June 16, 2018

Crisis: USA´s Nukes, Trade War, Poverty In USA, 18 Months Of Trump, Singapore


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 16, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 16, 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 16, 2018:
1. Will the U.S. Ever Give Up Its Nukes?
2. U.S. and China Expand Trade War as Beijing Matches Trump’s Tariffs
3. Blistering U.N. Report: Trump Administration’s Policies Designed to
     Worsen Poverty & Inequality

4. To the Press, after 18 Months of Trump
5. Winning the News Cycle: Trump’s Made-for-TV Singapore Summit
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. Will the U.S. Ever Give Up Its Nukes?

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
This week, Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to meet with a North Korean head of state, raising the prospect that the repressive dictatorship might finally take steps toward dismantling its nuclear program. But there’s something missing from this whole conversation about “disarmament” and “denuclearization”: the fact that the United States itself is sitting on the world’s most powerful stockpile of nuclear weapons. Call it the nuclear elephant in the room: U.S. politicians are petrified by North Korea’s nukes, obsessed over Iran’s hypothetical nukes — but what about the very real and present danger posed to all of humanity by America’s 6,800 nuclear warheads? And what about the fact that those nukes — which could destroy the world several times over — could be launched in a matter of minutes, without congressional authorization or Pentagon approval? Beatrice Fihn, the director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and William J. Perry, secretary of defense under President Clinton, join Mehdi Hasan to discuss the nuclear threat closer to home.
These are all good questions, although my answer to the question in this article´s title is: ¨No, of course not¨.

Here is some more (and if my formatting is bad, this is because it hardly exists on The Intercept):

President Donald J. Trump: I want to thank Chairman Kim for taking the first bold step towards a bright new future for his people.

DJT: Really, he’s got a great personality. He’s a funny guy. He’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator. Loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things, and that’s why he’s doing this.

Greta Van Susteren: But he’s starved them, he’s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?

DJT: Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, I mean, if you look at it.

MH: Look, to be fair, if we look past the two megalomaniacs with freakish hairstyles at the center of all this, there’s actually been lots of (welcome) talk of “denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula; of Kim Jong Un getting rid of his nuclear arsenal — that’s around 60 nuclear warheads, by the way. But there’s some missing from this whole conversation about disarmament and denuclearization: the fact that the United States itself is sitting on the world’s most powerful stockpile of nuclear weapons. When will we be rid of them?

Yes, but my own answer to Hasan´s question is as above: The USA is extremely unlikely to give up its atomic arsenal, and the more so as there are now not anymore two opposing blocks.

Here is some more, still from the beginning of this fairly long interview:

MH: This week, I’ll speak to a former U.S. defense secretary and a Nobel Peace laureate about their campaigns to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

But what I really want to ask on today’s show is: What about America’s nukes? And, perhaps even more importantly, what about the man who now has to the power to launch them?

You might say it’s absurd to compare the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile with, say, North Korea’s. The United States, after all, is a liberal democracy, whereas the DPRK is a brutal, totalitarian, one-party state.

The problem, of course, with that argument is that the only country in human history to have ever used nuclear weapons to incinerate its enemies en masse happens to be a liberal democracy, and that liberal democracy happens to be the United States of America.

No, I am sorry: I do not think that the USA at present is a ¨liberal democracy¨, and besides, I don´t think governmental characteristics (like: being a democracy, being a dictatorship etc.) is very important for the risk of a nuclear war, and namely because a nuclear war will result from the interplay between several governments.

Here is some more on the enormous honesty and the great principles that moved Obama:

President Barack Obama: So today, I state clearly and with conviction: America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. [audience cheers and applauds.]

MH: That was Obama just four months after becoming president in 2009; the same Obama who then put the U.S. on course to spend around $1 trillion upgrading its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades, including new funding for a new class of ballistic missile submarine, a new stealth bomber and a new nuclear-armed cruise missile. Thanks, Barack!

And since January 2017, the debate over that expanded and modernized arsenal has taken a new and ominous turn. Because these are not now just the world’s worst weapons, but they’re now in the hands of perhaps the world’s most reckless and unstable leader. And no, I’m not talking about Kim.

I could not resist the above bit (and no: I think Obama was a fraud, just as Bill Clinton was a fraud, but yes: they both succeeded personally in becoming multi-millionaires through their presidencies).

Anyway... there is a whole lot more in this long interview, which is recommended.

2. U.S. and China Expand Trade War as Beijing Matches Trump’s Tariffs

This article is by Ana Swanson on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
The Trump administration on Friday escalated a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, moving ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods and provoking an immediate tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

The president is battling on a global front, taking aim at allies and adversaries alike. The United States has levied global tariffs on metal imports that include those from Europe, Canada and Mexico, while threatening to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement.

These countries are fighting back, drawing up retaliatory measures that go after products in Mr. Trump’s political base. China’s response was swift on Friday, focusing on $50 billion worth of American goods including beef, poultry, tobacco and cars.

The trade actions could ripple through the global economy, fracturing supply chains and costing jobs at American companies that will be forced to absorb higher prices. Although the United States economy is especially strong, the tariffs are expected to drive up prices for American consumers as well as for businesses that depend on China for parts.

