April 23, 2019

Crisis: U.S. Police State, Student Debt, On Assange's Demise, Reich on Trump, On Plastic

“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 23, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, April 23, 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 23, 2019:
1. Our Ever-Deadlier Police State
2. Elizabeth Warren Introduces Sweeping Plan to Wipe Out Student Debt

3. The Mainstream Media's Disgraceful Cheering of Assange's Demise

4. America Has Already Fired Trump!

5. How plastic waste could destroy the Earth within a few centuries
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. Our Ever-Deadlier Police State

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. I selected it in spite of the fact that it was published originally on October 22, 2017 and reviewed by me on October 23, 2017. Also, I will review it again today, as if it were new. It opens as follows:

None of the reforms, increased training, diversity programs, community outreach and gimmicks such as body cameras have blunted America’s deadly police assault, especially against poor people of color. Police forces in the United States—which, according to The Washington Post, have fatally shot 782 people this year [2017]—are unaccountable, militarized monstrosities that spread fear and terror in poor communities. By comparison, police in England and Wales killed 62 people in the 27 years between the start of 1990 and the end of 2016. Police officers have become rogue predators in impoverished communities. Under U.S. forfeiture laws, police indiscriminately seize money, real estate, automobiles and other assets. In many cities, traffic, parking and other fines are little more than legalized extortion that funds local government and turns jails into debtor prisons.

Yes, I think the above is mostly quite correct - and 62 people 27 years = 2.3 persons per year in England and Wales, which has to be compared with 782 persons in 2017 in the USA.

Here is some more:

Because of a failed court system, millions of young men and women are railroaded into prison, many for nonviolent offenses. SWAT teams with military weapons burst into homes often under warrants for nonviolent offenses, sometimes shooting those inside. Trigger-happy cops pump multiple rounds into the backs of unarmed men and women and are rarely charged with murder. And for poor Americans, basic constitutional rights, including due process, were effectively abolished decades ago.

I think this is mostly fair as well. Here is some more:

Criminal policy, as sociologist Alex S. Vitale writes in his new book, “The End of Policing,” “is structured around the use of punishment to manage the ‘dangerous classes,’ masquerading as a system of justice.”

The criminal justice system, at the same time, refuses to hold Wall Street banks, corporations and oligarchs accountable for crimes that have caused incalculable damage to the global economy and the ecosystem. None of the bankers who committed massive acts of fraud and were responsible for the financial collapse in 2008 have gone to prison even though their crimes resulted in widespread unemployment, millions of evictions and foreclosures, homelessness, bankruptcies and the looting of the U.S. Treasury to bail out financial speculators at taxpayer expense. We live in a two-tiered legal system, one in which poor people are harassed, arrested and jailed for absurd infractions, such as selling loose cigarettes—which led to Eric Garner being choked to death by a New York City policeman in 2014—while crimes of appalling magnitude that wiped out 40 percent of the world’s wealth are dealt with through tepid administrative controls, symbolic fines and civil enforcement.

Yes indeed, and this is one basic argument for the thesis Hedges is defending:

If you lock up or kill blacks (often for decades) for quite minor offenses, but do not do anything about rich white bankers whose crimes "
resulted in widespread unemployment, millions of evictions and foreclosures, homelessness, bankruptcies and the looting of the U.S. Treasury to bail out financial speculators at taxpayer expense" then indeed you have "a two-tiered legal system, one in which poor people are harassed, arrested and jailed for absurd infractions" "while crimes of appalling magnitude that wiped out 40 percent of the world’s wealth are dealt with through tepid administrative controls, symbolic fines and civil enforcement".

Here is some more:

There has been a rollback of President Barack Obama’s 2015 restrictions on the 1033 Program, a 1989 congressional action that allows the transfer of military weaponry, including grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers and .50-caliber machine guns, from the federal government to local police forces. Since 1997, the Department of Defense has turned over a staggering $5.1 billion in military hardware to police departments.

Yes, I take it that is quite correct - whereas the police should not have "military hardware", and if they do (as in the USA) the point can only be that the police will be supposed to destroy all or almost all of almost any protest movement.

