April 24, 2019

Crisis: Right-Wing Vigilantes, Chomsky on Trump, The Ukraine, The Supreme Court, Impeaching?

“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 24, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 24, 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 24, 2019:
1. Right-Wing Vigilantes Hold Migrants Hostage on U.S. Border
2. Noam Chomsky: Democrats May Have Handed Trump the 2020 Election

3. Ukraine's Powerful Rebuke to American Hegemony

4. Packing the Supreme Court

5. Democrats and Progressives Grapple With How Best to Vanquish Trump
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. Right-Wing Vigilantes Hold Migrants Hostage on U.S. Border

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

The FBI has arrested the head of an armed vigilante group that has repeatedly filmed itself detaining migrant border crossers at gunpoint. Sixty-nine-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins is the leader of the far-right, pro-Trump group calling itself United Constitutional Patriots, which the American Civil Liberties Union described as an “armed fascist militia organization.” His arrest came just days after the ACLU accused the vigilantes of illegally detaining 300 migrants, including young children, near Sunland Park, New Mexico, last week. We speak to Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico.

Yes indeed, and I selected this article mainly because these - let's say - armed vigilantes (who are totally illegal) seem to be collaborating in various fashions with the real American police, which in this case is the Border Patrol, and this in turn means that legal and illegal forces are collaborating in the USA.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Welcome to Democracy Now!, Peter. Can you lay out who this man is, who the FBI have just detained, and what his group was doing along the border?

PETER SIMONSON: Sure. Well, you’ve pretty much explained what we know about Mr. Hopkins to this point. You know, the group has been operating for a while now. I think since we found out about them late last fall, they had been convening down in the Sunland Park area. And we really did not expect to see any sort of activity of the kind that they have manifested over the last several weeks, where they are actually detaining people, dozens of families, at gunpoint, and, you know, threatening them. These are families that consist of young mothers, younger children, even infants. And, you know, if you watch the videos, they’re just chilling. They’re just heartrending, to see innocent people exposed to this kind of a menace.

Yes, I take it this is correct. Here is more on the "United Constitutional Patriots" i.e. the vigilantes:

PETER SIMONSON: (..) This is a more—appears to be a more determined group, and certainly a group that feels more empowered to take law into their own hands, and doesn’t seem to understand any of the consequences of their actions.

Quite possibly so, but there also is an alternative: They do understand at least some of the consequences of their actions, and may hope to get - somehow - legalized. I do not know which alternative is correct.

Here is some more on these vigilantes:

PETER SIMONSON: (..) You know, we think that these folks should be labeled “vigilantes” because they are taking the law into their own hands. They meet every definition of “vigilante.” They believe that they understand what the terms of justice should be better than what the law actually outlines for us, and are willing to actually go to the lengths of using heavy weaponry to enforce the law as they see it should be done. I think they only adopt the name “militia” for the purpose of trying to associate themselves with some sort of constitutional narrative that they think justifies their actions, when in fact they are just a lawless band of individuals who are misguided in their intentions.

Yes, I think that is correct. And here is Simonson on collaboration between the Border Patrol (which is legal) and these vigilantes (which are illegal):

PETER SIMONSON: (..) There’s plenty of video evidence—I think you just showed some—that suggests that the Border Patrol is actively collaborating with these folks, despite the fact that they’ve made a public statement saying that they neither condone nor endorse their activity. We have plenty of video documentation showing Border Patrol showing up to take the folks that they have illegally detained into custody. There are pictures of the Constitutional Patriot folks posing in photos with Border Patrol on horseback. There seems to have been a fairly easy and cooperative relationship between the vigilante group and the Border Patrol.

And, you know, the question I am left with is: Why did no one tell these folks to cease and desist? And if the Border Patrol is in fact a law enforcement agency, even if they themselves were not going to initiate an investigation into these folks, why couldn’t they have called upon FBI to look into the matter?
Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.

2. Noam Chomsky: Democrats May Have Handed Trump the 2020 Election

This article is by Amy Goodman on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

AMY GOODMAN: Can you share your analysis of President Trump? You have lived through so many presidents. Explain President Trump to us and assess the massive response to him.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Trump is—you know, I think there are a number of illusions about Trump. If you take a look at the Trump phenomenon, it’s not very surprising. Think back for the last 10 or 15 years over Republican Party primaries, and remember what happened during the primaries. Each primary, when some candidate rose from the base, they were so outlandish that the Republican establishment tried to crush them and succeeded in doing it—Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum. Anyone who was coming out of the base was totally unacceptable to the establishment. The change in 2016 is they couldn’t crush him.

