June 9, 2018

Crisis: Elizabeth Warren, On Corporations, Wars, Trump Dictator?, Corporate Apologies


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 9, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 9, 2018.

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 two 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 today are mostly not well worth reading, but OK - and I explain myself below:

A. Selections from June 9, 2018:
1. Elizabeth Warren v. the District of Corruption
2. We the Corporations
3. Just Say No to an Illegal War on Iran. The U.S. House Did.
4. Is Trump Becoming a Dictator? He's Already Showing 7 of 10 Notable
5. An Ode to The Feeble Corporate Apology
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. Elizabeth Warren v. the District of Corruption

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. This starts as follows:

Between appointing his daughter and son-in-law to senior White House positions, engaging in business deals with foreign governments, and “encouraging” diplomats and dignitaries to book rooms in his hotels, Donald Trump’s administration is setting new records for executive malfeasance. When corruption is so widespread, so pervasive, so ingrained in the political culture in Washington, D.C., and the executive branch, how do you push back? Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a thorn in the side of Wall Street who is widely assumed to be considering a 2020 run for the presidency, joins Mehdi Hasan in an exclusive interview on this week’s episode of Deconstructed to discuss her anti-corruption legislation and how she plans to drain the corporate money out of Washington.

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Money is going to drown our democracy, and if we don’t start fighting back, and fighting back more aggressively, then we are part of the problem as well.

Yes indeed, though in fact I do not think this was a very good interview. Besides, and I complain- ed about it before, basically because it just is not clear: What about the poor formatting of these interviews on Intercept? Why is the only formatting I see one with bold only, but without any indents whatsoever? And besides, where is the end of the present interview?

I am just asking, although I think that if my utterly unpaid self can put in formatting, so can Intercept.

Anyway, the presently reviewed article starts as follows:

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. Today on the show: The C-word. No, not Samantha Bee’s C-word about Ivanka Trump. No. And not Robert Mueller’s C-word in relation to Trump and Russia. Today’s show is not about collusion. But it is about something perhaps just as bad: corruption.

EW: Powerful corporations and their Republican allies are working overtime to roll back basic rules that protect the rest of us. So, why is this happening? The answer’s pretty simple. Corruption.

MH: That’s my guest today. Yes, you may have recognized her voice, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, banker-basher-in-chief for the Democrats and possible presidential candidate come 2020. I’ll be talking with her about her new plan to clean up U.S. politics.

So, let’s talk corruption in Trump’s America.

O Lord.... "The C-word." But - boldings added - "not Samantha Bee's C-word" and "not Robert Mueller’s C-word". No, no. The present "C-word" is "perhaps just as bad: corruption", namely as saying or writing "cunt" in public, in the USA.

I am sorry, but I am 68 and Dutch, and I strongly dislike this nonsense. I live in a country where women started saying around 50 years ago that this was cunt, and that was cunt (in a depre- ciatory manner, always) and it doesn't shock me, and indeed did not shock me 50 years ago.

But why not simply leave it out if the USA is still as backward as "forbidding" it?

Anyway, here is some more:

MH: Earlier this year, you called the Trump administration the “most corrupt administration ever.” Would you extend that description to Donald Trump himself? He’s the most corrupt president ever?

EW: So far as we know. That’s what the data show. And I think of it because corrupt is a very special word for people who are in government. This is about people who feather their own nests instead of the public good.

Elizabeth Warren is quite right:

Extreme financial corruption - which isn't so bad as saying "cunt" in public in the USA, but still seems to be quite bad (I'm sorry, but I am ironical, after so many horrible "C-words") - indeed seems to me the present root of American politics-as-played in the House and the Senate, since there seem to be something like 10 lobbyists per representative, and they are all trying to buy the people's representatives to vote for some very rich corporation, that now has been allowed since 2010 to invest millions into politicians. (See Citizens United.)

And they do. Here is what they do because they are now legally allowed to do so:

EW: OK. So let me start with the problem I’m trying to clean up.

