Saturday, December 30, 2017.

Crisis: About 2017*2, The Next Financial Crisis, U.S. Drug Policy, About Millionaires
Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 30, 2017.

This is a Nederlog of Saturday
, December 30, 2017.

Since tomorrow is the last day of 2017, there are several surveys of 2017 in today's Nederlog.

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 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from December 30, 2017
1. A Year That Will Live In Ignominy
2. The Next Financial Crisis Will Be Worse Than the Last One
3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Top 10 U.S. Drug Policy
     Stories of 2017

4. Help For Struggling Millionaires Is On the Way
5. Apocalypse Now: 2017 Was Another Terrible, Horrible, No Good,
     Very Bad Year 
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. A Year That Will Live In Ignominy

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:
The New Year is always a time for reflection on the year past and hope for the year yet to come, but it’s hard to look back at 2017 without a sense of despair.
And I more or less agree, although I am also quite sure there will be - even, and also considerably - worse years than 2017 in the none too far future.

I also agree that one of the most horrible things that happened in 2017 was the first year of Donald Trump's presidency:

We have a deranged president who is in all probability guilty of multiple impeachable acts and who is dismantling any program or policy that is designed to constrain the worst excesses of corporations and the ultra-wealthy. We have a Republican majority in Congress that seems content to not only accept a manifestly incompetent leader, but to back his worst excesses and ignore his impeachable offenses.

As bad as 2017 was, it’s important to understand that Trump is merely a symptom of a far worse malady; one that has been brewing for a long time.  Specifically, he is the logical end point of a decades long campaign by the oligarchy to take over America.    

If we are to have hope in 2018, Americans will have to accept that there was a war on for our democracy between the people on one hand and corporations and the ultra-rich on the other, and we-the-people lost.

Bottom line: The institutions we used to rely on to monitor and protect our democracy have been taken over.

Yes: "there was a war on for our democracy between the people on one hand and corporations and the ultra-rich on the other, and we-the-people lost". I think that is correct, and in fact has been correct since Ronald Reagan, for I think that both important U.S. political parties are very corrupt and also that they have been more or less systematically corrupted since 1980.

And there is this:

Take the political parties

It’s been obvious for some time that Republicans represent the oligarchy.  What’s less obvious to some is that the Democrats have been representing them as well, and have been for decades now.  As Thomas Frank noted:

Clinton had five major achievements as president: NAFTA, the Crime Bill of 1994, welfare reform, the deregulation of banks and telecoms, and the balanced budget. All of them—every single one—were longstanding Republican objectives.

Precisely. And there is this on "the free press":

Consider the press

The idea that a free press would act as a guardian against tyranny is part of our national identity; it has been with us since Jefferson claimed he’d prefer a nation without a government over a nation without a free press.  But we haven’t had a free and independent press for some time, now.  It belongs -- lock, stock and barrel – to the oligarchy.

I mostly agree, although I still think there is a considerable difference between the mainstream media (which have all been corrupted in various ways) and the alternative media (to hit on a phrase) that are considerably less or not corrupted, but that also tend to be struggling financially and to be read by considerably fewer than 50% of all Americans.

Then there is this, which unfortunately is also true:

The demise of civil institutions

With the death of the press and the neutering of the Internet, many hoped that civil institutions such as non-profits, unions and public interest groups might serve to provide some constraint on corporate influence, or if not constraints, at least some transparency and exposure of their worst excesses.  But as the 2016 election revealed, many of these institutions – even the presumably progressive ones – were taken over by the neoliberal establishment, and ended up backing corporate-friendly candidates.

This is from the ending:

Mobilizing for victory in 2018

The revulsion many feel for the Democratic Party is real and justified, but the reality is, the nation will not survive if Republicans retain control of the government after the 2018 midterm, and there simply isn’t enough time to create a viable third party. We have no choice but to take the Democratic Party over, and make it ours.

I tend to agree, although I much dislike most of the Democrats. And there is considerably more in the article, that is strongly recommended.

2. The Next Financial Crisis Will Be Worse Than the Last One

This article is by Nomi Prins on Truthdig. This is from near the beginning:

If you look at the stock and asset markets, as Donald Trump tends to do (and as Barack Obama did, too), you’d think all is fine with the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 24 percent this year. The Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index rose 6.20 percent. The price of one Bitcoin rose about 1,646 percent.

