April 20, 2019

Crisis: Greenwald vs. Johnston, Palestinians, Pentagon Spending, Amazon as Thief, Fourth Reich

“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 20, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 20, 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 20, 2019:
1. Glenn Greenwald vs. David Cay Johnston on Trump-Russia Ties
2. The Destruction of the Palestinians Will Be Israel’s Undoing

3. Pentagon Spending Set to Hit Near-Record Levels

4. Amazon—and 56 Other Corporations—Took Your Tax Dollars

5. Welcome to the Fourth Reich
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. Glenn Greenwald vs. David Cay Johnston on Trump-Russia Ties

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

The Justice Department has released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and President Trump’s attempts to impede the special counsel’s investigation. The report states the campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” but Mueller concluded, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Mueller also outlined at least 10 instances where Trump attempted to impede the special counsel’s investigation, but Mueller came to no definitive conclusion on whether Trump broke the law by obstructing justice. In the report, Mueller suggests that this is a decision for Congress to make. We host a debate on the report’s findings between two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists: Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept and David Cay Johnston, who has covered Donald Trump since the 1980s. His most recent book is “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.”

Yes, indeed. And in fact this is a long interview, which implies that it is too long to be decently excerpted in Nederlog. Then again, I also think I will come to at least one fairly firm conclusion.

To start with, there is this:

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic lawmakers are accusing Attorney General Barr of mischaracterizing some of Mueller’s findings. House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler has announced plans to issue a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller report and to request Mueller testify before the committee. Nadler spoke in New York Thursday.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Even in its incomplete form, however, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct. Contrary to the attorney general’s statement this morning that the White House, quote, “fully cooperated,” unquote, with the investigation, the report makes clear that the president refused to be interviewed by the special counsel and refused to provide written answers to follow-up questions, page 13 of volume two; makes clear that his associates destroyed evidence relevant to the Russian investigation, page 10, volume one. The report concluded there was “substantial evidence,” in quotes, that President Trump attempted to prevent an investigation into his campaign and his own conduct, page 76, page 78, page 90, page 157, volume two.

I agree with Nadler's desire to see the "the full, unredacted Mueller report".

Here is some more from the interview:

GLENN GREENWALD: (..) And over and over and over, from the Trump Tower meeting to all of the post—Russian connections after both the convention and the election, Mueller used the same language over and over and over again, which is that there’s no evidence, or the evidence does not establish that these conspiracy theories actually happened.

Now, you can continue to believe in them. It sort of feels almost like arguing with people who have adopted religious beliefs, that they’re going to believe in their view of how the world works, no matter how much evidence you present them that it didn’t happen. But Democrats and proponents of this theory got what they wanted, which is the Mueller investigation, and now most of the Mueller report and his findings. And his findings are that he looked for 22 months as hard as he could and didn’t establish that these theories were true.

I think that is correct. Here is some more from the interview:

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: (..) Now, I don’t think Donald Trump is going to be impeached, because there aren’t the votes to convict him. But that Donald Trump was eager, and his son Don Jr. and others in his campaign were eager, to get help from the Russians, the report explicitly states. That the Russians were eager to make sure that Hillary Clinton didn’t win, that they help both Trump and Bernie Sanders, is clearly stated in the report. So, to suggest that there’s nothing here and we should forget all this and it’s corrupted our politics, Glenn and I just fundamentally disagree about that. I think this report makes very clear that Donald Trump behaved in ways that are not loyal to the United States. He urged his staff, contrary to what Attorney General Barr said about complete cooperation, to lie, to deny, to cover up, to destroy records. He would not sit for an interview. He would not respond to further questions. And the answers in writing that he provided are artful, lawyerly-like arguments that evade.

In fact, Johnston agrees with Greenwald on the chances that Trump is going to be impeached: It will not happen, quite simply because the Senate is run by the Republicans, who will not convict him.

Here it is spelled out:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, David Cay Johnston, do you think the House should move to impeach President Trump?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, I don’t think they’re going to, because there aren’t votes in the Senate to convict. And so it would be pointless. You need 67 votes. And the Republican senators are simply not going to vote, even though, in private, many of them have made it clear, in conversations with people, that they are deeply disturbed and think Donald Trump is unfit to serve.  

