April 4, 2019

Crisis: On The Draft, A Global Recession?, On Criminal CEOs, On the Wealthy & Taxes, On Assange

“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 April 4, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 4, 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 April 4, 2019:
1. Was Ending the Draft a Grave Mistake?
2. Is a Global Recession Looming on the Horizon?

3. Elizabeth Warren Unveils Sweeping Bill to Punish Criminal CEOs

4. US Campaign Aims to Make Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share

5. Ecuador President Threatens to Decide Assange’s Fate Over Scandal
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. Was Ending the Draft a Grave Mistake?

This article is by Maj. Danny Sjursen on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

I spent last week at Angelo State University in remote central Texas as a panelist for the annual All-Volunteer Force (AVF) Forum. It was a strange forum in many ways, but nonetheless instructive. I was the youngest (and most progressive) member, as well as the lowest-ranking veteran among a group of leaders and speakers that included two retired generals, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a few former colonels and several academics. Despite having remarkably diverse life experiences and political opinions, all concluded that America’s all-volunteer military is not equitable, efficient or sustainable. The inconvenient truth each of the panel participants had the courage to identify is that the end of the draft in the U.S. had many unintended—and ultimately tragic— consequences for the republic.

I say, for I did not know this. Then again, I do have a definite opinion on ending the draft and it is this:

Wholly apart from the ideas that the present American All-Volunteer Force is neither efficient nor sustainable, which it may well be but about which I know almost nothing, my position on the draft is that I am strongly for the draft.

My reasons are mainly the following three:

In the first place, I think a democracy should be defended, if it needs to be, by the whole population in so far as this is capable of defending it militarily and gets drafted, and conversely, if the country is not defended by the whole population, it must be considerably less of a real democracry than it pretends to be.

In the second place, in the real - political and economical - world most things are decided by wealth and by power, which also strongly overlap, simply because if you are wealthy, it is a lot easier to get power, and if you are powerful it is a lot easier to get rich, and having a non-drafted all-volunteer military force will be in nearly all cases forces of the rich or the wealthy, rather than forces of and for the people.

In the third place, in a
non-drafted all-volunteer military force there will be almost certainly  extremely few children from rich parents, and disproportionally many from poor parents, which supports both previous points.

There are quite a few other arguments, but I will not discuss them here and now. I also have to admit that I personally disliked being drafted (which I was, in 1968), but that I got out of the draft for - nonsensical - medical reasons.

Anyway... here is some more:

The oft-praised U.S. military is, disturbingly, the most trusted public institution
in the country. These days, active service members and veterans are regularly paraded before an otherwise apathetic citizenry at nearly every sporting event. Public figures and private citizens alike fawn over and obsessively thank the troops at every possible opportunity. It seems strange, however, that Americans are so hyperproud of their military, seeing as it neither reflects society nor achieves national objectives overseas. After all, the military only accounts for about

0.5 % of Americans and, as  recent statistics indicate, the Army is falling well short of its recruiting goals. Not to mention that for all the vacuous pageantry and celebrations of a military that is increasingly divergent from civil society, few seem to ask an important question: When was the last time the AVF won a war?

The AVF is ultimately an unfair, ineffective and unsustainable organization charged with impossible, ill-advised missions by policymakers and a populace that actually care rather little for the nation’s soldiers. As the AVF nears its 50th anniversary, there’s no better time than now to assess the model’s flaws and its effect on American democracy.

I think this is mostly correct, but I do not know. And I comment on only one thing in the above quotation: I quite agree with Sjursen that it is quite strange that the U.S. military is "the most trusted public institution in the country", but I agree it probably is.

This is how the all-volunteer military force came about:

Way back when the U.S. military was bogged down in an unwinnable, immoral and ill-advised war in Vietnam, newly elected President Nixon faced a serious problem. Tricky Dick, as he is sometimes known, wanted to prolong and escalate the war into Cambodia and Laos in order to achieve “peace with honor”—in other words, seem tough and save some American face. Only the growing domestic anti-war movement that was gaining influence in Congress stood in his way. No doubt cynically, but also astutely, Nixon surmised that fear of individual conscription largely motivated youthful anti-war activists. Thus, in a Faustian devil’s bargain, he helped end the draft and usher in a brand-new all-volunteer force. Surprisingly, his gambit worked, and the steam blew out of the anti-war movement over time. Today, it is with the same all-volunteer force Nixon left us with that the U.S. wages war across the breadth of the planet.

Yes, I think that is mostly correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

At the recent forum, Laich proposed an alternative to the current volunteer system. To ensure fairness, efficiency and sustainability, the U.S. could create a lottery system (with no college or other elite deferments) that gives draftees three options: serve two years on active duty right after high school, serve six years in the reserves or go straight to college and enroll in the ROTC program. Whether or not one agrees with this idea, it would create a more egalitarian, representative, affordable and sustainable national defense tool. Furthermore, with the children of bankers, doctors, lawyers and members of Congress subject to service, the government might think twice before embarking on the next foolish, unwinnable military venture.

Yes, I basically agree (and Holland, where I live, had a similar system in the 1960ies as proposed by Laitch, although it now also has an all-volunteer force). There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended.

