January 30, 2019

Crisis: Ocasio-Cortez, Venezuelan Juan Guaidó, U.S. Public Workers, The GOP´s Greed, Billionaires

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 30, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 30, 2019.

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 January 30, 2019:
1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Her First Weeks in Washington
2. The Making of Juan Guaidó

3. Public Workers’ Trump Card

4. 'Greed Has No Limit for GOP'

5. Here's the real story of the 2020 election: Billionaires vs. America
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. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Her First Weeks in Washington

This article is by Ryan Grim and Briahna Gray on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman New York representative, joins Intercept reporters Ryan Grim and Briahna Joy Gray for an in-depth conversation about her approach to politics and social media, her thoughts on the 2020 presidential election, and her out-of-nowhere congressional campaign. As a new member of the House Financial Services Committee, she’s already shaping the conversation with her call to raise the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent. Former North Carolina Rep. Brad Miller, a progressive Democrat who served for years on the Financial Services Committee, joins the conversation to talk about the challenges Ocasio-Cortez will face there.

Yes, but I have got to admit that I did not much like the interview that follows. I do not rightly know what is the reason, but I did not like Briahna Gray (whom I have never heard of or read anything by before).

Here is some more:

BJG: So I just want to start by asking you, like, how are you feeling right now?

AOC: I’m feeling good. You know, it’s funny, most days I have no idea what day it is. And people are like, “Have a good weekend.” And I’m like “What?” So.

BJG: Would be fair to say that some of the cooking that happens on Instagram Live is a necessity because you just have to multitask?

AOC: Oh. Absolutely, absolutely. It definitely is. It’s, it’s it’s a total necessity and I figured it’s also a good way to use technology to reach constituents because sometimes it’s just physically almost impossible with demands on our time. So we have to figure out ways to kind of use the the small pockets of time that we do have creatively, even if it’s just when I’m, you know, prepping vegetables for dinner, if I can get, if I can get a conversation about policy in there, it’s tremendously effective.

This illustrates what I talked about above. Then again, there is some political information here:

AOC: I think — yeah, well I actually feel like I do, it started off unintentionally, but I feel like I end up listening to things in that, I’ll tweet something and something that gets particularly extra traction, I, I kind of dissect especially if I, if I didn’t expect it to build traction and I’m like hmmm.

It was a similar thing actually with the Green New Deal is that we were floating this as a policy discussion before even the general election and what we found was that we were, we were interviewing policy experts and academics and activists and advocates about this and we weren’t even sure if we wanted to call it a Green New Deal. I wasn’t 1000 percent sure on that kind of branding, if you will, or how we would talk about that. And what we found was that it was. [K]ind of a working title, Green New Deal was a working title, and we almost had the understanding that was going to be called something else, but it kept like leaking and catching and people just started writing articles calling it a Green New Deal (..)
OK, I did not know this. But as I said, I did not much like this article.

2. The Making of Juan Guaidó

This article is by Dan Cohen and Max Bumenthal on Consortium News. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
Before the fateful date of Jan. 22, fewer than 1-in-5 Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution.

But after a single phone call from from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself as president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the U.S.-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Echoing the Washington consensus, The New York Times editorial board hailed Guaidó as a “credible rival” to President Nicolás Maduro with a “refreshing style and vision of taking the country forward.” The Bloomberg News editorial board applauded him for seeking “restoration of democracy” and The Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel, and the bloc of right-wing Latin American governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
I say, which I do because (1) I hardly knew anything by Guaidó - which means, I take it - that the same holds for most non-South American politicians, whereas (2) the last paragraph quoted above shows that The New York Times, The Bloomberg News, and The Wall Street Journal almost certainly were lying about him.

Here is some more about Guaidó:
While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the U.S. government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrating his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.
I did not know that. There is no evidence in the quoted paragraph, but you can find some evidence in the article, which in fact is too long to excerpt properly.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Since the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, the United States has fought to restore control over Venezuela and is vast oil reserves. Chavez’s socialist programs may have redistributed the country’s wealth and helped lift millions out of poverty, but they also earned him a target on his back. In 2002, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition briefly ousted him with U.S. support and recognition, before the military restored his presidency following a mass popular mobilization. Throughout the administrations of U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chavez survived numerous assassination plots before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, has survived three attempts on his life.
OK. In fact, there is a whole lot more in this article, which is recommended.

