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Nederlog

July 24, 2018

Crisis: U.S. vs. Iran, Israeli Injustice, Neofascism in USA, Corporate Democrats, Limit Wealth


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 24, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

As an introduction I like to remark here that I especially agree with item 5, which indeed formulates an end that I have been for all my life:

Wealth, which is the rough equivalent of power (because the wealthy can get lots of power, and the powerful lots of wealth) should be seriously limited in any real democracy - for if you do not limit the wealth people can get, the result is that the extremely few very wealthy get richer and richer, and very soon there will be no democracy, equality or justice for all, but only for the very few of the richest.

And this is the way that the USA took in 1980, and has been following ever since. More below.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from July 24, 2018:
1. U.S. Pushes Confrontation with Iran
2. Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Law Constitutionally Enshrines Racism 
3. 'Putin's War on America' Is Nothing Compared With America's War on
     Democracy

4. Corporate Democrats Have Begun Planning a 'Counterrevolution' to
     Progressive Base

5. Attacking Income Inequality by Limiting Wealth
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. U.S. Pushes Confrontation with Iran

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
President Donald Trump lashed out at Iran Sunday, warning he was prepared to unleash dire “consequences” on Iran if its president threatens the United States again. Trump’s threat came just hours after Rouhani’s speech earlier Sunday, in which the Iranian president warned the U.S. about pursuing a hostile policy against his government. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech Sunday in which he compared Iran’s leaders to a “mafia” and promised unspecified backing for Iranians who are unhappy with their government. Pompeo spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside Los Angeles. “This is not an administration that is pursuing a policy of actually trying to find a way to the negotiating table or striking a new deal,” says Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. “Everything they’re doing right now is only compatible with a policy of confrontation.”
Yes indeed: I agree with Parsi. And I think Trump, Bolton and Pompeo want yet another war. Here is more:
AMY GOODMAN: President Donald Trump lashed out at Iran Sunday, warning he was prepared to unleash dire “consequences” on Iran if its president threatens the United States again. In a Sunday evening tweet addressed to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and written in all caps, Trump wrote, ”NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRYTHAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he tweeted.
That was the megalomaniac neofascist Trump tweeting, all in capitals. Also doesn´t Trump threaten the Iranians with a nuclear bomb when he says that they (minus capitals): ¨you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history¨ - namely the inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - ¨have ever suffered before¨? I do think so, but I grant Trump doesn´t spell this out.

And here is Trita Parsi:
TRITA PARSI: Well, I think Pompeo’s speech and the effort that he gave to essentially give the impression that he cares for the Iranian people was quickly negated by this rather unprecedented tweet by Donald Trump, essentially threatening war over Twitter. And I think it reveals that now, beyond any doubt, the Trump administration’s policy is, and, frankly, has always been, escalation and confrontation. Whether that confrontation will take place through a direct military confrontation or whether it will be the Trump administration continuing and intensifying their efforts to destabilize Iran or, as Reuters reported over the weekend, to foment unrest in Iran remains to be seen.
Yes, I agree, although I think myself that at least Trump, Bolton and Pompeo want war.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
TRITA PARSI: But the Russians have more important interests at heart, as well, which is particularly breaking out of their own sanctions that the U.S. have imposed on them, as well as issues such as NATO expansion, Ukraine, etc. So there is a gamble from the Trump administration side in which, essentially, by offering the Russians anything they want on Ukraine and some other issues, that they would get the Iranians—they’d get the Russians to throw the Iranians under the bus. What they may not be as sensitive to is that if that scenario were to take place, it’s not so much Russia throwing Iran under the bus as it is the United States throwing Europe under the bus. And this may also explain why Trump has been so negative in his rhetoric towards the Europeans.
This I don´t know. And there is more in this article, that is recommended.


2. Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Law Constitutionally Enshrines Racism

This article is also by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
A fragile ceasefire remains in effect after four Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed during violence Friday along the border with Gaza. During the flare-up, Israel launched dozens of strikes it said were targeted at Hamas rockets and mortars. The death of the Israeli soldier was the first since Palestinians launched weekly nonviolent protests at the border in March. Israeli forces have shot and killed at least 140 Palestinians during those protests, while wounding thousands of others. This comes as Israeli lawmakers drew condemnation Thursday for passing a law that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and gives them the sole right to self-determination. The law declares Hebrew the country’s only official language and encourages the building of Jewish-only settlements on occupied territory as a “national value.” We get response from Yousef Munayyer, executive director of US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She co-authored a new op-ed in The Independent headlined “As Jews, we reject the myth that it’s antisemitic to call Israel racist.”
It is not quite clear to me how ¨nonviolent protests¨ could kill one Israeli soldier, but in any case the score, so to speak is as follows: Israel : Palestians = 1 killed : 140 killed + thousands wounded.

As to calling Israel racist: In fact, I do not know whether Israel´s behavior is ¨racist¨ in the sense I attach to it, for the simple reason that the Palestinians and the Israelis are both white (almost all) and also belong both to the Semites (which is not based on race but on language).

Then again, I do agree that the new Israeli law does seem to make the Palestinians into either sub-humans or at least sub-Israelis.

Here is more:
YOUSEF MUNAYYER: (..) [T]his is, altogether, part of a broader agenda by the state of Israel to quell any sort of resistance to what it seeks to do throughout the entirety of the territory, which is to impose its will on the native population of Palestinians, both in the West Bank, in Gaza, in occupied territories, but also on Palestinian citizens of Israel, under the premise that it is the Jewish population that is in control, that deserves to be in control, and that any rights at all that may be afforded to, you know, non-Jews are really done as a favor, and not something that the Jewish state has to do because of principles of equality or tolerance or democracy or anything like that. And the most recent step that the Israeli Knesset has taken, through the passage of this law, I think, is the best proof of that, showing very clearly that the Israelis no longer care about, you know, even pretending to balance this notion of being a Jewish state and a democracy. You know, I think that was never the case. Now it’s clear that they’re not even interested in pretending anymore.
Yes, I think that is basiclally correct. And here is Vilkomerson:
REBECCA VILKOMERSON: Yeah. I mean, I think what Yousef said is exactly right. I think I found it shocking, but not surprising, because I think anytime you have a set of, again, foundational law—this is a basic law, so it’s sort of the equivalent of a constitutional bill that will then have an impact on any future laws. And it basically obligates the state to treat its non-Jewish citizens unequally. And that’s 20 percent of the overall Israeli population. So, by Israel enshrining racism and discrimination and apartheid into its basic law, that’s pretty shocking, at the same time not that surprising because of the ongoing policies that Israel has been pursuing for so many decades.
And I think this is also basically correct (although I keep finding it a bit odd to speak of ¨racism¨ here, simply because the Israelis and the Palestinians belong to the same race. But I do agree
that this new law does make all Palestininans into legal inferiors of all Israelis, and I think that is both anti-demoratic and very wrong. And there is more in this article, that is recommended.


3. 'Putin's War on America' Is Nothing Compared With America's War on Democracy

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The noted North Korean political commentator Kim Jong Un got it right last year: Donald Trump is a “mentally deranged dotard.”

Consider the U.S. president’s bizarre performance next to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Asked about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, President Trump said this: “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

He continued: “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Talk about walking into your enemy’s wheelhouse. Trump looked, acted and sounded like a big floppy and supine plaything of his smirking Russian master. It was surreal.

I’m no fan of “Russiagate” and never have been. But it was as if Trump had let Russia-mad MSNBC and CNN craft the Helsinki news conference and write his lines for him.

Yes, I basically agree, indeed also with Street´s skeptical attitude towards ¨Russiagate¨.

