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Nederlog

January 10, 2019

Crisis: The Crisis, William Arkin, Trump´s Presidency, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Robert Reich



Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 10, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 10, 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 10, 2019:
1. The Crisis Is in the Oval Office
2. William Arkin on Homeland Security’s Creeping Fascism

3. Has the Ruling Class Finally Had Enough of Trump?

4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Politics of Dancing

5. The Big Economic Switcheroo
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. The Crisis Is in the Oval Office

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
How fitting is it that President Trump’s first Oval Office address, which he requested be televised live in prime time by every major network, was aimed at stirring up the American public about a crisis largely of his own making?

Not that the border crisis is one of Mr. Trump’s self-serving political fictions — like the deep state or widespread voter fraud. It may have started out that way, but the situation has, with the president’s nurturing, become something far more tragic.

Pursuing poorly thought-out and even more poorly executed policies on the pretext of battling a nonexistent national security crisis, Mr. Trump has helped create a pressing humanitarian one. Desperate migrant families being detained en masse at the border are overwhelming a system pushed beyond its limits by an administration that chose to ignore the implications of its actions — overcrowding, children falling gravely ill and, paradoxically, the haphazard release of throngs of detainees into border communities stretching from California to Texas.
In case you don´t know, ¨the crisis¨ consists in Trump´s decision to switch off much of the American government´s work in order to force the Democrats to fund his border wall, that anyway is a crazy idea, which Trump also promised his voters would be paid for by the Mexicans.

And I more or less agree to the above, but I quite disagree that the deep state is a ¨
self-serving political fiction¨ of Trump: That is utter baloney.

Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia article on the deep state:

A deep state (from Turkish: derin devlet, also known as a state within a state) is a form of clandestine government made up of hidden or covert networks of power operating independently of a nation's political leadership, in pursuit of their own agenda and goals. Examples include organs of state, such as the armed forces or public authorities (intelligence agencies, police, secret police, administrative agencies, and government bureaucracy). A deep state can also take the form of entrenched, career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial manner, to further their own interests. The intent of a deep state can include continuity of the state itself, job security for its members, enhanced power and authority, and the pursuit of ideological objectives. It can operate in opposition to the agenda of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting their policies, conditions and directives. It can also take the form of Government-owned corporations or private companies that act independently of regulatory or governmental control.

I do not claim the above is quite clear, but it shows that even the term ¨deep state¨ existed considerably before Trump became president (namely since around 1990). Also, I think I should point out that one version of the notion that there is a deep state is Eisenhower´s military-industrial complex, that in the Wikipedia starts with this paragraph (minus note numbers):

The military–industrial complex (MIC) is an informal alliance between a nation's military and the defense industry that supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy. A driving factor behind this relationship between the government and defense-minded corporations is that both sides benefit—one side from obtaining war weapons, and the other from being paid to supply them. The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it is most prevalent and gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961. In 2011, the United States spent more (in absolute numbers) on its military than the next 13 nations combined.

I think the above two quotations from the Wikipedia make clear that The Editorial Board of The New York Times either does not know what they are talking about or - far more probably - was lying.

In fact, I do not know why, but it does seem to me a deliberate lie.

Here is some more:
Mr. Trump is now invoking the urgency of the situation as a justification for pursuing more wasteful, hard-line measures that most Americans do not support, chiefly the ludicrous border wall over which he has shut down critical pieces of the government. The president and his enablers have been busily knitting together inaccurate data, misleading anecdotes, exaggerations and other “alternative facts” about the flow of criminals, drugs and terrorists across the southern border. He seems to hope he can paint a dystopian landscape of security threats and human suffering so dire that the American people will rally to his side and pressure congressional Democrats to succumb to his demands for a towering wall — preferably concrete, but at this point, it seems, steel will suffice.