Here is some more:

The arguments—including the racist one about “superpredators”—used to justify the expansion of police power have no credibility, as the gun violence in south Chicago, abject failure of the war on drugs and vast expansion of the prison system over the last 40 years illustrate. The problem is not ultimately in policing techniques and procedures; it is in the increasing reliance on the police as a form of social control to buttress a system of corporate capitalism that has turned the working poor into modern-day serfs and abandoned whole segments of the society. Government no longer makes any attempt to ameliorate racial and economic inequality. Instead, it criminalizes poverty. It has turned the poor into one more cash crop for the rich.

Yes, I think I agree wit the ending: "Government no longer makes any attempt to ameliorate racial and economic inequality. Instead, it criminalizes poverty. It has turned the poor into one more cash crop for the rich."

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

The accelerated assault on the poor and the growing omnipotence of the police signal our transformation into an authoritarian state in which the rich and the powerful are not subject to the rule of law. The Trump administration will promote none of the conditions that could ameliorate this crisis—affordable housing; well-paying jobs; safe and nurturing schools that do not charge tuition; better mental health facilities; efficient public transportation; the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure; demilitarized police forces in which most officers do not carry weapons; universal, government-funded health care; an end to the predatory loans and unethical practices of big banks; and reparations to African-Americans and an end to racial segregation. Trump and most of those he has appointed to positions of power disdain the poor as a dead weight on society. They blame stricken populations for their own misery. They seek to subjugate the poor, especially those of color, through police violence, ever harsher forms of punishment and an expansion of the prison system.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Elizabeth Warren Introduces Sweeping Plan to Wipe Out Student Debt

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

Elizabeth Warren wants to cancel part or all student loan debt for 95 percent of Americans and make public college free for everyone—the latest, and perhaps most ambitious, policy proposal for the 2020 Democratic contender.

Warren announced the policy in a Medium post Monday morning.

The Massachusetts Democrat told readers that her own past as a waitress who was able to attend public college due to the school’s low cost is now unattainable for most Americans.

But Warren aims to change that.

“The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place,” wrote Warren. “That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational — the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.”

I say! Well... I quite agree. Here is some more (and I like to say that (i) I will not copy tweets by anonymous people at all, and (ii) I dislike copying tweets anyway, for these are too short to argue anything in a rational fashion):

Warren, in a fundraising email to supporters, said that the policy’s goals writ large aimed at righting past wrongs.

“My plan for universal free college would give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees,” said Warren. “And we’ll make free college truly universal—not just in theory, but in practice—by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs. Free tuition, and zero debt at graduation.”

Yes, I quite agree. Here is a bit about the finances required for this plan:

Estimates put the cost of the program at around $1.25 trillion.

The education overhaul would be paid for, Warren told Herndon, by less than half of a decade’s worth of her Ultra-Millionaire Tax — a 2 percent annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren’s wealth tax would generate $2.75 trillion over a decade, leaving $1.5 trillion available for her other proposed transformative social policies, like protecting public lands from exploitation and universal childcare (..)

Again I completely agree, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. The Mainstream Media's Disgraceful Cheering of Assange's Demise

This article is by Alan McLeod on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:

Julian Assange was arrested inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11. The Australian-born co-founder of Wikileaks had been trapped in the building since 2012 after taking refuge there. He was immediately found guilty of failing to surrender to a British court, and was taken to Belmarsh prison. An extradition to the United States is widely seen as imminent by corporate media, who have, by and large, strongly approved of these events.

Yes, I agree. Here is some more:

The View’s Meghan McCain (4/11/19) declared she hoped Assange “rots in hell.” Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost (4/13/19) said it was “so satisfying to see an Internet troll get dragged out into the sunlight.” But it was perhaps the National Review (4/12/19) that expressed the most enthusiastic approval of Assange’s arrest, condemning him for his “anti-Americanism, his antisemitism and his raw personal corruption” and for harming the US with his “vile spite.”

Well... I am sorry, but I find these people mostly quite crazy, although I agree they are reported accurately.

Here is some more:

Celebrating his arrest, The Week (4/11/19) attacked Assange as a “delusional, childish narcissist” who undermined the security of every nation. A host of other media outlets across the spectrum (Washington Post4/12/19New York Times4/12/19; London Times4/7/19) similarly framed him as a “narcissist,” one with an “outsized view of his own importance,” despite his poor “personal hygiene,” according to the New York Times (4/11/19).

