November 18, 2018

Crisis: Trump & Davis, On Pelosi, Trump & The Press, On Schumer, On Comments Sections


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 18, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, November 18, 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 November 18, 2018:
1. Donald Trump is the Jefferson Davis of a new red state confederacy
2. Pelosi pushes tax rule that would 'kneecap the progressive agenda'
3. Trump Is Undermining the Freedom of the Press. That’s an Impeachable

4. Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack
5. Why comments sections must die
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 is the Jefferson Davis of a new red state confederacy

This article is by Lucian K. Truscott IV. It is on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
In both cases, they were young, and they were white, and they were male, and the actions they took started civil wars.
In 2017, they were members of the so-called “alt-right” — white supremacists, neo-nazis, neo-confederates, white nationalists, and neo-fascists who were in Charlottesville for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. On the night of August 11, 2017, as many as 200 of them marched carrying burning torches through the campus of the University of Virginia chanting white supremacist slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
The next day, the alt-right demonstrators marched through Charlottesville carrying Confederate and Nazi flags chanting “white lives matter,” “Jewish media is going down,” and “make America great again.” Many demonstrators were armed, some with semi-automatic assault-style rifles. They clashed again with counter-protestors, and at 1:45 p.m., a white supremacist demonstrator identified as James Alex Fields Jr. drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
At a rally in Phoenix, Arizona a week later, Trump defended his statements at the Trump Tower press conference and again criticized the movement to take down Confederate statues. “They're trying to take away our culture, they're trying to take away our history,” Trump said. “And our weak leaders, they do it overnight.”
I think this is more or less correct, but I have been sifting a reasonable amount (indicated by "(..)"). Here is more:
The New York Times created a stunning portrait of the new civil war on the cover of its Sunday magazine on November 11. Against a photograph of a burning Nazi swastika at a white supremacist rally in Georgia this year, the Times displayed a list of 70 white supremacist demonstrations, shootings, bombings, and planned attacks going back to the killing of nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by white supremacist Dylann Roof on June 17, 2015. The Times used the list to illustrate an article about how federal and state law enforcement agencies have failed to respond to the threat of white supremacist violence in this country. Read another way, it’s a list of battles in the new civil war.
Perhaps, and the reason I am somewhat doubtful about "the new civil war", although I agree with "the threat of white supremacist violence in this country", is that I do not have much of an idea how many of these racists there are in the present USA.

Then again, I insist - it seems against nearly all journalists, who seem to desire very much not to call their readers or indeed other inhabitants of the USA stupid - that there are very many stupid and/or ignorant people in the USA, so Truscott may be right.

Here is more:

That is only a partial list of the killings and other incidents carried out by members of the “alt-right” and white supremacists. It happens day by day, week, by week, month by month, one after another.

It’s a slow motion civil war, and it’s being fought by Trump’s “very fine people.” The warriors in this civil war include a lot of people who are fighting against what might be called a pluralistic United States. Many of them have guns. Some of them have bombs. Some of them have killed the people they are at war with. Others have held repeated rallies and demonstrations to express their dissatisfaction with the United States as it is presently comprised. Many want a separate state of white people, ruled by white people. They want a new Confederate States of America.

Well... I say again: Perhaps. And my main reason is that I do not get any useful statistics, and I can't really judge this without at least decent statistics.

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

Donald Trump has made a decision that he isn’t the president of the United States of America, but president of the red states of America. Trump has embraced a new confederacy, and he is their Jefferson Davis, and a new civil war has been joined.

I only supply a link to Jefferson Davis.

2. Pelosi pushes tax rule that would 'kneecap the progressive agenda'

This article is by Jake Johnson on AlterNet and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Nearly three-quarters of the American public and a historic number of Democratic lawmakers support Medicare for All, but the House Democratic leadership is considering using its newly won majority to impose a rule that would "recklessly betray" the grassroots forces that put them in power by making single-payer and other progressive priorities impossible to enact.
According to a list of Democratic proposals obtained by the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is currently fighting back

against efforts to prevent her from becoming House Speaker—is pushing for a rule that would "require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers."

In response, called the proposal "a staggeringly bad idea."

