Thursday, November 2, 2017

Crisis: Puerto Rico, "War on Terror", "Tax Cuts", On Amazon, 2/3 of US citizens

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 2, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, November 2, 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 and since nearly two 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from November 2, 2017
1. Puerto Rico: Fluor and Other Companies Move to
     Privatize Water

2. The War On Terror Has Cost Americans an
     Astronomical Sum Every Day—for 16 Years

3. Trump's Trojan Horse Tax Cut
4. Why Does Amazon Get Corporate Welfare?
5. Two-Thirds of Americans Say This Is Lowest Point
     in US History They Can Remember

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. Puerto Rico: Fluor and Other Companies Move to Privatize Water

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

We look at the recovery of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which dominated a Senate hearing Tuesday and was supposed to be the focus of another hearing in the House today, before it was canceled. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was set to testify at the hearing alongside FEMA chief Brock Long. Earlier Tuesday, Long testified before the Senate that his agency had nothing to do with approving the controversial $300 million no-bid contract with Whitefish Energy, a tiny company based in the Montana hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Meanwhile, Democracy Now!’s Juan González says other companies are moving in to privatize other services on the island, such as the public water utility.

Yes indeed. And let me say this, to push this onto a higher plane:

The four most important facts that create human history are these:

I will not consider the first two items in this review, but I do assert that

(i)   money and power are more or less interchangeable
(ii)  they have their power because for 2500 years there have been hardly any legal limits whatsoever to curb the influences of much money or of much power.

And this is what we are seeing in Puerto Rico, which has collapsed because of a huge storm, which again have unchained the rich and the powerful to vastly extend their riches and their power.

Here is some more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: (..) [T]his is just part of the continuing problem of the—not only the corruption in, unfortunately, Puerto Rico, but also of the failure of the entire oversight system that the United States has set up. I want to let folks know, the financial control board had a meeting this week. And among the things that they decided was—

AMY GOODMAN: The financial control board over Puerto Rico.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: (..) And they—and among the things that they decided is they now have re-established a $10 million limit on any contract that the government of Puerto Rico can issue without their approval. And they reserve the right to review any contract (..)
That is: The financial powers are creating the conditions for those with power to get the most power and the most money for the few, by profiting of the collapse of the many without power and with little money.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, clearly, there is a morass that is developing in terms of recovery in Puerto Rico. And the federal government is implicated. The financial control board is implicated. The governor, the local government of Puerto Rico is implicated. And we’re going to continue to see huge problems, I believe, in the recovery effort in Puerto Rico, because everyone’s pointing fingers, but at the same time lots of people are making money off of this recovery.
Yes indeed - and see above for a more or less comprehensive explanation
of how the extreme power and the extreme wealth of a very few rule the fates and the chances of everyone else.

This is a recommended article.

2. The War On Terror Has Cost Americans an Astronomical Sum Every Day—for 16 Years

This article is by Jay Cassano on AlterNet and originally on the International Business Times. It starts as follows:

American taxpayers have spent $1.46 trillion on wars abroad since September 11, 2001.

The Department of Defense periodically releases a “cost of war” report. The newly released version, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News blog, covers the time from the September 11th terrorist attacks through mid-2017.

I have to take this for granted, though I believe the main message. And there are three points in the above bit that have to be stressed: Indeed it are the American taxpayers who had (and have) to pay for the wars; most of the wars are in effect illegal, because Congress has not been asked to pronounce on them; and the cost of the war is (at least) $1.46 = 1..46 * dollars.

Here is some more:

The Afghanistan War from 2001 to 2014 and Iraq War from 2003 to 2011 account for the bulk of expenses: more than $1.3 trillion. The continuing presence in Afghanistan and aerial anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria since 2014 have cost a combined $120 billion.

The report’s costs include only direct war-related expenses such as operating and maintaining bases, procuring equipment, and paying for and feeding troops. It most notably does not include the expense of veteran’s benefits for troops who serve in these wars or the intelligence community’s expenses related to Global War on Terror.

Note - once again - that (i) none of these wars were approved by Congress, and (ii) the "report’s costs include only direct war-related expenses", and notably not (iii) the costs of veterans' benefits.

Here is one estimate of that cost:

A 2011 paper from Harvard Kennedy School professor Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of veterans’ benefits as $600 billion to $1 trillion over the next 40 years.

And this is to put a perspective on it:

According to the Congressional Research Service, the only war in U.S. history to cost more than the Global War on Terror is World War II, at more than $4.1 trillion in present dollars. Direct war-related expenses from the Vietnam War cost $738 billion in today's dollars.

