December 2, 2018

Crisis: The USA vs China, Mueller vs Trump, Medicare for All, Trump and Prison, "The Free Press"


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 2, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 2, 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 December 2, 2018:
1. U.S. and China Call Truce in Trade War
2. End Game: Mueller signaled this week that he’s ready. Is Trump?  
3. 'Medicare for All' would save US $5.1 trillion over 10 years
4. Donald Trump may have just lied his way into prison
5. Free the Free Press From Wall Street Plunder
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.  U.S. and China Call Truce in Trade War

This article is by Mark Landler on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

The United States and China called a truce in their trade war on Saturday after President Trump agreed to hold off on new tariffs and President Xi Jinping pledged to increase Chinese purchases of American products. The two also set the stage for more painstaking negotiations to resolve deeply rooted differences over trade.

The compromise, struck over a steak dinner at the Group of 20 meeting here and announced in a White House statement, was less a breakthrough than a breakdown averted. The two leaders remain far apart on basic issues of market access and trade policy, and there was no sign that either planned to back down on those.

I say, which I do because I had not quite expected this outcome. Well... 3 months is 1/8th of the remaining two years of Trump as president, and maybe it will make a difference.

Here is more:

Still, the handshake deal between Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi, after what the White House called a “highly successful meeting,” pauses what was becoming a headlong race toward economic conflict. It will reassure jittery financial markets, as well as American farmers, who worried about the fallout from a prolonged trade battle.

In a significant concession, Mr. Trump will postpone a plan to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent, from 10 percent, on Jan. 1. The Chinese agreed to an unspecified increase in their purchases of American industrial, energy and agricultural products, which Beijing hit with retaliatory tariffs after Mr. Trump targeted everything from steel to consumer electronics.

In fact, I am not quite sure what this means, except that there will be a pause in "a headlong race toward economic conflict", which is - a relative - good in my opinion.

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

“The relationship is very special — the relationship that I have with President Xi,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he sat across a long table from the Chinese leader before dinner was served. “I think that is going to be a very primary reason why we’ll probably end up with getting something that will be good for China and good for the United States.”

Mr. Xi replied, “Only with cooperation between us can we serve the interest of world peace and prosperity.”

As the dinner ended, the Chinese and American officials applauded the two leaders.

I do not like this kind of applause. Anyway... this is a recommended article, though its ascertainable content is already in the title.

2. End Game: Mueller signaled this week that he’s ready. Is Trump?

This article is by Lucian K. Truscott IV on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

It’s been axiomatic from the start of the Russia investigation that it is different from Watergate in one important way: the crimes that Nixon committed behind closed doors in the White House secretly, Trump is committing out in the open. Repeatedly lying to the American public? Every time Trump tweets or opens his mouth. Obstruction of justice? Firing Comey. Firing Sessions. Calling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and calling for its end. Tampering with witnesses? Dangling pardons. Engaging in a cover-up of a crime? As he lives and breathes.

But there is one thing Donald Trump and his people have sought to keep secret from the earliest days of his campaign right up to the present moment: their connections with Russians. If, in the past, we thought we knew about most of the Russian contacts, events this week have taught us that we were wrong.

This is more or less correct, although "connections with Russians" says extra-ordinarily little (and I still do not believe in "Russia-gate" - and see the indexes for 2017 and 2018 if you know little or nothing about that subject).

Here is more:

Then it was announced that the cooperation agreement between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had blown up. Incredibly, it was revealed that Manafort’s lawyers have maintained an open channel of communication with Trump’s legal team, presumably informing them of the focus of Mueller’s investigation and everything the FBI and prosecutors from Mueller’s team had asked Manafort. Mueller filed a document telling the same court that had signed off on Manafort’s plea bargain and cooperation agreement that he had lied to the FBI and withheld information in violation of his agreement with prosecutors.

I do not know why Truscott wrote "Incredibly", for the two simple reasons that Manafort's lawyers were not forbidden in law to do so (as Truscott also says in this article), and because I know Trump and his people lie whenever it is convenient for them) - but I agree it is quite dishonest.

Here is more:

On Thursday morning, Mueller sprang another surprise when his prosecutors marched into federal court in Manhattan with former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. patiently took Cohen through the steps of pleading guilty to lying to two congressional committees about the project initiated by Donald Trump to build a tower in Moscow. “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1,” Cohen told the judge, referring to Trump as “Individual 1.” He went on to admit “I was aware of Individual 1’s repeated disavowals of commercial and political ties between himself and Russia, his repeated statements that investigations of such ties were politically motivated and without evidence, and that any contact with Russian nationals by Individual 1’s campaign or the Trump Organization had all terminated before the Iowa Caucus, which was on February 1 of 2016.”

In other words, Michael Cohen told the Congress of the United States the same lies that Donald Trump had told the American people during his campaign and after he became president of the United States, when he said repeatedly that he had no deals in Russia, that he had nothing to do with Russia, and that he knew of no contacts between his campaign and Russians.

This seems correct. This is from the ending:

With Donald Trump, it’s always about the money. He is not going to sit in the White House and watch his business empire suffer the same fate as Paul Manafort, who forfeited $46 million to the government as part of his plea deal. He’ll resign with an assurance that he is pardoned for his crimes in the Russia investigation, the same way Nixon resigned with a pardon for his crimes in Watergate.

