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Nederlog

January 11, 2019

Crisis: State of Emergency, Bill McKibben, US Military Bases, Corporate Media, Green New Deal



Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 11, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, January 11, 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 11, 2019:
1. Frightening Prospect If an Authoritarian Like Trump Declares State of
     Emergency
2. Bill McKibben: We're Headed for Hell, or Some Place Like It

3. The Mystery Military Bases of the Pentagon

4. 4 Reasons Corporate Media Refuse to Talk About What Matters

5. From Yellow Vests to the Green New Deal
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. Frightening Prospect If an Authoritarian Like Trump Declares State of Emergency

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

President Trump says that he will likely declare a national emergency over the border wall if negotiations over the government shutdown continue. We speak with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The Congress has given the president quite a bit of authority to declare emergencies with terms that are almost unbounded,” Weissman says. “Congress has always expected, and society has always expected, that presidents wouldn’t abuse that authority recklessly, declaring emergencies just because they want to. We obviously have a president now who has no such constraints.”

Well... I agree with Weissman that the USA has ¨a president now who has no such constraints¨ (that would make him act reasonably or at least to pretend to act reasonably, in my terms) but
if the rest of this introduction is true, that seems mostly be caused by the fact that Congress has failed to provide for unreasonable presidents and has made do with mere ¨expectations¨.

Anyway. Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: But let me ask about President Trump declaring a national emergency. Some are speculating that the fact that the White House counsel is with him as he goes down to the border to McAllen, Texas, suggests he might be talking about declaring this emergency, which he says he has an absolute right to do. What is the significance of this? And then, possibly, the Pentagon coming up with two-and-a-half billion dollars extra to build the wall. And what does it say about a budget where an agency can find two-and-a-half billion dollars extra?

ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, you know, first, we shouldn’t ignore that last point you made. I mean, there’s so much money being wasted on military spending right now, you know, huge amounts of just money inside the Pentagon sloshing around, going to places where they can’t identify who is being paid and what it’s for. That’s its own legitimate national crisis that needs to be addressed.

Yes, this is quite correct. There is more in other Nederlogs, but - if my memory does not deceive me - it comes down to these facts: (1) the Pentagon has not been properly audited for more than 25 years, in spite of the fact that (2) the Pentagon receives more than half of the taxes that are gathered, which means (amongh othe things), as Weismann says, that (3) the Pentagon has ¨huge amounts of just money inside the Pentagon sloshing around, going to places where they can’t identify who is being paid and what it’s for¨.

Here is some more:

But to the bigger point about the emergency, you know, as a matter of law, it’s going to be a complicated thing. The Congress has given the president quite a bit of authority to declare emergencies with terms that are almost unbounded and with powers that have few bounds. Congress has always expected, and society has always expected, that presidents wouldn’t abuse that authority recklessly, declaring emergencies just because they want to. We obviously have a president now who has no such constraints. So, if he does proceed, which I think is reasonably likely, it’s going to be a complicated matter of law.

But beyond what the law is, if you just think about the underlying principles, the sort of—the real constitutional principles, the democracy principles, it’s a serious matter, beyond just the outrage of funding a stupid, needless and immoral wall, or even part of one, which is what he would propose to do. He wants funding for a border wall. Congress is saying no. The move to call a national emergency is for the president to say, “I will not be constrained by what Congress says. Even though there’s not really a national emergency, I’ll just invoke these powers. I can do something that would otherwise be illegal, simply by declaring a national emergency.”

Now, that is—if you follow the logic of that, that leads to almost unbounded presidential power. And when you have an authoritarian like Donald Trump in office, that is a frightening prospect.

Yes indeed - I quite agree. Besides, I add that in any parliamentary democracy, at least in so far as it is real, it is the parliament (basically: Congress in the USA) that has the real power in the country, and not its president, for that indeed would not be a parliamentary democracy but a kind of dictatorship or authoritarianism. And this is a recommended article.


2. Bill McKibben: We're Headed for Hell, or Some Place Like It

This article is by Dharna Noor on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

DHARNA NOOR: I’m here in Burlington, Vermont, where the Sanders Institute has convened hundreds of international civic leaders, artistic leaders, political leaders to address the problems of our age, like the economic crisis, social crises, and, importantly, the climate crisis. And I’m here with somebody who has been doing this for decades, for a very long time. Bill McKibben is a founder of 350.org, a leading environmental organization. He’s a leading environmentalist in his own right, and author of one of the first books on climate change for a mass audience.

Yes indeed, and here is some more information about Bill McKibben.

