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Nederlog

July 3, 2018

Crisis: On Mexico, U.S.'s 2000 kidnappings, On "Fascism", On Geithner, On U.S. Poverty


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 3, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, July 3, 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 July 3, 2018:
1. Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador Wins Mexican Presidential Election
2. Texas Lawyer Describes Chaos, Terror of Family Separation at Border
3. It’s Time to Use the 'F' Word to Describe Trump
4. Tim Geithner Now Runs Predatory Firm That Exploits the Poor for Profit
5. More Evidence That Half of Americans Are In or Near Poverty
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. Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador Wins Mexican Presidential Election

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
In Mexico, leftist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, has claimed victory after winning Sunday’s presidential election by a landslide, vowing to transform Mexico by reducing corruption and violence. Preliminary election results show López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, capturing 53 percent of the vote—more than twice that of his closest rival. His three main rival candidates have already conceded. His victory comes after the most violent electoral season in modern Mexican history. At least 136 politicians have been assassinated in Mexico since September. For more, we speak with Christy Thornton, assistant professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University. She was an election observer for the Scholar and Citizen Network for Democracy. She is currently writing a book about Mexican economic history.
I am reporting on this mainly because these elections seem to reflect a considerable change in Mexico, that also will effect the USA. Then again, I admit I do not know much about Mexico, which has to do with several things, one of which is its many years of terrorism, that seems well expressed by the fact that at least 136 Mexican politicians have been murdered in Mexico since September last. (That means: 14 a month.)

Here is the new president-elect:
PRESIDENT-ELECT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: [translated] The new project of the nation will seek to establish an authentic democracy. We don’t bet on building an open or closed dictatorship. The changes will be profound but will happen with a strict adherence to the legal established order. There will be corporate freedom, freedom of expression, of association and of beliefs. We will guarantee all the individual and social freedoms, as well as the political rights of citizens, consecrated in our Constitution. There will be no need to increase taxes in real terms, not for the country to fall into debt. There will also be no hikes in petrol. I will lower the general cost of living and the public investment to propel productive activities and to create jobs. The objective is to strengthen the internal market, to try to produce what we consume in the country. We won’t act in an arbitrary way, and there will be no confiscation or expropriation of property. The transformation will consist in basically banishing corruption from our country. We won’t have a problem in achieving this objective, because the people of Mexico are the heir of great civilizations.
I have looked a little bit into López Obrador (the last link is a part of this). Well... I do not know how real a (real) leftist he will be, but I believe he was the most leftist candidate with a chance ti win, which he did.

And I think that what this means still mostly has to be shown, but I also believe this was, at least from my point of view, a good outcome. (Though I should add that fewer than half of all Mexicans who could vote did vote.)

Here is one bit by Christy Thornton:
CHRISTY THORNTON: Yeah, good morning, Amy, from Mexico City. It’s really been an incredible atmosphere here. The victory of AMLO, and the margin with which he did it, really signals a new day here. I think it’s beyond the expectations of even some of AMLO’s strongest supporters to have seen him win the presidency with what the initial result says is 53 percent of the vote. We have to think about this was a field of four candidates. So for him to have won an absolute majority is something that we haven’t seen in recent Mexican elections. And so, this is really a very strong victory, a very strong message.
There's a lot more in the interview, which is good and recommended.

