January 18, 2018

Crisis: Trump's Qualities, Middle Class, Ethics Experts, On Surveillance, Twitter Rock Stars


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 18, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 18, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 18, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Would the Air Force Let Airman Trump Near a Nuclear Weapon?
2. What's Killing America's Middle Class?
3. We Asked Ethics Experts About Trump’s Worst Abuses During His First
     Year In Office

4. Democrats Also Voted to Shut Down Debate on Trump Administration’s
     Surveillance Powers

5. Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
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. Would the Air Force Let Airman Trump Near a Nuclear Weapon?

This article is by Steven Buser, who is a clinical psychiatrist and a former major in the U.S. army. It starts as follows:

As a psychiatrist for the United States Air Force, one of my responsibilities was evaluating the mental stability of airmen who handled nuclear weapons, using the standards laid out in what is called the Nuclear Personnel Reliability Program. There is no need to justify why our military would take every precaution necessary to ensure that the men and women in uniform handling nuclear weapons were fit to do so, whether they were in charge of a missile silo or loading nuclear bombs onto aircraft — or giving the orders to them, on up the chain of command. Strangely, the commander-in-chief, the one who would decide when and how to use those weapons, is the only individual in the chain who is not subject to the ongoing certification under the program.

According to the program, or P.R.P., personnel who handle nuclear weapons are held to higher standards of physical and mental readiness than other personnel, and rightfully so.
This is indeed also what I would have expected, although I think I can explain, in part at least, why "the commander-in-chief, the one who would decide when and how to use those weapons, is the only individual in the chain who is not subject to the ongoing certification" of the Nuclear Personnel Reliability Program:

The president is the Commander in Chief, but he is not a military man, does not stand under military discipline, and is essentially the president because he got elected by the majority (in the Electoral College), also without any check on his capacities or mental health.

The problem is that the Commander in Chief has the full powers to end human civilization, and may do so all by himself.

Here is some more:
What if President Trump were, instead, Airman Trump, and was to be assessed under the program’s guidelines; would I certify him as “P.R.P. ready” to work in the vicinity of nuclear weapons?I have not had the opportunity to examine the president personally, but warning signs abound. What if I had reliable outside information that Airman Trump displayed erratic emotions? That I saw very clearly that he was engaging in cyberbullying on Twitter? That he had repeatedly made untruthful or highly distorted statements? That his language implied he engaged in sexually abusive behavior? That he appeared paranoid about being surveilled or persecuted by others, that he frequently disregarded or violated the rights of others?
In fact, I think this is the right way of approaching the question: As a psychiatrist (who did work for the army) you wonder whether the Commander in Chief is as fit to make his decisions as those you have to test as “P.R.P. ready” - and it is evidently clear, indeed without anything like a psychiatric diagnosis, that the present president of the USA is very probably not fit:
We’ve been here a few times before, but unlike those other times our commander-in-chief adds, without equivocation, to this angst almost daily with his words and actions. We have always assumed that the person at the top has the mental fitness to meet whatever standards the Air Force set for the rest of the chain of command. What keeps me up at night? The realization that, at the worst possible time, we have a chief executive who I believe would probably fail the P.R.P.
Here is the ending of Busen's article:
No president, including Mr. Trump, should have the unilateral power to begin a nuclear war. Congress must protect the American people, and taking away the option of an impulsive first strike nuclear attack is a clear and sane way to prevent a dangerous and insane result.
Yes, I agree, although currently that is not a solution. But I agree with Steven Busen and this is a recommended article.

2. What's Killing America's Middle Class?

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

It is said that the rich and poor will always be among us—but nowhere is it written that the middle class is a sure thing.

Even in this country of grand egalitarian aspirations, where the common yeoman (neither rich nor poor) has been hailed from 1776 forward as America's greatest strength, the U.S. actually had no broad middle class until one was created in the 1930s and '40s. Before then, most Americans either lived in poverty or right next door.

And, yes, "created" is the correct term for how our middle class came to be, with two historic forces of social transformation pushing it. First, the widespread economic devastation of the Great Depression created a grassroots rebellion of labor, farmers, poor people, the elderly and others against the careless moneyed class that caused the crash. These forces produced FDR and his New Deal of Social Security, worker rights and protections, consumer laws, anti-monopoly restraints and other policies that put government on the side of the people, empowering them to counter much of the corporate greed preventing their upward mobility.

