December 22, 2018

Crisis: Trump´s Shutdown, On Jim Mattis, Trump´s End, Jeremy Scahill, Michael Winship


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 22, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, December 22, 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 22, 2018:
1. Trump’s Policy of Chaos Sends US Spiraling Toward Shutdown
2. Andrew Bacevich on Mattis

3. Trump’s End

4. Jeremy Scahill's Top 10 Takeaways on Mattis Exit

5. In One Wretched Day, All You Need to Know About Donald J. Trump
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. Trump’s Policy of Chaos Sends US Spiraling Toward Shutdown

This article is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout. It starts as follows, after the following addition:
Update 7:20 pm Eastern Time, per The Washington Post: A partial government shutdown is assured. House lawmakers left the Capitol Friday night without passing a budget agreement, ensuring funding for several key government agencies will lapse at midnight.
Yes indeed: it has happened. There are quite a few articles about Trump, Mattis, The Wall, and the breakdown of the American government. I found the following article one of the clearest (on the 35 sites I consider every day).

Here is the article´s beginning:

If you wanted mayhem for Christmas, it’s your lucky day. In the span of one week, Donald Trump has:

  • Presided over the slow, groaning collapse of the stock market as all economic indicators scream “recession” thanks to his tariffs, his generally lawless behavior and his deliberate disruption of long-standing foreign alliances.
  • Abruptly ordered all US troops out of Syria without consultation with aides or allies, losing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the process.
  • Boxed his fellow Republicans into a corner by celebrating the preposterous anti-Affordable Care Act ruling in Texas, once again making the GOP look like what it is: the party that wants to destroy your health care.
  • Outraged his xenophobic base by seeming to waver on his much-ballyhooed border wall.
  • Blown up the budget process by suddenly pivoting away from a deal to avoid a looming federal government shutdown, to the dismay of many non-Freedom Caucus Republicans in Congress, because Fox News told him to.

All this, of course, comes after the White House chief of staff resigned with no successor in place, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to prison at a hearing where the bagman made it clear who gave him the bag, and a federal judge delivered a scalding come-down-the-mountain scolding to Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

As I said, this seems a good summary to me. Here is some more on the consequences of a partial government shutdown:

Portions of the federal government that include insignificant piffles like the State Department, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department and the Department of the Interior will shut down tonight if the White House and congressional Republicans fail to get out of their own way. If this comes to pass, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will get Christmas cards from Grover Norquist after watching their jobs get drowned in Trump’s bathtub.

As the first lines of this review indicated, this has happened: The American government has partially shut down. The reason seems to be that Trump - who promised his followers he would make Mexico pay for the wall (that is itself a totally ridiculous project) - cannot get the money for the wall from either the Democrats or the majority of the Republicans:

It did not have to be this way. Earlier this week, it became clear that the $5 billion Trump wanted for his border wall was a political impossibility. The Democrats were not the problem; there were and still are not enough Republican votes. Trump signaled his acquiescence to this reality, and the Senate passed a budget stopgap, minus the wall money, punting the larger questions down the road to February.

Then Trump met with Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, who told him flat out that the base would revolt if Trump signed the Senate’s stopgap measure absent funding for the wall. Come February, Nancy Pelosi and the new House majority guarantees the wall’s final doom; if that money is not appropriated in this bill, it’s all over, and every red hat who chanted “Build That Wall” at the rallies will forever spit at the mention of Trump’s name.

I think Pitt is correct in the above first paragraph, and he may be correct in the second paragraph though I have no certainties about the vast majority of the 2016 voters for Trump other than that they are stupid and/or ignorant, and seem loyal to Trump because they mistake ¨the media¨ for the medium they do read or watch, which is Fox News.

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

This is a portrait of perfect chaos. A White House without a functioning chief of staff and defense secretary — indeed, a White House where the last remaining voices trusted by the president belong to known fascists like Stephen Miller — may as well be one of those inflatable bouncy houses that blow away in a high wind … and the wind is rising.

Perhaps. In any case, there is more on Trump´s possible end in item 3 and item 5 below, and this is a recommended article.

2. Andrew Bacevich on Mattis

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has announced he will resign at the end of February, in a letter publicly rebuking President Trump’s foreign policy. Mattis resigned one day after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and on the same day that reports emerged that Trump has ordered the withdrawal of about 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. The New York Times reports Mattis is the first prominent Cabinet member to resign in protest over a national security issue in almost 40 years. Much of the Washington establishment expressed shock over Mattis’s resignation. We speak with Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran. He’s the author of several books, including his latest, “Twilight of the American Century.” His other books include “America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History” and “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” He is professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University.

