Saturday, November 11, 2017

Crisis: China, McKibben, On The Constitution, The Mad King, Limitation of Earning, 21 YEARS

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 11, 2017 
3. My site exists 21 YEARS + some recent changes

This is a Nederlog of Saturday
November 11, 2017.

See below.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) 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 nearly two 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from November 11, 2017
1. China Has Donald Trump Just Where It Wants Him
2. Bill McKibben on Future of the Paris Climate

3. We Are Now One State Closer to Having a
     Corporate- Dominated Constitutional Convention

4. Year One: The Mad King
5. Billionaire Who Shuttered News Outlets Shows
     Why We Need a $1 Million Maximum Income

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. China Has Donald Trump Just Where It Wants Him

This article is by Roger Cohen on the New York Times. It starts as follows:

President Trump is incidental to China’s ambitions, a mere blip on a 33-year plan. In a speech last month, President Xi Jinping set out the objectives with great clarity. By 2035 China will be a “global leader in innovation,” showing “solid progress” toward “prosperity for everyone.” By 2050, China will be a “global leader in terms of composite national strength” and a “great, modern socialist country.”

Well... these are Xi Jinping´s promises rather than solid fact or indeed solid predictions. But I agree he made these promises, and I also agree with Xi that China is ¨socialist¨ in more or less the same sense as the Soviet Union was ¨socialist¨, while ¨socialist¨ China now exists nearly as long as the Soviet Union did, and will probably exist longer.

Then again, as my quotation-marks indicate, I disagree with the thesis that China is socialist: It is ruled by the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, which Party has nearly all the powers, but in my opinion it is far more like an authoritarian state-capitalism with a few sniffs of socialism, than like real - liberal - socialism. But in these respects it is like the Soviet Union.

Here is more on the present developments:

Xi gave Trump a warm welcome this week, said the Pacific was big enough for both nations and offered business agreements. Trump made nice and suggested that China and the United States could solve “almost all” of the world’s problems, “and probably all of them.” This was the noise. The real story is growing Chinese strength, steady Chinese purpose aimed at midcentury dominance and erratic American outbursts suggestive of a petulant great power’s retreat.

Yes, this seems true and one underlying gross fact is that China has almost 4 times as many inhabitants as the USA. (But the projected Chinese ¨midcentury dominance¨ is still 33 years in the future, in which time a whole lot may happen.)

And there is this on Xi:

Xi’s speech to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China marked his apotheosis. He has joined the pantheon along with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. His thought is now dogma. His China has entered a different phase. Having grown independent and then rich, it is now “becoming strong.”

Yes and no: Indeed Xi joined something like a Chinese pantheon, which I consider a pity, and not an optimistic sign, for the new ¨dogma¨ will mostly increase Xi´s personal power in an already very authoritarian large country.

And it is not true that China has become ¨rich¨, or at best this is a half-truth: ¨China¨ may be rich, but the vast majority of the Chinese still are quite poor.

But this is a fairly interesting article that is recommended.

2. Bill McKibben on Future of the Paris Climate Accord

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! This starts with the following introduction:

As Democracy Now! heads to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, we speak with’s Bill McKibben. Several U.S. delegations are scheduled to attend despite the fact that President Donald Trump says he is pulling the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord. The Trump administration is sending officials to push coal, gas and nuclear power during a presentation at the U.N. climate summit. Meanwhile, a coalition of U.S. cities, companies, universities and faith groups have opened a 2,500-square-meter pavilion outside the U.N. climate conference called “We are Still In”—an effort to persuade other countries that wide swaths of the United States are still committed to the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord. McKibben also discusses his newly published first novel, “Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance.”

I have excerpted some previous interviews with Bill McKibben on Democracy Now! and this is another one.

This is about the Paris climate accord, that I was mostly not interested in, because the previous one - Kyoto - had been a mess, and because I thought, and think, its demands were far too small (and I am following the environment since 1972):

AMY GOODMAN: (..) But now Syria and Nicaragua joining the Paris climate accord leaves the U.S. alone in the world?

BILL McKIBBEN: Which is, if you think about it, particularly remarkable, because what country has poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other in the long history of burning coal, gas, oil? Our almost unbelievable decision to back away, even from this quite modest Paris accord, is probably the most dramatic act of American diplomacy almost ever. I mean, we’re literally saying, “We know more than everybody else in the world about the biggest problem the planet’s ever faced.”

In fact, Syria and Nicaragua thought - like I do - that the Paris climate accord requested too little, but they now have joined. And this makes the USA almost
the only country that refused to sign the Paris accord.