Yes indeed. Incidentally, and though the question is not really asked in this article, my own reply to the question why is this trade war between the USA and China and indeed between the USA and Europe necessary is that it is not, and seems to be based on Trump´s madness. (I am sorry if you disagree, but I am a psychologist.)

Here is more on the present situation:

Things could get worse if the United States and China ratchet up their actions. Mr. Trump has already promised more tariffs in response to China’s retaliation. China, in turn, is likely to back away from an agreement to buy $70 billion worth of American agricultural and energy products — a deal that was conditional on the United States lifting its threat of tariffs.

“China’s proportionate and targeted tariffs on U.S. imports are meant to send a strong signal that it will not capitulate to U.S. demands,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of international trade at Cornell University. “It will be challenging for both sides to find a way to de-escalate these tensions.”

Yes, I agree. Here is some more:

In total, the tariffs will fall on 1,102 categories of Chinese goods, including nuclear reactors, aircraft engine parts, bulldozers, ball bearings, motorcycles and industrial and agricultural machinery. The list generally focuses on industrial sectors that relate to the country’s Made in China 2025 plan for dominating high-tech industries, like aerospace, automobiles, information technology and robotics, the administration said.

And there is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

3. Blistering U.N. Report: Trump Administration’s Policies Designed to Worsen Poverty & Inequality

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the folllowing introduction:
A group of top Democrats are demanding the Trump administration present a plan to Congress to address growing poverty in the United States, following an excoriating report by the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston. Alston slammed the Trump administration’s policies for worsening the state of poverty in the United States. The report details how 40 million Americans live in poverty, and 18.5 million Americans live in extreme poverty. It also details how the United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries and one of the lowest rates of intergenerational social mobility. We speak with Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty. He will be presenting his report next week in Geneva.
Incidentally, since I am Dutch: There are fewer Dutchmen in all (17 million) than the 18.5 million Americans who ¨live in extreme poverty¨ (which are again a lot less than the ¨40 million Americans [who] live in poverty¨.

But OK - if you are not Dutch, it will probably not mean a lot to you. Here is some more:
Amy Goodman: (...) United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston slammed the Trump administration’s policies for worsening the state of poverty in the United States. The report states, “[T]he policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

The report details how 40 million Americans live in poverty and 18.5 million Americans live in extreme poverty. It also details how the United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries and one of the lowest rates of intergenerational social mobility.

Yes, I agree with Alston that (bolding added) the policies of Trump´s government are ¨delibe- rately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.¨

And in fact I am going further than that, and assume that Trump´s government is well aware that there are currently over 7 billion human beings alive on earth, of whom at least half (3 1/2 billion: more humans than were alive until 1970) is poor or very poor, and their answer to that very major problem seems to be: We just need to kill the poor, although we shall do so by driving them to suicide.

At least, I draw that conclusion seeing what Trump and his government are doing in the USA. Then again, you don´t need to believe me. Here is more Philip Alston:

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, I was looking at two different aspects, in a way. One is what you’ve described now—in other words, the economic statistics, the extent to which vast numbers of people are left living without enough to get by on, the 40 million living in poverty, the figure of 5.3 million, which has been estimated of people who live in, quote, “Third World conditions” in this country. And you’ve got a trend which is designed to—in terms of policies being adopted and put forward by the current administration, to—

AMY GOODMAN: You call them “aggressively regressive.”

PHILIP ALSTON: Yes. Basically, they are singling out all of the major benefit programs and seeking to attach very harsh work requirements to it. We’re all in favor of people having to work, but in the vast majority of cases, people are already working, and they can’t survive. But that’s not going to stop cutbacks in food stamps, cutbacks in housing subsidies and various other programs.

This is part of my reason to say that these ¨cutbacks in food stamps, cutbacks in housing subsidies and various other programs¨ are intentionally unfair and are meant to drive those to whom they are denied to suicide, which indeed in many cases may be the only ¨solution¨ they have. (Incidentally, check out Psychiatrist Warns Trump May Be on 'Boundary of Psychosis and Reality’ from two days ago: This also warns against Trump´s sadism.)

Here is more by Alston:

But the other thing that my report looks at, which is equally important, is the threat to democracy, of course, that if you consistently make life less manageable for those who are living in poverty, if you start to cut back on those who are able to vote, if you start making it more difficult—the latest Supreme Court decision, in relation to Ohio, making it feasible for the state to eliminate lots of voters—all of these affect, overwhelmingly, those who are not wealthy. And that presents—that means that the assault, in economic terms, represents a major threat to the democracy. So, my report focuses then on the implications of this for what we call civil and political rights in the United States.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article, and it concerns the fact that the ¨healthy life expectancy¨ which is ¨the number of years that a newborn can expect to live in health¨ is (boldings added) ¨now lower in the United States than it is in China¨:

PHILIP ALSTON: (..) The World Health Organization brought out new statistics just a week or so ago, which showed—and this is a complex figure. It showed that the healthy life expectancy—in other words, the number of years that a newborn can expect to live in health—is now lower in the United States than it is in China. This is a pretty shocking development, because life expectancy is the classic overall indicator of the well-being of a society. It brings together a lot of different factors—why people live long, why they die early and so on. And so, what you’ve got in the United States, despite massive spending on healthcare, etc., is the worst level of healthcare in the Western world, the highest levels of child poverty and so on. And they all manifest themselves in the reducing life expectancy.

