A. Selections from
November 9, 2017
This is a Nederlog of Thursday November 9,
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.
moment and since nearly two years (!!!!) I have
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
2. Crisis Files
are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
Selections from November 9, 2017
Paradise Papers Expose “Cleverest Ways of
Exploiting” Offshore Tax Havens
2. Energetic Welcome in
China for Trump; Trade,
North Korea Are Top Topics
3. Public Cynicism Enables
Costly Political Hypocrisy
4. Year One: It’s Up to Us
5. Trump's Washington, One Year On
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:
Papers Expose “Cleverest Ways of Exploiting” Offshore Tax Havens
This article is by
Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the
Examining the Paradise
Papers, The Guardian reports seven Republican super-donors mentioned in
the papers stored some of their fortunes offshore, beyond the reach of
public scrutiny and tax authorities. Together, the billionaires pumped
more than $350 million into the 2016 election. Some are well-known
backers of conservative causes, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and
Charles and David Koch. Another investigation focuses on Democratic
donor James Simons, who spent $11 million to back Hillary Clinton’s
2016 presidential campaign. Simons is the founder of Renaissance
Technologies, the world’s most profitable hedge fund. Leaked records
show he kept much of his $8 billion fortune in an offshore private
wealth fund in Bermuda in order to avoid “particularly severe” taxes
that would be triggered if he tried to bring the funds onshore. We
speak with Jon Swaine, senior reporter for The Guardian.
Yes indeed, and there
is considerably more in the original than I excerpt.
In fact, I only give
two further quotations, and the first is on a major thief from the
taxes, Warren Stephens, who works for the right:
SWAINE: (..) I think one
example from this story that is a particularly interesting case about
money in politics today is this guy Warren Stephens. He’s not that well
known. He’s not your Kochs, the Adelsons, who are household names
perhaps. But he’s very important. He gives a lot of money to Republican
And what we found is he
is the hidden co-owner of a payday lending company that is being sued
by the federal government for allegedly exploiting customers, for
overcharging them with loans, for deceiving them on how much their
loans would cost. And unbeknownst to all of us, he’s been a co-owner of
one of these companies while backing Republicans who are seeking to
bring down the regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
that is taking this company to court. You know, it’s a clear conflict.
And before this leak arrived, we just didn’t know that he was involved
And this is the last
quotation, this time on another major thief from the taxes, this time
one who works for the corrupt ¨left¨:
SWAINE: (..) James
Simons took over, as you said, as head of Renaissance
Technologies—Robert Mercer took over from James Simons at that hedge
fund. James Simons founded it. And what we found in this leak is that
since the '70s he's been building a trust fund, a private wealth fund,
in Bermuda, which is this tax haven in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s worth
at least $8 billion, probably quite a lot more. And it’s been
accumulating wealth year after year without facing any U.S. taxes.
And, you know, he is now
saying he’s going to use most of it to give to charity, which—fine, but
most people, when they give money to charity, they’ve already paid
their taxes, right? And so, I think people view this as proof that for
the super-rich, for the ultra-wealthy, there’s a kind of completely
different set of laws and of practices. that are out of reach for most
I say yes indeed to
the last statement, and add that there is considerably more in this
article, that is recommended.
Welcome in China for Trump; Trade, North Korea Are Top Topics
This article is by
Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin on Truthdig and originally on AP. This
starts as follows:
Welcomed to China with an
outsized dose of pomp and pageantry, President Donald Trump pronounced
himself wowed by Beijing’s lavish greeting Wednesday at the start of a
two-day visit in which he aims to employ flattery, scolding and
cajolery to press the rising Asian power on trade and North Korea.
Trump, saddled with consistently low approval ratings at home, is
dueling with a newly emboldened Chinese President Xi Jinping, who
recently consolidated power. The American president’s every utterance
will be studied by allies anxious to see if his inward-looking “America
First” mantra could cede power in the region to China.
This is mostly
factually correct, though critical readers may have difficulties with
¨America First¨ ¨in the
region to China¨ (for that
does sound at least a bit nonsensical, if only because the Chinese have
atomic weapons and almost four times as many inhabitants as the USA
Here is some more:
“I want to just say that
President Xi — where we will be tomorrow, China — has been very
helpful. We’ll find out how helpful soon,” Trump said Tuesday night in
Seoul. “But he really has been very, very helpful. So China is out
trying very hard to solve the problem with North Korea.”
The White House is
banking on Trump’s personal rapport with Xi to drive the negotiations.
Trump has frequently showered praise on Xi, who recently became the
nation’s most powerful leader in decades, including with a trip to
Trump’s Florida estate for a summit.
In fact, Xi flattered
Trump but then that seems to be good policy when faced by a man like
Here is more on that
“Trump keeps portraying
his relationship with Xi as great pals but that’s wildly naive,” said
Mike Chinoy, an expert on East Asia policy at the U.S.-China Institute
at the University of Southern California. “The Chinese have figured out
how to play Trump: flatter him. And there’s nothing the Chinese do
better than wow foreign diplomats.”