Here is some more on the USA and Paris, for the USA has rejected the Paris accord, but still is sending a delegation:

BILL McKIBBEN: So, the U.S. is still sending a delegation. We want it both ways, where, having rejected the Paris accord, we now want to screw up any efforts to keep it going forward by other countries. You know, it’s like—I don’t know what it’s like.

I´d say this shows explicit and clear sadism (but I am a psychologist).

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

AMY GOODMAN: So, a lot has been made, in this first year since Donald Trump was elected, that he has not passed any significant legislation. But doesn’t this obscure the fact, especially in the area of the environment, they are moving full speed ahead?

BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely. The environment is the place where, arguably, he’s done the most damage. And in a sense, it’s not really Trump in this case. This would have happened with almost any Republican, because this is the Koch brothers’ agenda. This is what they’ve wanted forever.

Yes indeed, I agree with McKibben. And this is a recommended article in which there is considerably more.

3. We Are Now One State Closer to Having a Corporate- Dominated Constitutional Convention

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

While Democrats on Wednesday were feeling encouraged and empowered by Tuesday’s coast-to-coast rejection of Trumpism, Republican legislators who control Wisconsin did what the GOP does best in elections: voted to rig the system to favor their agenda. Only this time the target wasn’t voter suppression; it was the U.S. Constitution.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Legislature voted to call for what’s known as an Article V constitutional convention, becoming the 28th state to do so in recent years. Thirty-four states are needed, according to the nation’s founding document, to launch a process that would open up the foundation of American’s rights and laws to revision.

“Sadly, this is not fake news,” said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn. “The specter of an Article V convention to rewrite the Constitution remains one of the most alarming threats to our democracy that nobody has ever heard of before.”

Yes indeed. I have written about this as well in Nederlog, and it is about a quite disquieting possibility:

If 2 out of 3 American states agree, there may be a new constitutional convention, which may make all of the USA neofascistic in one full swoop, because the new constitutional convention will be dominated by the rich, who are also very much richer and much more powerful than the rich were around 1780.

Here is more by Karen Hobert Flynn:

“The deep-pocketed special interest groups behind this effort to call a convention are not likely to stop with a single amendment when there are no rules to prevent opening up the Constitution to a full rewrite in a runaway convention,” Flynn explained. “The effort to call the convention is funded by wealthy special interest groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council that have long pushed for a broad legislative agenda in the states, and it is hard to imagine the[m] not foisting that agenda on the Constitution itself through unelected and unaccountable delegates to the convention.”

Precisely. And here are two Supreme Court justices on the same question:

Supreme Court justices from both sides of the aisle agree on this assessment.

“There is no way to effectively limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention,” wrote Warren Burger, chief justice from 1969 to 1986. “The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey.”

“I certainly would not want a constitutional convention,” said Antonin Scalia, associate justice from 1986 to 2016. “Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?”

Nobody knows. And that’s the point.

I agree with both. But just six more states are needed, and then the USA may be totally transformed, very probably by the richest for the richest.

4. Year One: The Mad King

This article is by Charles J. Sykes on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities,” the former presidential nominee told the audience. “The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”

He reminded the audience that Trump was “an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.”

He laid out the clear and present danger posed by Trump. “He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Beyond Trump’s unfitness for office was his coarsening effect on the culture. “Now, imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Would you welcome that? Haven’t we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have. And it always injures our families and our country.”
That was March 3, 2016, and the speaker was Mitt Romney. As extraordinary as his indictment was, it had little discernible effect on Trump’s march toward the Republican nomination. But the speech underlines a central reality of our politics: the GOP knew what it was embracing; it was all there and Republicans were warned. They may have been deluded, but they were not uninformed.

Yes indeed: All of that seems quite true. Here is one more bit:

Less than a year into his presidency, we hear the same question again and again: What will it take? What has to happen for Republicans to break with their Mad King?

The honest answer is: Who knows? 

Quite so, and this is a recommended article.

5. Billionaire Who Shuttered News Outlets Shows Why We Need a $1 Million Maximum Income

This article is by Kate Aronoff on Truth-out and originally on In These Times. It starts as follows:

What is a maximum income? Taxing every penny someone makes over a million dollars by 100 percent and putting it back into public coffers.

It would be hard to think of a better test case than Mr. Ricketts, whose net worth is around $2.1 billion and who -- like many rich people -- uses his wealth irresponsibly, and to the detriment of society.

Ricketts spent millions of dollars supporting Republicans in the 2012 election cycle. During that time, he launched a $10 million ad campaign, predicated on describing then-sitting president of the United States -- "Barack Hussein Obama" -- as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
PRECISELY! I have made that proposal quite a few times, as in fact did George Orwell, and there is more here: On The Crisis: Robert Reich, Socialism, 11 hypotheses about the causes of the crisis and also here: Orwell on socialism.

