July 13, 2018

Crisis: A Judicial Coup, Rich Ex-Obama Officials, The New Deal, Wall Street, On The BBC


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 13, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, July 13, 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 13, 2018:
1. A Judicial Coup, the Carceral State, and the War Against Us All
2. Obama Officials Are Living Large in Trump’s America
3. Five Ways the Trump Administration Could Be the Death of FDR’s New

4. Wall Street Has Cost Taxpayers $600 Billion Over Last Decade
5. How the BBC Lost the Plot on Brexit
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. A Judicial Coup, the Carceral State, and the War Against Us All

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. As usual, it is too long to be fully treated or fully excerpted, and I treat only one of its subjects, but I keep the introduction:
Donald Trump is poised to make another lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It is a grave injustice and is tantamount to a coup within the judicial branch of the U.S. government. This week on Intercepted: Jeremy Scahill makes the case for an inside-outside strategy for resisting Trump. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, 33, is running for governor of Michigan on a campaign of creating a single-payer health care system, raising the minimum wage to $15, legalizing marijuana, and a sweeping overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system. He discusses his campaign, his views on the Democratic Party, the Flint water catastrophe, and why he believes he can accomplish his agenda despite the powerful right-wing forces in Michigan politics, including the DeVos and Prince families. As the internment of immigrant families continues, we revisit Scahill’s 2017 conversation with educator and organizer Mariame Kaba. She retraces the evolution of the U.S. prison system, from convict leasing to three-strikes law, and the devastating generational impact these policies have disproportionately had on black and brown communities. Filmmaker Michelle Latimer discusses her new documentary “Nuuca,” a nuanced exploration of the brutal transformation that oil extraction brought to one North Dakotan community. The film follows three young indigenous women who struggle with an influx of men and rising rates of sexual abuse, rape, and kidnappings.
As I said, the above is a full list of topics, but I shall treat only one of them (and ¨DJT¨ abbreviates Trump):
DJT: Now, for the first time since Roe v. Wade, America has a pro-life president, a pro-life vice president, a pro-life House of Representatives and 25 pro-life Republican state capitals. That is pretty good.

JS: There has been a war on women in this country, well, from the beginning but what we’re witnessing now with the emerging composition of the highest offices in the judicial branch of the United States government is disgraceful, criminal, it’s anti-human and we need a fierce front of actual resistance.

Anything less than the Democrats in Congress shutting this down, shutting it all down, and confronting this as the emergency that it is, is unacceptable. This president, Donald Trump, could, and probably should, be indicted. The idea that he is going to be permitted to make a lifetime appointment — two of them, in fact — is a grave injustice and it’s tantamount to a coup d’état within the judicial branch of the United States government.

I agree with most of that, but I should add (as I have explained before) that I never understood the need for judges of the Supreme Court to be nominated for life, especially not in a country where the president is allowed (correctly) to be president only for maximally eight years.

But given that fact, indeed Trump is seeking to recreate justice in the USA, on its highest level, in Trump´s image, and not just for four or eight years, but for the next 30 or 40 years.

Here is more Jeremy Scahill:

JS: (..) And let’s be clear: This court, if it is allowed to be constituted, will be medieval. This is going to be Handmaid’s Tale-level of stripping of women’s rights. And one of the ways we got here is because of the absolutely pathetic state of the Democratic Party. They blew the 2016 Election; they blew it against Donald Trump. This wasn’t Jill Stein, this wasn’t Susan Sarandon, this wasn’t Bernie Sanders — elite corporate institutional leadership of the Democratic Party bears responsibility for this. We’re at a crossroads in this nation. The two-party system should have been dismantled long ago, but it is what it is, and I’m not a believer in electoral politics as the driving force for change in our society. But given where we’re at, the best that we can do on that front is to fight to stop a total catastrophic disaster from getting even worse.
We need fighters not beholden to corporations. We need political leaders who don’t kowtow to some fake bullshit notion that we have a purple electorate. This is war. And both parties have leaders who need to go — obviously for different reasons, but they need to go. The GOP has fully embraced a fascist, right-wing Christian, Creationist, Dominionist ideology, theology and they’re moving fast to implement it. We need an inside-outside strategy. We need to be uncompromising. We need to reject any candidates who don’t get that we are in a war.

We’ve seen truly progressive candidates challenging the institutional Democratic Party and we’re seeing those elite Democrats panic and fight dirty and try to ignore candidates and try to cajole them into not running and try to blackmail them, trying to stop the tide of history. In this war, we’re going to win some and we’re going to lose some, particularly in that electoral arena, an arena that, as of now, the elite corporatists still dominate. It’s a worthy fight. But it can’t be the only fight. Indeed, it’s not the only fight. Our conscience cannot be ceded to elected politicians no matter who they are.