Yes indeed. Incidentally, I did read Mattis´s letter of resignation to president Trump, but - in my opinion - while there is some criticism of Trump in the letter, the criticism is mostly implied rather than stated.

Here is more:


In his resignation letter, General Mattis, four-star general, implicitly criticized President Trump’s foreign policy. He wrote, “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances,” unquote.

Mattis went on to say, “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he said. In the letter, Mattis did not make a direct reference to Syria, but he did call out Russia and China.

The New York Times reports Mattis is the first prominent Cabinet member to resign in protest over a national security issue in almost 40 years.

As I said: I think Mattis´s criticisms are implied rather than stated, but it also seems that the New York Times is correct in stating that ¨Mattis is the first prominent Cabinet member to resign in protest over a national security issue in almost 40 years¨.

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

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, this is an interesting situation. I have to think that Trump must have expected that this abrupt announcement of a withdrawal from Syria would lead to Mattis’s resignation, and it probably is something that Trump welcomes. There is no question that Mattis has been an obstacle to Trump’s efforts to reorient U.S. policy, particularly U.S. policy in the Middle East.

You know, Mattis’s letter of resignation, that you quoted, when he talked about his four decades of engagement with these matters, is very telling. He represents the establishment’s perspective, that has evolved over the course of those four decades.
Now, I’m in the camp who thinks that we ought to wind down these wars, that we’ve got more important things to do. My only problem with Trump’s decision is that, like so many of Trump’s decisions, it’s done impetuously, overnight, not having been thought through, not having been coordinated. Yes, let’s get out of Syria, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a policy with respect to the civil war in Syria. I think that the way Trump is approaching this thing, we don’t have any policy. And that’s going to be a problem.

I agree, and there is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

3. Trump’s End

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

This morning I phoned my friend, the former Republican member of Congress.

ME: So, what are you hearing?

HE: Trump is in deep sh*t. 

ME: Tell me more. 

HE: When it looked like he was backing down on the wall, Rush and the crazies on Fox went ballistic. So he has to do the shutdown to keep the base happy. They’re his insurance policy. They stand between him and impeachment.

ME: Impeachment? No chance. Senate Republicans would never go along.

HE (laughing): Don’t be so sure. Corporate and Wall Street are up in arms. Trade war was bad enough. Now, you’ve got Mattis resigning in protest. Trump pulling out of Syria, giving Putin a huge win. This dumbass shutdown. The stock market in free-fall. The economy heading for recession.

I say, for I did not know that the Republicans are getting as critical of Trump, indeed in the Senate, as Reich´s friend says they are. Also, while this is just one Republican friend of Reich,
I think since almost three years (as a psychologist) that Trump is insane, and since I am by far not the only psychologist or psychiatrist who has said so in public, maybe now some powerful Republicans are (finally) agreeing, though I do not know whether this is true.

There is more that is interesting in the above quote, such as the stock market being in free fall and the supposed fact that ¨t
he economy heading for recession¨, but I skip these and turn to the next bit:

ME: But the base loves him.

HE: Yeah, but the base doesn’t pay the bills. 

ME: You mean …

HE: Follow the money, friend. 

ME: The GOP’s backers have had enough?

HE: They wanted Pence all along.

I do not know whether Reich´s Republican friend is right, but he may well be, if only because Pence has a very similar political ideology as Trump has, while he does not appear to be insane. Then again, I have not much of a confirmable idea about what the Republicans really think.

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

HE: So they’ll wait until Mueller’s report, which will skewer Trump. Pelosi will wait, too. Then after the Mueller bombshell, she’ll get 20, 30, maybe even 40 Republicans to join in an impeachment resolution. 

ME: And then?

HE: Senate Republicans hope that’ll be enough – that Trump will pull a Nixon.

ME: So you think he’ll resign? 

HE (laughing): No chance. He’s fu*king out of his mind. He’ll rile up his base into a fever. Rallies around the country. Tweet storms. Hannity. Oh, it’s gonna be ugly. He’ll convince himself he’ll survive. 

ME: And then?

HE: That’s when Senate Republicans pull the trigger. 

ME: Really? Two-thirds of the Senate? 

HE: Do the math. 47 Dems will be on board, so you need 19 Republicans. I can name almost that many who are already there. Won’t be hard to find the votes.

I say. Well... I think all in all this is Good News, though it also is mostly speculative. And this is a recommended article.

