April 22, 2019

Crisis: Barr & Mueller, Comedian wins Ukraine, Myths & Taxes, Mueller & Trump, More Public Banks

“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 22, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 22, 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 22, 2019:
1. William Barr Misled Everyone About the Mueller Report
2. Comedian Headed for Landslide Victory in Ukraine Election

3. The 12 Biggest Myths About Raising Taxes on the Rich

4. Most Devastating of All: Mueller’s Indictment of Trump’s Character

5. I’ve Seen Goldman Sachs From the Inside. We Need Public Banks.
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. William Barr Misled Everyone About the Mueller Report

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

Attorney General William Barr is coming under increasing fire from congressional Democrats for statements he made before the release of the Mueller report. Critics say the remarks purposefully downplayed how damaging special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was for President Donald Trump.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Friday morning that his committee has issued a subpoena to the Justice Department to obtain the full, unredacted report. The subpoena demands that the Justice Department turn over the report by May 1. Nadler also asked Mueller to testify before his committee. “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said.
Critics said both his press conference and the four-page letter were part of Barr’s attempt to whitewash the Mueller report’s findings and spin the public narrative about the report before it was actually released.

I probably agree with the criticisms of Barr and I certainly agree that the full Mueller report should be turned over, at least to members of the House, and I also agree Mueller ought to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Here is some more:

In a joint statement Thursday after the report’s release, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., charged that Barr “deliberately distorted significant portions of Special Counsel Mueller’s report.” They added that Mueller’s report “paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him. But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading.”

Well... if Pelosi and Schumer (who are two presently leading Democrats I dislike) agree that "Barr “deliberately distorted significant portions of Special Counsel Mueller’s report”" then I take it he very probably did.

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

The differences between Barr’s statements before the report’s release and the contents of the actual report were so striking that the New York Times did a whole story comparing, side-by-side, Barr’s statements and the report.

In particular, most observers pointed to stark differences between Barr’s statements and the section in the Mueller report concerning the possibility that Trump sought to impede the Trump-Russia inquiry and thus, might be guilty of obstruction of justice. In fact, the Mueller report makes it clear that a key reason Mueller did not seek to prosecute Trump for obstruction was a longstanding Justice Department legal opinion saying that the Justice Department can’t indict a sitting president.

You can read the story in the New York Times, but I here want to concentrate on "a longstanding Justice Department legal opinion saying that the Justice Department can’t indict a sitting president":

I'm sorry, but that is a major mistake, for a state of - democratic - law is described (among other things) by the fact that all individuals (of that country) can be indicted, which is also quite fair, because no individual is beyond lying, dishonesty, manipulation etc.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Comedian Headed for Landslide Victory in Ukraine Election

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

A comedian whose only political experience consists of playing a president on TV cruised toward a huge landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday in what was seen as a reaction against the country’s entrenched corruption and low standard of living.

Results from 25% of polling stations showed sitcom star Volodymyr Zelenskiy receiving three times as many votes as President Petro Poroshenko — 73% to 24% — a crushing rebuke to Poroshenko’s five years in office.

Even before results started trickling in, Poroshenko accepted defeat based on exit polls, saying: “I am leaving office, but I want to firmly underline that I am not leaving politics.”

I say, for I did not know this. The reasons are in part that I neither read Russian nor Ukrainian, and in part that I anyway pay less attention to these countries, which interdepends with the first reason.

But I find this at least refreshing. Here is some more on the Ukraine:

Ukraine has been plagued by rampant graft, a sickly economy and a grinding, five-year war with Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country that has killed over 13,000 people.

After his apparent election, Zelenskiy said he would engage Russia to try to end the conflict. He also said, without giving details, that “we will make a very powerful information war” in order to stop the fighting.

This is true, to the best of my knowledge, and here is some more on Zelenskiy:

Zelenskiy, 41, became famous nationwide for his comic portrayal in a Ukrainian TV series of a high school teacher who becomes president after a video rant against corruption goes viral. In a case of life imitating television, Zelenskiy denounced graft as a real candidate.

Although Zelenskiy was criticized for a vague campaign platform and never holding public office, voters appeared to cast aside those concerns in favor of a thorough sweep of Ukraine’s political leadership.

