Sep 14, 2016

Crisis: $5 Trillions For War, Snowden, China & Russia, Deregulations
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What Did We Buy With the $5 Trillion That the Iraq and
     Afghanistan Wars Have Cost Us?

2. Making His Case for a Pardon, Edward Snowden Says
     Leaks Were ‘Necessary, Vital Things’

3. China and Russia Press Ahead, Together
GOP Bill Described as 'Avalanche of Deregulatory
     Rubbish' Advances

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 14, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the $5 trillions that were spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; item 2 is about Edward Snowden's case that he should be pardoned: I agree with Snowden, but think that is very unlikely to happen; item 3 is about a likely new world order headed by China and Russia: I agree this is likely (and give two reasons); and item 4 is about a new Republican effort to deregulate whatever was not yet quite deregulated: it is a crazy bill (I think), but it very probably will not be signed by Obama.

This is a brief Nederlog (and yesterday was a very long one, and I think also a good one). It might be thought that this gives some opportunities for another Nederlog today, but I think the chances on that are very small today, because it is quite hot in Amsterdam, which I don't like at all.

B. Also, I have decided that most of my site has been corrected now. Here is the link to Rewriting my site, that shows I have reformatted "everything", although there is still some to do in five directories. Most of that will be done in September, though the Multatuli section (one of the oldest and longest sections on my site) probably will last longer. [0]

And in case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click twice to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer. (But it didn't do so before. And as to asking my provider: I am sorry, but most of the things they told me the last nearly twenty years (!!) were lies. I've given up on them, and I only am there because (i) I was there nearly 20 years, and because (ii) the competition in Holland probably is equally bad.)

1. What Did We Buy With the $5 Trillion That the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Have Cost Us?

The first item today is by Juan Cole on Truthdig:

This starts as follows - and is one way to describe how much wars (which have not been approved by Congress) have cost the American tax payers:

A Brown University political scientist estimates that as of 2016, The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have cost the American taxpayers $5 trillion. That number isn’t important when we consider the human cost: Some 7,000 US troops dead, 52,000 wounded in action; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead who wouldn’t otherwise be, 4 million displaced and made homeless, etc.

Just to put that $5 trillion in perspective. Let’s say you chose five individuals.  Each of the five will spend $10 million a day.  That’s the cost of Heidi Klum’s mansion.  They’d be buying the equivalent of five of those each day.

They’ll do that every day of their lives.  All five of them.  And then each of them will be succeeded by one their children, who will spend $10 million dollars a day, and one of their grandchildren, and one of their great-grandchildren, until 270 years have passed and it is the year 2286.
OK - it is an enormous amount of money, and I think all of it was wasted.

Then again, some rich Americans made a lot of profits, and there are nearly 325 million Americans, which means that the $5 trillions equally divided over 325 million is a whole lot less.

And as far as I am concerned, one of the very shameful things of raising trillions for war is that these trillions have been mostly taken from other possible spendings, e.g. on the infrastructure, that simply have not been made. (All of the 5 trillions could have been spend there, if the American
Senate had been much more sensible than it was, after 9/11/2001. [1])

Here is some more on social consequences:

Of 2.7 million military personnel who served in those two theaters, 2 million have now left the military and have entered the Veterans Administration system.  Some 52,000 of them were wounded in action and many need care.

Because the Bush administration borrowed money to pay for the wars, we’ve paid half a trillion dollars in interest alone.

At least al-Qaeda had been based in Afghanistan.  Iraq had had nothing to do with September 11.  It was Bush’s invasion that brought al-Qaeda there, which later morphed into ISIL.

We were lied into that war, and it has weakened our economy.  If anyone can tell me what benefits that war brought the average American, I’d like to hear it.

I agree, and average Americans have these days very little to say about the course of their lives.

2. Making His Case for a Pardon, Edward Snowden Says Leaks Were ‘Necessary, Vital Things’

The second item is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In a new interview with the Guardian, whistleblower Edward Snowden explains why U.S. President Barack Obama should pardon him for leaking documents that revealed the government's mass surveillance operations.

Snowden, currently in exile in Russia, faces at least 30 years in jail for allegedly violating the Espionage Act with his 2013 disclosures. But in a video interview from Moscow, the 33-year-old National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower said Obama should take into consideration that people had benefited from his actions.

"Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists—for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things," he said.

I think Edward Snowden is quite right, and clearly he has the right to plead for himself also if he is not right, but I would be very amazed if Obama would grant him a pardon.

He is also right on the following bit:

"I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed," Snowden continued. "The Congress, the courts, and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result."

"If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations," he declared, "we would be worse off."

Then again - which is not a fault of Snowden at all - I think most of the legal changes were simply made because these were mostly forced, and not because those who changed their policies desired to change them, or indeed would have changed them without Snowden's revelations.

