December 8, 2018

Crisis: Republican Usurpers, Climate Goals, Wall Street´s Corruption, Sanders, Wealth Inequality


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 8, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, December 8, 2018.

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 three 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 December 8, 2018:
1. Republicans Are Clinging to Power in Wisconsin. Expect to See More GOP
     Power Grabs.
2. The World Still Isn’t Meeting Its Climate Goals
3. Wall Street's Corruption Runs Deeper Than You Can Fathom
4. Bernie Sanders: Billionaires Are Destroying the Fabric of Our Country
5. Why Don’t We Riot Over Wealth Inequality?
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. Republicans Are Clinging to Power in Wisconsin. Expect to See More GOP Power Grabs.

This article is by Emma Roller on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

On Tuesday, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker prepared to light the state capitol Christmas tree, protesters gathered in the Capitol rotunda to boo him. The protesters’ jeers were merited. After being soundly defeated in his bid for re-election, Walker and his allies in the state legislature have launched an all-out assault on democracy — a transparent power grab before Democrats take office.

In November, Wisconsin voters elected Democrats to all six statewide positions that were up for grabs, including electing Democrat Tony Evers to replace Walker in the governor’s mansion. In response, Republican state lawmakers abruptly called a rare “lame-duck” session last Friday afternoon and introduced a sweeping raft of legislation aimed at neutering Evers’s powers as governor, as well as those of other Democrats elected to lead the state’s executive branch. On Monday night, as Republicans rushed the bills through the Joint Committee on Finance, more than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the state capitol and the hearing room to protest the power grab.

Yes indeed: I quite agree. And if this is possible, or indeed cannot legally be changed back rapidly, democracy is quite dead in Wisconson. And not only there, for here is more:

And Wisconsin isn’t the only state where Republicans have been ramping up efforts to negate the will of voters — it’s becoming part of the GOP’s regular playbook. In Michigan, a lame-duck push by the GOP is also seeking to neuter incoming Democratic elected officials. The same thing happened in North Carolina in 2016, when Republicans in the state legislature executed the same lame-duck power grab after voters elected Democrat Roy Cooper as governor. Taken together, the actions of Republicans in these states add up to an unprecedented seizure of power. They are holding entire state governments hostage in order to further oppress people who are struggling to meet their basic needs, while continuing to enrich the Republican donor class. If the U.S. political commentariat saw this happening in another country, they would call it what it is: a coup.

Yes, I agree again. Then again, I have to add that I do not understand (now) why these laws cannot be turned back as quickly as they were endorsed, indeed in an invalid way, for if this were valid it would give the power to the Republicans forever: Either they win, and continue, or else they loose and make it legally impossible for the Democrats to govern.

And yes, that is not democracy, but a kind of legalized tyranny. Here is more:

None of these power grabs have been as expansive as what’s happening in Wisconsin. During an all-night session on Tuesday in Madison, Republicans continued their vote-o-rama on amendments intended to curtail the powers of incoming Democratic leaders.

They did a lot of damage: protecting a work requirement for state health care; limiting the governor’s ability to renegotiate disastrous deals for public subsidies to private companies; shifting some of incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s core responsibilities to the legislature; and, in perhaps the most wicked vote of the night, moving to limit early voting in Wisconsin from six weeks to two weeks — a proposal that a federal judge struck down just two years ago, saying it “intentionally discriminates on the basis of race.” Republicans also voted to approve more than 80 last-minute appointments made by Walker, despite the fact that many of the candidates had no public hearing
Yes, though I repeat my question: What I do not understand (now) why these laws cannot be turned back as quickly as they were endorsed.

Here is more, on gerrymandering (and the link is to an explanation of it):

Wisconsin’s GOP has been able to maintain its vice-like grip on state government despite rising unpopularity with one neat trick: gerrymandering. In 2011, the GOP-controlled state legislature redrew Wisconsin’s maps in one of the most blatant examples of partisan gerrymandering in the past decade. Wisconsin is a purple battleground state, yet Democrats have not been able to hold more than 39 of the assembly’s 99 seats since Republicans redrew the maps in 2011. Democrats won 205,000 more votes than Republicans statewide this year. But thanks to gerrymandering and urban clustering of Democratic voters, Democrats were only able to flip one state assembly seat. Republicans kept control of 63 of 99 seats in the chamber, and actually gained a seat in the state senate, increasing their majority to 19-14.

