December 5, 2018

Crisis: On Hillary Clinton, Trump & GM, The Guardian & Assange, Children in Politics, On SCOTUS


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 5, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, December 5, 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 three 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 December 5, 2018:
1. What It Means That Hillary Clinton Might Run for President in 2020
2. Trump Takes on General Motors (And Guess Who Wins?)
3. The Guardian’s Vilification of Julian Assange
4. “Since Our Leaders Are Behaving Like Children, We Will Have to Take

5. Yes, it’s time to reform the Supreme Court — but not for the wrong
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. What It Means That Hillary Clinton Might Run for President in 2020

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Twenty-five years ago — when I wrote a book titled “False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era” — I didn’t expect that the Democratic Party would still be mired in Clintonism two and a half decades later. But such approaches to politics continue to haunt the party and the country.

The last two Democratic presidencies largely involved talking progressive while serving Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. The obvious differences in personalities and behavior of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama diverted attention from their underlying political similarities. In office, both men rarely fought for progressive principles — and routinely undermined them.

Yes, this is more or less correct. I do not know why Solomon believed twenty-five years ago that the Clintons would have disappeared by now (and I could have argue either way myself, twenty- five years ago) and I also do not intend to find out, but he is quite correct about Obama.

Indeed, here is some more about Obama:

Obama, for instance, bailed out big banks while letting underwater homeowners sink, oversaw the launching of more missiles and bombs than his predecessor George W. Bush, ramped up a war on whistleblowers, turned mass surveillance and the shredding of the Fourth Amendment into bipartisan precedent, and boosted corporate privatization of public education.

It wasn’t only a congressional majority that Democrats quickly lost and never regained under President Obama. By the time he left the White House (immediately flying on a billionaire’s jet to his private island and then within months starting to collect giant speaking fees from Wall Street), nearly 1,000 seats in state legislatures had been lost to Democrats during the Obama years.

I think the above is basically correct. And then there is this:

A real possibility is now emerging that Hillary Clinton will run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. On Sunday, the New York Times printed a Maureen Dowd column that reported: “Some in Clintonworld say Hillary fully intends to be the nominee. … And Bill has given monologues to old friends about how Hillary knows how she’d have to run in 2020, that she couldn’t have a big staff and would just speak her mind and not focus-group everything. (That already sounds focus-grouped.)”

Dowd provided a helpful recap: “After the White House, the money-grubbing raged on, with the Clintons making over 700 speeches in a 15-year period, blithely unconcerned with any appearance of avarice or of shady special interests and foreign countries buying influence. They stockpiled a whopping $240 million.
I have believed from the end of 2016 onwards that it was likely that Hillary Clinton would try to run again in 2020. I also think that would be very unfortunate, but this seems to be (also) what Pelosi seems to want.

As to the ¨$240 million¨ the Clintons collected essentially by giving speeches that were extremely overpriced because they were really rewards from the Wall Street banks and some others for serving their interests: I agree, although I do not know the
¨$240 million¨ are correct, though they very well may be.

In fact, the latest more or less evidenced information I have about the Clintons´ ¨earnings¨ is from some years ago, and was not
¨$240 million¨ but a bit more than half of that. In either case, it is obvious that both of the Clintons are and were grossly corrupt and have been paid many millions by the corporations they helped.

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

The only way to overcome such corporatism is for social movements to fight more resolutely and effectively for progressive change, including in the Democratic Party. If you don’t think that’s a path to real breakthroughs, consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, winners of Democratic primaries this year who’ll be sworn in as members of Congress next month. (Compare those successes to two decades of Green Party candidates running for Congress and never coming close.)

Whether or not Hillary Clinton runs for president again, Clintonism is a political blight with huge staying power. It can be overcome only if and when people at the grassroots effectively insist on moving the Democratic Party in a genuinely progressive direction.

Yes, I mostly agree and this is a recommended article.

2. Trump Takes on General Motors (And Guess Who Wins?)

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

Donald Trump’s “America first” economic nationalism is finally crashing into the reality of America’s shareholder-first global capitalism.

Last week, General Motors announced it would cut about 14,000 jobs, most of them in the politically vital swing states of Michigan and Ohio.

This doesn’t quite square with the giant $1.5 trillion tax cut Trump and the Republicans in Congress enacted last December, whose official rationale was to help big corporations make more investments in America and thereby create more jobs. Trump told Ohio residents “don’t sell your homes,” because lost automaking jobs “are all coming back.”

GM got a nice windfall from the tax cut. The company has already saved more than $150 million this year. But some of those Ohio residents probably should have sold their homes.

Yes, I think this is correct (although I never believed Trump about his gift to the rich, and never agreed with it either).

Here is more:

In reality, GM gets very few direct subsidies. Prior to the tax cut, the biggest gift GM got from the government was a bailout in 2009 of more than $50 billion.

But neither last year’s tax cut nor the 2009 bailout required GM to create or preserve jobs in America. Both government handouts simply assumed that, as former GM CEO Charles Erwin “Engine” Wilson put it when he was nominated as secretary of defense by Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”

Well... what Wilson said in 1953, apart from the fact that it was then obviously propaganda, was before the many deregulations since 1980, which allowed GM to move its industries to countries were labor is much cheaper than in the USA.

Besides, there is this:

Moreover, in the 1950s a third of America’s workforce was unionized, and GM was as accountable to the United Auto Workers as it was to GM’s shareholders. That’s why, in the 1950s, GM’s typical worker received $35 an hour (in today’s dollars).

Today, GM’s typical American worker earns a fraction of that. The bargaining clout of the United Auto Workers has been weakened not only by automation but also by the ease with which GM can get cheaper labor abroad.

