January 28, 2018

Crisis:  Trump´s First Year,  Marijuana,  The Environment, Wall Street, Germany & Wealth


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 28, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, January 28, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 28, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. More Bombs, Deaths in Trump's First Year in Office 
2. 8 Things We Now Know That Happen (and That Don't Happen) When We
     Legalize Marijuana

3. Leaked Trump Infrastructure Plan Ripped as Thinly-Veiled 'Assault on
     the Environment'

4. These 11 Senate Democrats Are Joining GOP in Effort to Dismantle Wall
     Street Regulations

5. A Look at Germany's Extremely Unequal Wealth Distribution
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.  More Bombs, Deaths in Trump's First Year in Office

This article is by Sonali Kolhatkar on Common Dreams and originally on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The greatest impact of Donald Trump’s first year as president has been kept out of sight from most Americans. The wars the U.S. waged during Barack Obama’s tenure have sharply escalated under Trump. The result has been a predictable and massive spike in civilian deaths.

Boasting in an interview last year about an apparent retreat by Islamic State, Trump declared, “I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military.” He also touted the “big, big difference if you look at the military now” compared with it under the Obama administration. While Obama shares blame for escalating the use of drones, especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, Trump’s military leadership appears to be a return to a more traditional form of war and a complete unfettering of attempts to minimize civilian casualties.
I admit that I am not amazed at all, although I did not know this. Here is some more:
This unfettering is evident in an almost 50 percent increase of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during Trump’s first year in office, leading to a rise in civilian deaths by more than 200 percent compared with the year before. The watchdog group Airwars, which has tracked the U.S. war against Islamic State since 2014, remarked, “This unprecedented death toll coincided with the start of the Trump presidency, and suggested in part that policies aimed at protecting civilians had been scaled back under the new administration.”
In fact, I don´t think this was a ¨coincidence¨: that there are more than twice as many civilian deaths and a 50 percent increase in air strikes since Trump is due to Trump and his military.

Here is some more on Afghanistan:
In addition to Syria and Iraq, U.S. military action in Afghanistan also has dramatically increased. As the Los Angeles Times reported in December: “Operating under looser restrictions on air power that commanders hope will break a stalemate in the war, U.S. fighter planes this year dropped 3,554 explosives in Afghanistan through Oct. 31, the most since 2012.”
And this is Sonali Kolhatkar summary:
The pattern is clear: Trump seems to have given U.S. military generals carte blanche to unleash their maximum military power in a move reminiscent of the “shock and awe” campaign during the early days of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. The justification for unleashing this deadly military power has been the spread of Islamic State militants in a number of Arab and Muslim countries.
I think that summary is correct and this is a recommended article.

2. 8 Things We Now Know That Happen (and That Don't Happen) When We Legalize Marijuana

This article is by Philip Smith on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
The great social experiment that is marijuana legalization is now five years old, with six states already allowing legal marijuana sales, two more where legal sales will begin within months, and yet another that, along with the District of Columbia, has legalized personal possession and cultivation of the herb.
The prophets of doom warned of all manner of social ills that would arise if marijuana were legalized. From hordes of dope-addled youths aimlessly wandering the streets to red-eyed carnage on the highway, the divinations were dire. And they were wrong.
In fact, I selected this article for review to contrast the present situation as regards marijuana in the USA with the situation that exists in Holland for the last 30 years, namely since 1988.

First of all, in Holland marijuana was legally forbidden in 1965, and it still is. Everything that appeared in the American media about ¨the liberalization of marijuana¨ (and other recreational drugs) in Holland was a combination of a prejudice, that came about through the fact that marijuana, while it is illegal, also is sold in Holland as if it is free, ignorance and laziness (for it is not at all difficult to find out the legal status of recreational drugs in Holland: recreational drugs are all legally forbidden in Holland and have been since 1965).

But second, the Dutch have been mostly tolerant about marijuana from 1965 till 1985, for which there were two distinct reasons: It was quite popular from the start, which did happen around 1965 in Holland, and it also was quite soon - within a couple of years - quite clear that marijuana was far less dangerous than amphetamines, heroine, or cocaine, while also, especially in Amsterdam were there were many users of recreational drugs, there simply was not enough police, already in the late 1960ies, to maintain the Dutch laws about marijuana.

Third, the whole financial scene and the whole system of distribution changed in the second half of the 1980ies, again for the first time in Amsterdam, when Amsterdam´s mayor Ed van Thijn started to hand out personally signed ¨personal permissions¨ (as they were called) to illegal drugs dealers to deal illegal drugs with his personal permission - which he somehow also got accepted by the Dutch judges.

