October 1, 2018

Crisis: On The Supreme Court *2, The Victims, Women On Corporate Boards, On Bullies


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 1, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, October 1, 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 October 1, 2018:
1. Pack the Supreme Court
2. Here's How to Save the Supreme Court
3. Victimizing the Victims, Again
4. California Becomes First State to Require Women on Corporate Boards
5. America’s Bullies
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. Pack the Supreme Court

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Brett Kavanaugh moved one step closer to the United States Supreme Court on Friday.

Despite telling brazen lies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and despite Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling testimony, Republicans on the committee voted in favor of advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote. Only a new FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations, limited in time to one week, now stands in the way of Donald Trump entrenching a hard-right conservative majority on the Supreme Court for a generation or more.

To be clear, such a majority on the court would be an utter disaster for women, for people of color, and for the poor. One upside of Kavanaugh’s raw and angry rant on Thursday — he referred to the Democrats on the panel as “you people,” a “disgrace,” and accused them of exacting “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” — is that it exposed the Supreme Court for what it is: a partisan on the political battlefield, not a disinterested defender of the Constitution.

Yes, I think this is true. And here is Hasan's solution to this problem:

So it’s past time for liberals and the left to consider court packing: When they next have control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, Democrats should add at least two new seats to the Supreme Court and then fill them, ideally, with left-wing, well-qualified women of color. They could even call it “court balancing.”

“Pack the courts as soon as we get the chance,” tweeted Indiana University law professor Ian Samuel, the co-host of the popular Supreme Court podcast “First Mondays,” on the the day Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in June. “‘Pack the courts’ should be a phrase on par with ‘abolish ICE.’”

This might sound extreme, but it isn’t. The Constitution allows for Congress to decide the number of Supreme Court justices.
Well... to start with, I admit that I had not thought of court packing.

Then again, Hasan's solution requires the Democrats to "
have control of the House, the Senate, and the White House" (which is not even possible before 2020), and then insists on bringing the Supreme Court - described above as "a partisan on the political battlefield" - to the left side instead of to the right side by (then) "packing the court" "with left-wing, well-qualified women of color".

Hasan is well aware that there may be quite a number of objections against this, and he lists these four:

I can hear the objections already, from timid liberals and outraged conservatives alike.

Isn’t court packing a tactic associated with authoritarian or dictatorial governments? Wouldn’t such a move undermine the Supreme Court’s legitimacy? Why go for the “nuclear option” of court packing when there are other less radical reforms on offer? And, of course, what’s to stop Republicans from doing the same when they’re back in charge?

And Hasan has some brief replies to these objections, which I skip. You can read them in the original, but I have this objection:

The problem with the Supreme Court, which is or ought to be a court of law, is that it at present and since quite a while, far less of a court of law than of a political machine, that is controlled for the most part (apart from the politicians in the Senate, the House and the White House) by the political attitudes of the justices of the Supreme Court.

And I think that about the only way that I can see to make it act more as a court of law rather than as a court dominated by politics is to force the same number of Republican judges as of Democratic judges (and also an even number of them).

This will also be far from unproblematical, but it does address the fundamental problem that the present Supreme Court is more of a political court than a court of law.

Back to Hasan, who has the following arguments for his idea:

Critics of court packing on the left have suggested that there are less radical alternatives to the Supreme Court’s legitimacy crisis. Why not, they say, bring in term limits for the nine justices? Or impeach Kavanaugh and even Thomas after the midterms?

Term limits, though, require a constitutional amendment, while impeaching a Supreme Court justice requires a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate. Adding new justices, however? That only requires a simple majority in Congress.
I agree with Hasan that term limits - which are in principle a fine idea, for the USA is the only country that has no term limits for its Supreme Court judges - require a constitutional amendment which makes it difficult, and I also agree that impeachment of a Supreme Court justice is extremely improbable in almost any case.

Then again, I also think that a simple majority in Congress may be found for the idea that the Supreme Court must be a court guided by legal considerations rather than by political ones. But  have no idea about its degree of possibility or probability, and this is a recommended article.

Then again, there also is an alternative plan, that follows next:

2. Here's How to Save the Supreme Court

This article is by Paul Rosenberg on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
Last week's historic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was primarily about sexual violence and accountability. But it was also about lies, and those issues are inextricably linked at many levels.
That much is painfully obvious. (Rape is about power, not sex. So too Supreme Court nominations.) But the role of lies is far more diffuse and various, ultimately reaching to the very heart of our judicial system and to the Supreme Court, to which Kavanaugh aspires. The lies Kavanaugh told are a useful reminder of how far from the truth we are as a nation.
I don't think this is well written, and I correct only one point: It is not true that "Rape is about power, not sex". In fact, rape is both about power and sex, and it is an act of sadism.

