June 17, 2018

Crisis: The U.S. Economy, Domestic Violence, Poor People, Trump´s Tariffs, Utter Secrecy


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 17, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, June 17, 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 are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 17, 2018:
1. If the Economy Is So Good, Why Are People So Unhappy?
2. Lawyer: Jeff Sessions’ Attacks on Migrant Domestic Violence Survivors
     Drags U.S. Back to “Dark Ages”

3. The 'Fight' Phase of the Poor People’s Campaign Has Begun
4. Trump's Tariffs Could Hurt Millions of Americans, But Media Focuses
     Instead on Presidential Drama

5. Public Barred From Markup of Pentagon Spending Bill in Senate
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. If the Economy Is So Good, Why Are People So Unhappy?

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Trump is collecting credit, while shedding blame 

Donald Trump—like the narcissistic, compulsive, hyperbolic blowhard he is—keeps bragging about how good “his” economy is. The self-aggrandizing superlatives flow out of Twitter like some rancid national virus. Leaving aside the fact that presidents don’t have a lot influence on the economy, and what influence they do have doesn’t really take effect until well into their second year, his claims don’t hold up to reality. First of all, it’s not “his” economy, and second of all, the economy isn’t working all that well for the vast majority of Americans.

Yes indeed, and it is especially the second part of the last quoted statement that is quite correct, and indeed also answers the question the title poses, namely as follows: The American economy is good for the rich, and has been good for the rich since 1980; but the American economy is no good for the non-rich - and possibly the non-rich (some of them) are discovering this now.

Here is more:

Let’s look at the facts.

Fact number 1:  Job growth was slower in Trump's first full year than it has been at any time since 2011;

Fact number 2: The stock market grew nearly continuously under Obama, cumulatively by more than 47 percent, and its growth under Trump seems to have settled in at around 16 percent (with very high volatility, as you might expect from his ADHD economic policy);

Fact number 3: Annual GDP growth is about the same under Trump as it was under Obama;

Fact number 4: Trump’s insane tax cut will add at least $1.5 trillion to the debt;

Fact number 5: Trump’s trade war will raise prices for consumers and cut jobs in the future, and it’s causing volatility now;

Fact number 6: The already unconscionable income and wealth disparity our economy has seen since Reagan is getting worse as Trump’s tax cuts go disproportionally to the ultra-rich and corporations.

Yes indeed, though as I said under the previous quotation from this article, the main point is that the few rich have been growing a lot richer since Reagan, while the many non-rich and poor have not been growing richer since Reagan, or indeed have been growing poorer.

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

According to some economists, deregulation has spawned a growth in monopolies and oligopolies; they now control much of the access to jobs, and they’re using their market power to depress wages, benefits, and laws protecting workers. This market power—combined with policies making unionization and collective bargaining more difficult—means workers have become relatively powerless.

Much of the “new economy” reflects this misbalance between corporations and even small businesses, and labor.

Quite so - and I know more than enough of economy to know that much of it is a pseudo- science, though I agree with ¨some economists¨ mentioned above (though indeed probably not with their theories).

But yes: ¨workers have become relatively powerless¨ because the few rich have been aggrandizing their powers since Reagan. For some more see item 3 below.

2. Lawyer: Jeff Sessions’ Attacks on Migrant Domestic Violence Survivors Drags U.S. Back to “Dark Ages”

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that domestic and gang-related violence will generally no longer be grounds for asylum, a far-reaching shift that could affect thousands of people, particularly women from Central America fleeing gender-based violence. This decision reverses the Board of Immigration Appeals’ grant of asylum to a Salvadoran domestic violence survivor known as A.B., who fled to the U.S. for her life after surviving 15 years of beatings, rape and death threats from her husband. In ruling against A.B., Sessions also overturned a groundbreaking precedent from 2014 in which the immigration appeals court affirmed that domestic violence survivors are deserving of protection. We speak with Karen Musalo, professor of law and the director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She is [one] of the attorneys representing Ms. A.B.
Yes indeed. That is, from now on, according to Sessions, even after ¨surviving 15 years of beatings, rape and death threats from her husband¨ (against whom the Salvadorean police did nothing), one must continue to be beaten, raped and getting death threats.

I quote one more bit from this article (and if you want to read the opinions of Karen Musalo, you have to go to the original):

AMY GOODMAN: (..) But on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled against A.B. and overturned the precedent that had granted Cifuentes asylum, ruling, quote, “claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors will not qualify for asylum.”

Immigration advocates and former immigration judges have denounced Sessions’ announcement. A group of 15 former immigration judges called Sessions’ move “an affront to the rule of law,” writing, quote, “For reasons understood only by himself, the attorney general today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct,” they wrote.

