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Nederlog

Thursday, December 28, 2017.

Crisis: U.S. Courts, Trump's Cabinet, The Wealthy, On War, Trump The Madman
 
Sections                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 28, 2017.
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, December 28, 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 will continue with it.

On the moment and since two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from December 28, 2017
1. Former Federal Judge: Trump Is Packing the Courts with
     Unqualified Conservative Extremists

2. Trump's Cabinet Members Are Operating in Unprecedented
     Secrecy: Report

3. As Wealthiest Amass Another $1 Trillion in 2017, Calls for a
     'Strike Back' Against Oligarchy

4. Will A War With North Korea Be Our Political Leaders’ Greatest
     Regret?

5. Donald Trump Did Not Play Golf Today
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:

1. Former Federal Judge: Trump Is Packing the Courts with Unqualified Conservative Extremists

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
With the confirmation of a 12th circuit court judge earlier this month, Trump set a record for the most appellate judges confirmed in a president’s first year in office. Early in his first year, Trump appointed conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. But legal experts say Trump’s appointments to the lower courts will have the most impact on American life because they decide nearly all cases, ranging from voting rights and contraception to gay rights and immigration. Meanwhile, Trump’s nominee to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. District Court in Washington withdrew from consideration, after widely circulated video showed he was unable to answer basic questions about the law and had never tried a case in court. We get response from Judge Shira Scheindlin, former United States district judge for the Southern District of New York, where she served for 22 years.
As I have said several times: I usually copy the introductions to the interviews on Democracy Now! simply because they are good.

It is the same here, and the subject is the systematic judicial corruption that Trump's government is indulging in.

Here is Judge Scheindlin:

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN: A lot is happening right now—and, as you already said, at record speed. You mentioned that 12 circuit judges have been confirmed. The previous high was three, and that was President Obama, got three circuit judges confirmed in his first year. So, we are seeing a rapid effort to pack the courts with what can only be termed very conservative judges and justices.

We have one Supreme Court justice, and everybody pays a lot of attention to that, but the reality is that the lower courts is where the action is. So, on the 13 circuit courts, they write 60,000 opinions. The Supreme Court writes 62. So, you can see that the final word in most cases is at the appellate level. The trial courts write several hundred thousand opinions per year. There are a total of about 179 circuit judges throughout the country, 677 district court judges. And as you know, a Supreme Court vacancy is a very rare event.

So, if those lower courts become filled with very conservative judges, all of whom who have life tenure, all of whom will serve 30 to 40 years, then the impact of these appointments will last for decades.
Yes indeed. And here is the basic explanation why Trump's government can do it, indeed unlike Obama's government and previous other governments:
SHIRA SCHEINDLIN:  Now, what has changed? What has changed is we don’t have the filibuster rule. This is very important to explain. It used to take 60 votes, but now it takes only a bare majority. Now, that changed under the Democrats in 2013, but they had to do it. They had to use that nuclear option, because their picks were being blocked in the Senate. And while they knew they did that at their own peril, that it would come back to haunt them, there are many who believe, even if they hadn’t done it, it would be done now. The Republicans would do the same thing. So, six of the Trump judges have already been confirmed with far less than 60 votes. They would never have been confirmed before.
Precisely. There is more in this article, that is recommended.

2. Trump's Cabinet Members Are Operating in Unprecedented Secrecy: Report

This article is by Hunter on AlterNet and originally on DailyKos. It starts as follows:

You can chalk it up to simple, bumbling incompetence or you can chalk it up to corruption, but Donald Trump and his Republican minders are very consistently making a hash of our democracy and our notions of government.

A POLITICO review of the practices of 17 Cabinet heads found that at least eight routinely decline to release information on their planned schedules or travels — information that was more widely available during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Four other departments — Agriculture, Labor, Homeland Security and Education — provide the secretaries’ schedules only sporadically or with few details.

So this is yet another way in which Trump's government is destroying the American notions of democracy and of decent government, and I entirely agree.

Here is the beginning of the explanation:
There are only two possible reasons for these acts, and they boil down to the same two choices as always. One option is Trump's top-level Republican nominees are so staggeringly incompetent that they can't even muster basic record-keeping duties in their posts at the top of our government—and the consistency of these acts across multiple federal agencies seems to be an indicator against that theory. The other is that they are hiding who they are meeting with and which trips they are taking on the taxpayer dime because they believe there is a reason to hide those things.
And this is the alternative that holds:
In an administration in which the Republican president himself is earning cash from everything from foreign lobbyists booking his hotels to the Secret Service's own duties securing his commercial clubs, during his presence, however, it's further evidence of the Republican descent into grift as governing ideology. There's no way longtime politicos like Scott Pruitt don't know federal transparency rules; if they're hiding that information, it's because they specifically demanded it be hidden.
I quite agree, and this is a recommended article.


3. As Wealthiest Amass Another $1 Trillion in 2017, Calls for a 'Strike Back' Against Oligarchy

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It has a subtitle which I quote:

"We can have a world where everyone has a decent home, the chance for an education, and access to healthcare. Or we can have billionaires. We can't have both."

Yes indeed, and I quoted this because I agree with it:

Either there will be, as there are now (and if mankind survives), a few tens or hundreds of billionaires, plus some 5 or 10% of the total population who get a somewhat decent living serving them, while 90% of the people are effectively poor and have to work all day, or else the 90% get their fair share, while the 1 to 10% who are profiting now are made to stop profiting.

For considerably more, see my Crisis: Robert Reich, Socialism, 11 hypotheses about the causes of the crisis (and in fact this is part of my argument for a - liberal - kind of socialism).

