November 29, 2018

Crisis: On Tear Gas, Non-desegregated USA, Climate Talks, On The U.S. Congress, On Brexit


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 29, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 29, 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 29, 2018:
1. How Tear Gas Became a Favorite Weapon of U.S. Border Patrol
2. America Has Desegregated in Name Only
3. World Faces 'Impossible' Task at Post-Paris Climate Talks
4. First Step Post-Election – Open Up the Closed, Secretive Congress
5. A Series of Miscalculations Has Brought Britain to the Brink
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. How Tear Gas Became a Favorite Weapon of U.S. Border Patrol

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:
As the Trump administration continues to defend firing tear gas into crowds of asylum seekers, we look at the history of tear gas, which is banned in warfare but legal for federal authorities and police to turn on civilians. Border authorities’ use of tear gas has spiked under the Trump administration, with the agency’s own data revealing it has deployed tear gas over two dozen times this year alone. Customs and Border Protection told Newsweek Tuesday it began using tear gas under the Obama administration in 2010. The agency’s use of tear gas has now reached a seven-year record high. We speak with Stuart Schrader, lecturer in sociology at Johns Hopkins University. He has studied how tear gas went from a weapon of war used in Vietnam to being deployed by law enforcement at home. His forthcoming book is titled “Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing.”
In fact, I did not know that tear gas is forbidded in warfare. Also, while I have been tear gassed twice, both times are around 50 years ago (once in France, during May 1968), and were not serious for me, although it was unpleasant.

Here is more:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As the Trump administration continues to defend firing tear gas into crowds of asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, we spend the rest of the hour looking at the history of tear gas, which is banned in warfare but legal for federal authorities and police to turn on civilians.
This was also in the introduction. In any case, I am a bit amazed that (i) tear gas is ¨banned in warfare¨ and that (ii) nevertheless it is ¨legal for federal authorities and police to turn on civilians¨.

As to the first point: It was widely used in Vietnam, although it was by then around 40 years forbidden: See Tear gas, that states that it was forbidden in 1925, mostly because it was widely used during WW I, also in stronger forms than seem to be currently used to control or disperse crowds.

As to the second point: I am mostly concerned about the inconsistencies implicit in forbidding its use in warfare while admitting it for crowd control. (And I read the abstract of one British medical report that states it is a safe form of control, which I am sorry but disbelieve, indeed in part because I - who have almost 40 years a serious and chronic disease, have been lied to for nearly forty years by 90% of the Dutch medics I asked for help. I got no help whatsoever, and was not even considered ill, although my ex - also ill since 40 years - and I both had gotten the disease during our first year of studying on study loans.)

Anyway. In fact, neither point is answered in this article, but here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump claimed border agents used a minor form of tear gas, but Customs and Border Protection later acknowledged there’s only one form of the gas that is commonly used. Ronald Colburn, the president of the Border Patrol Foundation and former national deputy chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, spoke on Fox & Friends Monday morning.

RONALD COLBURN: The type of the deterrent being used is OC pepper spray. It’s literally water, pepper with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes. It’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it. So it’s a good way of deterring people without long-term harm.

AMY GOODMAN: “You can actually put it on your nachos and eat it.” Tear gas is banned by international law under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement, “The use of tear gas on children—including infants and toddlers in diapers—goes against evidence-based recommendations, and threatens their short and long-term health.”

Both Trump and Colburn were lying, and Amy Goodman is quite correct. Here is more on the same point by Schrader:

STUART SCHRADER: Well, both of these statements are misleading. In the case of President Trump’s statement, he is trying to claim that the tear gas is a mild form, and that’s simply untrue. The tear gas that was used is a chemical called CS. And the guy from the border patrol is also being misleading, because he’s referring to pepper spray, and again it was CS that was used, and CS is an extremely powerful chemical. And the term “tear gas,” when referring to CS, is misleading, because it doesn’t just make your eyes tear when it affects your body; it also makes all of your mucous membranes become inflamed. You expel large amounts of mucus. You cough. You feel like you can’t breathe. You feel like you’re choking. So the term “tear gas” doesn’t really describe the effects that are the result of this chemical.

