May 24, 2018

Crisis: U.S. Plutocracy, Mike Pompeo, Federal Jobs, Dying Democracy, Amazon, On Drugs


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 24, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 24, 2018.

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 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 I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 24, 2018:
1. “We Are Lurching Toward Plutocracy”
2. Mike Pompeo’s 12-Step Plan for Disaster With Iran
3. Thinking Beyond Trump: Why We Need A Federal Jobs Guarantee
4. Democracy Is Dying in America — We're Now Under the Rule of Trump's

5. Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New
     Facial Recognition Technology
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. “We Are Lurching Toward Plutocracy”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I made the title a bit shorter. It starts with the following introduction:
In a rare bipartisan effort Tuesday, House lawmakers voted 258 to 159 to exempt banks with less than $250 billion in assets from many of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act regulations, even though banks’ profits are soaring. The Dodd-Frank Act was passed after the 2008 economic crisis, which was provoked by years of risky lending by Wall Street banks. Thirty-three Democrats joined their Republican counterparts in voting for the financial regulation rollback, which, if signed into law, would leave less than 10 banks in the U.S. subject to stricter federal oversight. For more, we speak with Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison. He is the first Muslim member of Congress and the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, or DNC.
I say. Well... I think that these thirty-three Democrats are neofascists who only work for money for themselves, as does the whole Republican party. They totally betrayed everything they ever said about fairness, democracy, honesty etc. etc.

Here is more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Capitol Hill, Congress passed sweeping legislation to exempt thousands of banks from key regulations in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, meaning the vast majority of banks will no longer have to follow the regulations aimed at preventing another financial meltdown. The Dodd-Frank Act was passed after the 2008 economic crisis, which was provoked by years of risky lending by Wall Street banks. Yet, in a rare bipartisan effort on Tuesday, House lawmakers voted 258 to 159 to exempt banks with less than $250 billion in assets from many of these regulations, even though banks’ profits are soaring.

AMY GOODMAN: A report issued Tuesday from the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, said the net income of banks and savings institutions hit $56 billion in the first quarter this year, a 27 percent increase from a year ago. Thirty-three Democrats joined their Republican counterparts in voting for the financial regulation rollback, which, if signed into law, would leave less than 10 banks in the U.S. subject to stricter federal oversight.

And that is also the whole point: Give the rich men who rule the big banks all the power they want to enrich themselves (at the cost of everybody else).

This now has happened. I am very much against it, although it also has one consequence I like: The next crisis is going to happen and is going to be a lot stronger than the crisis of 2008.

Here is more by Ellison:

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Ellison, there’s a hashtag going on there that says #resistance or #assistance. Talk about the significance of this bill and the more than a score of Democrats who joined with the Republicans in rolling back these regulations.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: This was a very bad bill for the American consumer, for investors, for just everyday citizens, homeowners, people who want to keep their jobs. I mean, it’s like people forgot all of the financial and economic devastation of the 2008 collapse. And so, no, 10 years later, we’re rolling it all back again, setting ourselves up for another catastrophe, which, of course, the big bankers are going to ask the American people to bail them out of, as they go about just consolidating wealth and income. You know, not only are banks highly profitable, they’re consolidating and becoming more monopolistic. This bank bill will allow them to do even more. You know, it was sold to people as a community bank bill. I think it’s an anti-community bank bill because what it will do is amass and accumulate more money in the hands of the biggest banks, which they will then use to buy smaller banks and thereby deprive community banks of, you know, their market share and take people and deprive people of those banks, those regional banks, community banks, that they rely on to meet their financial needs. I think it will consolidate profits, consolidate markets, and it will be to the detriment of everybody.

Ellison is right, of course, but he does not explain why thirty-three of his fellow Democrats either could not see this or else chose not to see it to increase their own payments.

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

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and so it’s now—regulations governing it have been loosened. How do you—where do you see this ending? Because this is only the beginning of attempts to roll back completely all of Dodd-Frank that the Trump administration has been touting.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: True. As you know, Juan, they’ve already tried to attack the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and make it not an agent of real assistance for consumers. But also, don’t forget this: Just last December, they passed a massive tax bill that gave all kinds of advantages to big companies and wealthy individuals. So, they’re rolling back the banking bill now. They cut the taxes of the richest, biggest companies a few months back. We are full-on lurching toward plutocracy. We are full-on lurching toward oligopoly.
Again Ellison is right, except that plutocracy has arrived in the USA, where thirty-three Democrats sold out to big money. This is a recommended article.

