February 20, 2018

Crisis: The Corrupt USA, Trump Supporters, Trump's Economy, 4th Worst, Mueller Indictments


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 20, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 20, 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 20, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. We Live in a Country That Has a Totally Corrupted Political System
2. 3 Reasons Why Millions Still Support Trump
3. “Trump's Economy” Started On January 21, 2018
4. Donald Trump Is America’s Worst, 2nd Worst, or 5th Worst President
5. Mueller Indictments: truth v lies in "The Observer View"
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. We Live in a Country That Has a Totally Corrupted Political System

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:
[W]hat Parker and most Americans didn’t realize was that, in 1982, the die had already been cast and the oligarchs had already begun seizing the levers of power in America; a seizure that would lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.  

The billionaires doing the seizing of our nation just didn’t come out about it until the presidency of Barack Obama, when the Koch Network, Adelson, the Mercers and the Waltons all became openly, and in some cases braggadociosly political in their “giving.” 

As I noted in my book The Crash of 2016, The American Legislative Exchange Council was founded in 1973, right after Lewis Powell’s memo –  suggesting a propaganda program to promote the interests of big business and the rich – began circulating through top corporate and high-net-worth circles. That year, too, the Heritage Foundation was created. And in 1977, Charles Koch and friends founded the CATO Institute.

Yes, I agree and this also is a good summary of the kind of American history since 1970 that I have myself arrived at as well, indeed like quite a few others.

I will therefore give a bit more attention to this article than I usually do. And it started all - I agree - with Lewis F. Powell Jr. and his memo, that dates back to 1971.

Here is more on Reagan and on Powell:

While the efforts of these groups have been multifaceted, their most obvious and deadly impact has been on the ongoing proliferation of weapons of war in America, and the denial of healthcare to millions in so-called red states. With the installation of Reagan, big business and billionaires were finally to get the tax breaks and other goodies that they wanted from Congress and the Executive Branch, while waging war on unions and working people. 

But to Lewis Powell, a lawyer by training and the author of the infamous blueprint for billionaires to take over America (now known as The Powell Memo), nothing was more important than targeting the courts.

In his memo, Powell wrote, “Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.”

He noted, “This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.”

Yes indeed. And in fact Lewis Powell was quite right:

The laws are extremely important in establishing the contents and the outlines of the kind of society they support, and if the rich could assemble financially, at least, to further their own interests, the rich would become extremely powerful.

And this is what happened, largely due to Powell, but indeed over a course of some 50 years:

In the 1970s, as the US Chamber of Commerce focused on the courts, employing high-priced, savvy lawyers, and flooding the Supreme Court chamber with amicus briefs, a string of explosive decisions throughout the decade gave the #MorbidlyRich what they needed to eventually overthrow FDR’s New Deal and to radically reinterpret the 2nd Amendment.

In 1976, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court (which Nixon appointed Lewis Powell to in 1972, the year after Powell wrote his infamous memo) ruled that political money is constitutionally protected free speech, changing American law so that those who have the most money would have the most “First Amendment free speech” in our political system. And if there was anything that the NRA was getting good at, it was raising money from weapons manufacturers and others.

Yes. Roosevelt's New Deal was essentially a series of legal, political and economical changes that Roosevelt started in the early 1930ies to get over the great depression of the 1930ies. I note that it was not Roosevelt's intention to destroy capitalism, but to save it, and that he - and quite a few others - may be said to have succeeded in doing that. Also, he did this basically in law, namely by proposing a set of legal regulations that bound what corporations and banks could do to make or increase profits.

The regulations he arrived at, after 12 years of presidency, and after WW II, bound the corporations and the banks from 1945 till 1980, again indeed not by making them less capitalistic, but by taking care that the very rich could not do just what they pleased, but
also had to respect the rights of the non-rich and of the middle class.

Also, I like to add one more person (an Englishman), simply because I know that he was quite important in getting the new regulations accepted in 1945: John Maynard Keynes.

Then there is this:

And in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, the Supreme Court ruled that corporate advertising (including promoting M15 weapons of war to our kids) is a protected form of free speech.  (Ironically, William Rehnquist was the sole dissenter; he argued that corporate “speech” [advertising] was often deceptive. But the deed was done; Caveat emptor became the new American normal.)

A year later, in 1977, in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, the Supreme Court overturned state restrictions on corporate political spending, saying such restrictions violate the First Amendment rights of corporations, and giving the NRA and other interest groups an added lever to use to extract legislation.

