Friday, November 10, 2017

Crisis: Trump in China*2, Illegal Wars, Tax Breaks For The Rich, Renewable Energy

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1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 10, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Friday
November 10, 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 10, 2017
1. Trump, Aiming to Coax Xi Jinping, Bets on

2. In China, Trump Talks Trade & North Korea
3. Does U.S. Want a Blank Check to Wage Illegal

4. The Corporate Class Doesn't Need or Deserve a
    Massive Tax Break
5. New Study Shows Urgently Needed 100%
     Renewable Transition More Feasible Than Ever
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. Trump, Aiming to Coax Xi Jinping, Bets on Flattery

This article is by Mark Landler, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Jane Perez on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

President Trump heaped praise on President Xi Jinping of China on Thursday, blaming past American administrations for China’s yawning trade surplus with the United States and saying he was confident that Mr. Xi could defuse the threat from North Korea.

Mr. Trump’s warm words, on a state visit to China replete with ceremony but short of tangible results, showed a president doubling down on his gamble that by cultivating a personal connection with Mr. Xi, he can push the Chinese leader to take meaningful steps on North Korea and trade.

This seems a more or less decent result, Iīd say, although I also think that it is unlikely that Xi will do more than he does now. (But that may prevent a nuclear war the next three years, and that seems realistically possible and is very desirable.)

Here is some more on Trump and China:

In public, Mr. Trump projected an air of deference to China that was almost unheard-of for a visiting American president. Far from attacking Mr. Xi on trade, Mr. Trump saluted him for leading a country that he said had left the United States “so far behind.” He said he could not blame the Chinese for taking advantage of weak American trade policy.

Behind closed doors, American officials insisted, Mr. Trump forcefully confronted Mr. Xi about the chronic trade imbalances between the two countries. He also pressed China to take tougher measures toward North Korea, including a suspension of oil shipments.

In neither case did the Chinese make significant concessions, nor did Mr. Trump express dissatisfaction with their response.

All in all this seems mostly as if no definite results were booked, neither for the USA nor for China (which again seems somewhat positive to me).

Then there is this on Trump and China:

It was a remarkable moment in the story of China’s rise and America’s response to it, with Mr. Trump’s performance suggesting a tipping point in great-power politics. By concluding that the United States can better achieve its goals by flattering a Chinese leader than by challenging him, Mr. Trump seemed to signal a reversal of roles: the United States may now need China’s help more than the other way around.

And this seems also realistic, for the USA has far more debts to China, than China has to the USA.

Finally, here is a bit on Xi and Trump:

Mr. Xi, for his part, did not return Mr. Trump’s fulsome personal praise, seeming to treat him like any other American leader.

“I told the president that the Pacific is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States,” Mr. Xi said, after reciting his well-worn line that the two countries could peacefully coexist if they respected each other’s different political systems.

Clearly, Xi is right in the second paragraph of the last quote. I do not know whether he did right in not returning Trumpīs praise, but that may be more a question for psychiatrists than for politicians.

In any case, this visit to China seems to have been going mostly well, so that is - at least - a slight advance. There is more in the article, that is recommended.

2. In China, Trump Talks Trade & North Korea, Ignoring Climate Change & Crackdown on Human Rights

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

We go to Beijing for an update on President Trump’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as part of his five-nation trip to Asia. Trump used the talks to call on China to sever ties with North Korea, and address the U.S. trade deficit with the country he once accused of “raping” the United States. Human rights activists have urged him to use his trip to discuss climate change and challenge China over its crackdown on dissidents and call for the release of political prisoners. We speak with Joanna Chiu, China correspondent for Agence France-Presse, and Rajan Menon, professor of political science at the Powell School at the City University of New York and senior research fellow in the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University.

Incidentally, when I review an article by Democracy Now!, that are mostly interviews, I like to copy their introductions to such articles, simply because they are usually quite clear and quite fair. It is the same here.

Here is Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: (...) Human rights activists and even Trump’s fellow Republicans have urged him to use his trip to challenge China over its crackdown on dissidents and call for the release of political prisoners. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith issued a statement urging him to raise the forced isolation and ongoing surveillance of the wife of the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Since arriving in China, where Twitter is banned, Trump has tweeted at least five times. A White House official said Trump would, quote, “tweet whatever he wants.”

In fact, it seems from the previous item as if Trump did not discuss human rights or Liu Xaobo at all, while it also seems the case as if the Chinese did make room for Trumpīs tweeting (for Trump has tweeted from China).

