March 13, 2019

Crisis: Trump´s Tax Returns, On Brexit, On the U.S. Deficit, Trump´s Budget, On Tim Berners-Lee

“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 13, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 13, 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 13, 2019:
1. David Cay Johnston: We Will See Trump’s Tax Returns
2. Brexit: Votes on No-Deal, Delay Still Planned

3. The Yuge Republican Lie About The Deficit

4. Trump's Budget for a Nightmare America

5. Tim Berners-Lee Says 'You Should Have Complete Control of Your Data'
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. David Cay Johnston: We Will See Trump’s Tax Returns

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

The New York Times is reporting New York Attorney General Letitia James issued subpoenas late Monday to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records related to the Trump Organization. This comes just weeks after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements. New York state regulators subpoenaed the Trump Organization’s insurance broker, Aon, after Cohen’s testimony. The House Judiciary Committee also recently requested documents from 81 people and groups in Trump’s inner circle. We speak with David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, and founder and editor of His most recent book is titled “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.”

Yes, and as I said before, I like David Cay Johnston, who studied Trump for decades, and who seems a sensible man.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) David Cay Johnston, welcome back to Democracy Now! In a moment, we’re going to talk you about Trump’s new budget, but right now, this latest news of further investigations into President Trump.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Donald Trump has always been able to stop investigations into his background. He beat four federal grand juries as a young man, for example. And New Jersey casino regulators never did their job digging into him. Now he’s got a New York state attorney general, Letitia James, who ran for office saying, “I’m going to dig into Donald Trump,” and she has the legal tools to do so. We’ve got the Southern District of New York, which is very experienced in these, and we’ve got a host of committees in the House.

We’re going to see Donald Trump’s tax returns. We’re going to see how much money he got from Russian oligarchs. And the Deutsche Bank matter is particularly important, because Deutsche Bank, which has been fined altogether over $22 billion for misconduct, is the second-leading bank in the world for laundering Russian money. Arguably, it is not a bank; it is a criminal enterprise.

I say, which I do this time because I am less certain of the things Johnston says in the second of the above paragraphs. Then again, I agree Johnston knows more about Trump than I do.

Here is some more:

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: First of all, since 1924, we have had a law that says Congress can look at anyone’s tax returns. And they do it all the time. If you get a refund of more than $2 million, it’s automatically sent to Congress for review by staff experts who work on the tax committees. So we will see his returns. And if the administration tries not to turn them over, they might win at the first court, but they will lose that fight.

Now, the STAR tax credit is something that if you’re a homeowner in New York state, as I am, if you make less than $500,000, you get a credit on your property tax bill, or, at one point, you got a check in the mail. Donald collected this for, I think, four years. It’s public record who gets it. You only get it if your income on your tax return shows less than $500,000. Donald came up with this—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So that indicates that for four years his official tax returns were saying that he made less than $500,000 a year.

Yes indeed. Then again, I have no idea about what Donald Trump is really worth. And one of the problems is that nobody (except Trump and a few more) has a really good idea, while Trump still has not submitted his taxes.

Here is the last bit I report from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) What do you think is most explosive?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, I think the single most important thing is how much money he got from the Kremlin. The Russian oligarchs are essentially a criminal gang led by Vladimir Putin. And we know they have been putting money into his pocket, as have many other—remember, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the theft of the property of the people of the old Soviet Union. And Donald has been a person who’s laundered money for these people, held money for these people, done deals that make no sense for these people and with them. And we need to understand that Donald Trump is not a loyal American. The kindest thing, Amy, I could say about Donald is he has divided loyalties. His own actions have indisputably shown that. I think he is a Kremlin agent—unwittingly, perhaps, because Donald is not very witting. But he is absolutely, in my view, a Kremlin agent.

I say, which I do this time because it seems to me that Johnston is far more certain of his version than I am. Also, while I grant that Johnston knows more about Trump, and especially Trump´s financial affairs than I do, I doubt whether he knows as much about programming as I do, and I rely for my opinions on Russia-gate on some of the best and the best informed programmers the USA had, namely Binney, McGovern and the VIPS. And they say that most of the supposed evidence they saw that connects Trump and Russiagate was baloney. Anyway, this is a recommended article. 

2. Brexit: Votes on No-Deal, Delay Still Planned

This article is by The Associated Press on Truthdig. This starts as follows (and I should say that this is not a real article but a series of notes):

Britain’s Parliament has dealt a major blow to Prime Minister Theresa May, resoundingly rejecting her Brexit deal just 17 days before the U.K. is due to leave the bloc.

Lawmakers voted by 391 to 242 against the deal, the second time they have defeated it.

The House of Commons threw out the agreement by an overwhelming majority in January, sending May back to the EU to seek changes.

On Monday, May said she had secured “legally binding” changes to allay lawmakers’ fears — but it wasn’t enough.

