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Nederlog

January 29, 2019

Crisis: The World to Come, Trump & The Guardian, Venezuela, Totalitarianism, Wall Street


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 29, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 29, 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 29, 2019:
1. The World to Come
2. Donald Trump and the Media Temple of BOOM!

3. Trump Administration Seizes Venezuela Oil Assets

4. Senate Pressured to Defeat 'Unconstitutional' Attack on Right to
     Protest

5. Wall Street: "It Can't Be Warren and It Can't Be Sanders"
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 World to Come

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

The ruling elites are painfully aware that the foundations of American power are rotting. The outsourcing of manufacturing in the United States and the plunging of over half the population into poverty will, they know, not be reversed. The self-destructive government shutdown has been only one of numerous assaults on the efficiency of the administrative state. The failing roads, bridges and public transportation are making commerce and communications more difficult. The soaring government deficit, now almost a trillion dollars thanks to the Trump administration’s massive corporate tax cuts, cannot be eliminated. The seizure of the financial system by global speculators ensures, sooner rather than later, another financial meltdown. The dysfunction of democratic institutions, which vomit up con artists such as Donald Trump and hold as alternatives inept, corporate-indentured politicians such as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, is cementing into place a new authoritarianism. The hollowing out of the pillars of the state, including the diplomatic corps and regulatory agencies, leaves the blunt force of the military as the only response to foreign disputes and fuels endless and futile foreign wars.

Yes, I more or less agree. Here is some more:

Just as ominous as the visible rot is the internal decay. Among all social classes there is a loss of faith in the government, widespread frustration, a sense of stagnation and entrapment, bitterness over unfulfilled expectations and promises, and a merging of fact and fiction so that civil and political discourse is no longer rooted in reality. The nation’s isolation by its traditional allies and its inability, especially in the face of environmental catastrophe, to articulate rational and visionary policies have shattered the mystique that is vital to power. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” George Orwell wrote. “That is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Our elites have exhausted fraud. Force is all they have left.

I have two comments on the above quotation.

My first comment is on this passage: ¨a merging of fact and fiction so that civil and political discourse is no longer rooted in reality¨. I quite agree, but like to point out that in my opinion, in the end this is mostly due to Facebook giving everyone a kind of website on Facebook, as ¨a reward¨ for Facebook´s stealing their privacies and ¨paying¨ for that with ¨personalized advertisements¨.

And this means that while some 20 and more years there were several millions or tens of millions who could get published (I am sorry, but I do not know the numbers) these days there are more than two billion ¨publishers¨, who all can (re-)publish whatever shit they see or receive, and can also do so anonymously, that is, for ordinary users of computers.

I think this is very dangerous, but I do not know what to do against this.

And my second comment is, firstly, about George Orwell, who wrote ¨“A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial. (..) That is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.¨ I agree with Orwell, but I have - so far, at least, and my readers should remember I do not live in the USA - some problems with Hedges´ addition that ¨Our elites have exhausted fraud. Force is all they have left.¨

For I doubt that the ¨elites have exhausted fraud¨; I do not see what else they have to offer anyway (as long as there are elections); and besides, there seems to be a difference between Hedges in 2014 and Hedges now, for in 2014 Hedges seems to have believed (more than not) in Sheldon Wolin´s ¨inverted totalitarianism¨.

And I do not know what Hedges thinks at present about ¨inverted totalitarianism¨.

Here is more from the article:

The ruling ideology of neoliberalism, the ruling elites recognize, has been discredited across the political spectrum. This is forcing the elites to make unsavory alliances with neofascists, who in the United States are represented by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism is swiftly filling Trump’s ideological void. It is embodied in figures such as Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Brett Kavanaugh and Betsy DeVoss.

In its most virulent form, one that will be expressed once the economy goes into crisis, this Christian fascism will seek to purge the society of those branded as social deviants, including immigrants, Muslims, “secular humanist” artists and intellectuals, feminists, gays and lesbians, Native Americans and criminals—largely poor people of color—based on a perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Abortion will be illegal. The death penalty will be mandated for a variety of crimes. Education will be dominated by white supremacist views of history, indoctrination and the teaching of creationism or “intelligent design.”

