August 24, 2018

Crisis: Mainstream Media, Sanders vs. Bezos, Mueller & Cohen, Irresponsible GOP, 500 Children


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 24, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 24, 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 24, 2018:
1. Trump, Corporate Media Are Both Enemies of the People
2. Bernie Sanders Rallies Against 'Greed' of Billionaires Like Jeff Bezos
3. Why Won't Mueller Make a Deal with Michael Cohen?
4. Why Congressional Republicans Have Abdicated Their Responsibility
5. More Than 500 Children Are Still Separated. Here’s What Comes Next
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. Trump, Corporate Media Are Both Enemies of the People

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
CNN’s liberal and anti-Trump talk show host Erin Burnett was in crisis mode
last week. She was rolling her eyes, anxious for the fate of the republic. The cause of her angst? A Gallup poll showing that 57 percent of the nation’s Democrats now respond more favorably to the word “socialism” than they do to “capitalism”—this compared to 47 percent of Democrats who prefer “capitalism” over “socialism.”
I say - and I am glad (once again) that I don´t have a TV since 1970. Then again, I can´t say I am much impressed by the above news, and my reason is simple: I think it is rather improbable that more than a tiny minority of voters is capable of somewhat clearly defining what they mean by “capitalism” and “socialism”.

To be sure, I have no direct evidence for what I said just now, but I do have direct evidence that no American journalist (and journalists are not at all the same as Democrats) cannot properly define (at all!) widely used terms like ¨fascism¨; have no idea whatsoever what ¨neofascism¨ could mean; and indeed also - the journalists! - have themselves no idea of what ¨socialism¨ might mean.

Also, I add that the above findings are some of the result of over 5 years of continuous reporting on the crisis, for which I must have read at least 10,000 articles, and that I probably would not have believed them before these findings, on the simple grounds that (i) there are fairly clear definitions of these terms, and (ii) journalists should be able to find them.

But no: journalists don´t find them, which is very probably because they don´t look for them.

Here is more from this article:
Never mind that Sanders, who openly identifies as a socialist, was found in a Harvard-Harris poll last year to be “the most popular politician” (Newsweek ) in the U.S., or that a good majority of the Democratic Party’s base prefers “socialism” to “capitalism.”Never mind that the mildly leftish progressive Sanders would likely have defeated CNN’s bęte noire Donald Trump if the Vermont senator had been the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. Never mind that what the supposed “extreme left” candidates Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other “progressive” Democrats mean by “socialism” is a series of mildly leftish social-democratic and progressive neo-New Deal policies that have long had majority support, not just among Democrats but in the whole country.
Yes and no. Sanders may identify himself as ¨a socialist¨, and possibly might be one, but on my understanding of the meanings of various political terms he is mostly a social democrat - which is not the same as a socialist (if you have a somewhat clear mind).

Then again, I mostly agree with other qualifications in the above quoted paragraph, like ¨
the mildly leftish progressive Sanders¨ and ¨a series of mildly leftish social-democratic and progressive neo-New Deal policies¨.

Here is more:
Perhaps the most telling thing about Burnett and her guest’s response to the Gallup poll was their utter lack of curiosity about why the number of Democrats who prefer “socialism” to “capitalism” is now 10 points higher than the other way around. Might that have something to do with the profoundly inegalitarian, oligarchic, authoritarian and now clearly eco-exterminist performance of American and global capitalism as experienced by millions and millions of real people, especially the younger adults who embrace “socialism” to a far greater degree than their elders?
Possibly so, but as long as I have hardly any reasonable idea of what Democratic voters may have in mind when they use the word ¨socialism¨ - and I have not, and also suspect this varies widely - what I can see is at best a very vague and hardly defined increased emotional preference for what ¨socialism¨ might be (which itself, if considered rationally, is not an easy question to answer, and see here for a few more or less reasonable attempts to define ¨socialism¨: Crisis: On Socialism).

Here is some more on Trump:

Yes, Trump is a malignant racist, sexist, plutocrat and narcissist who is, in the words of former CIA Director John Brennan (more on him below), “drunk on power.” He’s a pathological liar, an arch-authoritarian, a consummate bully, a vicious dullard and a deadly agent of ecocide.

Trump is so narcissistic he couldn’t even mention the passing of the magnificent singer Aretha Franklin without trying to make the story about him by claiming
(falsely) to have known her “very well”  and that (as if the music legend had been his housekeeper) “she worked for me on numerous occasions.”

The sooner this loathsome and dangerous Bad Grandpa is yanked off the center-stage of history, the better.

I agree, but my own arguments (and I am a philosopher and a psychologist, also by academic degrees) against Trump are first and foremost that he is not sane and has a narcissistic personality disorder, which should totally disqualify him as a president, and second that he does have a political ideology, which is neofascism, which I strongly dislike.

But the first argument is by far the strongest for me (and ought also to appeal to Republicans, provided these are somewhat rational and honest, which unfortunately seems wrong in the great majority of Republican representatives).

