January 8, 2019

Crisis: Election Circus, Democrats & Identity, Borderline Insanity, Pelosi´s Powers, On Corporations


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 8, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 8, 2019. 

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 three 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from January 8, 2019:
1. The Election Circus Begins
2. Why Do Democrats Fixate on the Identity of the Messenger?

3. Borderline Insanity

4. Pelosi’s Actions on Climate Fall Woefully & Inexcusably Short of What
     We Need

5. It’s Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty
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. The Election Circus Begins

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

It is January 2019. This signals the start of the 2020 election circus. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the first big-name Democrat on stage. But we will soon be deluged with candidates, bizarre antics and endless commentary by fatuous TV and radio pundits. The hyperventilating, the constant polling, the updates on who has the largest campaign war chest, the hypothetical matches between this hopeful and that hopeful, the mocking tweets by Donald Trump, will, as we saw in the 2016 election campaign, have as much relevance to our lives and political future as the speculation on cable sports channels about next year’s football season. This farce takes the place of genuine political life.

It costs a lot of money to mount this spectacle. Our corporate masters, like the oligarchic rulers of ancient Rome who poured money into the arena as they stripped the empire and its citizens of their assets, are happy to oblige. The campaign sustains the fiction of a democracy and gives legitimacy to the corporate state.

I mostly agree with this analysis, but I do have two somewhat critical remarks:

First, from my own point of view, and indeed since more than 50 years, most politics and most politicians are not really serious: the politicians are - for the most part - out to gain popularity, while the politics are - again for the most part - simplified to suit the intellects of even the most stupid voters, and are also meant to help the politicians (rather than the voters).

But second, while indeed I do not have much faith in politicians nor in the ideas and values of the vast majority of them, I do think that in some situations the outcomes of voting may make a difference in policies, and I also think this is - still - the case in the USA.

Here is more from the article:

It is a political version of the reality television show “Survivor.” Who will be the first knocked out? Who will make it into the semifinals and the finals? Who is the most devious and cunning? Who will come out on top? We get to vote for the contestants that appeal to us most, or at least vote against those we hate the most.
To take power in 2021 in lieu of any real policy changes, the Democratic Party is banking on the deep animus toward President Trump. It has no intention of instituting genuine populist programs, rebuilding unions, funding universal health care, providing free college tuition or curbing the criminal activities of the corporations and the big banks. The war machine will continue to wage endless war and consume half of all discretionary spending. The vaunted new populist members of Congress will be no more than window dressing, trotted out, like Sanders, to trick voters into thinking the Democratic Party is capable of reform.

Well... yes and no: Yes, I agree that most politicians I know about cannot be taken serious.
Then again, I also think that almost any American will make a better - less bad, less greedy, less lying - president than Trump (who is, in my opinion as a psychologist, insane).

So I do not quite believe in the second paragraph, mostly because I think one can still vote in the USA for or against politicians and policies.

Here is more from the article:

Working men and women especially despise the slick-talking politicians—including the Clintons and Barack Obama—and the “experts” and well-groomed pundits on their screens who sold them the con that deindustrialization, deregulation, austerity, bailing out the banks, nearly two decades of constant war, the exporting of jobs overseas, tax cuts for the rich and the impoverishment of the working class were forms of progress.
The corporate media ignores issues and policies, since there is little genuine disagreement among the candidates, and presents the race as a beauty contest. The fundamental question the press asks is not what do the candidates stand for but whom do the voters like.

Again yes and no: First, I think that many of the ¨working men and women¨ who voted in 2016 were in fact mostly deceived. But second, I do mostly agree with the second paragraph, and indeed that is part of the deception, and is based on the fact that most American voters are mostly ignorant about politics. (If you disagree, click the last link and let me know how many of the books I mention there you have read.)

Here is more:

They are no different from the array of self-help gurus who ignore systemic injustice and social decay to peddle schemes for personal success. The formula is universal. It is the triumph of artifice, what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.”

Those who do not play this game, like Ralph Nader, or who like Sanders play it begrudgingly—Sanders refused corporate money, has called for reforming “the bloated and wasteful $716 billion annual Pentagon budget” and addresses issues of class—are ridiculed and marginalized by a monochromatic corporate media that banishes qualification, ambiguity, nuance and genuine dialogue.
Yes, I agree for the most part - but at the same time insist that at least some politicians, like Nader and Sanders, do have ideas, values, plans and proposals most other politicians indeed do not have.

