February 17, 2019

Crisis: Trump's Power Grab, Amazon & New York, John Oliver, The FBI & A Coup, Green New Deal

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



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 17, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, February 17, 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:

. Selections from February 17, 2019:
1. Trump's Latest Power Grab Triggers Calls for Impeachment
2. How the New York Amazon Deal Fell Apart

3. John Oliver on What'd He Say to Donald Trump

4. The FBI Came Close to Staging a Coup

5. The Real Danger to the Green New Deal
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. Trump's Latest Power Grab Triggers Calls for Impeachment

This article is by Julia Conley on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While Democrats are preparing to propose a joint resolution challenging President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration in order to obtain funding for a border wall, one legal scholar is among those arguing  the time has come to pursue a far more direct and effective method of combating the president’s lawlessness: impeachment.

With Trump’s national emergency declaration [issued] Friday morning, international law professor Francis Boyle said there is no time to lose.

“This should be initiated immediately,” said Boyle. “All you need is one brave member of the U.S. House of Representatives to meaningfully assert that body’s Power of the Purse. Trump’s indications that he will override that legislative power and the seeming acquiescence by some Democrats is illegitimate and dangerous and subverts a fundamental premise of the Constitution."

Yes, and I think Boyle may be right. I also suppose Robert Reich - see here - agrees with Boyle. And here are Boyle's reasons to impeach Trump:

Boyle—who worked closely with former Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Texas) to introduce a resolution to impeach President George H.W. Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors after he initiated the first Gulf War—said Congress has a solid case for bringing charges against Trump over his violation of the U.S. Constitution:

A Bill of Impeachment could consist of articles including for (1) violating Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…” (2) Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law…” (3) It also violates the Federal Anti-Deficiency Statute.

With Trump preparing to unilaterally take control of government funds by declaring a national emergency, Boyle said, lawmakers’ “most direct remedy is impeachment.”

I think Boyle is right and this is a recommended article.

2. How the New York Amazon Deal Fell Apart

This article is by Joe Pisani on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” he joked at the time.

Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals.

But what they didn’t expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon’s dramatic Valentine’s Day breakup with New York.

Yes indeed: I think all of the above is correct. Here is some more:

Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.

The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a “bad bargain” for the city: “We won’t know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,” it said.

Yes, and I agree with Gianaris and Van Bramer. And this is a recommended article.

3. John Oliver on What'd He Say to Donald Trump

This article is by Tim Marcin on Newsweek. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Watch John Oliver do his, well, John-Oliver-Thing and you get the sense that he’s telling you the room is on fire and the doors are locked, but we've got this cup of water and, come on, you've gotta admit it's gonna be funny trying to put these flames out. 

In other words: Tune in to Oliver’s Last Week Tonight and you’re often going to learn something that’ll send you into an outrage—but somehow you’ll laugh. His comedy show has managed to do extended monologues on student debt, immigration courts, opioids and just about every other awful thing you can imagine. Again, it’s a comedy show. And a good one, at that.
It’s a careful balance of comedy and journalism—and it produces a show known for putting out 20-minute, informative, laugh-out-loud, scathing segments that can help shift the conversation surrounding some of America’s toughest subjects.

I do not normally cover (or try to cover) Newsweek, but I like John Oliver and the above introduction seems correct to me.

Here is some from the interview:

How do you go about making the Trump administration funny?

That’s a good question because, normally, the job of comedy is to take something substantial and kind of break it down into comedy. Whereas, when you have the president say something that he doesn’t mean, or things that are objectively false all the time, you end up having to go through a different system where you’re trying to inject meaning into something that he said that’s objectively meaningless. And then [you] justify why you’ve just done that. And then you write a joke.

That’s the problem. It’s so much vacuous nonsense that you feel like he’s just chumming the water with bullshit.

I think that is correct, and here is Oliver on interviewing Trump:

If you had 20 minutes alone with Trump, what would you say to him?

I wouldn’t. I’ve got no interest in talking to him. Interviewing him is pointless.

I agree, and my reason is that he is lying most of the time. Here is the last bit that I quote from  this article:

In the news environment today, there are all of these things happening all at once, do you try to pick something for a story that you know will have an impact? Something that you think people are missing?

I mean… not really. It’s not so much that people are missing it, because whenever we do a story there’s reporting on it but maybe it’s not broken through to people’s consciousness. We can act as a positive amplifier in that situation. Like when we did a piece on civil forfeiture, there was a shitload of good reporting from local news outlets, and I think The Washington Post, but we felt like it slid by people and we could turn people’s attention to it.

I think this is correct as well. And Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" starts its sixth season this evening (February 17) on HBO. This is a recommended article. 

4. The FBI Came Close to Staging a Coup

This article is by John Kiriakou on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, in an explosive interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” said that in early 2017,  in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, he and other FBI officials discussed the possibility of recruiting a cabinet secretary to help push the president out of office by using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment

McCabe further contended that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire when he was around Trump in order to gather evidence against him.  (Rosenstein denies the allegation.)  McCabe said that Justice Department officials believed at the time that Trump may have obstructed justice by firing Comey, and they worried that Trump was somehow under the influence of the Russian government.  In the end, nothing came of the plan.
Yes indeed. Here is Kiriakou's comment on the above:
Regardless of one’s feelings toward President Trump and his policies, what McCabe is describing is nothing less than a coup attempt. It’s something that happens in weak or nascent democracies, following interference by the CIA perhaps.  It should never happen here.
I don't know, and my point may be formulated as follows: I agree with Kiriakou that in a real democracy a coup attempt as described above should not and very probably also simply cannot happen.