Both decisions were sick (and constitute important evidence that the Supreme Court is not the right way to see to the law, in my opinion): Advertising is not speech; advertising is nearly always a form of lying or deceiving; and to equalize lies-in-order-to-make-profits with free political speech was both extra-ordinarily sick and very confused.

Also, the second decision essentially gave the biggest power to the richest corporation (which - in case you doubted it - is a very sick schema), and this was before these combinations of several persons into a congregation for piracy or deception, that also takes away most of the personal responsibilities of those who engage in it, were made persons like you and me, or indeed super-persons, for they have more rights and fewer responsibilities than persons of flesh and blood.

Here is more:

Then came the Federalist Society, founded in 1982 with millions of dollars in funding by the Koch-connected Bradley Foundation.  

They built a nationwide network of jurists, attorneys, legal scholars, and politicians to indoctrinate a new generation’s legal system with billionaire-friendly interpretations: Corporate personhood is real, money is speech, democracy is not sacred, and organized money should always have privilege over organized people.

Clearly, the Koch brothers are extremely rich men who love being extremely rich men, and are trying to make it as easy as possibly to be extremely rich without any responsibility. Also, if I except the notion that "democracy is (not) sacred", the other three propositions they defend are all lies:

Corporate "personhood" is utter bullshit, for any person must be alive and be made of flesh and blood; money definitely is not speech, and to insist it is, is to say every billionaire is and ought to have a 1000 times the power of any millionaire, who in turn has a 1000 times the power of any non-millionaire; while money should never be privileged above people: money is paper.

Then there is this (which is the top on previous laws that made the very rich into a completely special class of persons):

In 2010 the Supreme Court wrapped its gift to corporations and gun manufacturers all up in a neat little bundle with their 5-4 Citizen’s United ruling.  With that decision, America was nearly completely turned over to the wealthy and corporations.  

Thereafter, oligarchs like Adelson and the Kochs began openly bragging about how much they were spending to buy politicians, legislation, tax breaks, and the deregulation of consumer protections.

Yes indeed. Then there is this about lobbyists:

In 1971, only 175 companies had registered lobbyists. By 1982, there were nearly 2,500, and today there are over 12,000 lobbyists just registered in DC. Oligarchs were dumping huge amounts of money lobbying for favorable legislation, although it still isn’t really visible to most Americans until tragedies like mass shootings give us an insight into how it all works.

Precisely. Finally, here is some more evidence:

Even former President Jimmy Carter came onto my radio/TV program in 2015 to proclaim it: 

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

I think Carter is quite right and also expressed himself well. And unfortunately, that is where the present USA is:

It is ruled by a - very small, very rich - oligarchy; it has unlimited political bribery; and essentially precisely the same applies to the Senate and the House: They are all rich men and women who are out to get richer themselves, with very few exceptions.

And this is a quite interesting article that is strongly recommended.

2. 3 Reasons Why Millions Still Support Trump

This article is by Paul Buchheit on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
It's incomprehensible to many of us that people could support a president who, in Bernie Sanders' words, "is compulsively dishonest, who is a bully, who actively represents the interests of the billionaire class, who is anti-science, and who is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our nation of origin, our religion, our gender, or our sexual orientation." 

Based on various trusted sources and a dab of cognitive science, it's fair to conclude that there are three main reasons for this unlikely phenomenon.
And what are these "three main reasons" for supporting an extremely dishonest bully who actively represents the billionaire class, is anti-science, etcetera?

According to Buchheit these are the three main reasons:
1. Trump's Followers Believe They're Better Than Other People (...)
2. They're Driven by Hatred for Their Perceived Enemies (...)
3. They Refuse to Admit They Were Wrong (...)
I am sorry, but this seems intentional bullshit to me, and does so for two classes of reasons.

The first class of reasons concerns the above three points, and I will answer them with reference to myself:

I do believe that I am a better person than some other people, and in fact I do not know of any man or woman who believes differently; I also concede that I do feel hatred for some perceived enemies, and again I say that I do not know of any man or woman who does not [2]; while I am also willing to concede that I only admit that I was wrong or mistaken if I get a good rational and reasonable argument to that effect - which seems to me the case for nearly all intellectuals.

