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Nederlog

August 13, 2018

Crisis: US Democracy, Two US Parties, New Serfdom, Climate Change, Republican Powers


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 13, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 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 August 13, 2018:
1. The Biggest Threat to Our Democracy (You Haven’t Heard Of)
2. So, How’s That Major-Party Election Madness Working for Us?
3. The 'Gig Economy' Is the New Term for Serfdom
4. Climate Change Is the Inevitable Consequence of Capitalist Privatization
5. Hail to the Chief
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 Biggest Threat to Our Democracy (You Haven’t Heard Of

This article is by Robert Reich on Truthdig and originally on his site (+ video). It starts as follows:

The biggest threat to our democracy that nobody is talking about is the real possibility of a rogue constitutional convention—empowering extremists to radically reshape the Constitution, our laws and our country.

If just a few more states sign on to what’s called an “Article V convention” for a balanced budget amendment, there’s no limit to the damage they might do.

In fact, I have been talking about this possibility. I did so because I was stimulated to do so by The Young Turks, who had, and probably still have, the same theory as Reich has. Also, this is several years ago. (I very probably can find it, and so can you, but it is on the moment too much trouble for me.)

Anyway... there are some more who have similar ideas as Reich has. Here is some more by him:

Let me explain.

There are two ways to amend the United States Constitution: One way—the way we’ve passed every amendment since the Bill of Rights—is for two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to vote for a proposed amendment, and then have it ratified by at least three quarters of the states—now 38 in number.

But there’s a second way to amend the Constitution. Two-thirds of the states may demand that Congress form a constitutional convention to propose amendments.

Once such a constitutional convention is convened, there are no rules to limit or constrain what comes next.

Yes indeed. You might think that such a constitutional convention is unlikely or impossible to happen. Not so at all:

A balanced budget amendment would be crazy enough. But nothing would be safe. A woman’s right to choose. Marriage equality. First Amendment protections for free speech and a free press. Equal protection of the laws. Checks and balances.

An Article V convention would allow delegates to write their own agenda into our Constitution.

Already 28 states have called for a constitutional convention. They only need six more to succeed in reaching the two-thirds requirement.

Precisely. So this is another way by which the present Republicans could change absolutely everything about the USA. I think Reich´s warning is quite correct, and this is a recommended article.


2. So, How’s That Major-Party Election Madness Working for Us?

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The United States is full of personally decent and caring, often highly intelligent people mired in political ignorance and delusion.

A smart and liberally inclined family doctor I know recently expressed concern over her high-income husband’s support for the malignant narcissist and pathological liar currently occupying the White House. “I can understand him being a Republican,” the doctor says, “but I just don’t get him backing Donald Trump.”

The problem here—what the doctor doesn’t get—is that Trump’s malicious persona and politics are darkly consistent with the white-supremacist and arch-reactionary heart and dog-whistling racism of the Republican Party going back five decades. It was just a matter of time until something like Trump happened: a Republican candidate who really meant the racism. Along the way, the Republican Party has become what Noam Chomsky credibly calls “the most dangerous organization in human history” because of its total disregard for livable ecology and its dedication to destruction and dismantlement of any institutions in place to address global warming. The Greenhouse Gassing to Death of Life on Earth is a crime that promises to make even the Nazi Party look like a small-time crime syndicate.

Well... I more or less agree with this, except for the first paragraph:

I do not believe there are more than a very few Americans who are both ¨personally decent and caring¨ and are ¨mired in political ignorance and delusion¨ and are ¨highly intelligent¨.

My reason is that I think that the above combination of three characteristicts of persons is virtually impossible: At least one of these three characteristics has to go if the other two are to have any plausibility.

And I find it impossible to believe that people who share the first two characteristics - and read the papers - also share the last characteristic.

Here is more by Street:

A smart and funny retired mental health professional I know is a proud liberal Democrat. She cites reports and stories showing that Trump is a bully, an authoritarian, a cheater, a parasite and a liar, among other terrible things. She gets it that both Trump and the Republican Party are supremely dangerous enemies of the people.

