February 27, 2019

Crisis: On Centrism, On Incarceration, Firing Trump, On Bernie Sanders, Survival of the Richest

“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 27, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, February 27, 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 27, 2019:
1. AOC, Sanders, and Warren Are the Real Centrists
2. Incarceration Is a Deadly Health Risk

3. America Has Already Fired Trump

4. Time to Get on Board With Bernie

5. Survival of the Richest
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. AOC, Sanders, and Warren Are the Real Centrists

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

Do you know what really annoys me about the media’s coverage of U.S. politics, and especially the Democratic Party?

Google the words “moderate” or “centrist” and a small group of names will instantly appear: Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and, yes, Howard Schultz.

Bloomberg is considered a “centrist thought leader” (Vanity Fair). Klobuchar is the “straight-shooting pragmatist” (Time). Biden is the “quintessential centrist” (CNN) and the “last hurrah for moderate Democrats” (New York magazine). Shultz is gifted with high-profile interview slots to make his “centrist independent” pitch to voters.

Now Google the freshman House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s been dubbed a member of the “loony left” (Washington Post), a “progressive firebrand” (Reuters), and a “liberal bomb thrower” (New York Times).

Got that? Biden, Schultz and Co., we are told, sit firmly in the middle of American politics; Ocasio-Cortez stands far out on its fringes.

This is a brazen distortion of reality, a shameless and demonstrable lie that is repeated day after day in newspaper op-eds and cable news headlines.

Well... yes, I know the above rather well and also since a very long time, namely at least 10 or 20 years: Google often lies; Time often lies; CNN often lies; the Washington Post often lies etc. etc.

And while I do not like these lies at all, they certainly are well-known to me. But that is not Hasan's point. Hasan's point is this:

“It’s easy to call what AOC is doing as far-lefty, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” Nick Hanauer, the venture capitalist and progressive activist, told MSNBC in January. “When you advocate for economic policies that benefit the broad majority of citizens, that’s true centrism. What Howard Schultz represents, the centrism that he represents, is really just trickle-down economics.”

“He is not the centrist,” continued Hanauer. “AOC is the centrist.”

Hanauer is right. And Bernie Sanders is centrist too — smeared as an “ideologue” (The Economist) and “dangerously far left” (Chicago Tribune). So too is Elizabeth Warren — dismissed as a “radical extremist” (Las Vegas Review-Journal) and a “class warrior” (Fox News).

The inconvenient truth that our lazy media elites do so much to ignore is that Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and Warren are much closer in their views to the vast majority of ordinary Americans than the Bloombergs or the Bidens. They are the true centrists, the real moderates; they represent the actual political middle.

No, I think that is both confused and confusing. I have two arguments, and the first is this:

Even if "
Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and Warren are much closer in their views to the vast majority of ordinary Americans than the Bloombergs or the Bidens", which quite possibly may be true, it does not follow at all that therefore "Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and Warren" are centrists. (Indeed, I think they themselves will say that they are leftists or liberals, and not centrists.)

Second, when you find (as I did a very long time ago) that much of the news is being written by people who are not honest, and use many kinds of misleading, falsifying, or simply false terms to try to propagandize their versions of things, you should not try to fix the meanings of the terms you use to counter these lies (namely by saying that real leftists or real liberals are centrists).

Here is some more on Hasan's reasoning:

[H]ere is the reality: The Green New Deal is extremely popular and has massive bipartisan support. A recent survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University found that a whopping 81 percent of voters said they either “strongly support” (40 percent) or “somewhat support” (41 percent) the Green New Deal, including 64 percent of Republicans (and even 57 percent of conservative Republicans).

I say - but again (even if this is true) this does not mean that the Green New Deal is centrist.

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

How much of this polling, however, is reflected in the daily news coverage of the Democrats, which seeks to pit “leftist” activists against “centrist” voters, and “liberals” against “moderates”?

How is it that labels like “centrist” and “moderate,” which common sense tells us should reflect the views of a majority of Americans, have come to be applied to those who represent minority interests and opinions?

Once again: If you trust "the daily news coverage", you must be rather to very naive. And as to the question of the second paragraph:

First of all "a majority of Americans" may be - in some sense - leftist, rightist or neither for a while, but this does not mean that what may be a momentary correct view of "a majority" therefore should be redefined as "centrist". Why can't a majority be leftist or rightist?!