2. Mike Pompeo’s 12-Step Plan for Disaster With Iran

This article is by Scott Ritter on Truthdug. This is from near its beginning:

In what The Washington Post—no friend of Iran—has labeled “a silly speech,” Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, provided an American answer to the charge made by French President Emmanuel Macron during his State visit last month that, when it came to the Iranian nuclear agreement (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA), there was “no Plan B.” Macron’s observations were made in the context of President Trump’s threat to withdraw from that agreement, even though Iran had been determined by all parties (including the United States) to be in full compliance.

Trump made his decision to withdraw official on May 8, and since then the United States has been struggling to articulate a strategy to deal with the consequences of that action. Pompeo’s speech—titled “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy” —was intended to provide America’s “Plan B.” Upon reflection, however, Pompeo’s speech failed to accomplish this. Worse, the unrealistic demands made upon Iran in Pompeo’s address, coupled by the absolute detachment from reality and historical fact and/or context these demands were made, made Pompeo’s speech far more dangerous than silly.

Yes, I agree with Ritter. Here is more:

In his speech, Pompeo promised that, in the aftermath of the American decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the United States would be seeking to impose “unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime” to compel change in its behavior. “Iran,” Pompeo declared, “will be forced to make a choice: either fight to keep its economy off life-support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.”

I say. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
Pompeo’s “advocacy” consisted of little more than citing ongoing economic mismanagement, corruption and political repression, and offering economic opportunity and “liberty” in exchange for mass demonstrations by the Iranian people—demonstrations designed to overthrow the theocratic regime in Tehran. But “regime change,” “Iran” and “the United States” are three terms that historically do not mix, as every Iranian knows. The example of the CIA-led coup of 1953 that replaced democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh with Reza Shah Pahlevi is deeply ingrained in the psyche of modern Iran.
Well... I much doubt that ¨the CIA-led coup of 1953¨ is ¨deeply ingrained in the psyche of modern Iran¨ were it only for the elementary fact that it is 65 years ago, and few living Iranians will recall it. But this is a recommended article and there is considerably more in it than I quoted.

3. Thinking Beyond Trump: Why We Need A Federal Jobs Guarantee

This article is by Robert Reich on his site (that is again available to me: it wasn´t yesterday). This starts as follows:
We must not forget the economic frustrations that helped fuel Trump’s election.  For too long, too many Americans have faced lousy jobs or no jobs. One answer: A guaranteed job at a living wage.
Well... I agree, except that with the present extremely rich neofascists who own the American government it will never happen as long as the neofascists have the power. This does not mean that Reich isn´t right, but it means his plans will not be realized.

Here is some of the background of Reich´s plan:

Republicans continue to push for work requirements for recipients of Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing benefits.  But the real problem is there aren’t enough adequately-paying jobs to go around.

Even today, with a low official unemployment rate, millions who work part-time jobs want full-time work. Millions more are too discouraged to look for work, having endured the brutalities of job discrimination for far too long, or unable to move to where the jobs are.

And a large and growing number of jobs don’t pay enough to get people out of poverty.

Yes, but I certainly do not agree with ¨work requirements for recipients of Medicaid¨: If you are ill or old you just cannot work and it is sick to force you to.

Here are some of the outlines of Reich´s plan:

At the same time, a lot of work needs to be done – “greening” our nation’s infrastructure, caring for the elderly, teaching in our public schools, adequately staffing national parks, you name it.

So why shouldn’t the federal government create jobs and connect them directly to people who can’t otherwise find one, with decent, predictable hours and at a living wage?

An added plus: The availability of such jobs would give more bargaining power to many low-wage workers to get better hours and wages – because if they don’t get them from their employer, they’d have the option of a public job. In this way, a federal job guarantee would raise the floor for job quality nationwide.

And a job guarantee would act as a giant economic stabilizer during downturns, when the first to lose their jobs are usually the most economically marginalized.

It is OK - but it will never be adopted by Trump and his neofascistic government: It would give money to the many poor instead of the few rich, and that is a major sin.

4. Democracy Is Dying in America — We're Now Under the Rule of Trump's Cronies

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet and originally on Creators Syndicate. It starts as follows:

In the fierce labor wars of the last century, industrial barons employed Pinkertons and other goons to bloody the heads of laborers or simply gun down those struggling for a share of economic and political power. It was brutal, but organized workers persevered and eventually gained a share of economic and political power. From their sweat and blood, America's middle class flowered.