Again I think that the editors of The Week, Washington Post, New York Times, the London Times, again must be quite crazy (as are the journalists who wrote this shit), for the simple reason that I am a psychologist who has seen no evidence that Assange is a narcissist, whereas I have seen excellent evidence that Donald Trump is a narcissist.

In fact, I assume so many lying editors agreed that Assange is a narcissist (without any evidence) because they know Donald Trump has been claimed to be a narcissist by what seems to be currently 70,000 psychologists.

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

Veteran journalist and supporter of Assange John Pilger disagrees, contending that his arrest is a historically important warning to “real journalists,” who are few and far between at establishment media, who resent him for highlighting their subservience to the elite.

Whatever your view of Assange might be, it seems clear he shares virtually nothing in common with those in positions of influence in big media outlets, who have been only too happy to watch his demise.

I agree with John Pilger and this is a recommended article.
4. America Has Already Fired Trump!

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

The question on everyone’s mind is whether Trump will be impeached. In other words, will America fire Trump?

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

When the public fires a president before election day – as it did with 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.

No, I am sorry: I disagree. I very much hope that Trump will not be re-elected in 2020, but I don't think that "America" (?!?!) "has already fired him".

Here is some more:

Departments and agencies are being run by lobbyists and insiders busily carving out loopholes, cutting taxes, and slashing regulations on behalf of the wealthy and big corporations.

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.

Well... this has three paragraphs. I have brief comments on each:

First: Yes, I think this is correct.

Second: I think Trump never had a "
system to make or implement decisions".

Third: Well... I am not an American and do not live in America, so in that sense Reich is more qualified to judge American events than I am, but I have not seen any evidence of this.

And this is from the ending:

Now, don’t get me wrong. Trump is still dangerous, like an old land mine buried in the mud. He could start a nuclear war. And his court picks are a terrifying legacy.

But in an important sense, he’s already gone.

I agree with the first paragraph and disagree with the second.

5. How plastic waste could destroy the Earth within a few centuries

This article is by Nicole Karlis on Salon. It starts as follows:

The plastic grocery bag is as ubiquitous as it is inexpensive; nearly all of us have a cache of them in a junk drawer somewhere in our homes. And while some municipalities seek to ban them, plastic bags have become a symbol of capitalism and consumption, given out at stores and malls on every continent. Given their ubiquity, it might be surprising to learn that the plastic grocery bag has only been ubiquitous in the West for a scant fifty years — having been widely introduced in the United States in 1979. 

Forty years later, plastic bags are everywhere, especially places they shouldn't be. Such bags consistently make the top-ten list of plastic waste items collected during the annual Coastal Cleanup Day led by the non-profit environmental group Ocean Conservancy — meaning the mass production of the plastic bag may end up being one of humanity's biggest regrets. Along with plastic water bottles, plastic food wrappers, plastic bottle caps, and plastic straws, plastic waste is creating an ocean "wave" that, researchers believe, will result in the mass of ocean plastics becoming greater than the mass of marine life in Earth’s oceans by 2050.

I mostly quite agree, but if "the plastic grocery bag" has only "been widely introduced in the United States in 1979" then it took a scant forty years.

Anyway - the rest is correct, and the idea that in a mere thirty years "the mass of ocean plastics" will become "greater than the mass of marine life in Earth’s oceans" seems quite frightening to me.

There is also this:

Compounded with the fact that plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills, it is possible the Earth and all of its life, including humans, will be drowning in plastic in the future.

Yes indeed - and besides, this is quite independent of the possible fact that plastics may well turn out to be toxic, which is even more frightening.

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

Beyond our oceans, plastic waste is affecting life, ecosystems, and us. More than 180 species of animals have been documented to ingest plastic debris, according to the British Antarctic Survey, including birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals such as whales. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and Environment Agency Austria found microplastics — particles of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters — in stool samples from all of their human test subjects. In other words, plastic is likely inside all of us.

Quite so - and remember: so far there is no evidence that the plastic we all contain may also be toxic. In any case, 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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