I think I disagree with the assertion that (bolding added) ¨[t]he ruling ideology of neoliberalism, the ruling elites recognize, has been discredited across the political spectrum¨. That is: I agree with Hedges that neoliberalism is and was an ideology of the rich that has little or nothing to do how the real economy is being run, but I do not agree that it ¨has been discredited across the political spectrum¨.

And I suppose I mostly agree with Hedges about what he calls ¨Christian fascism¨ but - living in Europe - I was never confronted by it.

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

A grotesque hypermasculinity will be celebrated. Violence will be held up as the mechanism to cleanse the society and the world of evil. Facts will be erased or altered. Lies will become true. Political language will be cognitive dissonance. The more the country declines, the more the paranoia and collective insanity will grow. All of these elements are present in varying forms within the culture and our failed democracy. They will become pronounced as the country unravels and the disease of totalitarianism spreads.

The ruling oligarchs, as in all failed states, will retreat into fortified compounds, many of which they are already preparing, where they will have access to basic services, health care, education, water, electricity and security largely denied to the wider population. The central government will be reduced to its most basic functions—internal and external security and collecting taxes. Severe poverty will cripple the lives of most citizens. Any essential service once provided by the state, from utilities to basic policing, will be privatized, expensive and inaccessible to those without resources.

Most or all of the above is predictive rather than descriptive, although I agree that Hedges may well turn out to be right. And there is considerably more in the article, that is strongly recommended.


2. Donald Trump and the Media Temple of BOOM!

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

BuzzFeed or Buzzkill? This week on Intercepted: Longtime investigative journalist Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News analyzes the BuzzFeed News bombshell report that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to cover up a planned Trump Tower in Moscow. Robert Mueller is disputing the report and Isikoff offers his own critique of the story and what we know to be true thus far. Stephanie Kelton, the popular economist and adviser to the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign, talks about Modern Monetary Theory, the lies told by Republicans and Democrats about deficits, and whether young workers will ever get Social Security benefits. Los Angeles public school teachers appear to have won some major victories as a result of their historic strike. We speak to Noriko Nakada, an 8th grade English teacher at Emerson Middle School in LA, and labor journalist Sarah Jaffe, who covered the strike for The Nation.

In fact, this is the introduction to a long article of which I can only review a small part (for reasons of space and time).

Here is the first bit:

JS: Last Thursday, on January 17, Buzzfeed News published an absolute bombshell story alleging that Donald Trump had directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Buzzfeed said the allegations came from “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.”

Buzzfeed also reported that Trump supported a plan, set up by Michael Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign. Why? In order to meet personally with President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
    (..)
JS: Within moments of this story going live, it quickly dominated cable news coverage. Calls came from Washington to initiate impeachment proceedings. The new chair of the House Intelligence Committee promoted the story on Twitter. Boom cannons were posted online by the usual suspects. This was perhaps the smoking gun. This could spell the end for Trump. It’s a clear impeachable offense. It’s a criminal offense.
    (..)
JS: And then came this extraordinary development: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s spokesperson took the unprecedented step of publicly challenging the accuracy of the Buzzfeed story, releasing a statement that said —

Errol Barnett: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

I say. In fact, it seems Buzzfeed still seems to support its contentions, and it also seems as if part of the reason is Mueller´s vagueness about what is not accurate in Buzzfeed´s reports.

I do not know how this stands today. Here is something else, about The Guardian:

The British Guardian newspaper has still not addressed why it is that no other news outlet has reported that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort met three times with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. No one else has been able to confirm any of that. Paul Manafort denies it. Julian Assange denies it. That is the most surveilled embassy door on planet earth and no video has emerged to support the Guardian’s report. The story came. It was a very big deal. No one else confirmed it and now it’s just floating out there on the internet.