In case you do not understand why making it very difficult to raise taxes on "the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers" is bad (and forgot that improvements for the poor must come either from the rich, who generally refuse to do so because this hurts their profits or else from the government), here is the explanation:

Though the proposed rule is framed as an effort to protect the financial well-being of middle class Americans, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine pointed out that "while progressives are committed to increasing the discretionary income of the bottom 80 percent, that does not necessarily mean keeping their tax rates frozen at historically low levels."

"A bill that required those households to pay a new, smaller monthly sum to the government—so as to fund a single-payer system that would actually reduce their cost of living by delivering radically cheaper healthcare services—could hardly be called regressive," Levitz notes. "And the same can be said for legislation establishing universal child care, paid family leave, or any other program aimed at easing the middle class's financial burdens."

"Equating support for middle-class families—with opposition to increasing their tax rates—is a conservative project, which Democrats have no business advancing," Levitz added. "If the party wishes to establish structural barriers to policies that would hurt the middle class, why not require a three-fifths majority to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security?"

Yes indeed: Quite so - but Pelosi did not propose that last point, of requiring "a three-fifths majority to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security".

Here is more:

Combined with Pelosi's expressed committment to reviving the "economically illiterate" pay-go rule—which would require that all new spending be offset by spending cuts or tax hikes—the proposed tax restriction would completely undercut Medicare for All, free public college, a federal jobs program, and other ambitious left-wing policies by dramatically restricting the party's ability to raise revenue and effectively handing Republicans the power to block progressive legislation.

Yes, I think that is quite  correct. This is from the ending:

Progressive advocacy groups and experts registered their outrage at Pelosi's rule proposal on social media on Friday, with economist Stephanie Kelton warning that the Democratic leader's measure would completely "kneecap the progressive agenda."

I agree. And this is a recommended article.

3. Trump Is Undermining the Freedom of the Press. That’s an Impeachable Offense.

This article is by Ben T. Clemens and Ron Fein on Common Dreams. This is from near its start:

The Constitution empowers Congress to impeach the president for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Contrary to a common misunderstanding, this formula is not limited to prosecutable crimes, like obstruction of justice; indeed, in the constitutional debates, the Founders themselves repeatedly gave examples of impeachable offenses that were not crimes. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, the impeachment power has a “more enlarged operation.” Its purpose is not to punish the impeached official, but rather to protect the country against his misconduct.

And make no mistake: President Trump’s war on the press endangers the country. As strongman leaders in declining democracies like Turkey and Hungary have discovered, an authoritarian ruler can undermine the freedom of the press by measures short of direct censorship.

Yes, I think this is all correct. Here is more:

Trump does this in four main ways: Like President Richard Nixon, who pressured the Internal Revenue Service to audit the tax returns of journalists on his “enemies list,” Trump threatens to use federal law enforcement to punish the press for critical coverage. He pressures private news businesses to fire particular reporters or editors. He tries to use federal regulatory power to retaliate against critical press, whether by suspending a press pass, blocking a proposed merger, or revoking TV stations’ licenses. And on the taxpayer’s dime, he constantly demonizes the press as “fake news,” or with the Stalinesque smear “enemy of the American People.”

I do not know how correct this is, but I suppose it mostly is. Here is more:

How do we know when a president’s war on the press crosses the line into an impeachable abuse of office? 

The answer may lie in a remarkable bipartisan resolution that the Senate passed in August. At the time, it attracted little fanfare. But it lays the groundwork for impeaching Trump for undermining freedom of the press.
The Senate declares four key points. First, it directly rebukes Trump by insisting that “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

Second, the free press serves a “vital and indispensable role” in advancing “the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States”—norms and freedoms that are repugnant to Donald Trump.

Yet the Senate has just gotten started. It “condemns the attacks on the institution of the free press and views efforts to systematically undermine the credibility of the press as an attack on the democratic institutions of the United States.”
The Senate concludes that “it is the sworn responsibility of all who serve the United States by taking the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States”—such as the president—“to uphold, cherish, and protect the entire Constitution, including the freedom of the press.” Yet obviously Trump is not doing this.

I say, for I am rather amazed that the - Republican - Senate did pass this resolution. Then again, I am also quite willing to assume that most Senators do not read most of most bills - but it would have been nice to read a little more on how this resolution passed.