Fourth, the overall result in Holland was (and still is) that marijuana is effectively dealt freely, although it is illegal, and that in Holland (since 1996, when the last official report (!!!) Parliamentary Report was published, the Van Traa Report (on line on my site, with the parts about Amsterdam, unfortunately in Dutch), where it also was pointed out that - around 1996 - the annual turnover of just marijuana and hashish in Holland (that also sells throughout Europe) was at least 10 billion dollars (and very probably considerably more since then), while if heroine, amphetamine, cocaine and other recreational drugs are counted, it is around 50 billion dollars. Each year. Since 1988.

Fifth, this means that since 1988 the Dutch drugscriminals have turned over at least 300 billion dollars, that may be 1.5 trillion dollars if all recreational drugs are counted that have been sold in and from Holland. I do not know what percentage Van Thijn got for his effective help of the Dutch illegal drugsdealers, but if it is 1% he may have cashed in 100 million a year, or indeed 5 times as much, or perhaps also less.

I do not know, but I totally refuse to believe that the Dutch mayors did not make money from effectively giving the Dutch drugsdealers virtually complete freedom to deal as they pleased. I also do not know what percentage of this was cashed in by (former) mayor Van Thijn, but since he and the other mayors shared from a yearly fund that is and was between 10 billion dollars and 50 billion dollars, Van Thijn must be a very much better man than I know he is, for me to believe that he has not profited from these billions of illegal he helped the Dutch dealers to deal all through Europe.

But I also am one of the few who says so, because the Dutch have carefully avoided to discuss illegal recreational drugs since the parliamentary writer of the 1997 Parliamentary Drugs Report was killed ¨in a car accident¨ (for those who believe it) in 1997: Since then the dealings in illegal drugs have continued, but the writings about drugs have mostly ceased (and what I did see was generally false).

Anyway... that was the situation in Holland, where the drugs criminals are protected by the mayors and the judges, are allowed to deal freely in marijuana with ¨personal permission¨ from the mayor (which he or she hands out for unknown amounts of money).

The situation in the USA is rather different and is summarized in the present article under eight headings. I reproduce the headings, but leave the associated texts to your interests:
1. Marijuana arrests plummeted.
2. But the racial disparities in marijuana arrests have not ended.
3. A tide of teenage weed heads is not unleashed upon the nation.
4. The highways remain safe.
5. States with legal marijuana have lower rates of opioid-related harm.
6. Marijuana tax revenues are big—and bigger than predicted.
7. Marijuana tax dollars are going for good things.
8. Legal marijuana is a job creation engine.
And this is a summary by an American:
"Marijuana criminalization has been a massive waste of money and has unequally harmed black and Latino communities," said Jolene Forman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of the report. "This report shows that marijuana legalization is working. States are effectively protecting public health and safety through comprehensive regulations. Now more states should build on the successes of marijuana legalization and advance policies to repair the racially disparate harms of the war on drugs."
She doesn´t say that marijuana has been made illegal in the USA since around 1900 (!!), nor that most stories about it from the government and the police were complete bullshit, but that is also a fact: Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol.

Anyway, this is a recommended article.

3. Leaked Trump Infrastructure Plan Ripped as Thinly-Veiled 'Assault on the Environment'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Commom Dreams. It starts as follows:
Green groups reacted with alarm on Friday to a leaked Trump administration infrastructure draft that proposes a drastic rollback of environmental regulations in an attempt to expedite the construction of water-threatening oil pipelines, roads, bridges—and, of course, "the wall."

The draft also includes a provision that would "expand the government's ability to have private firms pay for the federal environmental reviews of their own projects" while also restricting the ability of federal agencies to "weigh in or block a project from going forward," the Washington Post, which first obtained the leaked proposal, reports.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, said in a statement late Friday that the leaked memo shows President Donald Trump is using his infrastructure push—which he has touted as a possible bipartisan effort—to further his administration's already far-reaching attack on the environment.

The proposal is little more than "deregulatory assault on our environment packaged as an infrastructure plan," Hauter argued.

I say, for I did not know this. And - for what I do know - I think Hauter is quite right: Trump would sell his grandmother if he profits, so he will certainly try to get a profit from turning the
environmental regulations into profits (and destroying the environment).

Then again, for the moment it is a plan that ¨is not yet fully formed¨:

While the proposal obtained by the Post is not yet fully formed, it provides a glimpse into how the Trump administration plans to proceed with what has been described as one of the president's top legislative priorities.

Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said in an interview with the Post that the leaked draft makes abundantly clear "that this administration is not serious about restoring America's infrastructure."

"The administration's legislative outline for infrastructure sacrifices clean air, water, the expertise of career agency staff, and bedrock environmental laws," Pierno concluded.