I completely agree with Scahill, and I do not think the fight will be easy at all. There is a lot more in the present article, that is strongly recommended.
2. Obama Officials Are Living Large in Trump’s America

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Since departing the White House in January 2017, Barack Obama has kept a conspicuously low profile, surfacing briefly to condemn the Trump administration’s violation of the Iran nuclear deal and offer a few, inadequate words about its child separation policy. During that time, he has grown fabulously wealthy, inking a $65 million book contract and a Netflix television deal and delivering speeches to Wall Street firms for several hundred thousand dollars a pop.

But the former president is hardly the only member of his administration to cash in on his time in office. As HuffPost’s Zach Carter and Paul Blumenthal report, numerous Obama officials are “riding out” President Trump’s term by enriching themselves through consulting and lobbying deals, many at “scandal-fraught” organizations.

I totally agree with Sugarman, and like to add that the same held for the Clintons after Bill ceased to be presidency: It seems these noble Democrats gathered a mere $120 million dollars from speeches to Wall Street bankers and selling their autobiography.

And in fact, this seems to have become the fashion under Obama: Once you have been elected a representative, you can stop caring for those who voted you in, for now you can get rich withing four to eight years by getting paid by the lobbyists for your decisions.

Here is one of Obama´s front men:

One such official is former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. When he’s not denouncing child detention camps as “immoral and un-American” while simultaneously dismissing calls to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as “about as serious as the claim that Mexico is ‘gonna pay for the wall,’ ” Johnson serves on the board of directors at Lockheed Martin—the country’s biggest weapons manufacturer and a corporation that has incurred $767 million in fines for assorted misconduct since its formation in 1995. While Johnson’s precise level of involvement at the defense contractor is uncertain, HuffPost reveals that as a Lockheed Martin director he earned as much as $290,000 last year.

And here is another one:

Melody Barnes, previously Obama’s Domestic Policy Council director, has rebuked the Trump administration for showing “virtually no respect for constitutional principles, or often, basic human decency.” But she too works for a defense contractor, Booz Hamilton, investigated for criminal wrongdoing, in this case by the Department of Justice for alleged accounting irregularities. HuffPost reports that the company has received as much as $63 million in contracts from ICE, the government agency that has made headlines for allegedly denying essential care to pregnant women in its custody and for employing agents who have told asylum seekers, “Don’t you know that we hate you people?,” among countless other offenses.

There is also Timothy Geithner, for whom I refer you to the article. This is from the article´s ending:

“Elite Washington is comfortable with what it calls ‘the revolving door’―the movement of government officials into lobbying, contracting or consulting jobs where they can exploit government connections for profit,” conclude HuffPost’s Carter and Blumenthal. “But much of what passes for normal in Washington is considered grotesque in the rest of the country.
As I said, the three main points seem to be these: (i) once you are elected, as a Democrat or as a Republican, you can forget about those who voted for you, and (ii) you can dedicate yourself to getting personally a lot richer than you were, namely (iii) by following the paid leads of your lobbyists. And this seems the normal policy at the moment, with only a few exceptions.

And this is a recommended article.
3. Five Ways the Trump Administration Could Be the Death of FDR’s New Deal

This article is by Alex Henderson on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
When Newt Gingrich addressed a Heritage Foundation gathering in December 2016—the month before Barack Obama’s presidency ended and Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States—the former speaker of the House of Representatives and author of the Contract with America (more accurately described as the Contract on America) was feeling very optimistic. Gingrich was confident that Trump, as president, would put the nail in the coffin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and its 1960s sequel, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. And so far, Gingrich has not been disappointed. Between a hard-right presidential administration, a Republican-dominated Congress and an increasingly right-wing Supreme Court, the New Deal and Great Society aren’t dead yet but are definitely on life support.
Yes indeed. And here is a sum-up of the five contributions to the possibility of some welfare for all that the New Deal Made (between 1932 and 1945!), that are now all in the process of being destroyed by the Republicans - and I deleted the texts of the first four points, which you can read if you want to by going to the original:
Here are five areas in which the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress could be the death of the New Deal and the Great Society—or at least continue to inflict severe wounds on them.

1. Health Care (..)
2. Unions (..)
3. Food Stamps (..)
4. The Minimum Wage (..)
5. Social Security

During his 2016 campaign, Trump criticized other GOP presidential candidates for wanting to butcher Social Security—one of the New Deal’s greatest achievements—as well as Medicare and Medicaid, two of LBJ’s Greatest Achievements. But in fact, draconian cuts to those programs have been part of the Trump administration’s agenda as well as the agenda of Republicans in Congress. And Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, has warned that if Republicans maintain control of the Senate and House of Representatives after the November midterms, proposals to privatize Social Security—an incredibly bad idea—could very well be on the table.
Yes indeed. There is considerably more in the original, that is strongly recommended.