But she, too, is mired in delusions—mistakes and hallucinations common on the other side of America’s tribal and binary major-party partisan divide. For all her savviness and smarts, she can’t or won’t process the simple fact that the dismal, dollar-drenched Democratic Party put Trump in the White House and handed Congress and most of the nation’s state governments over to Trump and the Republican Party by functioning as a corporate-captive Inauthentic Opposition Party that refuses to fight for working people, the poor, minorities and the causes of peace, social justice and environmental sanity.

Tell her that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were “Wall Street presidents” (an easily and widely documented assertion) and she screws her face up. She doesn’t want to hear it. She wants to believe something that stopped being even remotely true at least four decades ago: that the Democratic Party is the party of the people.

Again I more or less believe this, apart from the first paragraph: First, ¨mental health professionals¨ are hard for me to take seriously, and that for two reasons:

I am ill with a ¨serious chronic disease¨ since January 1, 1979, but am only ¨allowed¨ to say so since March 2018 (in Holland, where I unfortunately have to live). Until then, at least 9 out of every 10 Dutch medics insisted that my ex (who has the same disease since January 10, 1979, when we were in our first year of studying in the university) and I are not ill (for almost forty successive years) but we were insane, mad, hallucinating or deceiving the medics we met, although I grant this was usually brought to us as ¨You are psychosomatizers¨ - which is not even a medical judgement (for real medicine only allows a soma and not also a psyche aka soul).

Besides, for psychiatrists, which I suspect Street´s ¨retired mental health professional¨ the probabilities that my ex and I were judged insane - which made for me for 27 years of problems with the dole - are more like 999 to 1 or 9999 to 1 that we were not sane.

Here is more on this supposedly smart and funny ¨retired mental health professional¨:

She blames Trump’s presence in the White House on … you guessed it, Russia. Like millions of other MSDNC (sorry, I meant MSNBC) and Rachel Maddow devotees, she has let the obsessive CNN-MSNBC Russia-Trump narrative take over her understanding of current events. The “Russiagate” story has trumped her concern with other things that one might think matter a great deal to self-described liberals: racial oppression, sexism, poverty, low wages, plutocracy and—last but not least—livable ecology.

I am sorry, but either I am smart (and I got an M.A. with only straight A´s, a B.A. with only straight A´s, and have a very high IQ) or else this ¨retired mental health professional¨ is, but not both, that is, on the assumption that she read the papers the last forty years.

Then there is this:

But I know plenty of Americans well to her left—people who know very well that Obama and the Clintons and Nancy Pelosi are neoliberal corporate and Wall Street politicos and tools—who cling to their own major-party electoral-political delusions. With Sen. Bernie Sanders as their standard-bearer, they are all about boring from within an organization that Kevin P. Phillips once called “history’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party.” Their fallacy is that left progressives can steal the Democratic Party out from under its corporate and imperial masters, turn it to decent and social-democratic purposes and democratically transform America in proper accord with majority-progressive U.S. opinion.

I more or less agree with this, and the problem here is that there are only two American parties that get sufficient funding to compete and - sometimes - be successful. This is a very great pity, but it is a fact.

This is the ending of this article:

The biggest political delusion of all is in the U.S. electoral politics itself—the “Election Madness” that tells us that (in the sardonic words of the late radical historian Howard Zinn) “the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the [small number of ] mediocrities who have already been chosen for us.” Real progressive change requires popular organization and great social movements beneath and beyond the empty promises of the nation’s ruthlessly time-staggered major-party, major-media, big-money-candidate- centered ballot box extravaganzas (please see Chomsky’s classic 2004 essay on “The Disconnect in U.S. Democracy”). The people’s movements we desperately need to form—perhaps it is my delusion that rank-and-file citizens can and will ever do so—should include in their list of demands the creation of a party and elections system that deserves passionate citizen engagement. The oligarchic system (beyond mere plutocracy) now in place in the U.S. is worthy of no such thing.