Let’s say spill on aisle three, here. You know, we get everybody over to look at what’s wrong here. Rich and powerful corporations figured out decades ago that they could have a business model that was about: Oh, let’s come up with a great product, let’s sell that product, let’s put some money into R & D and let’s put some money into capturing government to work for us, to make the rules on us just a little easier.

Because it turns out that investing money and lobbying Washington, investing money in influencing Washington, invest, hey, $100 million and it can pay back in the billions.

MH: Oh yeah.

EW: Even trillions over time.

Right now, people get bribes from their companies to come work in government. I’ll give you an example of that: Gary Cohn was being mentioned as an economic advisor. Goldman Sachs said: Hey baby, go do this and we will give you more than a quarter of a billion dollars to do that. That’s just a pre-bribe, so that he would go in and advise the president and while he’s advising the president.

Yes indeed: This is true. But it is also near the ending of the present interview, that seems to be only there in part, and anyway - for what I saw of it - was not good.

2. We the Corporations

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
In this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” host and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer welcomes Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA’s School of Law and the author of “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.” His new book tells the 200-year history leading up to the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which gave corporations a controversial right to political speech.

In their conversation, Winkler tells Scheer that corporations have been highly successful in obtaining rights in part because they have been able to hire very capable and creative lawyers.

“Corporations have always been able to hire those good lawyers, and file risky lawsuits that even if they have a strong chance they’re going to lose, they may be worth part of the cost of doing business, if you will, for corporations,” Winkler says. “And so they’ve been able to finance litigation over and over and over again, and one of the surprising things that really comes out of that is that as a result, corporations have often been innovators and first movers in American constitutional law, often helping to breathe life into certain constitutional provisions that only later would be read broadly by the court to protect women and minorities and you and me.”

Winkler adds that a constitutional amendment to ban corporate rights would be a mistake because corporations do need some constitutional protections, including the right to due process and free speech.

I like Robert Scheer and I also usually like his interviews. But this is an interview I did not like very much, and my reason is not Scheer but his interviewee, a professor of law called Winkler, who sounds to me like most professors of law in Holland sound, namely much in favor of their own rights (as professors of law), but usually pretty restrained about the rights of everyone else, for - hey! - "good lawyers" can upset anything, with sufficient funding.

O, and as to the last paragraph I just quoted: The point is not (it seems to me, apart from a after a successful socialist revolution) "to ban corporate rights", but to limit them so that they are considerably more restrictive on corporative freedoms to destroy the rights of living persons.

But no, Winkler play is all the time (i.e. quite a few times) as if the case against corporate rights is one of banning their rights.

Here is some more (still from the introduction):

And Winkler and Scheer discuss the use of the 14th Amendment to protect corporations—an amendment created to protect freed slaves.

“The obscenity that your book describes is that this court system, which is this branch of government which we somehow have come to think of as the saving grace of democracy, actually destroyed the meaning of this amendment,” Scheer says. “Really, now, you can’t put too fine a point on it. Because the idea that this amendment was used primarily for the first, what, 70 or 80 years or longer to benefit corporations while keeping black people in bondage—slavery, or segregation, certainly—while keeping women in an indentured servant’s status, as objects. What your book details, you don’t put that harsh a point on it, it’s not a rhetorical book, but the fact is, it’s the subversion of the 14th Amendment, by the corporations, by the rich.”

