March 20, 2019

Crisis: USA & Authoritarianism, On The Green New Deal, On ¨Freedom¨, On The Comways, TYT

“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 March 20, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 20, 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 March 20, 2019:
1. ACLU: The U.S. Is Acting Like an Authoritarian Regime
2. The Secret to Funding a Green New Deal

3. What Republicans and billionaires mean when they say ‘freedom’

4. The performative bickering of Kellyanne and George Conway

5. Evidence Of Trump's Personality Disorder?
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. ACLU: The U.S. Is Acting Like an Authoritarian Regime

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

The Trump administration has barred International Criminal Court investigators from entering the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the U.S. will start denying visas to members of the ICC who may be investigating alleged war crimes by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. In September, national security adviser John Bolton threatened U.S. sanctions against ICC judges if they continued to investigate alleged war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. A 2016 ICC report accused the U.S. military of torturing at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan during the ongoing war. The report also accused the CIA of subjecting at least 27 prisoners to torture, including rape, at CIA prison sites in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania. We speak with Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Yes indeed, and I published on this before: see here. This is from the beginning of this interview:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) It’s great to have you with us. Your response to this announcement?

JAMIL DAKWAR: OK. I think this is unprecedented. This is the first time that the U.S. government is targeting foreign judges and prosecutors, personnel of an international—one of the most respected international judicial bodies in the world, with a travel ban. As far as we look back, there hasn’t been any kind of precedent for such a thing. They’re not only doing that. They’re also saying anyone who assisted the ICC, who worked or will work to push for accountability for investigation before the ICC with regard to the situation of Afghanistan, particularly looking at U.S. involvement in war crimes, will be subject to the same visa restrictions. So this is an act of a country that—similar to authoritarian regime. When you have—when you’re crushing dissent, when you’re going after those who are disagreeing with you, when you’re trying to punish and retaliate and intimidate those who are trying to hold you accountable, you use your powers in order to limit the way that they can do that. And that’s really very outrageous and very concerning to us, that this is reaching to this level.

But it also speaks to what this administration has been doing. I mean, this administration threatened with prosecuting judges and the prosecutors of the ICC for doing their job, and for doing the job that the United States should have done—that is, to investigate, credibly and thoroughly, war crimes and crimes against humanity that were committed in the course of the war in Afghanistan, including the use of black sites, not only in Afghanistan.
So, we will see—we will see how this will play out. We’re very happy that the responses so far, in just the last few days, from members of the court, particularly European countries, have been very strong in condemning the Trump administration and upholding the independence and legitimacy of the court, and that any actions to deter prosecutors and the judges, that would be not acceptable and will be rejected by U.S. allies, particularly in Europe.

Precisely: I completely agree. Here is more - and González has it quite right, I think:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ:  (..) This is not just refusing to cooperate. This is actually punishing people who are trying to get to the facts of what’s happened. In terms of what can be done in response by the international community to what, in essence, is the United States saying, “No one has a right to judge what we do abroad”?

JAMIL DAKWAR: Well, first of all, let’s start with what Secretary Pompeo said. He said it’s an attack on our sovereignty. I don’t think that anyone attacked U.S. sovereignty.
So, it’s not an issue of U.S. sovereignty. It’s not also an issue of protecting the constitutional right of American citizens who could be tried abroad. That’s not something that we see again and again. If you committed a crime abroad—you could be committing it anywhere in the world—you could be held accountable by those countries where you violated their criminal laws. And therefore, there is no such a thing of attacking or undermining American sovereignty.

The second thing is, is that Secretary Pompeo is saying there was no consent of the governments, that being—their nationals being prosecuted or investigated by the ICC in the future. Since when war criminals have to get their consent to a criminal investigation? That’s unheard of. So, the nature of the attacks, as you said, they are punitive, they’re retaliatory
So it is really a serious threat to the system that we created. The United States was responsible for creating systems after World War II, after the horror of the Holocaust, that would fight impunity, that would combat the worst crimes. And now the U.S. is leading the charge in attacking the judges. And being cheered by what countries? Cheered by Sudan, Burundi, the Philippines.

And again I also completely agree with Dakwar. Finally, since I am a psychologist as well, I also like to quote this bit:

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about how psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen could be implicated in the investigation, who reaped tens of millions of dollars for designing torture techniques for the CIA?