Then there is this:
But the multiplying questions about Kavanaugh's honesty — along with his possible history of sexual abuse — and the honesty of those so eager or so desperate to get him on the court -- are symptomatic of a much larger problem. The position of the Supreme Court in American political culture is inherently deceptive and dishonest, pretending to a higher wisdom that it utterly lacks.
Well... the last statement again is vague and misleading, and doesn't solve anything. But here is the proposal that Rosenberg embraces in its title:
One proposed fix Segall advanced in 2012 was to introduce 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices in place of lifetime tenure.

“When I wrote that book, it was a minority view. Today it's the majority view,” Segall said. “They played a clip of me on John Oliver two weeks ago from CNN talking about that,” he said. We’re the only country in the world that lets Supreme Court justices serve till they die — a major facet of how unconstrained the Court is. Oliver found that strange.

“Lifetime appointment to the highest court is one those things that is uniquely American,” Oliver said. “Like the Super Bowl. Or drinking Budweiser."
I agree with all that - but as Mehdi Hasan pointed out in the previous article above, term limits require a constitutional amendment, which is quite or very difficult. And this is also a recommended article, mostly because it - sort of - balances the previous one.

3. Victimizing the Victims, Again

This article is by Charles Blow on The New York Times. This is from near its beginning:

The message that the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent to survivors, mostly women, but also many men, is this:

Your pain is not our problem. Your bodies are not your own. Your voice, even at its strongest, is still weaker than any man’s, no matter how sniveling and snide. We are here to protect the order, an old order, in which men rule, even when unruly and reprobate.

They are saying to survivors: Your word and your credibility may be all that you have, but they are not enough for you to be believed. They are saying that fear and trauma may have shocked you into silence, but in the end, you will be punished for that silence. They are saying that the failure of survivors, including children, to properly report and document their victimizations will be viewed later not as evidence of fear and shame, but as evidence of concoction and deceit.

I think this is mostly correct, though a bit exaggerated and/or rhetorical. Here is more:

These senators are telling teenage boys this:

You can drink beer like it’s water and we will believe you when you say you have had perfect recall your entire life in spite of it. You can write all sorts of damning horribleness in your yearbook and have multiple people accuse you of sexual assault, and yet we will still hail you as a paragon of integrity and tell you in front of the world that “you’ve got nothing to apologize for,” as Senator Lindsey Graham said of Kavanaugh during the hearing.

What those senators are saying to all of us is that, for them, patriarchy and privilege occupy positions of primacy in this country. And, when that primacy is threatened, it is perfectly reasonable that those affected would whine and rage at the possibility of being denied that to which they are owed, as birthright and gender benefit.

To the above applies the same. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

People don’t come forward because of authorities like the Republicans on the committee, the ones who will scoff at you, blame you and not believe you.

Just as Ford was creaking the door open and empowering others to come out of the closet with their own stories, Republicans on the committee rushed to slam it back shut and secure its closure with enmity if necessary.

Yes, quite so.

4. California Becomes First State to Require Women on Corporate Boards

This article is by The Associated Press on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. This starts as follows:
California has become the first state to require publicly traded companies to include women on their boards of directors, one of a series of laws boosting or protecting women that Gov. Jerry Brown signed Sunday.

The measure requires at least one female director on the board of each California-based public corporation by the end of next year. Companies would need up to three female directors by the end of 2021, depending on the number of board seats.

I say, for I did not know this, while I like it. Then again, I think I should add that while I am a feminist in a similar sense as my mother was: For sexual equality and equal payment, I am not a feminist in the sense this was raised in the late 1960ies, for that was both far more post- modernistic and totalitarian than I thought correct, and also sold out in various ways, such as helping to force all women to work, on the totally false justification that working for a corporation would make them more free.

Anyway. For those interested, there is more under
feminism. This is about the specific arguments for California to change its law:

The author of the California measure, SB 826, said she believes having more women in power could help reduce sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

Having more women on corporate boards also will make companies more successful, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said. Women tend to be more collaborative and are better at multitasking, the Santa Barbara Democrat said.

A fourth of publicly held corporations with headquarters in California don’t have any women on their boards of directors. These companies have not done enough to increase the number of women on their boards despite the Legislature’s urging, making government intervention necessary, Jackson said.

I agree with the first paragraph, and I think that is sufficient reason to support this change of the law.

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

The law applies to companies that report having their principal executive offices in California. Companies can be fined $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for subsequent violations.

