January 5, 2019

Crisis: Funding The Wall, Neocons, On Elizabeth Warren, Big Money & Politics, Being A Radical


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 5, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 5, 2019. 

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 January 5, 2019:
1. Dems Push to End Shutdown Without Funding for Wall
2. Return of the Neocons

3. Elizabeth Warren Nails Economy, Muddles Foreign Policy

4. Why We Must Get Big Money Out of Politics

5. 'Call Me a Radical': Ocasio-Cortez Suggests 70% Tax Rate for Ultra Rich
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. Dems Push to End Shutdown Without Funding for Wall

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

The 116th Congress made history Thursday, swearing in the most diverse group of lawmakers ever and more than 100 women in the House, including the first two Native American women, the first two Latina women from Texas and the first two Muslim women. The first-ever African-American women congressmembers from Connecticut and Massachusetts were sworn in, as was Colorado’s first-ever African-American member of Congress. The first-ever and now second female House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and House Democrats sought to end the government shutdown as their first order of business, passing a package of spending bills that would reopen the federal government without meeting Trump’s demand for $5 billion for expanding the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. We speak with California Rep. Judy Chu.

In fact, I normally print the introductions to the interviews that appear on Democracy Now! simply because I like them, and it is the same now. I also grant that the above may seem a little excessive ("Women!", "Native-American women", "African-American women") but OK.

Here is some from the interview:

The first- and now second-ever female House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and House Democrats sought to end the government shutdown as their first order of business, passing a package of spending bills that would reopen the federal government without meeting Trump’s demand for $5 billion for expanding the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: What we’re asking the Republicans in the Senate to do is to take yes for an answer. We have sent—are sending them back exactly, word for word, what they have passed. … So, we’re just saying it: “Let’s make it easy for you. Do what you have already done: open up government. Let’s have an adult conversation about how we protect our borders. And let’s listen to people who know what they’re talking about.” …

The president cannot hold public employees hostage because he wants to have a wall, that is not effective, not effective in terms of its purpose, not cost-effective in terms of what the opportunity cost it is of federal dollars to spend. And the president has said Mexico is going to pay for this. Come on, let’s anchor ourselves into reality. Mexico is not going to pay for this wall.

I think this is all correct. And here is Judy Chu:

REP. JUDY CHU: (...)

On the rules issue, yes, unfortunately, since the last few congresses, since Republicans took over, we have had a lack of transparency. So our whole goal was to change it so that, for instance, we could have a bill 72 hours before it’s voted upon, so we can actually read it and contemplate it; so that we can have an end to these conflicts of interest, so, for instance, members of Congress cannot be on corporate boards; and also so that we can have greater diversity amongst our members, allowing religious headgear on the floor. So, those were our rules packages.

But the most important thing was that we do not continue the suffering of these federal workers, these 800,000 federal workers who either will not be paid or will be paid later and do not have a paycheck now. This is unnecessary suffering. We know that the Senate already passed a bill—in fact, we passed the very same bill that they gave to us, before Trump did a turnabout for his demand for $5 billion for the border wall. So, we passed two versions of our bills that will end this government shutdown. We know that there is a solution. We know that Trump promised the people that his border wall would be paid by Mexico. Now he’s trying to cheat the taxpayers by having the taxpayers pay for it instead. And that is wrong.

I think that is mostly correct as well. Chu also talks about PayGo, but seems - to me - to be waffling. You can read it yourself by reading the whole interview. And this is a recommended article.

2. Return of the Neocons

This article is by Stephen Wertheim on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

Two years ago, as Donald Trump ascended to the presidency, you might have thought that, if nothing else, neoconservatives had finally been put out to pasture. In the campaign, Trump had blasted the neocons’ signature policy, the war in Iraq, as a “big fat mistake,” and repudiated their ostensible program of turning nations into liberal democracies. He paid no political price with voters, and probably the opposite, as white evangelicals once drawn to George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda” flocked to Trump in record numbers.

Even allowing for Trump’s opportunism and inconsistencies, his election victory appeared to deal a double blow to the neoconservative persuasion. It not only broke the neocons’ hold on the Republican Party, but also, in the same stroke, revealed that they lacked a popular constituency. There they were, free-floating pundits, alone and exposed—neither intellectually credible nor politically representative.

Why, given this development, would Republican politicians respond by once again seeking out the neocons’ counsel? Why, far less, would Democrats? And why would much of the news media, grappling with historic levels of public distrust, accept neoconservatives and neoconservatism as the baseline for foreign policy analysis?

Actually, selecting this article was a mistake. I made it because I originally had selected another article, that referred to this article, which made me select it.