But the interesting question is: Why was this happening? Why, in election after election, was the voting base producing a candidate utterly intolerable to the establishment? And the answer to that is—if you think about that, the answer is not very hard to discover. During the—since the 1970s, during this neoliberal period, both of the political parties have shifted to the right. The Democrats, by the 1970s, had pretty much abandoned the working class.

I think this is mostly quite correct, although I also think more is involved. And here is some more:

Meanwhile, the Republicans shifted so far to the right that they went completely off the spectrum. Two of the leading political analysts of the American Enterprise Institute, Thomas Mann, Norman Ornstein, about five or 10 years ago, described the Republican Party as what they called a “radical insurgency” that has abandoned parliamentary politics.

Well, why did that happen? It happened because the Republicans face a difficult problem. They have a primary constituency, a real constituency: extreme wealth and corporate power. That’s who they have to serve. That’s their constituency. You can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes. What do you do to get votes?
The mid-1970s, Paul Weyrich, one of the Republican strategists, hit on a brilliant idea. Northern Catholics voted Democratic, tended to vote Democratic, a lot of them working-class. The Republicans could pick up that vote by pretending— crucially, “pretending”— to be opposed to abortion. By the same pretense, they could pick up the evangelical vote. Those are big votes—evangelicals, northern Catholics. 
Yes again, although for me the Republicans are still on the spectrum, though I agree they are quite to very rightist. Also, Chomsky makes sense in that he is correct that the Republicans did move to the right, and that this makes it more difficult to get votes from ordinary people.

Here is some more on Trump's policies:

So, if you look at the legislation under Trump, it’s just lavish gifts to the wealth and the corporate sector—the tax bill, the deregulation, you know, every case in point. That’s kind of the job of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, those guys. They serve the real constituency. Meanwhile, Trump has to maintain the voting constituency, with one outrageous position after another that appeals to some sector of the voting base. And he’s doing it very skillfully. As just as a political manipulation, it’s skillful. Work for the rich and the powerful, shaft everybody else, but get their votes—that’s not an easy trick. And he’s carrying it off.

Yes, I think that is correct as well. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article - and "this issue" is basically Hillary Clinton's claim that here presidency was stolen by the Russians:

The Democrats invested everything in this issue. Well, turned out there was nothing much there. They gave Trump a huge gift. In fact, they may have handed him the next election. That’s just a—that’s a matter of being so unwilling to deal with fundamental issues, that they’re looking for something on the side that will somehow give political success. The real issues are different things. They’re things like climate change, like global warming, like the Nuclear Posture Review, deregulation. These are real issues. But the Democrats aren’t going after those. They’re looking for something else—the Democratic establishment. I’m not talking about the young cohort that’s coming in, which is quite different.

Yes, I agree again. Also, I think myself that many of the Democratic establishment are corrupt (as is Hillary Clinton), but I know that thinking is not proving. This is a strongly recommended article.

3. Ukraine's Powerful Rebuke to American Hegemony

This article is by Kevin Zeese on Truthdig and originally on Popular Restistance. It starts as follows:

With the landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelensky, who won 73 percent of the vote, the comedian will become the president of Ukraine. Understanding how this occurred becomes easy when people review US government documents published by Wikileaks about the outgoing president.

Yes, that is correct, although I think I should add that while I certainly like Zelensky better than Poroshenko, I do not know how competent he is.

Here is some more on Poroshenko:

Who is “OU”? Our Ukraine. In a classified diplomatic cable from 2006 released by, U.S. officials refer to Poroshenko as “Our Ukraine (OU) insider Petro Poroshenko.” “Our Ukraine” has been in the pocket of the US government for 13 years.

The US government knew he was corrupt. A separate cable also released by Wikileaks makes that clear. The May 2006 cable states “Poroshenko was tainted by credible corruption allegations, but wielded significant influence within OU; Poroshenko’s price had to be paid.” The US government knew he was corrupt, but allowing his corruption was a price the US was willing to pay to have Our Ukraine serving as president.

