April 26, 2019

Crisis: Fraud Joe Biden, Millionaires & Tax, Death Sentences, On Bernie Sanders, On Impeachment

“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 26, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 26, 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 26, 2019:
1. Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Plain and Simple
2. Even Millionaires Are Ashamed of Their Absurdly Low Tax Bills

3. 'A Death Sentence for Tens of Thousands of People'

4. Bernie Sanders and the Song of America

5. Impeachment
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. Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Plain and Simple

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Let’s be blunt: As a supposed friend of American workers, Joe Biden is a phony. And now that he’s running for president, Biden’s huge task is to hide his phoniness.

Yes, I agree. There are quite a few more articles on Biden as the - I believe - now 20th Democratic candidate for the American presidency, and I have read several of them, but this is a clear article, even though, or perhaps because of, Solomon's support for Bernie Sanders.

Here is some more:

From the outset, with dim prospects from small donors, the Biden campaign is depending on big checks from the rich and corporate elites who greatly appreciate his services rendered. “He must rely heavily, at least at first, upon an old-fashioned network of money bundlers — political insiders, former ambassadors and business executives,” the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Biden has a media image that exudes down-to-earth caring and advocacy for regular folks. But his actual record is a very different story.

During the 1970s, in his first Senate term, Biden spouted white backlash rhetoric, used tropes pandering to racism and teamed up with arch segregationists against measures like busing for school integration. He went on to be a fount of racially charged appeals and “predators on our streets” oratory on the Senate floor as he led the successful effort to pass the now-notorious 1994 crime bill.

Yes, I think all of this is correct. Here is some more:

In 2002, as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was the Senate’s most crucial supporter of the Iraq invasion.

Meanwhile, for well over four decades — while corporate media preened his image as “Lunch Bucket Joe” fighting for the middle class — Biden continued his assist for strengthening oligarchy as a powerful champion of legalizing corporate plunder on a mind-boggling scale.

Now, Joe Biden has arrived as a presidential candidate to rescue the Democratic Party from Bernie Sanders.

Yes again. There is quite a lot more that I skip in this review. Here is the ending of this article:

As a former Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and a current coordinator of the relaunched independent Bernie Delegates Network for 2019, I remain convinced that the media meme about choosing between strong progressive commitments and capacity to defeat Trump is a false choice. On the contrary, Biden exemplifies a disastrous approach of jettisoning progressive principles and failing to provide a progressive populist alternative to right-wing populism. That’s the history of 2016. It should not be repeated.

I agree again and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Even Millionaires Are Ashamed of Their Absurdly Low Tax Bills

This article is by Jon Hightower on Truthdig and originally on OtherWords. This is from near its beginning, and "They" = "America’s richest corporate powers":

They rushed there in 2017 with a passion hotter than high school love, spewing the pheromones of campaign cash into the Republican congressional caucus. Sure enough, the GOP Congress came through for the corporations, satisfying their lust to have their tax rate lowered from 35 percent to 21 percent — lower than a modest-income working stiff pays.

Actually, the corporate elites hadn’t been paying anywhere near 35 percent, since they used dozens of loopholes to cut their average rate to about 13 percent. Yet Republican lawmakers coddled these privileged giants with a rate cut — plus, they kept intact most of those gaping loopholes. Thus, many corporate behemoths paid $0 in federal taxes this year. Or less!

How is it possible to pay less than zero? By riddling the tax code with so many special deductions and gimmicks that the government owes you money.

Yes, I completely agree - and whenever the really rich pay percentually less taxes than the real middle class, which is the case in the USA, you can be sure that (i) this is strongly anti-democratic, and also (ii) is an illustration of what most really rich capitalists would like to do.

And yes, I am aware of the title and think it is correct, but with one proviso: The "millionaires" who "are ashamed of their absurdly low tax bills" are in a small minority when all American millionaires are considered.

Here is one more bit from this article:

On tax day this year, the watchdog Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a report documenting that 60 of America’s biggest corporations used the GOP’s tax cut and special breaks to avoid paying a dime in taxes on the $79 billion in profits they’d hauled in.

Indeed, they were given millions of dollars in rebates from our public treasury. For example, Amazon, which had $11 billion in profit last year, paid $0 in federal income tax, instead plucking $126 million in rebates from us. Likewise, Chevron, John Deere, GM, and Prudential grabbed more than $100 million.

This plutocratic ripoff is so shameful and un-American that a group of embarrassed rich people are calling for its repeal.

Again I completely agree (if you make $11 billion in profits, you should pay taxes, and if you don't something is very wrongly organized in the country where you need pay no taxes whatsoever even if you make $11 billion in profits) and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. 'A Death Sentence for Tens of Thousands of People'

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

Two American economists warn that U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela "are a death sentence for tens of thousands of people" and that the nation's humanitarian crisis will worsen as long as the sanctions continue.

Since August of 2017, President Donald Trump has imposed sanctions that "have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017–2018," write Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs.

Their paper—entitled Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela (pdf)—was published Thursday by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), and comes as Trump continues to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó's effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Yes, I agree with Weisbrot and Sachs. Here is some more:

The broad sanctions Trump imposed in 2017 fueled a sharp decline in oil production that impeded the Maduro government's ability to "import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation," and the U.S. president has ramped up economic pressure since offering his support to Guaidó earlier this year.