DHARNA NOOR: So we’re coming off of a panel where you moderated some leading minds on the climate crisis to talk about not only the problem itself, but what can be done about it; how we can address economic justice and environmental justice and racial justice together. Could you talk about where this idea of the Green New Deal has come from?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Yeah. I mean, this is an exciting moment, right? This was sort of at the beginning of a new idea–not that new. People have been talking in one way or another about a big, some kind of big infrastructure program that would deal with both our economic woes and our climate crisis. But it feels a little more real now. Clearly there’s something in the air.

Yes, I agree - and incidentally, as you can see from item 5 below, there are now also some American top economists who support the ideas of the Green New Deal.

Here is more:

DHARNA NOOR: (...) But you know, we’re up against so much. While so much movement is happening with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Representative Tlaib, from across the House, you know, there are so many others who are opposing this. You mentioned the Trump administration’s latest report, but they issued it on Black Friday, a day that nobody’s really watching what’s happening in the news. Talk about how we can overcome some of these struggles.

BILL MCKIBBEN: The only ways to win these fights are to build movements, because the fossil fuel industry has all the money. That’s their weapon. There’s no secret to it. They use it to bludgeon entire political parties into submission. But sometimes organized people can beat organized money if they get together in numbers large enough. And that’s what’s been happening increasingly over the last few years. There’s now enough human beings really scared and really determined to do something that I think the politicians won’t be able to hide this forever.

Yes, I basically agree with McKibben. In fact, Ralph Nader has argued similarly: See here.

Here is more:

BILL MCKIBBEN: You see what happens in our current framework when a few thousand people show up at the border, and it causes a national freakout, that scientists, climate scientists tell us with great conviction that we’re looking at 150, 200, 300 million people on the move by the middle or latter part of this century. That’s the kind of thing that destabilizes the entire globe.

Yes, I quite agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

DHARNA NOOR: Why are we calling it a Green New Deal? What is the, why are we invoking the same name as FDR’s New Deal?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Well, because that was one of the last times that we looked systemically at our economy; not taking little piecemeal things here and there, but really making some big, powerful moves. One of the things that’s important to remember about the New Deal, and that I hope the Green New Dealers will remember, is that it also involved a lot of experimentation. Some of the things they tried early on didn’t work, so they quickly abandoned them and went to other things. And that’s good. Pragmatism is important here. Any discussion around climate change is held honest by the physics of this dilemma.

DHARNA NOOR: And just lastly, could you talk about the stakes if we don’t usher in this kind of Green New Deal?

BILL MCKIBBEN: If we don’t do something here and around the world quickly, then we’re headed, if not to hell, then to a place with a very similar temperature.

Or perhaps a considerably lower temperature that still is insufficient to have living people (for I remember that the temperature of hell is supposed to be 450 C). Anyway - this is a recommended article.

3. The Mystery Military Bases of the Pentagon

This article is by Nick Turse on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. I abbreviated the title.
Also, this is a good article that is too long to properly excerpt. Instead, I offer a survey of the present American military presence in the world.

This is from near its beginning:

Officially, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains 4,775 “sites,” spread across all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and 45 foreign countries. A total of 514 of these outposts are located overseas, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio. Just to start down a long list, these include bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as well as in Peru and Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. But the most recent version of that portfolio, issued in early 2018 and known as the Base Structure Report (BSR), doesn’t include any mention of al-Tanf. Or, for that matter, any other base in Syria. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Niger. Or Tunisia. Or Cameroon. Or Somalia. Or any number of locales where such military outposts are known to exist and even, unlike in Syria, to be expanding.

Yes indeed. It should be added that there are around 200 states in the present world, where the number is a bit uncertain because the definitions are not precise. And also the USA spends more on war (that they call ¨defense¨) then the next 10 or 11 countries which follow it spend combined on war.

Here is more:

According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, there could be hundreds of similar off-the-books bases around the world. “The missing sites are a reflection of the lack of transparency involved in the system of what I still estimate to be around 800 U.S. bases outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that have been encircling the globe since World War II,” says Vine, who is also a founding member of the recently established Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, a group of military analysts from across the ideological spectrum who advocate shrinking the U.S. military’s global “footprint.”

Yes indeed. And here is an important reason why American bases in foreign countries are kept secret:

“Undocumented bases are immune to oversight by the public and often even Congress,” Vine explains. “Bases are a physical manifestation of U.S. foreign and military policy, so off-the-books bases mean the military and executive branch are deciding such policy without public debate, frequently spending hundreds of millions or billions of dollars and potentially getting the U.S. involved in wars and conflicts about which most of the country knows nothing.”