“That’s right,” Winkler says.
I think Scheer is right. Here is a bit about Winkler:
Adam Winkler: I started writing the book after the Citizens United case, in 2010. And when the Supreme Court said that corporations have the same rights as individuals to spend their money to influence elections, it sort of raised the question: how did corporations come to win our most fundamental rights? And so I wanted to write a book that sort of looked at that history. We know the stories of, say, the Civil Rights Movement, or how women won equal rights, as being sort of central stories in the narrative of America. But there’s also been a story about how corporations have won constitutional rights, and corporations for 200 years, like women and minorities, have been fighting for equal rights. Although, unlike racial minorities, they didn’t risk their lives to do it; there’s no moral equivalency between these civil rights movements, if you will. But corporations have been fighting in the Supreme Court to win the rights of people. And we think of the Supreme Court as a bulwark for the protection of minority rights, but the truth is, if you look back through American history, the Supreme Court’s mostly exercised its power to help out the most wealthy and powerful interests in America. And the corporate rights movement is a really very interesting, but overlooked example of this phenomenon.
This is correct, to the best of my knowledge. Here is the last bit I quote from this much longer interview, from Robert Scheer:
RS: I mean, we have to face the fact that our Constitution–and this really confounds the originalists–was a deeply flawed document. I happen to argue it’s also the most interesting limitation on government that the world has ever seen; I respect the Constitution very much, I don’t think any other government has this clear definition of the ability of power to corrupt, and the need to restrain power, and so forth. So I’m a great admirer of it. But the strict interpreters of it, the so-called conservatives on the court, really are strictly interpreting a racist, misogynist document that protected the richest people in this society.

I think this is quite worthy of discussion, namely (i) the Constitution is "deeply flawed", yet (ii) it also is possibly the best "definition of the ability of power to corrupt, and the need to restrain power", while also (iii) at present it is often used (by the majority of the Supreme Court) as "a racist, misogynist document that protect[s] the richest people in this society".

But in fact this gets hardly discussed in the interview. In brief, I found it disappointing, but it did remind me a lot of the Dutch professors of law I have read quite a lot about. (I dislike them.)

3. Just Say No to an Illegal War on Iran. The U.S. House Did.

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truthdig and originally on Truthout. This starts as follows:

In a little noticed but potentially monumental development, the House of Representatives voted unanimously for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 5515) that says no statute authorizes the use of military force against Iran.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), states, “It is the sense of Congress that the use of the Armed Forces against Iran is not authorized by this Act or any other Act.”

A bipartisan majority of the House adopted the National Defense Authorization Act on May 24, with a vote of 351-66. The bill now moves to the Senate.

If the Senate version ultimately includes the Ellison amendment as well, Congress would send a clear message to Donald Trump that he has no statutory authority to militarily attack Iran.

Well... quite possibly this is an amendment of "the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019", but - to the best of my knowledge - it is and has been the law for a long time that only Congress could start a war (and not a president of a government) for which reason this seems to be like a repeated vote that, yes indeed, Congress agrees that 2+2=4.

And indeed there is this bit as well:

McGovern concurred, stating, “Congress is sending a clear message that President Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran. With President Trump’s reckless violation of the Iran Deal and failure to get Congressional approval for military strikes on Syria, there’s never been a more important time for Congress to reassert its authority. It’s long past time to end the White House’s blank check and the passage of this amendment is a strong start.”

Moreover, the Constitution only grants Congress the power to declare war. And the War Powers Resolution allows the president to introduce US Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities only after Congress has declared war, or in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces,” or when there is “specific statutory authorization.”

Again I say "Well..." because I fail to appreciate what it means if the majority of Congress insists on something that is the law since a long time. 
4. Is Trump Becoming a Dictator? He's Already Showing 7 of 10 Notable Signs

This article is by Chris Sosa on AlterNet. This starts as follows:

President Donald Trump may fail to qualify as a dictator, but it’s not for lack of trying.

In late 2016, Harvard University's Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations Stephen M. Walt wrote a 10-point list for analyzing whether a president is a dictator.

Less than half-way through his first term, Trump has fulfilled seven of the 10 criteria.

I say. Chris Sosa is not on Wikipedia, but he is the present senior editor of AlterNet. He became so a brief time ago after the previous executive editor of AlterNet, Don Hazen, was dismissed by the end of 2017, on the ground of "sexual harassment allegations". (Hazen is also not on Wikipedia.)

And since something like two months now I have been reading tweets dressed up as articles by a program that calls itself "Cody Fenwick". This program produces some 20 or so Tweets a day for "AlterNet". (It may be a person, but I do know that anything signed "Cody Fenwick" that I read was total bullshit and I totally stopped reading this program-or-person.)

Then again AlterNet was also sold a brief time ago, but - you'll be not amazed - it already said "it will go on as before", I suppose with very many more tweets dressed up as articles by "Cody Fenwick".