4. Jeremy Scahill's Top 10 Takeaways on Mattis Exit

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Journalist Jeremy Scahill—who has built a career reporting on American militarism and imperialism across the globe—turned to Twitter on Friday to weigh in on a few major foreign policy developments over the past 24 hours: the resignation of Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis, and President Donald Trump's consideration of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Yes. I like Common Dreams a lot, and I strongly hope they survive, but I have some disagreements with them and one is their heavy reliance on Twitter. I also do understand that,
up to a point, but I generally avoid quoting Twitter (which is in my eyes a crazy instrument of ¨communication¨ because it limits what you can say on it to slogan-size, and because each and everyone who uses it seems spied upon), and I certainly will not quote anyone I think uses a false name, but here are four of the ten points Scahill makes:

Scahill summarized his top takeaways on Mattis, Syria, and Afghanistan in a 10-point list posted to Twitter:

5. This is an opportunity for progressive forces to assert an alternative vision for US foreign policy.
6. Trump is a crooked charlatan. But these withdrawals would represent a dent in the armor of the bipartisan war machine.
7. This chaos presents opportunity.

10. For those who somehow think this is Trump opposing the war machine, I point you to his massive escalation of drone strikes, his easing of rules for killing civilians, his use of ground troops in Yemen and Somalia and his use of criminal weaponry like the MOAB in Afghanistan.

I think this may all be quite correct.

5. In One Wretched Day, All You Need to Know About Donald J. Trump

This article is by Michael Winship on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As the hero croons in that classic old musical Brigadoon, what a day this has been, what a rare mood I’m in.

But that guy was singing that his mood was almost like being in love. On Thursday night, the mood I was in was almost like being in complete frustration and despair, reeling at the feckless, foolish witlessness of the monumental blockhead we have in the White House. He and his apparatchiks despoil the country and democracy like the Vandals sacked Rome.

During the course of Thursday in Washington -- mind you, this one single day:
I agree with Winship on ¨the feckless, foolish witlessness of the monumental blockhead¨ of Donald Trump. In fact, he gives seven points, that are all marked by ¨>¨. I will not quote all seven points, but will mark the ones I quote as Winship does:
> After a deal seemed in place to pass a continuing resolution that would keep the government open and running into February, a petulant Trump blew it up because the Senate version doesn’t include money for his ridiculous wall. He was responding to an angry response to the deal from the hard-right Freedom Caucus of the House, criticism from Ann Coulter and the brain trust at Fox News, commentary in the mainstream media that he had caved to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (OMG, a woman!), or succumbing to his own inner demons. Maybe all of the above. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are about to be forced on unpaid furlough just in time for the holidays. Thank you, Ebenezer Trump.
All of this seems correct or quite possible. Here is more:
> Meanwhile, AP and The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that William Barr, the man chosen by Trump to replace the acting AG (and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions), wrote an unsolicited, 20-page memo on June 8 attacking Mueller’s investigation of possible presidential obstruction of justice as “fatally misconceived.“ So the acting and future attorneys general are each on the record as critical of and potentially injurious to Mueller’s crucial work. Gosh, wonder why Trump chose them?
Yes, I agree with the implication, but I do not know what chance Trump has to stop Mueller.
Here is more:

> Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen revealed Thursday that those legally seeking asylum at the southern border no longer will be allowed to enter the United States while their cases are decided but will instead be held in Mexico. The ACLU tweeted, “This is the latest ruthless move by the Trump administration that offends our commitment to provide protection to those fleeing persecution. Apparently this administration will stop at nothing to keep people of color it deems unworthy out of the country.”
Yes indeed, although I seem to remember this has already been denied by a judge. Here is the last point I quote from Winship´s list:
> Although the Farm Bill passed without going after SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program formerly known as food stamps, in another move straight out of the Scrooge playbook, Trump’s Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would require harsher work requirements for receiving SNAP, thus worsening food insecurity for at least 755,000 struggling Americans. That’s the real War on Christmas, my friend, and decidedly NOT what Jesus would do.
Yes, I quite agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Thursday was, as a cabdriver said to me back at the height of the Iranian hostage crisis, a whole lotta chaotic. Yet this seems much, much worse than that disaster. This is a Perfect Storm of ineptitude and malice that is truly frightening. All the grownups have now left the building.

In the wake of the day’s craziness, the Dow closed down 464 points. The market, it’s said, is headed for the worst December since the Great Depression. But intractable in his ignorance, Trump may go on in this shambles of a presidency for at least another 25 months, unless before its official end, he destroys us all.
Yes, I agree - and I said nearly two years ago, at the start of Trump´s presidency, that my personal probability that Trump would not start a nuclear war was 1/2, and I still think so, for the basic reason that as a psychologist (I think that) I know that Trump is insane. 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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