Yes. Here is an article on CS gas. (It is from Wikipedia and does not say its usage against civilians by the police - which is very widespread - involves a gas that is forbidden in war.)

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

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Stuart Schrader, can you talk about the history of the use of CS gas? I don’t think people understand. This gas that was used on the women and children who are fleeing persecution and poverty is considered illegal under the Chemical Weapons Convention?

STUART SCHRADER: Yeah, that’s correct.

Yes, and as you saw I asked two relevant questions about this inconsistencies (see here) but they were not answered in this article, which is recommended.

2. America Has Desegregated in Name Only

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. This starts as follows:

It’s a little-acknowledged reality that housing markets distribute more than mere dwellings. That’s because people’s place in the social order is intimately related to their geographic location generally, and where they live specifically.

Housing quality functions both as a reflection and driver of inequality. Beyond that, however, better homes come with better neighborhoods that afford other opportunity-expanding advantages: good, well-funded schools; high-quality and readily available health care; agreeable recreational facilities and parks; full-service grocery stores with healthy foods; excellent retail outlets; nice sit-down restaurants; well-kept roads and other infrastructure; safe distance from pollutants, major transport and cargo routes; proximity to pleasing natural vistas and settings; a vibrant civic and institutional life; abundant professional services; enjoyable public facilities, events and more. The least pleasant, spacious, healthy and expensive homes are commonly found in places where these and many other interrelated social premiums are scarce.

Yes, I entirely agree, indeed from my own experiences.

My own experiences happened in Holland, which is different from the USA, but even so, the first 15 years of my life were in fact quite poor, mostly because both of my parents were communists, which also meant that many Dutchmen considered it fair to call them ¨traitors¨.

In fact, both of my parents had been in the Dutch resistance (unlike more than 95% of the Dutch) and my father and grandfather had been arrested in August 1941 and were convicted to concentration camp imprisonment, which my grandfather had not survived. If the same had happened to non-communists, they would have been honored, but instead they were discriminated, for something like 15 years at least.

In any case: My youth was poor, although I do grant it would have been worse in the USA, especially if we had been black.

Here is more:

In the United States, as in other nations, the meaning of place—both spatial and social hierarchical—is highly racialized. The nation’s racial disparities, which are so vast that the median black household earns 8 cents for every dollar that the corresponding white household earns, are intimately related to a persistent de facto apartheid that keeps most African-American children living in predominantly poor and segregated communities, and attending equally poor and segregated schools. The country’s sickest and most destitute neighborhoods tend to have the highest concentration of black, Latino and Native American residents.

The nation’s tenacious racial separatism both reflects and reinforces this disparity, reminding us that separate remains unequal in a society where social and political resources are distributed unevenly.

I think the ¨8 cents for every dollar¨ is a mistake, but the vast majority of the blacks in the USA (where around 12% of the total population is black) is poorer than the vast majority of the whites, and the main reason is racial discrimination.

Here is more:

How does a right-wing Republican majority in the U.S. Senate get to pass a militantly partisan hack like Brett Kavanaugh through to the highest court in the land when majority U.S. public opinion stands well to the left of the GOP and Kavanaugh on countless policy issues? This is due in no small part to a Constitution that assigns two senators per state, regardless of its size.

Red Wyoming, which has a population of 573,720 Americans, holds U.S. senatorial parity with blue California, home to more than 39 million. The former has one U.S. senator for every 287,000 residents, while the latter has one U.S. senator for every 19.5 million residents. Just one of New York City’s eight boroughs, Brooklyn, has 2.6 million people. If Brooklyn were a state, and it were apportioned the same ratio of populace to elected official as Wyoming, it would have nine U.S. senators—likely all of them Democrats.