The article starts as follows:

As the gap between the world's richest and poorest people has widened to an extreme not seen since the Gilded Age, the 500 wealthiest people have gotten $1 trillion richer in 2017, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index.

The richest people in the world have been able to amass huge wealth this year thanks to a booming stock market, as billions of poor and working people around the world have seen little if any benefit from strong markets. Even in the world's major economies, including Japan, the U.K., and the U.S., workers have seen their wages stagnate or decline in recent years.

Efforts by the very rich to contribute to the lower classes through charity, while commendable, have also done little to halt the growing wealth gap in a global economy in which the world's five richest people
control $425 billion, or one-sixth of the U.K.'s gross domestic product.

Yes indeed. Here is the general conclusion:

The wealth gap has grown large enough to leave some advisers of the rich wary of a potential sea change in the coming years, as the degree of inequality becomes unsustainable and leaders take action to stop markets from favoring the wealthy few—similar to how monopolies were broken up in the U.S. in the early 20th century.

I more or less agree, that is, I hope that "the monopolies" will be "broken up in the U.S. in the early 20th century", but I also think that the chances are around 50/50 that this will not happen without a revolution, that was avoided twice in the 20th century, namely by Theodore and by Franklin Roosevelt.

Here is one question that was asked in a tweet (that I generally avoid):

How do we convince just 500 of our planets 7.7B people to forego their $5.3 TRILLION wealth to ensure everyone is adequately fed, housed, educated, receives healthcare, and lives in an unpolluted environment?
--— Marc Bowden

The answer ought to be clear from considering the rich the last 2000 years: You cannot convince them. Either you force them to help others by legal punishments, if you can, or else you have to make a revolution if you cannot force them to help others.

Again see my Crisis: Robert Reich, Socialism, 11 hypotheses about the causes of the crisis, and this is a recommended article. 


4. Will A War With North Korea Be Our Political Leaders’ Greatest Regret?

This article is by Lisa Fuller on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

President Bill Clinton’s greatest regret was his failure to respond to the Rwandan genocide. He estimated that U.S. intervention could have saved 300,000 lives. 

The Vietnam War was former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s
biggest regret. He wrote an entire book to explain why he was “terribly wrong.”

Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Tom Harkin, and Sen. Walter Jones have all said that they deeply regret authorizing the war in Iraq. Jones once lamented, “I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that.” 

In each case, government leaders regretted their complicity in hundreds of thousands of deaths. In each case, they had chosen to prioritize politics above ethics. Today’s political leaders are about to make the same mistake.

We are now on the verge of another unnecessary war — this time with North Korea — and it is likely to wreak more havoc than Vietnam, Iraq and Rwanda combined.

In fact, I am rather skeptical about politicians who try to wash themselves clean after it has become clear to many that they made major mistakes. But I let this stand, in part because I believe some, such as McNamara, and in part also because it is leading up to a good point:

North Korea seems to be the next military war, and in this case it may very well be a nuclear war and also a world war.

Here is someone who knows about the risks on a nuclear war:

Top nuclear security expert Scott Sagan warns that the risk of war is far higher than during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and predicts that one million people could die on the first day - a figure that exceeds the death toll of the entire Rwandan genocide. Even more worryingly, Russia and China are making military preparations, suggesting that a Korean war could quickly escalate into a world war. 

Despite this horrific scenario, President Trump continues to ratchet up tensions by issuing bombastic threats and overseeing provocative military exercises.
I agree - and indeed I am less afraid of Sagan's prediction "that one million people could die on the first day" than of the many millions that are likely to be killed in the first few days or the first week, and the many more that will die later.

Here is Lisa Fuller's basic argument:
Put simply, war could be inevitable if Trump remains in power. Government leaders therefore have an ethical obligation to remove him from office before he fulfills his dream of using nuclear weapons.

I fear that is correct, and I also fear that three months - which is all Fuller believes is available - are too short to remove Trump.

The expectations are dire, but this is a recommended article.


5. Donald Trump Did Not Play Golf Today  

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump denied that he would be golfing this week:

          (...)
This is hilarious, of course, but I think it’s mainly an example of who Trump is addressing when he speaks.
Note first that the president of the USA is - once again - lying through his teeth: That indeed is a simple fact.

But I do not think it is likely that this is "
mainly an example of who Trump is addressing when he speaks": I am a psychologist who agrees with many other psychologists and psychiatrists that Trump is very probably quite mad, and I see this mostly as a sign of his madness rather than as an indication of whon he thinks he is addressing.

In case you disagree, my suggestion is that you read this (by psychlogists and psychiatrists).

Here is a bit more by Drum:
He’s not really speaking to the press, or to you and me, or to anyone on Capitol Hill. He’s speaking to his fans. They won’t see him golfing, and newspapers won’t splash it on the front page, and Fox News won’t cover it. So tomorrow or the next day Trump will tweet about how the lying media says he was golfing, and his fans will believe him.

But what about the rest of us? That’s the funny thing. I suspect that Trump likes the fact that we all know he’s lying.
I agree with the first paragraph, but I guess myself - I have to speak of my guesses, for the mad are difficult to understand - that Trump himself simply believes he is right in saying or tweeting whatever he says or tweets, and this is in fact worse than if he were normally conscious of his lying.

But Drum also may be right, and so the choice is between a somewhat rational president who lies much of the time - see here:
Trump’s Lies - and a mad president who does not know anymore (usually) whether he lied or not, and who also doesn't care.

My own psychlogist's guess is the second alternative. And this is a recommended article.

------------------------------
Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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 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 (!!).

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