Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Crisis: Corrupt US Law, Trump's Governent, Democrats, Tax Cuts, Impeach Trump

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from August 22, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, August 22, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection (usually) from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from August 22, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig (that currently has the worst self-presenation as a journal I've ever seen [2]). It starts as follows:

I drink coffee in the morning on a round, ornate oak table that once belonged to Harlan Fiske Stone, a U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1925 to 1946 and the chief justice for the last five of those years. Stone and his family spent their summers on this windswept, remote island six miles off the coast of Maine.

Stone, a Republican and close friend of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, embodied a lost era in American politics. His brand of conservatism, grounded in the belief that the law is designed to protect the weak from the powerful, bears no resemblance to that of the self-proclaimed “strict constitutionalists” in the Federalist Society who have accumulated tremendous power in the judiciary. The Federalist Society, at the behest of President Trump, is in charge of vetting the 108 candidates for the federal judgeships that will be filled by the administration. The newest justice, Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, comes out of the Federalist Society, as did Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The self-identified “liberals” in the judiciary, while progressive on social issues such as abortion and affirmative action, serve corporate power as assiduously as the right-wing ideologues of the Federalist Society. The Alliance for Justice
points out that 85 percent of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees—280, or a third of the federal judiciary—had either been corporate attorneys or government prosecutors. Those who came out of corporate law firms accounted for 71 percent of the nominees, with only 4 percent coming from public interest groups and the same percentage having been attorneys who represented workers in labor disputes.

I say. Here is an item of background information: The Wikipedia link to Harlan Fiske Stone. And I agree that (to the best of my knowledge) (i) "the self-identified “liberals” in the judiciary, while progressive on social issues such as abortion and affirmative action, serve corporate power as assiduously as the right-wing ideologues of the Federalist Society", while (ii) "85 percent of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees—280, or a third of the federal judiciary—had either been corporate attorneys or government prosecutors".

Here is more on Stone's opinions:

Stone repeatedly warned that unchecked corporate power would mean corporate tyranny and the death of democracy. He was joined in that thinking by Louis D. Brandeis, his fellow justice and ally on the court, who stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The supposed clash between liberal and conservative judges is largely a fiction. The judiciary, despite the Federalist Society’s high-blown rhetoric about the sanctity of individual freedom, is a naked tool of corporate oppression. The most basic constitutional rights—privacy, fair trials and elections, habeas corpus, probable-cause requirements, due process and freedom from exploitation—have been erased for many, especially the 2.3 million people in our prisons, most having been put there without ever going to trial. Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. Our judicial system, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets and secret prisons in the name of national security.

I agree completely with Judge Brandeis: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both." And indeed democracy in the USA seems mostly dead, not only because of concentrated great wealth, but also because that concentrated great wealth has bought up all of the mainstream media, that now mostly tout their propaganda and lies.

And I also agree that (i) "
the judiciary" "is a naked tool of corporate oppression"; that (ii) "the most basic constitutional rights—privacy, fair trials and elections, habeas corpus, probable-cause requirements, due process and freedom from exploitation—have been erased for many"; that (iii) "constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized"; and that (iv) "our judicial system" (..) "has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets and secret prisons in the name of national security", which is the beginning of the rule of the secret services over all.

Here is the final bit that I'll quote from this article:
Our constitutional rights have steadily been stripped from us by judicial fiat. The Fourth Amendment reads: “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.” Yet our telephone calls and texts, emails and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, can be and commonly are tracked, recorded, photographed and stored in government computer banks.

Yes indeed: Everybody's "telephone calls and texts, emails and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels" are "tracked, recorded, photographed and stored in" - secret - "government computer banks" that are owned by the secret services. Since 9/11/2001, at the latest.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump May Not Finish His Term But the Assassination Complex Will Live On

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. This is from near the beginning:

Amid the deluge of scandal, incompetence, and bigotry emanating from the Trump White House, the relative calm of the Obama era seems like a far-off galaxy. The reality that Trump may not even finish a full term as president, either due to removal or resignation, means that the palace intrigue must be reported on thoroughly by the press. But a dangerous consequence of the overwhelming, obsessive focus on the daily Trump affairs is a virtual dearth of coverage on the permanent, unelected institutions of U.S. power, namely the military and the CIA.

Spend just a moment studying moves of the Pentagon and Langley during the Trump era, and you will find that very little has changed in their post-9/11 course. Covert operations continue unabated throughout the Arab world and, increasingly, in Somalia. The U.S. remains in Iraq and Afghanistan and is becoming entrenched more deeply in Syria. If anything, the military and CIA are less restrained and are in greater control of decisions — that arguably create policy rather than implement it — than they were under Obama. And civilians are being killed at a greater rate under Trump, particularly in Iraq and Syria. There are reports that Trump has delegated more unilateral authority to the commanders than his predecessor and has relaxed rules ostensibly put in place to minimize civilian deaths. He has surrounded himself with generals who have spent their lives studying and preparing for war and know how to marshal the resources needed for overt and covert campaigns. This — combined with Trump’s questionable sanity, his pathological addiction to television and Twitter, and his compulsive need to respond to random pundits and congressmen at all hours — removes a crucial component of civilian oversight of the world’s most lethal force.

