Sunday, September 17, 2017

Crisis: Hillary Clinton, United Nations, 50 Years of Pain, Marijuana, Dynastic Wealth

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 17, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, September 17, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) 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 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from September 17, 2017

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:

This article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Hillary Clinton has every right to be infuriated by the performance of the press during the 2016 election. In her new book “What Happened,” Clinton mainly indicts television news for abandoning coverage of any actual public policy issues in favor of its berserk obsession with her use of a private email server. Subsidiary malefactors include Matt Lauer, for asking her about almost nothing else at NBC’s September 2016 Commander-in-Chief Forum on national security, and the New York Times, for its spasmodic freak-out when FBI Director James Comey declared he was re-opening the Bureau’s investigation into her emails just before the election.

But here’s where Clinton and I part ways:

In an interview Tuesday, she said, “I don’t think the press did their job in this election, with very few exceptions.” She believes the problem is something new, and the fault of bad individuals.

Clinton’s problem is obvious: At 69 years old and after a lifetime in politics, she somehow doesn’t understand what the corporate media’s job is.

I say?!  No, I do not think so: She has been in politics over 40 years; she has been in the leadership of the - extremely and eagerly corrupt - Democratic Party; she is definitely neither stupid nor ignorant, and she would not understand the corporate media these days? I find it extremely difficult to believe that.

Then there is this that fleshes out what Jon Schwarz has in mind:

Who exactly in the corporate media has been fired for failing to provide the United States with in-depth, sober, fair-minded coverage of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and the minutia of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

No one.

Which suggests that the media did do its job. Moreover, I think the media performed incredibly well.

The New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, et al., are gigantic corporations — in most cases owned by even larger ones. And the job of giant corporations is not to inform American citizens about reality. It’s not to play a hallowed role in the history of a self-governing republic. It’s to make as much profit as possible.
Yes indeed - but to say that Hillary Clinton doesn't understand that the media are out to make a profit, and that the mainstream media are only out to make a profit, is saying that the she never read about the media, doesn't understand capitalism, doesn't understand the shift towards buying the Senate and the House (that has been going on since Reagan) and also never heard Milton Friedman's (who is thought by many to be the second economist of the 20th Century) famous words that "the only moral demand CEOs have to satisfy is to make a profit".

I think that is a mistake on all four counts, for I think she is easily intelligent and well-read enough to have known all these things for a very long time, if only because these things have been going on for a very long time.

Then there is this:
From that perspective, the media’s performance in 2016 was a shining, glorious success. As Les Moonves effused just as the primaries were starting, Trump’s campaign was “good for us economically. … Go Donald! Keep getting out there!” The entire Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmare, said Moonves, “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” CNN made $1 billion in profits during the election year, far more than ever before.

Yes indeed. But once again: I think Hillary Clinton knows all the things that Schwarz supposes her not to know, and I disagree completely with his title: She does understand what has been going on in and around the American mainstream media for a long time.

What quite possibly is correct in Schwarz's story is that Hillary Clinton was not able to undo most of the propaganda that the presenters of the shows she engaged in for elections did indulge in.

That seems quite probably true to me, but it is not what the title of this article says.

2. The Big Question as the U.N. Gathers: What to Make of Trump?

This article is by Peter Baker on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Every year, the president heads to New York to welcome world leaders to the United Nations General Assembly. He gives a speech and meets with an endless string of foreign potentates to discuss a dizzying array of complicated, often intractable issues.

The days are “kind of like speed dating from hell,” as one analyst put it, and the evenings are “the world’s most tedious cocktail party.” In other words, not exactly President Trump’s favored format.

But when Mr. Trump attends the first United Nations session of his presidency this coming week, all eyes will be on him as counterparts from around the globe crane their necks and slide through the crowd to snatch a handshake — and, in the process, try to figure out this most unusual of American leaders.

If the last quoted paragraph is true (which I don't know, because I don't have any fact based evidence on how the political top leaders do spend their time), it seems to me that the political world leaders are quite mistaken:

To understand Trump they don't need to meet him personally, but they do need to read good journalism about him, which there is, albeit mostly in the non-mainstream press & sites.

As I said: I have no idea about what the political world leaders do read, but it does seem to me very naive to believe that a personal meeting with Trump in the context of a United Nations assembly would give them much or any factual evidence to grasp his personality, his outlook or his ideology.