Anyway. Here is more:

Some people think impeachment depends on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But that’s a mistake. The Senate has stated for the record, in a bipartisan resolution passed without a single objection, that Trump is violating his oath of office and engaging in “an attack on the democratic institutions of the United States.” That’s a ground for impeachment, and it’s time for Congress to start the hearings.

Yes, although I do not know whether it is wise to start impeachment procedures before 2020. My reason is mostly that I do not think an impeachment will get three quarters of the Senate before 2020. Indeed, if there was a reasonable chance of impeaching Trump before 2020, I would be for starting it now. And this is a recommended article.

4. Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack

This article is by Ryan Cooper on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Senate Democrats have once again selected Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as their minority leader without so much as a whisper of a debate or contest.

This is galling. The man is incompetent, has abysmal politics, and as we were reminded in a huge New York Times investigation into Facebook, is extremely corrupt.

In his first two years as Senate minority leader, Schumer had two main priorities. First, preserve his vulnerable moderates running in deeply Trumpy states, like Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly in Indiana. Second, use the Trump presidency to sneak through some odious stuff that most liberals hate.

Schumer definitely succeeded in the latter objective. In keeping with his long career as a Wall Street stooge (and in sharp contrast with his predecessor Harry Reid), he quietly shepherded financial deregulation through. And because he has an almost neoconservative foreign policy, he largely stood aside as Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal for no reason. He also attacked Trump from the right for not being belligerent enough towards North Korea.

I agree with this, and can add that Schumer did not succeed in realizing his first priority. And in any case, I agree Schumer "has abysmal politics" and "is extremely corrupt".

As to the last point (and in fact also the first point), there is this:

This brings me to Facebook. Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas wrote a jaw-dropping piece of reporting for the Times about Facebook's lobbying operation. They focused on how the company has defended itself from evidence that Russian intelligence used the platform to help Trump win in 2016, and that political extremists have been using the platform to organize atrocities, including genocide.

Basically, the strategy conducted by Facebook's top executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, was the filthiest sludge out of the bottom of the lobbying barrel. (Facebook has defended itself and calls the report "grossly unfair.") The story is very long, but probably the most explosive revelation was that Facebook hired a soulless Republican propaganda shop to attack its critics — notably the Open Markets Institute, which Anne-Marie Slaughter shoved out of the New America Foundation on instructions from her Google paymasters — with anti-Semitic smears, casting it as the tool of wealthy Jewish philanthropist George Soros. Remarkably, at the very same time they convinced the Anti-Defamation League to cast criticism of Facebook as anti-Semitic, as both Zuckerberg and Sandberg are Jewish.

Mostly yes. And as to the Jewishness of Zuckerberg and Sandberg:

I can supplement that David Cohen and Abraham Asscher also were Jews (I take it in the double sense of having a Jewish mother and having the Jewish faith) who were quite rich and headed the Dutch Jews in WW II. They also helped the Germans arrest more than 100,000 Dutch Jews, who subsequently all were killed. They themselves escaped with their families and their riches.
(I myself do not have anything against "the Jews", but I strongly dislike the suggestion that because someone is "Jewish" he or she must be good, decent or moral: See Cohen and Asscher.)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, and it is still about Schumer's corruption:

Schumer has raised more money from Facebook than any other member of Congress, his daughter works there, and he helped get his former staffer appointed to the Federal Trade Commission (which oversees Facebook). In concert with Facebook brass, he told Warner to lay off the company, reported the Times: "Mr. Warner should be looking for ways to work with Facebook, Mr. Schumer advised, not harm it."

The sooner Schumer (and Pelosi, and Perez) disappears, the better it seems to me. This is a recommended article.

5. Why comments sections must die

This article is by Keith A. Spencer on Salon. It starts as follows:

Besides inventing clickbait and downgrading many journalists into curators, Silicon Valley has changed our collective relationship to the news itself. This is because online journalism has presided over a peculiar breakdown in the relationship between writer and reader, and especially between editor and reader – exemplified by the concept of the public “comments section,” common to online news sites and social media pages.