Well... I think the real problem is that both the Republicans and the Democrats have been corrupted by the rich (and their lobbyists), while only either the Republicans or the Democrats have the money to win important elections.

Street sees the problem (and I agree with him on this) and wants ¨
the creation of a party and elections system that deserves passionate citizen engagement¨. The problem I see with that - while I despise the Republicans and dislike the Democrats, indeed for the same reason: Both are bought by the rich - is that I see at the moment no money to create such a party.

This is a recommended article, but it offers little hope, and is much too optimistic about supposedly intelligent people who nevertheless believe obvious bullshit.

3. The 'Gig Economy' Is the New Term for Serfdom

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. In fact, this was first publish on March 25, 2018, and is repeated today. Since I reviewed it on March 26, and like the article, I simply repeat my review.

It starts as follows:

A 65-year-old New York City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, hanged himself in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him to make a living. It was the fourth suicide by a cab driver in New York in the last four months, including one Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.

“Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families,” wrote Schifter, “they squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” He said he had been working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.

I say. And working "120 hours a week" = three times as much work as is legally permitted (apart from special circumstances) in Holland, to the best of my information.

Here is more, that generalizes the above specific facts:

Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. Uber drivers make about $13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this falls to $8.77. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber and one of the founders, has a net worth of $4.8 billion.

Yes, I believe that indeed "establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations" is a major end of the very many deregulations that started under Reagan and that were continued (for payment) by Bill Clinton, who currently seems to own $140 million (together with Hillary).

Then there is this:

The reign of the all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance. The job conditions of working men and women, thrust backward, will not improve until they regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists.

I mostly agree, though this is in fact a quite pessimistic assessment: Until [the poor] will "regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists", they will not be helped, neither by the rich nor by their own government which is controlled by the rich.

Here is more:

The ruling capitalists will be as vicious as they were in the past. Nothing enrages the rich more than having to part with a fraction of their obscene wealth. Consumed by greed, rendered numb to human suffering by a life of hedonism and extravagance, devoid of empathy, incapable of self-criticism or self-sacrifice, surrounded by sycophants and leeches who cater to their wishes, appetites and demands, able to use their wealth to ignore the law and destroy critics and opponents, they are among the most repugnant of the human species. Don’t be fooled by the elites’ skillful public relations campaigns—we are watching Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $64.1 billion, mount a massive propaganda effort against charges that he and Facebook are focused on exploiting and selling our personal information—or by the fawning news celebrities on corporate media who act as courtiers and apologists for the oligarchs. These people are the enemy.

I mostly agree again. And if you believe Zuckerberg you should know what, in Zuckerberg's own words, you are "dumb fucks, who trust" Zuckerberg. I am neither a dumb fuck nor do I trust Zuckerberg, but I grant he deceived over 2 billion "dumb fucks".

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

The corporate architects of the new economy have no intention of halting the assault. They intend to turn everyone into temp workers trapped in demeaning, low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs without job security or benefits, a reality they plaster over by inventing hip terms like “the gig economy”.

I agree. Unfortunately, Hedges did not much to explain "the gig economy" so I included a - somewhat ambivalent - bit by BBC News. And I agree with Hedges that "the gig economy" looks most like an attempt by the very few extremely rich - Zuckerberg, Bezos, Trump - to return to extremely exploitative conditions of the 1870ies in England ("low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs without job security or benefits").

And this is a recommended article. This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

A 65-year-old New York City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, hanged himself in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him to make a living. It was the fourth suicide by a cab driver in New York in the last four months, including one Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.

“Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families,” wrote Schifter, “they squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” He said he had been working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.

I say. And working "120 hours a week" = three times as much work as is legally permitted (apart from special circumstances) in Holland, to the best of my information.

Here is more, that generalizes the above specific facts:

Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. Uber drivers make about $13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this falls to $8.77. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber and one of the founders, has a net worth of $4.8 billion.

