April 10, 2019

Crisis: Kirstjen Nielsen, Sanders & Fox News, Runaway Inequality, On "Socialism", Brexit and May

“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 April 10, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 10, 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 April 10, 2019:
1. Kirstjen Nielsen’s Cruel Legacy
2. Bernie Sanders Has a Simple Message for Fox News Viewers

3. Runaway Inequality Is a National Emergency, Billionaire Banker Warns

4. Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest

5. Amid Brexit Chaos, Theresa May's Conservative Party Implodes
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. Kirstjen Nielsen’s Cruel Legacy

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

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has been forced out of her role at the helm of President Trump’s immigration policy after reportedly resisting a move by the president to revive his family separation policy at the U.S. border. We look at Nielsen’s legacy with Renée Feltz, a Democracy Now! correspondent and producer who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention and the business of detention. Nielsen oversaw Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy last year and came under fire by Democrats for lying to Congress about the policy, as well as for withholding information on children who died in U.S. custody. At least two children died under Nielsen’s leadership: 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gómez and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquín.

Well... I start this review - yet again - by repeating something I wrote on April 7:

I say, and I start - again - with the definition of "kidnapping" that is on the Wikipedia, which starts as follows (and is much more extensive):

In criminal law, kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away (asportation) and confinement of a person against his or her will. Thus, it is a composite crime. It can also be defined as false imprisonment by means of abduction, both of which are separate crimes that when committed simultaneously upon the same person merge as the single crime of kidnapping.
Kidnapping may be done to demand for ransom in exchange for releasing the victim, or for other illegal purposes. Kidnapping can be accompanied by bodily injury which elevates the crime to aggravated kidnapping.

Kidnapping of a child is also known as child abduction, and these are sometimes separate legal categories.
And I think that what the Trump government did in this case simply was kidnapping, but then I seem to be the only one (that I have read) who calls it so. Then again, I can read and I can think, and for me it is and remains kidnapping.

I wrote the above on
April 7. Here is more more from the lying kidnapper Nielsen:

HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of. Don’t believe the press. They are very well taken care of. … We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country. We provide food, medical, education and all needs that the child requests.

In fact, to the best of my knowledge, Nielsen is lying like Trump does. Here are some background facts, that I again copied from my review of April 7:

This started with 2700 kids that were kidnapped, and then, half a year later, it emerged that there are 47,000 more, and that the
U.S. Health and Human Services Department in fact does not know how many children have been kidnapped (of course, without using that term) by the U.S. government.

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

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I think we have that ProPublica audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, where children were between the ages of 4 and 10 and are heard crying “Mama” and “Papi” after being separated from their parents. This is the audio.

CHILD: [crying] Papi! Papi! Papi! Papi!

BORDER PATROL AGENT: [translated] Well, we have an orchestra here, right? What we’re missing is a conductor.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a border agent saying that over.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Renée—yeah, that was a border agent, yes.

RENÉE FELTZ: Incredible. Incredible to see that people carried out this policy, to hear it carried out. Kirstjen Nielsen was one of those people. She helped President Trump.

I say. And this is a strongly recommended article (though it escapes me why people apparently refuse to call kidnapping kidnapping). 

2. Bernie Sanders Has a Simple Message for Fox News Viewers

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

Distinguishing between Fox News’ massive audience and its extremist on-air personalities, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he agreed to attend a town hall hosted by the right-wing network because he wants to make the case to Trump voters that the president lied when he promised healthcare for all, no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, and a tax bill that benefits the working class.

“When I go on Fox, what I will say is, ‘Look, many of you voted for Donald Trump, but he lied to you. He told you he was gonna provide healthcare for everybody. Yet his policies are to throw 30 million people off of the health insurance they have,'” the Vermont senator and 2020 presidential contender said in an interview with HuffPost‘s Amanda Terkel.

“He told you he wasn’t gonna cut Medicare and Medicaid. He lied to you,” Sanders continued. “Massive cuts in his budget for Medicare and Medicaid. We’re not going to let him do it, but that’s what he wants to do. Told you his tax plan would not benefit the wealthy. He lied again. Of course, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top one percent. How do you explain that to people who voted for Trump if you don’t talk to people who voted for Trump?”

I think Bernie Sanders is correct, although I fear he will convert few Fox viewers.