For in fact that is also part of an important argument for socialism:

(1) money and power are about equivalent, in the sense that one usually has more power if and only if one has more money;
(2) this effects enormous differences in equality between the few rich and the many poor;
(3) for which reasons it is best to limit the amounts of money and of power each and any individual in a state may have, and
(4) one such limit is to make the richest in a state not richer than 10 or 20 times the amounts that the poor earn (which ought to give a decent living to the poor).

This is not yet socialism - see:
Orwell on socialism - but it seems remarkably sane to me in view of the enormous inequalities in power that have existed the last 2500 years between the rich and the poor, that worked universally against the interests of the many and the poor.

Here is Aronoff's proposal:
What if he just couldn't do all that, every piece of which involves having amassed vast stores of wealth? As they attempt to overhaul the tax code, Republicans have argued that one of their chief aims is to make the tax code simpler for average Americans. This is a lie, of course, but the goal is a worthy one. And what simpler solution than redistributing the wealth of everyone earning more than a cool million?
In fact my own proposal was to forbid anyone making more than 20 times as much as the poorest; Orwell's proposal was to to forbid anyone making more than 10 times as much as the poorest; while it seems as if the average American - quite surprisingly! - would like to see a difference between the rich and the poor that is marked as 7 to 1 in terms of money earned.

Here is some more by Aronoff:

A maximum income -- and progressive taxation more generally -- is less about redistributing income than about redistributing power, though the two aims go hand-in-hand. If you think this sounds like radical Marxist nonsense, consider what the Republicans are doing right now. The GOP's newly-released "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" would double the cut-off at which households become eligible to pay the estate tax -- protecting multi-millionaires and starving public coffers of funds -- while making it impossible to deduct expenses for healthcare.

Under the GOP plan, state and local tax credits would be fully eliminated for everyone but property owners, whose deduction would be capped at $10,000. Why? To make room for corporate tax cuts and more giveaways to the ultra-wealthy. Tax codes set a rough blueprint for what kinds of people and activities a society values most. For Republicans, that's a small cadre of 1 percenters and the corporations they run.

It is not "radical Marxist nonsense", because it is certainly not Marxist. And as Aronoff does point out, the GOP does try to realize the opposite: All advantages for the richest.

Here is one argument for limiting the amount of money any one individual may own:

The point of implementing high taxes on the wealthy in the depths of the Great Depression, as Roosevelt did, was to "make it de facto illegal to be too rich," Steinbaum writes. "When it's illegal to be too rich, many of the things rich people do -- exploit labor, monopolize markets, squeeze supply chains, offshore jobs, asset-strip their companies, commit fraud -- aren't worth doing."

This creates a balancing effect on the economy -- distributing money more equally, but also penalizing wealthy misanthropes like Ricketts and dampening the negative impact they have on the world.

Yes indeed - and note that any one may excel everyone else (or most people) in any other respect: one may be a better sporter, a better comedian, a better actor, a better scientist, a better mathematician a.s.o. just as long as one does not earn more money than 20 (or 10 or 7) times as much as the poorest do.

And besides, if the least restrictive rule is followed (not more than 20 times as much) this means that in terms of yearly earnings in the USA at most 3% of the population will be effected: Everybody else earns less to start with.

Anyway... this is a recommended article.

3. My site exists 21 years + some recent changes

I started the present Nederlog as follows (which I did for quite a few years on November 11, which is also St. Martin´s day):

The site started around November 11, 1996, although in the very beginning I only had a telephone modem (that was very slow), while I had a minimalistic site until 1998 or so.

Since then the site grew to over 500 MB, mostly from texts I wrote. And it is unlikely to last another 21 years, for by that time I will be 88.

Meanwhile, I am rather amazed it lasted 21 years, in part because my site is genuinely radical and genuinely intellectual, and in part because I never expected to make it till I was 65, mostly because of the City of Amsterdam´s opposition to my oppositions to their fascist terrorist ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, where their many fascists and terrorists styled me ¨a filthy fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist, a terrorist, a terrorist¨ because I protested their Stalinism, their pseudo-science, their politicizing science, their utter falsity, plus three years of terrorism by a madman who was protected by the "University"s Board of Directors, but indeed with hardly any effect. (I did win the court trial, but then the Board of Directors refused - since 1985 - to enter into these questions: I was much better of dead, in their clear opinions.)

But anyway... I did get as far as this; I have still not been killed (and have been credibly threatened quite a few times); and I will continue as long as I can.

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 1 1/2 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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