By contrast, I can say with full confidence that nothing Trump said Monday or Tuesday was as ridiculous as something I heard leading Democrat and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tell CNN the night of Trump’s Helsinki debacle.

“It is the role of the U.S. intelligence community,” Warner said to Anderson Cooper, “to speak truth to power.”

Read that again: “It is the role of the U.S. intelligence community to speak truth to power.”

Never mind that the FBI has long surveilled, hounded, harassed, oppressed, slandered, maimed and even murdered U.S. labor, civil rights, peace, social justice and environmental activists and leaders—people fighting concentrated wealth, privilege and power.
Yes, I agree. And in fact the relation between the U.S. secret spies (¨intelligence community¨) and ¨truth¨ and ¨power¨ is more or less the opposite of what the Democrat (!) Warner claimed:

The role of the U.S. intelligence community is to establish rigths, income and power for the U.S. by mostly grossly illegal ways, while rarely declaring anything factual or controllable about their extremely widespread illegal actions.

Here is more:

A final preposterous thing that “mainstream” U.S. news media has been repeating over and over in the last several days is the charge that “Russia tried to undermine our democracy.” In three days of informal but regular monitoring of CNN and MSNBC, I heard that phrase or some variation of it (including “Russia waged war on our democracy”) at least 30 times.

To what “American democracy” are they referring? University of Kentucky history department chair Ronald Formisano’s latest book is titled “American Oligarchy: The Permanence of the Political Class” (University of Illinois, 2017). By Formisano’s detailed account, U.S. politics and policy are under the control of a “permanent political class”—a “networked layer of high-income people,” including congressional representatives (half of whom are millionaires), elected officials, campaign funders, lobbyists, consultants, appointed bureaucrats, pollsters, television celebrity journalists, university presidents and executives at well-funded nonprofit institutions. This “permanent political class,” Formisano finds, is taking the nation “beyond [mere] plutocracy” to “the hegemony of an aristocracy of inherited wealth.”
I completely agree with Formisano (and I call this neofascism), but I like to add that the extremely often repeated variants of “Russia tried to undermine our democracy”, which in fact are repeated and repeated and repeated ever since Hillary Clinton lost the elections, and for which there never was any real evidence, is in fact an excellent example of totalitarian
propaganda
(although that is false according to the utterly false rendering of ¨totalitarianism¨ on Wikipedia, but quite correct according to my examples, of whom George Orwell is one of the most important).


There is considerably more that I skip. This is from the ending:

Strangely, yet predictably—since corporate media personalities are themselves parts of Formisano’s American oligarchy—missing from this media hysteria is the question of who will protect U.S. elections and purported “democracy” from the unmentionable malign influence of U.S. oligarchs. They sit atop a New Gilded Age in which the top 10th of the upper 1 percent owns as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90 percent, and three absurdly rich people (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett) possess among them the same net worth as the nation’s poorest half. “We must make our choice,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said in 1941: “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”
Brandeis was clearly quite correct, and for more on that topic - wealth vs. democracy - see item 5. And this is a recommended article.

4. Corporate Democrats Have Begun Planning a 'Counterrevolution' to Progressive Base

This article is by Jake Johnson on AlterNet and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Corporate Democrats are extremely worried about the wave of progressive enthusiasm that is sweeping the country in red and blue states alike, and—according to a report by NBC News on Sunday—they are beginning to organize a "counterrevolution" to beat it back.

Ignoring survey after survey showing that progressive priorities like Medicare for All, a living wage, and tuition-free public college are overwhelmingly popular among the American public, Democratic politicians and operatives with the notorious think-tank Third Way used an invite-only event in Columbus, Ohio on Friday to tout an alternative agenda that centers on "opportunity" and access rather than equality—a platform that explicitly avoids alienating the ultra-wealthy.

"You're not going to make me hate somebody just because they're rich. I want to be rich!" Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said during last week's closed-door event, which was titled "Opportunity 2020."

