October 11, 2018

Crisis: ¨Pampered Princelings¨, Preserving The Planet, Climate Change, Antitrust, Kavanaugh


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 11, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 11, 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 11, 2018:
1. Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the Rule of Pampered Princelings
2. We Need to Act Now to Preserve Our Planet for Future Generations
3. CNN Perpetuates Destructive Climate Change Myth
4. Trump and the End of Antitrust
5. Let’s Start a Kavanaugh Watch to Check All Five Corporate Judges
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. Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the Rule of Pampered Princelings

This article is by Naomi Klein on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

“Boring.” That was Donald Trump’s instant verdict on the New York Times’s blockbuster investigation into the rampant tax fraud and nepotism that undergirds his fortune. Sarah Huckabee Sanders heartily concurred, informing the White House press corps that she refused to “go through every line of a very boring, 14,000-word story.”

Welcome to a new political PR strategy premised on the shredding of the American mind — you don’t want to even try to read that interminable article; check out my Twitter feed instead, and this viral video of me saying rabid things.

I take it (I am not quite sure) that Naomi Klein is sarcastic in the second quoted paragraph. If so, she is correct, and indeed she is talking, albeit it very indirectly, about a much wider trend in publishing on the internet:

Some 10 days ago Mother Jones turned suddenly (without any announcement) neofascistic (I am sorry, but that is my term) by making all of it uncopyable. Incidentally, it seems to have been fitted before that for tablets and not for the screen I use on my desktop. And so it has become both entirely worthless and a pain to use.

The Guardian did so earlier (already more than a year ago). Huffington Post likewise.

I am strongly against all this, and I agree with Linux, which is the only operating system I use. This is quoted from the collinsdictionary for ¨copyable¨:

Linux itself has always been covered by the GNU General Public Licence, which states any software offered under its terms is freely distributable, copyable and modifiable.

I think this also holds for dailies. In fact, I think I have to review the list of 35 sites I consult every morning, for I just do not want uncopyable sites, indeed in part because I quite agree with a Dutch author, who asked some 30 or 40 years ago

¨What was worth a billion yesterday, twentyfive cents today, and nothing tomorrow? The daily paper.¨

I quite agree, and will let my readers know when I have reviewed the list of 35 sites (which may take a while for I am not healthy).

Back to Klein´s article, that is in fact about something quite different from (un)copyable daily news:

What makes the Times’ revelations more important is that they are a rare window into an even larger story about the growing political and economic role of inherited money in the United States — the culmination of decades in which a handful of sons and daughters of bequeathed wealth waged a fierce and relentless battle of ideas against the very concept of equality and majority rule, all based on the same corrupting belief in their own inherent superiority.

Trump may be the highest profile of such heirs to wield political power, but he never would have gotten where he is without the ideological scaffolding carefully put in place by other scions of dynastic families (..)
For Klein´s article is in fact about a specific kind of American very rich persons, namely those who did not make their wealth themselves, but who inherited their wealth, because they are ¨scions of dynastic families¨.

Indeed, these are the ¨Pampered Princelings¨ that occur in her title. Then again, I must say that I am not interested in
¨Pampered Princelings¨ as distinguished from what I suppose are the ¨Non- Pampered Princelings¨, who got extremely wealthy themselves.

In fact I am intererested in the rich and the mega-rich, but I am not interested in - rather arbitrary, also - distinctions between several groups of the rich.

And therefore I will give only one more quotation from this article:

A great deal of excellent investigative journalism has gone into tracking the money behind this sprawling class war, most notably by Jane Mayer in her indispensable “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” Mayer showed that though figures like the Kochs are highly ideological, the policies pushed by these wealthy families also happen to directly benefit their bottom lines. Laxer regulations, lower taxes, weaker unions, and unfettered access to international markets tend to do that.

Much less attention, however, has been paid to the implications of so much of this financing coming not just from unfathomably rich people, but people born that way. And yet it is striking that the figures at the dead center of this campaign were not Chicago school economists, nor were most of them self-made business leaders who had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. They were, like Trump, pampered princelings whose fortunes had been handed to them by their parents.

I suppose the first of the quoted paragraphs is true, but I can explain the second paragraph rather easily: There are far more people born very rich than become very rich by themselves.

2. We Need to Act Now to Preserve Our Planet for Future Generations

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
As Hurricane Michael barreled down on Florida, famed climate scientist Dr. James Hansen traveled to Minnesota earlier this week to testify on the imminent danger of climate change. He was supposed to be an expert witness at the trial for the “valve turners,” the anti-pipeline activists who staged an unprecedented coordinated action to shut down the flow of oil from Canada to the United States in 2016. But the judge ruled she would not allow witnesses like Dr. Hansen to testify on the clear and present danger posed by climate change. On Tuesday, valve turner activists Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston were acquitted. We speak with Hansen in Minneapolis about the valve turners, the recent IPCC
report about the imminent threat of climate change and what must be done to save the planet from destruction. Hansen is the former top climate scientist at
. He is now the director of Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

To start with, here is some information about Dr. James Hansen. Here is some more about him:

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. James Hansen is the former top climate scientist at NASA. From 1981 to 2013, he was the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, now the director of Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He traveled to Minnesota to testify at the trial for the valve turners, but the judge ruled she would not allow expert witnesses, like Dr. Hansen and founder Bill McKibben, to raise this issue—to testify at all or raise this issue about climate change and the connection to what the valve turners were doing. Dr. Hansen, why did you go to Minnesota, agree to testify in this case? Why did, the valve turners, you want to defend?