I think Pierno is right, and we shall learn later. This is a recommended article.

4. These 11 Senate Democrats Are Joining GOP in Effort to Dismantle Wall Street Regulations

This article is by Jake Johnson on Commom Dreams. It starts as follows:
A group of nearly a dozen Senate Democrats is teaming up with President Donald Trump and the GOP in an aggressive push to gut Wall Street regulations, and thanks to a new campaign launched on Friday by the anti-corruption organization Rootstrikers, this group has a name: "The Bailout Caucus."

In total, 11 Democratic senators and Angus King (I-Maine) are joining hands with Republicans to push through GOP-crafted legislation (S.2155) that progressive Democrats and Wall Street critics say will undermine crucial post-financial crisis regulations, roll back consumer protections, and open the door to another crash.
I say! Well... all I want to know is how many hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly several millions of dollars (but selling principles for money goes pretty cheap these days), will be givebn to the following traitors of democracy:
In addition to King, the Democratic senators who are co-sponsoring and providing significant "momentum" for the deregulatory legislation first introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are: Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), John Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Gary Peters (Mich.), and Michael Bennet (Colo.).
Here is Elizabeth Warren on the above traitors:

Echoing the concerns of activist groups, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been a vocal critic of Crapo's legislation and her Democratic colleagues who have decided to co-sponsor it.

"This bill increases the risk of another taxpayer bailout, and I will continue to challenge supporters of this bill—from both parties—to explain why they stand on the side of big banks instead of working families," Warren said in an interview
earlier this month.

Well... I´d say it is very clear ¨why¨ [Senators] ¨stand on the side of big banks instead of working families": the big banks pay a lot of money to corrupt them.

This is a recommended article.

5. A Look at Germany's Extremely Unequal Wealth Distribution

This article is by Florian Diekmann on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

The gathering of global political and industrial leaders in Davos each year leads many observers to wonder: Who benefits in the long term from economic growth and corporate profits? Society as a whole or just a select few at the very top? One way to approach that question is by looking at how the entire wealth of a given society is distributed among individual members of that society.

I am sorry, but if you have to ask in 2018 ¨Who benefits in the long term from economic growth and corporate profits?¨ either you are stupid, or prejudiced or lying, for those who benefitted from economic growth have always been, since 2500 years at least, the rich.

Then again, there is a problem:

The problem, though, is that it isn't so easy to calculate that distribution. Official data does, of course, exist. In Germany it is compiled by the Federal Statistical Office, and the European Central Bank (ECB) has been doing the same for the eurozone over the last few years. That data shows an extremely unequal wealth distribution.

But in reality, wealth is even more concentrated than the data shows, because the statistics have a blind spot: The superrich and their assets are consistently underestimated. This is because, on the one hand, there are so few of them that they aren't adequately accounted for in randomized surveys. On the other hand, the statistics are based on voluntary responses - and willingness to participate demonstrably sinks as wealth among respondents increases.

I do know that the Dutch numbers are not quite honest, but I did not know the same holds for Germany.

In any case, here is the outcome for Germany:

A team of tax experts led by Stefan Bach of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has examined the wealth statistics compiled by the ECB and augmented them with lists identifying the ultrarich. And the team did so for three countries: Germany, France and Spain.

The result: The 45 richest households in Germany own as much wealth as the bottom half of the population. Each group possessed a total of 214 billion euros in assets in 2014.
In fact, this is - surprisingly! - similar to the distribution of wealth in the USA (which I believe but do not know to be the long term outcome of the changes in the economy that were started by Thatcher and Reagan around 1980).

Here is more:

By incorporating lists of the wealthiest people in Germany, it becomes clear that wealth inequality is much greater than reflected in the official ECB numbers. According to the DIW study, the wealthiest 5 percent in Germany owned 51.1 percent of the country's entire wealth in 2014. ECB numbers, meanwhile, held that the richest 5 percent only owned 31.5 percent of the nation's wealth that year.

Furthermore, the top 1 percent of German households owns a third of the country's wealth (instead of the 23.6 percent shown by ECB statistics), and the top 0.1 percent owns 17.4 percent (instead of 6.3 percent). The richest 0.001 percent - just 400 households - own 4.7 percent of the country's wealth, according to the DIW, which is twice as much as the roughly 20 million households that make up the poorer half of German society.

I say - and note that in Germany 400 households have twice as much as the 20 million households that make up the poorer half of society.

For more, see my Crisis: Robert Reich, Socialism, 11 hypotheses about the causes of the crisis and also Crisis: It's the deregulation, stupid! both of which were republished late last year, and were published originally in 2012 and 2015.

And 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 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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