Here is sime more:

Sanders—who has emerged as the early Democratic front-runner with strong grassroots enthusiasm and a massive first-quarter fundraising haul—said his campaign’s strategy of reaching as many people as possible is not just about an appearance on Fox News, which he acknowledged is effectively a “propaganda arm” of the Trump White House.

“If you check where I go, and where I will go into this campaign, I’m not just going to go into blue districts. You’ve got to go into areas where people are,” Sanders said. “Working people need to know the truth, and that is that Donald Trump betrayed them, lied to them. And I intend to do that.”

I agree, but as above. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

“For better or for worse—and it is for worse—for whatever reason, you know, Fox has a huge viewing audience,” Sanders said. “And to simply say that we’re not going to talk to millions of people who watch that network, I don’t think is smart.”

I agree again, as above, and this is a recommended article. 

3. Runaway Inequality Is a National Emergency, Billionaire Banker Warns

This article is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In 2019, billionaires have more wealth than ever before while “almost half of humanity have barely escaped extreme poverty, living on less than $5.50 a day,” international charity Oxfam found in its latest survey of global inequality.

Such wealth disparity is a crisis for the future of capitalism and the United States’ economic and political standing worldwide, Ray Dalio, billionaire and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, said in a “60 Minutes interview on Sunday. “If I was the president of the United States,” Dalio told “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker, “what I would do is recognize that this is a national emergency.”

In a LinkedIn essay elaborating on the connection between capitalism and income inequality, Dalio warns that conditions in America today are scarily similar to those in the 1930s, when countries like Germany fell into the hands of authoritarian governments. “There has been little or no real income growth for most people for decades” and “prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980,” he notes.

Well... here is some background.

In the first place, this is mostly how it was around 1970 (almost 50 years ago), although there were then some fewer billionaires. Then again, in 1970 there were also half as many humans as there are now, so in fact the misery for the poor is - at least - twice as strong as it was in 1970.

And in the second place, while Dalio - and the last link gives some background - is correct in what he says, I also think this ought to be known (and probably is known) to other billionaires.

In the third place, I can think of one good reason for billionaires to say what Dalio said, and that is that in a country with ever less people in the middle class, there is ever less money to buy the goods billionaires are producing (which is a fact obvious to me since the 1990s at the very least).

Then again, I have no ideas about why Dalio did say what he said. Here is some more:

Dalio also sounds the alarm on the potential for conflict that results from major gaps between the haves and have-nots: “Disparity in wealth, especially when accompanied by disparity in values, leads to increasing conflict and, in the government, that manifests itself in the form of populism of the left and populism of the right and often in revolutions of one sort or another.”

While he advocates for higher taxes on the wealthy in general, public-private partnerships, and encouraging politicians to consider return on investments rather than focusing simply on budgets, Dalio is light on specific policy ideas for how to achieve these goals and prevent the revolution he refers to.

I take it all of the above is correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Growing up, he writes, “I was raised with the belief that having equal opportunity to have basic care, good education, and employment is what is fair and best for our collective well-being. To have these things and use them to build a great life is what was meant by living the American Dream.” Now, Dalio explains on “60 Minutes,” “The American dream is lost.”

Yes, I mostly agree and this is a recommended article.
4. Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest

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

“We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump said recently.

Someone should alert him that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. This pretty much describes General Motors’ receipt of $600 million in federal contracts, plus $500 million in tax breaks, since Trump took office.

Yes, I mostly agree with the above, but by now I am pretty irritated that absolutely no journalist (or "public intellectual") that I have read during the last ten years (!!) as much as attempts to give any definition of socialism - except me: See Crisis: On Socialism - nor attempts to give any definition of fascism - except me: See On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions - while I have seen either term being used by many journalists and by quite a few "public intellectuals" as if their meanings are quite clear to them, which simply is a lie (by omission).

And this is yet another example. I am sorry, but I think Robert Reich is more than intelligent enough to have noted the same. Then again, while I like Reich, one of the differences between us is that he wrote a book called "Saving Capitalism", while my own position is that I do like democratic socialism considerably better than capitalism, my skepticism mostly pertains to the probable revolution that is required to get there, since I know that nearly all revolutions failed (certainly in terms of the ends of the revolutionists).

Anyway... back to the article:

The nation’s largest banks saved $21 billion last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, thousands of lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs.