Second, the government's national mobilization for World War II created an explosion of new jobs, growth and opportunities for millions who'd long been blocked from sharing in our nation's prosperity. The war effort opened people's eyes, boosted confidence and raised expectations, leading to a post-war rise in unionism, passage of the GI Bill, a housing boom and a doubling of the median family income in only 30 years. In short, by the late 1970s, we had created a middle class that included nearly 60 percent of Americans.

This is a fairly long quotation (for Nederlog) but I kept it because it does seem correct to me and to be so in relatively brief compass:

Yes, the American middle class was created in good part by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930ies, and by John Maynard Keynes and most American politicians - both Democrats and Republicans - between 1946 and 1980.

Also, this was a political and legal creation, much rather than the outgrowth of technological or economical development, which raises the far more general questions
(i) why one should not try to design the society one desires by politics and law, and
(ii) why one should not try to limit the amounts of power and wealth individuals may own.

And I think one can, and indeed should, if one wants to prevent the authoritarian and totalitarian rule of a handful of extremely rich men, but I also refer the interested reader to my
Crisis: Robert Reich, Socialism, 11 hypotheses about the causes of the crisis and especially to the part on - liberal, democratic - socialism there.

Here I return to Hightower's article that proceeds to give the reasons why the American middle class was attacked from 1980 onwards:

Then—pffft—the momentum was gone. Beginning in the 1980s, right-wing Republicans and Democratic comparatists switched sides, and ever since they've increasingly allowed corporate lobbyists and campaign donors to disempower America's workaday majority, further enrich themselves and impose an abominable, un-American culture of inequality across our land.

Just as progressives deliberately pushed public policies to create the middle class, so are today's economic royalists deliberately pushing plutocratic policies to destroy it. That is the momentous struggle that calls us to action this political year.

I think that is correct. And here is the end of the article:

What we have here is plutocracy in action—the precious few are intentionally knocking down and locking down the many to further enrich themselves. This is the reason that the social cancer of inequality is spreading so rampantly in America, devouring the very middle class that Trump & Company are using, ironically and cynically, as an Orwellian rational for passing their plutocratic agenda.

Yes indeed, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. We Asked Ethics Experts About Trump’s Worst Abuses During His First Year In Office

This article is by Andy Kroll on Mother Jones. It starts as follows:

No president in modern history has run roughshod over the laws, guidelines, and norms of running an ethical and transparent administration like Donald Trump.

He’s refused to divest any of his business holdings or meaningfully separate himself from his company. He’s visited (and so promoted) his private properties and golf courses at a breathtaking clip: Of his first 362 days in office, Trump spent one-third of them—121 days—at a Trump property, according to NBC News. His business has cashed in on his presidency by hiking membership fees and peddling access. His aides have promoted Trump family properties and products. A year in, it is fair to describe the Trump administration’s approach to clean, ethical government as, well, nonexistent.

Below, six experts in clean government, ethics, anti-corruption, and transparency who have tracked the administration describe what they see as Trump’s most
egregious ethical failings from his first year in office.

I think this is a good idea, although I also think I should add that, while I did get excellent academic degrees in philosophy and psychology, I am wondering a bit how one becomes "an expert in clean government, ethics, anti-corruption, and transparency".

There certainly is not an academic study and a science of these things, and it also would seem to me as if real experts in these fields should have studied something like philosophy, psychology, law and politics, indeed all together.

But this may be mostly my skepticism about science in modern universities: I think there is less and less real science, while there are more and more political and moral courses that are taught as if they are sciences, while in fact they are not real sciences.

And I keep it at this, mostly because the experts do exist now, and they may be questioned, and they were by Andy Kroll.

Here are two from more answers. The first is this (and I will not name the experts: if you want to know who they are, check the original):

My first question is: I can only pick one? If the answer is yes, the biggest one is obviously going to be Trump’s continued ownership stake in his properties.

Government officials, foreign governments, outside organizations—any of them seeking to influence him or just have access to him can do so by frequenting his hotels, going to Mar-a-Lago. By spending money at his properties. To me it’s such a glaring deviation from what we expect from our elected officials. It’s really selling access and profiting off these properties, and everyone can have a go at it. That’s the biggest one.

Yes, I think that is a fair choice - and remember that the experts in ethics and a lot more were asked "what they see as Trump’s most egregious ethical failings from his first year in office". I think this is a fair choice, because this corruption may serve as a ground to terminate Trump's presidency.