Today, the bands of nouveau corporate royalists (with coats of arms bearing such names as Mercer, DeVos and Koch) are determined to take back those middle-class gains of yesteryear. They are working to achieve this through a coordinated, long-term campaign to crush the ability of working people to unionize, bust America's middle-class wage structure, eliminate job security and emasculate government as a force capable of controlling corporate avarice and arrogance.

Yes indeed: I think that is correct. Here is more:

These latter-day royalists are employing a more sophisticated thuggery than brute force (though don't think they wouldn't resort to it). Instead, their goons are more likely to be in Gucci than brogans, using dollars and computers rather than clubs and guns. They have been recruiting, financing, training, deploying and coordinating thousands of political operatives to work through hundreds of front groups, law firms, think tanks, PACs, lobbying offices, media and PR consortiums, faux academic centers, astroturf campaigns and, of course, compliant politicians.

I agree again, but like to add that the internet has been created by the DARPA as a network that would help neofascism, and it has wildly succeeded: See e.g. here.

Here is more:

Among the compliant are our covey of hyperactive governors, all carrying basically the same anti-worker, anti-democratic policy ideas. Their unified agenda wasn't produced by telepathy or freakish happenstance, but by the AFC, ALEC, IFL, SPN and other obscure organizational acronyms unknown to 99 percent of Americans. Behind the non-descript acronyms are aggressive and insidious right-wing wonk shops that have been set up and richly financed by the corporatists to prepare and hand-deliver pro-corporate programs to compliant governors and key legislators.

Yes, I think that is again correct. There is a lot more, and the article ends as follows:

The richest, most powerful, most privileged people in our land -- in cahoots with a horde of the least principled, most venal political opportunists in civic life --  are intentionally savaging the well-being of America's majority and aggressively suppressing the democratic rights that make America America. And for what? Solely for themselves, for the aggrandizement of their own wealth and power.

Quite so. This is a strongly recommended article.

5. Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New Facial Recognition Technology

This article is by Matt Cagle and Nicole Ozer on Common Dreams and originally on Speak Freely/ACLU. It starts as follows:
Amazon, which got its start selling books and still bills itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company,” has officially entered the surveillance business. 

The company has developed a powerful and dangerous new facial recognition system and is actively helping governments deploy it. Amazon calls the service “Rekognition.” 

Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon.

I say. Here is more:

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a “common use case” for this technology. Among other features, the company’s materials describe “person tracking” as an “easy and accurate” way to investigate and monitor people. Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify “people of interest,” raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments — such as undocumented immigrants or Black activists — will be seen as fair game for Rekognition surveillance. It also says Rekognition can monitor “all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports,” at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

I say, again. And here is more:

With Rekognition, a government can now build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone. If police body cameras, for example, were outfitted with facial recognition, devices intended for officer transparency and accountability would further transform into surveillance machines aimed at the public. With this technology, police would be able to determine who attends protests. ICE could seek to continuously monitor immigrants as they embark on new lives. Cities might routinely track their own residents, whether they have reason to suspect criminal activity or not.

Quite so - and I am minimizing comments.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit in the crisis series. I did so before a few times. And the following article is quite good. It is by Jeremy McCoy on the Off-Guardian:
It starts as follows:
Oil, weapons and drugs are among the products with the largest turnover in the world. According to the International Energy Agency, the world demand for oil is between 94 million barrels per day with the United States being the largest oil consumer in the world, 11,500,000 barrels of oil per day. Likewise, according to the International Institute of Studies for Peace in Stockholm, the United States is the leading producer and exporter of weapons worldwide, controlling 31% of the international market.

Regarding drugs, according to the United Nations report, 255 million people – slightly over 5 per cent of those aged 15 to 64 years worldwide – consume drugs. 182 million people consume only marijuana, 48.9 million people use heroin, 17 million users consume cocaine and the rest of people consume amphetamines, ecstasy and other types of drugs. According to the UN Drug Report, an unacceptable number of drug users worldwide continue to lose their lives prematurely, with an estimated 190,000 drug-related deaths in 2017.

This is the beginning of a quite interesting article, that is strongly recommended, although I should add that I do not take the United Nations report very seriously.


[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 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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