It is a mistake because I do not know what Wertheim is writing about. To be somewhat more precise, I can follow the first of the above quoted paragraphs, although I do not know what Wertheim means by "neoconservatives", or whether these are the same as the "neocons".

I suppose he does mean the same, but to infer that I had to consult "Neoconservatism" on the Wikipedia.

But I do not see any reason to accept or reject the second paragraph, which also seem to refer to facts or supposed facts that Wertheim knows, but that I do not know.

It is the same for the third paragraph.

I suppose that Wertheim is either confused or cannot write (and there was, in the 1970ies, a Dutch professor Wertheim - very much pro-China then - who suffered from both of the same mistakes, but I do not know whether there is any relation).

Then there is this amazing piece of clarity:

As a result, Trump has forced neoconservatives to decide, for the first time, whether they are more against “totalitarianism” or “globalism."

I do not understand why this is "a result"; I do not know how many or which kind or kinds of neoconservatism this is supposed to hold for; I do know what is totalitarianism, but I totally disagree with the utterly false bullshit the Wikipedia prints about it; I also know that terms and their quotations generally do not mean quite the same, but I do not know what Wertheim means by "totalitarianism" (in quotes); and I also do not know what Wertheim means by either globalism (if interested, check the link) or by "globalism" - and I have been reading about politics for 55 years now, and have excellent academic degrees in philosophy and psychology.

And I am sorry, but with this level of not understanding, it is my firm guess that Wertheim simply cannot write (that is, if he is not so simple-minded as believing that what he means everyone else should mean as well).

O, in case you are interested in my meaning of totalitarianism, check the link: It is based on 55 years of reading about the subject, which also makes me totally reject Wikipedia's meaning (that seems to derive from Brzezinski).

Then again, here is Wertheim on what might be the same subject - and he has already distinguished "totalitarianism" and totalitarianism without offering any explanation, and now also affirms he believes totalitarianism is past, since we now live - according to Wertheim - in "the post-totalitarian twenty-first century":

The hallmark of the mainline neoconservatives was their alarm against totalitarianism, originally aimed at the Soviet threat. But their anti-totalitarian ethos had little to offer in the post-totalitarian twenty-first century.

I am sorry but the above paragraph is once again almost completely inunderstandable.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

In Washington, D.C., liberal foreign policy hands have reacted to Trump’s presidency less by reaching out to ordinary citizens than by crossing K Street to make common cause with their neighborhood neocons. Among other efforts, the Center for American Progress (CAP), the leading Clintonian policy shop, is now issuing joint reports with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the leading neocon incubator, which this year sent John Bolton to be National Security Adviser. CAP donated $200,000 to AEI in 2017.

What and who are "liberal foreign policy hands"? And how many or what percentage? We are not told. And while I do not know whether Wertheim is correct about the CAP and the AEI, it does seem fairly typical for the rich Democrats. Then again, this article is far too unclear to believe or trust.

3. Elizabeth Warren Nails Economy, Muddles Foreign Policy

This article is by Sam Husseini on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
In her New Year’s Eve announcement about forming an exploratory committee for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a great point: “Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It’s just not working for anyone else.”

In case you missed that, she did not say “the economy isn’t working well” or such, as we’ve all heard numerous politicos say countless times.

She rather said the opposite of that; repeatedly: “The way I see it right now, Washington works great for giant drug companies, but just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. Washington works great for for-profit colleges and student loan outfits, but not for young people who are getting crushed by student loan debt. And you could keep going through the list. The problem we have got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who’ve got money to buy influence.”

And in case anyone missed the point, she said it yet again: “We want a government that works not just for the rich and the powerful. We want a government that works for everyone.”
I did not see Warren, but I think she is quite right on this, and indeed she may be rephrased as saying that the American government works mainly for the rich and the powerful, and hardly or not at all for the non-rich and non-powerful - who form around 90% of the American population, and I think that is quite correct.

Here is more from the article:
The problem is that she doesn’t articulate that in the same manner when it comes to bloody wars. Quite the contrary. Her list of problems—drug companies, for-profit colleges and student loan outfits—omits those who have an interest in continuing horrific wars.

When asked on Wednesday night by Rachel Maddow about Trump’s recent announcement on pulling troops from Syria, Warren said the U.S.’s wars are “not working.”

She didn’t say: “The wars are working great for military contractors, just not for regular people in the U.S. or Syria or anywhere else.”

Warren—who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee—did not say: “The wars are great for the wealthy profiting off of them, they’re just terrible for the people getting killed in them.”

Instead, Warren actually swallowed some of the rhetoric about U.S. wars having as their alleged goals stability or humanitarianism or security. The profits of military contractors or geopolitical elites went unexamined.
Yes, I think Husseini may well be right on this, and indeed similar points have been made about Bernie Sanders.

