the White House all of their most sensitive information, lest it end up in Putin’s hands.

A senior National Security Agency official says the National Security Agency is systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, fearing Trump and his staff can’t keep secrets. The intelligence community is concerned that even the Situation Room – the room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings – has been compromised by Russia.

This is very weird in my opinion (and there will certainly be a lot more on this) because the NSA (<-Wikipedia) is extremely powerful and is supposed to serve the president and his government.

But Trump insists that he knows better than the NSA and doesn't need much of their information, just as he insists he knows better than his generals, and just as he insists that he is better at the things that matter than anyone else (which are some of the
reasons why he has a narcissistic personality disorder [3] - which by now the NSA may think as well, because they deny him information they think a competent president should have).

Reich ends as follows:

The White House mess is Trump’s own fault. He’s supposed to be in charge,but it turns out he’s not a tough manager. He’s not even a good manager. He seems not to have any interest in managing at all.

Instead of whipping government into shape, he’s whipping it into a cauldron of dysfunction and intrigue. 

Just like his promises to “drain the Washington swamp” and limit the influence of big money, get Wall Street out of policy making, and turn government back to the people, Trump’s promise of an efficient government is another giant bait-and-switch.

As I started this review: I don't know and I think 26 days in the presidency is not long.
But there will be certainly more about this later.

4. With 'Valentine to Corruption,' Trump Officially Kills Big Oil Transparency

The fourth
item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

In a move global rights groups are decrying as a Valentine's Day gift to Big Oil, President Donald Trump on Tuesday officially voided a rule that forced extractive industries to disclose payments made to foreign governments. 

The transparency law, known as the Cardin-Luger amendment, was an Obama-era rule established to prevent multinational energy companies from striking backroom deals with corrupt governments. As Common Dreams previously reported, the years-long lobby effort against it was led by ExxonMobil under the leadership of former CEO and newly- confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Yes indeed: This was truly a Trumpian 'Valentine to Corruption', as the title has it:
US big oil are now free to corrupt any foreign government, for they don't need "
to disclose payments made to foreign governments" (and see below).

Here is some more:

As The Hill noted, Tuesday's signing marks the onset of "an aggressive deregulatory effort that the Trump administration and the GOP Congress are undertaking to roll back Obama-era rules on fossil fuel companies, financial institutions, and other businesses that they say have suffered for the last eight years."

But global humanitarian groups have warned that repeal of the anti-corruption measure will most impact the world's poor, as funds that were once considered public revenue will now line the pockets of leaders of resource-rich nations.

Note that deregulations - of laws that protect all, in order to provide riches to the few - have been systematically practiced by all American governments since Reagan, but Trump's deregulations will probably top all, and he (and Bannon) seem to wish to return the USA to the 90ies, that is the 1890ies, when corporations ruled supreme, until they were partially busted and partially tamed by Teddy Roosevelt (<-Wikipedia).

And the "global humanitarian groups" are quite correct: The rich will gain a lot, and the many poor will lose as much as the few rich will gain, plus some.

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

As the Guardian pointed out, abolishing the regulation means 425 companies traded on the U.S. stock exchange, including oil giants Exxon and Chevron, will no longer have any requirements to report their payments to foreign governments.

Note the that the oil companies (bolding added) "will no longer have any requirements to report their payments to foreign governments": They are completely free to corrupt any foreign government.

5. Meet the Renegades: Michael Hudson

The fifth and last item today is not a text but a video and is another interview with Michael Hudson (there was also one yesterday):

This takes half an hour and is a fine interview. (There is one brief appearance during the interview that invites you to become a member of The Renegades, but it soon disappears. As I do not know who The Renegades are, it seems silly to me to invite
me to become a member, but OK. The interview is fine, as I said.)

The intervew is here mainly because Michael Hudson (<- Wikipedia) is a prominent economist who talks sense about the economy, unlike the vast majority of economists.
Hudson also explains this well in the interview.

[1] I know myself a fair amount about fascism, indeed in part because both my father and my grandfather were arrested in June 1941 for resisting the Nazis, and were
convicted to concentration-camp imprisonment (by collaborating Dutch judges), which my grandfather did not survive, but I think there are differences between fascism and neofascism, and because I never saw any definition of neofascism (or neo-fascism) that seemed reasonable to me, here is my definition once again (for I think it is important):

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.
It is also this definition (compiled before I knew about Trump) that desctibes Trump and his government very well - I'd say.

[2] Since I hold this is also very important, here is the Fourth Amendment once again, with a brief explanation:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
First, the "effects" are "items of property", as Wikipedia explains.

Second, the NSA breaks systematically and intentionally the parts that say that "
no Warrants shall issue" for searches or seizures of anything "but upon probable cause", which fails against the vast majority of all American citizens, "supported by Oath or affirmation" that "particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized" that also fails against anyone tapped by the NSA,

For virtually every American computer or cellphone is spied on and tapped as a matter of course by the NSA, that also seems to download anything and everything it can get that way (private e-mails, private conversations by phones, and anything else they can find) as a matter of course.

I think this is the best way any government has to impose total tyranny on everyone. And I think that the fact that it has not happened yet, is no guarantee whatsoever it will not happen, and since "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Lord Acton), this very probably will happen.

For more, see Frank Church.

[3] You should read the link if you didn't already.

And as to narcissism (<-Wikipedia) : First, there are a few persons with very large gifts very few have or approximate - Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Newton, Von Neumann, for example - but Trump is not one of them at all. And second, even these great geniuses excelled in one or two things at most: Absolutely no one excels all or most others in all or most or many things, and this is one reason why someone who says he does probably is a narcissist and pretends to be far better than he really is or indeed humanly can be.

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