The law also requires companies to report their board composition to the California secretary of state and imposes a $100,000 fine if a company fails to do so.

Some European countries, including Norway and France, already mandate that corporate boards include women.

In fact, I think Holland still does not have this mandate. And this is a recommended article.

5. America’s Bullies

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

As a kid I was always a head shorter than other boys, which meant I was bullied – mocked, threatened, sometimes assaulted.

Childhood bullying has been going on forever. But in recent years America has become a culture of bullying – the wealthier over the poorer, CEOs over workers, those with privilege and pedigree over those without, the whiter over the browner and blacker, men over women.

Sometimes the bullying involves physical violence. More often it entails intimidation, displays of dominance, demands for submission, or arbitrary decisions over the lives of those who feel they have no choice but to accept them.

Yes indeed, although I will qualify this a bit below. But first on the importance of childhood bullying to Reich himself. This is on the Wikipedia:

As a child, he was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, also known as Fairbank's disease, a bone disorder that results in short stature among other symptoms. This condition made him a target for bullies and he sought out the protection of older boys; one of them was Michael Schwerner, who was later a victim in the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner by the Ku Klux Klan
in 1964 for the registration of African-American voters. Reich cites this event as an inspiration to "fight the bullies, to protect the powerless, to make sure that the people without a voice have a voice."

I knew this story and I believe it, and this also leads to my qualification, which is not a qualification of Reich, but rather of a difference between Holland and the USA, at least in my experience:

I am four years younger than Reich and was raised in a poor and proletarian neighborhood in Amsterdam. And while there was some childhood bullying in Amsterdam, it seems to have been less in Holland than in the USA, for while I did not know anyone with Reich's disease, I did know a boy who was the child of a black man and a white woman, who looked as if he was black, but who was not discriminated in Amsterdam (where there was a whole lot less racial discrimination than in the USA), apparently for the reason my friends and I used to befriend him: He was not at all responsible for looking a bit other than we - who were between 7 and 10 years old - did.

Anyway. Here is more:

The Kavanaugh-Ford hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27 was a window into our bullying culture.

On one side: powerful men who harass or abuse women and get away with it, privileged white men intent on entrenching their power on the Supreme Court, men vested with the power to take away a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body.

On the other: women with the courage to tell what has happened to them, to demand an end to white male privilege, and to preserve and enlarge their constitutional rights. 

Dr. Ford was poised, articulate, clear and convincing. More than that: She radiated self-assured power.

Brett Kavanaugh, by contrast, showed himself to be a vicious partisan – a Trump-like figure who feels entitled to do and say whatever he wants, who suspects left-wing plots against him, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, and who uses emotional bullying and intimidation to get his way.

I think all of this is quite true. Here is more:

Which brings us to the coming midterm election. 

It’s not really a contest between Democrats or Republicans, left or right. It’s a contest between the bullies and the bullied. It’s about the power of those who are rich, white, privileged, or male – or all of the above – to threaten and intimidate those who aren’t. 

And it’s about the courage of the bullied to fight back.

Donald Trump is America’s bully-in-chief. He exemplifies those who use their wealth to gain power and celebrity, harass or abuse women and get away with it, lie and violate the law with impunity, and rage against anyone who calls them on their bullying.

I do not think this is quite true: It is both "a contest between Democrats or Republicans" (at least the majorities in each party); and a contest between "left or right", and - in this specific case - also a contest "between the bullies and the bullied".

Otherwise, I agree and here is more:

Trump used this anger to build his political base, channeling the frustrations and anxieties into racism and nativism. He encouraged Americans who have been bullied to feel more powerful by bullying people with even less power: poor blacks, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, families seeking asylum.

This bullying game has been played repeatedly in history, by self-described strongmen who pretend to be tribunes of the oppressed by scapegoating the truly powerless.

This is true, although I add (because I think it is important and part of my own ethics) that the weak bullied who bully the even weaker do so because they are stupid and ignorant, and stupidity and ignorance are major human problems.

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

Trump is no tribune of the people. He and his enablers in the Republican Party are working for the moneyed interests – the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, other corporate and Wall Street chieftains – by cutting their taxes, eliminating regulations, slashing public services, and allowing them to profit off public lands, coastal waters, and privatized services.

The moneyed interests are America’s hidden bullies. They have enlarged their net worth by repressing wages (or pushing the companies they invest in to do so), and enlarged their political power through gerrymandering and suppressing votes (or pushing their political lackeys to do so).

Their capacity to bully has grown as the nation’s wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands, as the economy has become more monopolized, and as American politics has become more engulfed by big money.

Quite so, and this is a strongly 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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