Precisely. (As a side note: It is the same in Holland, where I have demonstrated a lot in my teens - in the 1960ies - to stop the presence in Holland of American atomic weapons. Well... their presence was always and systematically denied from 1963 to 2013, when the drunk former president Lubbers admitted they always had been there. They still are.)

Here is more:

The Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition notes that the United States possesses up to 95% of the world’s foreign military bases, while countries like France, Russia, and the United Kingdom have perhaps 10-20 foreign outposts each. China has just one.

The Department of Defense even boasts that its “locations” include 164 countries. Put another way, it has a military presence of some sort in approximately 84% of the nations on this planet — or at least the DoD briefly claimed this.

Precisely.

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

The annual cost of deploying U.S. military personnel overseas, as well as maintaining and running those foreign bases, tops out at an estimated $150 billion annually, according to the Overseas Bases Realignment and Closure Coalition. The price tag for the outposts alone adds up to about one-third of that total. “U.S. bases abroad cost upwards of $50 billion per year to build and maintain, which is money that could be used to address pressing needs at home in education, health care, housing, and infrastructure,” Vine points out.

Again precisely so. There is a lot more in this article, that is strongly recommended.

4. 4 Reasons Corporate Media Refuse to Talk About What Matters

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

The media recently was all over Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for calling Donald Trump a “m@therf*cker” in the context of wanting to impeach him. It got lots and lots of coverage, over a period of several days, while the really big work the Democrats were doing in the House is largely ignored, along with most other consequential issues of the day.

Ever since the media began, in a big way in the 1980s, to ignore actual news and go for highly dumbed-down or even salacious stories, many of us who work in the media have been astonished by this behavior by the network and cable news organizations and the major newspapers.

They used to report the details of policy proposals in great detail (see this report
from the 1970s about Richard Nixon’s proposal for universal health care, comparing his with Ted Kennedy’s, for example). But since the Reagan era, the networks have largely kept their coverage exclusively to personality, scandal, and horse race.

Why would that be? Why, since the late 1980s, has the “news” lost any semblance of actual news and detail, and degenerated into a cleaned-up version of the National Enquirer?

I agree with everything in the above quote, but I do not like m@therf*cker”, indeed probably for a reason my readers may not get: I think absolutely everyone who reads this article knows what to put for the ¨@¨ and the ¨*¨ - which means that still to do so seems rather crazy to me, and quite childish.

Then again, I do not know who is to blame for this, so I merely register that I consider it very silly.

Here is more:

Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever. Every issue is instead framed in the horse-race format of “who’s going to win this fight”—leaving Americans uninformed about the consequences to themselves of the issues being fought over.

In fact, I do not have a TV since 1970, mostly because I hate advertisements and propaganda, while I also had learned, in the previous 7 years in which my parents had TV, that I learned almost nothing by viewing it.

So in fact I doubt whether I have ever seen ¨
a few hours of national cable TV media¨ (I can watch some of these on the internet), and my reasons are as before: It does not teach me anything and besides I find it extremely boring.

But I agree with Hartmann, and here is more:

Trying to figure out why this is, I’ve come up with four possible reasons (none of which are mutually exclusive; it may be all or a combination of them).
    (...)

1. The End of the Fairness Doctrine

In 1987, Ronald Reagan ordered his FCC to cease enforcing the Fairness Doctrine. This much-misunderstood regulation required radio and TV stations, in order to keep their licenses, to “pay” for their use of the public airwaves (the property of We the People) with actual news. It was called “broadcasting in the public interest.”

Because of the Fairness Doctrine, every one of the networks actually lost money on their news divisions, and those divisions operated entirely separately from the entertainment programming divisions of the networks.

CBS, ABC, and NBC had bureaus all around the world and employed an army of reporters.

In fact, this also is a fairly long and good article - which means that my excerpt is partial. And in any case, I quite agree with this first reason Hartmann found ¨Why, since the late 1980s, has the “news” lost any semblance of actual news and detail, and degenerated into a cleaned-up version of the National Enquirer?¨

Here is more:

2. The Rise of “Reality TV”

Reality TV grew out of the twin writers’ strikes of 1988 and 2001. In each case, the networks had to figure out a way to offer compelling programming with shows that didn’t require union writers. In 1988, they mostly did documentaries on policing like “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted”; in 2001 they rolled out the full-blown reality programming we know today, starting with “Survivor.”