Here is the other answer I selected:

But to me the biggest is his incessant lying. After all, you can’t have ethics without honesty, and just 16 percent of what Trump says is true or mostly true. His worst lies are those about that pillar of our democracy: opposition and dissent. Whether it is his false attacks on the press, law enforcement, the intelligence community, or Democrats, the president is using distortion and misrepresentation to squeeze the space for disagreement. The normal brakes of honesty and decency do not stop him. It is nothing less than an assault on truth itself—and the attack in that value underlies so much else that is wrong with this administration. It is Trump’s greatest moral failure—and with so many others, that is saying a lot.

I think that is also a fair choice, though I am well aware that most (American) presidents rarely speak the full truth. Then again, I also never saw a more impertinent, more massive and more  general liar than Donald Trump, at least not in the West.

And this is a recommended article.

4. Democrats Also Voted to Shut Down Debate on Trump Administration’s Surveillance Powers

This article is by Alex Emmons on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

A critical mass of Senate Democrats voted with Republicans on Tuesday to shut down any further debate on a bill that strengthens the government’s spying powers. The bill would renew a key surveillance authority for the National Security Agency until 2023 and consolidate the FBI’s power to search Americans’ digital communications without a warrant.

The motion, which passed 60-38, virtually guarantees that the final bill will pass likely later this week and quashes any opportunity to debate whether protections should be added. Eighteen Democrats — including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had previously proposed an amendment to restrict the FBI’s surveillance authority — voted in support of the motion. They were joined by 41 Republicans and one independent, Angus King, giving the pro-surveillance bloc the supermajority needed to push the bill forward.
Yes, indeed.

Let me first make two quite general assumptions about politics in the USA, and also elsewhere, but this article is about the USA, and the developments I am going to make two assumptions about are most prominent in the USA:

The first assumption is that surveillance + unencrypted computers = the royal road to neofascism: Both all the secret services in the world and the largest corporations - Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft - can now find out (and have been able to find out since 2001) absolutely everything about almost everyone by stealing all their private data:

Their e-mails, their incomes, their taxes, their values, their desires, their knowledge, their family, their friends, their sites, their contacts and anything else can all be fully copied and are fully copied by the secret services and the largest corporations, and indeed also by few others, simply because lots of money are required to find out all about almost everyone.

This has given the secret services - virtually anywhere: not just in the USA - vastly more powers than the KGB ever had in the Soviet Union. If you believe these powers will not be used, you are vastly more naive than I am:
surveillance + unencrypted computers = the royal road to neofascism(Check my definition if you did not already!)

The second assumption is that politics in the USA (and this is more about the USA than the first assumption about surveillance) has fundamentally changed since 1980 and the coming of the internet:

Politics used to be about what the majority of the people wanted, and put - in the USA - two parties against each other;
politics now is about what the rich and the powerful want, and all want more riches and more powers, and those who are neither rich nor powerful have been fundamentally shifted out from positions in which they could influence the leading politicians: The leading politicians now are mostly bought (by lobbyists etc.)

Note this does not mean that the politicians have changed their propaganda, for they still need to be elected. It does mean that once they are elected, the powers that make their choices are not their responsibilities to those who elected them, but the powers that pay them to get reelected, or simply to vote as they want.

In brief, politics has become mostly totally corrupted.

I think both assumptions, and indeed especially the second, do explain what has been happening in the USA since Powell Jr., since Reagan and since 2001.

And I return to Alex Emmons:
Thirty Democrats opposed it, including minority leader Chuck Schumer, along with eight Republicans, led by libertarian Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee R-Utah.

Tuesday’s vote was a major blow to privacy activists, who saw the sunset of NSA authority as a strategic opportunity for Congress to rein in NSA surveillance and restrict how the government can use the information it collects. “The American people deserve to have an opportunity for some real amendments to make sure, at the end of the day, we have policies that keep our people safe and protect our liberties,” said Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden. “What we’re debating is whether the Senate will be the Senate.”

Yes - but if I am right, especially in my second assumption above, the Senate has ceased being a democratic Senate and has changed into a Senate where most members are bought by the richest (who anyway strongly tend to be for total surveillance of everyone).

Here is more:

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed that the law serves as the basis for two of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs: PRISM, which collects communications from U.S.-based internet companies, and Upstream, which scans the data passing through internet junctions as it enters and exits the U.S.