Yes, I believe that indeed "establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations" is a major end of the very many deregulations that started under Reagan and that were continued (for payment) by Bill Clinton, who currently seems to own $140 million (together with Hillary).

Then there is this:

The reign of the all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance. The job conditions of working men and women, thrust backward, will not improve until they regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists.

I mostly agree, though this is in fact a quite pessimistic assessment: Until [the poor] will "regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists", they will not be helped, neither by the rich nor by their own government which is controlled by the rich.

Here is more:

The ruling capitalists will be as vicious as they were in the past. Nothing enrages the rich more than having to part with a fraction of their obscene wealth. Consumed by greed, rendered numb to human suffering by a life of hedonism and extravagance, devoid of empathy, incapable of self-criticism or self-sacrifice, surrounded by sycophants and leeches who cater to their wishes, appetites and demands, able to use their wealth to ignore the law and destroy critics and opponents, they are among the most repugnant of the human species. Don’t be fooled by the elites’ skillful public relations campaigns—we are watching Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $64.1 billion, mount a massive propaganda effort against charges that he and Facebook are focused on exploiting and selling our personal information—or by the fawning news celebrities on corporate media who act as courtiers and apologists for the oligarchs. These people are the enemy.

I mostly agree again. And if you believe Zuckerberg you should know what, in Zuckerberg's own words, you are "dumb fucks, who trust" Zuckerberg. I am neither a dumb fuck nor do I trust Zuckerberg, but I grant he deceived over 2 billion "dumb fucks".

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

The corporate architects of the new economy have no intention of halting the assault. They intend to turn everyone into temp workers trapped in demeaning, low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs without job security or benefits, a reality they plaster over by inventing hip terms like “the gig economy”.

I agree. Unfortunately, Hedges did not much to explain "the gig economy" so I included a - somewhat ambivalent - bit by BBC News. And I agree with Hedges that "the gig economy" looks most like an attempt by the very few extremely rich - Zuckerberg, Bezos, Trump - to return to extremely exploitative conditions of the 1870ies in England ("low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs without job security or benefits").

And this is a recommended article.


4. Climate Change Is the Inevitable Consequence of Capitalist Privatization

This article is by Nathaniel Matthews-Trig on Commom Dreams. It starts as follows:

The notion of the commons refers to shared land, publicly available for all people to access for leisure and when times get tough, for survival. Publicly shared lands have existed since humans first walked the earth but have progressively been enclosed for individual sustenance or for profit. The most profound period of enclosures came with the introduction of European capitalism, and mass displacement of agricultural people to toil in industrial factories.

Throughout European and U.S. colonialism, the genocide, enslavement, and displacement of indigenous people from their lands was “justified” via the pseudo-science concept of Social Darwinism—the notion that humans inherently compete for resources and the most violent and coercive are rightfully in charge. Similarly, the pseudo-science tragedy of the commons was created to justify the privatization of public lands. This “tragedy” was based on the premise that shared resources will inherently be exploited and destroyed by the unruly public.
I only partially agree with the above. First, there were considerable problems about the commons around 1650, nearly 200 years before the rise of industrial capitalism: See the Diggers (of the 17th Century).

And second, while I agree Social Darwinism is pseudoscientific, I would not call ¨
the premise that shared resources will inherently be exploited and destroyed by the unruly public¨ a scientific or indeed a pseudoscientific premise at all: It simply is a prejudice of the rich that serves only the interests of the rich.

Then again, what Matthews-Trig is after is the following:

Our atmosphere, a publicly needed space containing many vital resources such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide—may seem to the untrained eye to be the tragedy of the commons playing out above our heads. But this is hardly the case, and one must only take their head out of the clouds and refocus on the social developments on-the-ground to see that climate change is really the tragedy of the enclosures, the inevitable consequence of capitalist privatization.

