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Nederlog

May 4, 2019

Crisis: People's Human Rights, On Billionaires, Trump's Economy, Nader on Trump, Russia-gate


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







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 4, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 4, 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 May 4, 2019:
1. Roger Waters on Palestine and People's Human Rights
2. Can We Trust Billionaires to Save Democracy?

3. The Untold Story of Trump's 'Booming' Economy

4. Ralph Nader: Trump Is the Most Impeachable President

5. Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate
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. Roger Waters on Palestine and People's Human Rights

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

After a judge ruled a panel can move forward Saturday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on “Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights,” we speak with one of the event’s scheduled participants: Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, one of the most popular rock bands of all time. He says he welcomes the lawsuit that challenged the event, because “what it does is it serves to shine a light on the predicament of the Palestinian people.”

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights.” That’s the title of the panel set to take place Saturday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Three anonymous UMass students filed a lawsuit to stop the event, claiming they’ll, quote, “suffer irreparable harm” if it takes place. But Judge Robert Ullmann ruled on Thursday the event can proceed, saying, quote, “There’s nothing that comes even close to a threat of harm or incitement to violence or lawlessness.” Meanwhile, the university has backed the event despite the protests, saying it’s committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom.

I say, for I think both decisions are good. Here is some more:

ROGER WATERS: Well, Sut asked me to come to his university to be on this panel, and I’m delighted to be able to do it.

Thank you, Judge. He was very explicit and brief and to the point in his ruling. He’s obviously sound.

My view is that it’s a good thing that the organizations are attacking the event, because what it does is it serves to shine light on the predicament of the Palestinian people, who we support. And the more light that is shone on any question of human rights, the better, in my view.
    (..)
You know, something that I say at every show I do now, because I fine my speeches down so they’re very short, is, at some point in everybody’s life, they have to decide whether or not they believe in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris. If you do—either you believe in it or you don’t; you can’t have it both ways. And so, if you do believe it, then you have to stand up for people’s human rights all over the world, irrespective of their ethnicity or their religion or their nationality, which is what we are doing in this panel at the University of Massachusetts on Saturday.

Yes indeed: I quite agree. Incidentally, here is the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights but I must add that this has been "replaced", for example in Europe, by what I can only call fascist frauds, for the simple reason that while the 1948 Declaration excluded state terrorism by "national security organizations" (the nation's spies), its European "replacement" included all the "national security organizations" to do as they please.

I have explained this several times before in Nederlog, and do not have the time to do it now once again.

Here is more from the article:

ROGER WATERS: Well, this particular issue is far more divisive than any other. So, I’ve just been on tour for a couple of years all over the world. And in many countries, certainly in Europe, in France and in Germany, I came up against an absolute wall of silence, really, particularly in Germany, where nobody in the press, until I spoke to one journalist with a newspaper from Munich—nobody would speak to me, on the grounds that they had been told that I was anti-Semitic and that I could not be spoken to. And the Germans are very sensitive about Jewish affairs, and, in consequence, they are not open to even speaking—even speaking about human rights within the context of Palestine.

Yes, I think this is correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

ROGER WATERS: (..) I mean, I’ve been involved in this struggle only for the last 12 years. But over those 12 years it has changed dramatically. And Noam Chomsky is exactly right. And so is Sut. They are desperate now. That’s why they pulled this silly legal stunt about this meeting in UMass. And I’m so happy to see it. And working with people from Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish organizations, as well, has developed dramatically over the years, as the demographic within the Jewish community in United States has changed, and they’re coming more and more 'round to saying, “Not in my name,” and which is hugely encouraging, yeah. I feel overcome, almost, with joy even to be able to speak about it in these terms now.

Well... I hope Waters is correct and this is a recommended article.


2. Can We Trust Billionaires to Save Democracy?

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

There’s no denying that Nicolas Berggruen, the German American billionaire founder and president of the private investment company Berggruen Holdings as well as the think tank Berggruen Institute, has benefited from a global capitalist system that has fueled historic inequality. But even he can see how broken the current economic and political systems in place in the West are, so he’s come up with a plan to try to revamp democracy as we know it.

Think of it as “universal basic capital instead of universal basic income,” Berggruen tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in a discussion about the billionaire’s book, “Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism.” What Berggruen advocates for is a fresh restructuring of democratic governance frameworks that would guarantee adequate living conditions for workers regardless of employment status. At a time in which jobs are quickly being eaten up by rapidly advancing technology, employment should not determine a person’s right to having their basic needs accounted for, the Berggruen Holdings founder and his coauthor, Nathan Gardels, argue in their book.

I think the above sounds reasonable, but I immediately should add that I found Berggruen's texts in the interview that followes the above both much too long and much too vague to quote.