Lawmakers will now vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal on the scheduled date of March 29, or to ask the bloc to postpone Britain’s departure.

Yes, that seems all quite correct. Here is some more:

British Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that Parliament will get to decide between leaving the European Union with no deal and delaying Brexit.

May says she “profoundly regrets” the House of Commons rejection of her deal Tuesday and said delaying Britain’s departure won’t solve the underlying problem.

She says Parliament will be given a chance to “decline” leaving the EU without a deal on March 29 in a Wednesday vote.

If that is the choice, Parliament will decide Thursday whether to seek an extension that would delay Britain’s departure date.

May cautions that the EU will need a reason to approve a delay.

I say, which I mainly do because from the very beginning Brexit seemed silly, and the policies and politics associated with Brexit were and still are a major mess. And this is a recommended article.

3. The Yuge Republican Lie About The Deficit

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

When asked about America’s soaring debt and deficits, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lamented  “It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” and he blames Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Rubbish. It’s not social spending that’s causing the federal deficit to soar. It’s Republican tax cuts, especially on corporations and the wealthy. 

Look at the evidence. Of all 35 advanced economies, America’s spending on social programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid is among the lowest, as you can see.

Also, Americans pay into Social Security and Medicare throughout their entire working lives. 

The biggest reason America has the highest deficit relative to our total economy among all 35 advanced economies is because of a shortage of tax revenue.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. Here is more:

And why is that? Mainly because of Republican tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy. The big Trump Republican tax cut is already breaking the bank. It will cost us 1.9 trillion dollars over the next decade. Let me repeat that: 1.9 trillion dollars. 

Remember, Trump and Republicans in Congress claimed that their tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations would pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. It’s the same trickle-down fairy tale they’ve been telling for decades.

Again I completely agree. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

If there’s one area where America spends too much, it’s the military. Since taking office, Trump has increased military spending by more than $200 billion a year, straining the federal budget even further. The United States already spends more on the military than the next 10 nations combined. 

Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and other Republicans in Washington want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s been the Republican goal for decades. And they want to use the deficit to justify these cuts.

They also argue that we can’t afford a comprehensive healthcare system that the rest of the advanced world has figured out how to afford. 

Baloney. If the rich and corporations pay their fair share and we rein in defense spending, America can afford what we need.

I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Trump's Budget for a Nightmare America

This article is by Morris Pearl on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

On Monday, President Trump released his 2019 budget proposal, a plan that outlines a series of massive cuts to vital public programs in the ludicrously titled “A Budget for a Better America.”

While this is just a list of funding ideas that mean nothing without Congressional approval, it outlines Trump’s vision for our economic future – one that allows us already wealthy people to get even richer, at the expense of everyone else. The chief targets of the budget are a proposed $845 billion cut from Medicare over the next decade, reductions to welfare programs and Social Security, and sharp cuts to agencies that keep us safe like the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department.

Yes indeed. Also, Morris Pearl is not on Wikipedia, but he is one of the Patriotic Millionaires, about whom I also do not know much.

Here is some more:

It’s no secret that Republicans have been trying to gut public services for years, so what makes this new plan particularly heinous? It’s not just the immediate spikes in healthcare costs or the loss of crucial welfare assistance. It’s not even the fact that slashing those vital public services that will leave the majority of our most vulnerable citizens in an even more precarious position long-term.

It’s the shameless hypocrisy that comes from the President claiming we don’t have the money to fund all these services when he just gave his friends (and himself) a massive $1.5 trillion tax cut barely over a year ago. You would be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the White House who believes that the country is better off with more tax cuts for millionaires and less funding for Medicare.

I more or less agree - and $1.5 trillion (in tax cuts for the rich) is $655 billions more than he now wants to cut from Medicare, Social Security etc. Then again, I probably am a bit too cynical (and have been very poor all my life) to accept that there is hardly anyone ¨outside of the White House who believes that the country is better off with more tax cuts for millionaires and less funding for Medicare¨, for the simple reason that I believe quite a number of Trump´s followers still do believe him (if indeed usually based on solid ignorance).

Here is some more:

With no chance of this budget becoming law anytime soon, it’s likely, then, that this serves as a blueprint for Trump’s re-election promises. That future is the true danger of Trump’s budget. Even if this is just a posturing plan right now, one that’s completely unrooted in reality, it serves as the economic vision that Republicans will propose to voters in 2020, and one they will try to deliver if elected.

Actually, I do not think so: I think that the economic vision that Republicans will propose to voters in 2020 probably will sound considerably less extreme, although I also think these proposals will be quite dishonest, and will serve only to get sufficiently many votes.