JAMIL DAKWAR: So, these two individuals, who are psychologists in their private practice, were hired by the CIA after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in order to help implement—design and implement a torture program. They have come up with, really, based on pseudoscience—it was really junk science—a theory of how to break down detainees and how to break down those suspected in involvement in the 9/11 attacks. There has been clear evidence, that we have exposed in our lawsuit, the ACLU lawsuit against the two individuals, that was settled a couple of years ago, that showed that this—that the information that they relied on, the science there was really out of—in line with any scientific—and that its purpose was really to coerce and to lead detainees to say things they may have not done. And, in fact, I think the—again, the Senate torture report has confirmed that the program, the whole program, not only was costly, was not effective, but it was also—was misleading in the way that it presented as if those two individuals—so, these two individuals made over $80 million off this program.

Again quite so, although Dakwar is a bit less clear here. There is considerably more in this article, that is strongly recommended.

2. The Secret to Funding a Green New Deal

This article is by Ellen Brown on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

As alarm bells sound over the advancing destruction of the environment, a variety of Green New Deal proposals have appeared in the U.S. and Europe, along with some interesting academic debates about how to fund them. Monetary policy, normally relegated to obscure academic tomes and bureaucratic meetings behind closed doors, has suddenly taken center stage.

The 14-page proposal for a Green New Deal submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., does not actually mention Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), but that is the approach currently capturing the attention of the media—and taking most of the heat. The concept is good: Abundance can be ours without worrying about taxes or debt, at least until we hit full productive capacity. But, as with most theories, the devil is in the details.

MMT advocates say the government does not need to collect taxes before it spends. It actually creates new money in the process of spending it; and there is plenty of room in the economy for public spending before demand outstrips supply, driving up prices.

Yes indeed, and I agree with Modern Monetary Theory in the sense that I agree that (quite obviously, also) ¨the government does not need to collect taxes before it spends¨.

Then again, while Ellen Brown explains more about
Modern Monetary Theory in this article, I will be staying away from the theory because I did not read much about it, and I also do not consider economics - which has at least 3 different foundations that are all supposed to be ¨economics¨ - a real science, even though it is mathematical.

But here is Brown on the Green New Deal (happily unabbreviated):

To fund a project as massive as the Green New Deal, we need a mechanism that involves neither raising taxes nor adding to the federal debt; and such a mechanism is proposed in the U.S. Green New Deal itself—a network of public banks. While little discussed in the U.S. media, that alternative is being debated in Europe, where Green New Deal proposals have been on the table since 2008.

Yes indeed. One problem with this is that while there are public banks in the USA, which also are rather successful, there are not many, and they also are opposed by the present government.

There is quite a bit more about
Modern Monetary Theory in this article, which I leave to my readers´ interests, and the article ends as follows:

A network of public banks, including a central bank operated as a public utility, could similarly fund a U.S. Green New Deal—without raising taxes, driving up the federal debt or inflating prices.

I think that is correct and this is a recommended article.

3. What Republicans and billionaires mean when they say ‘freedom’

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

America is having a heated debate about the meaning of the word socialism. We’d be better served if, instead, we were debating the meaning of freedom.

The Oregonian reported last week that fully 156,000 families are on the edge of homelessness in our small-population state. Every one of those households is now paying more than 50 percent of its monthly income on rent, and none of them has any savings; one medical bill, major car repair or job loss, and they’re on the streets.

While socialism may or may not solve their problem, the more pressing issue we have is an entire political party and a huge sector of the billionaire class who see homelessness not as a problem, but as a symptom of a “free” society.

The words freedom and liberty are iconic in American culture—probably more so than with any other nation because they’re so intrinsic to the literature, declarations and slogans of our nation’s founding.

Yes indeed. I basically agree with Hartmann, although I also expect there will be considerably more about socialism than about freedom in the press and the media, and one important reason for that is that the term ¨socialism¨ is still used to scare people.

Here is more by Hartmann:

But what do those words mean?

If you ask the Koch brothers and their buddies—who slap those words on pretty much everything they do—you’d get a definition that largely has to do with being “free” from taxation and regulation. And, truth be told, if you’re morbidly rich, that makes a certain amount of sense, particularly if your main goal is to get richer and richer, regardless of your behavior’s impact on working-class people, the environment, or the ability of government to function.