Yes, I agree. In fact, I agree with both Johnston and Greenwald, namely on the thesis that Trump will not be impeached (before 2020), basically because of the Senate. And this is also the fairly firm conclusion I said I would reach: I agree. Also, this is a recommended article in which there is much more.

2. The Destruction of the Palestinians Will Be Israel’s Undoing

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The Israel-Palestine conflict is at the heart of politics not only in the Middle East, but in the United States. As the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu moves further toward the hard right with the support of U.S. President Donald Trump, the plight of Palestinians is reaching a new level of urgency. Journalist and filmmaker Mariam Shahin, the daughter of Palestinians, has dedicated much of her life’s work to documenting Palestinians’ stories through film as well as in her book “Palestine: A Guide” (Interlink Books, 2006). Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer describes Shahin’s films as poignant portrayals of “the forgotten people of every intrusion, every war.”

I take it the above is correct, and indeed selected this article because of its title, with which I agree. Also, in fact this is a long interview, which implies that it is - again - too long to be decently excerpted in Nederlog.

So I will only select a few bits, and this is the first:

Robert Scheer: Hi. This is Robert Scheer with another edition of “Sheer Intelligence,” where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, journalist and author Mariam Shahin, who is, I say, a Palestinian, yet you were born in Berlin, I guess. Your father, as with many Palestinians and many Jewish people, lived in the diaspora because of events in their home country. A highly educated man, a cancer researcher and so forth. Yet you visited Palestine and what you have managed to do in your work, I should say you’re a very famous journalist. Your work has appeared in everything from CBS to Al Jazeera. You’ve made, I don’t know what, some huge amount of documentaries, I think 80 or something. You’ve studied at Harvard and all sorts of places. But what I loved about your work in preparation for this and as I was familiar with some of it before, is you capture, dare I say it, the ordinary person living in a place like Gaza. How they eat, how they survive. Male, female, children. These are not people who invented the situation. These are not people who have agency of any significance.

Well, I did not know about Mariam Shahin before reading this, but I am willing to trust the above. Also, I agree that "ordinary person[s] living in a place like Gaza" are in fact quite important, simply because they are, on the one hand, "not people who have agency of any significance", yet they also are the people who get killed or maimed in the ongoing international conflict they have been made a mostly unwilling part of.

Here is some more:

RS: People always object when you draw parallels between people. But what hit me about being a witness to a part of the Six-Day War and so forth, were what you just said about the Palestinians, of course, is what drove the idea of a Jewish state. There are people who denied that there was a Jewish people until they, so many of them were exterminated. At that time, in the Six-Day War, I recall this vividly. The people who represent, who led Israel, the dominant Labor party, were people that I felt very comfortable with. They were on the left, they were socialists. I remember Moshe Dayan. He actually knew Arabic. I remember being with him. He said, very clearly he told me when I interviewed him. He said, “If you come back and we’re still occupying here, it will destroy Israel.” Whether he believed that or not, I don’t know. But the Labor Party people claimed at that time that they were not occupiers. That they understood the risk of being an occupier. What it would do to your national character.

Yes indeed, or at least I recall something similar in Holland (and was 17 in 1967). I also think that since then the Israelis have more and more moved to the right, although I grant that this may be a little loosely expressed (but indeed I did not research Israel a lot in the last 50 years).

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

MS: (..) In the past, you mentioned and I recognize that in my 25-year history with Israel. There wasn’t a call for annihilation. There was a call for sidelining, for maybe expelling. For killing, but not en masse. Today, there is a mentality, a right-wing mentality which has gripped many, many societies across the world or all shades and religions. That includes Israel. There are calls to kill an entire people. There’s no reprimand. There’s nothing. This is really scary.

One the one hand, you have a move to the right. On the other hand, you have a greater number of people who are saying, “Stop. This is not OK. We’re in the 21st century. We can’t go back. Going back is not an option.”

OK. There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

3. Pentagon Spending Set to Hit Near-Record Levels

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

Pentagon spending is on track to grow significantly for the fifth consecutive year, but "very few in Congress are questioning" how the U.S. can afford it.

That's according to the Washington Post's Jeff Stein and Aaron Gregg, who reported Thursday that "the United States is expected to spend more on its military in 2020 than at any point since World War II, except for a handful of years at the height of the Iraq War."

In his 2020 budget request, Trump called for $750 billion in Pentagon spending. Democrats countered with a $733 billion offer, which would still represent a substantial increase over the Pentagon's 2019 budget.