“I have grown up under the old politicians and only have seen empty promises, lies and corruption,” said Lyudmila Potrebko, a 22-year-old computer programmer who voted for Zelenskiy. “It’s time to change that.”

I think I agree with Potrebko, but I also have no ideas about Zelenskiy, except that I like him better than Poroshenko. O, and I think he should be careful not to get murdered.

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

But Poroshenko’s message fell flat with many voters struggling to survive on meager wages and pay soaring utility bills.

“We have grown poor under Poroshenko and have to save to buy food and clothing,” said 55-year-old sales clerk Irina Fakhova. “We have had enough of them getting mired in corruption and filling their pockets and treating us as fools.”

Well... I agree with Fakhova, but while I hope Zelenskiy will solve the problems of corruption, I do not know he will. Anyway, this is a recommended article.

3. The 12 Biggest Myths About Raising Taxes on the Rich

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

Some politicians are calling for higher taxes on the rich. Naturally, these proposals have unleashed a torrent of opposition – mostly from…the rich. Here are the 12 biggest myths they’re propounding:

Yes indeed. Also, because the next article is also by Reich, I only provide the list of Reich's dominant myths of the rich frauds, and repress all text:
Myth 1: A top marginal tax rate applies to all of a rich person’s total
               income or wealth.

Myth 2 : Raising taxes on the rich is a far-left idea.
Myth 3: A wealth tax is unconstitutional.
Myth 4: When taxes on the rich are cut, they invest more and everyone
               benefits, when taxes on the rich are increased, economic growth

Myth 5: When you cut taxes on corporations, they invest more, and create
               more jobs.

Myth 6: The rich already pay more than their fair share in taxes.
Myth 7: The rich shouldn’t be taxed more because they already pay capital
               gains taxes.

Myth 8: The estate tax is a death tax that hits millions of Americans.
Myth 9: If taxes are raised on the wealthy, they’ll find ways to evade
               them. So very little money is going to be raised.

Myth 10: The only reason to raise taxes on the wealthy is to collect

Myth 11: It’s unfair to raise taxes on the wealthy.
Myth 12: They earned it. It’s their money.
I agree with Reich that all of the above myths are (in Reich's terms, also) "baloney", "hogwash" and "rubbish".

Anyway... here is the text under Myth 12:

Hogwash. It’s their country, too. They couldn’t maintain their fortunes without what America provides – national defense, police, laws, courts, political stability, and the Constitution. They couldn’t have got where they are without other things America provides – education, infrastructure, and a nation that respects private property. And to argue it’s “their money” also ignores a lot of other ways America has bestowed advantages on the rich – everything from bailing out Wall Street bankers when they get into trouble, to subsidizing the research of Big Pharma.

Precisely, and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Most Devastating of All: Mueller’s Indictment of Trump’s Character

This article is (also) by Robert Reich, on his ste. It starts as follows:

Democrats in Congress and talking heads on television will be consumed in the coming weeks by whether the evidence in the Mueller report, especially of obstruction of justice, merits impeachment.  

In addition, the question of “wink-wink” cooperation with Russia still looms. Mueller’s quote of Trump, when first learning a special counsel had been appointed – “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked” – has already become a national tagline. Why, Americans wonder, would Trump be “fucked” if he hadn’t done something so awful as to cause its revelation to “fuck” him?

We’ll also have Mueller’s own testimony before Congress, and Congress’s own investigations of Trump.

But let’s be real. Trump will not be removed by impeachment. No president has been. With a Republican Senate controlled by the most irresponsible political hack ever to be majority leader, the chances are nil.

Which means Trump will have to be removed the old-fashioned way – by voters in an election 19 months away.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. (Also - parenthetically - it is not so much whether Trump "merits" impeachment, but whether an impeachment can be reached, and I agree with Reich that this is very improbable. O, and I like it that Reich writes "fuck" rather than "f**k", for I consider that utter bullshit.)

Here is some more:

Yet Mueller’s report probably won’t move any of the 40 percent who have held tight to Trump regardless.

So how to reach the 11 percent or 12 percent who may decide the outcome?

