Thursday, May 4, 2017

Crisis: North Korea, Obama's Cash-In, Obamacare, Trump, Bully-Worships, Nuclear War

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. North Korea Wants to Convince the World It Can Nuke Hawaii.
     Donald Trump Is Happy to Oblige.

Why Obama’s Big Cash-In Matters
3. The New GOP Plan to Repeal Obamacare Would Actually
     Create Real 'Death Panels' 

Trump's Unnecessary Cruelty
5. ‘I, for One, Welcome Our New Insect Overlords!’ How the
     Chattering Class Bully-Worships Trump

Nearly 500K People Urge Congress to "Take Away Trump's
     Nuclear Football"


This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, May 4, 2017.

Summary: This is a
crisis log with six items and six links: Item 1 is about North Korea and the USA; item 2 is about Obama's cashing in (and I guess he also will get more than $100 million dollars from various sources - autobiography + rich bankers - as did Bill and Hillary Clinton); item 3 is about how the new GOP "healthcare" plan is meant to exclude many who are poor from being insured; item 4 is about an article by Reich about Trump's unnecessary cruelty; item 5 is about a new article by Mike Lofgren; and item 6 is about the fact that no less than half a million persons want to take away Trump's power to start a war (as is the law in the USA: That is up to Congress, legally speaking, and not the president).

Also, I have since February 1 made the Nederlog of the day (this one, today) into the opening of the site, but I found that is too much work for me (who also is ill) to do, so today I changed back to the previous old and proper schema (except for the fact that "xs4all" - really: the KPN - simply refuses to update my site properly, as they did do from 1996 to 2015, and as the other site I have, that I started in 2005 because already then "xs4all" was horrible for me, still does, and as is completely normal - but not for "xs4all" - really: KPN - anymore).

I have explained this in an earlier Nederlog and have also removed the upper white box that contained a link to the main index. The main index now opens my site as before, and till February 2017.
May 4: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site - quite unaccountably - happens to be correct today. They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most. I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. North Korea Wants to Convince the World It Can Nuke Hawaii. Donald Trump Is Happy to Oblige.

The first article today is by Mattathias Schwartz on The Intercept:
This starts below a photo of a smiling Kim Jong-un and 7 "exhilarated" general types, as follows:

U.S. officials have repeatedly (and falsely) claimed that North Korea is on the verge of having the capability to carry out a nuclear strike on U.S. soil. And the Trump White House has done little to tamp down media speculation about nuclear war, perhaps because the hype plays to its advantage.

In fact, President Trump’s rhetorical brinksmanship has some resemblance to the governing style of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator whom Trump recently called “a pretty smart cookie.” A population that feels threatened by mass violence tends to line up behind its protector. Exaggerated beliefs about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities serve to justify America’s own provocations. These include Foal Eagle, a military exercise carried out on North Korea’s doorstep by U.S. and South Korean forces every spring since 2002.
Yes, I think this is mostly correct. I do not know the nuclear capability of North Korea, but at least now it doesn't seem serious (and North Korea is a poor country with an average income of $150 a month and a population of some 25 million).

It probably will become more serious (if North Korea continues to exist as now) but not just yet and probably not the coming years:

The North Korean missile that’s drawn the most speculation is called the KN-08. It has only been tested twice. Both tests ended in failure. Nevertheless, NBC has offered advice on what Americans should do in case of a nuclear strike. Fox News reported on Hawaii’s “emergency attack plans.”
This means - for me at least - that NBC and Fox News contributed to war hysteria.
Here is some more on the reasons why:

There is a problem with this scenario. The North Korean missiles that are theoretically capable of reaching Hawaii do not work. Nor do many other key components of the country’s arsenal. Last Friday, two days after Harris’s warning, North Korea tried to launch a medium-range ballistic missile. It was not mounted with a nuclear warhead — it’s unclear whether North Korea is actually capable of mounting a working nuclear bomb onto a working missile. The missile flew 22 miles, never leaving North Korean airspace, before exploding into harmless pieces.

I agree with Mattathias Schwarz that the North Koreans now and probably in the coming years will not be capable of doing much with long distance rockets or nuclear arms.

2. Why Obama’s Big Cash-In Matters

The second article is by by Paul Street on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

One of my little online entertainments this year has been to ask my social media network a question: “So, what’s Obama up to lately?”