Well... yes, but this is far from the only reason, although I agree this one is quite unfair. And another important reason, also very unfair, is that if you can rise as high as the Senate or Congress, it is likely that you will be corrupted by money that comes from rich corporatists.

Anyway. This is a recommended article.

3. World Faces 'Impossible' Task at Post-Paris Climate Talks

This article is by Frank Jordans and Monika Scislowska on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Three years after sealing a landmark global climate deal in Paris, world leaders are gathering again to agree on the fine print.

The euphoria of 2015 has given way to sober realization that getting an agreement among almost 200 countries, each with their own political and economic demands, will be challenging — as evidenced by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord, citing his “America First” mantra.

“Looking from the outside perspective, it’s an impossible task,” Poland’s deputy environment minister, Michal Kurtyka, said of the talks he will preside over in Katowice from Dec. 2-14.

Top of the agenda will be finalizing the so-called Paris rulebook, which determines how countries have to count their greenhouse gas emissions, transparently report them to the rest of the world and reveal what they are doing to reduce them.

Well... I have been following the environment since 1972, briefly after ¨The Limits to Growth¨ first appeared, and I must admit I am completely skeptical about the Paris deal, as indeed I was before about the Kyoto protocol.

To be precise, I am not against them, but my reasons to be completely skeptical about them is that neither comes close to going far enough.

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

A recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change warned that time is running out if the world wants to achieve the most ambitious target in the Paris agreement — keeping global warming at 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). The planet has already warmed by about 1 degree since pre-industrial times and it’s on course for another 2-3 degrees of warming by the end of the century unless drastic action is taken.

The conference will have “quite significant consequences for humanity and for the way in which we take care of our planet,” Kurtyka told the Associated Press ahead of the talks.

Experts agree that the Paris goals can only be met by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050.

I agree that this conference (and Kyoto) ¨will have “quite significant consequences for humanity and for the way in which we take care of our planet”¨ but I think the significance will be - if humanity survives - that far too little was done when there still was time to get things done.

4. First Step Post-Election – Open Up the Closed, Secretive Congress

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

Following the mid-term elections, progressive citizen groups have to advance an agenda that makes Congress work for all Americans. The first step, however, is to acknowledge that Capitol Hill has walled itself off from the people, on behalf of corporate autocrats.

Currently, Congress is open for avaricious business, not for productive democracy. Congress itself is a concentrated tyranny of self-privilege, secrecy, repressiveness, and exclusive rules and practices. Congress fails to hold public hearings on many important matters and too often abandons oversight of the executive branch, and shuts out citizens who aren’t campaign donors. (See my new book, How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress at

Having sponsored in the nineteen-seventies the bestselling book ever on Congress – Who Runs Congress, I have a frame of reference for the present, staggering institutional narcissism of the Congress as the most powerful, though smallest, branch of our federal government.

Yes, I think Nader is mostly quite correct, e.g. when he says that ¨Congress itself is a concentrated tyranny of self-privilege, secrecy, repressiveness, and exclusive rules and practices¨.

Here is more:

It would have been rare in the sixties and seventies for major legislation to have moved to the floor of the House and the Senate without thorough public hearings with witnesses from a diverse array of citizen groups being given a chance to come and testify.

In the past two years, the Republicans sent the tax escape and health care restriction legislations to the floor, without any public hearings at the Committee level.
Yes indeed. Here is more:

U.S. Supreme Court nominees before the Senate used to face days of public hearings with many valuable witnesses. For three decades, the Senate Judiciary Committee, under both Democratic and Republican control have shortened the hearings and markedly cut back on witnesses permitted to testify. Knowledgeable people with adverse information about the nominees were kept from testifying – their requests often not even acknowledged.