Here is some more:

Scheer, however, challenges the billionaire with a potential blind spot in Berggruen’s plans: Can we trust elites, well-intentioned and otherwise, to save democracy when they played a huge role in pushing the world to the dire straits it finds itself in currently?

Well... in a way this is a good question, although it is at least a little vague, and I will answer it as follows:

First, if real democracy is to be saved, anyone who (supposedly) saves it does need plenty of non-billionaires and non-millionaires to support real democracy.

Second, I do not deny that a few billionaires may have good intentions.

But as I said, I found Berggruen's texts too long and too vague. Here is some more (and I will limit myself to Scheer in what follows in this review):

RS: (..) And also in the book, Reinventing Democracy, you actually hold out–it’s interesting, the first time I thought of this idea was with John Kenneth Galbraith, a famous economist who was also our ambassador to India when he wrote a book called The Affluent Society. We’ve had it with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who talked about a guaranteed annual income for everyone. And your idea in the book is really, separate the job–you know, the job may go; it may go because of artificial intelligence, it may go because of patterns of international trade. But the worker is entitled to the basic necessities of life.

In fact, if "the worker is" not "entitled to the basic necessities of life" workers and their children must starve and real democracy is completely dead.

Here is some more by Scheer:

RS: So what I find absent in the book is any discussion of the popular movements that will propel this change. And let me give you my other issue of concern: you lumped populism as sort of the enemy in this book, and direct democracy and so forth. And you associated that primarily with Donald Trump. But we also have the populism of somebody like Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders. And isn’t that sort of discontent from below required for public, for change?

I agree with Scheer: Without considerable public assistance from non-millionaires no supposed restitution of "democracy" will be a restitution of real democracy.

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

RS: Where I have a problem with it is, it attributes no effective role to popular opposition and concern. And yet it seems to me most of the progress we’ve made in society has come from below. You know, people demanding civil rights, demanding women’s rights, demanding a living wage as now happens. Here in Los Angeles County and city we have actually a living wage coming into being. And so this idea that we can count on the elite to do the right thing–and that was, you know, Roosevelt hoped they would, but they didn’t. And so he went with what people from below were demanding, you know? That, to my mind, is the key issue: Does progress come from enlightenment on above, when they feel their situation is at risk? Or does it come from, yes, a notion of democracy, of complaint from below, and a demand that something happen?

Well... since Scheer asks this question (or very similar ones) several times, I do not think that Berggruen has an answer. And this is a recommended article.

3. The Untold Story of Trump's 'Booming' Economy

This article is by Leo Gerard on Truthdig and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

Americans are not happy, and for good reason: They continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. And every time they make the slightest peep of complaint about a system rigged against them, the rich and powerful tell them to shut up because it is all their fault.

One percenters instruct them to work harder, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better.

Yes, I think the above is correct. Here is more:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, unemployment is low and the stock market is high. But skyrocketing stocks benefit only the top 10 percent of wealthy Americans who own 84 percent of stocks. And while more people are employed now than during the Great Recession, the vast majority of Americans haven’t had a real raise since 1979.

Precisely - which means that the last 40 years most money went to the rich (maximally 10% of the population) and the very rich (maximally 1% of the population).

And that seems quite true to me, but here is more on Americans:

But if Americans would just work harder, everything would be dandy, right?
    (..)
Americans labor 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more than Brits, and 499 more than the French, according to the International Labor Organization.

And the longer hours aren’t because American workers are laggards on the job. They’re very productive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that the average American worker’s productivity has increased 400 percent since 1950.

I think this is again all true, and it is well to remind one self that the normal workweek is 40 hours. Here is more:

Their wages have flatlined for four decades, adjusting for inflation.

That means stress. Forty percent of workers say they don’t have $400 for an unexpected expense. Twenty percent can’t pay all of their monthly bills. More than a quarter of adults skipped needed medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it. A quarter of adults have no retirement savings.

Yes indeed, I think this is also all true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Just like the administration and the Supreme Court, right-wingers in Congress grovel before corporations and the rich. Look at the tax break they gave one percenters in 2017. Corporations got the biggest cut in history, their rate sledgehammered down from 35 percent to 21 percent. The rich reap by far the largest benefit from those tax cuts through 2027, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. And by then, 53 percent of Americans—that is, workers, not rich people—will pay more than they did in 2017 because tax breaks for workers expire.

Quite so. There is considerably more in this article, which is strongly recommended.


4. Ralph Nader: Trump Is the Most Impeachable President

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

Donald Trump is the most impeachable president in American history. Many Democrats, however, are running away from the word “impeachment” for tactical political reasons.

Yes, I think this is true. Then again, I am not a Democrat (I am Dutch) and do not run away "from the word “impeachment”": My own two problems with impeachment - and I would like to see Trump disappear as soon as possible - are that (1) the Senate will not impeach Trump almost certainly, and (2) I do not know how much free TV-time Trump will get (as in 2016, when he got it "because it pays well" according to someone at CBS) because of an impeachment procedure - and I have so far not read anyone who either raised or answered my second question.

