March 12, 2019

Crisis: Israel & The USA, NYT vs Sanders, Trump´s Major Cuts, Warren vs Big Tech, The Big Cheat

“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 March 12, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, March 12, 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 March 12, 2019:
1. Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics
2. The NYT Has Been Sandbagging Bernie Sanders for Years

3. Trump Budget Would Slash Medicaid by $1.1 Trillion

4. Warren is Correct about Busting Up Big Tech

5. The Big Cheat of 2018
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The Israel lobby’s buying off of nearly every senior politician in the United States, facilitated by our system of legalized bribery, is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The lobby’s campaign of vicious character assassination, smearing and blacklisting against those who defend Palestinian rights—including the Jewish historian Norman Finkelstein and university students, many of them Jewish, in organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine—is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. Twenty-four state governments’ passage of Israel lobby-backed legislation requiring their workers and contractors, under threat of dismissal, to sign a pro-Israel oath and promise not to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The shameless decision in 2014 by all 100 U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, to pass a Soviet-style plebiscite proposed by the Israel lobby to affirm Israel’s “right to defend itself” during the 51 days it bombed and shelled homes, water treatment plants, power stations, hospitals and U.N. schools in Gaza, killing 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children, is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The U.S. refusal, including in the United Nations and other international bodies, to criticize Israel’s apartheid state and routine violation of international law is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The well-funded campaigns by the Israel lobby, which works closely with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, to discredit any American politician or academic who even slightly deviates from Israeli policy is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. (One infamous example of a U.S. politician kowtowing was the unconstitutional invitation by then-House Speaker John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress in 2015 to denounce President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear agreement.) The massive interference in our internal affairs by Israel and the Israel lobby, far exceeding that of any other country, including Russia or China, is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact.

I say, which I do because I did not know most of the above facts, which indeed I also take to be facts because they are stated by Chris Hedges, whom I trust, and who spent seven years in the Middle East as a foreign correspondent.

He also knows a lot more about Israel and the Middle East than I do. Then again, I could have known more about Israel than I do, but I don´t because while I liked Israel until ca. 1970, I have been liking it less and less ever since, and part of the reasons are - there are more than I give here - Israel´s going to the right, and being led by rightists I dislike and do not have any sympathy for, like Benjamin Nethanyahu.

Also, perhaps I should add that both my father and his father were communists who became communists in the middle 1930s because of the crisis, the rise of Nazism, and the treatment the Jews got by the Nazis, while both were arrested during WW II, in August 1941, and were sent to concentration camps, where my grandfather was murdered.

Here is some more:

Israel’s lackeys in the political class, along with bankrupt courtiers in the U.S. press, including former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) employee Wolf Blitzer, are making a serious mistake, however, in refusing to acknowledge Israel’s outsized, transparent and often illegal meddling in the American political system and Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians. It is too obvious and too egregious to hide. The longer the ruling elites ignore this reality and censor and attack those such as Rep. Ilhan Omar who have the temerity to name this interference and the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel, the more it gives credence to the racists, bigots, conspiracy theorists and white hate groups, many rooted in the Christian right, who are the real anti-Semites. Israel and its lobby, rather than protecting Israel and Jews, are steadily nullifying their moral and ultimately political force.

Perhaps. I just do not know enough to affirm this. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, still from its beginning:

Criticism of Israel and the ideology of Zionism is not anti-Semitic. Criticism of Israel’s influence and control over U.S. foreign policy, and of Israeli efforts to silence those who champion Palestinian rights, is not anti-Semitic. Criticism of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians or its dangerous campaign to orchestrate a war with Iran is not anti-Semitic. The more Israel and the Israel lobby abuse the charge of anti-Semitism, a charge the Israel lobby has leveled against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, among many others, the more they lose their effectiveness against the dangerous anti-Semites whose ranks are growing within the far right and across the Muslim world.