Yes, I think that is correct. Here is some more:

Now the two pro-US politicians, Tymoshenko and Poroshenko, have been replaced by a political unknown in Zelensky, or “Ze,” as he’s more popularly known. The incoming president has been vague on what policies he will pursue but says he wants to negotiate peace with Russia over eastern Ukraine, saying he was prepared to negotiate directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yes. This article ends as follows:

While the country has gotten poorer, Poroshenko remains one of the wealthiest men in Ukraine. He has been surrounded by corruption scandals as various businessmen close to him have been caught up in scandals involving corruption. The common view is Ukraine has gotten poorer as Poroshenko has gotten richer.

All this was predictable with what the US knew about OU, and thanks to Wikileaks should not be a surprise to anyone.

Yes, I guess this is correct as well, and this is a recommended article.
4. Packing the Supreme Court

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

The Supreme Court heard arguments today on the Trump administration’s decision to alter the 2020 Census to ask people if they are American citizens.

In a former life, I argued cases before the Supreme Court. From what I gathered today, it looks as if the five Republican appointees to the Court have already decided this move by Trump is constitutional.

But it’s not. The U.S. Constitution calls for “actual enumeration” of the total population for an explicit purpose:  To count the residents – not just citizens, residents – of every state to properly allocate congressional representatives to the states based on population.

Yes, this is correct. Here is some more:

The result would be a systemic undercounting of immigrant communities. The Census Bureau has already calculated that it’s likely to result in a 5.1 percent undercount of noncitizen households.

This would have two grossly unfair results.

In the first place, these communities and the states they’re in would get less federal aid.
Secondly, these communities and the states they’re in would have fewer representatives in Congress. The Census count determines the distribution of congressional seats among states. Under the Constitution, these seats depend on the total number of people residing in the state, not just citizens. 

Which is the real reason for this move by the Trump administration.

Yes indeed - and 5.1 percent is a lot. Also, Trump and his administration are out to dismiss as many residents as voters, precisely because most residents would vote Democratic.

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

This is nothing but a Republican power grab orchestrated by the White House.

If Chief Justice John Roberts sides with his four Republican colleagues on this, the ruling will be the third in a series of landmark 5-to-4 Roberts Court decisions whose main purpose is to cement Republican control of federal and state governments.

Quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Democrats and Progressives Grapple With How Best to Vanquish Trump

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

What's the best way to remove a corrupt and possibly criminal president from office?

Democrats and progressive activists have been forced to grapple with this crucial question in the days after the Mueller report provided a 400-page look into President Donald Trump's rampant misconduct and potential obstruction of justice.

Some progressives urged House Democrats to immediately launch impeachment proceedings, arguing that anything less would be an abdication of constitutional responsibility.

But others said Democrats must instead place their emphasis on soundly defeating Trump at the ballot box by focusing on healthcare, income inequality, and the climate crisis.

Yes, this is more or less correct. Here is some more:

A range of Democratic positions on the impeachment question was on full display during CNN's town halls with five 2020 presidential candidates Monday night.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unequivocally doubled down on her earlier call
for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings and dismissed concerns about possible political backlash.

"There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution," Warren added. "If any other human being in this country had done what's documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail."

Well... I like Warren, but I do not know whether she is correct on this issue.

Here is the view of Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for his part, advocated a more cautious approach and argued that rushing head-long into an impeachment battle would benefit Trump.

While expressing his support for a "thorough" congressional investigation into possible obstruction, the Vermont senator also cautioned that a prolonged and intense impeachment fight would suck oxygen from key issues that impact the day-to-day lives of ordinary Americans.

"If for the next year, year-and-a-half going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump... and we're not talking about healthcare, we're not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we're not talking about combating climate change, we're not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans—what I worry about is that works to Trump's advantage," Sanders said.

Perhaps, again. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, and this is about other leading Democrats:

As Common Dreams reported last Friday, progressive advocacy groups immediately began to pressure Democratic leaders to move toward impeachment following the release of the Mueller report, which documented at least ten instances in which Trump may have obstructed justice.

"We will not treat this as normal," said the progressive group MoveOn, which has over a million members nationwide. "And politicians in Washington must not continue to conduct business as usual. Everyone in Congress must look in the mirror and decide how they will fulfill their oath to defend our Constitution—and which side of history they want to be on."

Some progressive commentators and lawmakers wholeheartedly agreed.

After the Mueller report dropped, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) signaled support for moving ahead with impeachment proceedings.

Well... what amazes me at least a little is that few of these contending Democrats seem to have addressed the two facts that (i) the Senate is still in Republican hands, and (ii) it is quite improbable that a majority of the Senate will vote to impreach Trump. Anyway... 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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