Quite so. Here is the moral lesson and also - possibly - the legal lesson from the above facts:

Overall, Trump's sanctions have "exacerbated Venezuela's economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths," write Weisbrot and Sachs. "All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans."

"These sanctions would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the U.S. is a signatory," the economists say. "They are also illegal under international law and treaties which the U.S. has signed, and would appear to violate U.S. law as well."

I believe this is all correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Given the toll Trump's economic policies are taking on Venezuela's civilian population, Weisbrot, in a statement Thursday, called on federal lawmakers to take action.

"The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports," he said. "This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it."

Given the above, this is a correct inference, although I do not believe Congress will do much about it. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Bernie Sanders and the Song of America

This article is by Thomas J. Adams on Common Dreams. This is from close to its beginning:

On April 15 Bernie Sanders became the first candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination not named Joe Biden to lead in a national poll.  His campaign later released internal polling showing him trouncing Donald Trump in the integral states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The countless outlets from left to right inclined to deride his candidacy and ideas were forced to admit that his performance at a Fox News town hall—doing the unimaginable thing of actually talking to voters who normally don’t vote for Democrats (or maybe that’s who don’t vote for normal Democrats)—was impressive, effective, and a sign of electability.  For the icing on the cake, an array of wealthy donors, financiers, defense industry contractors, a wannabe reality star son of Bank of America’s former chairman, and leading party figures were exposed for meeting in secret over canapes to organize a stop Bernie campaign, “sooner, rather than later.”  The fund-raising email wrote itself. The explicit confirmation that his campaign was threatening to people whose interests might not be exactly the same as most Americans was priceless.

Yes, I agree to all of the above. Also, I selected the present article for review because it praises Bernie Sanders, with which I agree to the extent that - after 5 years of continuous close studying of the American press - the only two members who contend for the Democratic presidency that I trust are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

You may disagree, but then again both you and I have no insight into the real payments that persons who have been elected to the House or the Senate do receive, and from whom, and for  which acts they get the money they get - and here it is rather important to remember that (i) the House + the Senate are the lawgivers in the USA, and (ii) every Senator and every House member has 10 or more personally attached lobbyists, who are lobbying with money.

Here is more from this article:

Unlike any other candidate in the Democratic Primary field and any other candidate in modern American history, Sanders talks in terms of expanding the inalienable rights of every citizen.

A large majority of Americans agree that health insurance should be a right, regardless of ability to pay.  Up until recently, most Democratic candidates talked about health savings accounts, increasing “access” and “affordability.”  Sanders on the other hand has always talked about health care as a right for all Americans.

Most Americans think that if you put in a full week’s work, regardless of what you do and where you do it, you should earn enough to have at least a modicum of economic security, decent housing, enough food to eat, some time to enjoy life, and the ability to raise a family.  Democrats talk about job training programs and tax credits. Sanders has always intoned about, borrowing from crazy Franklin Roosevelt, the right to a “freedom from want.”

Yes again: I quite agree - and note that I do know about Sanders from the early 70ies onwards, and this knowledge strongly contributes to my judgements.

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

More than any single person alive, Sanders has revived a language of social and democratic rights. The right to health care, living wages, a job, and higher education were not on the table of conceivable choices in American politics until four years ago. It’s fitting Bernie Sanders should add to that smorgasbord the rights of the largest number of legally disenfranchised American citizens.

Yes, I agree again, even with the "more than any single person alive" and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Impeachment

This article is by Robert Paul Wolff on his site. This a decent argument in favor of impeaching Trump. I quote only one part (but that is most of the article):
In the past seventy–two hours I have read and listened to endless discussions of the question, many from people I respect.  I am sure this is true of all of you as well.  I am going to offer my opinion, painfully aware that it rests on predictions and factual estimates of which I am not at all confident.

In brief, here is what I think the Democratic majority in the House should do:

1.         Launch detailed hearings in several different committees, supported by subpoenas and, if necessary, by legal proceedings to obtain as much precise, detailed evidence and sworn testimony as possible.  It would be well if these proceedings extend well into the fall.

2.         Meanwhile, continue drafting, holding hearings on, and passing legislation dealing with health insurance, drug prices, infrastructure, student loans, voter suppression, equal rights, minimum wage, and so on, clearly acknowledging that the Senate will not even take these bills up but presenting them as a promissory note to the American people, to be redeemed when the Democrats take back the Senate and the Presidency.

3.         Some time in the fall, complete its investigations and vote to censure the President, an action I believe never before taken by either chamber.

4.         Then, in late fall, launch full scale impeachment proceedings, leading early in 2020 to a vote to return a bill of impeachment against the president.  Speaker Pelosi should deliver a speech on the occasion of the vote openly acknowledging that the Senate Republicans will not vote to remove the President from office and indeed may not even take the question up for deliberation.

Then, the Democrats should run on a robust platform of specific legislative proposals based on the bills already passed in the House, and call on their base to turn out in record numbers in order to complete the removal of Trump that the Republicans were too craven to carry out.
I am rather sure that this is the best argument for impeachment that I've read. Also, it is by a philosopher, and is based on factual considerations and on three assumptions, which I leave to your consideration. 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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