Again, that is not democracy at all. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Look at what’s happening in Wisconsin, and it becomes abundantly clear that Republican leaders don’t really believe in the separation of powers, or in a peaceful transfer of power, or in anything else one might consider bedrock principles of a functioning democracy. It’s well past time for Democrats, the political press, and anyone interested in preserving small-d democracy to take Republicans at their word and recognize that they have no interest in a system of government made legitimate by the consent of the governed.

I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The World Still Isn’t Meeting Its Climate Goals

This article is by Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich on The New York Times. It has a subtitle:
Three years after nearly 200 countries signed a landmark climate agreement in Paris, they are still far off-track from preventing severe global warming in the decades ahead. This month, diplomats from around the world are gathering in Katowice, Poland, to discuss stepping up their efforts.
Well... I have been following the evironment and/or the climate from 1972 (when I read ¨The Limits to Growth¨) onwards, and my own conciusion about these governmental agreements about the prevention of global warming is that they have been failing since 1972.

So I did not accept the Kyoto agreement (and was right), and I do not accept the Paris agreement and fully expect to be right in assuming that it will be a failure as well.

And while I grant that verbal agreements on global warming are required, I think those that have been reached on a governmental level are much too low, while also the verbal agreements will not be kept by many governments.

The article itself starts as follows:

It’s an enormous challenge. Under the Paris deal, every nation volunteered a plan to curtail its greenhouse gas emissions between then and 2030. But many large emitters aren’t even on track to meet their self-imposed targets, according to new data from Climate Action Tracker.

What’s more, even if every country did manage to fulfil its individual pledge, the world would still be on pace to heat up well in excess of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels, the threshold that world leaders vowed to stay “well below” in Paris because they deemed it unacceptably risky.

Right now, current pledges put the world on pace for around 3 degrees Celsius of warming this century. To reach the broader Paris goals, countries would have to dramatically accelerate the transition toward clean energy over the next 12 years.
Yes - and in fact this is a considerably more polite form of what I said above: 3 degrees Celsius is too much; 2 degrees Celsius is also too much; but in fact ¨many large emitters aren’t even on track to meet their self-imposed targets¨ - and this was the same since 1972.

Here is more:
“It is plain we are way off course,” said António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, in a speech in Katowice this week. “We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.”
Yes, he is right - and he also would have been right if he had extended this back to 1972.

This is from the ending of this article:

Many of the Paris pledges remain fairly opaque, and nations are often vague on what specific policies they will take to meet them. There is still no official mechanism for quantifying progress. As a result, groups like Climate Action Tracker have had to make rough estimates as to whether countries are on pace to meet their pledges and how much further each country would need to go for the world to stay well below 2 degrees of global warming.
TYes - and as before, since 1972: The ¨pledges remain fairly opaque, and nations are often vague on what specific policies they will take to meet them¨ - and besides, they have never met them since 1972, and will not do so again. This is a recommended article.

3. Wall Street's Corruption Runs Deeper Than You Can Fathom

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Of the myriad policy decisions that have brought us to our current precipice, from the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the invasion of Iraq and the gerrymandering of House districts across the country, few have proven as consequential as the demise of Glass-Steagall. Signed into law as the U.S.A. Banking Act of 1933, the legislation had been crucial to safeguarding the financial industry in the wake of the Great Depression. But with its repeal in 1999, the barriers separating commercial and investment banking collapsed, creating the preconditions for an economic crisis from whose shadow we have yet to emerge.

Carmen Segarra might have predicted as much. As an employee at the Federal Reserve in 2011, three years after the dissolution of Lehman Brothers, she witnessed the results of this deregulation firsthand. In her new book, Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street,” she chronicles the recklessness of institutions like Goldman Sachs and the stunning lengths the United States government went to to accommodate them, even as they authored one of the worst crashes in our nation’s history.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. Here is more:

“They didn’t want to hear what I had to say,” she tells Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “And so I think what we have in terms of this story is really not just a failure of the banks and the regulators, but also a failure of our prosecutors. I mean, a lot of the statutes that could be used—criminal statutes, even, that could be used to hold these executives accountable are not being used, and they have not expired; we could have prosecutors holding these people accountable.”