Here is Joanna Chiu, from China:

JOANNA CHIU: (...) So, as far as we can tell, the visit was successful. And Trump and his counterpart seem to have reached some consensus on some of the big issues that have been points of tension between the two countries. I think a highlight was trade. We were—some reporters were surprised at the tone that Trump gave during his remarks today. While it was softened from what he was like during the campaign trail, it was quite tough. At the same time, he also lavished a lot of praise on Xi Jinping, and the two leaders seemed very comfortable around each other. So, it seems like it went well. As you said, human rights wasn’t brought up as a focus. Neither was the climate.

And that seems a fair summary (also having seen item 1).

Here is Rajan Menon with what seems to be a sound analysis:

RAJAN MENON: To hear Mr. Trump say it and the American foreign policy establishment say it, you would think that if Xi Jinping picked up the phone and called Kim Jong-un and said, “I want you to dismantle your nuclear facilities,” he would do that. That is a complete myth. For one thing, there’s an enormous amount of bad blood between North Korea and China. And the tougher China is and we are on North Korea, the more likely they are to hang on to their nuclear weapons. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is that the Chinese already voted for the very tough U.N. sanctions in August and September. Ninety-six percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, but the Chinese don’t want to asphyxiate, to choke the regime to death, for fear that it will collapse.
I think that is correct. And here is Joanna Chiu on human rights in China:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Joanna, could you, very quickly—you’ve been writing about this. The human rights situation in China now under President Xi Jinping?

JOANNA CHIU: Well, it’s quite severe under Xi Jinping’s first five years as president. We have seen an unprecedented crackdown on people in civil society, from lawyers to bloggers to journalists to primary school teachers.
That seems also quite correct. Finally, here is Rajan Menon again:
RAJAN MENON: There is a very big contrast between the tone and the demeanor that Trump struck in South Korea and in Japan compared to China. He clearly does not want to do anything at all to embarrass Mr. Xi. He did not meet with dissidents. He didn’t bring up the issue of human rights. He soft-pedaled, as you noted, as you noted earlier, the trade deficit. And so, I would say, from the Chinese standpoint, this summit has gone very well for them. Less so, I think, for Mr. Trump.

Quite possibly so, though I think - much as I dislike Trump - he did this better than I expected.

And this is a recommended article with considerably more text.

3. Does U.S. Want a Blank Check to Wage Illegal War?

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truthdig and originally on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 30 that the Trump administration has all the legal authority it needs to kill people anywhere in the world. But just in case Congress wishes to update its old Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), Mattis and Tillerson told them how to do it: Write a blank check to the president.

I say, for to the best of my knowledge Mattis and Tillerson were - grossly and impertinently - lying: Legally speaking, any declaration of war must be made by Congress, and not by the president.

And there has been no declaration of war since WW II, even though American troops are watching over American interests in 80 or 85% of all countries there are, and American troops are currently fighting, and have been fighting for as much as sixteen years, in no less than seven countries.

These are the reasons why Mattis and Tillerson were either grossly lying or simply dreaming, at least in legal terms, although the practical terms are quite different from the legal terms, at least since 9/11 (but also before it).

Here is another lie-or-dream by Mattis:

Mattis insisted that Title 10 of the US Code grants authority for train-and-advise missions anywhere in the world. But the War Powers Resolution (WPR), passed by Congress in the wake of the Vietnam War, specifies that the president’s authority to order US troops into hostilities cannot be inferred from any provision of law that does not specifically authorize the use of US forces in hostilities. And Title 10 does not.

Here are more details:

The WPR allows the president to introduce US Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities in only three situations:

First, after Congress has declared war, which has not happened since World War II. Second, in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces,” which had not occurred prior to the killings of the US troops in Niger. And third, when there is “specific statutory authorization,” such as an Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

In fact, what Mattis and Tillerson seems to want is that Trump can start wars on anyone he pleases at any time he pleases, rather like the Roman Ceasars:

In other words, Mattis and Tillerson want Congress to give the president a blank check to make war anytime, anywhere on Earth, as he sees fit. They seek the imprimatur of Congress for perpetual war with the whole world as the president’s battlefield.

However, they are conveniently forgetting that in addition to the WPR, the president must comply with the UN Charter, a treaty the US has ratified. The charter requires that states settle their international disputes peacefully and prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense.

I doubt whether that will stop Trump, as it did not stop Obama or Bush Jr. either.

But this is a recommended article, and the brief of it seems to be this:

Yes, the president of the USA wants to start wars wherever he pleases,
but there are legal difficulties (which may be set aside, in practice, or so
it seems).