I want to know, but I haven’t had the stomach to follow the man once he left the White House.

Truth be told, I burned out on Obama years ago.

I called him out as a corporate, neoliberal imperialist and a de facto white supremacist (as ironic as that might sound given his technical blackness) from the beginning of the nationwide “Obamas” phenomenon in the summer of 2004.
I say.

Paul Street certainly was rather a lot earlier than I was (indeed by about 5 years: I gave up on Obama in the second half of 2009), but he is American and a journalist, and I am Dutch and am (in spite of having a large site that is updated every day) not a real journalist (for I neither had the education, nor the experience: if I am something on the internet, it is mostly a commentator).

But I do agree with Paul Street, who undoubtedly knows a lot more about Obama and his many pretensions than I do:
From 2006 through 2011, I dedicated inordinate research and writing to the “BaRockstar.” Prior to his 2009 inauguration (an event I found likely once George W. Bush defeated John F. Kerry in 2004), I tried to warn progressives (and anyone else who would listen) about Obama’s coming presidential service to the rich and powerful, their global empire and the white majority’s desire to deny the continuing power of anti-black racism in the United States. I collected my warnings in a 2008 book that bore the deceptively neutral title “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.”

I continued to follow Obama closely. In 2010, my next book, “The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power,” detailed his dutiful fealty to the nation’s “deep state” masters of capital and empire (and to white majority opinion on race) during his first year in the White House. This volume exhaustively refuted partisan Democrats who insisted that Obama really wanted to do progressive things but was prevented from that by a Republican Congress. It was a nonsensical claim.
Yes, I quite agree. And as I said, I arrived at a similar conclusion as did Paul Street, but only by the second half of 2009 (when I was also deflected by my illness - since 1.i.1979 - to comment on developments around ME/CFS that turned out to be wholly false two years later, in 2011).

Here is some more on Obama's real values, from after he was re-elected in 2012:

After his 2012 re-election, Obama spoke at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. “When you go to other countries,” Obama told the corporate chieftains, “the political divisions are so much more stark and wider. Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans—we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines. … People call me a socialist sometimes. But no, you’ve got to meet real socialists. [Laughter.] I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health care reform is based on the private marketplace.”

It was what the socialist writer and activist Danny Katch called “a touching ruling class moment.”

The warm feelings made good capitalist sense. Fully 95 percent of the nation’s new income went to the top 1 percent during Obama’s first term. Obama won his second term partly by appropriating populist rhetoric from an Occupy Wall Street movement he’d helped dismantle with infiltration and force in the fall and winter of 2011.
Yes, indeed. In fact, there is rather a lot more in the article, that I want to leave mostly to your own interests, except for two points.

The first is this, and it is from Mike Lofgren (whom I like - see e.g. here):

As Mike Lofgren noted in his widely read book “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government”: “Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career beyond what is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice—certainly beyond the dreams of a government salaryman” [emphasis added].

Yes indeed, and I think this is both a quite good and a probably true guess:

Wall Street now has both the money and much of the power in Trump's government, and they got there basically because they were lifted to that position by the enormous corruption that was embraced by Obama in 2009: From then on, they also knew they could more or less do as they pleased, for neither Obama nor Eric Holder did anything to prosecute any banker for any of their many frauds.

And the second point is that my own guess is that Obama will try to cash in at least as much as Bill and Hillary Clinton did, who now own over 100 million dollars, mostly through extremely well-paid speeches to very rich bankers, and receiving great amounts for their autobiographies.

So I guess that Obama - who meanwhile got $65 million for his autobiography, and who was promised $400,000 for his first speech to very rich bankers - will not stop until he has made a $100 million dolllars as well.

And this is a recommended article.

3. The New GOP Plan to Repeal Obamacare Would Actually Create Real 'Death Panels' 

The third article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:
Now it’s the House Republicans who are correctly being accused of creating so-called death panels.

Sarah Palin went on a famous tirade in 2009 after she and John McCain lost the presidential election, saying the bill that would become known as Obamacare would lead to medical rationing and life-and-death decisions by faceless bureaucrats about who got coverage and who would not.

Seniors and the disabled “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care,” Palin said, lying at that time in a manner that anticipated the rise of Donald Trump.