Here is more:

The goal is entertainment. Politicians who are good entertainers do well. The poor entertainers do badly. The networks seek to attract viewers and increase profits, not disseminate information about political issues. Voters have little or no say in who decides to run, who gets funded, how campaigns are managed, what television ads say, which candidates get covered by the press or who gets invited to presidential debates. They are spectators, pawns used to legitimize political farce.

I basically agree, but with the qualification I made above: at least some politicians, like Nader and Sanders, do have ideas, values, plans and proposals most other politicians indeed do not have.

Here is more:

The corporations that own the media and the two major political parties have a vested interest in making sure there is never serious public discussion about issues ranging from our disastrous for-profit health care system and endless wars to the virtual tax boycott that large corporations have legalized. The corporate system is presented as sacrosanct and the ruling ideology of neoliberalism as natural law. The corporations are funding the show. They get what they pay for.

Yes and no, again: I mostly agree, but then again I think that in 2016 there was a real choice, that would have been more real if Hillary Clinton had not succeeded in manoeuvring Sanders into a minority position.

And I would say that in 2016 Sanders >> Clinton and Clinton >> Trump (and ¨>>¨ = ¨much better than¨), while also the differences between the votes the Republicans scored and the votes the Democrats scored was small.

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

Trump is the epitome of the human mutation produced by an illiterate, dumbed-down age of electronic images. He, like tens of millions of other Americans, believes anything he sees on television. He does not read. He is consumed by vanity and the cult of the self. He is a conspiracy theorist. He blames America’s complex social and economic ills on scapegoats such as Mexican immigrants and Muslims, and of course the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, in turn, blames Trump’s election on Russia and former FBI Director James Comey. It is the theater of the absurd.

I mostly agree, but my terms are different: I think ¨tens of millions¨ of Americans vote with very little intelligence and great ignorance of politics (and the law, and economics, and more) and I think  - as a psychologist - that Trump is insane (and neither Clinton nor Sanders are). And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Why Do Democrats Fixate on the Identity of the Messenger?

This article is by Briahna Gray on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The thing is, although much is made of the browning of America, the country is still 70 percent white, and electoral strategies that are wholly dismissive of that population set themselves at an unnecessary disadvantage. America’s “browning” is largely attributed to the fact that Hispanics constitute the largest growing ethnic group in the country. But a majority of Hispanics identify as white, and one third continue to support Donald Trump despite his nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Possibly so - and indeed, being Dutch and much less bothered by racism (which does exist in Holland) I would consider all Hispanics as "white".

Anyway. Here is some more:

Americans need a reason to go to the polls — something that makes them feel like their vote matters. Something more than being anti-Trump. Something ideological.

And yet since 2016, the effort to understand the ideological inertia that motivated Trump’s victory has met resistance from establishment Democrats, many of whom, perhaps defensively, limit their analysis of 2016 to Trump’s open bigotry and Russian interference.
I do not quite understand the first paragraph for the simple reason that (it seems to me) voting itself is a right that matters, although I should add: in a more or less decent democracy.

In fact, I also do not quite understand the second paragraph, for that seems to depend on a particular meaning of ¨ideological¨, which I do not share.

Here is some more (and the ¨reclusive senator¨ is Bertie Sanders):

[F]eminist blogger Amanda Marcotte argued that the famously no-nonsense and reclusive senator’s appeal is actually about his charisma, not his politics. “The evidence suggests that [Bernie] Sanders did well in the primaries, not because of his progressive views,” she tweeted, “but because his voters were attracted to a charismatic white guy they viewed as an outsider.” She argued that if charisma and whiteness were all it took to attract a Bernie-sized following, then Beto offers a younger, better option. “Beto is far more that future in 2020 than Bernie,” she wrote.

I´d say: If she is a - genuine - feminist, I am a banana. Then again, I would also say that most feminists since the early 1970ies (when feminism became fashionable) are not genuine feminists, at least from my - radical, leftist - point of view.

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

Both of these arguments, so plainly errant as to feel like gaslighting, are part of a larger rhetorical trend toward divorcing voter preferences from ideology. Wittingly or not, the effect is to undermine the obvious power of progressive ideas. If Sanders’s appeal can be reduced to charisma, then he can easily be replaced by a younger, more charismatic candidate who is friendlier to big-money interests. If his support is the result of racism or sexism, then his political message can be dismissed as the fruit of that poisonous tree, and other, more diverse candidates can become powerful symbols for anti racism — even if their records betray their commitment to people of color.