Yes, I think all of the above is correct, and The Guardian also has deeply fallen in my estimation since 2013/2014 (since when it also made its website uncopyable).

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

Some 40 percent of Americans struggle to pay for at least one basic need like food, housing, healthcare or utilities. That’s according to the Urban Institute. Income inequality in the U.S. has continued to grow steadily since the 1970s. The top one percent have seen their wealth grow, taking home an average 26 times more than the rest of the public. Trump and his self-celebrated Republican tax cut is going to make it much, much worse. It’s a classic reverse Robin Hood — stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

My next guest is a provocative and brilliant economist. She is professor of public policy and economics at Stony Brook University, Stephanie Kelton. She served as chief economist for the minority on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee in 2015 and as a senior economic adviser to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Kelton is one of the prominent backers of Modern Monetary Theory and she argues that almost everything we are told about the deficit, about funding of social programs, about social security is wrong and it’s actually the product of politicians well, politicking. Kelton’s arguments have been gaining momentum lately, as has much of the Bernie Sanders economic message from the 2016 campaign — on health care, education and taxing the rich.

Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently forced a national discussion on these issues when she advocated a marginal tax plan that would tax the ultra-wealthy at 70% on the money that they make beyond 10 million dollars. By the way, for context, that rate was 78% between 1930 and 1980 and it was actually more than 90 percent from 1951 to 1963. Remember that when you watch the freak-outs over Ocasio-Cortez’s modest proposal.We are going to break all of this down right now with Stephanie Kelton.

I copied this - which in fact is the introduction to a fairly interesting interview with Kelton - mostly because it seems a good and fairly objective summary of some general facts about the present USA. There is a whole lot more in the article, that is recommended.

3. Trump Administration Seizes Venezuela Oil Assets

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The Trump administration intensified its interference in politically-fractured Venezuela on Monday by announcing the seizure of billions of dollars in assets connected to the nation's state-owned oil company, a move critics decried as part of a "dangerous" U.S. policy to help opposition forces overthrow elected president Nicolás Maduro.

I say, for I did not know this. And I see this mostly in the light of the Mafia-like present government of the USA, that attacks and seizes whatever and whoever it does not like, regardless of any and all international law.

Here is some more:

Mnuchin vowed the United States "will continue to use all of our diplomatic and economic tools" to back Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself Venezuela's "interim president." The secretary made clear that "the path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent, democratically-elected government."

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

In addition to tightening economic restrictions on the Maduro government as a way to bolster the position of Guaidó, Bolton also issued a fresh threat of military action by telling reporters in the White House briefing room that Trump "has made it clear that all options are on the table" when it comes to next possible steps.

"This is very dangerous," world-renowned economics professor and senior U.N. advisor Jeffrey D. Sachs warned on CNN Monday afternoon. He expressed concern that the administration's actions could cause immense suffering among the Venezuelan people, similar to the consequences endured by citizens of other countries subjected to U.S. interventions.

"The problem here is that these efforts by the United States to change other countries' governments often lead to catastrophe," Sachs noted, "as has happened all through the Middle East in recent years."

"Very often Washington says, 'Somebody must go,'" he continued. "And this is how our foreign policy often works—it's very arrogant [to say] who should rule in another country.

I agree with Sachs with regards to the - quite realistic - possibility that ¨the administration's actions could cause immense suffering among the Venezuelan people¨ and the fact that ¨these efforts by the United States to change other countries' governments often lead to catastrophe¨
but I would have liked his mentioning international laws, since the USA seems - to me, at least - to be breaking international laws with respect to Venezuela (and quite a number of other countries, like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan). And this is a recommended article.


4. Senate Pressured to Defeat 'Unconstitutional' Attack on Right to Protest´

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

With the GOP-controlled Senate set to vote Monday evening on legislation that would hand states more power to punish companies and individuals that participate in pro-Palestinian boycotts of Israel, rights groups urged people to contact their representatives and pressure them to block the "unconstitutional" legislation for the fourth time.

