June 30, 2018

Crisis: On Trumpocracy, US Regime Changes, Ocasio-Cortez, Medicaid, Wars On Credit


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 30, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 30, 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 30, 2018:
1. The Anatomy of Trumpocracy: An Interview With Noam Chomsky
2. America's Regime Change Toolbox
3. Democratic Elite Scrambles to Respond to Ocasio-Cortez
4. Federal Judge Blocks Kentucky's Trump-Backed Medicaid Work

5. How America's Wars Fund Inequality at Home
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. The Anatomy of Trumpocracy: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

This article is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truthout. It starts as follows:
With its spate of right-wing rulings this week, the Supreme Court has paved the way for Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress to intensify their attacks on human rights, workers and the country’s democratic institutions, dragging the US deeper into the abyss.

US political culture has long been dominated by oligarchical corporate and financial interests, militarism and jingoism, but the current Trumpocracy represents a new level of neoliberal cruelty. Indeed, the United States is turning into a pariah nation, a unique position among Western states in the second decade of the 21st century.

What factors and the forces produced this radical and dangerous shift? How did Trump manage to bring the Republican Party under his total control? Is Trumpocracy a temporary phenomenon, or the future of American politics? Is the Bernie Sanders phenomenon over? In the exclusive Truthout interview below, world-renowned scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at MIT and currently Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, tackles these questions and offers his unique insights.

Yes indeed - and incidentally, also see item 5, which is about financing the American wars: This happens mostly on credit. I will select only three bits from this interview. Here is the first:

For years, both parties have drifted to the right — the Republicans off the spectrum of normal parliamentary politics. Their dedication to wealth and corporate power is so extreme that they cannot get votes on their actual policies — which are now being revealed to us daily — and so have had to mobilize a voting base on issues unrelated to their service to their actual constituency. These include religious fundamentalism — a major phenomenon in the US unlike other developed societies — white supremacy, xenophobia and other latent anti-social attitudes that tend to break through to the surface during periods of disillusionment and distress.

Yes indeed. Also, my own theory about how the American "representatives of the people" ceased to be "representatives of the people" in the almost 40 years that started with Reagan, is that most "representatives of the people" have been bought (through lobbyists, mostly) by the very rich: They get a whole lot richer, themselves, simply because they are corrupt.

Also, this is not just a theory: There is a lot of evidence for it. And in any case, this is the background I provide: American democracy ceased to be, and was replaced by corruption.

Here is some on Trump:

Trump himself seems to be having the time of his life. He’s constantly in the limelight, his loyal base worships his every move, he’s free to defy convention, to insult anyone he chooses, to disrupt the international economic and political order at will — whatever comes to mind next, knowing that he’s the biggest thug on the block and can probably get away with it — again, for a while, at least.

I don’t think it’s quite fair, however, to call him a liar. Lying presupposes having a concept of truth, and being in a situation where telling the truth matters. We don’t say that three-year-olds are lying if they say they saw a dragon outside, or an actor in a play. It’s also not clear that it’s tactically useful to tot up the random falsehoods that pepper his tweets and orations.
No, I don't think I agree with this. More precisely, I agree with the first paragraph, but not with the second. And about the second paragraph I have two remarks.

First, I have been insisting, since well over two years, that in my psychologist's opinion, Trump is a madman (and as such completely unfit as president). You can find some evidence in the last link, and there is a lot more on the internet and in several books by psychologists or psychiatrists.

Also, I agree with most psychologists and psychiatrists who considered Trump, that the most probable explanation of his madness is narcissism - and I do so because that diagnosis is based on observational facts, although I am quite willing to agree that beyond that diagnosis there is little certainty on Trump, because he evidently denies it, and the psychiatrists do their supposed "science" without any explicit theories since 1980.

In any case... supposing Trump is a narcissist makes his position on lying a bit tenuous, for indeed he may be not telling the truth because he believes otherwise (which means in fact he is deluded) or else he may not be telling the truth because he believes that what he claims serves his personal interests better than telling the truth.

I think Trump is mad, but he is mostly not deluded (as yet), and indeed he serves his personal interests quite well.

Second, Trump does serve his personal interests by not telling the truth. I think it is a mistake to stop telling that the president does not tell the truth if he does not tell the truth.

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

In general, things are proceeding quite well for “those who matter,” though they have some concerns that Trump’s erratic trade policies might infringe on the interests of the investor class.