On the other hand, the definition of freedom and liberty that’s been embraced by so-called “democratic socialist” countries—from Canada to almost all of Europe to Japan and Australia—you’d hear a definition that’s closer to that articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he proposed, in January 1944, a “second Bill of Rights” to be added to our Constitution.

Yes indeed, and as to the first quoted paragraph: In fact this started with Reagan, in 1980, who also insisted that ¨government is the problem, not the solution¨.

As to the second quoted paragraph: I more or less agree, but I do not think that ¨Canada [and] almost all of Europe [and] Japan and Australia¨ are ¨democratic socialist¨ countries at all, nor  even ¨social democracies¨.

So I think this is a mistake, and in fact I would myself say that the countries Hartmann mentions are mostly liberal democracies - and the same applies to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose second Bill of Rights” I also strongly recommend you read:

FDR’s proposed amendments included the right to a job, and the right to be paid enough to live comfortably; the right to “adequate food and clothing and recreation”; the right to start a business and run it without worrying about “unfair competition and domination by monopolies”; the right “of every family to a decent home”; the right to “adequate medical care... to achieve and enjoy good health”; the right to government-based “protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”; and the right “to a good education.”

Roosevelt pointed out that, “All of these rights spell security.”

Precisely (but the second Bill of Rights” was never made into law, alas).

Just prior to FDR winning the White House in the election of 1932, the nation had been treated to 12 years of a bizarre Republican administration that was the model for today’s GOP. In 1920, Warren Harding won the presidency on a campaign of “more industry in government, less government in industry”— privatize and deregulate—and a promise to drop the top tax rate of 91 percent down to 25 percent.

He kept both promises, putting the nation into a sugar-high spin called the Roaring ’20s, where the rich got fabulously rich and working-class people were being beaten and murdered by industrialists when they tried to unionize. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (the three Republican presidents from 1920 to 1932) all cheered on the assaults, using phrases like “the right to work” to describe a union-free nation.

Yes, quite so. Also, the same Republican recipe was started by Reagan in 1980, and has been continued now for nearly 40 years, also through Democratic governments - Clinton and Obama - basically because these two presidents also chose for the rich rather than the poor in quite a few of their decisions, while both the Senate and the House meanwhile have been heavily corrupted.

Finally, here is an excellent sum-up by Hartmann of what real freedom and real liberty mean in terms of rights:

[W]e got halfway toward his notion of freedom and liberty here in the United States:

  • You’re not free if you’re old and deep in poverty, so we have Social Security (although the GOP wants to gut it).

  • You’re not free if you’re hungry, so we have food stamps/SNAP (although the GOP wants to gut them).

  • You’re not free if you’re homeless, so we have housing assistance and homeless shelters (although the GOP fights every effort to help homeless people).

  • You’re not free if you’re sick and can’t get medical care, so we have Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare (although the GOP wants to gut them all).

  • You’re not free if you’re working more than 40 hours a week and still can’t meet basic expenses, so we have minimum wage laws and the right to unionize (although the GOP wants to gut both).

  • You’re not free if you can’t read, so we have free public schools (although the GOP is actively working to gut them).

  • You’re not free if you can’t vote, so we’ve passed numerous laws to guarantee the right to vote (although the GOP is doing everything it can to keep tens of millions of Americans from voting).

The billionaire class and their wholly owned Republican politicians keep trying to tell us that “freedom” means the government doesn’t provide any of the things listed above.

Precisely, and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. The performative bickering of Kellyanne and George Conway

This article is by Rachel Leah on Salon. I abbreviated the title. Before excerpting this article, a small introduction:

This is about the married partners Kellyanne and George Conway. Kellyanne is Counselor to the President (Trump) and defends him in various ways, often with lies; her husband George Conway attacks president Trump (since 2018), and insists, quite correctly in this psychologist´s eyes, that he is not sane, and specifically that he has a narcissist personality disorder, which is what I think.

You will find out more about George Conway in the next item, that is a video by The Young Turks. I will comment on that at the start of the next item.

Here is the start of the present item:

I had been convinced that there was no odder couple than my parents, who've long been separated and whose personalities and livelihoods could not be more divergent, until conservative lawyer turned chronic President Trump critic George Conway began to gain popularity for his fervent and relentless Trump takedowns, on social media and in op-eds, despite the fact that he is married to Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's closest aides.