4. Wall Street Has Cost Taxpayers $600 Billion Over Last Decade

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
In a frenzied bid for higher profits in the decade following the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street pension fund managers have siphoned as much as $624 billion from Americans' retirement savings—and, as a direct result, taxpayer coffers—through a vicious combination of high fees and foolish investment strategies, according to an analysis published Thursday by Yahoo Finance.

The steepest costs to taxpayers have stemmed from Wall Street pension managers' commitment to so-called alternative funds, which invest in private equity and hedge funds rather than traditional stocks and bonds.

"The total amount pension funds could have saved by simply investing in index funds could be more than $1 trillion," notes Yahoo Finance reporter Dion Rabouin. "Because pensions are guaranteed, the underperformance has hit taxpayers in the form of budget cuts for schools, hospitals, and libraries and decreased spending on infrastructure, healthcare, and other public projects."

I think this is probably quite correct. And here is a bit more:

The Intercept's Briahna Joy Gray concluded on Thursday that Wall Street's continued abuse of public pensions in an effort to boost profits is a clear demonstration that "obscene wealth doesn't come out of the blue, but that it's a direct consequence of exploitation."

Precisely. And the general mechanism seems to be this: Anything the many non-rich (90% of the American population) cannot somehow secure for itself, will be sluiced away towards the richest 10% (to 1% or less) by the many elected helpers of the rich, who betrayed the interests of those who voted for them, in order to get a lot richer themselves. And this is a recommended article.
5. How the BBC Lost the Plot on Brexit

This article is by Nick Cohen on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:
Late last year, BBC executives had the nerve to erect a bronze statue of George Orwell outside its headquarters in central London. The sculptor caught Orwell’s spikiness. He stands one hand on hip, the other pointing forward with a cigarette between his fingers, as if caught in mid-argument. Carved into the wall behind him is the journalistic motto that Orwell and the BBC wanted us to learn: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
If you only know the BBC from its slots on NPR, I doubt you will have grasped the extent of its journalistic cowardice in covering the 2016 referendum that decided to take Britain out of the European Union, and its aftermath.
I say, for I did not know that the BBC had designed a statue for George Orwell. Then again, from Orwell´s own writing “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” it follows logically that according to the BBC, ¨liberty¨ means nothing at all:

“The referendum is over,” declared another Today presenter, Nick Robinson. “The day we broadcasters have to ‘broadly balance’ the views of the two sides is at an end. Why? Because there are no longer two sides.” Real journalists should be able to see that everything is wrong with his statement. If Brexit were over, Britain would not be in a rolling crisis with no end in sight. As pertinently, journalists should never assume a subject has become off-limits, because that is what the enemies of free expression demand.

Much of contemporary politics resembles the brainwashing techniques of religious sects, which discredit sources of information that might contradict the cult’s teachings
My reason for the above is - i.a. - Nick Robinson´s utter lie that there is at present in Great Britain just one (valid) point ot view, which also implies that the BBC is in fact falsifying both the views of the Tories and the rich, and of Labour, the rest of the British left, and all the poor, indeed as if the rich (a small minority) has effectively won, and all criticism is immoral.

Here is some more on the political tactics of the present-day BBC:
The political cult leader does not merely claim his opponents are as bad as he is or that reporters are motivated by their opposition to him (which is true more often than not). He tells his followers that no honest person would have covered the story in the first place. Its truth and relevance are immaterial; it has no right to exist.

A reporter who accepts that argument has given up on journalism. The BBC has accepted it because of its unique position in British and, indeed, world journalism. The corporation is funded by a tax that requires every household to pay it about £150 ($200) a year.  

In fact, I take it there are more reasons than the given ones. Here is the last bit that I quote from Cohen´s article:

In the preface to Animal Farm, George Orwell provided a line that today would be apt for the walls of the BBC headquarters: “Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban.”
No one should praise journalists who speak out when, and only when, they are certain that public opinion is with them. Not just journalists, but anyone engaged in political life should learn from the BBC’s abject performance. Whether you are on the left or the right, there will be times when you will be frightened of saying what you believe for fear of offending your friends, breaking a taboo or going against the ephemeral consensus of the day. Allow that fear to dominate you and you will end up like the BBC: platitudinous, frightened, and irrelevant.

This may well be right, and the only reason I am not more definite is that I have hardly seen anything from the BBC in the last 40 years. I did regularly listen to the BBC, which also were decent programs (compared to the Dutch ones, and most others) but then the BBC disappeared from the air around 2008, and got replaced by an internet-system that is so fucking complicated that I never got it to work.

I felt sorry for that, but if Nick Cohen is right, I need not have done so, for the BBC these days seems to offer as ¨news¨ only what it knows the majority will accept, and few other things. 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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