February 10, 2019

Crisis: American Patriotism, Residential Racism, Trump's Dangers, Amazon & Subsidies, New Deal

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 10, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, February 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 February 10, 2019:
1. The Great Con of American Patriotism
2. Residential Racism

3. Trump is a ‘clear and present danger’ to US National Security

4. Amazon Wants $3 Billion in Subsidies From New York

5. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Is a Product of Youth Uprising
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 Great Con of American Patriotism

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. This starts as follows:

American soldiers born decades apart in the state of New York, Ron Kovic and Maj. Danny Sjursen, are two crucial dissenting voices that have experienced firsthand the futility and brutality of America’s interventionist wars. Kovic, a Marine veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War, has spent the rest of his life fighting against the U.S. war machine.
In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Kovic tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, “I couldn’t stop speaking against that war. I was arrested a dozen times. I—every single day was life and death. Every single day, I know that there could be another young man like Ron Kovic being paralyzed, another young man from a town or a farm somewhere in this country, being killed in that war that had to stop.”

Indeed, and Ron Kovic (at least) is a remarkable man, as the last quote shows, for I believe that what he says is quite true, and Kovic has been protesting war since 1968, when he was paralyzed from the chest down in Vietnam.

Here is something on Danny Sjursen:

Sadly, Sjursen, who says he watched the film based on Kovic’s life before he was even of age to join the military, explains that he wasn’t able to hear past what he calls the “faux patriotism” that pushed him to attend the U.S. Military Academy, as well as do tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think the fact that I didn’t learn the lessons from Ron Kovic’s story,” Sjursen laments, “[is] proof of the power of the masculinity that is associated with military service, and this notion of nationalism and patriotism. It’s so prevalent that it’s, in some ways, if it’s not fought every day … it will continue despite the lessons before us.”

I think Sjursen is correct about this. (Personal note: I am four years younger than Ron Kovic, but I escaped all military training by being declared medically unfit at age 18. I do not know, but I think that was nonsense, that may have had a lot to do with the fact that my father had spent 3 years and more than 9 months as a convict - a "political terrorist" - in four Nazi concentration camps. As I said, I do not know, but in my case the military bureaucracy was one of the very few decent bureaucracies that I met in Holland.)

Here is more:

DS: [H]ere’s the point I want to make: the foreign policy elite, the militarists who run this government, learned a different lesson. And the lesson they learned is that if you conscript people, if you draft people, if you bring the American people along into a war, then there might be protests. There might be people who turn against that war when the time comes. But if you send a small group of volunteers over, and over, and over again, even to fruitless wars that are not in our national security interests—like Iraq, like Afghanistan, like Syria—you can maintain a war endlessly.

Yes, I think this is also fundamentally correct - and the draft was terminated by Nixon, who thereby introduced wat may be termed interminable privatized wars.

Here is some more on Danny Sjursen:

DS: So while I had a few doubts come 2006, I was far too busy to worry myself with whether or not we should be in Iraq. Which is ridiculous looking back, because this was my life. I ended up spending 15 months there. I was there at the height of the civil war, the height of the surge. I took 19 soldiers there, three were killed, one later killed himself, and the other half were wounded. What I really saw was the results of American messianism in the world, of American exceptionalism, the notion that we could remake societies in our own image. What it really meant was a whole lot of dead children, a whole lot of car bombs, a whole lot of teenagers shooting each other in the night. And then of course, a whole lot of Americans getting killed as well, although less of us than the Iraqis.

Again I think that is all correct. Here is some more:

RS: So let’s end with this word that we began with: patriotism. There is a patriotism that you two guys share. First of all, you care. You care, really, about the consequence. You care about what happens in other countries, you care about what happens to the people we send to wars, and you care about the impact on our own country. That’s genuine patriotism of an enlightened variety. But the fact is, the people who at least are the best and the brightest by virtue of their status—how come there are few guys like you?

Well... I give my own answer to Scheer's question: The best explanation for the fact that "there are few guys like you" is - in my opinion - that both are fundamentally honest and intelligent, and many other (former) soldiers lack the one, the other, or both - anyway fairly rare - qualities.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, and it is by Ron Kovic:

RK: I love my country, but my best way of showing my patriotism today is to tell the truth, and to continue to write, and to continue to tell what really happened, and what it really means to be wounded. What it really means physically and psychologically. You know, we have 20, what do we have, 22 Iraq and Afghan veterans a day committing suicide, and the suicide rate among Vietnam veterans still to this day is very high. So to tell the truth, continue to write the truth, that’s what patriotism is.

