October 3, 2018

Crisis: Kavanaugh & Oliver, Chomsky, Trump´s Shamming, USA & Wall Street, Kavanaugh & Luria


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 3, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 3, 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 3, 2018:
1. Brett Kavanaugh: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
2. Chomsky: I Just Visited Lula, the World’s Most Prominent Political

3. Donald Trump and the Self-Made Sham
4. How America Can Free Itself From Wall Street
5. The Kavanaugh Case: Sex, Lies, Privilege (and Plenty of Beer)
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. Brett Kavanaugh: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

It is quite a while since I last put up a video in Nederlog, but this time I do. Here it is - and it is very much worth seeing, and the following is the same link as the title. I will explain a bit more after that:
In fact, this is the best explanation that I have seen why Brett Kavanaugh should not be appointed to the Supreme Court. Besides, it is funny, intelligent and well made, and therefore you should see it if you are interested in the USA or in its Supreme Court at all.

Now for two more explanations:

First, why I rarely refer to TV and also rarely put up videos.

I rarely refer to TV because I have rarely watched TV since 1970, when I started living by myself and decided I wanted no TV, simply because I thought it was stupid and ugly, while I almost never learned anything watching it. (I also missed seeing - I believe - at least 10,000 ¨murders¨ each year.)

Of course, this was a personal decision and no one needs to follow it, although I expect that those who disagree most with me probably have a much lower IQ/intelligence than I have. (Sorry, but there are differences between persons.)

Also, while I still lack a TV (almost 50 years now) I did see some at my parents when they were still alive; I saw bits at friends' houses; and I saw some since 2009 on Youtube, but all of that only convinced me more: I simply do not want TV, because I almost never like watching it, and I also almost never learned  anything from watching it.

Second (and I meant to write this bit for several weeks) there now is an exception, and that exception is John Oliver´s ¨Last Week Tonight¨:

This is what TV might have been, and what TV shows should be like, for
¨Last Week Tonight¨ is intelligent, funny, informative, and fast, and I usually agree with it.

I have to confess I found this out the last few weeks, for the simple reason that I avoided watching Oliver until a few weeks ago. I take it I am one of the very few, but yes: I have now seen most of ¨Last Week Tonight¨ that is available on Youtube, and I can recommend all of them. O, and for more on Kavanaugh, see also item 5.

2. Chomsky: I Just Visited Lula, the World’s Most Prominent Political Prisoner

This article is by Noam Chomsky on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Prisons are reminiscent of Tolstoy’s famous observation about unhappy families: Each “is unhappy in its own way,” though there are some common features — for prisons, the grim and stifling recognition that someone else has total authority over your life.

My wife Valeria and I have just visited a prison to see arguably the most prominent political prisoner of today, a person of unusual significance in contemporary global politics.

By the standards of U.S. prisons I’ve seen, the Federal Prison in Curitiba, Brazil, is not formidable or oppressive — though that is a rather low bar.  It is nothing like the few I’ve visited abroad — not remotely like Israel’s Khiyam torture chamber in southern Lebanon, later bombed to dust to efface the crime, and a very long way from the unspeakable horrors of Pinochet’s Villa Grimaldi, where the few who survived the exquisitely designed series of tortures were tossed into a tower to rot — one of the means to ensure that the first neoliberal experiment, under the supervision of leading Chicago economists, could proceed without disruptive voices.

Nonetheless, it is a prison.

Quite so, I suppose, and - as far as I can remember - this is the first appearance of Chomsky as a writer on The Intercept. Chomsky is almost 90 now.

The above first paragraph continues thus:

The prisoner we visited, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – “Lula,” as he is universally known — has been sentenced to virtual life imprisonment, in solitary confinement, with no access to press or journals and with limited visits one day a week.

The day after our visit, one judge, citing press freedoms, granted the request of the nation’s largest newspaper, Folha of São Paulo, to interview Lula, but another judge quickly intervened and reversed that decision, notwithstanding the fact that the country’s most violent criminals — its militia leaders and drug traffickers — are routinely interviewed in prison.

To Brazil’s power structure, imprisoning Lula is not enough: They want to ensure that the population, as it prepares to vote, cannot hear from him at all, and are apparently willing to use any means to accomplish that goal.

