September 20, 2018

Crisis: On Kavanaugh, Michael Moore, Maximum CEO-Wage, Trump's Presidency, Plutocrats


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 20, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, September 20, 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 20, 2018:
1. Everyone Deserves Better Than This Senate Spectacle
2. Michael Moore Attempts Another Election Intervention With ‘Fahrenheit

3. Here's Why Setting a Maximum Wage for CEOs Would be Good for

4. Alexander Hamilton Was Obsessed With the Threat a Presidency Like
     Trump’s Poses for America

5. Plutocrats Are Planning a Stealth Coup
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.  Everyone Deserves Better Than This Senate Spectacle

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Whatever becomes of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s process for considering him has been a mockery from the start — a mockery of lawmakers’ constitutional responsibility and of the ideal that the court should be anything more than a political trophy.

The bulk of the blame lies with Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee chairman, and his fellow Republicans, who have abused their power by refusing to let their colleagues and the American people see over 90 percent of the documents relating to Judge Kavanaugh’s critical years in the federal government.

Yes indeed, although I should point out at this point that there are two different important arguments (or in fact three) against Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court:

(1) the Republicans refuse to show over 90% of the documents "relating to Judge Kavanaugh’s critical years in the federal government"; (2) there has been credible evidence that Kavanaugh, when in his late teens, tried to rape a girl student; and also (3) - which is not listed in this article - the fact that Supreme Court judges are nominated for life, which is rather strange in that the USA is the only place where this happens.

Back to the article:

Now the committee has a chance to partly redeem itself, by allowing a thorough investigation and then holding an open hearing to address Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Judge Kavanaugh about a night while they were in high school.

Republicans complain that this is nothing but a Democratic plot to derail Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination by delaying any vote until after the midterm elections. (If anyone knows about unjustly delaying Supreme Court confirmations, it’s Senate Republicans.) Well, Democrats no doubt would prefer to delay a vote.

And now that that’s out of the way, can we please focus on what really matters here? What matters is that Dr. Blasey has made a serious, specific and credible allegation. Sure, Democrats may want to investigate that claim fully. But so should anyone concerned about protecting the Supreme Court’s integrity, not to mention the reputations of both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey.

Yes, quite so - and yes: "anyone concerned about protecting the Supreme Court’s integrity" should be interested.

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

Speaking of unreliable memories, it’s laughable for Republicans to complain, as some do, that Dr. Blasey’s claim is too old to be considered. The Senate Judiciary Committee is not a court of law; it’s an arena of politics. Remember that less than a decade ago, Republican senators were happy to grill Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s first pick for the court, about positions taken 30 years earlier by a legal-defense fund whose board she had once sat on.

Certainly there’s no statute of limitations preventing the committee from weighing allegations of attempted rape against a nominee to a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land. Besides, since Judge Kavanaugh has flatly denied the accusation, his honesty now — not as a teenager — is at issue.

Quite so, again. And this is a recommended article.

2. Michael Moore Attempts Another Election Intervention With ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

This article is by Jordan Riefe on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:
[Moore's actions] fits a pattern evident in most of his movies, from “Roger & Me” to his Palme D’Or-winningFahrenheit 9/11.” While he assiduously builds arguments in his films, presenting them with humor and panache, he routinely neglects to address the opposition’s viewpoint, no matter how flimsy it may be. It’s an unfortunate omission that lends credibility to his political adversaries, even when they’re blatantly wrong.
In fact, this is a review of Michael Moore's latest film. I don't think this review is very sympathetic to Moore, but - I think - this doesn't matter much (and I did not see Moore's movie).

Then again, I disagree - I think - with Riefe's point that Moore "
routinely neglects to address the opposition’s viewpoint", and that for (at least) two reasons: The film is a political film, and a  director can take various points of view about those he opposes, and Moore's view is one of these, while also Moore's opponents anyway get too much of the argument in my opinion (on the mainstream media + Fox News).

Here is more:
It might sound ironic, but Moore’s new movie isn’t so much about our sitting president, as the title would suggest. Instead, it’s about a number of items that Moore finds vexing—Second Amendment rights, teacher strikes, the failing Democratic Party, young social progressives—as well as Trump. And the most potent sections in “Fahrenheit 11/9” address the water crisis in Flint, Mich.
I don't see why the title would suggest his new movie would be "about our sitting president". As to the rest of the quoted paragraph: Quite possibly so, but I should remark that Moore was born in Flint, Mich, so it is not odd if he gives considerable attention to his own (former) home town.

Here is more:
In a typically Moore-ish touch, we see Hitler giving a speech in grainy black-and-white footage, with Trump’s voice dubbed over. It’s a puerile ruse, but  good for a laugh as Moore proceeds to liken the rise of Hitler to the coming of Trump, a comparison that has become cliché. Trump and Hitler are not the same, though Trump’s admiration for political strongmen is evident in footage of his recent meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, when the U.S. head of state shamed himself and his country with his deferential treatment of the Russian president.
Well... I am not (not at all) aware of the supposed fact that a comparison between Hitler and Trump "has become cliché", while I am quite aware of the fact that "Trump and Hitler are not the same". Who is not? Indeed, why write that down?