Failing that, Mr. Trump has also been floating the possibility of stiff-arming Congress altogether. With his advisers increasingly anxious that Republican lawmakers are poised to abandon them on the shutdown, the president has raised the threat of declaring a national emergency, which he thinks would allow him to command the Pentagon to build his wall.
I think the above is mostly correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
While Mr. Trump proved a wily campaigner and political street fighter, as president he has been painfully out of his element. Two years in, he remains ill suited to the complicated, thankless, often grinding work of leading the nation. Governance clearly bores him, as do policy details both foreign and domestic. He has proved a poor judge of talent. He prefers grandstanding to negotiating, and he continues to have trouble with the whole concept of checks and balances.
That is one way of saying he is utterly incompetent. I agree, but since I am a psychologist, I agree with many other psychologists that the explanation for Trump´s utter incompetence as president of the United States is that I and many other psychologists think Trump is insane.

2. William Arkin on Homeland Security’s Creeping Fascism

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

Longtime NBC reporter and analyst William Arkin announced he was leaving the network last week in a blistering letter that took aim at the mainstream media for encouraging perpetual warfare and bolstering the national security state. In his letter, Arkin writes of Trump, “Of course he is an ignorant and incompetent impostor. And yet I’m alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue the contrary, to be in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war. Really? We shouldn’t get out Syria? We shouldn’t go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula? Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War? And don’t even get me started with the FBI: What? We now lionize this historically destructive institution?” We speak with Arkin in New York City. He is the author of many books, including “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.”

In fact, I wrote about Arkin before, namely here  (and briefly later). Here he is himself:

William Arkin: (...) So, we have two problems. One is, we have a presence in the Middle East, which has grown enormously since 9/11. I believe that that military presence, in itself, provides the stimuli for the creation of more terrorists. Everyone has said this since 2001, but it has really reached a crisis point today, because even as the Taliban were defeated or al-Qaeda was driven into a small number or as the United States was able to maintain some level of security in Iraq, what happened was new groups emerged, new groups kept popping up. And now we see ISIS. We see al-Shabab in Somalia. We see new organizations emerging in Niger and Mali etc.

So, the net assessment of our presence in the Middle East, first of all, has to be: What is it that is about our presence itself that is the stimuli for the creation of both local and foreign fighters and their growth? And then, second, what is it about our military and the use of our military forces that is inappropriate or not appropriate for the conflicts in which we fight?

I more or less agree, although I do not think his questions are very appropriate. Here is some more by him:

William Arkin: (...) So, really, the scope and scale of the American military actions around the world is far greater than what most Americans perceive. But again, let’s be clear about diagnosing the issue. It’s less and less manpower-intensive. It’s more and more focused on drones. It’s more and more focused on airpower. It’s more and more focused on space and cyber. And so we don’t see the kinds of injuries and deaths that we were seeing a decade ago during, say, for instance, the surge in Iraq. It’s become more invisible as a result of the style of American warfare. And as a result of that, it’s almost as if the national security state has the ability to do what they want to be doing autonomously, with very little intervention on the part of civil society.

Yes, although I think I should point out that while the losses in lives and wounded soldiers on the American side grew much less than they were thirty years ago, this is definitely not the case on the non-American side(s).

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

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you mean by the “creeping fascism of homeland security”?

WILLIAM ARKIN: You know, I was against the creation of the Homeland Security Department in 2003, to begin with. First of all, don’t like the word. “Homeland security” sounds a little bit brown-shirty to me. But, second of all, it was created to be a counterterrorist organization, a domestic counterterrorist organization. And all during the Obama administration, we heard Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, saying, “You know, we are counterterrorism.” But since then, we’ve seen they’re creeping into cybersecurity. We’ve seen them creeping into election security. We’ve seen ICE and TSA become the second and third largest federal law enforcement agencies in the country. And so, now homeland security sort of has become a domestic intelligence agency with really an unclear remit, really with broad powers that we don’t fully understand.

Yes, I agree with Arkin, for ¨counterterrorists¨ are terrorists, which should not exist as a governmental institution in a democracy, and I also agree that the so-called ¨homeland security¨ (which also sounds ¨a little bit brown-shirty to me¨) is a large step towards the kind of neofascism which controls everyone to a very much larger extent than the Gestapo or the KGB could do, simply because the internet was designed to do so, and succeeded. (For more, see here).