On the flip side of that euphoria however, is the fact that the median wage rose just 2.4 percent and has remained effectively stagnant relative to inflation. And although the unemployment rate fell to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, the labor force participation rate dropped to 62.7 percent, its lowest level in nearly four decades—particularly difficult for new entrants to the workforce, such as students graduating under a $1.3 trillion pile of unrepayable or very challenging student loan debt.
Yes indeed, but those who rely on "the stock and asset markets" in fact only watch the top 10% or perhaps the top 20% of the population, and that is the richest part. And indeed the flip side is the poverty of tens of millions of the American population.

There is a lot more on the American economy that I skip. I quote only the ending of this article:

Financially speaking, 2018 will be a precarious year of more bubbles inflated by cheap money, followed by a leakage that will begin with the bond or debt markets. The GOP tax cuts won’t technically kick in monetarily for corporations until after the year is over in 2019, but the anticipation of extra funds will fuel more buybacks. This will help to provide cover for any rate hikes the Fed implements, because it provides corporations the ability to boost their own share prices further.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and other smaller regulatory authorities in Washington will push for greater deregulation of the financial systems and banking industry on any level possible. If there is another financial crisis in 2018 or later, it will be worse than the last one because the system remains fundamentally unreformed, banks remain too big to fail and the Fed and other central banks continue to control the flow of funds to these banks (and through to the markets) by maintaining a cheap cost of funds.

Politically, no one in any position of power will do anything to fix any of this.

But this is a recommended article, and I also want to stress the last bit:
If there is another financial crisis in 2018 or later, it will be worse than the last one because the system remains fundamentally unreformed, banks remain too big to fail and the Fed and other central banks continue to control the flow of funds to these banks (and through to the markets) by maintaining a cheap cost of funds.

Politically, no one in any position of power will do anything to fix any of this.

For I think that is quite true.

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Top 10 U.S. Drug Policy Stories of 2017

This article is by Philip Smith on AlterNet. This is another survey article for 2017, but this is about illegal drugs in the USA. It starts as follows:

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Tens of thousands died of drug overdoses, hundreds of thousands were arrested for drugs, yet marijuana is seeing boom times. As we bid adieu to 2017, here are the year's drug policy highlights.

1. The Opioid Crisis Deepens, With Overdose Deaths at an All-Time High

The country's opioid crisis showed no signs of abating in 2017, with the Centers for Disease Control estimating 66,000 overdose deaths this year, up from 63,000 in 2016. To be clear, only about two-thirds of fatal drug overdoses are linked to heroin and prescription opioids, but opioid overdoses surged in 2016 by 28%.
And note that the opioid crisis was caused (mainly) by the utterly false pretensions of many American medical doctors that opioids on prescription are less addictive than opioids that are bought illegally: Not so.

Then there is this on marijuana and hashish:

5. ...But Fails to Implement a War on Weed

For all the wailing, gnashing of teeth and dire predictions of a Sessions war on weed, it hasn't happened. The attorney general has made no secret of his dislike for the demon weed, but that has yet to translate into any firm policy positions or federal crackdowns on marijuana in states where it is legal, for either medical or recreational use. Congressional action continues to bar the use of Justice Department funds to go after medical marijuana, but there was no bar on going after state-legal recreational marijuana, yet it didn't happen.
Yes, this seems true.

Also - and as I have pointed out many times in Nederlog - as far as marijuana and hashish are concerned, in Holland these are both illegal since 1965 but have in fact been mostly tolerated, first in Amsterdam and next in the rest of Holland since 1967, which is fifty years ago.

And - it seems to me - the facts of the last fifty years in Holland (where marijuana and hashish are still illegal) have shown that of all recreational drugs, including alcohol, marijuana and hashish are - by far, also - the least dangerous.

So I am strongly in favor of legalizing marijuana and hashish - and I suspect that the reason that (at least) these have not been legalized in Holland in the last 30 years is that precisely in the last 30 years the dealings in illegal drugs have been benefitted enormously by the help from the Dutch politicians and judges, who all tolerated the free dealings in illegal marijuana and hashish, but who seem to have opposed legalization because this would radically diminish the profits on drugs.

In fact, I am for legalizing all illegal recreational drugs, including those I am much opposed to, like heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines, not because I am in favor of their being used, but because it will be much cheaper and much safer to help the addicts.