And my second class of reasons concerns three excellent reasons why so many millions of Americans support
an extremely dishonest bully who actively represents the billionaire ckass, is anti-science etcetera:

1. Stupidity
2. Ignorance
3. Prejudice  [3]

But I think meanwhile that one has to be a quite special American to even consider the possibilities that some Americans are more stupid, more ignorant and/or more prejudiced than others. Nearly all of the very many Americans I have read about the USA consistently avoid even using these words. (It is a bit different on the internet, incidentally.)

I say! (There are a few, such as Bill Maher and George Carlin.)

3. “Trump's Economy” Started On January 21, 2018

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Trump and the Republicans have been passing off the recent gains in employment, the modest increase in wages, and the growth in GDP as their handiwork.  It wasn’t.  To the extent government had anything to do with it, it was for the most part the policies of the Obama administration that made it all happen.  He can claim some credit for the recent stock market boomlet, but it’s been rising for nine years now … long before he oozed onto the stage.

Any economist will tell you two things about the presidency and the economy.  The first is that presidents really don’t have a great deal of impact on the country’s economic performance.
I like John Atcheson (I think) but he should be consistent:

He tells his readers in the first paragraph that it was "
the Obama administration that made [the better economy - MM] all happen" (though indeed with some qualifications), and he tells his readers in the second paragraph that "presidents really don’t have a great deal of impact on the country’s economic performance".

Nevertheless, Atcheson list the following points about the economy under Trump - and I list only the boldly printed titles, and delete the associated text (which you can read by reading the original):

There were fewer jobs created in Trump’s first year than at any time since
GDP growth didn’t change much in 2017 – if anything, it slowed down
The stock market boom isn’t an indicator of prosperity
Cocaine economics – the hit now isn’t worth the payback later – unless
      you’re a fat cat
Trump is a flim-flam man – stealing credit and shedding blame (...)

My reasons not to be much interested in the above sum-up is that I incline towards Atcheson's second paragraph, that implies neither Obama nor Trump had much effect on the economy.

This may be a mistake (and what is: "having an effect on the economy"?), but OK. Then again, what I think is interesting is the last point, that is also not about presidents, but about the Republicans and the Democrats:

Democrats have been accomplices in the corporate give-away

It’s no secret that the effect of policies that the Republicans have been pushing since Reagan is to transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to the very rich, nor that Trump is doubling down on these policies.

What’s not quite as well known is that the dominant force in the Democratic Party – the neoliberal DLC gang – has been party to the looting.  Clinton – both Clintons – have been pushing a centrist, corporate-friendly set of policies that has feathered Wall Street’s nest, rolled back regulations on the media and financial interests, cut social welfare programs, and funded the war machine.

Yes indeed! I have been saying so for a long time now, but it is nice to see Atcheson agrees. And this is a recommended article.

4. Donald Trump Is America’s Worst, 2nd Worst, or 5th Worst President

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts as follows (minus a note number):
Today is Presidents/President’s/Presidents’ Day, and the New York Times is celebrating with a bit of clickbait that ranks all 44 presidents. It turns out that presidential scholars of the left outrageously rank Donald Trump as our worst president after only a year in office (...)
Actually, Presidents' Day (this seems the correct writing) was yesterday (February 19), but then I am always running one day behind the news (at least). And this item is here because of Presidents' Day.

Kevin Drum seems quite correct when he says that the Democratic presidential scholars (I am sorry: "presidential scholars" are academics, and I have seen far too many lying academics to swallow that Democratic presidential scholars ncessarily belong to "the left") classify Trump as the worst American president ever.

In case you are interested, you will find a complete list of the 44 American presidents in Drum's article, together with their ranking, but I will skip it here.

What I will not skip is the outcome under Republican scholars (that Drum calls "right-leaning" rather than rightists). Here it is:

Number 40! Now that’s more like it. Trump is better than the guy who sleepwalked into the Civil War and the general who died after only 40 days. But he’s still worse than the Teapot Dome guy and the guy who inspired the Mallard Fillmore comic strip. Sad.
In brief, Trump is a bad president - according to both Democratic presidential scholars (number 44) and according to Republican presidential scholars (number 40).

I agree, although I admit that I do not know what the average of "presidential scholars" conveys other than that - not very interesting - average.