I think that is very
probably correct. There is more in the article.
Public Cynicism Enables Costly Political
This article is by Ralph
Nader on Common Dreams and originally on his site. It starts as follows:
The political hypocrisy
of crony capitalism – touting market capitalism while making
taxpayers fund corporate welfare – is a rare and unfortunate case of
bipartisan consensus. Republicans openly embrace it, but many Democrats
also fall prey to government-guaranteed corporate capitalism when they
believe it to be politically expedient.
Or more simply (and -
it seems - correctly in my view): The very rich have bought both the
Republicans and most of the Democrats to do their jobs, which is
getting as much as possible for the rich, for them.
Here is one example:
And this is another
Jeff Bezos recently
launched a bidding war pitting cities against one another for Amazon’s
second headquarters. Imagine shelling out at least 7 billion taxpayer
dollars in return for Amazon’s unenforceable promise of 50,000 jobs and
$5 billion in capital investment.
The bidding frenzy with the
taxpayers’ money, without a taxpayer referendum, should be an
embarrassment to the mayors who are bidding for Amazon’s business.
A Taiwanese giant,
Foxconn, the builder of Apple’s iPhones in China, enjoys a similar
advantage. To build a flat-screen plant, by sheer coincidence, in House
Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, Ryan’s buddy, Governor Scott Walker,
compelled his Republican legislature to cobble together a $3 billion
taxpayer-funded package for an unenforceable promise of 13,000 jobs
(from an initial 8,000 jobs after more taxpayer cash was assured).
Here is a third example:
Not to be outdone,
Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, is pushing $3.7 billion in
loan guarantees to the failing, long-delayed, red-ink doused Vogtle
Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia. Add this sum to the $8.3 billion
already extended in taxpayer-guaranteed loans to this “boondoggle” and
still the New York Times reports that these guarantees “might fall
short of what will be required to complete the costly reactors.”
And here is Ralph
Yes indeed, and many of
these ¨ruthless cuts¨ are sold to the public in the name of liberty,
while in fact the only ones who profit from this liberty are the very
rich, who indeed want the liberty to exploit everyone to pay the
highest possible profits to the few rich.
These corporate interests
see American taxpayers as a limitless honey pot for their giant,
bungling, conniving businesses. At the same time, Trump’s director of
management and budget, Mick Mulvaney, constantly justifies ruthless
cuts to important public programs by citing taxpayers’ rights.
Apparently, these rights are not applicable to protecting taxpayers
from predatory big-business executives hungry for corporate welfare
that gets Mulvaney’s regular approval.
This is a recommended article.
One: It’s Up to Us
This article is by
David Cole on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:
One year after his
highly improbable election, President Donald Trump woke up this morning
to news that in elections across the country, candidates standing for
liberty, equality, and dignity defeated Republican opponents, as
American voters sent a clear message that they are not buying what the
president is selling. Trump has shown disregard or outright disdain for
constitutional constraints, from the First Amendment to the
Emoluments Clause. But Tuesday’s election underscored that in a
constitutional democracy, Trump’s ability to do damage can be—and has
been—substantially checked, even when his party controls Congress and
two-thirds of the state legislatures, and, with his Supreme Court
appointment, has a majority on the Court. In ordinary times, Congress
and the president check each other, as do the Senate and the House, the
Supreme Court and the other branches, and the state and federal
governments. One-party control, however, requires that we find checks
and balances elsewhere—in civil society. Authoritarians know this,
which is why, when they come to power, among their first targets are
the press, the academy, and nonprofit advocacy groups and watchdogs.
In fact, Trump is
president of the USA for a year now (at least counting back to November
8, 2016) and that has not been lost on quite a number of journalists.
This is one article that was produced to mark this occasion, but I
think it is too optimistic. There is another one next
considerably less optimistic, and European, but which also does not
seem serious enough.
Back to the present article:
For one thing, I think the supposed American ¨constitutional democracy¨ has been steadily diminishing ever since
for another thing, ¨[o]ne-party
control¨ in a real
democracy firstly would not require - it seems to me - that one
finds ¨checks and
balances¨ (for ¨[o]ne-party control¨, to be sure) ¨elsewhere—in civil society¨, if only because the powers of civil society and a
real free press have at least as much diminished in the
USA as the powers of the few rich have grown.
Here is more of this optimism:
election, American civil society has indeed performed its checking
function. The mainstream press, buoyed by steep rises in subscription
rates, has trained the light of investigative journalism and critical
opinion on the administration’s every move and false claim. The academy
is a vital source of critical analysis and resistance. And nonprofit
groups, new and old, formal and informal, have taken part in defending
liberties from President Trump’s onslaught.