But then the USA is not a real democracy anymore while Trump does seem to be a disaster for the USA (except for the richest 1 to 10%) and quite possibly also for the whole world.

Here is some more by Kiriakou on the FBI, the CIA and the NSA (and more):
The intelligence community—the FBI, CIA, the NSA and other three-letter agencies—are too powerful, too entrenched and two well-funded. And they have far too little oversight. They’re a threat to our democracy, not the saviors of it.  That is why it pains me to see Democrats lining up behind them to attack Trump.
I agree with Kiriakou that "the FBI, CIA, the NSA" etc. are too powerful - but my conclusion seems to be slightly different from Kiriakou's, for I say that - then - it follows that the USA is not a real democracy anymore, as a matter of fact.

Another matter about which I might disagree with Kiriakou is that I do think Trump is very dangerous as president, because I am a psychologist who agree with many other psychologists that Trump is mad (and the last link contains some good explanations).

Then again, I also think that Kiriakou is correct about the following:
Even worse, these same organizations—the FBI and the CIA—are the ones that have sought to undermine our democracy over the years.  Don’t forget programs like COINTELPRO, the FBI’s operation to force Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide; the infiltration of peace groups; the CIA’s efforts to control the media with Operation Mockingbird; the CIA’s illegal spying on American citizens; the CIA hacking into the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee; and the Agency’s extrajudicial assassination program; to name a few.
The links are well worth reading - but as I said, my own conclusions are that precisely because the FBI, CIA and the NSA are so powerful and so well funded, real democracy is dead in the USA, while Trump is a very dangerous madman.

Anyway, here is Kiriakou's conclusion:
The FBI is perfectly free to investigate collusion. That’s what they ought to be doing. But they ought not plot the overthrow of a president, no matter how quirky and offensive he may be.  That’s anti-democratic and illegal and it harkens back to the bad old days of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and the CIA before the reforms of the Church Committee.

We have a way to depose presidents.  They’re called “elections.”  The FBI should familiarize itself with them.
Yes, but impeachments are legal as well in the USA. Anyway, this is a recommended article.

5. The Real Danger to the Green New Deal

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

Predictably, Trump came out against the Green New Deal with a bombastic – and ill-informed – rant in a campaign style rally in El Paso. Here’s what he had to say:

"I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of 'let's hop a train to California,' of you're not allowed to own cows anymore!"

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell intends to introduce the GND Bill in the Senate, and Republicans, pundits and politicians of most stripes are predicting the bill will hurt the Democrats’ chances in 2020.

But as usual, the inside-the-beltway crowd is way behind the people on this issue; polling clearly shows a large majority of the people support it. In fact, when key elements underpinning the GND were unpacked, Americans overwhelmingly supported nearly all of them, with many provisions polling above 80 percent favorable.

I think all of the above is correct, but I really dislike "GND", first because it is an ad hoc abbreviation, and second because this abbreviation - "Gee En Dee" - does not mention the New Deal.

And besides, while I agree with Atcheson that the reception of the Green New Deal by the American people was quite good, I also think that the USA is no longer a real democracy under Trump.

Anyway. Here is more Atcheson:
But the real political danger to Democrats isn’t the Republican assault on the GND, it is that they’ll do what they did with Obamacare—run from the issue and allow the Republicans set the terms of the debate. That approach caused the Party to experience record losses at every level of government in 2014, and it looks like the neoliberals in charge of the party are about to do the same with the GND.

For example, here’s what Nancy Pelosi had to say about the Green New Deal: “…The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?" The rest of the Democratic leadership is following her lead, and the party's old guard is following them.

Much of the press and punditry is taking the same approach, and the general message from both the Washington cognoscenti and the press seems to be it’s not “practical” or “politically feasible,” forgetting that’s exactly what they said about Bernie Sanders’ progressive platform, positions that are now wildly popular with the people, and that form the basis of Democrat's victories in 2018.

Yes, I quite agree with Atcheson. Here is more by him:
Republicans and some neoliberals are also raising the specter of the GND ushering in socialism, government despotism, and control of our daily lives and choices. And while it will demand unprecedented cooperation, it need not imply limits on our democracy. As Joseph Romm pointed out in a recent article, a World War II level effort is both possible and necessary if we are to preserve ou[r] Democracy. Indeed, nothing threatens our freedoms more than the human and economic catastrophes that would result from NOT mitigating climate change.
Yes again. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The “realists” and “pragmatists” who are advocating caution and warning that embracing the GND will result in Trump winning in 2020 have it exactly wrong. The only way Trump wins is if the Democrats abrogate their responsibility. The people are ready; the technology is at hand; the time is now.

I think I agree and this is a strongly 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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail