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Nederlog

Friday, May 5, 2017

Crisis: Cruel  & Unfair Trumpcare, Privacy Nearly Dead, Trump's Tax Cuts


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. 'God Have Mercy on Your Souls': GOP Passes Cruel, Destructive
     Trumpcare Bill

2. Fighting for Privacy as Technology Monopolies Undermine
     Democracy

3.
Greg Palast: Trump's Tax Cuts Are More Evidence America's
     Greedy Billionaires Have Staged a Political Coup
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday
, May 5, 2017.

Summary: This is a
crisis log with three items and three links: Item 1 is about a fine article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams about the passage of the Trumpcare Bill (in Congress); item 2 is about an article about the enormous dangers of Facebook,
Google, and Amazon, which I quite agree with and for that reason never use - but the
real thing the article is about is published on Facebook, which I refuse to read; and item 3 is about a good interview with Greg Palast about America's greedy billionaires.

Also, the above is less than I originally intended, but the reason is that I made a mistake, that cost time to undo.

Here is a repeat from yesterday:
I have since February 1 made the Nederlog of the day (this one, today) into the opening of the site, but I found that is too much work for me (who also is ill) to do, so today I changed back to the previous old and proper schema (except for the fact that "xs4all" - really: the KPN - simply refuses to update my site properly, as they did do from 1996 to 2015, and as the other site I have, that I started in 2005 because already then "xs4all" was horrible for me, still does, and as is completely normal - but not for "xs4all" - really: KPN - anymore).

I have explained this in an earlier Nederlog and have also removed the upper white box that contained a link to the main index. The main index now opens my site as before, and till February 2017.
And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for no less than 1 1/2 years, now only at one of my sites:
May 5: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site - quite unaccountably - happens to be correct today. They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most. I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. 'God Have Mercy on Your Souls': GOP Passes Cruel, Destructive Trumpcare Bill

The first article today is by by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

After weeks of arm-twisting reluctant members and backroom negotiations, House Republicans voted Thursday to pass the much-maligned, "astonishingly evil" American Healthcare Act (AHCA), known as Trumpcare.

"God have mercy on your souls," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told her GOP colleagues during Thursday's floor debate. The final vote was 217 in favor and 212 voting against. No Democrats voted for the bill.

Indeed, with no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score on how many people would be affected, and with scant time for lawmakers to even read the latest iteration of the bill (that was not ever made available to the public), House Republicans have now officially backed legislation that would do untold damage to countless Americans.

Yes, indeed - and I mean: It is "astonishingly evil" - and please note that the bill was sofar not made available to the public.

Here is more:

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released a statement saying, "I've served in Congress for 52 years and it's hard for me to recall a time when we've voted on something so obviously and intentionally harmful to seniors and working people in this country."  

And Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org, said: "We have one message for House Republicans who voted today to take away health care from more than 24 million Americans and end vital protections for those with pre-existing conditions: See you at the ballot box."

I mostly agree, although I am skeptical about "See you at the ballot box", simply because (i) the voters are these days also massively propagandized and because (ii) after voting in Trump, whose appeal was mostly based on lies and bullshit, "the ballot box" is a rather uncertain instrument.

Here is more:

Ahead of the vote, Ben Wikler, MoveOn.org Washington director, outlined the ways in which the GOP plan is short but a "disaster."

"It would take away health care from millions of people, cost thousands more for middle-class and low-income Americans, and strip protections from people with pre-existing conditions, all to give a massive tax break to insurance company CEOs and the wealthiest Americans."

Indeed, and in my own terms, Trump and his Republicans succeeded in denying 1 1/2 times the total Dutch population from health care. And as I said before, if your policies deny health care to "more than 24 million Americans" this is intentional,
and to me it seems as if the Republicans tell the American poor that they do not deserve to live in an America that is run on Republican principles.

Here is a bit that is quoted partially: All the main points are quoted, but considerable parts of the text are deleted here. If you want to read them click the last of the above dotted links:

Here is what we do know:

-Even those covered by employer healthcare are under threat.
 
(...)
-Trump lied, premiums for people with pre-existing conditions
  will
  skyrocket.
 (...)
"The return of discrimination based on medical history could increase insurance costs by tens of thousands of dollars," states an analysis by the Campaign for American Progress (CAP), "rendering it unaffordable for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions."
 (...)
-Being a woman "is a liability."
 (...)
-It takes an axe to Medicaid, decimating special education
  funding
.
 (...)
-It's a tax break for the rich. As Common Dreams has reported, the bill provides $600 billion in tax breaks to insurance companies and the most wealthy Americans who were taxed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
 
(...)
And note the last point, that seems quite true. Here is the outline of the Republican tax-plan that will, if it becomes law, kill millions of Americans by denying them health care:

In a press statement on Thursday, Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, outlined "the math behind the Republican healthcare repeal plan: Subtract healthcare from 24 million people. Add $600 billion in tax giveaways, mostly for the wealthy and corporations. Multiply out-of-pocket costs for senior citizens by 5. Divide all Americans. This equation didn't work out the last time they tried it, and it still doesn't work today. That's why Republicans in Congress want to exempt themselves and their staffs from their own lousy plan while refusing to wait for the Congressional Budget Office to estimate its costs."

Finally, there is this bit on the morality and the integrity of the Members of Congress:

-Lawmakers are exempt. Despite all of their rhetoric about the supposed failings of Obamacare, House Republicans inserted a provision on Tuesday that "exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest healthcare plan," Vox reported, meaning they will be able to opt out of the new amendment that charges more for people with pre-existing conditions.

They denied healthcare to more than 24 million poor people, but they took good and special care to exempt themselves and their servants...

Ah well! The only "positive" thing is that this still has to pass the Senate, and that some consider this less likely.

And this is a recommended article. 

2. Fighting for Privacy as Technology Monopolies Undermine Democracy

The second article is by Emma Niles on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The services of the tech giants Facebook, Google and Amazon are used by millions of Americans, but along with the benefits of expanding technology come the destruction of privacy, growth in inequality and ultimately, the collapse of democracy.

This is the argument Jonathan Taplin makes in his new book, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.”
Yes indeed: I wholly agree, and indeed I have never used Facebook, never used Amazon, and stopped using Google five years ago.

In fact - to straighten this out - I also do not think this will help much or anything (Facebook now has 2 billion members, all of whom sold their privacy to Suckerbug and his mates, and get "paid" by "personal advertisements"), but I am so much appalled by these extremely bad corporations led by extremely bad people that I do not want to have anything to do with these monstrosities.

And yes, I wholly agree with Taplin that their aim is "
the destruction of privacy, growth in inequality and ultimately, the collapse of democracy" (whatever they say - and lying is usually much easier than speaking the truth, for to lie all you need is self-interest and imagination, but to speak the truth generally involves some relevant knowledge).

Here is more:

These tech monopolies, Taplin argued during the conversation, “act like bullies.”

“Monopolies end up controlling the regulatory bodies that are supposed to be supervising them,” he added. “They get whatever they want.”

Yes, I think Taplin is right here as well. And here is one conclusion:

So what does this mean for privacy rights in this tech-driven age? “You can forget about freedom,” Scheer posited. He added that, even during Nixon’s administration, during which Scheer was on a government watch list, Nixon had “nothing” compared to the tools big-tech monopolies have today.

This conversation is even more crucial in the age of Trump, as the Federal Communications Commission (led by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai) and the GOP-led Congress seek to destroy net neutrality through recent legislation.

“The Trump administration’s effort to kill Net Neutrality is part of its ongoing attack on free speech and the First Amendment,” Joseph Torres of the organization Free Press recently argued. “Don’t be mistaken about what’s really going on. The White nationalist Trump administration is further embracing authoritarianism.  And that’s why the Trump team wants to destroy free speech and dissent—because they threaten authoritarian governments.”

I think that is mostly correct as well. Finally, here is a question from Taplin:

“Let’s think about what liberty really means,” Taplin concluded. “Is it liberty that I’m addicted to my smartphone?”

Of course not, but by now most Westerners have a smartphone; don't seem to care one bit that everything they do on it goes straight into their secret dossiers in many secret services; and most also seem to have several aliases that allows them to scold, troll, and say whatever they damn well please to anyone, for nobody but the secret services know who they really are.

For me, it is the total decline of nearly all civilization, and I don't have a smartphone and will never have one.

Also, while I do agree with Taplin, I think it is pretty (hm, hm...) sour to see that one can follow the full conversation between Taplin and Scheer on.... Facebook. (So I have not seen it and suppose I will never see it.)

3. Greg Palast: Trump's Tax Cuts Are More Evidence America's Greedy Billionaires Have Staged a Political Coup

The third and last article today is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Investigative journalist and filmmaker Greg Palast has spent decades covering two intertwined topics fueling the demise of American democracy: stolen elections and greedy billionaires. Trump's call for massive corporate tax cuts doesn't just revive failed Reagan-era economic policies, it's another sign of how America's super-rich have staged a coup. Palast, a trained economist, talked to AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld.