As of early Wednesday, House Republicans appeared to be blinking when it comes to amassing enough votes to pass their latest Obamacare repeal bill because what they are hearing loud and clear is turning crazy Sarah’s macabre vision into reality. Americans struggling with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses are expressing their concrete fears that the House’s latest handiwork will accelerate their demise, because it repeals Obamacare’s ban on insurers rejecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allows insurers to segregate these people into pricier high-risk pools. Both are disasters.
Yes indeed. I do not know whether there will be death panels in the Republican plan, but then these probably are not needed either, for the Republicans plan to leave all the poor to their own devices to pay for healthcare, that few will be able to pay.

And few of the American poor will be able to pay because health insurance - as I understand it - was based on the principle of spreading the risks of serious disease over all insured, instead of excluding everyone with a disease from being insured, which is what the profit hungry want.

But the profit hungry are in power, so that is what they are trying to do: Only insure those who do not have some pre-existing condition, which in effect is a minority of the over 50 year olds.

This is indeed why this will be a disaster for millions or tens of millions of poor Americans.

And this is a recommended article.

4. Trump's Unnecessary Cruelty

The fourth article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

The theme that unites all of Trump’s initiatives so far is their unnecessary cruelty.

I think Reich may well be correct. Here are four important reasons Reich gives why he thinks so, and I copy them without the additional text, that you can find by clicking the last dotted link:

1. His new budget comes down especially hard on the poor
2. Trump and his enablers in the GOP are on the way to repealing
     the Affordable Care Act
3. Trump is banning Syrian refugees
4. Trump is rounding up undocumented immigrants

And I admit that Reich might be mistaken about Trump's cruelty: He may be cruel not because he likes cruelty (?), but simply because he doesn't care for the poor, the persecuted nor the refugees, rather as he doesn't care for the immigrants.

Here is Reich's ending:

Why is Trump doing this? These actions come when unemployment is down, crime is down, and we have fewer undocumented workers in the U.S. today than we did ten years ago.

Trump is embarking on an orgy of cruelty for absolutely no reason. This is profoundly immoral. It is morally incumbent on all of us to stop it.

Quite possibly so, though indeed it may also be because Trump doesn't care for the poor because he thinks they have (in his opinion) "poor"- African or Mexican - "genes", unlike his own German genes. (Trump does think that his genes are "very good".)

5. ‘I, for One, Welcome Our New Insect Overlords!’ How the Chattering Class Bully-Worships Trump

The fifth article article is by Mike Lofgren (<-Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

I mentioned Mike Lofgren above, and supplied a link to him. There is considerably more in the Nederlogs since 2016 on him, either under his name or the deep state (with or without capitals) in the index for 2016.

And this article starts as follows:

In his review of Bertrand Russell’s Power: A New Social Analysis, George Orwell wrote the following: “Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion… ”

Orwell may have exaggerated, but there is some truth in what he said. These days, in Washington as in Hollywood, the hordes of journalists, pundits, press agents, pollsters, consultants and similar glitterati appear to attach a normative value to notoriety, power and influence, thereby investing the person thus described with even more notoriety, power and influence. Like medieval saints, the exalted ones possess mysterious powers and receive dispensation thanks to behavior that would be expected from the rest of us as the norm, like ordinary civility.

Both Bertrand Russell (<-Wikipedia) and George Orwell (<-Wikipedia) belong to my 10 or 15 most liked authors, which is one reason for me to make a remark on the possibility that "Orwell may have exaggerated":

Indeed he may have, but he wrote his review in the late 1930ies, at a time when Stalin ruled the Soviet-Union, Hitler ruled Germany, and the world was in an economical crisis. Besides, while "bully-worship" is a vague term, it also is an undeniable fact that very many have admired the powerful and the rich, often for no better reason than that they had a lot of power or a lot of money.

And indeed Lofgren is right in writing that "the hordes of" present-day "journalists, pundits, press agents, pollsters, consultants and similar glitterati appear to attach a normative value to notoriety, power and influence", which seems to be the same mechanism.

Here is more:

For almost five decades, the right-wing propaganda machine has bombarded America with the message that the “elites” (defined as the press, university professors, lawyers and other upper-middle professionals, but not as corporate CEOs, fossil fuel billionaires or the upper-middle professionals who happen to toil at right-wing foundation jobs) are sniffish, reflexively anti-American and constitutionally opposed to middle-American values.