In the old days of print media, the only way for readers to talk back was to mail (and later email) comments to editors who would then pick and choose the most relevant or interesting ones (and weed out the racist, sexist, or just plain mean ones). Online comment sections usually remove editors entirely. Now, anyone is free to go on any news site that allows comments and post whatever inflammatory thing they wish – or reply angrily to other comments pseudonymously. One can engage in the same exercise on most social media sites, such as microblogging platforms like Twitter, video-sharing site YouTube, or link aggregator Reddit. British think-tank Demos conducted a study of Twitter in 2014 in which they found “approximately 10,000 uses per day of racist and ethnic slur terms in English.” These online spaces are frequently used to cyber-bully, shame and humiliate others – in netspeak, what we call “trolling.”

Yes indeed. In fact, it seems worse to me than it may appear to Spencer. Here are my eplanations:

I am online since 1996 but I almost never read any comment, and I don't for two reasons: They tend to be extra-ordinarily short, stupid, ignorant and mean, and they are almost all totally anonymous (and I have much better uses to spend my time).

It is especially the anonymity which I despise (which is totally senseless given the fact that everyone is part and partcel of the relentless search for all possible information, including all private information, from the national securities of probably every country, and from a-social sick and degenerate creeps like Facebook and Google) and I have one anecdote about this:

I am rarely criticized, but I was criticized - quite a few years ago - with lies and falsehoods by an utter but completely anonymous degenerate who claimed to have ME/CFS and who wrote on Phoenix Rising, and who was absolutely convinced - with a few O-levels - that XMRV was the cause of ME/CFS (which was utterly false).

And I thought originally: If you lie as you do, I can out you on my own site in various ways - and then realized he (?) is utterly anonymous for me, and his (?) real name is totally unknown to me, which in turn means I can't hurt him (?) more than changing his anonymous alias. And this stopped me (and removed me, among other reasons, from Phoenix Rising).

Well... it is the same for approximately 2 billion mostly utterly talentless men and women who now can "write" as anonymous authors on the utterly a-social Facebook and Twitter, and scold and lie as they please.

I am very strongly against this: I do not mind being scolded and lied to, but I strongly mind that I cannot do anything against anonymous persons - of whom there are at least 2 billion now, who "all can write" (in Twitter-length bits of utter bullshit, normally, it seems).

Here is more on the comments sections from this article:

Though the concept of comments sections likely began as a na´ve experiment in online media, such sections quickly became omnipresent. Many people, myself included, are horrified at online comments on news articles, and particularly at how out-of-tune they can seem with regional cultural values and ideology.

Why do media empires tolerate, even promote such comments sections? The unsurprising answer is money (..)
Yes, indeed. (One reason is that all members of Facebook are almost completely known to the AI of Facebook, and all members generate a lot of profit for the owners of Facebook from advertisers, that "repays" them by sending them advertisements of things they want.)

Here is more:
For years, I was shocked at the negative and cruel behavior of the online masses, but over time, I came to understand that, through the written veil of online pseudo-anonymity, people are apt to be much more spiteful, hateful, and cruel than they would be if they were communicating face-to-face.
I wasn't shocked by the effects of anomymity. The reason is that I was scolded from 1977 till 1989 as "a fascist", "a dirty fascist", and in the end (in 1988) as "a terrorist" simply because I headed the opposition to the communist ASVA, that had the power in the "University" of Amsterdam from 1971 till 1995, and helped to utterly destroy it as a decent university.

I was offended because my parents were real communists (unlike the vast majority of the members of the ASVA or their parents), and were some of the few who were in the real resistance against the Nazis in WW II, while my father and grandfather were arrested in August 1941 and committed to the concentration camp, by collaborating Dutch judges, where my grandfather was murdered.

And the members of the ASVA also were nearly all completely anonymous for me (for they scolded usually in groups, being all so extremely brave).

Back to the article for the last bit that I will quote from it:
As I've argued before, comments sections are not a zeitgeist of our culture, nor are they a populist reflection of public sentiment. Selection bias and the online disinhibition effect means that the voices of cruelty and hate will always reign, and the voices of reason will sink — or merely not post to begin with. As slanted cauldrons of hate, comments sections do not epitomize the Western ideal of "free speech" in any way. Time to end them.

Well... no. People may scold all they want, but they should not be able to do so anonymously.

It is the anomymity which creates most of the scoldings and death threats etc. etc. This is a recommended article, but I am not against scolding and lying but against anonymous scolding and lying, for it is the anonymity that allows and protects this.


[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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