Let me start with what appears to be the neofascist Democrat Ryan:

Of course you want to be rich! Of course it doesn´t matter one bit to you if your richness causes 40 million of your fellow Americans to be extremely poor - as is the case now! Of course you know that being rich is ever and always only possible for the few! And of course you became a Democrat in order to become richer than you are!

I have been following American politics quite closely for more than 5 years now, and one of the things that I learned is that among the Democratic Senators there seem to be only two who seem to work for the people rather than for themselves (namely Sanders and Warren). I do not know what the proportion is among Congressmen, except that I feel very sure most are rich, and most are mates of Tim Ryan.

And it is for reasons like these that I have lost all sympathy for the Democrats - and here are more reasons:

But now, with organized events and more frequent interviews with the press, corporate Democrats and strategists are beginning to openly state their plans to undercut surging progressive momentum, "with some of the major fundraisers pressing operatives on what can be done to stop" Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) if he decides to launch another bid for the presidency, Seitz-Wald reports.

Precisely. Well... I trust Sanders (who has a progressive record no one else has on that level) but I do not know whether he is fit enough to try again in 2020, for the simple reason that he´ll be 79 then.

Then again, if he does, he is a fool if he runs as a Democrat: he should run as an Independent, which is also what he is anyway. And my main reason is the history of 2016: If it had not been for many manipulations, lies, and dishonesties of Hillary Clinton, Sanders probably would have won the candidacy, and then probably would have beaten Trump.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

As a counter to progressive ideas like a federal jobs guarantee, Medicare for All, and expanded Social Security benefits, NBC reports that Third Way has put forth an "apprenticeship program to train workers, a privatized employer-funded universal pension that would supplement Social Security, and an overhaul of unemployment insurance to include skills training."

Progressives were quick to denounce such proposals as a thinly-veiled push to privatize Social Security and undermine more ambitious—and far more popular—left-wing proposals that have been winning big in Democratic primaries across the nation.

Yes, I agree, although I have an addition: While it seems true that left-wing proposals are far more popular than the plans of the major millionaire Hillary Clinton (who very probably is set to make yet another presidential try in 2020 if she can), I must say that I am rather skeptical about Democrats who now got elected because they supported some left-wing proposals: Getting elected and being elected seem to be fundamentally different things in the USA, and those who are elected may soon be straightened out to vote - really - for the rich by their lobbyists.

But this is a recommended article.

5. Attacking Income Inequality by Limiting Wealth

This article is by Mark Karlin on Truthout. It starts as follows:
In his new book, The Case for a Maximum Wage, author Sam Pizzigati argues for limiting the income of the wealthy while raising the minimum wage. In fact, Pizzigati believes that narrowing the income gap is not possible without a limit on the highest incomes. In this interview, Pizzigati discusses the idea that the rich need financial boundaries.

Mark Karlin: We’re all used to hearing debates about the “redistribution” of wealth. You talk in your book about wealth’s “predistribution” — what do you mean by that?

Sam Pizzigati: Progressives have traditionally responded to wide gaps between rich and poor by calling for a redistribution of income and wealth — and taxes have usually been how we try to redistribute. We typically push for high tax rates on high incomes, then use the revenues these taxes raise from the wealthy to create opportunities for those without much wealth at all.
    (..)
In the last third of the 20th century, they pounded back against high tax rates. They used their wealth and power to carve loopholes in the tax code and eventually won huge cuts to America’s high tax rates on high incomes.

The result? We’ve become much more unequal as a nation. Our top 0.1 percent is once again averaging 900 times more in income than our bottom 90 percent.

What lesson should we take from all this? Redistribution alone can never be enough. We need to battle for an economy that generates less inequality in the first place.

I say!!! And I do so because legal limitations of income and wealth have seemed to me since a very long time (namely since 1960-1962 [2]) an excellent and very important way of furthering democracy and of preventing that the few rich have most things to say and to decide, which they almost always do to further the interests, power and wealth of the few rich.