I think Ron Kovic is quite right and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Residential Racism

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

Racism has despoiled our nation from its very inception. Slavery and Jim Crow have killed, maimed and degraded millions of human beings of African descent for centuries—a tragic legacy that continues, sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly, into the early decades of the 21st century.
In this 2018 edition of “Sundown Towns,” an update of his groundbreaking 2005 version, Loewen fills in some of the gaps of public ignorance. His findings are appalling. He reveals that racism in America has been even more pervasive, more systemic, more geographically widespread, and therefore more grotesque than most people—even many progressives and well-meaning anti-racists—could ever imagine. The narrative in this supremely important book is chilling. It is essential to fully comprehend that, despite the formal end of segregation and the advances of the modern civil rights movement, racism has pervaded the entire fabric of American life.

I think that is quite correct, and must add that I do not live in the USA but in Holland, which is - at least - considerably less racist than the USA (although these days there are fairly strong forces in Holland that do not like Muslims), and that not because the Dutch are somehow better than the Americans, but because there are and were far fewer colored people in Holland.

Back to the article and the USA. Here is more:

Loewen pulls no punches in the preface to his new edition: “[S]undown towns kept out African Americans. Some excluded other groups, such as Mexican Americans, Native Americans, or Asian Americans, Jews, even Catholics, and Mormons. These places get called ‘sundown towns’ because some, in past decades, placed signs at their city limits typically saying some version of ‘Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You in [name of town].’”

Loewen’s new edition locates the history of sundown towns in the context of contemporary events, with the resurgence of racism in the Trump era and the resulting increase of overt white supremacist rhetoric and activity, but also with more energetic African-American resistance including the Black Lives Matter movement. In this  edition, Loewen has augmented his earlier research.

I say, for I did not know this (which shows either that I am naive or that the American press is not objective - and I claim the latter).

Here is more:

The present book documents the “second generation” sundown town phenomenon. In the author’s home state of Illinois, by his estimate, there are still 507 sundown towns—two-thirds of the towns in the state.

I say again, for I also did not know this. Incidentally, Paul Von Blum is white and tells in this article how he became an anti-racist. The story is interesting, but too long for Nederlog.

Also, I think Von Blum is correct in recommending Loewen's book, and here is some more about it:

Loewen’s point is striking: Until he published the first edition of this book, there was almost no literature about all-white towns in the United States. Of the relatively few people who knew anything about sundown towns, most probably thought it was a Deep South phenomenon. It was not. This book documents hundreds of non-Southern towns that for decades excluded blacks from living within their limits.

This explains why I - who have been following the USA closely since 10 years or so - did not know about anything about sundown towns, before reading this article.

Here is the end of this article:

James Loewen is a national treasure. His works have alerted thousands of readers to the multifaceted existence and dangers of racism and other problems in America. “Sundown Towns,” like all his books, reflects the finest progressive and critical tradition of American scholarship. I take enormous pleasure in recommending them to my students. Trained as a sociologist, Loewen is really both a sociologist and a historian, working in the magnificent tradition of C. Wright Mills and Howard Zinn. I can offer no finer recommendation for this book.

I think I very probably like Loewen, and I also like Von Blum's reference to (link added) "the magnificent tradition of C. Wright Mills" almost all of whose books I owe. I probably would have added Howard Zinn if I had read books by him, but I did not. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Trump is a ‘clear and present danger’ to US National Security

This article is by Washington Monthly on AlterNet. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

On January 26, two Russian TU-160 Blackjack strategic bombers buzzed North America. American and Canadian fighter jets quickly scrambled to escort them away, in what was just the latest game of aerial chicken between Moscow and the West. Nuclear-capable Russian bombers also skirted the Alaska coast in both September and May of last year, each time intercepted and chased out by U.S. fighters. Putin’s message is clear: Russia is a great nation and the United States is vulnerable.

Such close encounters have occurred sporadically since the Cold War. So far, these close calls, sometimes measured in yards and feet, have not resulted in calamity. But they easily could. If so, how would things play out? Is the Trump administration capable of handling a serious international crisis soberly and methodically?

I can give the answer of myself and - it seems - of Washington Monthly quite briefly: No, "the Trump administration" is not "capable of handling a serious international crisis soberly and methodically".

Then again, Washington Monthly gives arguments why it is not. There is first this:

In December, President Donald Trump reversed U.S. policy on Syria and Afghanistan, withdrawing all U.S. military personnel from the former and half from the latter. There were no policy discussions with the Pentagon, State Department, or even within the National Security Council. The intelligence agencies were not asked for their input. Nor were Congressional or international allies consulted, much less the Afghan government or Syrian opposition forces. It was off-the-cuff policymaking at the touch of Trump’s Twitter finger.

Since he came into office, this president has been at odds with his own government, likening the intelligence community to “Nazis,” attacking the FBI and justice system, demeaning cabinet secretaries and other senior officials to the point of their quitting or being fired.