Tuesday’s vote left privacy activists questioning why Democrats would willingly hand such massive powers to the Trump presidency.
Well... I explain the wonderings of "privacy activists" by my above two assumptions, and specifically by the fact (I think it is a fact) that both the rich and the government have extremely strong interests in trying to find out what anyone thinks, wants, desires and can do: That knowledge will enable the rich few to manipulate everybody else as they see fit, and arrest them if they think things the government does not want them to think.

It is all very easily explained, though indeed it is also not at all democratic.

This is from the ending of this article:

Speaking against the motion Tuesday, Paul argued that the entire premise of backdoor searches is unconstitutional. “Should the government be allowed to search this database to prosecute you for not paying your taxes or for a minor marijuana violation? Absolutely not,” said Paul. “Why? Because this information is gathered without a warrant.”

Most importantly, privacy activists saw the Senate vote as a monumental defeat, which not only gives vast surveillance powers to Donald Trump, it helps consolidate them for future presidencies.

“A truly remarkable historical moment,” tweeted Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “If Dems had held firm, they could have blocked a bill to give the Trump administration unprecedented powers to spy on Americans. But they didn’t. So now, this president — and future ones — will almost certainly be handed that power.”

Yes, I agree: This decision brought full neofascism in the USA very much closer.

5. Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump

This article is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Former President Barack Obama continues to mystify his supporters. He is watching his successor tear down what they see as his administration’s hard-earned initiatives to protect the people’s health, safety and economic well-being, while twisting Washington toward more coddled, tax-subsidized corporatism. Yet our former president mostly remains quiet on matters of substance, providing no powerful voice for Americans to rally around.

Mr. Obama is the most popular politician in America. He can command the mass media like no other citizen, should he choose to strengthen the opposition to the corrupt Donald Trump. Even more, he has reportedly the third largest twitter following—a staggering 98 million followers—in the U.S. Of the top ten, all the rest are well known entertainers. With only Katy Perry (at 108 million) and Justin Bieber (at 105 million) exceeding his numbers, Obama’s twitter followers are almost triple those who follow Trump’s daily hard-edged rages that make mass media news.

I think this is correct, though indeed I did not know about the two most important users of twitter - which I also think an intentionally stupifying and fundamentally utterly sick and advertising way to spread one's own values as if they are slogans, and can only be sloganized.

Also, I do not think I am mystified by Obama since 2009: I think he was and is a follower of Bill Clinton in the sense that both realized when around 20 that they are quite clever and quite poor, while they both wanted to be rich.

And lying in politics - both are tremendous liars, also in terms of their effectiveness - seemed the best way to get rich and powerful really fast, and both succeeded: They did get from virtually no money to - it seems - over a $100 million by being presidents for eight years. And that seems a good reward, and indeed one of the most rewarding jobs in the USA.

That both massively frauded those who elected them and that both were very corrupt seems also quite pertinent, but these may well have been mostly the means by which to earn over $100 million dollars each, in a few years, at least from their - secret - private personal point of view, given their real interests (personal power and personal riches).

Here is more on Obama by Nader:

So does Obama care? Does he galvanize his huge following with a reach into the media? Not at all. He is urging people generally to make the world better in 2018. He is praising various persons by name who have helped homeless people in Chicago or have funded scholarships in Charlottesville, Virginia. While Trump is rampaging against Obama’s achievements, our ex-president is tweeting: “Michelle and I are delighted to congratulate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their engagement.”

As in fact may be explained in the terms I gave above: Obama has arrived as a rich man, and that was his main personal end. So why should he engage in politics, except that of the most trivial kind?

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Let’s put it simply. Obama’s America and his domestic vision of America are under relentless attack by Trump, his mass media of talk show hosts and the forces of extreme reaction. Obama can use the mass media and rally the opposition to Trump like no other Democrat in the public arena. Instead, he is behaving like a rock star, as if posing for Parade Magazine with all the pomp and celebrity imagery which, by the way, keeps his Twitter audience ahead of Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

Trump couldn’t be more delighted. His bullying politics of intimidation works, especially for visible public figures without the tough fortitude behind their very general compassionate pronouncements.

I agree - but as I said, I have been convinced for a long time that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama fundamentally were political frauds who were out to become what they succeeded to be: Rich American millionaires, which also was their personal end, much rather than a desire to help or protect the American people.

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 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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