JAMES HANSEN: Well, of course, they’re trying to draw attention to the climate issue, and particularly to the egregious role of the tar sands. And I just was supposed to help explain the climate consequences of this carbon source.

Quite so, but then again the judge did not allow him to testify. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting that this trial came just as the United Nations climate scientists warned in a landmark report that humanity has only a dozen years to mitigate climate change or face global catastrophe.
JAMES HANSEN: Yeah, well, I think this report is really a good report from IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The prior reports do not always convey the urgency of the issue and really make it very clear to the public. But this one, I think, did a very good job, both in warning about the consequences if we don’t do something, and in making clear that we still can do something, but we have to begin very quickly to actually phase down emissions, while, in fact, emissions will continue to climb if we don’t have some significant policy changes.

Well... I have been following the environment for nearly 50 years, and besides learning things about the environment, which indeed were and are quite interesting and useful, I have learned one more lesson, albeit about politics, politicians and judges: These persons - who all have considerably more power than mere scientists, including well-known scientists - have the last 50 years consistently done far too little, and if they did something useful did it consistently far too late.

I am sorry, but I believe nearly 50 years of such lessons, which also is the reason that I think the IPCC report will get a similar treatment, though I agree that this is most regrettable.

3. CNN Perpetuates Destructive Climate Change Myth

This article is by Naomi LaChance on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

CNN drew the ire of environmentalists Tuesday by focusing its discussion of climate change on what individuals can do—without addressing the influence of corporations’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Scared by that new report on climate change? Here’s what you can do to help:

• Eat less meat (about 30%)

• Swap your car or plane ride for a bus or train

• Use a smart thermostat in your home, and upgrade to more efficient appliances

Yes indeed, and I know this sort of news from the Dutch papers I look at every morning, which seem as fond of it as CNN.

In fact, I decided long ago this was almost complete boloney. Here is my main reason:
Solutions such as vegetarianism, public transit and smart home appliances ultimately pale in comparison to the harm caused by fossil fuels. The cable news outlet borrowed its suggestions from a report published Monday by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report found the planet to be at risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages by 2030, and it listed a number of ways in which individuals could reduce their carbon footprint. But solving our climate crisis isn’t quite so simple.
I grant ¨vegetarianism, public transit and smart home appliances¨ might make a small difference (that also is difficult to quantify), but these small differences pale in comparison with the enormous amounts of filth that are put in the air by the corporations that produce oil and gas.

And in fact no amount of individual actions like
¨vegetarianism, public transit and smart home appliances¨ can alter the influence of the corporations that produce oil and gas, as is illustrated by this tweet that mocks the tweet I started this review:

Scared by that new report on climate change? Here’s what you can do to help:

• Seize the state

• Bring the fossil fuel industry under public ownership, rapidly scale down production

• Fund a massive jobs program to decarbonize every sector of the economy (..)

— Kate Scare-onoff
This seems a valid response to me, but the problem is that in the present political conditions these measures are purely imaginary and will never be realized.

Here is the ending of this article:
The reality is that fossil fuels are destroying our planet, and no amount of solar panels and lifestyle changes will save it if major culprits are not held accountable.
I agree. And since I have the last nearly 50 years not seen any serious attempt to hold the ¨major culprits¨ accountable, my own guess is - very regrettably - that this lack of any serious attempt to hold the the corporations that produce oil and gas accountable may only stop when New York, San Francisco and some other big cities have been seriously flooded.

4. Trump and the End of Antitrust

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

The Trump Justice Department has approved a $69 billion merger between CVS, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, and insurance giant Aetna. It’s the largest health insurance deal in history.

Executives say the combination will make their companies more efficient, allowing them to gain economies of scale and squeeze waste out of the system.

Rubbish. This is what big companies always say when they merge.

The real purpose is to give Aetna and CVS more bargaining power over their consumers and employees, as well as pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers (which have also been consolidating).

The result: Higher prices. Americans already spend far more on healthcare and medications per person than do citizens in any other developed country – and our health is among the worst.

Quite so, and incidentally, although this is not as bad as in the USA, the same developments happen in Holland and elsewhere in Europe.

Here is more, on the laws that might have prevented these developments in the USA, but did not:

America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits. 

But now, especially with Trump as president and lobbyists and CEOs running much of the government, giant corporations like Aetna and CVS are busily weakening antitrust enforcement and taking over the economy.

