February 13, 2018

Crisis:  Trump's Budget, About Trump, Gift To Rich, Stealing, On Russian Hacking


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 13, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 13, 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 February 13, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Donald Trump’s Nasty Budget
2. Author David Cay Johnston on the Damage Trump Is Doing to America
3. After $1.5 Trillion Gift to Rich, Trump Demands $1.7 Trillion in Safety Net

4. Donald Trump Is Stealing From Our Children
5. “Russian Hacking”, a dangerous delusion
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. Donald Trump’s Nasty Budget

This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York Times. It starts as follows:

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump told the “forgotten men and women of our country” that he would champion them. As evidence that he was a different kind of Republican, he promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit poor and middle-class families.

On Monday, President Trump proposed a budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit.

Yes indeed. Then again, The New York Times published a long list that shows that Trump lied over 2000 times in 2017, so the budget should not come as a very big surprise. (And indeed it doesn't for me.)

Here is more:

Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget, combined with the tax cuts Republicans passed last year, would amount to one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in generations. It would also charge trillions of dollars in new debt to the account of future Americans. It’s a plan that could please only far-right ideologues who want to dissolve nearly every part of the federal government, save the military.

The proposal would raise military spending by 14.1 percent while cutting funding for the State Department — the agency that has a mandate to resolve problems without going to war — by 26.9 percent. It would cut the Department of Health and Human Services by 20.3 percent and the Department of Education by 10.5 percent. It calls for (yet again) the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and proposes cutting food stamps by $213 billion, or around 30 percent, over 10 years. Medicare and Medicaid, which benefit one-third of Americans, are targeted for cuts of hundreds of billions of dollars.

I think this is all true (and I agree it is also all awful). Here is more:

If Congress adopted Mr. Trump’s proposal, millions of people would stand to lose health insurance, subsidized food, low-cost housing and other benefits. The result would be to greatly increase poverty and hunger in America.

This is surely not what most of Mr. Trump’s working-class supporters imagined during the primary and general election campaigns. In May 2015, Candidate Trump tweeted, “I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.” And in an April 2016 ad that ran in Pennsylvania he promised to “save Social Security and Medicare without cuts.”

As I started my review: Trump is an enrmous liar. But there is one question that is not raised in this Editorial: If it is true that

"millions of [American] people would stand to lose health insurance, subsidized food, low-cost housing and other benefits. The result would be to greatly increase poverty and hunger in America."

then how many people do the Republicans, or Trump, or Trump's government, desire to kill?!

Clearly, if you take away benefits and "greatly increase poverty and hunger in America"" then your end is to kill at least some of the American poor.

To be sure: Not by yourself - you will leave it to them to suicide in this or that way, but then again it are the Republicans or Trump or Trump's government that stopped the benefits.

Anyway... this is a recommended article.

2. Author David Cay Johnston on the Damage Trump Is Doing to America

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It is an interview with David Cay Johnston and it starts as follows:

David Cay Johnston is an expert on Donald Trump. The 69-year-old investigative journalist and author has reported on Trump for decades and has written two books about the president. “The Making of Donald Trump,” which was published in 2016, became a New York Times bestseller, as did his latest, “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America,” published this year.

Johnston sat down with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for the second part of an interview on “Scheer Intelligence” and shared his thoughts on how the Trump administration is making America worse again.

I think that is all correct. Here is more (and most of the article is in fact an interview):

The media, Johnston explains, is a big part of the problem. Journalists helped Trump get elected by covering his campaign in a shallow way, and now the media is doing more of the same, focusing on Trump administration’s “palace intrigue” instead of the actions that are hurting America.

“Nobody is covering what matters,” Johnston says, “what matters to you, to whether you have a job and have savings, and whether you are safe, and whether your children are going to get cancer and lung disease from pollution, what kind of taxes you are going to pay. None of that is being covered in any serious way.”

Johnston adds that Trump’s policies are turning against the very people who helped elect him. Even so, Johnston believes American citizens will cast aside their concerns about ethics and vote Trump into a second term if they believe their incomes are rising.

I agree with Johnston on "the media", although I think he should have been more clear on the differences between the mainstream media and the non-mainstream media.

And this also would have shed some light on Johnston's "Nobody is covering what matters", that seems a bit too strong in my eyes. Then again, Johnston may be right in his belief that Trump may get a second term "if they believe their incomes are rising" - which in my eyes is in fact an expression for the clearer "if they are as stupid or ignorant as I fear".