There is also this bit, that points out that - so far, at least - Trump has not been quite as bad as he might have been:

The president has not launched an all-out trade war with China, ripped up the Iran deal or the North American Free Trade Agreement, or moved the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, at least not yet. He has belatedly reaffirmed support for NATO and agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan.

“But America’s friends still see dysfunctionality at the heart of the Trump administration, as key advisers come and go through the revolving door,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to Washington. “They remain disheartened by Trump’s announcements on climate change and trade policy.” And “they fear that the fighting talk of this impulsive president could make things worse rather than better on the Korean Peninsula.”

I think the political world leaders (whom I tend to dislike, but whom I also do not think are - for the most part - as insane as I think Trump is - and see yesterday's Diagnosing Trump) are correct if they believe what Westmacott said, but then that is just one former British ambassador.

3. Bump in U.S. Incomes Doesn’t Erase 50 Years of Pain

This article is by Patricia Cohen on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Incomes are up. Poverty is down. And job openings have hit a record high. But if the economy is so wonderful, why are so many Americans still feeling left behind?

The disconnect between positive statistics and people’s day-to-day lives is one of the great economic and social puzzles of recent years. It helped fuel President Trump’s political rise and underpins the frustrations that played out in calls to build a Mexican border wall, reopen trade agreements, and bring back well-paid work in coal mines and factories.

In fact, I do not think that "the disconnect between positive statistics and people’s day-to-day lives is one of the great economic and social puzzles of recent years" (and I wrote more than 1680 articles and reviews on the still ongoing crisis since September 1, 2008) but I am quite willing to believe that this disconnect may well exist in most of the readers or viewers of the mainstream media.

And indeed it seems as if Patricia Cohen also does not believe it, although she arrives there a bit slowly:

When the Census Bureau released its annual report on the country’s economic well-being on Tuesday, it showed unmistakable progress: For the second year in a row, household incomes — clobbered by the 2007 recession — had grown. More Americans were working, and more had health insurance, in 2016 than the year before.

The findings suggest that the “American dream” — in which each generation is richer and better positioned than the previous one — is back on track.

For many Americans, though, the recent progress is still dwarfed by profound changes that have been building for nearly a half-century: rising inequality and rusted-stuck incomes.

“Over the past five decades, Middle America has been stagnant in terms of its economic growth,” said Mark Rank, a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1973, the inflation-adjusted median income of men working full time was $54,030. In 2016, it was $51,640 — roughly $2,400 lower.

I agree with the last two paragraphs, but I think the first two paragraphs are more misleading than not: The first paragraph fails to mention what the working Americans earn (namely: considerably less than until 1980) while the second paragraph is simply false for anybody who is not wealthy.

And indeed there is also this in the article, which is - to the best of my knowledge - quite correct (and "median" means half earn more and half less):

The median income a man would earn over his career peaked with those who entered the work force in 1967 and has declined 19 percent since then. Those with lower incomes have fared even worse while those at the very top have increased.

Yes indeed. And that had the following result:

The result was that a 25-year-old man who entered the work force in 1967 and worked for the next three decades earned as much as $250,000 more, after taking inflation into account, than a man who had the same type of career but was 15 years younger.

“That’s enough to buy a medium-size house in the United States,” said Fatih Guvenen, an economist at the University of Minnesota and a co-author of the study. “That is what you are missing from one generation to the next generation.”

Quite so. And this is a recommended article.

4. New Hampshire Just Decriminalized Marijuana Possession

This article is by Philip Smith on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

As of noon Saturday, the possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in New Hampshire. Now, people in New England who are caught with a joint or two will not be subject to arrest.

Two New England states—Maine and Massachusetts—have legalized marijuana, and all the others have now decriminalized it. Decriminalization came when, after years of effort, the legislature passed House Bill 640 in June, and Republican Gov. John Sununu signed it into law the following month. 

Under the state's previous law, people caught with small amounts of pot faced up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Under the new law, the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce is reduced to a $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years. A fourth offense within three years could be charged as a Class B misdemeanor, but there would be no arrest or jail time.