Yes, again I completely agree. Here is more:

Carmen Segarra: (...) When I joined the Federal Reserve, as you pointed out, I was hired from outside the regulatory world, but within the legal and compliance banking world, to help fix its problems. And I was well aware of the problems that existed. And scoping the problems itself was relatively easy; I mean, within days of arriving, I had participated in meetings where you had Goldman Sachs executives, you know, lying, doublespeaking, and misrepresenting to regulatory agencies without fear of repercussions. And where I saw Federal Reserve regulators actively working to suppress and expunge from the record evidence of wrongdoing that could be used by regulatory agencies, prosecutors, and even the Federal Reserve itself to hold Goldman Sachs accountable. The question was, when I arrived, you know, are these problems fixable? And, spoiler alert: I don’t think so.

I think this is also completely correct - which also means that I agree with Segarra that in the present (il)legal and (im)moral environment ¨these problems¨ are not ¨fixable¨, for the simple reason that the banks and Goldman Sachs have succeeded in getting far too much power.

Here is the last bit that I am quoting from this article:

CS: One of the things that happened as a result of Glass-Steagall coming down was that a lot of the investment bankers were allowed to take over the commercial banks. And those investment bankers knew nothing about banking, and Goldman is a great example of that. I mean, when I arrived three years in after the financial crisis, what was one of the things that was very shocking to me was going into meeting after meeting with Goldman senior management and hearing them lie, doublespeak, and most shockingly of all, insist that they didn’t have to comply with the law.

I think Segarra speaks quite truly, and there is a lot more in this strongly recommended article.

4. Bernie Sanders: Billionaires Are Destroying the Fabric of Our Country

This article is by Paul Jay on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. This is from near the beginning:
PAUL JAY: In one of the panels yesterday you said it’s not just about concentration of wealth and how the inequality, how unfair that is, the suffering it causes. But concentration of wealth means concentration of power. How do you challenge that power?

BERNIE SANDERS: This is not easy stuff. But we are certainly not going to deal with it if we don’t discuss it. And one of the crises that we face right now is that you’ve got a media that will not talk about this issue. And you’ve got, essentially, two parties that don’t talk about it very much.
So what you have here is, first of all, massive income and wealth inequality. And as a nation we have got to think from a moral perspective and an economic perspective whether we think it is appropriate that three people, one, two, three, own more wealth than the bottom half of the American society. You know, that’s really quite outrageous, and it’s appropriate that we take a hard look at that. But it is not just that the one tenth of 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. They don’t put their wealth underneath their mattresses, right. They use that wealth to perpetrate, perpetuate their power. And they do that politically. So you have the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires who pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elections, because their Supreme Court gutted the campaign finance laws that were in existence, and now allow billionaires quite openly to buy elections.

So wealth equals power, politically. Wealth means that if I own a company in the United States, I own a GE plant, where there may be hundreds or thousands of workers, and that plant may be making money, but not as much money as it could make if I took it to China or to Mexico, I have the power to do that. Because politicians are not going to stop me. Because we have disastrous trade laws. If I am a billionaire, it is likely that I will have control over media, as well. So you have a handful of media conglomerates owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country and in the world determining what the news is; what is appropriate for the American people to discuss and not to discuss.
Yes, I completely agree with Sanders, which is also why I am a socialist (of the democratic kind), as indeed were George Orwell and Albert Einstein: See here Crisis: On Socialism.
Besides, I also think that before socialism or indeed another economical system somehow arrives, it is extremely difficult or quite impossible to rule the rich, precisely because the rich have acquired virtually all powers, mostly by reverting the Glass-Seagall laws (which was done under Bill Clinton - and see the previous item) and the Citizens United case, that essentially allowed the few rich to invest as much money into getting their politics accepted as they wanted.