They’re also keeping down wages. Workers with less choice of whom to work for have a harder time getting a raise. So when local labor markets are dominated by one major drug chain like CVS or one big box retailer like Walmart, these firms essentially set wage rates for the area. 

These massive corporations also have a lot of political clout – another reason they’re consolidating.
I think this is true, although it is schematic. Here is more:

We see the same pattern across the economy. Wall Street’s five largest banks now account for 44 percent of America’s banking assets – up from about 10 percent thirty years ago. That means higher interest rates on loans, higher late fees, and a greater risk of another “too-big-to-fail” bailout.

But politicians don’t dare bust them up because Wall Street pays part of their campaign expenses.

Quite so - and it is especially the second quoted paragraph that shows that, in fact, most politicians these days, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, collaborate with Wall Street rather than oppose it, and that they do so because ¨Wall Street pays part of their campaign expenses¨.

And in fact that set-up is not one that belongs to a democracy but to a plutocracy.

Here is Reich´s ending:

We’re now in a new Gilded Age of wealth and power similar to the first Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. But unlike then, today’s biggest corporations have enough political clout to neuter antitrust. 

Unless government un-rigs the market through bold antitrust action to restore competition, the hidden upward distributions from consumers and workers to corporate chieftains and major investors will grow even larger.

If Democrats ever get back in power, one of the first things they need to do is revive antitrust.
I agree and this is a recommended article. 

5. Let’s Start a Kavanaugh Watch to Check All Five Corporate Judges

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

Brett Kavanaugh, the new Injustice of the Supreme Court of the United States, must be pleased by the leading news stories on Monday and Tuesday regarding his swift swearing-in on Saturday. The multiple perjurer, corporate supremacist, presidential power-monger, and a past fugitive from justice (regarding credible claims of sexual assault), Kavanaugh saw critical media coverage become yesterday’s story. The mass media has moved on to other calamities, tragedies, superstorms, and celebrity outrages. Opponents of his nomination must persevere anew.

Yes indeed, and I have previously pointed out that the ¨mass media¨, which were absolutely filled
with reports by all manner of journalists writing about each and every aspect of Kavanaugh´s nomination, now have moved ¨
to other calamities, tragedies, superstorms, and celebrity outrages¨.

Here is more on the Supreme Court and on Kavanaugh:

The future of the Supreme Court looks grim considering Kavanaugh’s judicial decisions and involvement in war crimes and torture as Staff Secretary to President George W. Bush. It is likely that Kavanaugh will be the cruelest and most insensitive justice on the high Court. His support of corporate power will have few limits. That’s saying something, given the rulings of Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

Kavanaugh’s decisions and political statements are so off the wall, I’ve called him a corporation masquerading as a human being. Corporations’ uber alles is his pre-eminent core philosophy. Public Citizen’s analysis of his judicial record (apart from his extremist political ideology) showed that in split-decision cases (which are the most ideologically revealing cases), Kavanaugh ruled 15 times against worker rights and 2 times for worker rights. On environmental protection, he ruled 11 times for business interests and 2 times for the public’s interest. On consumer protection, he ruled 18 times for businesses and only 4 times for consumers. As for monopoly cases, he ruled 2 times for the corporation and zero times for market competition.
I think all of this is quite correct. Here is more on Kavanaugh:

The Alliance for Justice report on nominee Kavanaugh summed up their research with these words:

“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… 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..”

Locking in the 5 to 4 dominant corporate muscle of the Supreme Court will endanger you as a consumer and will jeopardize your health and economic well-being. Unless you become a corporation, your freedoms will be jeopardized. (See the Citizens United Decision in 2010 that allowed our elections to be overwhelmed with unlimited commercial campaign money and propaganda).

Quite so. This is again on the Supreme Court and Kavanaugh:

The Supreme Court is deeply political – forget about the claims of judicial independence by the five Justices in the majority. Their votes on issues of class, race, presidential and corporate power, peoples’ rights, and remedies and access to justice (day in court with trial by jury) against corporations are quite predictable.

A new Kavanaugh Watch group – lean and sharp – needs to be created to publicize the Five Corporatist Judges. Their unjust decisions, hiding behind stylized plausibility and casuistry, need to be unmasked and regularly relayed to the American people. Their speeches to the Federalist Society (that shoehorned them onto the Court) and other plutocratic audiences need to be publicized and critiqued.

Well... I agree the Supreme Court is political, but I take it this holds for the more leftish or more liberal minority in it as well.

As to a ¨Kavanaugh Watch group¨: I don´t think this is a bad idea, but I also don´t think it will be realized, indeed mostly because I think for the large majority his nomination is (already) ¨in the past¨, and besides because such a group needs money.

This is from the ending of the article:

Finally, are there a few billionaires in the country, concerned enough about what their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to inherit from our generation, to make a significant founding grant to launch the Kavanaugh and company watch dog project?

I guess not (which is regrettable) and the reasons for my guess are that billionaires know that as long as they are billionaires they and their families will be the first almost anywhere.

But 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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