4. The Corporate Class Doesn't Need or Deserve a Massive Tax Break

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:

[There is] Trump's towering redo of our country's tax law -- and, no surprise, his plan is truly golden. For the super-rich, that is, revealing in hard numbers whom his presidency really serves: Not just the 1 percent, but especially the 1-percent-of-the-1-percent who are multimillionaires and billionaires... like -- guess who? -- him.

First and foremost, the Trump tax plan slashes the payments that giant corporations make to support our nation. He claims that this will let corporate elites raise the wages of workers and create jobs, winking at the fact that, of course, the elites will pocket every dime of Trump's tax giveaways. And he doesn't mention a little secret gotcha: A third of his corporate benefits would go to foreign owners of American corporations.

Incidentally, this is also a very old lie that was also used by Reagan and Thatcher: If you tax the rich, you have their taxes and you can redistribute them; if you donīt tax the rich (as much), you donīt have their taxes and you can only appeal to their hearts to get a bit from what you gave them. And generally such appeals fail completely.

And there is also Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who famously said: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" - which is to say: If we do not want a civil society - but e.g. a brutish one in which the few rich rule and exploit all because they are rich - then you should not pay taxes. Which is what Apple, Amazone, Google, Windows and Facebooks all refuse to do for the most part.

Back to the article:

Meanwhile, Trump's luxurious new tax structure eliminates many benefits for middle class families, such as tax deductions for medical expenses, college tuition and interest paid on student loans. He wants modest-income families to pay more, so he can eliminate current taxes on his own uber-rich family, including killing the alternative income tax paid by the rich and the estate tax.

And that seems wholly correct. And here are four questions by Jim Hightower, that I shall answer after quoting them, in the tradition of the billionaires that have most powers:

Here's a question you might want to ask our Trumpestuous President and his mousey Trumpeteers in Congress: "Why are you even considering giving more tax breaks to corporate giants?"

First, the self-serving corporate class is wallowing in warehouses of wealth, greedily hoarding it in offshore tax shelters and stock-buyback schemes, refusing to invest their unconscionable profits to benefit the vast majority of people they've been knocking down and holding down.

Second, you shouldn't give away our public treasury when our nation has a budget deficit and faces a frightening backlog of crying needs for public investment -- from our deteriorating infrastructure to our disappearing middle class.

Third, our people's sense of equality and social unity has been severely fractured by 30 years of gross wealth inequality, so intentionally widening the wealth gap is criminally stupid and dangerous.

Fourth, why would you think over-paid, over-pampered CEOs deserve more pampering? They've become imperious potentates who feel entitled to gouge, cheat, defraud, lie and otherwise run over us commoners.

Here are my ĻanswersĻ to these questions, from the point of view of the very rich:

First, because the richer a man is, the more superior a man is. The rich are simple better and more superior people than the non-rich, and should get all the liberties to exercise their superiorities.

Second, because the poor are inferior people they should not have any command over the money of the rich.

Third, the sense of equality of the non-rich is completely irrealistic: All that counts to establish a manīs size and worth is the profit one makes. People who make no profits are losers. Only the rich make profits.

Fourth, once again: The rich are very superior people who should be allowed to do all they please.

In fact, I believe none of these answers, but I also believe most rich are strongly inclined to give these answers to defend their own riches.

5. New Study Shows Urgently Needed 100% Renewable Transition More Feasible Than Ever

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:
A transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research presented in Bonn, Germany on Thursday.
The results of the study, according to a forward written by EWG's president Hans-Josef Fell, show "that a 100% renewable electricity system is an effective and urgently needed climate protection measure. A global zero emission power system is feasible and more cost-effective than the existing system based on nuclear and fossil fuel energy."

I say, for I did not know this, and this is a considerable advance. And clearly, it is mostly due to technological advances that have been made in the last 20 years or so.

Here is some more:

In an interview with Deutsche Welle published Thursday, author and co-founder Bill McKibben agreed with the study's assertion that a complete shift from fossil fuels is necessary to avoid even more dangerous effects of global warming than those the planet is already experiencing.

"If we have any hope of preventing absolute civilization challenge and catastrophe, then we need to be bringing down carbon emissions with incredible rapidity, far faster than it can happen just via normal economic transition," McKibben said.

I think McKibben is quite right, but there are considerable practical difficulties, that mostly amount to the riches of the fossel fuel industry, combined with their dedication to profits for themselves:

While entirely possible from an economic standpoint as the new research shows, the political feasibility of the transition is another story. "That depends entirely on whether we can build movements large enough to break the power of the fossil fuel industry that holds us where we are," said McKibben.

And I think McKibben is right in that as well. There is 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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