Only WW II took more money (and that war was approved by Congress), whereas "the wars to institutionalize the powers of the secret services everywhere" (which is my realistic translation of the propagandistic "War on Terrror") have been going on now for 16 years.

This is a recommended article.

3. Trump's Trojan Horse Tax Cut

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

The goal of Trump and the Republican leaders is to pull off a giant redistribution of over $1 trillion from the middle-class, working-class, and poor to the rich, who are already richer than ever.

They’re selling this to the public with a false claim that the middle-class will benefit from their tax cut plan. It’s a gigantic Trojan horse. 

For most Americans, the proposed tax cuts are tiny and temporary. That’s right – temporary.  They will shrink in just a few years.  And some middle class Americans will actually get a tax increase.

Meanwhile, the top 1 percent will get a gigantic tax cut. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the current plan will save the bottom 80 percent between $50 and $450 in taxes per year, but that it saves each person in the top 1 percent an average of $129,000 a year.
Yes indeed, but by now I have so often repeated what seem the major  true reasons these gigantic thefts by the rich from the non-rich, namely the stupidity and the ignorance of large parts (at least half) of the non-rich, that I just repeat it here (but doubt I will be heard: the majority of the people test claims by how they feel about these claims, and not by the facts).

I make just one more remark on the above quote: $129,000 is more than twice the yearly average income in the USA.

Here are the - as always: totally false and utterly unfounded - promises of the rich:

Republicans say economic “growth” will pay for the tax cuts, so there’s no need to cut social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.   

But Republicans have just passed a budget that would cut nearly $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid to pay for these tax cuts.  Pell Grants, housing assistance, and even cancer research are also on the chopping block.

Yes indeed. There is more in the article and there is also a good video (of 3 min) that explains the same.

4. Why Does Amazon Get Corporate Welfare?

This article is by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Jeffrey Preston Bezos is the man of unbounded ambition who founded Amazon, the online retailing colossus that trumpets itself as "Earth's most customer-centric company." He's considered a model of tech wizardry for having totally reinvented retail marketing for our smart-phone, globally-linked age. Amazon peddles a cornucopia of goods through a convenient "1-click" ordering system, rapidly delivering the goods right to your doorstep.

For me, Bezos is one of the freakiest degenerates there is, together with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, and personally I do not want anything to do with his freaky and sick creation Amazon.

Here is his latest utterly sick invention:

No one has imagined corporate domination more expansively nor pushed it harder or further than Bezos, and his Amazon stands today as the most advanced and the most ambitious model of a future under oligarchic control, including control of markets, work, information, consumerism, media and beyond. He doesn't merely see himself remaking commerce with his vast electronic networks, algorithms and metrics — but rebooting America itself, including changing our society's concept of a job, the definition of community, and even our basic values of fairness and justice. It amounts to a breathtaking aspiration to transform our culture's democratic paradigm into a corporate imperium, led by Amazon.

Amazon's most recent announcement is that it wants to get inside your home — and, ironically, it's using "security" as its rationale. Rather than Amazon leaving products you order on your doorstep, the corporation wants a key to unlock your door so its delivery crews can do you the favor of placing the products you order inside your abode.
Unfortunately, this will probably succeed with the majority of the folks who sell all their privacy to get special advertisements of products they want.

5. Two-Thirds of Americans Say This Is Lowest Point in US History They Can Remember

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

A majority of Americans surveyed in a study of stress levels, released on Wednesday, said they consider the present day to be the lowest point in U.S. history, and indicated that the future of the nation is a major source of stress in their lives.

Out of 3,440 respondents surveyed in August by the American Psychological Association, fifty-nine percent said they can't remember a worse time in the nation's history. The people surveyed included Americans who had lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, the September 11 attacks, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I should say I am a Dutch psychologist (by education) who does not have much faith in the American Psychological Association, but I guess the present research (that also is not about specifically psychological theories) can be trusted:

Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans cannot recall "a worse time in the nation's history" (and incidentally, this is one of my reasons to proudly continue the crisis series - see the crisis indexes - as crisis series: only the few rich profit from the crisis that started in 2008).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

More than a third of those polled said the economy was their biggest worry. Trump has been pushing his tax plan in recent weeks, which is expected to hold the most benefits for wealthy Americans.

Another 32 percent said "trust in government" was their biggest concern and 31 percent said hate crimes or crime in general were their top source of stress regarding the nation.

There is some more in the article, that is recommended.


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 (!!).

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