The tension hit a boiler point Tuesday when the president weighed in with a typical insult, calling Conway a "total loser" on Twitter.

Yes indeed, though I have no ideas about Leah´s parents. But Leah is right that this marriage between the Conways seems - at least - a bit strange.

Here is more:

But as Trump's Twitter fingers moved at a mile a minute this weekend, George Conway suggested the response was indicative of the president's declining mental state with the succinct assessment, "His condition is getting worse." Conway also retweeted an endless roll of Trump criticisms, many of which remarked on the unusual volume of vitriol coming from the president's Twitter account.

Conway began sprinkling in more of his own commentary on Monday when CNN commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas said that the president had tweeted 28 times on Sunday and asked if that meant the Mueller investigation was coming to a close. Conway replied, "Don’t assume that the things he says and does are part of a rational plan or strategy, because they seldom are. Consider them as a product of his pathologies, and they make perfect sense."

Conway then shared the cover of the fifth edition of the DSM-5 and two more tweets on the specific diagnostic criteria for someone who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Yes, I mostly agree, although I think myself that a narcissist personality disorder corresponds to what in proper English is called megalomania (but the psychiatrists who currently write the articles on psychiatry on the Wikipedia have even succeeded of having that term deleted from Wikipedia, where it was at least until the end of 2016) and is or may be real, while I think the antisocial personality disorder is fundamentally a political notion, meant to make critics of government seem insane, and so I will not discuss the antisocial personality disorder further in this article.

Here is more on Trump and the Conways:

This public triangulation between Trump and the Conways is not only weird, it's now a frequent dynamic.  Kellyanne has gone on TV several times to publicly defend Trump while George took to Twitter to do the exact opposite. This is not to say that partners are expected to share political ideologies and leanings, but it seems pretty rare that a couple's job titles and goals would not only be in total opposition to each other, but that they would actively undermine each other in public like this.

Yes, I agree. Here is a final bit I quote from this article:

While neither Conway would admit it, it's hard not to wonder if this whole persona is a grift of some kind — a way for George to elevate his profile and formulate a fairly easy exit strategy for his wife, should the Mueller investigation prove damning, or should Trump face impeachment or simply lose his bid for reelection. I can already picture the heartfelt interview with the Conways on Fox News, where they reveal that Kellyanne actually shared George's concerns the whole time. She was just trying to do her job, but George operated as the family's moral compass, they might say.

Possibly so, but I have no ideas about the Conways possible deeper ideas. Then again, I agree with George Conway about president Trump (what I´ve read) and incidentally, so does Robert Reich, to a large extent at least, and see here.

5. Evidence Of Trump's Personality Disorder?

This is not an article but a video by The Young Turks, of 13 min and 18 sec. It is here in part because it supports George Conway´s opinions about president Trump, that are also explained by the previous item.

In fact, as far as psychology is concerned - in which I got a brilliant M.A. - George Conway agrees with me and some 70,000 other psychologists: Trump is insane and his madness is called (by psychiatrists)
a narcissist personality disorder, with which I agree, based on 6 years of study of psychology, extensive experiences with several insane persons, and common sense.

It turns out that Cenk Uygur, the leader of The Young Turks now agrees with me and 70,000 other psychologists that yes, Trump is insane, and yes, that is a huge problem, especially because Trump can start a nuclear war.

I entirely agree, indeed since the beginning of 2016 (see here), and Uygur also gives fairly decent explanations of his reasons to agree. Also, I agree with him that intelligent persons who do have access to the definition of
a narcissist personality disorder in the DSM-5 (and I provide access in my Trump is not sane, from the end of 2016, which is strongly recommended) can make a similar diagnosis as trained psychologists can make, in considerable part because in Trump´s case his having a narcissist personality disorder is very clear (and I scored Trump as satisfying 9 out of 9 criterions, where 5 is sufficient for a diagnosis). Also, it should be added that the criterions of the DSM-5 are in terms of observable behavior.

And I like this video and strongly recommend it.

Finally, on The Young Turks:

I know of them since 2009, which is when I finally got fast internet, which also enabled me to see their daily videos, and I did select a reasonable number of videos then. I liked them better then than I do now, but this may be because (i) they mostly provide for young people while I am nearly 69; because (ii) I like to review what I present, and that is not well possible with videos; and (iii) also because I can find no system in the videos they do publish.

[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 3 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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