I’ve skipped foreign policy, and have omitted so far, the most important accomplishments — astonishingly, commonly ignored by the opposition party and media commentary. Pride of place goes to the quite successful efforts to escalate the very severe and not remote threat of global warming. Expansion and modernization of the huge military system and provocative actions at the Russian border are not far behind.

Yes, I agree - and as an aside, I do not know what to do against global warming with the present economical system, if only for the simple reason that I know about global warming c.q. the environment for around 50 years, and all that has happened in those 50 years was far too little to stop it, while the global human population tripled in 50 years.

And Chomsky is also right about "
the huge military system" and Russia, I think. And this is a strongly recommended article in which there is considerably more than I quoted.

2. America's Regime Change Toolbox

This article is by Barbara Koeppel on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Regime change here, regime change there. Officials argue for or against it and the press and media routinely report on it. There are good guys (the U.S. and its current allies) and bad ones. Although the list shifts—today North Korea is trustworthy, Canada is not—one thing is unchanged: Regime change is a basic part of the American toolbox.

Not surprisingly, mainstream voices don’t mention that regime change pushed by one country against another is illegal—although the U.S. ratified the United Nations Charter, which says that a country can intervene militarily only after it has been attacked.

Also, the U.S. signed the Organization of American States charter in 1948, which says, “Every state has the right to choose, without external interference, its political, economic and social system and must abstain from intervening in the affairs of another country.”

These laws are, of course, ignored. Since the end of the 19th century, when the U.S. embarked on empire, it has, one way or another, overthrown almost all the governments it didn’t like.

Quite so: Since more than 100 years, the USA has "overthrown almost all the governments it didn’t like", indeed with a mostly systematic and total disregard of all international laws that forbid this.

Here is how the USA does it, in outline:

It does it covertly, by inciting or supporting coups, or bankrolling/training forces opposed to a regime (as with the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s) that create enough chaos to push the regime out in elections.

It also does it overtly, sending in troops, as in the Dominican Republic, Grenada and Iraq, or with war games near the offending country: These are “joint exercises” such as the ones the U.S. stages with South Korea. Or it uses economic sanctions: In Iraq, U.N. sanctions adopted from 1990 to 2003 and enforced by the U.S. were said to have caused the death of 500,000 children (though the number is debated). In response, three U.N. humanitarian coordinators in Baghdad resigned.
And here are some details:
Dov Levin, a political scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, says the U.S. intervened in 81 elections from 1946 to 2000, including in Italy (1948), Japan (1950s and 1960s), the Philippines (1953), and Lebanon (1957). Levin says Russia came in second, but the difference isn’t even close: He says it intervened only in 1936 in the Spanish Civil War.
The list of interventions is long. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. toppled elected leaders in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), the Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965-1967), the Dominican Republic (1965), Bolivia (1971), Chile (1973), Grenada (1983), Haiti (1991) and Ukraine (2014). If the list were backdated to the end of the 19th century, it would be twice as long.

It also ousted non-elected governments—in Panama (1941 and 1989), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011).

I note that all these changes were forbidden by international laws - which should give you an insight in how important international laws are, especially for the strongest country in the world: Not at all, if it likes to disregard them.

Also, while I think the above list is quite convincing, what I miss are the Soviet Union's interventions in Hungary (1956) and in Chechoslovakia (1968). Anyway. This is a recommended article.

3. Democratic Elite Scrambles to Respond to Ocasio-Cortez

This article is by Norman Solomon on Consortiumnews. This is its beginning:
Conventional wisdom said that powerful Congressman Joseph Crowley couldn’t be beat. But his 20-year career in the House of Representatives will end in January, with the socialist organizer who beat him in the Democratic primary in the deep-blue district of the Bronx and Queens poised to become Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Crowley’s defeat shows how grass-roots movements can prevail against corporate power and its pile of cash. The Crowley campaign spent upward of $3 million in the Democratic Party primary. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent one-tenth of that. He wielded the money. She inspired the people.
Well... I agree it was a huge win for Ocasio-Cortez, but then again, she is just one person, which makes me - quite possibly - considerably less optimistic than Solomon.

And here is the end of the article:

Now, the huge defeat of Crowley, a Democratic machine politician, by the unknown Ocasio-Cortez underscores the possibilities that Bernie Sanders talked about in a recent video interview,  in which he called for the inclusion of workers, youth and idealism into the party. 