The judge who reversed the permission wasn’t breaking any new ground. One predecessor was the prosecutor at the 1926 sentencing of Antonio Gramsci by Mussolini’s Fascist government, who declared, “We must stop his brain from working for 20 years.”

“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” as Mark Twain observed.
Quite so. There is a whole lot more in this article, but I will only quote two more bits. Here is the first, and Dowbor is a Brazilian economist:

Furthermore, Dowbor continues, “After 2014, GDP dropped sharply while interest and profits of financial intermediaries increased between 20% and 30% a year,” a systematic feature of a financial system that “does not serve the economy, but is served by it. It is negative net productivity. The financial machine is living at the expense of the real economy.”

The phenomenon is worldwide. Joseph Stiglitz summarizes the situation simply: “Where before finance was a mechanism for getting money into firms, now it functions to get money out of them.” That is one of the sharp reversals of socio-economic policy brought to the world by the neoliberal assault, along with the sharp concentration of wealth in few hands while the majority stagnates, social benefits decline, and functioning democracy is undermined by obvious means as economic power concentrates, increasingly in the hands of predatory financial institutions.
In fact, it seems as if Dowbor was talking about Brazil. Then again, Joseph Stiglitz is a very prominent economist who agrees with Dowbor, and is speaking about the whole world.

I think they are right, but I should add that (i) I do not know enough of ¨economy¨ to say so, and also that (ii) I do know enough of economy to seriously doubt it is a real science. (There are at least three quite different foundations of ¨the science of economy¨, and none has proved convincing for those who believed in any of the others - to give just one reason.)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, and it is from near the ending:

It is not, of course, that interference with elections is off the agenda. On the contrary, alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election is one of the leading issues of the day, a topic of intense inquiry and much frenzied commentary. In contrast, the overwhelming role of corporate power and private wealth in corrupting the 2016 election, following a tradition that goes back over a century, is scarcely noted. After all, it is perfectly legal, even endorsed and enhanced by decisions of the most reactionary Supreme Court in recent memory.

Buying elections is the least of the corporate interventions into the pristine American democracy that is being sullied by Russian hackers (with results that were undetectable). Campaign spending goes through the roof, but it is dwarfed by lobbying, estimated at about 10 times its scale – a plague that escalated rapidly from the early days of the neoliberal regression. The effects on legislation are enormous, extending even as far as literal writing of legislation by lobbyists, while the congressional representative who signs the bill is off somewhere seeking funds for the next election.

I quite agree (and while I believe Russian hackers did hack some things in the USA, I have seen no rational proof of any kind that they interfered with the 2016 American elections).

As to lobbying: There are at least 10 lobbyists per senator, and so far as I can see they effectively bought most of the persons ¨elected by the people¨ (also in the House). And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Donald Trump and the Self-Made Sham

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

“I built what I built myself.”

This boast has long been at the core of the mythology of Donald Trump, Self-Made Billionaire. As the oft-told story goes, young Mr. Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father, Fred, a moderately successful real estate developer from Queens, and — through smarts, hard work and sheer force of will — parlayed that loan into a multibillion-dollar global empire.

It’s a classic American tale of ambition and self-determination. Not Horatio Alger, exactly, but appealing, and impressive, nonetheless.

Except that, like so much of what Mr. Trump has been selling the American public in recent years, this origin story was a sham — a version of reality so elaborately embellished that it qualifies as fan fiction more than biography. Also, as we’ve come to expect from Mr. Trump, the creation of this myth involved a big dose of ethically sketchy, possibly even illegal activity.

Yes, quite so - and I should add that ¨the core of the mythology of Donald Trump¨ refers to a quite long article in yesterday´s New York Times that strongly supports the present article.

Here is more:

As Donald Trump emerged as the favorite son, Fred made special deals and arrangements to increase Donald’s fortunes in particular. The Times found that, before Donald had turned 30, he had received close to $9 million from his father. Over the longer haul, he received upward of what, in today’s dollars, would be $413 million.

Along the way, it seems that certain liberties were taken with tax laws. The Times found that concocting elaborate schemes to avoid paying taxes on their father’s estate, including greatly understating the value of the family business, became an important pastime for Fred’s children, with Donald taking an active role in the effort. According to tax experts, the activities in question show a pattern of deception, a deliberate muddying of the financial waters.
And this article ends as follows:
But increasingly, Mr. Trump’s willingness to bend the truth — and the rules — in the service of his myth looks less like innocent exaggeration than malicious deception, with a dollop of corruption tossed in for good measure. It’s not the golden, glittering success story he has been peddling. It’s shaping up to be something far darker.