There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended. Here is a restatement of the above argument (with some - moral - colorings and some deletions by me):

1. Obama's government was competent, Trump's isn't (but both mainly work(ed) for the rich, as can e.g. seen by Obama's reserving ten trillion dollars for "the American defense", while winning a Nobel Prize for peace).
2. Trump may well be removed or may resign himself as president. (I think this depends - for now, at least - on whether Robert Mueller's investigations can proceed.)
3. The military and the CIA are creating policies rather than implementing policies (which is the end of any democracy).
4. Trump's governent is one of Goldman Sachs bankers, pensioned generals and a number of incompetent Republicans (such as Carson) who seem to have been nominated to destroy most of the government functions they are supposed to execute.
5. And indeed Trump is not sane (as many psychologists and some psychiatrists have been saying since 2016, and I am i.a. a psychologist who agrees), as indeed (also) can be inferred from his insane Tweets.

That seems a fairly fair
representation of the US government at the moment. There is considerably more in the argument, that is recommended.

3.  Hamilton Fish: Democrats Don't Offer Voters a 'Viable Vision'

This article is posted by Emma Niles on Truthdig (that currently has the worst self-presenation as a journal I've ever seen [2]), but is in fact about an article and interview by Robert Scheer. It starts as follows (it seems under a picture of Hamilton Fish (<-Wikipedia)):
Hamilton Fish.
“I think journalism is our number one priority right now, in terms of the rehabilitation of our nation,” Hamilton Fish tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in this week’s episode of KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence.”
I did not know until today who is Hamilton Fish (V, as he is the fifth in succession with that name), but he does seem a quite decent man (in terms of my values) - check out the Wikipedia) and I think he is quite right in the opinion I just quoted.

And my reason to agree with Fish is quite simple:

If the (mainstream) media are filled with lies or propaganda, written by liars or propagandists, almost anything done by almost anyone can be falsified, denied or wholly kept from being discussed. And that situation, that is, one in which the (mainstream) media are mostly
written by liars or propagandists, does seem to be the situation of both most papers and most internet sites, and is most conducive to totalitarianism and neofascism.

And here is Fish - who is a long-time Democrat - on what the Democrats have had to offer since Bill Clinton became president:
“I can’t really remember when a person running as a Democrat had something to offer,” Fish says, noting that he is a Democrat and has run for office as a Democrat in the past. “We’ve been defending a status quo for about 35 years, against what we describe as a reckless, irresponsible, increasingly partisan and sharp-edged ideological right-wing adversary, and we never really — truthfully, we never really countered their palaver with a viable vision for the American voters.”
I'd say that the underlying reason is that Bill (and Hillary) Clinton sold out massively to the the rich bankers (who rewarded Bill Clinton after his presidency with over 100 million dollars for doing precisely what they wanted), while the differences between what the rich bankers want and what the Republicans want are totally irrelevant as far as the incomes of and the deregulations for the rich bankers go: There the Democrats and the Republicans are mostly one and the same, indeed because both groups are paid by the bankers: the main differences are in the kinds of propagandas that sell these ideas to their voters.

And here is Robert Scheer (rather further down the interview), about the positions of the journalists and of the papers and the media that pay their salaries:
RS: So let me shift the topic a little bit and ask, what is the future of journalism? And I know you–my own view is the model of journalism is broken, and no one has a way of putting it back. And it’s basically not a conspiracy, it’s the result of technology and the growth of the Internet. And the fact of the matter is, when I worked at the LA Times for 29 years, they could run a pretty good paper based on advertising, ‘cause the advertisers had no choice; if they–maybe they could go to broadcast, but print was a pretty good way of displaying your car ads and everything else. And that’s the only way they could find their readers.
Yes, I agree, although - and see Brezinski, in 2012 - I am not averse to the suggestion that the internet-as-is is the product of a conspiracy, simply because Brezinski could "foresee" the present internet more or less in 1969, which in fact is most unlikely, unless it was already then being planned, at least in my view (for no one can successfully predict things happening 25 years into the future, if that future was not planned long before).

Forgetting about the internet for the moment, I do agree that the reason the paper media got corrupted by big money and centralizations is almost solely the disappearance of their advertisers to the internet.

And given that, it's not a miracle that most of mainstream media got sorely corrupted. Finally, here is Robert Scheer summing this up:
RS: . This is what Confucius dealt with, it’s what Aristotle dealt with; it’s always been the key issue in trying to have sanity in the ordering of human affairs: how do you remain accountable to the people who are being governed, OK, so that you’re not screwing over these people. And somehow, and we began by discussing the failure of elite education and the meritocracy; we talked a little bit about what happened to liberals. But the saving graces of society was the assumption that people of power could also be held accountable or hold themselves accountable. The power would not be allowed to just corrupt them. And that’s been lost.
There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended. 