And indeed the main legal point (I am not speaking of humanitarianism here and now) is that Sessions terminated some 30 years of the rule of law in the USA, that decided for 30 years to give asylum to women who were beaten, raped and tortured by their husbands or by gangs.

There is more in the original that is recommended.

3. The 'Fight' Phase of the Poor People’s Campaign Has Begun

This article is by Michael Nigro on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Immediately after the news of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, social media feeds exploded with advice for those suffering from depression, for those who have family or friends who may need help but are unable to ask for it. “Reach out,” posts read. “Ask someone who may need help, how they’re doing.” “Observe those around you.” “Help is a phone call away.” Those messages have value, certainly.

Having been on the road with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival, for over five weeks now, it was impossible for me not to tether the nationwide reaction to the sad tragedy of Bourdain’s inability to ask for help, with the 140 million people who live on or below the poverty line, in the richest country in human history, who are screaming for it. Literally screaming for clean water. Begging for health care. Pleading for a living wage.

The Poor People’s Campaign is now entering its sixth week of nationwide nonviolent direct actions. Hundreds of local and grass-roots groups continue to join. To date, over 2,000 people have been arrested and thousands have signed on with coalitions in 39 states and Washington, D.C., to challenge environmental devastation, systemic racism and poverty, locally and at the federal level and to demand a moral agenda for the common good. This movement has nothing to do with left or right, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. It’s all about right and wrong.

I believe this is more or less correct, although I should add (having no TV since 1970) that I did not know who Anthony Bourdain was until after he died (and I am sorry, but I am still not interested in somebody who seems to have had a fine and rich life).

Then again, while I agree with ¨nonviolent direct actions¨, I must say that I wonder about ¨The ¨Fight¨ Phase¨ in the poor people´s campaign, and indeed especially because it is not called a  ¨Fight¨ - without quotes, which is more or less clear - but a ¨¨Fight¨¨ with quotes, which makes it quite unclear what is meant, precisly because quoting a term (rather than a statement) has often the effect of saying ¨this is not really what is meant, and what is meant is somehow related¨ (as in: ¨We did not really commit ¨a bankrobbery¨¨).

I am just wondering. Here is some more:

Examining the prior weeks of the burgeoning Poor People’s Campaign, viewing it in correlation with the government’s response to it—being ignored, being laughed at—there is little doubt that after last week’s nationwide actions the Poor People’s Campaign finds itself standing nonviolently in “the fight phase.”

I agree the ¨Poor People’s Campaign¨ was mostly ignored by the mainstream media (and again I wonder what is meant by ¨standing nonviolently in “the fight phase”¨).

Here is the ending, which is also the reason I am reviewing this article:

This rings true for what the Poor People’s Campaign is attempting. It has the statistics and facts—hundreds of them—on its website (i.e., 13.8 million U.S. households cannot afford water; over 48 million Americans have no or inadequate health care; more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die due to poverty-related issues each year).

But the Poor People’s Campaign is much more than statistics and facts. In a way, it is implementing what Bourdain was so masterful at: stripping away the theoretical by revealing the stories behind the statistics, the faces behind the facts, and, by turns, connecting us all.

America’s system of intentional inequality is, in essence, assisted suicide. But how many will jump into the maelstrom to help those who are not famous?

I agree that ¨America’s system of intentional inequality is, in essence, assisted suicide¨ - and see my review yesterday of Blistering U.N. Report: Trump Administration’s Policies Designed to Worsen Poverty & Inequality), though indeed I still entirely miss what Anthony Bourdain has to do with it, while I also think that fewer will ¨jump into the maelstrom to help those who are not famous¨ than those who follow Kim Kardashian or Anthony Bourdain. (But that is or ought to be a known sad fact.) This is a recommended article.

4. Trump's Tariffs Could Hurt Millions of Americans, But Media Focuses Instead on Presidential Drama

This article is by Bobby Lewis on AlterNet and originally on Media Matters. It starts as follows:

On May 31, CBS News reported on retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, targeting numerous products including American steel and aluminum, playing cards, motorcycles, and tobacco. European Commission president Jean-Paul Juncker said that Trump’s move “leaves us with no choice but to proceed … with the imposition of additional duties on a number of imports from the U.S.”