2. Texas Lawyer Describes Chaos, Terror of Family Separation at Border

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
At least 2,000 migrant children remain separated from their parents, after the families were forcibly separated by immigration officials under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. A federal judge has ordered all these children must be reunited with their parents within 30 days—but immigration advocates say the administration does not have a clear plan for how to reunite the families. In McAllen, Texas, immigration lawyers are scrambling to help their clients find and reunite with their children. Attorney Efrén Olivares is director of the Racial and Economic Justice Program for the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Yes, and from my own point of view the above means that at least 2,000 migrant children have been kidnapped. Here is more on the style of these governmental and presidential kidnappings:
EFRÉN OLIVARES: It’s a humanitarian crisis. There is no other way to describe it. We have had now, you know, hundreds or 2,000 families separated. And now we’re getting to confirm that many of these parents are being deported without their children. The government has started to plant this narrative that a lot of the parents choose to leave without their children. And I’m concerned that that is because in a couple of weeks we will be able to confirm that hundreds of parents have been deported without their children. We interviewed, here in McAllen, 381 parents. Only one of them, and it was an aunt traveling with a nephew, and she told me, “If I get deported, my nephew should stay behind, because his mom lives here.” Other than her, every single one of the people we interviewed said, “If I get deported, I want my child to come with me.”
I think the American government is lying, as usual. As I said above, by my legal and moral norms they are cruel and sadistic kidnappers - and the above shows how the kidnapping of what seem to be sub-humans in the eyes of the American government proceeds:

Your children are taken from you; they are locked up somewhere else, and often you do not even know where, nor do your children; and then your kidnappers decide that you, as parents, are going to be returned to where you came from, without your children being returned to you.

It is sadistic and very cruel. Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: The government, the Trump administration, says that they have reunited 500 children with their parents. Do you know where this number is coming from? Do you believe them?

EFRÉN OLIVARES: I don’t believe they have been reunited. And here’s why. Because that fact sheet that they released late on Saturday night is ambiguous as to whether that includes children turned over, released to a relative in the United States, or reunited with their parents. They have admitted—the secretary of health and human services confirmed that it will be very difficult to reunite children with parents if the parent is in detention.
I agree with Olivares (i) because the American government and the American president by now must be suspected to lie about everything without any convincing impartial evidence, and because (ii) because it seems to have been a systematic further legal abuse not to tell the parents where their children were abducted to.

Here is part of the problem:

AMY GOODMAN: When the children are taken from their parents, how does the government keep track of who is connected to who?
[..]

EFRÉN OLIVARES: We don’t know. That’s the problem. The government has not specified if they are keeping track of who the child belongs to, who is the parent, who’s the child. I hope they have a better system. The information we have gleaned here in McAllen is the Border Patrol agents take a family picture, a picture of the family unit, they call it, so a picture of the child and the parent, to then keep track of who belongs with who. If that is the system, it’s full of problems. It’s highly fallible. Forget the problems with cross-racial identification. Just forget about that. Just taking a picture of a 5-year-old and then trying to match him or her with his mom, it’s going to be a disaster.

I take it Olivares may be correct when he says that "[t]he government has not specified if they are keeping track of who the child belongs to, who is the parent, who’s the child", but what I read was a bit stronger, namely that often they did not keep "track of who the child belongs to, who is the parent, who’s the child".

In either case, it was kidnapping and abduction by the goverment of the USA. And this is a recommended article in which there is more.


3. It’s Time to Use the 'F' Word to Describe Trump

This article is by Bill Blum on Truthdig. It starts as follows and explains the - utterly nonsensical - phrase "'F' Word:

Is Donald Trump a fascist? With each passing news cycle, more people here and abroad are asking the question.

On a trip to Berlin in early June, my wife and I were pressed for answers in spontaneous encounters with cab drivers, waiters, hotel clerks and sundry others. Regardless of occupation, everyone closely followed U.S. politics, and most had come to the conclusion that the American president had long ago crossed a dark ideological line.

I say, which I do because I have been writing now for more than three years about many occurences of the word "f*ism", to follow Blum's usage (in the title), although indeed these writings mostly said (correctly) "fascism", and in fact I am getting sick with journalists especially because, as I said yesterday:

in nine years of fast internet I have not read a single journalist who seems to have any decent idea of what a rational definition of "fascism" looks like, even though very many have used the term

And Blum (who may have a Jewish name, although I do not care) is hardly an exception. First, here is Blum about Blum:

I told the tour guide that as a columnist I had been comparing Trump with Benito Mussolini since the early days of his presidential campaign. Still, we conceded that for the most part, whether out of ignorance, timidity or a naive belief in the myth of exceptionalism, Americans were reluctant to consider whether their head of state actually is a fascist.