Then there is this on the mainstream media (that Street prefers to call the corporate media):

Still, the wannabe dictator Trump is not completely wrong about that “enemy of the people” thing. The notion the United States possesses a great “free press” and “independent” media functioning as “the lifeblood of our democracy” what “democracy” exactly?)—a central theme in the coordinated editorials that appeared in opposition to Herr Trump’s repeated attacks on the media in 300 U.S. newspapers last Thursday—is one of the great national lies of our time.

The dominant U.S. commercial and corporate media are a means of mass consent-manufacturing indoctrination, diversion and dumbing down on behalf of the nation’s intertwined corporate, financial, imperial and professional-class “elites.”
Yes, I think that is mostly correct, and in case you doubt, there is this:
How could it be otherwise? Just six massive and global corporations—Comcast, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, the News Corporation and Disney—together control more than 90 percent of the nation’s television stations, radio stations, movies, newspapers and magazines. Corporate ownership combines with other deeply entrenched factors to guarantee the not-so-mainstream media’s dutiful service to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money, class and empire: the controlling power of corporate advertisers (the mass media’s main market, not the public); the disproportionate purchasing power of the affluent (the main target of advertisers); the elitist socialization, indoctrination and selection of journalists, and the dependence of media on government for information, access and monopoly power.
I agree to most of the last quoted paragraph. Here is the last bit that I´ll quote from this article:
The “mainstream media” work relentlessly to reduce their consumers to view issues from the point of the merely personal and private. It erases the social, historical and institutional. It inculcates the primitive level of consciousness where one can grasp something as childish as “Omarosa and Stormy Daniels were treated badly by Donald Trump” but nothing more complex beyond the individual scale than “America Good, Its ‘Enemies’ Bad”—and certainly nothing as involved and ideologically verboten as “the American Empire and military-industrial complex is invested in the murder of children in the Middle East.”
Yes, I think this is mostly correct, although I prefer to say that the mainstream media suppose most of their audiences are stupid and ignorant, and hardly do anything to make them less stupid or less ignorant (such as providing clear definitions of important terms).

And this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is also a lot more than I quoted.

2. Bernie Sanders Rallies Against 'Greed' of Billionaires Like Jeff Bezos

This article is by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In an email sent out Wednesday to supporters, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out members of the billionaire class for enriching themselves at others’ expense. In the same gesture, he called on Americans to push back against their exploitation of the power their economic positions afford them—and of the labor force that sustains it.

And Sanders named names. Specifically, the Vermont senator lashed out at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has recently made headlines about his skyrocketing executive compensation—in 10 seconds, Bezos makes more than the median annual salary for Amazon employees—as well as about Bezos’ comments about looking to space for new ways to spend his vast wealth.

Echoing themes picked up by other commentators, Sanders pointed out that there are many more necessary and obvious places where Bezos could channel his funds. “Instead of attempting to explore Mars or go to the moon,” Sanders wrote, “how about Jeff Bezos pays his workers a living wage?”

Yes indeed, I quite agree and indeed also think that Jeff Bezos is a quite horrible man, as is shown (among other things) by his refusal to pay living wages to his own workers.

Here is one reason why Bezos is now worth more than $100 billion: He steals from the many poor:

As “thousands of Amazon employees are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing because their wages are too low,” Sanders wrote, taxpayers are forced to pick up the bill. “I don’t believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because he pays his employees inadequate wages,” he said.

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

Though Bezos didn’t respond to the finer points (or any points, for that matter) of the legislator’s critique, Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer backed Sanders up:

The entire statement is a powerful indictment of wealth inequality and the exploitation of workers from one of our most respected political leaders. Most of us, myself included, underestimate the unprecedented concentration of power in a few hands in recent years.

Yes indeed. And there also is a full copy of Sanders´ petition in the article, which is very well worth reading, but is too long to quote here. This is a strongly recommended article.

3. Why Won't Mueller Make a Deal with Michael Cohen?

This article is by Mark Summer on AlterNet and originally on Daily Kos. It starts as follows:

Immediately after his home and office were raided, Michael Cohen began sending an SOS to Donald Trump so clear that it was visible from lunar orbit. But since Trump hasn’t yet determined how to pre-pardon anyone, there wasn’t much that Trump could do for his onetime attorney except throw hundreds of thousands into Cohen’s defense fund, start moaning that “Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past,” and continually attacking the validity of the investigation into Cohen’s actions.

But since it became clear that there was no help coming from that quarter, Cohen has been sounding whistles of increasingly ridiculous size that he’s willing, no eager, no happy! to cooperate with the special counsel. Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis couldn’t have been more clear on this point if he had worn a sandwich board to court. And it seems that Cohen does have something to sell.
Yes, this seems correct, but I am not a lawyer. In any case, it seems as if Cohen might continue to defend Trump, which may lead to decades of imprisonment for him, or else he might switch his allegiance to Mueller, and cooperate with him (and get a far lesser conviction).

Here is more:
There would seem to be two possibilities.