Amyway. Here is some more:

The six major House Committees are investigating issues ranging from his tax returns and business dealings to the documented serial obstructions of justice documented in the Mueller Report. As these investigations move well beyond what is already on the public record and more Americans learn their contents, there will be more than enough to substantiate numerous articles of impeachment. Plus a new one of Trump’s own creation—the wholesale, broadside obstruction of all these Congressional investigations, defying subpoenas for sworn testimony and documents, amounting to a gigantic contempt of Congress—itself an impeachable offense.

I think this is true. Here is some more:

I’ll bet he’s never even read our Constitution – he says out loud that whatever Congress does on impeachment, the Supreme Court will rescue him. Donald, when it comes to Congressional impeachment and conviction, the decision by Congress is final.

OK. Here is some more:

Trump’s impeachable brew is deep, hot, and deadly. He violates the constitution, federal statutes, and international treaties with his war crimes anywhere he wants to conduct them around the world. John Bolton, the unconfirmed national security advisor and Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, are looking for new wars – whether in Iran or Venezuela. Bolton and Pompeo are prime examples of unindicted war criminals.

Yes, I agree. Here is some more:

Impeachable offenses include violating Article I, section 8 by conducting wars of choice without a Congressional declaration and other provision of the Constitution (Article 1 section 9 clause 7) and statutes banning spending tax monies without Congressional appropriation. Consider the support of the war on Yemen and bombing of Syria with immense civilian destruction as illustrations.

This is the road to tyranny and the de facto overthrow of our “constitutional order.”

I agree again. Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Another standard for impeachment is the widely quoted criterion by Alexander Hamilton – behavior that constitutes “abuse or violation of some public trust.” How about Trump’s over ten thousand recorded lies or misleading fabrications? How about his bigotry, misogyny and lying about his sexual misconducts and payoffs? How about Trump allowing the enrichment of his businesses (which he refused to sell or put into a blind trust) by foreign governments spending lavishly at his hotels and other properties, in violation of our Constitution’s emoluments clause?

I agree again - but I did not read any answer to my second question - I do not know how much free TV-time Trump will get (as in 2016, when he got it "because it pays well" according to someone at CBS) because of an impeachment procedure - and that is rather important to me. Then again, Nader is for impeachment, and this article gives quite a few of his reasons, and is strongly recommended.


5. Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
George Orwell would have been in stitches Wednesday watching Attorney General William Barr and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spar on Russia-gate.  The hearing had the hallmarks of the intentionally or naively blind leading the blind with political shamelessness.
I agree. Here is more:
[W]hat remains unacknowledged is the absence of an evidence-based major premise that should have been in place to anchor the rhetoric and accusations about Russia-gate over the past three years.  With a lack of evidence sufficient to support a major premise, any syllogism falls of its own weight.

The major premise that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and gave WikiLeaks highly embarrassing emails cannot bear close scrutiny.
Quite so. And no, I do not deny that Russia did some hacking, but - very probably - not "into the Democratic National Committee", and also not much, in so far as this could be ascertained.

So I agree with McGovern and with the VIPS, but in fact the VIPS and my self are in a small minority:
All “serious” members of the establishment, including Barr, his Senate interrogators, and the “mainstream media” feel required to accept as dogma the evidence-free conventional wisdom that Russia hacked into the DNC.  If you question it, you are, ipso facto, a heretic — and a “conspiracy theorist,” to boot.
I think this is true, and in fact this is a strong argument that much of the USA, such as the "Senate interrogators, and the “mainstream media"" in fact are reasoning in a strongly totalitarian way (in my sense, which is not the scandalously lousy definition on Wikipedia), for they both use false assumptions and defend them by utter bullshit.

Here is some more:
During the entire Barr testimony Wednesday, no one departed from the safe, conventional wisdom about Russian hacking.  We in VIPS, at least, resist the notion that this makes it true.  We shall continue to insist that two and two is four, and point out the flaws in any squishy “Intelligence Community Assessment” that concludes, even “with high confidence,” that the required answer is “five.”
Clearly, I agree with McGovern and the VIPS. Here some more:
Many of the same people who promoted the spurious claims about WMD are responsible for developing and proclaiming the dogma about Russian hacking into the DNC.  The Oscar for his performance in the role of misleader goes, once again, to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose “credits” go back to the WMD fiasco in which he played a central role.
I say, for I did not know this. Then again, I am not amazed at all. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
For the moment, however, we shall have to live with “The Russians Still Did It, Whether Trump Colluded or Not.”  There remains an outside chance, however, that the truth will emerge, perhaps even before November 2020, and that, this time, the Democrats will be shown to have shot themselves in both feet.
Perhaps. In any case, 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 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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