"Capitalism's grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology's imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status." —Murray Bookchin

I think this is a bit confused, although I agree that Murray Bookchin was probably correct when he wrote that ¨Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.¨

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The long-term consequences of a corporation’s actions are ignored by the corporation because short-term threats and successes are paramount. The moral implications of a corporation’s actions are ignored by the corporation because short-term threats and successes are everything.
Again this is formulated none too clearly, but I agree modern corporations run on profit, and profit tends to be a short-term affair exclusively. Then again, I think this article is too vague and imprecize to recommend.

5. Hail to the Chief

This article is by Michael Tomasky on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:
Soon, according to a June report in The Washington Post, the moment of truth will arrive. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the president, his administration, and his campaign, will deliver his verdict on whether Donald Trump obstructed justice.
    (..)
It seems inconceivable that Mueller will absolve the president in that first report. Trump has obstructed justice right in front of our noses, and more than once, either because he doesn’t know what obstruction of justice is or because he knows and doesn’t care.
Yes indeed. Here is more:
There is more along these lines. Arguably every single tweet the president writes about the investigation, attacking Mueller’s “13 Angry Democrats” and denouncing it as an invariably upper-cased Witch Hunt, is an attempt to obstruct justice; if you don’t think so, get yourself placed under federal investigation and try mimicking Trump’s Twitter habits and see what happens to you.

All of this doesn’t begin to detail what Mueller and his team have learned from interviews about what took place in private. It’s a reasonable bet, then, that Mueller will find that Trump and others around him—former press aide Hope Hicks, possibly his son Donald Jr., maybe Jared Kushner, other campaign associates and hangers-on—have lied or tried to quash or in some way compromise the investigation.

I suppose this is true as well. Here is more:

If that happens, what comes next? Three days before Trump’s inauguration, the neoconservative Bush administration official Eliot A. Cohen wrote that “this will be a slogging match until the end.” He felt confident, however, that “the institutions will contain him and the laws will restrain him if enough people care about both, and do not yield to fear of him and whatever leverage he tries to exert from his mighty office.”

Of those forty-five words of Cohen’s, the most important is “if.”
Yes indeed - and if we consider the “if” chances are no good for those who oppose Trump: The Republicans have the Senate; they have the House; they have the majority in the Supreme Court, and besides they have more money and more media on their side.

The question is: What are the chances that in these or similar conditions Mueller will be capable of starting an impeachment procedure against Trump?

Here is some background by Tomasky:
The Supreme Court, which will presumably soon have two Trump appointees, is far more political and less independent than the Supreme Court that in 1974 ordered Richard Nixon to hand over his tapes. Trump’s base, as long as he is deporting asylum-seekers and inveighing against knee-taking football players and fake news journalists, grows more and more besotted. And undergirding it all is the Fox News Channel, now a pure propaganda network, from which Republicans take their cues and get their talking points. What will they do when Mueller’s first allegations appear?
I´d say: It depends in part on what Mueller has, which very few people know at present, but even if his findings are quite important, there still is the problem that the Republicans have the Senate; have the House; have the majority in the Supreme Court, and besides have more money and more media on their side than the Democrats do.

Here is some background by Tomasky to the present Republicans:
This is the remarkable thing we have witnessed: the Republican Party has essentially ceased to be a political party in our normal understanding of the term and has instead become an instrument of one man’s will. Fifty years ago, the GOP was an amalgam of different factions that often disagreed among themselves—New England liberals, the heirs of the “Free Soil” moderates, prairie conservatives, Wall Street money people. Then in 1980, the new “movement conservatives” gained the upper hand. Incrementally, they took over. Incrementally, they moved ever more rightward, egged on by the new right-wing media.
I think that is mostly correct. Here is the ending of the article:
In 1974 no one had to worry seriously that the Supreme Court would issue a “political” decision on such a matter, and indeed the Court ruled 8–0 that Richard Nixon was not above the law (Nixon appointee William Rehnquist recused himself because he had worked in the administration, but Lewis Powell, Nixon’s other appointee, ruled with the majority). We can permit ourselves no such sanguinity now. The conservative movement is a few Supreme Court decisions away from having unlimited power, and one sees no Cincinnatus among them.
I agree and this is a recommended article.

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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