No more.

The issue of Trump’s fascism has finally reached center stage in the U.S., sparked by the administration’s shameful treatment of Central American refugees and its Gestapo-like “zero tolerance” policy on unauthorized border crossings.

Well... yes and no, but mostly no.

My reason is that I have first called Trump a neofascist and a madman in the beginning of 2016, and that was after seeing Trump on video (I tend to dislike videos and am not an American) and after reading (as a psychologist) the definition of narcissism, and agreeing that, given that definition, which has nine observational characteristics of a narcissist, that Trump had 9 out of 9 of these characteristics, it followed that I should say, as a psychologist, that he is a narcissist.

Then again, this does not settle anything about Trump's neofascism. I settle this by quoting - once again - my definition of "neofascism":

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

I observe this offers 10 criterions to recognize neofascists by, and I insist that Trump satisfies 10 out of 10 of my criterions (which are founded here, where I considered no less than 21 definitions of "fascism": On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions).

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

Because of the gravity of the issue, debates about Trump’s fascism invariably devolve into heated emotional affairs, cleaved along racial and politically tribal lines. You’re either a patriot and support Trump’s promise to “make America great again” or you’re the opposite for failing to condemn him.

It may be impossible to set emotions aside entirely, but it’s not impossible to arrive at the truth, or at least to search for it through honest discourse.
      (..)
Any rational discussion has to begin with a definition, and when it comes to fascism, there are many to examine. Among the most instructive is the one proffered by political scientist Robert Paxton in his classic study “The Anatomy of Fascism” (Harvard University Press, 2004):

“Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

I say. I am sorry, but I find this childish and I do so not at all because of the emotional "gravity of the issue" (where one is classified as either a Trumpist or as not an American patriot), but because I know a fair amount about fascism:

My grandfather was murdered by the Nazis, for resisting them; my father spent over 3 years and 9 months as a "political terrorist" in four German concentration camps; my mother was in the resistance but never arrested; and I am also a philosopher and a psychologist.

But none of that knowledge is ever met by any journalist I've read about "fascism" since 2015, which are quite a lot.

I suppose I must be deeply appreciative that Bill Blum did read one definition of "fascism", which he quotes - but here is my comment on Paxton's definition from my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions

Robert Paxton is a political scientist and a historian, and since I got my degree as a psychologist (after having been removed from the right of taking a degree in philosophy, briefly before taking my M.A. in that subject) I can assure him this has too much psychology in it, and too little sociology, economics, and politics. I don't think this is adequate.

Why do journalists keep writing about "fascism" when they have not even clear ideas about the meaning of the term ?!?!??!


4. Tim Geithner Now Runs Predatory Firm That Exploits the Poor for Profit

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
After a lengthy government career defined by his central role in bailing out predatory Wall Street banks as former President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner appears to have found his true calling in the private sector, where he now heads a large financial institution that exploits the economic struggles of poor Americans for profit.
I could not resist the information this article offers about Timothy Geithner, because he is - next to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - one of the three economists who are most responsible for the present "neoliberal" destruction of the economy and the government, and its replacement by what are in fact neofascist rules: Larry Summer, Robert Rubin, Timothy Geithner.

So I am not at all amazed that Geithner is still bleeding the poor to make the very rich even richer than they are:
As president of Warburg Pincus—a major New York private equity firm—Geithner helps manage a lucrative predatory lending outfit called Mariner Finance, which mass-mails loan checks to low-income Americans, hides exorbitant interest rates in the fine print, and quickly sues those who fail to repay the loan and interest in time, according to a detailed Washington Post report published late Sunday.

"It's basically a way of monetizing poor people," John Lafferty, who worked as a manager trainee at a Mariner Finance branch in Nashville, told the Post. "Maybe at the beginning, people thought these loans could help people pay their electric bill. But it has become a cash cow."

