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Nederlog

September 7, 2018

Crisis: Anonymous Official, Kavanaugh *2, Plutocracy Now!, Is Trump Unravelling?


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 7, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 7, 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 September 7, 2018:
1. Dear Anonymous Trump Official, There Is No Redemption in Your
     Cowardly Op-Ed

2. The Kavanaugh Cover-up? Role in Torture & Domestic Spying Policy
     Remains Unknown As Papers Withheld

3. Stop Brett Kavanaugh — A Corporation Masquerading as a Judge
4. Plutocracy Now!
5. Psychiatrist Bandy Lee says White House officials told her Trump was
     “unraveling”
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. Dear Anonymous Trump Official, There Is No Redemption in Your Cowardly Op-Ed

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. In fact, it is a reaction to an article that  I reviewed yesterday. It starts as follows:
Dear Anonymous Trump Official,

You claim, on the opinion pages of the “failing” New York Times no less, that senior officials working for the president of the United States “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

“I would know,” you add dramatically. “I am one of them.”

Sorry, what was the point of this particular piece? And what is it that you want from the rest of us? A thank-you card? A round of applause? The nation’s undying gratitude?

Screw. You.

This may seem bold. But then here are some of Hasan's reasons:

There is no redemption; no exoneration for you or your colleagues inside this shit-show of an administration. You think an op-ed in the paper of record is going to cut it? Gimme a break. You cannot write an article admitting to the president’s “anti-democratic” impulses while also saying you want his administration “to succeed.” You cannot publish a 965-word piece excoriating Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations” while omitting any and all references to his racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism.

You did find space, however, to heap praise on yourself and your fellow officials. “Unsung heroes.” “Adults in the room.” “Quiet resistance.” “Steady state.”

Are you kidding me? Where were your “unsung heroes” when this administration was snatching kids from their parents and locking them in cages? Drugging them and denying them drinking water?

Where were your “adults in the room” when this administration left 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico to die because, apparently, it is an island “surrounded by water, big water, ocean water”? Where were they when the president was denying that Hurricane Maria was a “real catastrophe” and lobbing paper towels at the survivors?

Yes indeed - and this is just a small selection of the horrible things Trump did, and which the  anonymous senior official (?) who is said to have written the article may have been taking part in.

Here is more Hasan:

The reality is that you and your fellow officials are enablers of Trump; you are his protectors and defenders. You say it yourself. Why were there only “whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment,” which provides for the cabinet to remove the president from office if he is unable to do the job? Why not invoke it and let Mike Pence take over? (Are you, by the way, Mike Pence?)

If as you claim — and we all agree! — that the president you serve “continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic” with “misguided impulses,” then how can you advocate for anything other than his swift removal from office?

I agree that these are all good points. Abd here is more by Hasan:

What is it, then, that you object to? Well, it seems, your biggest concern is “not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency,” but how Americans have “sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.”

You’re joking, right? The widespread dishonesty, the rampant corruption, the brazen racism, the growing authoritarianism, the accusations of collusion — none of that tops your list of Trumpian abuses and infractions? But the “civility” of our discourse does? Fuck civility.

Also, what did you think would happen when you signed up to work for a reality TV star who was accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women, and of rape by his first wife?

Quite so. There is more in the article, that is strongly recommended, but this is enough.


2. The Kavanaugh Cover-up? Role in Torture & Domestic Spying Policy Remains Unknown As Papers Withheld

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing enters its third day today. On Wednesday Capitol Police arrested 73 people protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination. The protests began almost immediately when Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley tried to start the hearing. Protesters included Women’s March organizers from 26 states. Among them was a teenager who stood on a chair and said, “I’m 18, and I’m here for the youth of the country. You’re ruining my future.” We speak to Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, and Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Yes, and you - my readers - are supposed to know something. In fact, there is more on Kavenaugh in Nederlog here.

And here is Vince Warren:
AMY GOODMAN: (..) Vince, let’s begin with you. This letter that you wrote, why are you so deeply concerned about Judge Kavanaugh?

VINCE WARREN: If you look back at Judge Kavanaugh’s record, what you see is someone who is deeply, deeply hostile towards the rights that flow to people. Republicans will talk about him as a centrist, as someone who is fair, as somebody who follows the law, but they’re looking at it the wrong way. If you look at this particular nominee on the spectrum of are they in favor of presidential and state power and corporate power versus are they in favor of people power, almost invariably, he will go as deeply as he can toward state and corporate power, whether we’re talking about reproductive rights, racial justice, voting rights. It’s a disaster. And I think it is an important time for us because with Anthony Kennedy vacating the seat, we are really looking at several decades of a very hard-right Supreme Court that is going to be a real challenge for the legal organizations that are trying to vindicate the rights of the people.

Yes, I think these fears are quite justified (incidentally, in part because Supreme Court judges are nominated for life, which I think is a mistake).