Reveal his moral loathsomeness.

Democrats and progressives tend to shy away from morality, given how rightwing evangelicals have used it against abortion, contraceptives and equal marriage rights.

I more or less agree, except for the last paragraph, for the simple reason that whether you are for or against abortion, contraceptives and equal marriage rights, in the end your reasons (to be for or against) will be mostly moral or derived from morals (or ethics).

But I agree with Reich that Trump is "morally loathsome", and here is some text outlining that:

Trump is revealed as a chronic liar. He claimed he never asked for loyalty from FBI director James Comey. Mueller finds he did. Trump claimed he never asked Comey to let the “Michael Flynn matter go”. Mueller finds he did. Trump claimed he never pushed the White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. Mueller finds he did. Trump even lied about inviting Comey to dinner, claiming falsely, in public, that Comey requested it. 

Trump treats his subordinates horribly. He hides things from them. He lies to them. He yells at them. He instructs them to lie. He orders them to carry out illegal acts.

He’s a thug. He regrets his lawyers are not as good at protecting him as was his early mentor Roy Cohn – a mob lawyer. When reports surface about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, Trump directs the cover-up.

Trump is unprincipled. The few people in the White House and the cabinet who stand up to him, according to Mueller – threatening to resign rather than carry out his illegal orders – are now gone. They resigned or were fired.

In other words, Mueller makes it official: Trump is morally bankrupt.

I think that is mostly quite correct. (And incidentally, I think "morally bankrupt" men (or women) should not be president of the USA.)

Here is the ending of this article:

How many of Trump’s followers or those who might otherwise be tempted to vote for him in 2020 will recoil from this moral squalor?

Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins – pride, greed, lust, gluttony, wrath, envy and sloth – and he is the precise obverse of the seven virtues as enunciated by Pope Gregory in 590 AD: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility.

Legal debates about obstruction of justice are fine. But no voter in 2020 should be allowed to overlook this basic reality: Donald Trump is a morally despicable human being.

I more or less agree with Reich, although I am not a Christian (at all), and do not believe in most Christian values. There is considerably more on this in my Philosophical Dictionary.

5. I’ve Seen Goldman Sachs From the Inside. We Need Public Banks.

This article is Nomi Prins on Truthout. It starts as follows:

For far too long, Wall Street has wreaked havoc on people’s personal financial stability and our economy as a whole. I should know. As a managing director at Goldman Sachs in the early 2000s, I witnessed firsthand how the banking industry lined their pockets at the expense of customers.

Not much has changed since then. After the mortgage fraud crisis of 2007-08, the biggest banks were slapped with $216 billion in fines – a drop in the bucket for firms that raked in a cool $237 billion last year alone. Infamously, not a single banker went to jail. Today, Wall Street banks continue to commit fraud, enjoy front-row lobbying seats in Washington, write legislation on their own behalf, and maintain easy access to credit courtesy of the Federal Reserve.

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 placed some regulations on banks’ riskier bets. But, crucially, that reform failed to divide banks into two entities: one dealing with people’s FDIC insured deposits, and the other able to create complex securities and engage in derivatives trading using our deposits as collateral. Ten years after the financial crisis, our money is still very much at risk of being gambled away.

I like Nomi Prins and I completely agree with the above. Here is some more:

This is why it is more important than ever to create public banks tasked with using state and local funds for public good, not private profit. And my home state of California is leading the way. A new bill, AB 857, backed by the California Public Banking Alliance would give cities the freedom to start public banks accountable to the communities they serve. Based on North Dakota’s successful model – now celebrating its 100th year – these banks would reinvest public funds in their communities by offering low-interest business and student loans, investing in clean energy, and supporting local infrastructure projects.

These socially responsible investments draw a sharp contrast with Wall Street’s anything-goes ethos. These mega-firms are not legally required to invest in local infrastructure, provide reasonable loans, or look out for the environment – so they don’t.

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

At its best, California has been defined by its creativity, progressive thought and entrepreneurial ingenuity. Joining North Dakota in the public banking arena would be a testament to the historical strength and spirit of California – and a vital economic blueprint for the rest of the nation.

Yes, 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 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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