As I said: I am not amazed at all. Here is some more on how Geithner ever gets richer preying on the poorest of the poor:

Part of the burgeoning "consumer installment" industry—which consists of firms that offer slightly larger loans than payday lenders—Mariner Finance has hundreds of thousands of customers who, often in desparation, use the loans to cover soaring medical costs, home repairs, and other urgent expenses.

Given that in our "new gilded age" 40 percent of Americans can't afford a $400 emergency payment, the market for predatory lenders like Mariner Finance is vast and growing.

"This industry is a pipeline to transfer money from the poor to the ultra-rich," Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org, wrote in response to the Post's report on Sunday. "Obama's treasury secretary Tim Geithner is president of one of the private equity firms making a killing from it. Your economy, rigged to redistribute wealth to the top."

I could not resist this: Geithner is still preying on the poorest of the poor.


5. More Evidence That Half of Americans Are In or Near Poverty

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. This is from near the beginning:
The U.S. poverty rate in 2016 was between 12.7 and 14.0 percent. But the poverty threshold is based on an outmoded formula from the 1960s. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the threshold should be THREE TIMES HIGHER today. And it could be even higher if the true nature of poverty is considered.

Poverty is Not Just a Dollar Figure 

There is poverty in the diminishing quality of life for Americans who are unable to pay for medical treatment during years of declining health, and instead turn to life-threatening opioid painkillers, readily available in a nation with less than 5 percent of the world's population and 30 percent of the world's opioid consumption. Poverty is the lack of community support in a winner-take-all society; the stress of overwhelming debt; the steady decline of jobs that pay enough to support a family; the inability to afford a move to a desired neighborhood; the deadening impact of inequality on physical and mental well-being. The United Nations describes America as a nation near the bottom of the developed world in safety net support and economic mobility, with the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world, the world’s highest incarceration rate, and the highest obesity levels.
I think that is correct, and especially the last statement. Here is more:
Wealth is Almost Nonexistent for the Bottom 50% 

Census data in 2011 showed that nearly half of Americans were in poverty or considered low-income. Since then average wealth for the poorest 50% has plummeted 27.5 percent, and average wealth for the poorest 40% is virtually ZERO. The median American household has less wealth in current dollars than it did 35 years ago (Table 1). 

The Poorest 50% Are Barely Sustained by Their Incomes 

According to CareerBuilder, 3 out of 4 American workers are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to meet any major expense in health care or home and auto repairs. Charles Schwab says 3 out of 5 Americans live paycheck to paycheck. That's 60 to 75 percent of us.
I say and I want to point something out that is pro Dutch, although I am not pro Dutch at all, although I am a Dutchman:

I am 68 at present, and have at no time in my life received as much as the social minimum in Holland. For 68 years, or at least for 51 years, I have been poorer than the poorest Dutchmen (also with my pension: it is less than the least allowable one, because I lived 2 years in Norway).

This is not wholly due to the Dutch iniquities, for until 1979 I indeed worked as little as possible in order to study as much as possible, but in the beginning of 1979 both my ex and I fell ill as students (on loans) and since then I have received systematically less than the lowest income for those who were without work (as I was classified for 31 years, for my - "serious, chronic" - disease was absolutely never allowed, at least until 2018).

Even so, I seem to be a lot better of than "
60 to 75 percent" of the Americans, and the reason is simply that even though I get less than almost anyone (and less than anyone as old as I am, unless they have been in prison for quite a few years), I get more than most of the working poor in the USA.

Back to the article:
So Who Gets the Government Benefits? 

Deniers argue that few American families are really poor, because they benefit from low-income government programs. But Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman have calculated that, on average in 2014, the 40% of American adults with incomes just below the top 10% -- the middle class -- received more in safety net government transfers (Medicare, Medicaid, tax credits, food stamps/SNAP, Veterans’ benefits, etc.) than the bottom 50% of Americans (Figure 11). 

When Social Security is included, the richest 10% on average received approximately as much in government transfers as the poorest 50%
I say and I also believe Buchheit. There is considerably more in this article, that is strongly recommended.

Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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