2. Is a Global Recession Looming on the Horizon?

This article is by Paul Jay on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

What follows is a conversation between Economist Heiner Flassbeck and Paul Jay of the Real News Network. Read a transcript of their conversation below or watch the video at the bottom of the post.

PAUL JAY: If you listen to the business press, it won’t be long before we’re in recession, and perhaps globally something even more serious. That’s coming up next on The Real News Network.

I say, for while I do believe there is another recession coming, I hardly read the business press.

Here is some more:

PAUL JAY: Well, as I said, if you listen to the gurus of finance that show up on Bloomberg Radio and other financial press and information, they are predicting a recession, perhaps before the end of 2019. And there is also lots of concern about the state of the global financial architecture, to use the kind of words they use in the financial and business press. One can see it in the stock market zooming up, and it doesn’t take a heck of a lot for it to zoom way down. There is tremendous volatility, and nobody quite knows what is coming next, I suppose, except if you’re in the know you can make a lot of money out of the volatility.

I suppose this is true. Here is some more:

PAUL JAY: OK. So talk about, first of all, why are so many, it seems, in the business consultancy, predictors, predicting a slowdown and recession, perhaps by the end of 2019? And it will be very interesting timing, because if there is a recession it within that time frame, then it could well come, you know, leading up into the 2020 elections in the United States.

HEINER FLASSBECK: Well, you see, we have a number of signals all around the world that show that a recovery may be over.
In Europe it’s a bit different. In Europe we had more or less no recovery, only a very, very brief recovery of 1.5 years or so. And there are signs of a recession even stronger in Europe. In Japan, also, there was quite a bit of a recovery. In China we had 30 years of a boom, and at a certain point is a boom is coming to an end. And all this may come together now and create, indeed, a very dangerous situation for the global economy.

In fact, I do not even know what kind of economist Flassbeck is (and in the present supposed science of economics there are at least 3 quite different conceptions of what the science of economics is, and is about), but I agree with two points in the above quotation:

Firstly, if indeed there is a recession by the end of 2019, this may interfere, probably quite negatively, with Trump's chances of winning the 2020 presidential elections.

And secondly, I agree with Flassbeck that it is especially Europe that is the problem (and I live in Europe, and have seen no sign of as much as "
a very, very brief recovery of 1.5 years or so", which may be partially explained by the fact that I am among the poorest of the poor, after over 40 years of "a serious chronic disease", that was denied to exist by everybody official - which was much more profitable for the deniers - for 39 years).

Here is some more from the article:

HEINER FLASSBECK: Europe is the biggest problem. You see, the United States were quite pragmatic. They had fiscal policy, extremely expansionary fiscal policy all the time. in Europe the situation is really really dangerous, because we had, as I said, no recovery. Unemployment is still very high in many countries. In France is 9 percent, in Italy it’s more than 10 percent. So we had no investment boom in Europe, not even in Germany, which was the country that is best off of all of them. And so for now it just remained zero, and we’re going into recession. So there is no possibility to stimulate the economy from the monetary side. And on the fiscal side, and this is the worst thing, on the fiscal side there is this enormous dogma in Europe that you should not use fiscal policy. Which is crazy, which is absolutely crazy.

PAUL JAY: Explain for a second for viewers who don’t follow these things what you mean by fiscal policy.

HEINER FLASSBECK: Fiscal policy is stimulating demand by government debt.

I take this again mostly as given, but do like to remark that what is here called "fiscal policy" sounds in my ears like Keynesianism.

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

PAUL JAY: And what–if there is a hard Brexit, meaning if the United Kingdom leaves Europe with no deal whatsoever, what does that do to an already fragile European economic situation?

HEINER FLASSBECK: Yeah, it could end up in a disaster if no one reacts immediately in terms of sort of, say, giving a safety net to these economies that the uncertainty is dramatically increasing. Nobody knows what happens to the trade relations with the United Kingdom. So that could really trigger a deep, deep recession. And as I said, given the situation Europe is in, it would be politically a plain disaster, a huge disaster. And that would have definitely negative spillover to all of the world.

Yes, I think I agree again, and this is a recommended article.

3. Elizabeth Warren Unveils Sweeping Bill to Punish Criminal CEOs

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

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation Wednesday that would make it easier to imprison corporate executives whose companies commit crimes or “harm large numbers of Americans through civil violations.”

“Corporations don’t make decisions, people do, but for far too long, CEOs of giant corporations that break the law have been able to walk away, while consumers who are harmed are left picking up the pieces,” the 2020 Democratic presidential contender said in a statement.

According to a summary released by Warren’s office, the Corporate Executive Accountability Act would expand criminal liability to executives of companies that:

  • Are found guilty, plead guilty, or enter into a deferred or non-prosecution agreement for any crime;
  • Are found liable or enter a settlement with any state or federal regulator for the violation of any civil law if that violation affects the health, safety, finances, or personal data of 1% of the American population or 1% of the population of any state;
  • Are found liable or guilty of a second civil or criminal violation for a different activity while operating under a civil or criminal judgment of any court, a deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreement, or settlement with any state or Federal agency;

Under Warren’s bill, punishment for a first offense would be “up to one year” of jail-time. A second offense would carry up to three years in prison.