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

The difference between China and America is that big Chinese companies are either state-owned or dependent on capital from government-run financial institutions. This means they exist to advance China’s national interests, including more and better jobs for the Chinese people.

American corporations exist to advance the interests of their shareholders, who aren’t prepared to sacrifice profits for more and better jobs for Americans.  

If Trump were serious about his aims, he’d try to reduce the chokehold of Wall Street investors on American corporations while strengthening the hand of American labor unions.

Don’t hold your breath

I agree and this is a recommended article.

3. The Guardian’s Vilification of Julian Assange

This article is by Jonathan Cook on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to The Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.

Faced with the backlash, The Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.

The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
First some personal background on The Guardian and on Luke Harding:

I dislike The Guardian at least since it made itself uncopyable several years ago, and also think that since Viner is its chief editor, its policies are best described as Blatcherist. I still read it daily (parts of it) but this is in good part habitual.

As to Luke Harding: I gave up on him as an honest journalist around the same time as I gave up on The Guardian. He is also one of the journalists I refuse to read, simply because he is dishonest, and in fact that decision is also about four years old.

And about the above quotation: I basically agree - with the qualification that I have not read Harding for 4 years now, and also that I did not know that The Guardian edited Harding´s original story.

But I agree with the last paragraph. Here is more:
To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.

Manafort has denied the Guardian’s claims, while Assange has threatened to sue The Guardian for libel.
Yes indeed - and I know that because I did report on Harding and The Guardian before: See here.

Here is more:
The emotional impact of The Guardian is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by The Guardian or The New York Times – but the head of an organization engaged in espionage for a foreign power.

The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the Wikileaks organization, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.
Yes, I think that is correct. Here is more:
[O]ne would have expected The Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.

I worked for The Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.

And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.
Yes, this seems also true (but I never worked for The Guardian). In any case, if I could find out that Harding is not honest by 2014, I think Viner must know the same.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Equally,  The Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.

Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretenses, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.
Yes indeed and this is a recommended article. 

4. “Since Our Leaders Are Behaving Like Children, We Will Have to Take Responsibility”

This article is by Andy Rowell on Common Dreams and originally on Oil Change International. It starts as follows:

Earlier today, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough addressed the UN climate conference in Poland, saying: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.”

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon,” he added. The world famous TV presenter continued: “The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now”.

And nowhere have those voices been louder in the last few days than from the young from Canada to Australia and Sweden.

Last Friday, thousands of children missed school as part of the ‘Strike 4 Climate Action,' which organised marches in every city in Australia. The idea started with two fourteen year olds, Milou Albrect and Harriet O’Shea Carre, from the state of Victoria.

I say, which I do because I have read - some weeks ago - at least one article that criticized Attenborough for being not radical enough. In any case, I agree with him as quoted.

As to the children: I agree they have a point, namely that they probably will have to face many of the very serious difficulties that arise from at least 50 years of ruining the environment while doing very little against it, but I also think that (i) they could have waited a little until they were 18 or 20 and that (ii) the main reason they are written about by the press now is in fact that they are children.

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

Many Australian and Canadian students have been inspired and encouraged by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old who has launched a similar climate protest movement in her country. Her speech will not get as many headlines as Attenborough’s, but it is equally as powerful. She said to the UN leader António Guterres at the UN conference in Katowice:

“Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis’. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.”

She added: “Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?”

Thunberg continued: “Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.”

She concluded by saying that “since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

I am sorry, but that - “since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago” - is not a valid argument, for it depends on the utterly false premiss that one is either a leader or a child.

One is not, and while I agree that the vast majority of the adults that I have seen in the last 50 years were neither intelligent, nor informed, nor in fact interested in the environment, I do not think that this will be different for the vast majority of the present children (who also know even less of science than most adults).

5. Yes, it’s time to reform the Supreme Court — but not for the wrong reasons

This article is by Eric J. Seagall on Salon. This starts as follows:

In the wake of the national nightmare known as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, we have seen an avalanche of proposals by Supreme Court watchers, pundits and experts with the express purposes of weakening the court and trying to turn down the political temperature of future confirmation battles. Most of these court-altering suggestions have come, not surprisingly, from the left. After all, as many have observed, the nation’s highest court is likely to be a conservative bulwark for the next 20 to 40 years. These proposals include ending life tenure, reforming recusal practices, requiring a supermajority vote to overturn laws and even stripping the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over various controversial areas of constitutional law.

Yes indeed. I have been (and am) for ending life tenure, and possibly also for the other measures, but I am not an American. (I did read The Federalist Papers and know some American law, but - I think - not enough.)

Here is more by Seagall:

But weakening the court because of its current political makeup is looking for answers in all the wrong places. This country needs to restructure the U.S. Supreme Court not because it is too conservative, too liberal or even too moderate. We need to change the court because it wields far too much power and influence regardless of which political side benefits from its decisions. In 2012, I made many of the suggestions listed above in the final chapter of my book “Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court is not a Court and its Justices are not Judges.

I mostly agree, although I do not know whether I agree that the Supreme Court is not a court (etc.). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

We need a bipartisan effort to restructure the Supreme Court of the United States to weaken it for all time. Term limits would help, but are not nearly enough. Structural reform to make it harder for the court to overturn laws is essential, whether it takes the form of a supermajority voting requirement or jurisdiction-stripping, meaning limiting the court’s influence in areas where text and history cannot resolve hard constitutional questions.

I proposed these limitations years before the court turned sharply to the right but it is even more important today, not because of that turn but because an overly ideological court, in either direction, not only distorts our politics for the worse but allows unelected, life-tenured judges to dictate policy (..)

I agree, especially with the second paragraph, and 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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