April 22, 2018

Crisis: War Powers, Plastic Pollution, Interest Rates, Robert Mueller, Comey Interviewed


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 22, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, April 22, 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from April 22, 2018
1. Bill to Restrict Trump’s War Powers Would Actually “Endorse a
     Worldwide War on Terror”

2. Ending Plastic Pollution in the Oceans, Land & Our Bodies
3. Fox in the Henhouse: Why Interest Rates Are Rising

4. Can Trump Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

5. 'What Am I Doing? How Did I End Up Here?'
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. Bill to Restrict Trump’s War Powers Would Actually “Endorse a Worldwide War on Terror”

This article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

On Monday, three Republican and three Democratic senators, led by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., released a draft of a new “authorization for use of military force,” or AUMF.

This AUMF would repeal the AUMF passed on September 14, 2001, which gave the president the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” It would also nullify the October, 2002, AUMF that authorized the president to use the military to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

Not surprisingly, Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have each taken this extremely broad language and run with it. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report found 37 examples in 14 different countries of Bush and Obama using the 2001 AUMF to justify the use of military force.

And incidentally, a bit aside: I grant that abbreviations are necessary in ordinary language but I quite often dislike them because the abbreviations do not sound like what they do abbreviate, or indeed have been designed - as was the ¨PATRIOT Act¨ of 2001 - to propagandize.

In the above quotation ¨AUMF¨ occurs no less than five times. I don´t blame Jon Schwarz, but I do think abbreviations are often used to obscure what is being abbreviated.

Here is more on the new ¨AUMF¨, which in fact seems a major deception of the voters:

So, something needs to be done about this. “For too long, Congress has given presidents a blank check,” Kaine recently said. “Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war.”

That sounds good. But the actual language of the Corker-Kaine bill appears to do almost the opposite of what its authors claim.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it may be “far broader and more dangerous than even current law.” The ACLU’s Christopher Anders calls it “a monumental shift that will amp up war everywhere.”

Steven Vladeck, a specialist in national security law at the University of Texas School of Law, believes that “the bill risks doing exactly what Congress refused to do in those first, tense days after 9/11 — write a blank check to this and future presidents to wage offensive war, without any regard for whether such uses of force are necessary or wise.”

I´d say: Precisely so - that is. what the American Civil Liberties Union (abbreviated as ¨ACLU¨, which sounds a lot less relevant, but yes: this is an aside) says, and not what a fraud like Kaine lied.

Here is how the ¨AUMF¨ fraud is done:

First, it discards the language in the 2001 AUMF which declares that force could only be used against those involved the 9/11 attacks

This would essentially give the executive branch post hoc approval for the ways presidents have used the 2001 AUMF to date. But what’s worse, the bill gives the president functionally unlimited power to add additional “associated forces” at will.

These associated forces can be anyone that “the President determines,” as long as the president claims they are “a co-belligerent” with our previously named enemies, or were once a part of them. They also can be located in any country that the president names — meaning that once the president adds them to the list, any amount of force can be used there, from drones to all-out war.

Yes indeed. Here is one conclusion:

Thus, the bill takes Congress’s constitutional power to declare war, in which the president can only act when provided congressional authorization, and inverts it, by giving the president the ability to act unless a supermajority of Congress stops them.

This is so bizarre that Anders believes, “This can’t possibly be constitutional. A Congress in 2018 can’t turn the power the Constitution gave to Congress over to the president in perpetuity.”

Actually, I don´t see why ¨A Congress in 2018 can’t turn the power the Constitution gave to Congress over to the president in perpetuity¨, and my reasons are not logic, consistency, clarity or honesty (which seem to be missing in many of the bills that are accepted), but the simple fact that Congress has not used the powers that it has been given constiturtionally for about sixty years now.

And there is another thing, although that is probably personal: I find this sick, fraudulent, extra-ordinarily dishonest lying, especially by the Democratic degenerate fraud Kaine, so very sickening that I think I totally give up on both the Democrats and the Republicans (except perhaps for one or two).

2. Ending Plastic Pollution in the Oceans, Land & Our Bodies

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
This Sunday more than a billion people will celebrate Earth Day. This year’s theme: ending plastic pollution by Earth Day 2020. Of the nearly 300 million tons of plastic sold each year, about 90 percent ends up in landfills, in the oceans—and in our bodies. Part of the focus will be microplastics, those small bits of plastic that are seemingly everywhere. We speak to Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute, who has led 20 expeditions around the world to research plastic marine pollution, and Priscilla Villa of the #BreakFreeFromPlastics movement.
Well... I like the introductions with which Democracy Now! open their interviews, simply because they are normally clear and objective, which is the reason I normally reproduce them when I review an interview on Democracy Now!, but the above introduction seems rather incredible to me on two points.

First, it is Sunday April 22 as I write it, but I completely disbelieve that ¨
more than a billion people will celebrate Earth Day¨. I am sorry: Perhaps the worldchampionship soccer will get as many ¨supporters¨ but not ¨Earth Day¨.