The Corporate Executive Accountability Act would apply to companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

“Our justice system should ensure that if you cheat working Americans, you’ll go to jail,” the Massachusetts senator tweeted.

I am a proponent of Warren's proposed new law (which I think is unlikely top become a law, but that is an aside), but indeed mostly because the existing laws do simply not seem to work: You can get to jail in the USA for 10 years for possessing some 30 grams of marijuana, but if you are a rich CEO you can defraud millions and not be punished at all.

Here is some more:

Warren also reintroduced the Ending Too Big to Jail Act on Wednesday, with the goal of holding executives of Wall Street banks accountable for financial crimes.

“These two bills would force executives to responsibly manage their companies, knowing that if they cheat their customers or crash the economy, they could go to jail,” said Warren.

Yes indeed. Here is the ending of this article:

“Four words are engraved over the front door of the Supreme Court: ‘equal justice under law,'” the senator concluded. “It’s the fundamental principle that’s supposed to drive our legal system. But it’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail while a wealthy executive can walk away with a bonus after his company cheats millions of people.”

Quite so - but once again I like to point out that in fact the existing laws simply do not work anymore, in so far as the prosecutions and convictions of rich fraudulent CEOs is concerned, but this is a recommended article.

4. US Campaign Aims to Make Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share

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

A coalition of over a dozen progressive advocacy groups launched a nationwide "Tax the Rich" campaign Wednesday with the goal of building a grassroots movement to unrig the tax code and make wealthy Americans pay their fair share.

The new project, led by progressive advocacy group Tax March, will consist of on-the-ground organizing in crucial battleground states like Wisconsin and Iowa.

Tax March also plans to spend seven figures on digital, print, television, and radio ads "to educate the public about taxing the rich."

"Taxing the rich isn't just good policy, it's good politics—and this campaign will prove that," Maura Quint, executive director of progressive advocacy group Tax March, said in a statement. "Raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy is wildly popular with a majority of both Democratic and Republican voters."

To underscore this point, Tax March released new polling data (pdf) Wednesday showing that 75 percent of likely 2020 voters—including 60 percent of Republicans—support raising taxes on the wealthy.

Yes, I quite agree, and may add in support that the Republican Eisenhower taxed the rich more than anybody else, and precisely during his presidency the middle class strongly grew.

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

"If we are ever going to address our important national priorities, including healthcare, infrastructure, education, and climate change, we must raise trillions of new tax dollars from the well off and implement a tax system that works for everyone," Clemente added. "That starts by repealing the Trump-GOP tax cuts for the rich and corporations."

Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, argued that combating inequality with higher taxes on the rich would have both economic and political benefits.

"Concentration of wealth equals concentration of power," said Levin. "That means taxing the rich not only builds a more just economy, it builds a stronger democracy for all of us."

Quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Ecuador President Threatens to Decide Assange’s Fate Over Scandal

This article is by Elizabeth Vos on Consortium News. It has a subtitle:
Ecuador’s president is threatening to soon decide on Julian Assange’s refuge after his government falsely accused WikiLeaks of publishing files about a scandal that threatens to bring the president down, as Elizabeth Vos reports.
I say! And note the "falsely"! The article starts as follows (and I am sorry that the html of Consortium News is absolutely horrible, which means I have to convert it to pure ASCII before I can copy it):
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said Tuesday he would decide “in the short term” the fate of Julian Assange after claiming that WikiLeaks had “repeatedly violated” the terms of Assange’s asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy by commenting on a scandal linking a Panamanian investment company with Moreno and his family.

Those conditions, or protocol, were imposed by Ecuador on Assange in March 2018 and bar him from commenting publicly on political matters in exchange for being allowed to remain a refugee in the embassy. Assange never agreed to the protocol, which contradicts international refugee law guaranteeing freedom of expression. In addition there is protocol on WikiLeaks, which still has a working Twitter account.

“Ecuador”s President Lenin Moreno stated today that Assange has ‘violated the ‘conditions’ of his asylum’ and that he will ‘take a decision’ ‘in the short term” after @WikiLeaks reported on the existence of the #INAPapers offshore corruption scandal wracking his government,” WikiLeaks tweeted Tuesday.

WikiLeaks had reported about the scandal allegedly involving Moreno and his family with INA Investments Corp, though WikiLeaks has not published any documents related to the case. Moreno’s spokesman, however, has implied that WikiLeaks has. A search of Wikileaks’ website shows no such files.

According to Telesur English the scandal came to light in February when Ecuadorian legislator Ronny Aleaga told reporters he had “received a dossier anonymously filled with documents that will implicate Lenin Moreno and his family in alleged crimes of corruption, perjury and money laundering.” The dossier has come to be known as the INA Papers.
I say, once again. Well... the above bit more or less sums it up, and I am not up to converting more of the truly horrible html of Consortium News to ASCII before I can copy it in Nederlog.
Anyway... 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 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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