Here is the first part that I quote from this rather long but interesting interview:

DCJ: Ah, no, it’s pretty much sort of what I expected. The point of the title is that even if you diligently follow the news, the press corp, the political reporters, or I call them politics reporters, did a terrible job of covering him in the campaign. They never explored all of his criminal background that we talked about in Part 1 of this interview, and the horrible things he’s done. But once he got into the White House, the coverage of the White House—the tweets, the racist comments, the nonsense, the palace intrigues—I actually think it’s been excellent. The problem is, nobody’s covering what matters. What matters to you, to whether you have a job and have savings, and whether you’re safe, and whether your children are going to get cancer or lung disease from pollution, what kind of taxes you’re going to pay—none of that is being covered in any serious way. And so what I set out to do, once the electoral college put Trump in office—the electoral college the framers of the Constitution put in place so that if the popular mob, as they thought of the people, put a madman in office, he would be blocked by the electoral college—I said, well, we got to focus on covering what he does, what the government is doing. And that’s what nobody has been covering.

As I indicated above, Johnston's insistence that only Johnston is covering what needs to be covered seems a bit of an overstatement to me.

Here is the second bit that I quote:

RS: OK, but let me ask you about this team. Because Bannon and a few others are out, waving the wild flags and so forth. Are they really different than the others? Bill Clinton brought Robert Rubin in from Goldman Sachs, and he left to go take over at, or be very active at Citigroup—

DCJ: Sure. They’re—Bob, they’re very different, and let me explain why. Clinton was, I think, not a good president; certainly in economic issues, for ordinary people, he was terrible. I mean, I often refer to the democrats as republican-lite, as in beer, L-I-T-E. But Bob Rubin is a good example. Bob Rubin’s a big, rich banker; he comes in, he does things that he sees as helping bankers, then he goes back to, he goes to Citibank and makes another fortune. This administration is different because, as Steve Bannon said: I’m a Leninist and we’re here to deconstruct the administrative state. They are here to destroy the things that are in our government that are there to protect your health, your safety, you know, the national security. They quite literally hate the government of the United States. They have brought in the worst people possible. This is what the ancient Greeks called a kakistocracy: a government by the worst of us, by the most venal, the most corrupt, the most incompetent. And in that sense, they’re different.
I think Scheer is quite right about Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin, while Johnston is probably right that Trump's team is considerably worse than Clinton's team was.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this interview:
DCJ: Absolutely, and Bill Clinton did terrible things to our economy, and Barack Obama—and I was the first journalist to write a tough piece about him, nine days after he took office, for not walking his talk—Barack Obama, instead of going after the bankers—there should have been thousands of bankers who would have gone to prison—went on TV and told 60 Minutes: Well, this is all terrible, but it’s not really a crime. Excuse me? Fraud is everywhere and always a crime. Eric Holder lied—and I mean lied; that is, he knowingly told untruths—because he was told by the inspector general’s office that what he was saying was untrue, and for 10 more months he kept saying: We’re prosecuting a bunch of bankers; they weren’t. So this is a bipartisan problem of government representing the rich. But with Donald Trump, you have a whole new, wholescale new level where two things are happening. Not only does the man who promised to “drain the swamp” turn it into a paradise for swamp monsters, and bring in six Goldman Sachs people and all sorts of polluters or lobbyists for bad banks, et cetera, in a way that is way beyond anything any of these other folks did. But secondly, what I lay out in the book are things that haven’t been in the news, or they’ve been glancingly in the news, some of them, where they are turning on the very people that put Trump in office. And those people have real grievances.

I think that is also mostly correct. There is a lot more in the interview, which is recommended.

3. After $1.5 Trillion Gift to Rich, Trump Demands $1.7 Trillion in Safety Net Cuts

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Those wondering how President Donald Trump plans to pay for the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the rich he signed into law last year got their answer on Monday, when the White House unveiled its 2019 budget (pdf) blueprint that calls for $1.7 trillion in cuts to crucial safety net programs over the next decade—including $237 billion in cuts to Medicare alone.

While imposing "severe austerity" on domestic programs that primarily benefit poor and middle class Americans, Trump's proposal also aims to hike the Pentagon's budget to $716 billion—a seven percent increase from his 2018 request—and provide $18 billion for "the wall."

"The Trump budget is morally bankrupt and bad economic policy," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter Monday shortly after the White House proposal was made public.

Yes, and I totally agree with this summary (and see item 1). Here is more:

Critics were quick to note that such severe cuts to healthcare programs that serve the elderly, the disabled, and the poor will likely come "with a body count."

"Millions of Americans will lose access to life-saving programs because the GOP gave $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich," the advocacy group Tax March wrote on Twitter.

Yes I agree - and while Johnson is more radical than the editors of the New York Times, he also does not (quite) pose the question I asked at the end of item 1How many people do the Republicans, or Trump, or Trump's government, desire to kill?!

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

"President Trump's budget is nothing short of devastating for all Americans who value clean air, safe drinking water, and protected public lands," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement on Monday.

Though presidential budget requests are non-binding, they are a strong indicator of the White House's goals and values, as Indivisible's senior policy manager Chad Bolt observed while analyzing the newly released document.

Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article. 
4. Donald Trump Is Stealing From Our Children

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

Think of President Trump and his administration as a den of thieves. There is, of course, the obvious thievery: what they will in the end, as with the recently passed tax “reform” bill, steal from ordinary citizens and offer as never-ending presents to the already staggeringly wealthy, among them the president himself (possible savings up to $15 million annually) and son-in-law Jared Kushner (possible savings: up to $12 million annually). According to the Congressional Budget Office, government cash reserves are already starting to fall faster than expected as a result of lost revenue from that bill. And the modest gains offered to ordinary taxpayers to give cover to a vast increase in the wealth of the top 1%meant for will all sunset in the 2020s, while that bill’s corporate tax cuts are eternity.

Well... yes and no: I agree with most of this, but not with the end, for tax cuts may also be undone (as Roosevelt showed, and indeed also the Republican Eisenhower).
Think of such moves not as acts of petty theft, but as robbery of the most basic sort, since they involve stealing from the future to fund an increasingly plutocratic present. The Donald, in other words, isn’t just stealing from us but from our children and grandchildren.
Again yes and no: I agree with Engelhardt that Trump is stealing from the future, but then Trump and the believers in Trump do not believe so, and I would like to see some distinction between values and facts.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
This isn’t just a matter of stealing future money from our children and grandchildren, or even of polluting the American environment in which they’ll grow up in a fashion familiar to anyone -- like Donald Trump (or me) -- who was raised in the 1950s.  It’s a matter of stealing everything from them, including potentially the very environment that’s nurtured generation after generation of children on this planet for all the thousands of years of human history.  If the president and his crew of climate deniers have their way and a fossil-fuelized version of energy “dominance” comes to rule our American world, while the path to alternative energy growth is crippled, then they will have stolen from the future in the most basic way imaginable for the comfort of just a few human beings now.
Well... Engelhardt and I probably agree for the most part on Trump, and I certainly like Engelhardt a lot more than Trump. But please: facts are not values.

5. “Russian Hacking”, a dangerous delusion

This article is by Kit on the Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
The Guardian published this short opinion piece today, its headline reads:

America lost a cyberwar to Russia in 2016. When will we have truth?

Refuting the stale claims repeated in the headline, and expanded upon in the prose, is but the work of a moment. Hitchens’ razor states that any claim made without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence. A Yale professor should know that. Therefore the refutation of the claim “Russia hacked the election” can be made in three simple words: No, they didn’t.

I read this opinion piece as well, and I was also disappointed, indeed in good part because the article is by professor Timothy Snyder. Snyder teaches history at Yale, and became a bit prominent about a year ago, when he presented his views on Trump and his government.

And he did make some predictions about what he thought Trump would do, and these predictions were not correct, but he doesn't review them at all (in the referred opinion piece).

As to Kit's "refutation" (on Hitchen's principle): Perhaps Hitchen was more or less right that what comes without evidence can be dismissed without evidence, but a dismissal is not a refutation.

Besides, my position on Russian hacking is somewhat different from Kit's:

On the one hand, I think every secret service hacks, and hacks with abandon since 2001. This holds for the Russians, for the Americans, for the Chinese, for the English, for the Dutch a.s.o. (for almost any secret service there is in the world).

On the other hand, I agree with Kit that there has not been produced any evidence - since 2016! - that supports the notion that "Russia won a cyberwar" or indeed that it succeeded in much that - I think - it tries to do, just like any other secret service.

Then there is this by Kit on Snyder's beliefs:

No, the scary part is that he really, really means it. This isn’t propaganda, in the old sense of that word. This isn’t misinformation to spread an agenda. This is full-blown delusion. He genuinely believes the Russians are at “cyber war” with America.

To be crystal clear about this – there is literally ZERO evidence to support this. The Mueller investigation is limping along, revealing absolutely nothing (except that the FBI wanted Hillary to win). The Steele dossier is revealed to have been paid for by the DNC.

There is no evidence. And yet he believes.

As I said, my position is a bit different:

First, I think there is a lot of evidence that very many secret services are milking the internet as much as they can. Second, I also think that it is for the most part not known to ordinary people what the secret services (of any country) do and do not know about people (from anywhere). Third, I do not know what Snyder - really - believes, although I think it likely that Kit is correct in holding that Snyder swallowed the story that the DNC has been spreading since Hillary lost the presidency to Trump. And fourth, I think Kit is right that there is no evidence that the Russians did what the DNC alleges it did.

Here is Kit's conclusion:

This is scary. Scary because it demonstrates that the liberal elite of the USA, and its vassal states, have totally lost their minds. They live in a fantasy world, an un-reality. And they will believe anything that is convenient, anything that supports their un-reality, even if it puts them on a path to real war.

That should terrify everybody.

No, I mostly disagree and my ground is logic:

At best, Kit showed something about Timothy Snyder, who does not coincide with "the liberal elite of the USA" at all. Besides, "the elites" - any elite, anywhere - have always tended to believe those stories about themselves that made them look good, also if there was no evidence for them.

So while I am disappointed in Snyder and have no faith in the beliefs of the elite of the USA, I do not draw the strong conclusions Kit draws. But this is a recommended article.


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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