Either number would bring U.S. military spending to "near-historic highs," according to the Post.

"Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office projected the United States would spend more than $7 trillion on defense over the next decade," the Post
reported, "which is in line with both the White House's and House Democrats' budget plans."

Yes indeed - and also the Pentagon receives more than 50% of the taxes Americans pay. Taking both facts together, my own conclusion is that - at least - the present Trump government seems to be preparing for a large war.

Also, one of the crazy things about all these preparation for war (quite misleadingly called "Defense") is that it undercuts a lot of the non-war-related governmental spendings:

Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted that the "establishment says we can't afford" Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, but apparently has "unlimited" funds for the military.

As Common Dreams reported, Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and DCCC chair Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) have both raised alarm about Medicare for All's supposedly high "price tag"—but neither have raised similar alarm about soaring military spending.

I agree with "Public Citizen". Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Progressives demanded an increase in domestic social spending in line with the Pentagon's budget.

"We need to prioritize our communities, not our military spending," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the CPC. "Progressives aren't backing down from this fight."

Well... I think the first paragraph is a mistake, for the simple reason that the tax money either goes to the Pentagon or else it does not, which in turn means that you simply cannot increase both the enormous subsidies the Pentagon receives and increase "domestic social spending" by the same amount. Then again, Jayapal is correct and this is a recommended article.

4. Amazon—and 56 Other Corporations—Took Your Tax Dollars

This article is by Leo Gerard on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bernie Sanders, castigator of the one percent, is a millionaire now. So are Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Big whoop. There’s a crucial difference between these candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and the super wealthy – particularly 60 gigantic, massively profitable U.S. corporations. The candidates faithfully pay federal taxes. The corporations don’t.

That’s right. Sixty profitable corporations paid no federal taxes in 2018, twice the number that typically paid nothing in the years before the 2017 tax breaks took effect. In fact, it’s worse than that. Fifty-seven of these corporations demanded rebates from the government – which means taxpayers like you and me paid them to exist. These are corporations on the dole. They claim to hate socialism if it means Medicare for All, but they sure as hell love socialism when it’s welfare for them.

Well... yes and no.

Yes, the corporations are in fact stealing from the people, for the simple reason that corporations which are profitable must pay taxes, and corporations which are profitable and do not pay taxes in fact are stealing from the taxes, especially if they do not just not pay taxes and are profitable, but on top of thay also get subsidized by tax money.

But no, this is not "socialism for the rich" and to say so is to give some sort of - extremely vague - meaning to the term "socialism" which that term just does not have: Capitalists who help capitalists to get more of the tax-money non-capitalists pay are not socialists at all in any of the many senses "socialism" may have, but are acting as capitalists.

In fact, here is the background sketched in, of how the capitalists made this bid of capitalists helping capitalists to more tax-money works:

But too many U.S. corporations, which the U.S. Supreme Court has anointed with human rights, refuse to acknowledge their concomitant obligations. Corporations and the super wealthy pushed hard for the tax breaks Republicans bestowed on them in 2017. Fat cats paid untold tens of millions to dark money groups that served as cash cows for GOP candidates who, once elected, shepherded those tax breaks.

Yes, this is correct. Here is more on the same process:

And now the deceit is exposed for the grotesquerie it was. The U.S. Treasury reported that corporations paid $92 billion less in federal taxes in 2018 than they did in 2017, a 31 percent drop off.

To put that in perspective, the decline is the second largest since 1934, which was during the Great Depression. The only larger swoon was 55 percent at the outset of the Great Recession from 2008 to 2009.

Bad things happen when corporations shirk their obligations. One is that workers end up bearing more of the cost.
Yes again - but "corporations [that] shirk their obligations" are not being socialists in any sense I acknowledge: They are capitalists who indulge in super-capitalism.

Here is some more:

The deficits grow like this: Amazon, the online marketplace, made nearly $11 billion last year and instead of paying the current, low 21 percent corporate tax rate on that income, it demanded that taxpayers give it $129 million. Which they did. It wasn’t a rebate since Amazon paid no taxes. It was a big fat, gift withdrawn involuntarily from workers’ pockets, wrapped in a fuzzy, flocked Amazon smiley bag, and deposited directly into corporate coffers. This is perverse wealth transfer, from the poor and middle class to the rich and corporations.