4. The Absurdity of Corporate Tax Cuts During the Corporate Pillaging of the Middle Class

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

It could be argued that the greatest American pillaging is the transfer of taxpayer funds into the bloated military, or a greed-driven private health care system that deprives human beings of essential medical care. But the conversion of American technologies into low-taxed plutocratic profit may be the most flagrant attack on the middle class. 

It can also be argued that the products of the technological companies have enriched and energized our lives in numerous ways, and that the high-tech job market has never been better. But the rest of us pay dearly for all the technological benefits, much more than just the hundreds of dollars for phones and phone service. We have lost middle-class jobs and middle-class wealth. We have lost our share of the national productivity that is the direct result of 70 years of taxpayer input into the technologies that have enriched fewer and fewer people.

Yes indeed: I quite agree with the first paragraph, while the second may be restated as follows: There are advantages to some of the many "technological benefits" that the internet has brought the world, but nearly all of these advantages are for the richest 5% (of Americans), while these advantages are realized by disadvantaging the other 95%.

And there is this on the latest corporate tax cuts (which will further enrich the few very rich, at the costs of the many non-rich):

Corporate Tax Cuts: Are They Kidding? 

Donald Trump and the Republicans want a lower corporate tax rate. But many of the largest U.S. companies have paid ZERO federal income taxes in recent years, and overall the corporate world pays anywhere from 13 to 19 percent, about half the 35 percent statutory rate that they so often complain about. 

In 2016, fifteen of the largest corporations in America, with combined revenue well over a trillion dollars, paid less than 6 percent in U.S. federal income taxes. 

Meanwhile, profits have been growing at the fastest rate in six years, with a double-digit increase in the most recent quarter.

Yes indeed. Incidentally, the taxes on the rich that were supported by the Republican Eisenhower amounted to 70% or more, and did NOT destroy capitalism at all, though indeed the few rich profited a lot less under Eisenhower, which benefitted the non-rich.

And here is the list of the very few companies that profit enormously:

Google has 88 percent of all search advertising; Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp and other acquisitions) has 77 percent of all social media traffic; Amazon processes nearly half of online retail sales. Dean Baker notes that we pay higher prices for computer software because of the patent and copyright monopolies claimed by Microsoft and other tech companies. Baker also discusses the monopolistic effects of patents in the pharmaceutical industry: "The breakthrough drugs for cancer, hepatitis C, and other diseases, which now sell for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, would instead sell for a few hundred dollars."

That is, the horrible foursome consisting of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (I am missing Apple), that I do not use at all (except for Yotube, I admit).

There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

5. Time to Impeach Trump

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truth-out. This is from near the beginning:

The president's reprehensible behavior in this moment creates a new sense of urgency. We cannot postpone consideration of impeachment until Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his criminal investigation. It is time to pressure the House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment against Trump for his abuse of power. We must stop this president before he launches a new civil war and/or nuclear war.

Commentator Robert Tracinski, writing on the conservative website The Federalist, concurs. "We're done with the 'Well, maybe it won't be so bad and we should take what we can get' phase of this administration," he wrote, apparently referring to Republicans who are holding their noses while hoping for tax cuts and more right-wing Supreme Court justices.

"It's time for the 'He's a disaster and needs to go' phase," Tracinski continued. "For everybody's good, Donald Trump needs to not be president, and he needs to not be president yesterday."

I agree, and it is somewhat interesting that Marjorie Cohn quotes a conservative and (it seems) a federalist. And as stated quite a few times in earlier Nederlogs, my own reason, as a psychologist, to desire that "he needs to not be president yesterday" is that I think (since the beginning of 2016) that Donald Trump is not sane.

Here is more by the conservative Tracinski, who seems to have been disturbed by the events in Charlottesville:

As Tracinski pointed out, "this was a Nazi march from the beginning, planned by Nazis, for Nazis." The day before the deadly rally, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched through Charlottesville with Ku Klux Klan-like tiki torches, also chanting the Nazi slogan, "Blood and Soil."

I do not know whether this is correct, but if it is, the initial statement of the quote seems to be quite true.

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

An August 2-8 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 40 percent of Americans -- including almost three-quarters of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans -- favored Trump's impeachment. That poll took place before the deadly Charlottesville rally.
But do Republicans have the will to impeach Trump? Maybe not. Of those who took issue with his statements, almost none called out the president directly. Sen Cory Gardner (Colorado), one of the few who did, tweeted, "Mr. President -- we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

I say: 75% of the Democrats is for impeachment, while 7% of the Republicans are. And while 40% is not a majority, I do think that 4 out of 10 Americans who agree that Trump must go, after seven months of presidency, is not bad.

And this is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] The site of Truthdig changed recently, and changed to the worst looking site I have ever seen. I admit part is due to the settings of my Firefox, that have to deal with my rather bad eyes, but (i) I also looked at the new Truthdig site without my Firefox settings, and while it is not quite as bad (pictures are not overwritten) it still is no good, and also (ii) I have no trouble seeing and reading all the other 34 sites I look at every morning, with my own settings of Firefox.

I do hope this gets rapidly changed back (as was The Guardian, that also, for something like three months, produced only texts without pictures on its opening site).

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