And here is the ending of this article:

Now, Sanders has taken the lead in Congress in criticizing the Saudi war in Yemen, opening the door to some alleviation of massive suffering. I wish he would be much better still on foreign policy, but this may be serious progress, though the ACLU has criticized the congressional resolution.

It’s imperative to criticize presumable progressive politicians and parse their words carefully. It might open the door to actual improvements in policy, as in the case of Sanders. And in the case of Elizabeth Warren, it’s simply asking her to cease obscuring war as she clarifies economic issues.
Yes, I think this is probably right as well, and this is a recommended article. 

4. Why We Must Get Big Money Out of Politics

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

The most important thing we must do to save our democracy is get big money out of politics. It’s a prerequisite to accomplishing everything else.

Today, big money continues to corrupt American politics – creating a vicious cycle that funnels more wealth and power to those at the top and eroding our democracy.

In the 2018 midterm elections, wealthy donors and Super-PACs poured millions into the campaigns of the same lawmakers who voted to pass the 2017 tax cuts, which gave them huge windfalls. 

Consider conservative donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose casino business received an estimated $700 million windfall, thanks to Trump and Republicans’ tax cuts. The couple then used some of this extra cash to plow more than $113 million dollars into the 2018 election, breaking the record for political contributions by a single household.

Well... I think democracy in the USA is floundering anyway, but otherwise I think I agree.
(And I did not know about the Adelsons.)

Here is more:

All told, almost 40 percent of total contributions in the 2018 midterms came from people who donated $10,000 or more. Yet these mega-donors comprise a tiny 0.01 percent of the U.S. population.  

It’s a worsening vicious cycle: Lawmakers cut taxes and slash regulations for their wealthy campaign donors. Mega-donors and corporations funnel some of that money back into our political system to keep their lackeys in power. Politicians then propose another round of tax cuts, subsidies or bailouts to secure even more donations.

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

If this isn’t corruption, I don’t know what is. It also breeds cynicism in our democracy. The game seems rigged because it is.  A 2015 poll found that the majority of Americans say lawmakers are corrupt, out of touch with their constituents, and beholden to special interests.

We must end this vicious cycle in order to reclaim our democracy. We must get big money out of politics. Now.

I agree, but I give reasons, namely the beginning of the item "Corruption" on the Wikipedia (minus note numbers):

In general, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.

And I agree also that big money must be gotten out of politics, although I possibly may be more of a skeptic than Reich is about the ease with which this can be done (for I think this will be quite difficult). This is a recommended article.

5. 'Call Me a Radical': Ocasio-Cortez Suggests 70% Tax Rate for Ultra Rich

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

In the second video featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to make headlines in less than 24 hours, the first-term congresswoman called for major systemic changes to address the climate crisis and suggested taxing ultra wealthy Americans around 70 percent to help pay for it—declaring, "if that's what radical means, call me a radical."

The preview of Anderson Cooper's forthcoming interview with Ocasio-Cortez, which is set to air at 7pm ET Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes," quickly caught the attention of both advocates and critics of implementing a progressive taxation scheme that, as she put, could force the rich "to start paying their fair share in taxes."

I completely agree with Ocasio-Cortez, but I do not think that her idea is radical (though I agree it may seem to be so in the present political circumstances in the USA), and I do not think so because the Republican Eisenhower used the same percentages or higher ones for the very rich. (And capitalism thrived under these percentages.)

Besides, Ocasio-Cortez's idea is not radical either from another perspective, namely the - widely shared - idea that taxes must be progressive: The more money you make, the more you should be taxed.

Here is more:

According to CBS News, in the interview Ocasio-Cortez charges that hiking taxes on the very rich could help pay for the Green New Deal—an increasingly popular proposal among the American public and Democrats in Congress that would pair efforts to curb anthropogenic global warming with policies to create a more just economy.

A foundational goal of the Green New Deal championed by Ocasio-Cortez is fully eliminating fossil fuels and carbon emissions within the next 12 years, in line with recent demands from international climate scientists. "It's going to require a lot of rapid change that we don't even conceive as possible right now," she told Cooper, but "what is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?"

I think this is right as well. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

After Cooper suggested that such a plan is considered "radical" in the context of the current U.S. political system, she responded: "I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security. That is radical."

Expanding on her remarks in a tweet that included the video on Friday morning, she added: "Sometimes we take for granted exactly how radical ideas like Social Security, the VA, and public schooling really are: that we will care for our elders, provide healthcare, and educate *all* children in America free of cost at the point of service."

Yes again, although I do not think that taxing the very rich much higher than they are taxed now is a radical idea. 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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