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

Conservatives rely on the constant refrain that spending is out of control and that cuts are needed to rein it in and balance the budget. But as this budget shows, the cuts come from everywhere except the people and corporations that have the most to give back to the system that allowed us to rise in the first place. It exacerbates our existing inequality by slashing these services and giving us millionaires even more opportunity to avoid paying our fair share. A better America is one that invests its dollars in its own citizens and ensures an equality of opportunity that benefits us all. A budget designed by robber barons to benefit the few, at the expense of everyone else, will not deliver that dream.

I more or less agree to the above, although I also think that ¨an equality of opportunity¨ is just impossible under capitalism. Then again, I agree that there are several kinds of capitalism, and Trump´s capitalism is the capitalism of the very rich. This is a recommended article.

5. Tim Berners-Lee Says 'You Should Have Complete Control of Your Data'

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

"You should have complete control of your data. It's not oil. It's not a commodity," Sir Tim Berners-Lee charged ahead of an event celebrating the 30th birthday of the World Wide Web—his invention that created the internet as we know it.
A major aspect of his vision for the future of the web requires rethinking personal data. "You should not be able to sell it for money," Berners-Lee told reporters at CERN, according to Agence France-Presse, "because it's a right."

Personal data essentially has become a form of currency that internet users turn over—sometimes unintentionally—to major tech corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google in exchange for using their services. Through a variety of initiatives, Berners-Lee is working to change that.

Well... I do not trust Berners-Lee, and my main reason is that I think that the internet has turned out to be the best guarantee for a kind of fascist authoritarianism there has ever been:

All the governments´ - anonymous - spies from anywhere have access to everything that anybody wrote or published on the internet, and to the same of their friends, and the friends of their friends, and precisely the same holds for any corporation that is rich enough.

Together, this means that a very few spies and a very few rich men can indirectly control anyone, and will know virtually everything about virtually anyone.

This is - as was repeatedly said by formed members of the Stasi and the KGB - tenthousands of times more powerful than anything the KGB possibly could know.

Here is some more from this article:

Berners-Lee, in the letter, identifies "three sources of dysfunction affecting today's web" that must be addressed:

  1. Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behavior, and online harassment.
  2. System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.
  3. Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarized tone and quality of online discourse.

While, as Berners-Lee notes, no one person, corporation, or government is solely at fault for the web's current problems, resistance to what he and many others see as necessary systemic reforms has come from powerful companies and political actors.

Well... 2. is based on the mechanisms Berners-Lee created, and 3. may be a consequence of the stupidity and ignorance that seem to move most.

I will here concentrate on 1.: State sponsored hacking, and corporation sponsored hacking are all direct consequences of Berners-Lee design of the WWW. I got internet in 1996, which was fairly early, but even then I had immediate and strong reservations about the fact that my e-mails would be (and still are) send without any encryption, which means that they could and can be read by anybody rich enough to intercept them.

Berners-Lee certainly knew this when he designed the internet, but he designed the internet not ¨for the people¨ but for DARPA, and DARPA wanted since the late 1960ies (see my
Crisis: propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968
) an internet that would create a new society, that was called by Brzezinski ¨the technotronic society¨ in 1967, about which he said then:
Our society is leaving the phase of spontaneity and is entering a
more self-conscious state; ceasing to be an industrial society, its is being shaped to an ever-increasing extent by technology and electronics,
and thus becoming the first technotronic society. This is at least in part the cause for much of the current tensions and violence, and largely the reason why events in America today do not fit established categories of analysis.

Mr Brzezinski realises that the technotronic society fills some
people with uneasiness (in this respect the reactionaries and the
revolutionaries are as one).
However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite
lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new
order. For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost
continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-
date, complete files, containing even personal information
about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be
possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
And this is precisely what Brzezinski and DARPA got from Berners-Lee, that is, one with ¨continuous surveillance over every citizen¨ (by the anonymous spies who know everything anyone thinks, values, desires, reads, earns etc. etc. etc.); one with ¨up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen¨ , that is, about every citizen; one that made it ¨possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future¨ and one where the anonymous spies or corporations are ¨even (..) able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them¨.

Mr. Brzezinski called this
¨the technotronic societty¨ in 1967; I call it a totally realized dream of the basis for fascism, that also will be almost impossible to defeat, simply because the spies do know everything in principle about anyone (right now!).

And that dream of Brzezinsi of 1967 was realized by Berners-Lee in 1989. I fear he agreed already in the 1980ies with Brzezinski of 1967, and indeed he seems to love extra-ordinarily empty propaganda like this, which is again from the article I am reviewing:

"The fight for the web is one of the most important causes of our time. Today, half of the world is online," Berners-Lee concludes in his open letter. "The web is for everyone and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won't be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the web we want."

Also, if I look at Berners-Lee´s ¨Contract for the Web¨ all I see is dead and tasteless propaganda without any indication how any of the propaganda might or could be realized.

In any case, I do not trust Berners-Lee, and the present article provides some reasons why and is recommended.

[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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