So... what to think of the present article? Well, it is a considerable joy it is not a Tweet by "Cody Fenwick". Then again, I never heard of professors Belfer and Wait, and I do not see any reason to trust their "10-point list for analyzing whether a president is a dictator" nor indeed any evidence about their reasons or motives.

All I will do is print the 7 out of 10 criterions designed "for analyzing whether a president is a dictator". There is some text associated with each item, but I'll leave that to your own interests:

Trump Systematically Attempts to Intimidate the Media
Trump Politicizes Domestic Security Agencies
Trump Used State Power to Punish an Opponent
Trump Stacked the Supreme Court
Trump Regularly Fearmongers
Trump Demonizes the Opposition
Trump Engages in Selective Law Enforcement

My own attitude is: I don't need this article, and if AlterNet continues with being written by "Cody Fenwick" it will soon be deleted from the sites I read every day. (It's a pity, but it was sold.)

5. An Ode to The Feeble Corporate Apology

This article is by Matt Taibbi on Common Dreams and originally on Rolling Stone. It starts as follows:

Three of America's biggest companies – Facebook, Wells Fargo and Uber – have been offering up vague apologies via television commercials in recent weeks. If you watch the Cavs-Dubs game tonight, you'll probably catch one or all of them.

Have a bucket handy.

All three entities are apologizing for recent scandals, all three are pledging to change their ways and all three are basically rolling out the same script:

Hi, America. We were awesome for a long time. Here are some culturally representative shots of people like you smiling and enjoying our services. After repeated denials, we recently had to admit to violating your trust, but the unelucidated bad thing doesn't have to come between us. We promise: we fixed that shit. You will now wake up feeling refreshed in 3,2,1…

There are times when corporate apologies are appropriate and can be taken at face value. After the Tylenol murders in the '80s, for instance, Johnson & Johnson created a new standard in introducing safety caps and the brand (rightfully) survived. That scandal wasn't the company's fault, but it did the right thing anyway.

The three companies apologizing now are a little guiltier.

Yes indeed: quite so. And no, I do not accept any apologies by Facebook: I think it is a deeply criminal set-up that should be forbidden. (And yes, that is what I do think, though indeed I grant immediately that what I like is very probably not going to happen.)

Here is some more:

When the smart CEO appears after a scandal, it's usually to deny responsibility, not accept it. The textbook case came eight years ago, when Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein traveled to Washington to testify in the wake of the "Big Short" scandal.

Blankfein and his firm stood accused of betting billions against their own clients, as detailed in a devastating 650-page Senate report. The CEO faced intense questioning by the chair of the committee that produced that report, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who threw haymaker after haymaker.

"You are taking a position against the very security that you are selling and you are not troubled?" Levin thundered. "And you want people to trust you?"

Blankfein winced, squinted, shrugged and looked almost like he didn't understand the question. He completely blew off Levin and dared him to do something about it. America mostly found it gross, but the Goldman board dug it – Blankfein is still in charge.

Blankfein's performance has since been held up as a textbook example of how to successfully non-apologize in a crisis.
Yes indeed. And there is this on the every lying and deceiving Facebook:

Facebook's new ad basically says: We created Facebook to help people get together, and when we did…

We felt a little less alone [heart emoji!]…

But then the bad thing happened. What exactly?

You had to deal with spam, clickbait, fake news and data misuse [angry face emoji]…

Facebook says, "That's going to change. From now on, Facebook will do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy."

The problem with the Facebook ad is that it's not in trouble for a mistake. It's the company's core business model that's offensive.
Moreover, the bigger issue is that these massive private spying operations exist at all. Most of them long ago agreed to partner with actual spy agencies like the NSA. Wake me up when Facebook and the NSA run a joint ad apologizing for that during the NBA finals.

Quite so (bolding added): "It's [Facebook]'s core business model that's offensive." For that is constructed around deception; stealing personal private mails and much more; and rewarding obedient members with free advertisements they can save a few pennies with.

The rest Taibbi says is also correct, and there is considerably more, 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 2 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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