I think the above is quite true. And here is more:
In terms of senior policy personnel, the Trump administration resembles a ghost ship more than a fully functioning executive branch: nearly 40 percent of top government positions remain unfilled, including a third of the nearly 200 senior policy jobs in the State Department; thirty-one ambassadorships are vacant; political appointees, often unqualified campaign contributors and cronies, comprise fully half of the rest; and a quarter of cabinet-level departments are headed by “acting” secretaries, according to the Partnership for Public Service. What’s more, there has been a record two-thirds turnover in senior White House staff, including three national security advisors since Trump came into office.
I think this should be rather convincing. Here is the ending of this article:

All we know is that security apparatus that has kept America safe for decades is being eroded. If the United States really had to deal with an emergency, the guardrails that once existed would be impossible to resurrect, and the policymaking machinery gravely deficient. In fact, Trump is making it all the more likely that any crisis could quickly turn into a catastrophe.

Yes, I entirely agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Amazon Wants $3 Billion in Subsidies From New York

This article is by David Dayen on Common Dreams and originally on In These Times. I shortened the title. It starts as follows:

Fearful of losing nearly $3 billion in subsidies for its expansion in New York City, Amazon has moved to a new strategy, one involving threats. The Washington Post (owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) reported on Friday that the company is “reconsidering” its plan to place an office facility for up to 25,000 employees in Long Island City, Queens. In doing so, Amazon is signaling that it will squeeze opponents of the deal politically unless they support the massive subsidy package.

New York City lawmakers who weren’t intimately involved with the “HQ2” bid to bring in Amazon have been sharply critical of giving billions in taxpayer dollars to the world’s most valuable corporation, so it can add to an already existing presence in the region. The deal bypassed city council approval, adding to the consternation.

Well... I think this shows rather convincingly that Bezos is a sick fraud who will use almost any means to extend his billions.

Here is some more on Amazon:

“Amazon has been growing into the largest company we’ll ever see,” says Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change, one of the groups leading the charge against the Amazon deal. “The idea that we need to subsidize them in any way blows our mind.” Westin has helped rally opposition to the deal from labor unions, community groups and prominent politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district is adjacent to the proposed site.

I completely agree with Westin's "The idea that we need to subsidize them in any way blows our mind."

Here is the ending of this article:

Even Michael Bloomberg is denouncing tax gifts to Amazon.

More broadly, the Amazon farce has shone a spotlight on the sordid process of economic development deals, which cost cities and states up to $90 billion annually while local services suffer from a lack of funds. Deals that would receive almost no scrutiny, like U.S. Steel winning $47 million in tax breaks from impoverished Gary, Indiana, now make headlines. By making the spectacle so public, Amazon may have ruined this gravy train for the rest of corporate America.

Unfortunately, I do not think that "Amazon may have ruined this gravy train for the rest of corporate America", for the "gravy train for (..) corporate America" seems to be mostly run by elected officials who need money for themselves or their party. And this is a recommended article.

5. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Is a Product of Youth Uprising

This article is by Shilpa Jindia on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) led the rollout of the first resolution laying the foundation for the Green New Deal. It is one of several unprecedented efforts demanding that the government take aggressive action in the face of climate change.

Though ideas for a Green New Deal have been kicking around for over a decade, Ocasio-Cortez catalyzed the framework after making it a cornerstone of her campaign. Defying skepticism that she would be able to pull centrist heavyweights on board, she introduced the proposal with wide party support just over a month after taking office. The nonbinding resolution included 64 House and nine Senate original co-Sponsors, including presidential hopefuls Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Despite a derisive response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this consensus effectively cements the Green New Deal as a defining policy for the Democratic agenda.

I think this is mostly correct, although I am not certain that this "effectively cements the Green New Deal as a defining policy for the Democratic agenda". The reason I am not certain, while I do like the Green New Deal, is mainly that there is considerable opposition to it from Pelosi (and probably also from other effective leaders of the Democrats).

I may be too pessimistic, but then I learned in the past 50+ years of following politics that most of the plans I supported were not approved of by either the majority of the voters or else not by the majority of the elected politicians.

Here is some more:

The preamble to the Green New Deal resolution starkly lays out the impacts of climate change in the US. Drawn from previous US and UN climate reports, the resolution restores the authority of the scientific community as the Trump administration scrubs climate data and prohibits the very mention of the term.

I copied this mainly because "the resolution restores the authority of the scientific community" for I am strongly for science based policies.

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

The Green New Deal’s vision of a just economy rings most powerfully when understood in concert with the rallying calls of youth movements demanding that the government respond to the urgency of climate change. In 2015, 21 young adults filed a landmark lawsuit — Juliana vs. United States — against the Obama administration, compelling the government to act. They argued that the government had violated their constitutional rights by ignoring decades of knowledge about the substantial harm and damage caused by fossil fuels, which they will bear the disproportionate burden of mitigating.

Well... this shows (indirectly) why I am strongly for science based policies, although I doubt the lawsuit will succeed, mostly because the Constitution does not pronounce on science or the merits of basing governmental policies on science. I may be wrong, 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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