Yes, I think I agree with most of the above. There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

2. The NYT Has Been Sandbagging Bernie Sanders for Years

This article is by Joshua Cho on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:

While the New York Times has been sandbagging Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for years (Rolling Stone, 3/15/16), a recent headline: “Bernie Sanders Is Making Changes for 2020, but His Desire for Control Remains” (3/1/19) is a particularly overt example.

Unless one reads past the headline, which most Americans don’t, one is left wondering about what exactly Sanders desires to “control.” Is it the country? The media? When one actually digs into the Times’ article, written by Sydney Ember and Jonathan Martin, one quickly discovers that what Sanders desires to control is his own campaign, and that his oppressed victims were his highly paid media consultants, who quit because Sanders was “not willing to empower them.”

Left unreported by the Times were statements by the consultants themselves (CNBC, 2/26/19)  claiming that they were leaving on a “very positive note” over “differences in a creative vision,” and that they would be happy to assist his campaign again in the future. In the Times version, instead, we’re given anonymous sources described as “Democrats directly familiar with the episode” who give the impression the consultants were “enraged” over their “humiliation.”

I say, which I do because while I agree that The New York Times has been sandbagging Bernie Sanders for years, I did not know the above.

Here is more about the NYTs sandbagging of Sanders:

Another theme throughout the Times report is the implied notion that Sanders’ candidacy is redundant. When the corporate media aren’t busy undermining Sanders’ popular political agenda by claiming that it’s too “radical” and “expensive,” they also try to undermine his candidacy from the opposite angle, claiming that Sanders is now hard to distinguish from other candidates because numerous other Democratic candidates “support the same policies that made him unique in 2016.” The financial industry, though, doesn’t seem to have much difficulty distinguishing Sanders from most other Democratic candidates (..)

Yes indeed: I agree. There is more in the article that ends as follows:

Perhaps we should worry less about Bernie Sanders’ “desire for control” over his own campaign, and worry more about corporate media’s desire for control over our political perceptions.

Quite so, and this is a recommended article.

3. Trump Budget Would Slash Medicaid by $1.1 Trillion

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

While giving the bloated Pentagon “even more than it hoped for” by boosting U.S. military spending to $750 billion—an increase of $34 billion from last year—President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget would cut Medicaid by $1.1 trillion over the next decade.

Set to be unveiled on Monday, the president’s budget will call for a total of $2.7 trillion in cuts to safety net programs, environmental protection, food and housing assistance, and foreign aid over ten years, according to a summary reviewed by the Washington Post.

Top House Democrats were quick to declare the president’s request—which will also demand $8.6 billion in border wall funding—dead on arrival.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the proposal is “not even worth the paper it’s written on.”

Well... I am very glad that the Democrats did get the majority in the House, which indeed may stop the president´s budget.

Here is one more bit from this article:

“Each of the past two Trump budgets has targeted benefits and services for individuals and families of modest means for deep cuts, even as it has supported tax cuts conferring large new benefits on those at the top of the income scale,” noted the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a preview of the president’s 2020 request. “If enacted, these cuts would have increased poverty and hardship, leaving more people struggling to afford basics like food and rent.”

Yes, I think all of the above is correct and this is a recommended article.

4. Warren is Correct about Busting Up Big Tech

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

Presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren announced Friday she wants to bust up giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

America’s first Gilded Age began in the late nineteenth century with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction – but culminated in mammoth trusts run by “robber barons” like JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and William H.(“the public be damned”) Vanderbilt.

The answer then was to bust up the railroad, oil, and steel monopolies.

We’re now in a second Gilded Age – ushered in by semiconductors, software and the internet – which has spawned a handful of hi-tech behemoths and a new set of barons like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

The answer now is the same: Bust up the monopolies.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. Here is more:

Nearly 90 percent of all internet searches now go through Google. Facebook and Google together account for 58 percent of all digital ads (where most ad money goes these days).

They’re also the first stops for many Americans seeking news (93 percent of Americans receive news online). Amazon is now the first stop for a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.