And secondly, the main reason why "
labels like “centrist” and “moderate”" are falsely applied is that large parts of "the media" are often lying. In brief, I disagree with this article.

2. Incarceration Is a Deadly Health Risk

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The former chief medical officer of New York City jails has just published a remarkable new book about the health risks of incarceration. The book is titled “Life and Death in Rikers Island.” Dr. Homer Venters offers unprecedented insight into what happens inside prison walls to create new health risks for incarcerated men and women, including neglect, blocked access to care, physical and sexual violence, and brutality by corrections officers. Venters further reveals that when prisoners become ill, are injured or even die in custody, the facts of the incident are often obscured. We speak to Dr. Venters and Jennifer Gonnerman, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.

This is the beginning of a rather long and interesting article, that is too long to properly excerpt in Nederlog.

Here is some more on the main reason for this article:

The book is titled Life and Death in Rikers Island. Its author, Dr. Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer of New York City jails. He offers unprecedented insight into what happens inside prison walls to create new health risks for incarcerated men and women, including neglect, blocked access to care, physical and sexual violence, and brutality by corrections officers. Venters further reveals that when prisoners become ill or injured, or even die in custody, the facts of the incident are often obscured. He writes, quote, “[W]e work in settings that are designed and operated to keep the truth hidden. Detainees are beaten and threatened to prevent them from telling the truth about how they are injured, health staff are pressured to lie or omit details in their own documentation, and families experience systematic abuse and humiliation during the visitation process,” unquote. The risks of jail are disproportionately harmful for people with behavioral health problems and for people of color, Venters explains. He concludes Rikers Island must close, and suggests how that should be done.

I fear that Homer Venters is quite correct. Here is some more:

DR. HOMER VENTERS: I believe that what—one of the things that shocked me the most was the high level of injury and injury associated with violence. Certainly, all physicians and healthcare people, we have experience taking care of injuries. But so many of our patients were coming to us with injuries, and so many of them were saying that these injuries were from things called slip and falls. So, you know, patients that come with a fracture to the jaw, a very—you know, very serious injury, or a fracture of the upper arm or the leg, and then saying that they had slipped and fallen—things that just did not—you know, we didn’t believe. But also, it was clear, when you interacted with these patients, that they were terrified and that they, actually, in that moment, were thinking very clearly about their survival and their preservation.

I fear this is also quite true. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: Why is there so little transparency? Talk about the silent complicity you describe.

DR. HOMER VENTERS: You know, these are paramilitary settings. And so, the health service, in most of these places, even when we have an independent health authority, we still rely on the correctional staff for our safety and security. And so, as such, because there isn’t a lot of mandated transparency about health outcomes, about the true characteristics of injuries, for instance, at the time we were doing this work, most of the system is designed to keep information on the inside, so that anybody who wants to change the original account, whether it’s a patient or a doctor or a nurse, faces a real gauntlet of challenges, that not only are bureaucratic and administrative, but actually could put their own personal safety at risk.

And I fear this is quite true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

JENNIFER GONNERMAN: I saw an early copy of this book in December. And a lot of books come in. You know, as a reporter, you get a lot of—often get a lot of books and people who want publicity. I started reading this book, and I really couldn’t put it down. I thought it was so important, crucially important. And I feel like it covers one of the most overlooked aspects of mass incarceration. I mean, mass incarceration has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. But what—the health risks that folks endure when they go inside is something that I feel needs much more attention. And I think, as a society, we’ve sort of grown numb to these headlines, like an individual died in prison or jail, and we don’t really follow up with the necessary questions. And what Dr. Venters’ book does is really pushes us to ask those harder questions, like: Did this death have to happen? Was it preventable? Did something happen in the jail that led to this individual’s death? And those are the kind of questions the public—and journalists, in particular—really need to be asking.

Yes, I agree with Gonnerman. There is considerably more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

3. America Has Already Fired Trump

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s soon-to-be-delivered report will trigger months of congressional investigations, subpoenas, court challenges, partisan slugfests, media revelations and more desperate conspiracy claims by Donald Trump, all against the backdrop of the burning questions: Will he be impeached by the House? Will he be convicted by the Senate? Will he pull a Richard Nixon and resign?

In other words, will America fire Trump?

I have news for you. America has already fired him.