Yes, this is more or less correct. And indeed it seems to me as if Marcotte and a majority of the elected Democrats are more into treating politicians as if they are film stars (with an incidental moral message, mostly to be supported by the attractiveness of their faces) than into treating politicians as if they have serious ideas about society, politics, economics and values.

For more on this, see item 1.

3. Borderline Insanity

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. I only reproduce some of the text, for I learned that The New York Times now embodies its texts within ten times as much - totally undeclared - Javascript. I think that is a dirty - "immoral" - technique and I will not collaborate with it. Also, I strongly recommend you not to download any articles from The New York Times (unless you want to be known by them in intimate detail).

Here is the beginning of the present article:
As the government shutdown over President Trump’s demand for border-wall funding moves through week three, the administration is looking to cut a deal with Democrats by emphasizing the deepening humanitarian crisis at the border — a crisis caused in large part by this administration’s inhumane policies, political grandstanding and managerial incompetence.

In a letter Sunday to lawmakers, the White House laid out its latest proposal for addressing the border tumult. The administration called for more immigration and Border Patrol agents, more detention beds and, of course, $5.7 billion to build 234 new miles of border wall. The White House also demanded an additional $800 million for “urgent humanitarian needs,” such as medical support, transportation and temporary facilities for processing and housing detainees.

Translation: Mr. Trump’s mass incarceration of migrant families is overwhelming an already burdened system that, without a giant injection of taxpayer dollars, will continue to collapse, leading to ever more human suffering.
Yes, that is more or less correct. Here is some more:
Late last week, frustrated by his standoff with Democrats, Mr. Trump even threatened to declare a national emergency in order to get his wall built without Congress’s approval — a move guaranteed to prompt a ferocious legal challenge.

Any attempt to sell Mr. Trump’s cruel immigration agenda with a veneer of humanitarian measures should be viewed with skepticism. This administration has long held that the best way to deal with asylum seekers fleeing the horrors of their home countries is to increase their suffering upon reaching the United States to discourage others from even trying.
Well, if "Trump even threatened to declare a national emergency in order to get his wall built without Congress’s approval" and that emergency goes through, American democracy may as well be declared dead (rather than sick or dying), for democracies are based on the power of parliaments and the laws these declare.

And this is a recommended article, but I would not download it, if I were you, for The New York Times includes ten times the amount of (undeclared, unexplained) to its aticles (unlike far more decent publications).

4. Pelosi’s Actions on Climate Fall Woefully & Inexcusably Short of What We Need

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing criticism from some climate activists for failing to back a Green New Deal. Last week Pelosi announced the formation of a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, headed by long-standing Florida Congressmember Kathy Castor. But the committee is far weaker than what backers of a Green New Deal had envisioned. The committee will not have subpoena power or the power to draft legislation. We speak with Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group that has occupied and lobbied at congressional offices, risking arrest to demand adoption of the Green New Deal and bold climate leadership.

Yes, I think that this is what Pelosi did, and I also think that she did so because she much dislikes the Green New Deal. And this is her way of destroying the things she does not like but that do seem to have considerable popularity: Welcome them with a smile, and proceed by denying them the powers they demand.

Here is more from the article:

One of the most prominent backers of the Green New Deal has been newly sworn-in New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On Sunday, she was interviewed on 60 Minutes by Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER: You’re talking about zero carbon emissions, no use of fossil fuels, within 12 years?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: That is the goal. It’s ambitious. And—

ANDERSON COOPER: How is that possible? Are you talking about everybody having to drive an electric car?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now. What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?

ANDERSON COOPER: This would require, though, raising taxes.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: There’s an element where, yeah, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes.

ANDERSON COOPER: Do you have a specific on the tax rate?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, you look at our tax rates back in the '60s, and when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, you know, let's say, from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, etc. But once you get to like the tippy tops, on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.

Yes, and I agree with Ocasio-Cortez on this. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

VARSHINI PRAKASH: (..) So, essentially, Nancy Pelosi is reviving a 10-year-old committee, the Select Committee for the Climate Crisis, but we find that it’s actually woefully and inexcusably short—falls short of what we need in this moment in terms of climate ambition in this crucial juncture in history.

Namely, it falls short in three ways, some of which you already mentioned. It doesn’t include anything about creating a draft, sort of a blueprint, for a plan for a Green New Deal over the next year, ahead of the next presidential election. It doesn’t include any provision that actually bars people who are taking money from oil and gas executives and lobbyists, who are jeopardizing my generation’s future, from sitting on the committee, something that, frankly, we find to be a conflict of interest. And thirdly, it doesn’t include any power to subpoena, which actually renders this committee less powerful than the one we had even a decade ago.