Here is more, on Goldman Sachs:
BERNIE SANDERS: I don’t know that you can’t reform them. And I think your point is, though, very well taken. What we need–look, let’s be clear. You have … I will never forget, Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, came to Congress a few years ago. And this is after the taxpayers of this country bailed them out because of their greed and their illegal behavior. This is chutzpah. These guys, after being bailed out by the middle class and working families of this country, after causing incalculable harm, which–the Wall Street crash cost us millions of jobs, people lost their homes, they lost their life savings. These guys, after getting bailed out, they come to Congress. They say, you know, what we think Congress should do is you gotta cut Social Security, and Medicare, and Medicaid. And by the way, lower corporate tax rates and give more tax breaks to the wealthy. That’s power. That’s chutzpah. We have it all, we can do whatever we want to do.
Yes, but Blankfein and others have chutzpah simply because they have the powers they wanted for a long time.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
BERNIE SANDERS: There is an establishment within the Democratic Party. There are Wall Street contributors in the Democratic Party, corporate contributors in the Democratic Party. And they have a very different and more conservative vision for the future of the Democratic Party than I do. My vision is pretty simple. My vision is that we have got to have the guts to take on Wall Street, take on the pharmaceutical industry, take on the insurance industry, take on the 1 percent, create an economy that works for all. And while we do that, we bring our people, and that is black, and white, and Latino, and Native American, and Asian American together. I think that’s the way you do it. And we’re beginning, beginning, beginning to see that.
Well... I more or less agree, but then again in fact I have been agreeing with the basics of this - ¨an economy that works for all¨ and not just for the rich, or mainly for the rich - for 50+ years now, and I still see no progress and a lot of setbacks. And this is why I am in favor of socialism (though I do not know whether that will be possible, soon or ever): See my Crisis: On Socialism.

5. Why Don’t We Riot Over Wealth Inequality?

This article is by Alvaro Sanchez on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Tell people their gas taxes are going up and they will riot, literally.  Tell people that 62 individuals hold the same amount of wealth as the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world’s population and we don’t blink an eye. Okay, maybe we do a hard blink but we certainly don’t riot.
Yes indeed.

And I agree with Sanchez that the underlying reasons why the gas taxes are going up have a lot to do with the fact that very few rich men hold enormous amounts of money and therefore enormous amounts of power, while the very many non-rich have hardly any or no money whatsoever, and lack almost all powers.

And as I have been saying several times already, my own view is that these enormous inequalities between the very few rich and the very many non-rich can be overcome only after something like
Socialism has been introduced, and these extreme differences in wealth and power have in fact been declared illegal.

Here is more:
Wealth inequality has widened all over the world, leaving many people struggling who previously enjoyed more secure prosperity. In the U.S. and France the cost of living continues to increase while wages and earnings stagnate for most. At the same time the top earners seem to accumulate all the wealth: in 2017 Oxfam reported that the top one percent secured 82 percent of all wealth while the bottom 3.7 billion who make up the poorest of the world saw no increase in their wealth. Favorable tax policies for the rich in the U.S. and France’s recently approved budget show signs of exacerbating wealth inequality in those countries, leaving people with scarce resources contributing greater amounts of their income to basic necessities like housing, food, health care, education, and transportation. And when government needs to step in to rescue someone from economic collapse, it seems to only bail out corporations like banks, automakers, and utilities.  Regular citizens do not seem to enjoy the same level of concern from decision makers about our economic well being.
Yes indeed - and no: These things just do not ¨seem¨ to be the case: they are the case.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
But why do people riot over gas taxes and not massive wealth inequality? Because we feel the economic pain from a gas tax increase more intensely and immediately than structural systems that help a very small set of people to accumulate wealth. All people can understand a gas tax increase.  Very few people can explain the income ramifications from the 2017 tax reform approved in the U.S., the largest tax reform of last 31 years.
No, I think that is a very partial explanation, and one of the many things this explanation avoids is that one may be against ¨a gas tax increase¨ without being against the social, economic, political and legal system in which one lives and has been educated: Most people are not revolutionaries and also were never educated to doubt or question the social, economic, political and legal system in which they live. But 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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