Quite so and this is a strong argument. This is a strongly recommended argument.

4. To the Press, after 18 Months of Trump

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
1. Stop treating Trump’s tweets as news.

2. Don’t believe a single word that comes out of his mouth.

3. Don’t fall for the reality-TV spectacles he creates. (For example, his meeting with Kim Jong-un.) They’re not news, either.

4. Don’t let his churlish thin-skinned vindictive narcissistic rants divert attention from what he’s really doing.

5. Focus on what he’s really doing, and put the day’s stories into this larger context. He’s (1) undermining democratic institutions, (2) using his office for personal gain, (3) sowing division and hate, (4) cozying up to dictators while antagonizing our democratic allies around the world, (5) violating the rule of law, and (6) enriching America’s wealthy while harming the middle class and the poor. He may also be (7) colluding with Putin.

I say. Well... I agree with point 5 (although I probably disbelieve Trump is colluding with Putin, but I will not discuss this here and now).

But I don´t quite agree with the other four points, or at least with points 1-3 inclusive. My reasons are mainly that (i) I am following ¨the news¨ quite closely since over 5 years now, and (ii) this simply shows this is not realistically doable, and besides (iii) some of the news that Trump creates, such as ¨his meeting with Kim Jong-un¨ simply is news, also according to persons who strongly oppose Trump.

Something similar holds for the other three points of Reich, which are these:

6. Keep track of what his Cabinet is doing – Sessions’s attacks on civil rights, civil liberties, voting rights, and immigrants; DeVos’s efforts to undermine public education, Pruitt’s and Zinke’s efforts to gut the environment; all their conflicts of interest, and the industry lobbyists they’ve put in high positions.

7. Don’t try to “balance” your coverage of the truth with quotes and arguments from Trump’s enablers and followers. This is not a contest between right and left, Republicans and Democrats. This is between democracy and demagogic authoritarianism. 

8. Don’t let him rattle you. Maintain your dignity, confidence, and courage.
That is, I agree with point 6 and also with point 8, but I disagree with point 7, for I would say you can deal ¨quotes and arguments from Trump’s enablers and followers¨ namely by calling them what they usually are: Lies.

Or let me put my argument as follows: One can satisfy all of Reich´s points by refusing to deal with the NYT, the Washington Post, and with most of the present-day mainstream media, and by insisting that one is dealing only with the real news that is again read mostly by the relatively few who have an IQ above 125, and not in the mainstream media, but on Truthdig, Common Dreams, and a few other sites, but that means shutting up on Trump´s lies and Trump´s propaganda. I think that would be a mistake.

5. Winning the News Cycle: Trump’s Made-for-TV Singapore Summit

This article is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout. It starts as follows:
Probably the most vapid phenomenon in modern American politics is something known as “winning the news cycle.” The thinking goes that if your version of events dominates the media coverage during a given news cycle, you “win” that day. Stack up enough days, continues the theory, and you win the week, the month, the year, the next election, and so forth.

It’s an utterly substance-free tactic — if your “version of events” is a ball of brazen lies, as it all too often is, you still “win the day” if the media is carrying your water — that has never been more vividly on display than it was this week in Singapore. Donald Trump was not seeking peace when he met Kim Jong Un on Tuesday. He wanted the handshake picture so he could set his mighty spin machine to “11” and turn it loose. He wanted to “win the news cycle,” and credit where credit is due, he did exactly that.

I tend to like William Rivers Pitt (and say to him or the editors of Truthout that their site is misbehaving since the last three days at least), but I think that in the present article he is making a mistake rather like Robert Reich did.

Then again, Pitt is right about ¨the news cycle¨ and he may be right about Trump´s motives, but then Trump´s motives for shaking hands with Kim are not the only thing that was involved in the meeting between the two leaders in Singapore.

Here is some more on that meeting:

The joint statement signed by Kim and Trump after the summit, however, fell far short of the fanfare afforded it within the news cycle. While Trump made concessions that some anti-war activists have hailed as a positive de-escalation of tensions and possibly the beginning of a peace process — including announcing an end to the joint military drills in South Korea — he did not extract any concessions worth noting in return. While the joint statement called for “complete denuclearization,” it fell far short on some vital details: A timeline for disarmament, a process for verification, and what other nations, if any, will be involved. “We’ll talk about talking about talking about stuff” was the agreement he came away with. Pretty flimsy in the main.

Well... I more or less agree that the results of the meeting in Singapore were ¨pretty flimsy in the main¨, but then again that is often the case after a first breakthrough, and besides, quite a few persons counted with the real possibility of a nuclear war.

That did not happen now, which is no guarantee it will not happen in the future, but which does seem something to me. There is more in the article, but it seems to me more due to Pitt´s distaste or disappointments (which I more or less share) rather than to the real facts.


[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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