The networks learned two big lessons from this. The first was that “reality” programming actually pulled an audience, and thus was profitable. Extremely profitable, in that it didn’t require union writers and generally didn’t even require union actors.

The second was that it was incredibly cheap to produce.

I completely agree with this reason as well. Here is more:
3. Media Corporations Are Corporations, Too
    (...)
Consider: When was the last time you heard an intelligent discussion on TV about taxing the rich? Or holding corporations accountable when they break the law? Or how destructive oligopolies and monopolies are to workers? Or how big pharma scams us about their R&D expenses and price fixing, buying up generic companies, etc.? The list could go on for pages.
    (...)
The simple fact is that TV “news” organizations are now for-profit operations, and, lacking regulation like the Fairness Doctrine, thus have the same natural and inherent biases toward protecting corporate power and privilege, and the wealth and privilege of their management and largest shareholders.
Yes, I agree with this as well. Here is more:

4. Corporations Like Republicans

The final possibility that occurs to me (and others in media with whom I’ve discussed this over the years) is that the large TV and radio news operations simply like what the GOP stands for. They also know that if GOP policies were widely understood, the Republican Party would fade into the kind of powerless obscurity it enjoyed for most of the FDR-to-Reagan era, when working people’s salaries were growing faster than management and the middle class was solid and stable.
    (...)

This is the core of GOP ideology that media shares: Cut taxes on rich people, kill off the unions, cut welfare so more of that money can go to rich people’s tax cuts, deregulate big corporations so they can act without regard to the public good, and subsidize big corporations with government funds whenever and wherever possible.

I think this is also quite true, especially the second paragraph. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Solutions

The solutions to these problems are not particularly complex, although the GOP will fight them tooth-and-nail.

Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, put back into place ownership rules, and break up the big media monopolies so there’s a diversity of voices across America. Overrule the Supreme Court’s (by legislation or constitutional amendment) Citizens United (and similar) ruling to regulate money in politics, diminishing the power of big corporations and billionaires (and foreign governments).

In other words, restore to America a rational media landscape.

Yes, I quite agree. Then again, I also observe that the opposites have been happening in the USA since 1980, so restoring ¨a rational media landscape¨ ¨to America¨ will very probably be quite difficult. And this is a fine article that is strongly recommended.

5. From Yellow Vests to the Green New Deal

This article is by Joseph Stiglitz on Common Dreams and originally on Project Syndicate. It has a subtitle:
The grassroots movement behind the Green New Deal offers a ray of hope to the badly battered establishment: they should embrace it, flesh it out, and make it part of the progressive agenda
I have selected this article because it is by one of the most prominent economists there are and because I like it that he supports the idea of a Green New Deal (as does Paul Krugman, but I stopped reading him).

Also - in case you were to ask me - I have no idea who Stiglitz (or his subtitle) is referring to when writing about ¨
the badly battered establishment¨.

Anyway. This is from near its beginning:

There are good reasons for today’s disgruntlement: four decades of promises by political leaders of both the center left and center right, espousing the neoliberal faith that globalization, financialization, deregulation, privatization, and a host of related reforms would bring unprecedented prosperity, have gone unfulfilled. While a tiny elite seems to have done very well, large swaths of the population have fallen out of the middle class and plunged into a new world of vulnerability and insecurity. Even leaders in countries with low but increasing inequality have felt their public’s wrath.

Yes, this seems all true. Here is some more:

The Green New Deal is premised on three observations: First, there are unutilized and underutilized resources – especially human talent – that can be used effectively. Second, if there were more demand for those with low and medium skills, their wages and standards of living would rise. Third, a good environment is an essential part of human wellbeing, today and in the future.

If the challenges of climate change are not met today, huge burdens will be imposed on the next generation. It is just wrong for this generation to pass these costs on to the next. It is better to leave a legacy of financial debts, which our children can somehow manage, than to hand down a possibly unmanageable environmental disaster.

Yes, I agree again. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The Green New Deal sends a positive message of what government can do, for this generation of citizens and the next. It can deliver today what those who are suffering today need most – good jobs. And it can deliver the protections from climate change that are needed for the future.

The Green New Deal will have to be broadened, and this is especially true in countries like the US, where many ordinary citizens lack access to good education, adequate health care, or decent housing.

The grassroots movement behind the Green New Deal offers a ray of hope to the badly battered establishment: they should embrace it, flesh it out, and make it part of the progressive agenda. We need something positive to save us from the ugly wave of populism, nativism, and proto-fascism that is sweeping the world.

And I agree again (but still don´t understand whom Stiglitz is referring to with his ¨the badly battered establishment¨). 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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