First, any deal with Cohen would be to collect information on Trump, and Trump, because of the paper-thin shield of DOJ policy, can’t be indicted. So the value of what Cohen could provide the investigation is limited to just lengthening the list of would-be charges attached to the final report that Mueller will eventually send to Congress. With all the information that’s already on that list, including information gleaned from Cohen’s own files, it simply may not be worth it.

The other big possibility is that Cohen doesn’t get a deal … because Cohen doesn’t deserve a deal. Because what Cohen may have done is so big that offering him a deal would be an insult to the whole process.
My own guess is the second possibility, but as I´ve said I am not a lawyer. And here is more on Cohen:

Cohen’s recordings of his conversations with Trump weren’t made to refresh Cohen’s memory. And he didn’t keep them around for years so he could brush up his notes. The reason Cohen has been recording Trump, and others, is because he’s considered using the information against them before.

After all, what better final act for a fixer than to fix the people who paid him to hide their secrets? Cohen might never have pulled the trigger on extorting Trump. Or he may have been keeping the information as a hedge against the day when Trump found a younger, sexier fixer. But he certainly kept his ammo carefully packed away.

In any case, it’s obvious that Cohen has been hanging onto information that he could use against Trump. Which makes the raid of his office probably the biggest load of information to land on the desks of Mueller’s team, and makes Cohen’s personal cooperation less than requisite.

At least this is plausible, and this is a recommended article.

4. Why Congressional Republicans Have Abdicated Their Responsibility

This article is by Robert Reich on his site (and I somewhat abbreviated the long title). It starts as follows:

As long as Republicans control Congress, Donald Trump’s reckless behavior will go completely unchecked.

Republicans in Congress have become the Party of Trump, abandoning their self-avowed conservative principles to enable his agenda:

When Trump attacks the Mueller investigation they claim it’s not necessary for Congress to protect the investigators. A group of House Republicans even took the unheard-of step of filing articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — less than 2 weeks after Mueller’s investigation, the investigation Rosenstein is supervising, issued 12 additional indictments against Russian operatives.

When the Trump administration separates immigrant children from their families at the border, congressional Republicans do nothing

When Trump insults our allies and cozies up to Vladimir Putin, they take no action to constrain him. 

When Trump personally profits from business deals with foreign governments, they don’t investigate his conflicts of interest, ignoring the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

I agree. Here is more:

The Framers of the Constitution never intended for Congress to become a political arm of the president. Before Trump, Congress had exercised its oversight authority to hold the executive branch accountable, conducting investigations, holding public hearings. Twice in history, the House has impeached a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

So why have Republicans, who now control Congress, surrendered their constitutional duty to rein in this out-of-control president?

And here is Reich´s answer to his last question:

Here’s the real reason for the Republicans’ abdication of their Constitutional responsibility: Establishment Republicans and their wealthy donors tolerate Trump’s attacks on our democracy as long as he gives them massive tax cuts and slashes regulations so they can make even more money. 

It is time to hold Trump’s enablers accountable, and vote them out of office. This November 6th, we can send them packing. 

But voter turnout is everything. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to win a majority of the House, and 2 seats to win a majority of the Senate.

I agree. Then again, I would say that the Democrats seem mostly bought by lobbyists - but I am in favor of the Democrats because the Republicans are headed by a madman and a neofascist, and I certainly would vote in the American elections if I were an American. And this is a recommended article.

5. More Than 500 Children Are Still Separated. Here’s What Comes Next

This article is by Amrit Cheng on Common Dreams and originally on Speak Freely/ACLU. It starts as follows:

It’s been nearly one month since the federal court's deadline for the Trump administration to reunite separated families, but hundreds of children are still waiting. In fact, as of 12:00 pm on August 16, 565 immigrant children remained in government custody.

For 366 of those children, including six who are under the age of five, reunion is made all the more complicated by the fact that the government already deported their parents — without a plan for how they would be ever be located.

I completely agree, although I wonder why no one in the USA says that what Trump and his government did to these children is kidnapping, which is a serious crime. In case you doubt this, here is the beginning of the item on Wikipedia:

In criminal law, kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away (asportation) and confinement of a person against their will. Thus, it is a composite crime. It can also be defined as false imprisonment by means of abduction, both of which are separate crimes that when committed simultaneously upon the same person merge as the single crime of kidnapping. The asportation/abduction element is typically but not necessarily conducted by means of force or fear.

I think this fully applies to what Trump´s government did. Besides, Trump´s government also seems to be indulging itself in sadism (and ¨our steering committee¨ belongs to the ACLU):

Roughly two weeks ago, the government finally turned over a list of phone numbers for the majority of deported parents. With our steering committee, we’re focused on making contact with every deported parent advising them of their rights to be reunified.

Unfortunately, thus far, many of the phone numbers have been inoperable. The fact of the matter is that many parents may be in hiding, considering that they have all been deported to countries which they fled in the first place.

It certainly doesn’t help that the government may have had this information for more than a month before handing it over to us.

And I think this fully satisfies what I understand by sadism. 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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