Anyway, here is the last bit from this article that I quote:

The Flint crisis emphasizes one of Moore’s larger points: the erosion of democracy in America, with one subject speaking of American democracy as an aspiration. While Democrats won the popular vote in six of the last seven elections, and the majority of voters support background checks when purchasing guns and are pro-choice and for affordable health care, none of these positions are under consideration by an increasingly recalcitrant Republican-held government.

Moore lays the blame at the feet of the Democratic Party for pursuing compromise positions rather than fighting to win.
I think myself that Moore is right in these points. Anyway... I have not seen Moore's movie, and Riefe may be right for not being overtly fond of it. 
3. Here's Why Setting a Maximum Wage for CEOs Would be Good for Everyone

This article is by Mark Reiff on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:
Under capitalism, the argument goes, it’s every man for himself. Through the relentless pursuit of self-interest, everyone benefits, as if an invisible hand were guiding each of us toward the common good. Everyone should accordingly try to get as much as they can, not only for their goods but also for their labour. Whatever the market price is is, in turn, what the buyer should pay. Just like the idea that there should be a minimum wage, the idea that there should be a maximum wage seems to undermine the very freedom that the free market is supposed to guarantee.
I am sorry, but this is an utterly bullshit argument that consists almost only of neoliberal/ neofascist boloney. Then again, it may be that Reif sees this:
This view, however, has some dramatic consequences. One is the explosion in economic inequality that almost all liberal capitalist democracies have experienced over the past 30-40 years. The difference between the top and the bottom of the income distribution now lies about where it did in the Gilded Age and the roaring 1920s, up until the Great Depression. Unlike these earlier periods, however, this rise in economic inequality has not been driven by returns on capital assets. This time, one of the most important contributors to the rise has been the payment of extraordinarily high levels of compensation to corporate executives. In 2017, for example, the 200 highest-paid CEOs in US business each received compensation of between $13.8 million and $103.2 million, well above the cut-off for the top 0.01 per cent of the income distribution, which currently lies at $8.3 million. More troubling still, while the compensation for corporate executives has been almost continually rising during this period, real (inflation-adjusted) wages for almost everybody else have been stagnating.
Yes indeed - and keep in mind that the millions that go to the very few rich have been going to the very few for the last forty years, where has the incomes of the very many non-rich (90%, at least) has not been increasing these last forty years, but stagnated, and stagnated at very much lower points than the incomes of the rich.

Here is more:
But nothing in capitalism actually says that such sky-high levels of compensation are permissible. What capitalism says instead is that people need incentives to be maximally productive. But will someone who makes $100 million a year really work harder than someone who makes $10 million? Compensation, like everything else, has what economists call ‘diminishing marginal utility’. More of it has less and less of an incentivising effect (...)
In fact, while I do know a lot about capitalism, I do not know that "What capitalism says (..) is that people need incentives to be maximally productive" although I do know that Milton Friedman insisted that the rich need to answer no social norms whatsoever, except that they need to make the maximum profit.

Then again, Reif does seem aware of this (to an extent):
But a corporation’s success depends on the contributions of many people. If we are going to try to determine how much compensation the CEOs deserve given their contribution to their companies, this should be the test all the way down. When the company does well, everyone should get a similar percentage of the profits. But they don’t. More troubling still, when a company performs poorly, CEO compensation should not go up, yet it often does. At least it often remains disproportionately high in light of the company’s poor performance, something that itself seems contrary to the logic of capitalism.
This is more or less correct, although I'd say that "the logic of capitalism" amounts to making the rich as rich as possible, while making the poor as poor as possible - which finds strong support from the last forty years of policies from the GOP.

But here is Reif's bullshit maximum wage:
Where should we set the maximum? We can fine-tune this as we accumulate experience, but I propose we start with a limit of $10 million in total compensation for a CEO of any company doing business in the US, with no one in the company or its subsidiaries permitted to earn more. This would put the CEO solidly among the top 0.01 per cent of the US income distribution, and this should be incentive enough to attract very good people, from anywhere in the world.
Sorry, but for me this is utter bullshit: You don't reward the extremely rich by restricting their incomes so that they keep belonging to "the top 0.01 per cent of the US income distribution".

4. Alexander Hamilton Was Obsessed With the Threat a Presidency Like Trump’s Poses for America

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

Presidential economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested to the Economic Club of New York that, after the elections, Republicans will target “spending” on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid with “reforms” (cuts) to help pay for the massive deficits created by Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut for billionaires.

Conservatives have controlled our government for three definable periods in recent history
Each conservative era has led to terrible suffering among working people, each ended in a wipeout financial disaster, and this one will probably be no different. Republicans have already radically cut long-term unemployment insurance, killed “welfare as we know it” (with the help of Bill Clinton), and cut the budgets of Social Security and Medicare to the point where it’s hard to get anybody on the phone. They’ve deregulated much of the fossil fuel industry, sold off public lands to mining and drilling interests, and slashed away at the EPA.