5. Mueller Indictments: truth v lies in "The Observer View"

This article is by Kit on the Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
Today’s Observer View focuses on the Announcement by Robert Mueller that they are indicting 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies for “interfering” in the 2016 Presidential election. It is, unsurprisingly, full of misleading language, lies by omission and just straight up lies. It is also anonymous, and since it’s impossible to imagine Jonathan Freedland ever being too ashamed to put his byline on propaganda and smears…it’s probably just a press release from the foreign office. Let’s dive right in.
In fact, this is a very good article (and is what The Guardian could have been like if it had not been massively corrupted - or that is what I get from its present editor).

Here is the first bit that I quote:

Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious…

FALSE: They’re not. At all. They are barely crimes, if they are crimes at all. Moon of Alabama has done an excellent breakdown of this. The primary charges of “fraud” are, essentially, that these 13 Russians did internet PR through sock-puppet accounts. This is a marketing tool as old as the internet itself, and not illegal. The British army has an entire section devoted to it. As does Israel. In fact, the Guardian reported on a massive American operation to do the same thing back in 2011.

I completely agree. Here is more:
The secondary charges of “failing to register as a foreign agent” are more serious…but only as a precedent. The idea that foreign nationals have to register as agents before expressing opinions about domestic politics is absurd. George Soros wrote a column for the Guardian last week. Barack Obama begged Scotland to vote “No”, and campaigned against Brexit. Neither of them are British citizens, or (I’m guessing) registered with Her Majesty’s government as foreign agents.
Again I completely agree, and I add this is a - rather frightening - appearance of totalitarianism (except it isn't according to the present very sick article it has on "totalitarianism", that implies no person, no party, no religion, no book could ever be totalitarian: only states can be totalitarian, according to this insane article on Wikipedia, and this again implies that everyone from George Orwell on who used the term in the - obvious, elementary, clear - sense in which I use it is either a fraud or does not know English, that is, as the Wikipedia insists on abusing it).

Here is more:

…they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.

TRUE: This is the first true thing in the article. It could, however, be truer. For example, they could point out that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein went out of his way, during his press conference, to underline that there was no evidence that “any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.” It was quite clearly a message – they have nothing on Trump.

Yes, I agree. Here is more:

But Trump is not off the hook. Far from it. His oft-repeated argument, contradicting US and British intelligence agencies, that stories of covert Russian meddling were “fake news” has been exposed as false.

FALSE: No, they haven’t. Thirteen Russians doing viral marketing is not “rigging”, or “collusion” or “hacking”.
I agree (and there are about 145 million Russians). Here is more:

The US, like other western countries, is incontrovertibly under sustained assault from the Kremlin.

FALSE: There is nothing linking the “Internet Research Agency” to the Kremlin.

Yes - and besides: If "the Kremlin" is involved (somehow), is "Washington" not involved in precisely the same?

Why does Trump continue to defend Russia? With Trump, it is difficult to talk about credibility. What little he does retain has just measurably diminished.
MISLEADING: Trump hasn’t “defended Russia”, he has defended himself, claiming there was no collusion.
Quite so (and I dislike Trump and fear his madness (as a psychologist) and very much would like to seem him go as president, but Trump should be judged in terms of known facts, and not in terms of fantasies).

There is in fact quite a bit more that I all skip, although I do recommend it. Here is Kit's conclusion:

In summary, this editorial completely misses the point of these indictments. They are not the first domino to fall, this isn’t the sign of a coming impeachment. Far from it, it’s an admission hidden in an accusation. After all this time, and all this hysteria, they have shown they have nothing. The apparent budget of the Internet Research Agency was 1.2 million dollars. The Pentagon spends that much on stationary. Is this the extent of Russian “hacking” we heard so much about?

Because foreign interference doesn’t look like 13 people with fake facebook names.

Quite so, again. And this is a fine article, thay is strongly recommended.


[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 (!!).

[2] I am aware that quite a few have said that there are saints - of various kinds, of various faiths - who do not hate anybody. Well... I agree it is possible, but (i) I am not a saint, and (ii) I never met anyone whom I could call a saint. In brief, if there are saints, they are not effective. And I never met one, in 68 years.

[3] Perhaps I should outline my ethics (once again) for my readers, that I summarized 34 years ago as follows:

Do not be MAD; do not SIN.

Here "MAD" abbreviates Meanness (or Greed, but than the pattern fails); Anger and Dishonesty, while "SIN" abbreviates Stupidity, Ignorance and Negligence.

You may disagree, but this is the summary of my ethics.

       home - index - summaries - mail