“It may take liberals by surprise to hear that a recent Reuters/Ipsos mega poll of 16,000 respondents, found that the Democrats are losing ground with millennials” even while “their support for Republicans has remained roughly stable,” Guardian columnist Cas Mudde wrote days ago. “While millennials still prefer the Democratic Party over the Republicans, that support is tanking. In just two years, it dropped sharply from 55 percent to 46 percent.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory has alarmed a Democratic Party elite trying to figure out how to contain the revolt to protect their privileges. 

Yes - but once again: She is just one person. And besides, the Democratic Party does have enormous funds that it will try "to protect their privileges".

4. Federal Judge Blocks Kentucky's Trump-Backed Medicaid Work Requirements

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Kentucky's Medicaid work requirements—which were enabled and enthusiastically approved by the Trump administration—would have stripped healthcare from around 100,000 people, but a federal judge on Friday decided to block the new restrictions from taking effect, arguing that the White House's approval of the rules did not adequately account for the "deprivation" they would cause.
I say, for I did not know this. But while I quite agree with the federal judge, I wonder how long a judge on that level can stop the deprivation he seeks - quite correctly - to stop.

Here is more on the judge's decision:

"These work mandates and lockout provisions are not about helping people get jobs—they're about kicking people off the Medicaid program," Isasi concluded. "Today's win means that nearly 100,000 Kentucky residents will continue to be able to see their doctors, stay healthy, and take care of their families. And it should give pause to the Trump administration, Kentucky, and other states seeking illegal and harmful Medicaid changes that take healthcare away from families."

The judge's ruling on Friday stems from a class action lawsuit filed by 15 Kentucky Medicaid recipients, who argued that the work requirements pushed by the state government and the Trump administration—which were set to go into effect on Sunday—would cause "irreparable harm to the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable."

Yes. but this doesn't say how long a federal judge on that level can stop the deprivation he seeks to stop. Here is a bit more:

In his ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg determined that the Trump administration's approval of Kentucky's rules was "arbitrary and capricious," and ordered them sent back to the Department of Health and Human Services for further review.

I fear it will be no more than three to six months (but I do not know), and this is a recommended article.

5. How America's Wars Fund Inequality at Home

This article is by Stephanie Savell on TomDispatch. This starts as follows:

In the name of the fight against terrorism, the United States is currently waging “credit-card wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Never before has this country relied so heavily on deficit spending to pay for its conflicts. The consequences are expected to be ruinous for the long-term fiscal health of the U.S., but they go far beyond the economic. Massive levels of war-related debt will have lasting repercussions of all sorts. One potentially devastating effect, a new study finds, will be more societal inequality.

In other words, the staggering costs of the longest war in American history -- almost 17 years running, since the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 -- are being deferred to the future. In the process, the government is contributing to this country’s skyrocketing income inequality.

Yes indeed: I think all of this is quite correct. Here is more:

Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent $5.6 trillion on its war on terror, according to the Costs of War Project, which I co-direct, at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. This is a far higher number than the Pentagon’s $1.5 trillion estimate, which only counts expenses for what are known as “overseas contingency operations,” or OCO -- that is, a pot of supplemental money, outside the regular annual budget, dedicated to funding wartime operations. The $5.6 trillion figure, on the other hand, includes not just what the U.S. has spent on overseas military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, but also portions of Homeland Security spending related to counterterrorism on American soil, and future obligations to care for wounded or traumatized post-9/11 military veterans.

I think this is correct (and the Pentagon has been extremely badly audited for over 20 years). Here is some more:

The implications for today are almost painfully straightforward: the current combination of deficit spending and tax cuts spells disaster for any hopes of shrinking America's striking inequality gap. Instead, credit-card war spending is already fueling the dramatic levels of wealth inequality that have led some observers to suggest that we are living in a new Gilded Age, reminiscent of the enormous divide between the opulent lifestyles of the elite and the grinding poverty of the majority of Americans in the late nineteenth century.

Well... yes and no. Yes, this is true, but no, there is another way of making the enormous inequality gap a bit more fair: Taxing the rich more. I agree this is quite unlikely to happen under Trump, but I think it has to be done, and will be done eventually, that is, if Trump does not meanwhile blow up the world.

Here is the ending of this article:
The more money this country spends on military activities, the more public coffers will be depleted by war-related interest payments and the less public funding there will be for anything else. In short, it’s time for Americans worried about living in a country whose inequality gap could soon surpass that of the Gilded Age to begin paying real attention to our “credit-card wars.”

I agree 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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