Here is Hina Shamsi from the ACLU:

HINA SHAMSI: The ACLU as a matter of policy doesn’t take positions for or against Supreme Court nominees, but we do think it is incredibly important for Congress and the public to be informed about their record. We analyzed Judge Kavanaugh’s national security cases and found that he has extreme deference to presidential claims of unchecked authority in the name of war and national security, a hostility to enforcing constraints imposed by binding international law on government action—again in the name of war and national security—and an unwillingness to recognize judicial remedies for individuals who have been harmed by constitutional and human rights violations.

Again I think that is all quite justified, but the most important point comes now:

AMY GOODMAN: What documents have been released, what haven’t, what is on the record and what about what he actually was willing to admit?

HINA SHAMSI: Disappointingly, little is on the record. Part of the reason for that is that as Democratic senators have pointed out, they do not have the majority of the records from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. He held two different positions in the White House and they don’t have the majority of records from that time. And I think one important thing to point out just about…

AMY GOODMAN: Because—?

HINA SHAMSI: Because they haven’t been produced. They’ve been withheld on claims of privilege. There is a set of unusual and unprecedented refusals to provide information, and that is a problem because we need Congress to exercise its authority here, and the public also needs to know about this man who is set to hold a position that will be so important.
Precisely. And since in fact over 100,000 pages of documents that could and probably would shed light on Kavanaugh's real opinions have "disappeared", my own conclusion is that Kavanaugh should not be appointed at all. This is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a lot more than I quoted. And in fact, here is more on Kavanaugh:

3. Stop Brett Kavanaugh — A Corporation Masquerading as a Judge

This article is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Observers say that confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to become President Trump’s second pick for a lifetime job on the Supreme Court will make the Court more conservative. It is more accurate to say Kavanaugh will make the Court more corporatist.

With Kavanaugh, it is all about siding with corporations over workers, consumers, patients, motorists, the poor, minority voters, and beleaguered communities.

Repeatedly Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions put corporate interests ahead of the common good—backing the powerful against the weak, the vulnerable, and the defenseless.

Apart from his declared views pouring power and immunity into the Presidency (which is why Trump wants him), Kavanaugh could be the most corporate judge in modern American history. Two meticulous reports on his judicial decisions, one by the Alliance for Justice (AFJ) and one by Public Citizen demonstrate that for him it’s all about corporations uber alles.

Yes, I think that is all correct. Incidentally - but I admit blaming lack of competence on American journalists makes no difference - I took the point of "corporations uber alles" (which means: corporations above everything) as the defining difference between fascism (which I defined by listing 10 legal, social and political criterions) and neo-fascism (likewise), and I mention this here because some rare lost soul might inspect my definitions.

Well... I like them and think they are important, but having read and reviewed over 2000 articles on politics and having found completely zero with a remotely possible definition of "fascism" or "neofascism", I admit I have decided these concepts are too intricate for almost any journalist.

Anyway. Back to the article:

Here is AFJ’s summary:

Kavanaugh has repeatedly ruled against efforts to combat climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gases. He also repeatedly ruled against protections for clean air. He has repeatedly sided with the wealthy and the powerful over all Americans. He has fought consumer protections in the areas of automobile safety, financial services, and a free and open internet. Kavanaugh has also repeatedly ruled against workers, workplace protections and safety regulations.

Do you want him to be on the Supreme Court?

Kavanaugh is a corporate supremacist to a fanatic level of protecting corporate cruelty and greed. Giving him an unaccountable lifetime position on the Court will weaken our democracy and empower the corporate state.

Yes. I entirely agree - and am also well aware my agreement is based on an agreement with Nader's values. But that is no shortcoming.

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

Watch out for a cruel man with a folksy smile. Watch once again the Democratic Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee minimizing Kavanaugh’s bias for corporations—except for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Given the lives, injuries, and sickness at stake; given the dictatorially approved taxpayer-funded corporate welfare and bloated corporate contracts with governments draining the peoples’ necessities, given Kavanaugh’s mindless support for corporate dollars corruptly buying elections, maybe the motto against this awful nomination should be “Kavana-ugh!”

I agree again, and hope he will not be elected a Supreme Court judge, though I have to admit that I doubt it. And this is a recommended article. 
4. Plutocracy Now!

This article is by Michael Brenner on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Plutocracy literally means rule by the rich. “Rule” can have various shades of meaning: those who exercise the authority of public office are wealthy; their wealth explains why they hold that office; they exercise that authority in the interests of the rich; they have the primary influence over who holds those offices and the actions they take.

These aspects of “plutocracy” are not exclusive. Moreover, government of the rich and for the rich need not be run directly by the rich. Also, in some exceptional circumstances rich individuals who hold powerful positions may govern in the interests of the many, for example Franklin Roosevelt.

The United States today qualifies as a plutocracy – on a number of grounds. Let’s look at some striking bits of evidence. Gross income redistribution upwards in the hierarchy has been a feature of American society for the past decades. The familiar statistics tell us that nearly 80 percent of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the upper 2 percent and 65 percent to the upper 1 per cent.
     (...)
To put it somewhat differently, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the top earning 1 percent of households gained about 8 times more than those in the 60 percentile after federal taxes and income transfers between 1979 and 2007 and 10 times those in lower percentiles.