3. Has the Ruling Class Finally Had Enough of Trump?

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

As the United States lurches toward its 2020 presidential election cycle, it is useful to revisit the central tension of Donald Trump’s presidency. I’m speaking, of course, about his phony populism and the politico-financial establishment’s utter contempt for his political ascent. As the Democratic field slowly takes shape, the question now is whether the ruling class has finally had enough.

This is not to suggest that these elites dislike Trump for the same reasons a Truthdig reader might. Those who stand atop the nation’s power structures have long been comfortable with American corruption, patriarchy, racism and outright sociopathy. For evidence, look no further than the disparate presidencies of the so-called American century.

No, what’s different and problematic for our country’s oligarchs is that while the presidency has long served America’s imperial interests, it has typically done so while purporting to stand for something more noble. The U.S. government and, above all, its executive branch, are expected to masquerade as forces for “good”—democracy, liberty and peace, at least in the abstract, and an outwardly multilateralist management of world affairs.

I think this is more or less correct (although I do not see ¨the central tension of Donald Trump’s presidency¨).

Here is more:

Trump is a new and different kind of presidential animal. He makes no pretense of himself, the presidency or the United States being about anything more than mercenary and socio-pathological self-interest. He gives not one flip about racial and ethnic diversity, equality or the state of global affairs, much less the fate of our planet.

Trump openly mocks and assaults science, expertise and intellectual rigor, denying the obviously anthropogenic nature of our climate crisis. Openly assaulting the very notion of veracity, he repeats the same false statements long after they’ve been proven false by exhausted reporters.

I agree with the second paragraph (but less with the first).

Here is more:

But beyond being bad for the brand, Trump brazenly flouts ruling-class institutions and conventions. He does not consult the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council, the Wilson Center or the Brookings Institution on foreign or domestic policy. He doesn’t read policy briefs or white papers from establishment think tanks.

Instead, he prefers to take advice from fellow wacky billionaires and right-wing media personalities with whom he regularly consults by phone late at night, alone in his bedroom, or via Fox News. He claims to know more about developments in other nations than his own top generals and spooks.

Yes indeed - and these are some of the reasons why many psychologist have insisted that the basic problem with Trump is that Trump is insane (which I, who also is psychologist, agree with).

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

Still, there are real limits to the establishment’s discomfort with Trump, who has been useful to the nation’s rulers and owners in four key ways.

First, for all his talk of protectionism, Trump is a rapacious neoliberal who has rewarded the 1 percent with personal and corporate tax cuts, as well as deregulation designed to funnel wealth upward. The superrich and their retainers in Washington have been willing to tolerate his misbehavior because his policies have lined their pockets.

Second, the endless Trump circus functions to divert the masses from the corporate looting that his administration and much of Congress is advancing behind the scenes to devastating effect.

Third, even as he serves the moneyed elite, the mendacious mogul currently occupying the White House has been deceptively labeled a “populist.”
     (..)

Fourth, Trump’s awfulness lowers the bar for whoever might replace him in the White House. “Anybody but Trump” is understandable, but it opens the door for millions of Americans to gratefully welcome a Wall Street Democrat like Joe Biden, a cipher like Beto O’Rourke or, perish the thought, Hillary Rodham Clinton herself.

I more or less agree, though not with the third point, for what is and is not a ¨populist¨ seems rather unclear to me. Anyway. This is a recommended article.

4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Politics of Dancing

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution,” are words attributed to the great early 20th-century anarchist thinker, writer and crusading social-justice activist Emma Goldman. While she may not have uttered precisely those words, the sense of the phrase was on full display in Congress last week, as a video circulated of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing with friends while she was an undergraduate at Boston University, 10 years ago. The video surfaced in a failed attempt to discredit the new member of Congress as she was sworn in as the youngest women ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez’s response to the online criticism was short and brilliant, tweeting a video of herself dancing into her new congressional office. The video got tremendous attention. What was largely overlooked was the tune that she was dancing to: the classic 1970 anti-war anthem “War,” sung by Edwin Starr. It rocketed to No. 1 in the summer of 1970, and has been a staple anthem against war ever since. “War, What is it good for, Absolutely nothing,” the chorus goes. Ocasio-Cortez mouths the words as she dances through her congressional office door.