I say, which I do because I think now for the last 50 years (since 1967, when I first smoked marijuana, with quite a few others also, while I was 17) that marijuana is a great lot less dangerous than alcohol and should be legalized, because it is not dangerous at all.

In fact, I also think that all other "recreational drugs" (<-Wikipedia), as they are known, should also be legalized, and indeed not because I favor them (I do not), but simply because the treatment of those who do take them will be then be very much easier. (You may not agree, but you probably also did not have my experiences with drugs in Amsterdam, where in fact all recreational drugs are illegal, but soft drugs - marijuana and hashish - are sold publicly because of an intricate system of political and legal corruption, that now exists for over thirty years.)

There is also this on soft drugs in the USA:

The next step would be outright legalization, Simon said, pointing to an August Granite State poll showing more than two-thirds (68%) of state residents support freeing the weed. 

"There is no good reason to continue arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and Granite Staters are ready to see it treated that way. A very strong majority of state residents support ending marijuana prohibition altogether," Simon said.

I completely  agree (but don't know how Trump's government will react). And this is a recommended article.

5. The Growing Danger of Dynastic Wealth

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs, said recently that “only morons pay the estate tax.”

I’m reminded of Donald Trump’s comment that he didn’t pay federal income taxes because he was “smart.” And billionaire Leona Helmsley’s "only the little people pay taxes.”

What Cohn was getting at is how easy it is nowadays for the wealthy to pass their fortunes to their children, tax-free. 

In fact, I also infer that Gary Cohn (and Donald Trump and Leoma Helmsley) believes that everyone who is not a - considerable - millionaire is a moron, for that is an immediate logical consequence from what he (and they) publicly say.

And I believe they do think so, namely that millionaires and billionaires are a special human elite that deserves all the advantages they can somehow get.

Here is more on how the wealthy and only the wealthy extend their wealth:

Now, Trump and Republican leaders are planning to cut or eliminate it altogether.

There’s another part of the tax code that Cohn might also have been referring to – capital gains taxes paid on the soaring values of the wealthy people’s stocks, bonds, mansions and works of art, when they sell them.

If the wealthy hold on to these assets until they die, the tax code allows their heirs to inherit them without paying any of these capital gains taxes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this loophole saves heirs $50 billion a year.

Yes. And there is this:

The estate and capital gains taxes were originally designed to prevent the growth of large dynasties in the U.S. and to reduce inequality.

They’ve been failing to do that. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

I am not sure in this, but I think considerable amounts of the estate and capital gains taxes were imposed by Roosevelt and more or less maintained until 1970.

And in any case, if 1/10th of 1% of the American people owns as much as the bottom 90% - 90 % - something must have gone extremely wrong with maintaining anything like income equality and taxes.

Indeed it did, and the key word - it seems to me, though there are quite a number of other forces that try to reach the same end - is deregulation (<- good link) of all laws that will, might or would lessen the power of the very few rich and very rich over the rest of American society.

Here is more:

America is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades. 

Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate, and then leave the bulk of them – which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable – to their own heirs, tax-free.

After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand families. 

Note that these $30 trillion dollars will be inherited for the most part by 1/10th of 1% of the American people, and Reich seems to be quite right were this will end. (It is - as I put it - capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face, that was introduced by Nixon and Reagan, yet even so Reich still advertises his book "Saving Capitalism" ("For the Many, Not the Few"), which seems to me mostly an illusion since Reagan, but OK.)

The article ends as follows:

But taxing big wealth is necessary if we’re ever to get our democracy back, and make our economy work for everyone rather than a privileged few.

Maybe Gary Cohn is correct that only morons pay the estate tax. But if he and his boss were smart and they cared about America’s future, they’d raises taxes on great wealth. Roosevelt’s fear of an American dynasty is more applicable today than ever before.

I completely agree with the first paragraph (and I agree democracy is mostly dead in the present USA) - but big wealth seems to have grasped nearly all the powers there are in the USA, so I think this is quite unlikely without a major crisis, as in 1929.

And I more or less agree with the second paragraph, but my own guess is that Cohn does believe everyone who is not a considerable millionaire is a moron, and that he and his superrich mates are quite willing to let most morons die, and especially the many really poor (since there are too many people for the capitalism that the very rich require and demand for their continued existence).

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 1 1/2 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 (!!).

      home - index - summaries - mail