In short, the overwhelming fraction of all the wealth created over two generations has gone to those at the very top of the income pyramid.
Yes, his seems all quite correct. I am also willing to admit that the USA indeed is in various ways a plutocracy, and that it is also not a democracy, and also on various other fairly simple one-word-judgements that hold for the USA, but I don't think such one-word-judgements are themselves adequate sum-ups of the country, the government, the politics and the legalities of any country.

And in the end I think my own judgement that the USA is fastly progressing towards neo-fascism, which I define in terms of 10 different criterions, is the best - but I admit (after over 5 years of fruitless searching) that 10 different criterions seem to be too much to keep in mind of almost any journalist.

Also, regardless of whether you agree with my last judgement, I think "plutocracy" is too simple minded to adequately represent the American society, were it only for the simple reason that the social systems that ruled Western Europe and the USA the last 400 years or so all were plutocratic (and a lot more) except for a few decades from 1945 till 1980.

Here is more:
Runaway exploitation of the system by predatory banks was made possible by the Clinton “reforms” of the 1990s and the lax application of those rules that still prevailed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, let’s recall, went so far as to admit that the Department of Justice’s decisions on when to bring criminal charges against the biggest financial institutions will depend not on the question of legal violations alone but would include the hypothetical effects on economic stability of their prosecution. (Those adverse effects are greatly exaggerated).

Earlier, Holder had extended blanket immunity to Bank of America and other mortgage lenders for their apparent criminality in forging through robo-signing of foreclosure documents on millions of home owners. In brief, equal protection and application of the law has been suspended. That is plutocracy.
Yes indeed, though I doubt "That is plutocracy" is the right judgement: It was fraud, by Eric Holder, indeed mega-fraud.

Here is some more:

FDR, it rightly is said, saved American capitalism. Barack OBAMA saved predatory financial capitalism.
I selected this because I agree with it and because I dislike Barack Obama (not because he is black, but because he helped the rich). Here is more:
The government’s decision not to seek the power to bargain with pharmaceutical companies over the price of drugs paid for with public funds is another. Tolerance for the concealment of offshore profits in the tens of billions is a third. This last is the most egregious.

Some of the most profitable companies pay little or no federal taxes. Apple is outstanding among them – it has paid zero. Facebook and Microsoft follow closely behind. General Electric received a tax refund in 2015 – after revenues of $8 billion. Its global tax rate in all jurisdictions was 3.2 percent.
Quite so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Our leaders are nearly all rich by any reasonable standard. Most are very rich. Trump’s cabinet is dominated by billionaires. Those who weren’t already rich have aspired to become so and have succeeded. The Clintons are the striking case in point.
Yes again. There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended, but I do insist on my earlier point that while the present USA is in various respects a plutocracy, the term "plutocracy" is too simple to explain what happened in the USA.

5. Psychiatrist Bandy Lee says White House officials told her Trump was “unraveling”

This article is by Chauncy Devega on Salon. It starts as follows:

It would seem that matters are far worse than even Donald Trump's fiercest critics have suggested. As the entire world has noticed, on Wednesday the New York Times published an op-ed that is without precedent in American history for what it suggests about a sitting president.

Assuming this is not part of a gaslighting campaign or an effort to uncover Trump's "enemies" in his inner circle — which is not out of the question — what the Times op-ed reveals is terrifying.

An anonymous "senior official" in the administration writes that "Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader. . . . The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."

Many Trump appointees, including the writer, he or she reports, "have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office."

I don't think I agree with DeVega on the "anonymous "senior official"" (?) - and see item 1 above.

Here is more, and this makes a lot of sense to me, although I am willing to agree that I did take 6 years to get an excellent M.A. in psychology:

There is also more evidence that Donald Trump's mental health is likely impaired:

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

Bandy Lee, the Yale University psychiatrist who edited the bestselling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President," explained to me in an email conversation that these "revelations" about Trump seem entirely predictable based on his public and other behavior.

Yes indeed, and Bandy Lee is right (I say, as a psychologist). Then there is this:

Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, also agrees that Donald Trump should not have access to nuclear weapons. In a phone interview, Painter said, "Trump's mental health puts the country at risk," and suggested that if Trump were to order the unprovoked use of nuclear weapons, "the vice president could invoke the 25th Amendment and very quickly try to gain control of the situation, along with a majority of the Cabinet."

Well... I agree with Painter (I suppose) that (i) Trump never should have been elected as president of the USA, and that (ii) he is so dangerous that he "should not have access to nuclear weapons". Then again, his considerations about what Pence might do "if Trump were to order the unprovoked use of nuclear weapons" seems boloney to me.

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

They bemoan Trump's authoritarian and fascist behavior, yet continue to support him and his policies. They wish that Trump would not lie so often and act with such gross contempt toward the truth, yet continue to support him and his policies. They may describe Trump's attacks on freedom of the press are "concerning" and "worrisome," but they continue to support him and his policies.

Ultimately, this anonymous senior staff member appears more concerned about the mark history will put next to their name for working with the Donald Trump than with saving the United States from a president who they know to be dangerously unqualified and perhaps unsound of mind.

Yes indeed. 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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