With such size comes the power to stifle innovation. Amazon won’t let any business that sells through it to sell any item at a lower price anywhere else. It’s even using its control over book sales to give books published by Amazon priority over rival publishers.

I say, which I do because I did not know most of the facts stated above (possibly in part because I avoid both Google and Facebook as if they are made in hell).

Here is more on one of the implications of size:

Such size also confers political power to get whatever these companies and their top executives want.

Amazon – the richest corporation in America – paid nothing in federal taxes last year. Meanwhile, it’s holding an auction to extort billions from states and cities eager to have its second headquarters.

Yes, precisely - and this is one of the quite strange things about American taxes, that meanwhile seems to have been mostly corrupted by all manner of laws: How can corporations that make billions of profits every year pay nothing in taxes?!

Then there is Facebook:

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who holds the world’s speed record for falling from one of the most admired to the most reviled people on the planet, just unveiled a plan to “encrypt” personal information from all his platforms.

The new plan is likely to give Facebook even more comprehensive data about everyone. If you believe it will better guard privacy, you don’t remember Zuckerberg’s last seven promises to protect privacy.

I agree, and indeed I do not trust anything the ¨digital gangster¨ Zuckerberg says.

Here is Reich´s ending:

Let’s be clear: Monopolies aren’t good for anyone except for the monopolists.

In this new Gilded Age, we need to respond to them as forcefully as we did the first time around. Warren’s ideas are a good start.

I quite agree and this is a recommended article.

5. The Big Cheat of 2018

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Many of our country's largest corporations make billions of dollars in income, use deferrals and write-offs and credits to underpay their current tax bills by staggering amounts, and in some cases claim foreign profits and U.S. losses despite having much of their sales and assets in the United States. These captains of American capitalism are brazenly ignoring their responsibility to their own nation, a nation in desperate need of funding for education and infrastructure and job training. 

The corporate tax rate nosedived from 35% to 21% in 2017, but the thirty companies listed here paid only 8.7% of their reported U.S. income in current federal taxes (even worse, an estimated 7.4% if U.S. income were based on a true percentage of sales). That's $30 to $35 billion—from just 30 companies—that is owed to the American public.

Yes indeed - and this article can be seen as a continuation or a factual backup of the previous article.

Here are some of the richest corporations in the USA:

Amazon claimed a REFUND on its $11 billion in U.S. profits. It did the same on nearly $6 billion in profits in 2017. 

Netflix paid a 35 percent tax on its foreign earnings, a NEGATIVE TAX on its largest-ever U.S. earnings. 

IBM had 37% of its 2018 revenue in the U.S., but claimed only 6% of its income in the U.S., and despite making a total profit of over $11 billion, it claimed a REFUND on its federal taxes. 

Big Pharma? 

Pfizer, whose CEO Ian Read once complained that U.S. taxes had his company fighting "with one hand tied behind our back," had nearly half of its sales in the U.S. in 2018, yet claimed a $4.4 billion LOSS in the U.S. along with over $16 billion in foreign profits. 

Abbott reported 35 percent of its revenues in the U.S., but a LOSS in the U.S. along with a $3.3 billion foreign profit.

I think I quite agree with Buchheit that all of the above is based either on major falsifications by these corporations and/or on absolutely ridiculous tax laws.

There also is considerably more in the article that is not mentioned in this review. Here is one of the consequences:

Education funding comes mostly from state and local taxes. The average corporate state tax rate for 2018 is just over 6 percent. But the thirty major corporations listed here paid just 3 percent. That's seven billion dollars taken away from America's children.

I completely agree. Here is the ending of this article:

In a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, nearly 90 percent of respondents reported a lack of qualified applicants for job openings. If that's true, part of the reason is that America's largest corporations deny us the tax revenue that could be paying for worker education. Corporate greed and hypocrisy are shifting the blame for the skills gap to the millions of Americans being cheated out of job opportunities.

This seems correct, and this is a strongly 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 3 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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