News reports and experts say the tariffs will hurt Americans in a number of ways. Though the steel and aluminum industries stand to benefit, “almost every US industry” that uses these metals will be faced with higher manufacturing costs, which “will likely get passed on to consumers.” These higher costs could “kill hundreds of thousands of jobs” as companies scramble to offset artificially high prices. Retaliatory tariffs levied by other nations are threatening a wide range of businesses, from agriculture to commercial production.
Yes indeed. Here is some more on who are and who are not attended to by the mainstream news:
But media coverage of U.S. allies’ responses to Trump’s economic attack centered on  the sensationalism and drama of the moment. Though CNN interviewed or cited economists in a few segments on the tariffs’ effects for American workers and business, the majority of the punditry  focused on the shock value of levying tariffs against U.S. allies. CNN also interviewed Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign economic advisor whom CNN hired as its in-house defender of the president who dodged policy questions to muddy the facts and obsequiously push the Trump agenda (which is how interviews with former or current Trump officials usually go); the network did not interview any workers who could potentially be hurt by the retaliatory tariffs.
In brief, the few rich and their interests and concerns are addressed by the mainstream media; the many non-rich whose lives are made more expensive are mostly neglected by the mainstream media.

Here is the last bit that I quote, which I could not resist because it is so incoherently sick:
Fox News, meanwhile, played up the personal drama Trump incited with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fox personalities said that “the public spat between these world leaders [Trump and Trudeau] is something to watch,” argued that Trudeau should “maybe … realize it’s not personal,” and generally attacked Trudeau for, among other things, “trying to out-alpha President Trump.”
In case you don´t understand why the above quote is incoherently sick, perhaps you are not reading - what I think are - the right things.

5. Public Barred From Markup of Pentagon Spending Bill in Senate Committee

This article is by Renee Parsons on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

It appears to have been no coincidence that when President John F. Kennedy’s spoke to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961—ten days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion—he tacitly referred to the Joint Chiefs and the CIA who had orchestrated the Cuban invasion and then lied to gain his approval for military action.

In that speech, Kennedy expressed what became a quintessential JFK quote:

...the very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.  We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweigh the dangers which are cited to justify it.

On May 24th, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) met behind closed doors and  approved the massive 1140 page National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA S 2987 ) of 2019 by a 25-2 vote which authorizes ‘funding and provides activities for the US military.’
While the Committee dutifully heard public testimony on the NDAA including Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on April 26th, once the SASC subcommittees began their mark up on May 21 and May 22 and the full SASC met to begin its two day mark-up on May 23 and May 24th,  all SASC consideration of the NDAA was declared “SECRET” as committee doors were sealed shut preventing all public and press attendance.
In fact, I think Kennedy was spouting propaganda rather than saying what he really believed.
My reasons are that modern governments without some secrets are quite impossible, though
I completely agree with the sentiments that those secrets should be both few and well guarded by - more or less - objective outsiders.

Then again, what really matters is not Kennedy but the fact that the SASC approved the enormous amount of billions it awarded to the Pentagon and others in total secret: The American people has no longer any right to know what happened with the taxes it has to pay, at least in so far as the American military are concerned: These are totally beyond democratic control.

Here is more on the secrecy of the present American government:

In fact, the word “SECRET” is not included in the Senate’s official Glossary of Terms although ‘closed session’ may be invoked for obvious sensitive matters such as Impeachment.  So let’s assume that the SASC mandarins decided in a massive overreach of their Constitutional authority to hold every single word, every utterance, all 1140 pages worth of discussion and debate of the committee mark up in complete and total SECRECY making no careful thoughtful distinction as to what truly constitutes a ‘national security’ matter – there is no public record available on the SASC website of the committee members discussing or making that determination.   

The SASC website offers no video of either the subcommittees or the full committee meeting  going through the motions of formally declaring their meetings SECRET under the guise of national security, much as Kennedy forewarned more than fifty years ago.
That is: Not only were the meetings and decisions of the SASC completely secret; it also has remained a secret how or why or who decided that these meetings and decisions were to be a secret.

Here is the last bit that I quote on the utter and complete secrecy of the SASC:

Neither is there a video on the SASC website of any of the debate or discussion that took place during the mark up nor evidence of the 25-2 roll call vote which precludes us from knowing who the two opposing votes were.  In other words, every iota of debate or amendments offered and every vote taken as well as all discussion were conducted in SECRET which sounds more like a Banana Republic or an authoritarian state of which the US frequently accuses other countries.  

There is little doubt that the American public would have benefited from SASC discussion on certain unmentionables like DOD’s missing $2.3 Trillion,  DARPA projects,  the military role in cyberspace,  the “secret space” program and weaponizing space, cost overruns, military monitoring of extraterrestrial flights, long term impacts of AI or other ‘dark’ op programs – but wasn’t that always part of the intent. 

In fact, these secret decisions on spending billions upon billions of tax money, whose secrecy itself remains a secret, are the characteristics of a dictatorship, 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 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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