The signs of Congressional closeouts are everywhere. Years ago, Congress excluded itself from the great Freedom of Information Act. This arrogance fostered a breeding ground for abusive secrecy, covered up were such conflicts as members of Congress speculating in stocks with their inside information, corruption inquests before House and senate Ethics Committee. Even using taxpayer money to settle credible accusations of sexual assault against sitting lawmakers were all covered up.

The orgy of self-privilege knows few boundaries – being wined and dined and journeyed on fundraising junkets by lobbyists who donate dollars to their campaigns in return for legislated bonanzas or immunities is normal business practice. The Senators and Representatives give themselves generous pensions, health insurance, life insurance, and other goodies while denying or failing to provide tens of millions of people those protective benefits and coverages.

I think all of this is correct. Here is more:

If you’ve ever wondered why the nearly $5 billion you pay annually to support 535 offices in Congress does not produce supervision of the sprawling wasteful executive branch Departments such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and State, the FDA and others, it might just be that the corporate donors are in effect paying their recipient solons to look the other way and let their passive Committee staff slumber.

In fact, I had to look up ¨solons¨: it means - in this context - ¨legislators¨. Apart from that, I think Nader is right again.

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

Regular people trying to call members of Congress or Committees find their switchboard increasingly on voice mail during working hours. Substantive letters from constituents are not even acknowledged much less given the respect of a reply. Calls to Senators or Representatives or their top staff are often ignored if you are not a campaign contributor.

These increasing plunges into dictatorial misuses of the sovereign power we have delegated to members of Congress are not universal. There are minorities of good-faith lawmakers objecting, but their power is too little to overcome the Congressional Corporate complex that has seized our Capitol.

Yes, I quite agree and this is a strongly recommended article. 

5. A Series of Miscalculations Has Brought Britain to the Brink

This article is by Peter Müller and Jörg Schindler on Spiegel International. This is from near its beginning:
If there's anything uniting the generally indulgent Brits right now, it's anger.

For some it's anger at a political class that has made so many promises and kept so few of them. For others, it's anger at the nationalist tempters gambling away the country's future in a quest to reclaim past glory. There is anger at a government that no longer has the power to solve critical social problems. Anger that it's not over yet. And yes, also, self-directed anger.

Possibly so. I have lived in England, but that was a long time ago, and I haven´t been there in a long time. Then again, I can quite well imagine that the above is true.

Here is more, but I should tell you right away that this is a quite long article of which I am only quoting some bits from its beginning:

On Sunday, the remaining 27 EU member states endorsed Theresa May's a divorce agreement and a declaration for a future relationship, after thousands of hours of negotiating. Measured against the historic nature of the move, it represents no less than a diplomatic masterwork. In no small part because the Brexit proposed in that deal would be so soft that it would take years before people really started to notice the change.

But it would also mean that little has been gained -- at least for the UK. Its future will remain as murky as it was before given that no one can predict how things will progress.

Any agreement with Brussels would only survive if most members of the British House of Commons approve it. And nobody knows how that is going to happen.
I think this - especially the middle paragraph - is confused indeed because in politics in general ¨no one can predict how things will progress¨. Also, I have no ideas whether the present deal is ¨no less than a diplomatic masterwork¨ (and I think few have, for in fact this requires a lot of reading, and considerable knowledge about the law and diplomacy).

As to the last paragraph: Well, of course. Here is more:

The only thing just about everyone can agree on is that Prime Minister Theresa May must go. But she's still there, and has survived much longer than people expected. A coup against May by members of her own party was announced this week, but then cancelled for lack of plotters. Though perhaps it has only been delayed.

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

The vote in the House of Commons is scheduled for Dec. 11, and the pent-up rage could blow up British politics, either intentionally or by accident. It would be an almost appropriate end to a years-long fight primarily defined by vanity, gross overconfidence and denial of reality.

Perhaps. There follows a great lot more, and while I glanced at it, I admit I did not find it very interesting, in part for reasons sketched above. 


[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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