"Today at 5:30pm [ET] the Senate is voting on a bill promoting state laws that suppress the right to boycott Israel—even though multiple judges have found such laws to be unconstitutional," the ACLU declared in a tweet. "It's up to us to tell our senators: Hands off the right to boycott."

I say - and since it is very early Tuesday morning, I do not know the outcome of the vote. Then again, I agree with the ACLU and ¨multiple judges¨ that such a law is unconstitutional: You should have the right to your own political opinions, also if these disagree with the government.
And if this is denied, the denial is totalitarian (in my sense, though not in the crazy Wikipedia sense of the term, that seems to derive from Brzezinski).

Besides, in case you wonder about the unconstitutionality: If this is constitutional, then why would (for example) Trump´s and Bezos wish that you should only buy via Amazon and should only buy - wherever possible - Trump products, not be constitutional?!

Anyway... I agree with the ACLU. Here is some more:

Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and officially titled the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act, Senate Bill 1 (S.1) is a package of legislation that includes the Combatting BDS Act, a bill that would give states and localities more legal authority to punish companies and individuals who engage in boycotts of Israel.
(...)

As The Intercept pointed out, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last year supported "far more draconian" legislation sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

Cardin's bill, which the ACLU called a "full-scale attack" on the First Amendment, was co-sponsored by 15 Democratic senators and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

This does not sound good. And this is a recommended article.


5. Wall Street: "It Can't Be Warren and It Can't Be Sanders"

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The first 2020 Democratic presidential primary is still over a year away, but Wall Street executives are reportedly already freaking out about two likely progressive candidates: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

"It can't be Warren and it can't be Sanders," the CEO of a "giant bank" anonymously told Politico, which reported on Monday that Wall Street executives are "getting panicked" about the presidential prospects of the Senate's two fiercest financial sector critics.

Warren launched an exploratory committee for president last month, vowing to take on the "corruption" that is "poisoning our democracy." Sanders, for his part, has yet to publicly announce a bid for the White House—but Yahoo News reported on Friday that the Vermont senator plans to launch his campaign "imminently."

Both progressive senators have placed scrutiny of Wall Street's size, record of large-scale fraud, exorbitant CEO pay packages, enormous political influence, and lack of stringent regulations at the center of their political agendas for years, and deep-pocketed bankers who have profited immensely from President Donald Trump's tenure are worried that one of the two could ascend to the White House and threaten their pocketbooks.

I say, for I did not know that one of the very brave anonymous CEOs of an anonymous "giant bank" does not mind many of the Democrats who also want to become president of the USA, while he (I suppose) does mind if the Americans were to elect Warren or Sanders.

Then again, I must add that this
brave anonymous CEO of an anonymous "giant bank" does indirectly support my conviction that the only reasonable Democratic presidential candidates that I have heard about are Warren and Sanders.

Here is some more:

According to Politico, Wall Street executives who want Trump out of the White House mentioned "a consistent roster of appealing nominees" they would find acceptable outside of Bloomberg, who the outlet describes as Wall Street's "platonic ideal."

This "roster" reportedly included Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Kamala Harris (Calif.); former Vice President Joe Biden; and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas).

As CNBC reported earlier this month, Harris, Booker, and Gillibrand have all reached out to Wall Street to gauge support for 2020 campaigns. Harris announced that she is running for president last week, and Gillibrand launched an exploratory committee for president earlier this month.

I say again, for I did not know the above. And I also draw a conclusion: I do not believe in the presidential candidacies of Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Biden and O´Rourke, and I do not because Wall Street seems to embrace them, while it does not embrace Warren and Sanders.

In fact, this is also Jake Johnson´s conclusion:

"The best indication of who you should vote for in the Democratic Primary if you actually want progressive policy is who Wall Street doesn't like, which essentially means Bernie or Warren," concluded journalist Josh Mound.

I totally agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

Note
[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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