Banks that are too big to fail – courtesy of the 2008 bank bailout – enjoy a hidden subsidy of some $83 billion a year because they have the backing of the federal government. This hidden subsidy gives Wall Street, giant banks a huge advantage.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

When he was in business, Trump perfected the art of using bankruptcy to shield himself from the consequences of bad decisions– socialism for the rich at its worst –while leaving employees twisting in the wind. Now, all over America, executives who run their companies into the ground are getting gold-plated exit packages while their workers get pink slips.

Under socialism for the rich, you can screw up big time and still reap big rewards. Equifax’s Richard Smith retired in 2017 with an $18 million pension in the wake of a security breach that exposed the personal information of 145 million customers to hackers.

Wells Fargo’s Carrie Tolstedt departed with a $125 million exit package after being in charge of the unit that opened more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts.

No, I am sorry: "socialism for the rich" is bullshit on any plausible definition of socialism, or indeed of capitalism: What Reich calls "socialism for the rich" is simple capitalism as it works for rich capitalists.

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

To the conservative mind, the specter of socialism conjures up a society in which no one is held accountable, and no one has to work for what they receive. Yet, that’s exactly the society Trump and the Republicans are promoting for the rich.

Meanwhile, most Americans are subject to an increasingly harsh and arbitrary capitalism.

They need stronger safety nets, and they deserve a bigger piece of the economic pie.

If you want to call this socialism, fine. I call it fair.

I am not interested in what "the conservative mind" understands by "socialism", but Reich reasons as if what they think might be an adequate definition of "socialism" (which Reich has never defined where I have seen it).

Besides, to call "
stronger safety nets" and "a bigger piece of the economic pie" socialism is bullshit as well, unless you also want to insist that Eisenhower was a socialist and the USA in the 1950ies was nearly socialistic - but both seem to me again bullshit.

I conclude that Reich is mostly not honest in this article.

5. Amid Brexit Chaos, Theresa May's Conservative Party Implodes

This article is by Jőrg Schindler on Spiegel International. This is from not far from its beginning:

Brexit, which was originally supposed to take place on Friday of last week, has gone into overtime. As things currently stand, it's unclear if the extra period will last weeks, months or even years. But the longer the political war of attrition surrounding the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union continues, the more divided the country and its institutions will become.

That's especially true of the Conservative Party of Theresa May, who is, at least for now, still the prime minister.

It was a small group of Conservatives, blinded by nationalism, that brought on the referendum in the first place. It is that same group that has also ensured that every attempt to bring Brexit to a conclusion -- any conclusion, really -- has failed miserably. Yet it was only on Tuesday evening, almost three years after the referendum, that Theresa May made her first desperate attempt to free herself from the hardliners by offering to meet with Labour to find a joint way out of the chaos.

It could very well be that May will be able to pull her country back from the brink at the very last second. But for her party, it may already be too late.

Yes, I think most of the above is correct. As to the Tories: I hope they implode, but I have no decent ideas about how likely that is.

Here is some more:

The Tories, long one of the best-oiled political machines in Europe, are on their way to total collapse. William Hague, a leader of the party, has warned that the situation is far worse now even than it was following the devastating election defeat against Tony Blair in 1997. "The ruin I moved into as the new leader was, at least, intact," he has said.
It was May who -- following the narrow referendum result -- steered her country towards a hard Brexit, despite that being only one possible interpretation of the vote. In her first big speech, she announced the country would exit the common market, leave behind the customs union and throw out the many (EU) immigrants who were allegedly abusing the country's social services.

Then, this woman -- who has a weakness for pithy grandiloquence -- backed herself into a rhetorical corner: "No deal is better than a bad deal," she famously said.

I think the above is also mostly true (though I am not one who trusts Hague).

Here is some more:

Rarely have so many lawmakers been willing to turn their backs on their parties in such a short period of time. And never have the two major parties had to tolerate so much resistance and lack of party solidarity. Because of Brexit, the collapse of the de facto two-party system has now become a realistic outcome.

Perhaps, but if so, the schema that is at the basis of the British elections should also be - quite radically - reviewed, and I see no reason to suppose it will.

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

Tory historian Tim Bale, a professor at Queen Mary University of London, speaks of the "worst crisis in the history of the Conservative Party." The last time such a hopeless situation occurred, he says, was back in the 1920s, when the party fought bitterly over free trade. This time, however, the crisis is "both acute and chronic," Bale argues -- and with Theresa May, the party is headed by a leader in name only.

Perhaps. And this is a recommended article, which contains a lot more than I quoted.

[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 3 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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