Yes, I agree, but being a psychologist I insist there is more to Trump: He is also not sane, for he almost certainly has megalomania aka a - grandiose or malignant - narcissistic personality disorder (and I am one who feels quite unsafe with Trump´s insane finger on or close to the nuclear trigger).

4. How America Can Free Itself From Wall Street

This article is by Ellen Brown on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Wall Street owns the country. That was the opening line of a fiery speech that populist leader Mary Ellen Lease delivered around 1890. Franklin Roosevelt said it again in a letter to Colonel House in 1933, and Sen. Dick Durbin was still saying it in 2009. “The banks—hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created—are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill,” Durbin said in an interview. “And they frankly own the place.”

Wall Street banks triggered a credit crisis in 2008-09 that wiped out over $19 trillion in household wealth, turned some 10 million families out of their homes and cost almost 9 million jobs in the U.S. alone. Yet the banks were bailed out without penalty, while defrauded home buyers were left without recourse or compensation. The banks made a killing on interest rate swaps with cities and states across the country, after a compliant and accommodating Federal Reserve dropped interest rates nearly to zero. Attempts to renegotiate these deals have failed.

Yes, quite so - and Ellen Brown does know banks. Here is her general solution to the problem of the banks:

Local governments have been in bondage to Wall Street ever since the 19th century despite multiple efforts to rein them in. Regulation has not worked. To break free, we need to divest our public funds from these banks and move them into our own publicly owned banks.

Yes, I agree. There is considerably more in the article that I skip. It ends as follows:

The numbers are there to support the case for a city-owned bank, but a critical ingredient in effecting revolutionary change is finding the political will. Being first in any innovation is always the hardest. Reasons can easily be found for saying no. What is visionary and revolutionary is to say, “Yes, we can do this.”

As California goes, so goes the nation, and legislators around the country are watching to see how it goes in Los Angeles. Rather than criticism, council President Wesson deserves high praise for stepping forth in the face of predictable pushback and daunting legal hurdles to lead the country in breaking free from our centuries-old subjugation to Wall Street exploitation.

I agree - although this is at present nothing but a small beginning of what may turn out as major changes. And this is a recommended article.

5. The Kavanaugh Case: Sex, Lies, Privilege (and Plenty of Beer)

This article is by Joe Lauria on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
We may not learn anything new about the Brett Kavanaugh affair when the FBI finishes its week- long investigation. It may still ultimately come down to who you believe. But based on his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh left few doubts about his fitness for the U.S. Supreme Court.

His tirade, crying, petty lies, interruptions of senators and demands they answer his questions—often about beer—and not theirs, showed Kavanaugh lacks the emotions and honesty to sit on a bench.

His blatant partisan attacks shattered the myth of impartial justices who just stick to the law.

Lawyers who stand before the Supreme Court are warned not to anger a justice, lest it override the merits of a case. Imagine being a Democrat and standing before Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Yes, quite so - and for more see item 1, which is strongly recommended. And here is one main reason (that is also in item 1) that shows why I think Kavanaugh is completely unfit to become part of the Supreme Court:
With Republican votes in his vest pocket, Kavanaugh was free to shout down Democrats on the panel. It won’t go down as a great moment in U.S. Senate history:

(SEN. SHELDON) WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference, related to the consumption of alcohol?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.

WHITEHOUSE: And did the world “ralph” you used in your yearbook…

KAVANAUGH: I already — I already answered…

WHITEHOUSE: … refer to alcohol?

KAVANAUGH: … the question. If you’re…

WHITEHOUSE: Did it relate to alcohol? You haven’t answered that.

KAVANAUGH: I like beer. I like beer. I don’t know if you do…


KAVANAUGH: … do you like beer, Senator, or not?


KAVANAUGH: What do you like to drink?

WHITEHOUSE: Next one is…

KAVANAUGH: Senator, what do you like to drink?

The word “beer” came up 53 times in the testimony. Kavanaugh badgered other senators about their drinking habits.
Kavanaugh is a sick fraud who should not be on the Supreme Court. And there is a lot more in the article that is strongly recommended.


[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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