Here is more on the present popularity of marijuana and hashish:

7. Pot Is More Popular than Ever

Just ask Gallup. The venerable polling firm has been tracking support for marijuana legalization since 1969, when it was at just 12%. In its latest poll, from October, Gallup now has support for marijuana legalization at 64%. What is really impressive is the rapid increase in support in the past 20 years: In 1996, support was at 25%; by  2012, it had doubled to 50%; and it's gained another 14 points in the five years since.
Yes indeed. I do not know what this considerable change was due to, but I suspect many Americans agree with me about the relative safety of marijuana and hashish.

Then again, here is the last bit that I quote from this interesting article, which is about the fact that in spite of the fact that currently 2 out of 3 Americans are in favor of legalizing pot, "the war on drugs" goes on and on:

10. The War on Drugs Rolls On

Despite the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana in various states, despite various sentencing reforms at the state and federal level, despite the growing recognition that "we can't arrest our way out of this problem," the drug war just keeps on going. The FBI released its annual Uniform Crime Report in November, and while the numbers are from 2016, this year's numbers are unlikely to be any better. More than 600,000 people got arrested for marijuana offenses in 2016, down from a peak of nearly 800,000 in 2007, but still up by 75,000 or 12% over 2015. It's the same story with overall drug arrests: While total drug arrest numbers peaked at just under 1.9 million a year in 2006 and 2007—just ahead of the peak in prison population—and had been trending downward ever since, they bumped up again last year to 1.57 million, a 5.6% increase over 2015.

In brief, there remains a great lot to do, and this is a recommended article. 

4. Help For Struggling Millionaires Is On the Way

This article is by Chuck Collins on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

It isn’t easy being a millionaire these days, especially if you’ve got less than $20 million. Fortunately, Congress is watching out for you.

Yes, the Republican tax cut bonanza targets lower end millionaires for special relief. Now those struggling to scrape by with $15 million or $20 million can breathe more easily. And even lowly billionaires will be able to keep more of their wealth.

Why? Because Congress just increased the amount of wealth exempted by the estate tax, our nation’s only levy on inherited wealth.

In the bad old days, a family had to have $11 million in wealth before they were subject to the tax. This exempted the 99.8 percent of undisciplined taxpayers who, in the words of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, had squandered their wealth on “booze, women, and movies.”

Now no family with less than $22 million will pay it (or individuals with less than $10.9 million). This gift to “grateful heirs” will cost $83 billion over the next decade.

In fact, this is satire, but the facts are true: millionaires are being helped to get considerably richer, but the 15% of the American population that are really poor
get virtually nothing.

Why? Because Congress is bought by the rich, in brief. And this is a recommended article.

5. Apocalypse Now: 2017 Was Another Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

This article is by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog and on the Rutherford Institute. It starts as follows:

“Everyday the future looks a little bit darker.” ― Alan Moore, Watchmen

Nothing has changed.

Just our luck that 2017 gave us more of the same bad news that we experienced the year before and the year before that: Endless wars. Toxic politics. Violence. Hunger. Police shootings. Mass shootings. Economic rollercoaster. Political circuses. Senseless tragedies. Loss. Heartache. Intolerance. Prejudice. Hatred. Apathy. Meanness. Cruelty. Poverty. Inhumanity. Greed.

I more or less agree, but I also think it will get considerably worse before it will get any better for the majority.

And I will quote three points from this article. The first is about the president:

The new boss proved to be the same as the old boss. True to form, the new boss (Donald Trump) proved to be no better than his predecessors in the White House in terms of protecting the citizenry from the American police state. Indeed, after a year in office, Trump actually paved the way for further assaults on our freedoms: The predators of the police state wreaked havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government didn’t listen to the citizenry, refused to abide by the Constitution, and treated the citizenry as a source of funding and little else.

I think that is mostly correct, as is the following about the American courts:

The courts failed to uphold justice. A review of critical court rulings over the past decade or so, including some ominous ones by the U.S. Supreme Court, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order and protecting the ruling class and government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

I agree. And this is the last point, about the rich:

The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and healthcare costs skyrocketed. Despite being one of the world’s richest nations, America’s poor grew to 41 million people living in poverty. That doesn’t include the number of Americans struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet.

This is also quite correct - and "the rich" in the USA are less than 1% while the poor are at least 15% of the population.

And this is a recommended article, though it may be more pessimistic than I am (who is not an optimist).


[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 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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