I am sorry, but I have
been following the crisis now for nine years, and wrote more than
articles on it, according to my crisis index, and this seems far too
optimistic to me.
There is also this, that indeed is a bit less optimistic:
however, cannot stand up to President Trump alone, and it would be a
great mistake to think they could. In the end, the most important
guardian of liberty is an engaged citizenry. Popular opposition to
repeal of the Affordable Care Act has repeatedly frustrated Trump’s
This is the end of the
article, which again seems far too optimistic to me:
In a weak
democracy, an authoritarian leader like Trump could do widespread and
lasting damage. Such leaders often control the legislature, are immune
from court oversight, and suppress civil society institutions. But our
constitutional democracy was designed with leaders like Trump in mind
(well, maybe not quite like Trump). And our hallowed traditions of
judicial independence, civil liberties, and a robust political culture
have—thus far, at least—held Trump in check to an important degree. He
may be the most dangerous president in memory, but he is also the most
thwarted. For those who care about civil liberties and civil rights, we
need to keep it that way. The tools are available to do that—it’s up to
us to use them.
For one thing, ¨our
constitutional democracy was¨
NOT ¨designed with leaders like Trump in mind¨, and for another thing I have not
seen much of ¨our hallowed
judicial independence, civil liberties, and a robust political culture¨ since 9/11/2001 (since
when the USA
has been in constant war).
In brief, I think this article is far too optimistic.
Washington, One Year On
This article is by Christopher
Scheuermann on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:
Washington is not
a place known for humility or modesty. So really, Donald Trump should
fit right in. It's a city of gigantic egos and expense accounts, police
escorts and armored limos. Everything is about status and power, even
when socializing at night.
This is another article
about the fact that Trump
president of the USA for a year now. It is considerably less
the previous item:
It's been a year
since the election that pushed the liberal West into crisis. The White
House is now occupied by a man who is constantly triggering a new
uproar, a man who is perennially angry, wayward, erratic, a besieged,
unstable king, almost Shakespearian. Under Trump, the capital has
turned into the set of a reality TV show.
I would say that these
events - in fact: the
crowning of a madman as president, who follows a neofascistic program, in my
view - are quite serious, but this is not as Spiegel
Them again, Spiegel is not by far as optimistic as the NYRB:
First, Trump gave
his family, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, posts in
the administration. Many in the city found that unbearable enough - a
real estate clan running the country, the Kardashians of politics. More
recently, he threatened North Korea with nuclear war, launched attacks
on senators from his own party and voiced understanding for Nazis and
racists. His actions haven't just been chaotic, they've been dangerous.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is alleged to have referred to the
president as a "fucking moron" after he supposedly suggested a tenfold
increase in the country's nuclear arsenal.
Here is more on Trump by
business and family like a mafia godfather, just as he has done his
whole life. Under his watch, the White House has become a bastion of
the patriarchy once again. Old, rich, angry men make up the personnel.
Most of those that Trump has invited to serve in his cabinet are
political novices like him, alpha males who are used to private jets.
In July, Forbes estimated the combined worth of this supposedly
populist cabinet to be $4.3 billion.
And this this from part 2 of
Trump has an obsessive
relationship with the media. He needs its validation and hardly
anything is more important to him than media attention. At the same
time, he hates it because in his view, it never treats him fairly. In
October, he threatened to withdraw NBC's broadcast license because, he
alleged, it reported unfairly.
The consequence is that
many Americans have given up believing in facts, and the country has
become much more cynical. Sanders' press conference is a perfect
example of how difficult it has become to even agree on the basic
facts. Is an apple really an apple? Everything is a matter of opinion,
of who shouts the loudest.
If you believe that
it is a ¨consequence¨ from Trump´s actions that ¨many Americans have given up believing in
facts¨ I think you must be rather
mad: I have heard that
Everybody knows that
truth does NOT exist
for the first time, from an
invited speaker who opened the academic year of 1978/1979, in
August of 1978, in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, and since then
have seen all of the Dutch education halved (at least!!) in
quality and in intellectual demands, while similar things happened all
over the West.
But at Spiegel
International these things are completely unknown and unheard
of, or so it seems.
Here is the end of this
This president has
contributed to making politics more vulgar, has demeaned the office of
the president and has seen to it that Washington increasingly operates
like a reality TV show. He has bolstered the far-right nutjobs and
neo-Nazis, perhaps the most dangerous impact of his presidency. He has
opened the door to kleptocracy by bringing a family to the White House
that is profiting from the Trump brand.
It has been a terrible
year for Washington. The election campaign still hasn't come to an end
and the city is trying to eject Trump like a foreign body.
Maybe it just has to be
patient. After all, it has managed to overcome everyone else.
Things are horrible
on a scene that has never been seen before. What is Spiegel
International´s advice? ¨Maybe
it [Washington - MM] just has to be
I have now been saying since
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.
claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie.
They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.
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).
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 (!!).