I really like Emma Goldman since reading her autobiography around 40 years ago, and I also like her (indeed possibly attributed) “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”, indeed in part because I liked to dance a lot (that is, before falling ill, also 40 years ago).

And I also really like
the classic 1970 anti-war anthem “War” since 1970. The last link is to the text of ¨War¨ and in fact here is a link to ¨War¨ with the text projected while it is sung.

Here is more:

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign website details an array of progressive policies, including a “peace economy” that reads, in part: “As of 2018, we are currently involved in military action in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries have been killed either as collateral damage from American strikes or from the instability caused by U.S. interventions. Millions more have fled their broken countries, contributing to the global refugee crisis … we must end the ‘forever war’ by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world.”

She recently corrected Fox News host, and unofficial consigliere to President Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, who accused her of the heresy of calling for an “end to military airstrikes.” She responded in a tweet, saying she supports “ending unjust wars” entirely.

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

Last July, she said on “Democracy Now!” that “the issues I ran on were very clear … improved and expanded Medicare for all; tuition-free public colleges and universities, as well as trade schools; a Green New Deal; justice for Puerto Rico; an unapologetic platform of criminal-justice reform and ending the war on drugs; and also speaking truth to power and speaking about money in politics.”

The Green New Deal calls for the rapid and radical decarbonization of the entire economy, transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in hopes of staving off the worst effects of climate change while there is still time.
I again completely agree, and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. The Big Economic Switcheroo

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

The biggest untold story about how we pay for government involves a big switcheroo by America’s wealthy.

Decades ago, wealthy Americans financed the federal government mainly by paying taxes. Their tax rate was far higher than what it is today.  

Now, wealthy Americans finance the federal government mainly by lending it money, and collecting interest payments on those loans, profiting when the rest of us pay them back.

Follow the money: As the debt continues to grow, interest payments are becoming huge. Taxpayers could soon be paying more in interest on the federal debt than we spend on the military or on Medicaid.

Interest on the debt is expected to hit $390 billion next year, nearly 50 percent more than in 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

I say, and I do so because I did not know that the mere interest on the American government´s debts will amount to $390 billion dollars next year.

The rest is known to me, and here is more:

Who’s receiving these interest payments? Mostly Americans, not foreigners. And most of these Americans are wealthy investors who park their savings in treasury bonds held by mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds, banks, insurance companies, personal trusts, and estates.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, which is more wealth than the bottom 90 percent put together.

Which means a big chunk of the growing interest payments American taxpayers make on the federal debt is going to… rich Americans.

Yes indeed.

But then my own position is that a situation in which the richest 1% possess 40% of the nation´s wealth, which again is more than the bottom 90% own together is (i) so extremely unfair and also (ii) will almost certainly not be stopped, but only will grow worse, that I am a proponent of democratic socialism, while Reich seems to be a proponent of capitalism (for one of his latest book is titled ¨Saving Capitalism¨).

In fact, I do not know whether humanity will ever live under a - real and functioning - system of democratic socialism, indeed mostly because I think this will only be achieved by some kind of revolution, and it is a fact that most revolutions fail, but then again I also agree with Chomsky that the present capitalism seems to be heading to major destructions of the environment or to a nuclear war.

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

The Trump-Republican tax cut will cause the debt to explode even further. Trump’s own Office of Management and Budget predicts an added $100 billion a year in deficits over the next decade, adding up to $1 trillion of additional debt.

Keep following the money: Most of the benefits from those tax cuts are going to the wealthy. 65 percent have gone to the richest fifth of Americans, 22 percent to the top 1 percent.

So you see the big switcheroo? The rich used to pay higher taxes to the government. Now, the government pays the rich interest on a swelling debt, caused largely by lower taxes on the rich.

Yes, I quite agree. Then again, I admit that I did not read Reich´s ¨Saving Capitalism¨, while Reich definitely is a sensible and intelligent man, with whom I often (more or less) agree.
And this is a recommended article.


Note
[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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