When the public fires a president before election day – as it did with Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover – they don’t send him a letter telling him he’s fired. They just make him irrelevant. Politics happens around him, despite him. He’s not literally gone, but he might as well be.

I think this is fairly unlikely. I concede that there lately has been some movement towards the left in the USA, but I don't live there, and I am not certain how much (which anyway is difficult to judge well).

Besides, I believe Trump is dangerous as long as he is president of the USA: He certainly is not "irrelevant".

Here is some more:

It’s happened to Trump.
Isolated in the White House, distrustful of aides, at odds with intelligence agencies, distant from his Cabinet heads, Trump has no system to make or implement decisions.

His tweets don’t create headlines as before. His rallies are ignored. His lies have become old hat.

Action and excitement have shifted elsewhere, to Democratic challengers, even to a 29-year-old freshman congresswoman too young to run for president.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s still dangerous, like an old land mine buried in the mud. He could start a nuclear war.

I agree that Trump is "still dangerous", and while I also agree with Reich that he is incompetent, I do not think this makes him less dangerous.

And I think this is mostly wishful thinking on Reich's part. Also, there is more in the article, namely a letter "Americans" might write to the president, which may be somewhat interesting to some, but I think since three years that Trump is dangerous because he is mad, and I will keep thinking so until he has disappeared and has not blown up the world.

4. Time to Get on Board With Bernie

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

On CNN last week, morning host Poppy Harlow interviewed liberal Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. Harlow aired a poll showing that socialism is now preferred over capitalism by fully 57 percent of U.S. Democrats. Then she asked Cicilline if this indicates that the Democratic Party is shifting in the direction of socialism.

Cicilline denied any such radical change. He declared all the Democratic presidential candidates besides Bernie Sanders to be capitalists, and said, “I don’t see any movement in the Democratic Party towards socialism at all. I know the president is making that argument; I think it’s a silly one.”

It’s curious that a five-term, liberal House Democrat insists that his party is still true-blue capitalist and is making no “movement toward socialism at all,” even as the percentage of Democratic voters who prefer socialism over capitalism climbs up to 6 in 10.

Well... I am not interested in Cicilline's opinions, and I also do not think this is a strong argument, for the simple reason that at most 1% of all Americans is capable of clearly defining what they think "socialism" and "capitalism" stand for. Besides, while I have been reading 35 papers, weeklies etc. for over 10 years now, I still have to meet the first journalist who can do so.

Here is more by Street:

That might seem like a paradox. It isn’t. The Democratic Party is mainly about big corporate donors, who love capitalism, not its voter base, which prefers socialism.

There is something for the actual left to work with here. Think about it: Six in 10 voters aligned with the political organization that former Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips once rightly called “history’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party” now say they prefer socialism over capitalism. That is a momentous development.

Now, it strikes me, is not the time to be beating up on Bernie Sanders from his radical port-side. Yes, comrades, the Democratic Party is an inherently elitist, fatally flawed vehicle for progressive change. It is a corporate and imperial institution, owned and controlled by the nation’s interrelated and unelected dictatorships of money and empire.

I would have been considerably more impressed by the above argument if I had read some journalists in the past 10 years (since the crisis) who were able to define "socialism" reasonably well, but I never saw one. (Here is an effort by me: Crisis: On Socialism.)

Then again, I do agree with Street that the elected Democratic representatives are - for the most part - far more interested in protecting Wall Street or other corporations who pay them than in helping their voters.

And I also agree with Street that now "is not the time to be beating up on Bernie Sanders". I do not know whether I agree with Street on the reasons (there are some below), but my reasons are that I trust Sanders; that he is one of the few representatives who definitely is a genuine leftist; and also that he has a considerable amount of support.

Here is some of the crititicisms of Sanders that Street seems to agree to:

Yes, Sanders is a fake “independent” who is maddeningly unwilling to confront the Pentagon system and the criminal Pax Americana. And yes, he isn’t really a socialist. He isn’t talking about workers’ control of production or of the workplace (where working-age Americans spend most of their waking hours) more broadly. He isn’t demanding the overdue nationalization of the nation’s top, archparasitic financial institutions. He isn’t calling for a general strike or a Gilets Jaunes-style rebellion of the proletariat. He hasn’t joined serious ecosocialists in calling for the Green New Deal he advocates to be funded with massive, required reductions in the U.S. military budget (..)