Then again, while I agree with everything Pizzigatti said, I have two or three additions to make:

First, there is nothing inherently radical about legal limitations on the amounts of wealth, income and power any one individual may have in a given society: Extremely many things are somehow decided by laws (indeed also not always fairly, to say the least) - and limiting individual power and individual wealth may well be one of the things that are necessary to keep a society liveable for the many and not just for the few rich.

Second, while probably almost everybody wants to get rich, this is possible only for at most 1 to 5% of the people who are alive, simply by looking at human history: There never were more than 1 to 5% rich, for the simple reason that every rich man necessarily comes with many non-rich men. (And this is a simple matter of logic.)

And third, this also means in the presently existing circumstances that limiting wealth and income to vary between 1 and 20 times as much, which in present terms means and in euros means that
no one should earn less than 10,000 euros a year or more than 200,000 euros a year, would mean that at most 1% of the population will loose money on such a proposal, and the remaing 99% will gain money on such a proposal.

Back to the article:

The wage and salary portion of our national income has been decreasing. What does this indicate about economic inequality in the United States today?

This declining labor share of national income — American workers essentially lost half a trillion dollars in paycheck income between 2000 and 2015 — reflects the power of the rich who control our corporations. These rich have no significant limits on how much they can grab.

Before 1980, big-time corporate CEOs averaged no more than two or three dozen times what their workers took home. Today’s top corporate execs routinely “earn” several hundred times what their workers make. They can make more in a morning than workers can make in a year.

Yes indeed - and incidentally, I note that before 1980 ¨big-time corporate CEOs¨ earned 24 to 36 times of what their workers took home, while since 1980 (and also under Clinton and Obama) the same folks get several hundred times what their workers make (and therefore, also, in real terms the few rich got a whole lot richer since 1980, while the non-rich at best remained at the level of income they had before 1980 (with one adult per family working) whereas most of the non-rich in the USA lost money, in real terms. (And that money went to the few rich.)

Here is some more:

So how would setting a “maximum wage” fit in with this attempt to impact our existing “predistribution of wealth”?

In the United States, major corporate enterprises have become the engines of our inequality. The decisions that execs who run these enterprises make maximize their own personal rewards and leave most everyone else getting nowhere fast. 

But imagine if we capped how much top execs could grab — and linked that cap to how much workers earn. Imagine a “maximum wage” that limited a company’s top execs to a modest multiple of what that company’s workers are making.

Yes again: This is my idea as well, and as I explained, it is so since nearly 60 years. And as I have been saying: I think a ratio of 1 to 20 is fair. (Others thought 1 to 10, or even - American workers! - 1 to 7.)

And here is another remark: I am not at all against some people excelling other people in many possible ways (beauty, skill, knowledge, artistry and so on) for I never believed that all people are equal (although I do think that in a fair society all people should have equal rights and duties). What I am against is people excelling other people in terms that make the other people have - far - less wealth or - far less - power.

You may excel others in very many ways, but not in those few ways which make those you excel your inferiors in human possibilities to be human.

Here is the end of the article:

The super-rich, in the end, have no redeeming social value. We could survive without them. We could thrive without them. Social decency, most all Americans agree, requires a floor under income, a minimum wage. Social decency demands a ceiling, too.

Yes, I completely agree and this is a strongly recommended article.


Notes

[1] I have now been saying since the 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.

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 (!!).

[2] Yes indeed, although the main reason was not so much my own intelligence as the fact that both of my parents were fairly prominent communists, and had been so since the Thirties or early Forties (for quite idealistic reasons, and also because they hated the maltreament of the Jews that the Nazis glorified in).

Then again, I did start thinking for myself between 10 and 12, and this was one thing (¨Why legally allow that a few can be quite rich, while the many are quite poor?¨) that I then arrived at. Another thing was when I decided (age 10) that there were far too many advertisements (and especially for alcohol).
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