I think that is correct (and I don't live in the USA), and while there is something to saying that "the press, university professors, lawyers and other upper-middle professionals" belong to "an elite", this was intentionally misleading propaganda, because the elite they belong to is neither the elite of power nor the elite of money, but only the elite of education - which socially speaking is not much of a - really effective - elite, even if journalists and professors get better paid than blue collar workers.

There is this on Trump's power and Trump's accomplishments:

Trump’s party controls the presidency, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. Yet to date, his so-called accomplishments are laughably meager compared to previous incoming presidents.

I agree mostly, and indeed this makes me slightly less unhappy with Trump's presidency, although I still think a man like him never should be president.

There is this on Trump's character:

The authors of the Politico piece insist other journalists don’t “get” Trump, but he’s pretty easy to figure out. He’s an authoritarian bully. Yes, most of us have seen his campaign rallies and cotton to the fact his devoted followers think a bully is admirable and that nothing on earth will shake their religious faith in him. But in addition to being a bully, he’s also ignorant, doesn’t do his homework and is incurably lazy. That means resolute opposition can stop him, and so far, it mostly has.

Yes, I think that is correct. Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

We are 100 days plus into the Trump presidency. His inability to enact his agenda so far is a promising sign, but that doesn’t mean our luck will hold.

Again yes, and I also think it would be naive - after 100 days - to believe that "our luck will hold". And this is a recommended article.

6. Nearly 500K People Urge Congress to "Take Away Trump's Nuclear Football"

The sixth and last article today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams, and is about one of my main worries since Trump became president of the USA (which arises in my case in part because I am a psychologist; I have known some quite mad persons; and I think, as many psychologists and psychiatrists also do, that Donald Trump is not sane):

This starts as follows:

Close to 500,000 people have signed a petition, delivered to Congress on Wednesday, that urges lawmakers to take President Donald Trump's finger off the nuclear button.

The petition supports the "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act," legislation introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would prohibit Trump from launching a nuclear weapon without Congress first authorizing a declaration of war.

"No American president should be allowed to launch an unprovoked nuclear war," Markey said at the press conference marking the petition delivery. "The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, and we should not allow President Trump—or any president—to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack against the U.S. or our allies."

More than a dozen advocacy groups helped circulate the petition, from the anti-nuclear Peace Action to the democracy watchdog Public Citizen.

I did not know this, and while I completely agree with the end of the legislation that was introduced by Lieu and Markey, I have two somewhat critical remarks, albeit not
about Lieu and Markey:

First, I like to point out that it is a - long existing - fact that it is Congress (and  only Congress) that has the legal right to declare war, and not the president of the USA, although it is also true that these laws have been watered down a lot by both Bush Jr. and Obama (who pretended their executive powers covered the legislative powers, which in fact is one sign of a dictatorship).

And second, given the extreme importance that any nuclear war will have (it will almost certainly kill most persons), and while I agree that 500,000 signatures is quite
a lot, it also is less than 1/6th of 1 percent of all Americans.

Then again, I completely agree with the petition, for reasons like these:

"It's time to take away Trump's nuclear football," Levine said.

Many highlighted the destructive power of modern weapons—especially when handed over to a president with a temper and a shaky grasp of geopolitics.

"Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to Congress," said Lieu. "A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional."

"Furthermore, the single individual currently possessing the sole power to start WWIII is Donald J. Trump. The president has demonstrated a frightening ignorance of the nuclear triad, crowed about being 'unpredictable' with our nuclear arsenal, and taken to Twitter to make provocative statements about U.S. nuclear posture," Lieu added. "The fate of humanity just may be at stake."

Yes indeed. And here is some more, also quite true to the best of my knowledge:

Lillyanne Daigle, network campaigner for Global Zero, added, "One modern nuclear weapon is more destructive than all of the bombs detonated in World War II combined—yet there is no check on Trump's ability to use the thousands of nuclear weapons at his command. His power to do so is absolute, and once he hits the proverbial red button there would be no take-backs."

"That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to America's founding principles," Daigle said. "The proposed legislation is an important first step to reining in this autocratic system and making the world safer from nuclear catastrophe."

I quite agree, and have two additional points:

First, what Lieu and Daigle say is the law in the United States: Only Congress can declare war. Second, the reason that the president has the power to lauch nuclear arms is - or so it seems - that anyone has about 4 minutes to decide what to do in case the USA is attacked (with nuclear arms).

And I make these points to insist that this does not change anything about the law or the petition: No American president should be allowed to start a nuclear war.


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