But this time, there’s a larger concern than the survival of the economy, the environment, and the middle class. This time, democracy itself may well be at stake.
Yes, quite so. And in fact this is a good article that is too long to summarize, so I will skip a fair amount.

What I shall not skip is this comparison between president Harding and president Trump, that is given by a quote from Mencken:
Mencken wrote [about president Harding, in the 1920ies]:

“When Dr. Harding prepares a speech he does not think of it in terms of an educated reader locked up in jail, but in terms of a great horde of stoneheads gathered around a stand. That is to say, the thing is always a stump speech; it is conceived as a stump speech and written as a stump speech. More, it is a stump speech addressed to the sort of audience that the speaker has been used to all of his life, to wit, an audience of small town yokels, of low political serfs, or morons scarcely able to understand a word of more than two syllables, and wholly able to pursue a logical idea for more than two centimeters.

“Such imbeciles do not want ideas—that is, new ideas, ideas that are unfamiliar, ideas that challenge their attention. What they want is simply a gaudy series of platitudes, of sonorous nonsense driven home with gestures. ... The roll of incomprehensible polysyllables enchants them.”

Quite so. Next, there is a considerable amount about Alexander Hamilton, that I again completely skip, to land in 1971 with Lewis Powell Jr.:

While we’ve always had wealthy people influencing politics to their own benefit, what’s happening today is something altogether new, as documented by Jane Mayer in Dark Money and Nancy MacLean in Democracy in Chains.

It mostly started back in 1971, when Lewis Powell Jr. wrote a call to arms to his friend and neighbor, Eugene Sydnor Jr., who was at the time a director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The “Powell memo” called for wealthy industrialists and companies themselves to fund a giant machine that could capture the U.S. government and turn it away from the protections for citizens and the environment that were being championed by Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader (named in the document) and toward a system that was, essentially, an oligarchy.

Quite so. Here is what happened to Powell Jr.:

Richard Nixon put Powell on the Supreme Court in 1972, and Powell then championed the “right” of oligarchs to own politicians in the 1976 Buckley v Valeo Supreme Court decision, blowing up campaign finance limits by ruling that when billionaires want to spend their own money to elect or destroy politicians, that spending of money was protected under the First Amendment as “free speech.” (Citizens United vastly expanded this power in 2010.)

Again quite so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Most of the original funders of Powell’s plan to turn America into an oligarchy are dead, but their multigenerational plan continues to roll along. And now many of the goals that Powell and the 1980 Libertarians first articulated—and Hamilton had nightmares about—are near completion.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of 5-4 decisions, has handed the power to alter elections to a few hundred billionaires and well-funded organizations (including foreign governments), and billionaire oligarch Trump has taken the White House with the help of billionaire oligarch Murdoch, Hamilton’s nightmare is nearly realized.

The question now is whether enough Americans have awakened to this reality to show up in November to defy the wealthy purveyors of fear and discontent who want complete and final control over our nation.

Precisely. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Plutocrats Are Planning a Stealth Coup

This article is by Leo Gerard on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Democracy is tough for 1 percenters.

They’ve got all that money but, hypothetically, no more voting power than their chauffeur or yacht captain or nanny in a one-person, one-vote democracy.

In this one-person, one-vote democracy, though, they’ve got a plan to fix all that for themselves. They’re paying for it. And they’re accomplishing it, even though that means stripping voting rights from non-rich minority groups. Their goal is to make America more of a one-dollar, one-vote plutocracy.

Their scheme is deeply offensive to democratic ideals. In a perfect democracy, each citizen possesses the same power of self-governance as all other individuals, no matter how poor or rich, no matter their religion or skin color, no matter their country of origin or ancestry.

This equity is unnerving to some 1 percenters who believe their wealth proves their inherent higher value than other human beings, which they feel gives them the right to rule or, at least, the absolute right to choose who rules.

I agree, although I should remark that if in "a perfect democracy, each citizen possesses the same power of self-governance as all other individuals, no matter how poor or rich, no matter their religion or skin color, no matter their country of origin or ancestry" then there absolutely never was a perfect democracy, not even approximately.

Here is more:

In 2014, $8-billionaire Tom Perkins flat out said the rich should get more votes. Perkins recommended the country be run like a corporation: “You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes.”

That plan would deny the right to vote in federal elections to millions of workers who labor at low-wage jobs and pay local and state taxes but not federal income taxes. Meanwhile, idle trust fund babies would receive millions of votes for doing nothing but being born to the right parents.

Quite so. Here is the last bit of this article that I quote:

The 1 percent have achieved a great deal, including gerrymandered voting districts across the country. These densely pack people of color, other working folks and the poor into a small number of districts while placing the wealthy and upper middle class in a greater number of districts containing fewer people. The effect is to give the rich—usually Republicans—greater representation in government than the rest. Effectively, that makes the votes of the rich count more, just like the now-deceased Tom Perkins wanted.

Yes indeed. 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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