3. Public Workers’ Trump Card

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Air traffic controllers hold the trump card (pardon the expression) in upcoming negotiations between Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over border security.

That’s because the president and the Republicans know that another shutdown would likely cause a repeat of what happened last Friday, when so many of the nation’s air traffic controllers called in sick that America’s air traffic came to a near standstill. Hours later, Trump agreed to reopen the government without funding for his wall.

Never underestimate the power of airport delays to arouse the nation. Nancy Pelosi deserves credit for sticking to her guns, but the controllers brought the country to its knees.

I believe Reich is correct in this estimate. Here is some more:

Trump is threatening another shutdown if he doesn’t get his way by 15 February, when government funding will run out again. “Does anybody really think I won’t build the WALL?” he tweeted Sunday, after his acting chief of staff said that he was prepared to shutter the government for a second time.

But his threat is for the cameras. If there’s no agreement this time around, the controllers won’t work another 35 days without pay. Now that they understand their power, they will shut down the shutdown right away. Trump knows this.

I think Reich is also correct in the above estimate. Here is some more:

But the decision last week by thousands of controllers not to come to work wasn’t a strike, and it wasn’t initiated by a union. Beforehand, Paul Rinaldi, the president of the controller’s union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, even went so far as to announce that the union did not “condone or endorse any federal employees participating in or endorsing a coordinated activity that negatively effects the capacity of the National Airspace System”.

Controllers simply stayed home. No federal law prohibits federal employees from getting sick or calling in sick. And who’s to say it was coordinated? Today, the internet can spread information about a voluntary walkout as quickly and efficiently as any centralized coordinator.

The larger story is that public workers who lack any formal power to strike – but have the informal power not to work – are becoming a new force in American politics and labor relations.

I think this is also correct - and here is a qualification by Reich:

Not all public workers can expect similar results by walking off their jobs. The walkout has to cause a major and visible disruption. (A work stoppage by FDA inspectors would hardly be noticed, at least until the public begins to worry about toxic drugs and tainted meat.)

And the public has to be supportive. By the fifth week of Trump’s shutdown, polls showed the public highly sympathetic to federal workers who hadn’t been paid. Likewise, most Americans have been on the side of teachers.

Yes, I think that is correct as well. Here is the ending of the article:

Finally, it’s not a weapon that can be used often because it relies for its potency on public frustration and inconvenience. If walkouts by public employees in France and other nations are any guide, public patience eventually wears thin.

But when elected officials in the United States abuse their power or take actions that unnecessarily harm the public, walkouts by public workers can function as an important constraint.

In the age of Trump, we need all the constraints we can get.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

4. 'Greed Has No Limit for GOP'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Just over a year after the GOP rammed through its $1.5 trillion tax plan—which has predictably rewarded the ultra-rich while doing virtually nothing for workers—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Republican colleagues were condemned for pushing yet another "blatant giveaway to their wealthy donors" by introducing a bill on Monday that would permanently repeal the estate tax.

"Greed has no limit for the GOP," declared Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. "We need to reverse direction—not allow the GOP to hand the rich even more tax cuts."

The deeply unpopular Republican tax law already significantly weakened the estate tax by doubling the exemption, allowing couples with up to $22 million to pass on their fortunes tax-free.

Yes, and I totally agree with Johnson. Here is what ending the estate tax means for American billionaires and the rest of the Americans:

"Ending the estate tax would give a tax break of up to $63 billion to the Walton family and $39 billion to the Kochs—but $0 to 99.8% of Americans," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted in a tweet on Tuesday. "At a time of record inequality, the very last thing we should do is line the pockets of the rich."

Quite so. And this is why this is really extremely unfair:

According to the Tax Policy Center, only around 1,700 of the country's wealthiest families are expected to pay the estate tax each year under the GOP law.