And second, plastic has been polluting the earth for more than 50 years now: I think it is completely - totally, utterly - irrealistic to aim at the ¨
ending plastic pollution by Earth Day 2020¨ (within 2 years, that is).

And while I will not hold this against Democracy Now! I do totally disbelieve both points.

Here is some more by Marcus Eriksen:
MARCUS ERIKSEN: What you see here is a bunch of zooplankton and plastic. It’s the same-size pieces we find inside the stomachs of these fish, the lanternfish, the myctophids. Now, you’re here in the middle of nowhere, and you still find this trash. The human footprint is everywhere, everywhere you go. On top of mountains, the bottom of the ocean, evidence of us.
My reasons to quote this are that (i) I believe Eriksen, that is there is plastic ¨everywhere, everywhere you go. On top of mountains, the bottom of the ocean, evidence of us.¨; that (ii) it seems plastic cannot be broken down but can be reduced in size, which means that it enters the bodies of extremely many animals; and that (iii) - once again - I see no means to get rid of the 270 million tons of plastic that are now yearly added to nature.

Of course, you can legally forbid the use of plastic, and a few of these laws are under way, but what I am concerned with are the trillions of tons that have been added to nature.

Here is more by Eriksen:
MARCUS ERIKSEN: Well, the microbeads, that was a primary microplastic. They were designed to be small. And those are the ones that we saw in our facial scrubs and toothpaste. But Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act in 2015. So, microbeads, we’ve been able to do away with, through some great campaigning. But the microplastics are just everything that breaks down into small particles. And we have found them in the middle of the oceans, all the five subtropical gyres, Antarctica, the Arctic. We have found them frozen in sea ice and the deep floor—deep sea floor sediments. So the distribution has gone global of these small bits, like as big as a grain of rice or smaller. They’re everywhere.
I do believe Eriksen, and once again I repeat that I do not know of anything that can remove the trillions of tons worth of - very tiny - bits of plastic.

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

AMY GOODMAN: What is the impact of plastics on human beings, Marcus?

MARCUS ERIKSEN: On us, well, you can say it’s twofold. One is the issue of plastics as waste, that contaminates other living things, including fish, that the world depends on. You know, I think one-sixth of the planet gets their protein from fish. And we’re seeing this explosion, these clouds, this smog of microplastics, impacting the food chain. And the toxins that sticks to plastics are also polluting organisms in that food chain. But as a pre-consumer product, which you might grab off the shelf, we’re still finding some synthetic chemistry in those, like bisphenol A and phthalates, that you don’t want in your body or the bodies of your children. They’re endocrine disruptors. They’re carcinogenic. So there is the pre-consumer and the post-consumer impacts of throwaway plastics on human health.

As I said: I do not know of anything that can remove the trillions tons worth of - very tiny - bits of plastic that are now in nature. And this is a strongly recommended article.
3. Fox in the Henhouse: Why Interest Rates Are Rising

This article is by Ellen Brown [2] on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

On March 31 the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the sixth time in three years and signaled its intention to raise rates twice more in 2018, aiming for a Fed funds target of 3.5 percent by 2020. LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) has risen even faster than the Fed funds rate, up to 2.3 percent from just 0.3 percent 2 1/2 years ago. LIBOR is set in London by private agreement of the biggest banks, and the interest on $3.5 trillion globally is linked to it, including $1.2 trillion in consumer mortgages.

Alarmed commentators warn that global debt levels have reached $233 trillion, more than three times global GDP, and that much of that debt is at variable rates pegged either to the Fed’s interbank lending rate or to LIBOR. Raising rates further could push governments, businesses and homeowners over the edge. In its Global Financial Stability report in April 2017, the International Monetary Fund warned that projected interest rises could throw 22 percent of U.S. corporations into default.

I say. Here is more:

If the Fed follows through with its plans, projections are that by 2027, U.S. taxpayers will owe $1 trillion annually just in interest on the federal debt. That is enough to fund President Trump’s original trillion-dollar infrastructure plan every year. And it is a direct transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy investors holding most of the bonds.

I think this is all quite true. Here is more:

The notion that shrinking the money supply will prevent inflation is based on another controversial model, the monetarist dictum that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”: Inflation is always caused by “too much money chasing too few goods.” That can happen, and it is called “demand-pull” inflation. But much more common historically is “cost-push” inflation: Prices go up because producers’ costs go up. And a major producer cost is the cost of borrowing money. Merchants and manufacturers must borrow in order to pay wages before their products are sold, to build factories, buy equipment and expand.

And again I think all of this is quite true. The article ends as follows, after a lot more:

The Federal Reserve calls itself independent, but it is independent only of government. It marches to the drums of the banks that are its private owners. To prevent another Great Recession or Great Depression, Congress needs to amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed and turn it into a public utility, one that is responsive to the needs of the public and the economy.

I agree, but I do not think the present Congress will ¨amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed and turn it into a public utility¨. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Can Trump Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows (answering the question in the title):

Yes, but at a huge cost to our system, and to Trump’s presidency.

Begin with the law: Justice Department regulations issued in 1999, in the wake of Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, say that only an Attorney General can remove a special counsel, and not just for any reason. Such a removal must be based on a finding that the special counsel was guilty of “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”

I did not know this. And here is the ending of this - quite brief - article:

There’s an alternative open to Trump. He could simply order Attorney General Sessions to repeal the special counsel regulations, and then Trump could fire Mueller himself.

But, as the Nixon saga showed, these routes would be perilous – both for Trump’s presidency and for our system of government, because they would undermine public trust in the impartiality of our system of justice and in the office of the presidency.  

They would also further divide the country between Trump supporters who believe the Mueller investigation to be part of a conspiracy to undermine the Trump presidency, and the vast majority of Americans who are more likely to believe, as a result of these actions, that Trump has done something that he wants to hide at all costs.

The question is whether Trump is willing to risk it, nonetheless

Yes, although this doesn´t say much. The article is recommended because it did tell me something I did not know.

5. 'What Am I Doing? How Did I End Up Here?'

This article is by Christoph Scheuermann and Matthias von Rohr. It starts with a subtitle which I reproduce:
In a DER SPIEGEL interview, former FBI Director James Comey discusses how U.S. President Donald Trump resembles a mafia boss, the dangers of egocentrism and why impeachment would let the American people off the hook.
Yes indeed. I will quote four bits of this interview (which consists in fact of two webpages), and here is the first bit:

DER SPIEGEL: You have written a book about leadership, and while U.S. President Donald Trump is certainly not the only focus, you do spend quite a bit of time discussing him. Then, in your interview with ABC, you said Trump was "morally unfit" to be president. Why?

Comey: The way I'd sum it up is: Anyone who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who speaks about and treats women like pieces of meat and who lies constantly about things big and small, and then insists that America believe it, in my view, is not morally fit to be president.
As I have explained many times by now (the first time on March 14, 2016: more than two years ago) I am a psychologist who agrees with - meanwhile - many psychologists and psychiatrists that Trump is not sane, simply because he satisfies 9 out of 9 observable criterions that are very widely used to diagnose people as narcissists aka megalomaniacs.

And my main reasons are my observations of him (by video) together with his plainly narcissistic lying, lying, lying and his lying about his lying: That is sick. And I mean: mentally disturbed.

Besides, I also think - in fact also since 2016 - that Trump is a neofascist. That is bound to be considerably less popular as a political diagnosis (that Trump is mad is a personal diagnosis) if only because there is on the whole Wikipedia nothing (I could find) that has any reasonable analysis of what the term ¨neofascist¨ might mean. (Presumably that is unimportant for Wikipedia.)

Here is my definition, once again:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
This definition was written without any thought of Donald Trump, but if you know his policies you know that - once again - the above definition is true point for point about him.

Then again I only raised these two points to clarify my own ideas and values about Donald Trump. Here is some more from the article:

DER SPIEGEL: Isn't the comparison of Trump to a mafia boss a bit overwrought?

Comey: I'm not trying to suggest Donald Trump is out breaking legs or firebombing stores or hijacking trucks. I'm trying to compare it to a leadership style where loyalty to the boss is everything, where there are no external reference points. Most leaders - all ethical leaders - have some external reference points that they look to when making decisions, whether it be philosophy, religion, logic, tradition or history. But with a boss like the ones I've dealt with over the years, it's about the boss. What can you do for me? How are you serving me? And I was struck by the comparison of that leadership culture to his leadership culture.
I think the journalists of Der Spiegel are mistaken here and Comey is right, if only about the impression that Trump did make on him. (Also, there have been quite a few political leaders who have been compared to mafia bosses, such as Joseph Stalin.)

Here is some about loyalty:
DER SPIEGEL: Then came your famous one-on-one dinner with Trump, during which he famously asked you to pledge loyalty to him. Why didn't you just tell him that the question was inappropriate?

Comey: That's a really good question. Probably because I'm not as strong as I should be.
I think Comey is right about Comey. (Clarification, in case this is needed: Comey had sworn loyalty to the Constitution, which is the right way, and Trump was in fact acting like a Mafia boss when he requested personal loyalty to him.)

Here is the last bit I quote from this interview:

DER SPIEGEL: Are you concerned that Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign, could be fired by the president?

Comey: Of course, I worry about it. It would be an enormous mistake and an attack on the rule of law. I also think it would be a mistake as a practical matter, because as important as the special counsel is, I'm confident that the work would continue. To stop the work, the president would have to fire everyone in the Department of Justice and the FBI, and that's not possible.

Yes, I think Comey may be correct on this - and see item 4. 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 (!!).

[2] I first thought I would blow up here, but I will not.

Instead, I say that as long as the Wikipedia does not revise its utterly sick and neofascistic redefinition of ¨totalitarianism¨ I hold it has turned neofascistic, which is also supported by the fact that they now describe the article they have on Ellen Brown as ¨an advertisement¨. I am sorry: Wikipedia is sick, and seems to be manipulated by the friends of the rich. (And no: I am also much against anonymous contributors, against their refusals to quote books as good references, and against their pretensions of being valid for all.)

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