And I think far less was changed than should have been changed, but none of the lack of real changes is Snowden's responsibility

In June, Snowden legal advisor and ACLU attorney Ben Wizner told New York magazine:

We're going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists. It's not for when somebody didn’t break the law. It's for when they did and there are extraordinary reasons for not enforcing the law against the person.

But the effort seems unlikely to succeed.
I agree. And this is a recommended article.

3. China and Russia Press Ahead, Together

The third item is by Alastair Crooke on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows (and I will only quote two bits from a lot more):
This time the G20 was different. Intentionally so. The Chinese had prepared it and planned it to be so.
So, how was this G20 different? Well, if one listens carefully, one might just detect the footsteps of change – of a new “order” readying itself to step onto the stage (at the apposite moment).  The sound of these footsteps was intentionally “softened” – designed to allow for a peaceful rise of a new global leadership. The watchword here was “change without upheaval.”

What was different was that it was distinctly China’s G20. China did not simply host the G20 for America to sweep in, give its “leadership” and stamp to proceedings, and then to fly off. China, at this G20, made it very plain that it was leading, and to make it clearer still, it made sure that the world should see that the guest of honor was the Russian President (..)
I think Alastair Crooke (<- Wikipedia), who was or still is a British diplomat, may be quite right that "a new global leadership" may be arising, aad it is Chinese and Russian, and not the USA or Europe.

Two very basic reasons - apart from 35 years of extremely bad leadership by the USA - are that both the land masses and the populations of the two states are much larger than those of the USA. (There are about 5 times as many Chinese or Russians as there are Americans, for one example.)

Here is more, from the Chinese president Xi:

Lest this careful G20 choreography pass unnoticed in the West, President Xi had telegraphed the essence of his G20 message when he addressed the Chinese Communist Party on the anniversary of its founding, a month or so earlier.

On that anniversary, President Xi told the party that: “The world is on the brink of radical changes. We see how the E.U. is gradually crumbling, and the U.S. economy is collapsing. This will end in a new world order.”

I think Xi is right - and he also holds considerable amounts of US debts, and many of the USA's former industries, that have been relocated by their rich owners (after deregulations of American laws) to countries like China that pay much less in wages.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended (though I don't agree with everything).

4. GOP Bill Described as 'Avalanche of Deregulatory Rubbish' Advances

The fourth item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

A House committee on Tuesday took a dangerous step towards incapacitating Dodd-Frank, the reform law passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, by approving a new bill that, as one watchdog put it, contains "an avalanche of deregulatory rubbish that would imperil consumers and the entire financial system."

The legislation (pdf)—introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and entitled the Financial CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs) Act—passed the U.S. House Financial Services Committee by a vote of 30-26. According to the roll call (pdf), every Democrat on the committee opposed the measure and all but one Republican—Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine—supported it. 

As Common Dreams previously reported, the bill

would roll back a slew of Dodd-Frank regulations; reduce the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren; repeal the Volcker Rule that aims to stop banks from making risky bets with taxpayer-backed deposits; and prevent the Financial Stability Oversight Council from labeling insurers and other non-banks as "systemically important financial institutions"—or too big to fail—making them subject to federal constraints.

I say! I don't know whether the last bit is well-formulated, but the general intent is clear: This is the n-th deregulation attempt that has been made the last 35 years; all of these deregulations helped the profits of the few very rich and hurt the incomes of the many non-rich; but since most of the American "people's representatives" these days are rich men (and women), I guess that
is to be expected.

Here is some more:

Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, described the legislation as "a gift to the Big Banks, that would extend their 'license to steal' and tear down hard-fought banking regulations, some of which have not yet been implemented."

"Constraining consumer protections is unconscionable," she continued. "Americans still suffering from the economic collapse deserve better; we deserve government watchdogs with teeth."

Notably, the vote came just days after news broke that Wells Fargo employees illegally opened millions of fake accounts to meet corporate sales targets.
I agree this is "a gift to the Big Banks, that would extend their 'license to steal'" and I add that there seem to be few if any effective government watchdogs left, after 35 years of successive deregulations.

Then again, it is very improbable Barack Obama will sign it, so if this is going to be law, it probably needs Trump as president.

[0] Incidentally: I do want to keep my sites to look reasonable on the monitors (and computers and OSs) that I use, and I am trying to do so for
the new monitor I have, but I gave up (by 2012) trying to please everyone:

I do take care it works well on Firefox, on Ubuntu, on a normal sized squarish monitor, but I will not check anymore how my site is displayed on other monitors, other OSs and other screens: Too much work for my health. (I guess it works on most systems, since it is html that ought to work the same everywhere, but I lack the health to check and repair.)

[1] In fact, there was precisely one person who voted in 2001 against going to war in the House and the Congress: Barbara Lee (<- Wikipedia).

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