"Who in the world could look at this country and think that giving more money to the heirs of multi-million dollar fortunes is our most urgent and pressing need? The estate tax affects less than 2,000 families each year, and even with the tax, those heirs are able to inherit over $22 million completely tax free," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement. "Meanwhile, nearly 100 million Americans live in or near poverty, and 40 percent of working Americans make less than $15 an hour.

Yes, I agree with Morris Pearl. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

As Common Dreams reported last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—who recently entered the 2020 presidential race—unveiled the "Ultra-Millionaire Tax," which would impose an annual two percent wealth tax on Americans with over $50 million in assets. According to economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the tax would raise $2.75 trillion in revenue over ten years.

Additionally, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) earlier this month proposed hiking the top marginal tax rate on the ultra-rich to 70 percent—an idea economists have described as perfectly reasonable and right in line with where top tax rates were in the U.S. throughout most of the 20th century.

According to a survey conducted by The Hill and market research firm HarrisX earlier this month, 59 percent of the U.S. public supports raising the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent.

Well, I agree both with Warren and Ocasio-Cortez, and I like it that (at least) ¨59 percent of the U.S. public supports raising the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent¨. And this is a recommended article.

5. Here's the real story of the 2020 election: Billionaires vs. America

This article is by Amanda Marcotte on Salon. It starts as follows:

Will 2020 be defined as the election that pitted the super-wealthy against everyone else? Early indicators, as candidates start to enter the race, suggest that may well may be the case. Increasing rhetoric on the Democratic side is highlighting the already popular idea of soaking the rich as a way to address the myriad of social problems caused by economic inequality.  Meanwhile, billionaires are panicking and the right-wing propaganda  machine is snapping into action, trying to portray mild economic reforms as the moral equivalent of the Holocaust.

There's a real chance, then, that 2020 will become a showdown between American democracy and American capitalism.

Well... I hope ¨that 2020 will become a showdown between American democracy and American capitalism¨ though in fact I think that is rather unlikely. I do so mostly because (1) ¨the right- wing propaganda  machine¨ is much stronger and richer than anything the left-wing propaganda machine can put up, and (2) in fact there is only a minority of elected Democratic candidates who seem to be genuinely leftish.

Here is some more:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the first serious Democratic contender to make it official that she's running for president. It's clear that Warren's campaign, like her political career so far, will be focused on these issues of economic fairness. Last week, the Washington Post reported that Warren is proposing a "wealth tax" that would be applied to assets of the fantastically wealthy, with a focus on ameliorating massive inequality over time.

"Middle-class America has been paying a wealth tax forever," Warren explained on MSNBC Monday night. "It's called a property tax, on their principal accumulation of wealth, which is their home."

Yes, and I am for it. And here is some more about Ocasio-Cortez:

This follows a round of heavy coverage for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has proposed raising the marginal income tax rate to 70 percent for anything made above $10 million in a year. While there's considerable commentary pitting the two proposals against each other, they are best understood as complementary signs part of a rising tide of interest in using our tax structures to combat the a central problem of our society: A tiny handful of people hoard a disproportionate share of American wealth, while millions of Americans are poor, or live paycheck to paycheck.

Yes, I think Marcotte´s rendering is correct. Here is some more:

The past couple of years have seen the great unmasking of the billionaires, starting with the daily reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed billionaire, whether or not he really is one — sounds like a raving troll on Twitter and, in person, is frequently incapable of speaking in full sentences or expressing himself with coherence.

But it's not just Trump. The entire class of young internet billionaires who spent the past decade being toasted as geniuses is now experiencing a  major backlash and plenty of exposure for some of their intellectual and business flaws.

I think this is a little too optimistic, if only because ¨the great unmasking of the billionaires¨ hardly or not at all happened on the mainstream media, which is what the majority reads.

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

This upcoming presidential election could be a historic touchstone, a real measure of whether our democracy is morphing into a plutocracy, where the true desires of the people are overwhelmed by the sheer force of money in politics. The good news is that figures like Warren and Bernie Sanders — as well as the widespread embrace of policies like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal by most of the aspiring presidential candidates — suggest that the American people may still overcome big money at the polls.

Well... I am not as optimistic as Amanda Marcotte, but then I assume I am also quite a lot older than she is.  In brief: I hope she is right, but big money has a lot of power. 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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