First about Greg Palast (<-Wikipedia): I think he is an interesting man and I have paid some attention to him in previous Nederlogs, notably here, but I do not know much about him.

The interview starts as follows:

Steven Rosenfeld: It seems every bad economic idea championed by Republicans is coming back in style under the Donald Trump-Paul Ryan regime. Am I imagining that?

Greg Palast: Unfortunately, it’s not a dream. You’re wide awake. Yes, these ideas come back. As the economist John Maynard Keynes said, “Mad men in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

So yes, what’s come back is voodoo economics. That is, if you cut taxes on the rich, they’ll get so excited and go into so much busy economic activity, that the economy will grow and your tax revenues will actually rise. So cut taxes, collect more taxes. It is a miracle. It is voodoo economics, as George Bush Sr. called it.
Yes indeed, and Palast is correct this is all intentional total bullshit: The rich have to pay taxes as the non-rich have to, and it simply is fair to demand more from the rich than from the non-rich. But in fact both the income tax and the corporate taxes are now lower than they were since 1947, while these taxes were highest under the (liberal) Republican Eisenhower.

Here is one explanation, which I also copy because it shows how high the taxes were under Eisenhower (and correctly so, in my opinon):
You can only get more revenue by reducing taxes on the rich if their taxes are somewhere above 90 percent. That’s how [President John] Kennedy got some extra tax revenue because the taxes on the rich (in the early 1960s) were at 90 percent. If you cut from 90 to 85 percent, you might induce some rich people to keep their money and invest. But right now, this is going to be a $2 trillion hole in the economy.
Indeed. And here is the reason why so many keep repeating this intentional total bullshit:
SR: So how do people keep making this argument with a straight face?

GP: Because it’s profitable. And the media has gone along—that Reagan was some kind of economic genius despite our massive deficits and destruction of the working class in America. That’s where it began. So there’s a profit to be made. Who owns the media? The guys who are getting these tax breaks.
Precisely. And here is more:
And in fact, that’s one of the biggest problems. They’re deceiving us because they make money off the deception. And also long as the suckers in those red trucker hats think that these guys are making America great again won’t wake up from the spell, they’ll using the same trick. They’ll keep playing three-card monte with you while you keep thinking you know which cup has the penny in it. No you aren’t. The game’s rigged.
Again, precisely so. Then there is this:
SR: This is what I hope people will start paying attention to, not the tweets or the stupid stuff he's saying. But the way that the people he has surrounded himself with are rewriting the rules of the road, in all these different areas, whether environment or taxes or the courts.

GP: Let’s put it this way. The liberalati press has decided that Trump didn’t get anything done in 100 days. Boy, are they asleep. They’re paying attention to the tweets, and Miss America is too fat, and let’s bomb North Korea. Right? But behind it were a massive number of executive actions and bills that they put through Congress reversing regulations all over the place.
I don't know. First, I am not reading much of the "liberalati press". Second, I do agree with the thesis (and don't care about its source) that Trump has done a lot less in the first three months than he threatened to do. Third, what is put through Congress needs to be approved by the Senate, and that may be more difficult.

Here is the last bit I'll quote from this article:
SR: This is what's going on. Do you see any hopeful signs of resistance? Are the Democrats going to rubber-stamp this? Or is this all done under the guise of regulations and nobody can really stop it because there’s a Republican monopoly on federal power?

GP: It’s not a Republican monopoly. It’s a billionaire monopoly. We’ve had a billionaire coup d’etat. And the billionaires own enough Democrats that you will not see pushback on a lot of these items. You will not see pushback on carried interest because Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader from New York, is not going to hit Wall Street, which is what he represents. So I’m not sure that the Democrats, per se, are going to rise up.

I have not seen many hopeful signs of resistance, but this may be because (i) I do not live in the USA, and (ii) whatever real resistance there is seems to be rather systematically confused with #TheResistance, which now also has Hillary Clinton as a member, and that I do not believe in (at all) because they have been carping on "Russian Hacking" for 6 months now without giving any evidence.

And second, Palast is quite right that "It’s not a Republican monopoly. It’s a billionaire monopoly." He also may be right that "a billionaire coup d’etat" has taken place, but if it has (and the Republican "monopoly on federal power" seems to suggest this is what has happened), then it was a slow "coup d'état", that started with Reagan, at least in my eyes.

And this is a recommended article.

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