Actually, I do not know whether Sanders "isn't really a socialist", and my main reason is that Sanders does understand that there are differences between what those who may vote for him want and think, and what he himself wants and thinks.

And while I do not know what these differences are, they clearly exist, and one should not confuse what Sanders really thinks (which I do not know) with the political messages he is giving to his followers and potential voters.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is a summary of six reasons Street gives in support of Sanders - and I give all the reasons, but suppresed quite a lot of text:

Fine, but here are six things for understandably angry and alienated leftists to keep in mind going forward.

First, the U.S. electoral system is a two-party regime by design.
Second, if you don’t think it’s a big deal that the word “socialism” is now received favorably by majorities of Democrats and millennials, then you are too damn cynical for your own and the common good. So what if it lacks precise and fully radical definition in the national political culture?
Third, as I have previously explained here and elsewhere, Medicare-for-all (single-payer health care) is a powerful and sweeping reform
Fourth, we have no choice but to get behind and then push to the left the Green New Deal, even with its current insufficiently radical formulation in the hands of welcome novices like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Fifth, we on the actual left should look forward to the debate that a robust new Sanders campaign can force on the Democratic Party.
Sixth, it will be very instructive to millions to watch the dismal, demobilizing and dollar-drenched Democrats knife Sanders and rig the game against his majority-backed, progressive-populist agenda all over again in the 2020 primaries.

I think most of these arguments are more or less correct, though I do not care for most of the ideas of "angry and alienated leftists" because I am fairly certain most of them do not know much of politics, history, philosophy and science, indeed like angry and alienated rightists. (I agree with the leftists, but my agreements are based on an agreement on basic values, such as honesty, truth, equality and science, and not on an agreement in factual diagnoses.)

And as I said before: I like Sanders without agreeing with him on quite a few things, and I would strongly welcome him as the next president of the USA. This is a strongly recommended article.

5. Survival of the Richest

This article is by Nomi Prins on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

Like a gilded coating that makes the dullest things glitter, today’s thin veneer of political populism covers a grotesque underbelly of growing inequality that’s hiding in plain sight. And this phenomenon of ever more concentrated wealth and power has both Newtonian and Darwinian components to it.

In terms of Newton’s first law of motion: those in power will remain in power unless acted upon by an external force. Those who are wealthy will only gain in wealth as long as nothing deflects them from their present course. As for Darwin, in the world of financial evolution, those with wealth or power will do what’s in their best interest to protect that wealth, even if it’s in no one else’s interest at all.

In George Orwell’s iconic 1945 novel, Animal Farm, the pigs who gain control in a rebellion against a human farmer eventually impose a dictatorship on the other animals on the basis of a single commandment: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In terms of the American republic, the modern equivalent would be: “All citizens are equal, but the wealthy are so much more equal than anyone else (and plan to remain that way).”

Certainly, inequality is the economic great wall between those with power and those without it.

I mostly agree with the above, and I like Nomi Prins. Here is more on the present state of inequality in the USA:

To put all this in perspective, the top 1% of Americans now take home, on average, more than 40 times the incomes of the bottom 90%. And if you head for the top 0.1%, those figures only radically worsen. That tiny crew takes home more than 198 times the income of the bottom 90% percent. They also possess as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90%. “Wealth,” as Adam Smith so classically noted almost two-and-a-half-centuries ago in The Wealth of Nations, “is power,” an adage that seldom, sadly, seems outdated.

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

America is great at minting millionaires. It has the highest concentration of them, globally speaking, at 41%. (Another 24% of that millionaires’ club can be found in Europe.) And the top 1% of U.S. citizens earn 40 times the national average and own about 38.6% of the country’s total wealth. The highest figure in any other developed country is “only” 28%.

However, while the U.S. boasts of epic levels of inequality, it’s also a global trend. Consider this: the world’s richest 1% own 45% of total wealth on this planet. In contrast, 64% of the population (with an average of $10,000 in wealth to their name) holds less than 2%. And to widen the inequality picture a bit more, the world’s richest 10%, those having at least $100,000 in assets, own 84% of total global wealth.

The billionaires' club is where it’s really at, though. According to Oxfam, the richest 42 billionaires have a combined wealth equal to that of the poorest 50% of humanity.

Again I entirely agree. There is a whole lot more in the article, which 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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