Quite so - and this was all quite intentional by Pelosi (for she does not want a real Green New Deal, and has a great amount of personal power). And this is a recommended article. 

5. It’s Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Truthdig and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows (with a quotation):

“The prevalence of the corporation in America has led men of this generation to act, at times, as if the privilege of doing business in corporate form were inherent in the citizen, and has led them to accept the evils attendant upon the free and unrestricted use of the corporate mechanism as if these evils were the inescapable price of civilized life, and, hence to be borne with resignation.

“Throughout the greater part of our history, a different view prevailed.

“Although the value of this instrumentality in commerce and industry was fully recognized, incorporation for business was commonly denied long after it had been freely granted for religious, educational, and charitable purposes.

“It was denied because of fear. Fear of encroachment upon the liberties and opportunities of the individual. Fear of the subjection of labor to capital. Fear of monopoly. Fear that the absorption of capital by corporations, and their perpetual life, might bring evils similar to those which attended mortmain [immortality]. There was a sense of some insidious menace inherent in large aggregations of capital, particularly when held by corporations.”

—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1933 dissent in Liggett v. Lee

I say, for this is a quotation that I did not know and do like. Then again, I think I can restate the fourth paragraph in another way:

Incorporation for business indeed was denied because of fear, and these fears, in turn, were based on the fact that beyond a certain lower limit no ordinary man ever reaches, power = wealth - and both power and wealth (history teaches) usually only work for themselves, and to get more power or wealth.

Here is more:

The Corporate Death Penalty Is Not New

While the human death penalty has largely disappeared in the world and is fading in the U.S. (a good thing), the corporate death penalty needs a revival.

The corporate death penalty, widespread in the 19th century, is a political and economic Darwinian process that weeds bad actors out of the business ecosystem to make room for good players.

The process of revoking corporate charters goes back to the very first years of the United States. After all, the only reasons states allow (“charter”) corporations (normal business corporations can only be chartered by a state, not the federal government) is to serve the public interest.

I think this is both quite interesting and quite true, although I also think that the phrase ¨the corporate death penalty¨ is a bit misleading (for no real person dies when an association of real persons gets forbidden).

Anyway. Here is more:

From the founding of America to today, governments routinely revoked corporate charters, forcing liquidation and sale of assets, although it’s been over a century since such efforts have focused on corporations large enough to have amassed financial and, thus, political power.

Again I think this is quite interesting, including the fact that in the last 100 years no really powerful or wealthy corporation has been hit by anti-corporate laws. And I´d say this is the reason: powerful and wealthy corporations are so powerful and so wealthy that they can overpower or buy most of those who oppose them.

Here is another lesson from history:

In reaction to public disgust with the predatory and monopolistic behavior of these corporate giants, the “Progressive Era” of Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency (1901-1909) saw numerous laws passed designed to restrain bad corporate behavior. The most well-known was the 1907 Tillman Act, which made it a felony for a corporation to give money to federal politicians’ campaigns.

The Tillman Act was based, in part, on numerous state laws, like this one that Wisconsin passed in 1905 (and was taken off the books in 1954):

Political contributions by corporations. No corporation doing business in this state shall pay or contribute, or offer consent or agree to pay or contribute, directly or indirectly, any money, property, free service of its officers or employees or thing of value to any political party, organization, committee or individual for any political purpose whatsoever, or for the purpose of influencing legislation of any kind, or to promote or defeat the candidacy of any person for nomination, appointment or election to any political office. [Wis. Laws, Section 4479a (Sec. I, ch. 492, 1905)]” (emphasis added)

I say! I do so because I quite agree to the Tilman act (and also like its formulation). In fact, something much like the Tilman act would do a lot of good at present (but I fear it is at present not possible to introduce a similar law without a revolution).

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

Corporations have successfully argued before the Supreme Court that they should have First Amendment rights of free speech, Fourth Amendment rights of privacy, Fifth Amendment protections against takings, and Fourteenth Amendment rights as “persons” to “equal protection [with you and me] under the law,” among other “rights of personhood.”

It’s long past the time that these “persons,” when they become egregious and recidivist criminals (and particularly when they repeatedly kill people), be treated the same as human criminals: remove them from society permanently.

In my opinion corporations are not persons and should not have the rights of real - biological, human - persons at all. And I completely agree with the ending, and this is a fine article that 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 (!!).
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