Precisely: this was a "perverse wealth transfer, from the poor and middle class to the rich and corporations", and this was not socialism in any sense I acknowledge. O, in case you wander what "socialism" might mean, check this: Crisis: On Socialism

Here is some more:

Of the 60 profitable corporations that paid no taxes, 57 got payments like this from workers. Amazon’s wasn’t even the largest. Ten companies took more, including Duke Energy, which set an infamous record for itself by grubbing the most – $647 million. On about $76 billion in pretax income, the 57 forced taxpayers to give them $4.3 billion.

Yes indeed. Here is the ending of this article:

The crucial difference between you and Amazon is that you paid your fair share, and Amazon took your tax dollars. So, no, the roads and bridges won’t get fixed this year either.

This is also correct - and once again: This was not socialism, but it was super-capitalism, where the "super-" mostly refers to the fact that this kind of capitalism proceeds by falsifying the laws. Anyway, this is a recommended article.

5. Welcome to the Fourth Reich

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump is not an ideologue or a person who possesses a coherent or sophisticated understanding of political theory, history or philosophy. He is all impulse and id, a man gifted in manipulating the fears of ignorant and insecure white people in the service of expanding his power and his fortune. Trump's enforcers, including Attorney General William Barr, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and the right-wing media machine, are then tasked with transforming the president's most base impulses into public policy.

As we have seen throughout Trump's presidency -- and as we see now in Robert Mueller's report, with its extensive litany of borderline corruption and its numerous instances of blatant obstruction of justice -- the president and his allies disregard the law whenever it is inconvenient, and enforce it with callous cruelty when it serves their goals.

Well... I agree with the second quoted paragraph but not with the first, for the simple reason that I believe Trump does possess an ideology, and in fact is is neofascism, as I defined it. For more, see here: Crisis: Donald Trump is a megalomaniac neofascist (I think)

In fact, I defined a neofascism as follows:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
And in the crisis issue given before that I argued why I think Trump agrees with all of the above points (and did so already in 2015, if not earlier).

Here is some more:

Donald Trump's handpicked attorney general, William Barr, has decided that refugees can be held in detention indefinitely. This appears to be a violation of federal law and constitutionally protected rights to due process.

Trump has also suggested using human beings as political weapons by transporting migrants, refugees and immigrants from Latin America -- a group of people Trump has slurred as a "race" of rapists and murderers and a human infestation -- to "sanctuary cities" as a way (as he sees it) to punish Democrats.

Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor at New York University and an expert on fascism, authoritarianism and propaganda, explained the danger of Trump's recent actions to me in a recent email:

This latest threat, and asking officials not to obey the law, and assuring them of a pardon, is just a new threshold of the contempt for law and democratic norms Trump has always shown, and an escalation of his white nationalist ideology and governing-by- vendetta leadership style.

I more or less agree. Here is some more:

This behavior feels new to most Americans. But in reality, such an assault on the rule of law, and the elevation of a man and a movement above the normal political process, are common around the world in failing democracies. Moreover, Trump's regime is echoing one of the most grotesque examples of a failed democracy in modern history: the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Third Reich and the Nazis.

I mostly agree with the first part of the above quotation, but - as a European with a good grasp of European history - I do not see that "Trump's regime is echoing one of the most grotesque examples of a failed democracy in modern history: the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Third Reich and the Nazis".

Here is some more:

The Trump administration is ordering the United States military to build more concentration camps for nonwhite immigrants, migrants, and refugees.

In their fundraising emails and other materials, Trump describes his supporters as constituting a "movement" that will somehow "restore" and "protect" America against liberals, progressives, Democrats, nonwhite people, and others who are a threat to his American Apartheid "renewal" project. Absolute devotion and loyalty to Donald Trump is required for this plan to be successful.

I more or less agree - but compare what I said on Trump's neofascism above. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

As new public opinion research by PRRI and Pew shows, the American people are extremely divided between those who understand the value of a more cosmopolitan, forward-thinking, "racially" diverse, and inclusive society and those others (mostly white Republicans and other Trump supporters) who want America to be a white conservative Christian country where other people are subordinated to second-class citizenship, and thus considered peripheral to and therefore outside of the national community.

Donald Trump and his allies are warping and breaking the law to advance this grotesque vision of the American democratic project by mining white rage and white backlash identity politics for personal financial and political gain.

I fear this may well be mostly correct and this is a 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 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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