Quite possibly so, but I think that the title says considerably more than the article.

3. 'Medicare for All' would save US $5.1 trillion over 10 years

This article is by Jake Johnson on AlterNet and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Confronting the question most commonly asked of the growing number of Americans who support replacing America's uniquely inefficient and immoral
for-profit healthcare system with Medicare for All—"How do we pay for it?"—a
new paper released Friday by researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) shows that financing a single-payer system would actually be quite simple, given that it would cost significantly less than the status quo.

Yes, although I do not think that "Medicare for All" amounts to "replacing America's (..) for-profit healthcare system", though it is a lot better than what is there.

Here is more:

According to the 200-page analysis (pdf) of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All Act of 2017, the researchers found that "based on 2017 U.S. healthcare expenditure figures, the cumulative savings for the first decade operating under Medicare for All would be $5.1 trillion, equal to 2.1 percent of cumulative GDP, without accounting for broader macroeconomic benefits such as increased productivity, greater income equality, and net job creation through lower operating costs for small- and medium-sized businesses."

The most significant sources of savings from Medicare for All, the researchers found, would come in the areas of pharmaceutical drug costs and administration.

I think this is plausibe and - in any case - I think Medicare for All is a better system tthan the present one.

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

"The most fundamental goals of Medicare for All are to significantly improve healthcare outcomes for everyone living in the United States while also establishing effective cost controls throughout the healthcare system," Pollin said. "These two purposes are both achievable."

"Medicare for All promises a system that is fairer, more efficient, and vastly less expensive than America's bloated, monopolized, over-priced and under-performing private health insurance system."
—Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University

As Michael Lighty, former director of public policy for National Nurses United, put it during The Sanders Institute Gathering on Friday, "We really can get more and pay less."
Incidentally: There is another reason why Lighty and Sanders very probably are correct, namely that the U.S. system is the most expensive in the world, and pays for considerably fewer medical services than most other countries, including Europe. And this is a recommended article. 

4. Donald Trump may have just lied his way into prison

This article is by David Cay Johnston on AlterNet and originally on DC Report. It starts as follows:
Pay close attention to the front page story in Wednesday’s New York Times about Paul Manafort’s lawyer cooperating with Trump’s lawyers. It may well prove to be very important news just a short way down the road.
Its sole named source is Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s television lawyer. Giuliani acknowledged that information gleaned from Manafort’s meetings with FBI agents and prosecutors as a cooperating witness was being passed to Team Trump by Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing.

That one fact could well doom Trump’s presidency and perhaps land Trump and others behind bars.

In fact, this covers a somewhat similar ground as item 2. It is here especially because of David Cay Johnston who seems to be a sensible man, and who certainly knows a great amount about Donald Trump.

Here is more:

After Manafort was convicted of eight federal felonies last August and was about to endure the costs of a second federal trial, the former Trump campaign manager agreed in September to cooperate with Muller’s prosecution team.

We call that “flipping” because you switch sides, from criminal to law enforcement. Flipping requires criminals to be completely truthful in every detail with prosecutors about known crimes as well as disclosing still hidden criminal activity.

In breaking its plea agreement with Manafort, the special prosecutor’s office said that after flipping sides, Manafort lied to FBI agents and prosecutors again and again. They promised a detailed recitation of these additional crimes in their pre-sentencing report on Manafort.

This means - I would say - that Manafort did not flip (and may be reckoning with a presidential pardon).

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

As I showed in my 2016 biography, The Making of Donald Trump, he has a long and well-documented history of just making stuff up even when he is under oath, trying to bluff his way out of situations and, especially, counting on prosecutors and plaintiff’s lawyers not being fully prepared and determined to pin down facts.
Fed the misinformation by Team Mueller—which it has every right and duty to if it will flush out crimes—Trump would be inclined to embrace fake facts and use them in an effort to escape responsibility for his conduct.

If I’m right about this, it may become crucial for state-level prosecutors in New York, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to indict Manafort sooner rather than later for felonies that he admitted under oath in his now broken cooperation agreement with Mueller.

That way, if Trump pardons Manafort, or grants him clemency, state authorities can arrest him before he is released from federal custody, closing any window of opportunity he might use to flee the country.

Yes, I think this is sensible advice and this is a recommended article.

5. Free the Free Press From Wall Street Plunder

This article is by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams and originally on OtherWords. It starts as follows:

A two-panel cartoon I recently saw showed a character with a sign saying: “First they came for the reporters.” In the next panel, his sign says: “We don’t know what happened after that.”

It was, of course, a retort to Donald Trump’s campaign to demonize the news media as “the enemy of the people.” But when it comes to America’s once-proud newspapers, their worst enemy isn’t Trump — nor is it the rising cost of newsprint or the “free” digital news on websites.

Rather, the demise of the real news reporting by our city and regional papers is a product of their profiteering owners.

Not the families and companies that built and nurtured true journalism, but the new breed of fast-buck hucksters who’ve scooped up hundreds of America’s newspapers from the bargain bins of media sell-offs.

These hedge-fund scavengers know nothing about journalism and care less. They’re ruthless Wall Street profiteers out to grab big bucks fast.

They slash journalistic and production staff, void employee benefits, shrivel the paper’s size and news content, sell the presses and other assets, and triple the price of their inferior product — and then declare bankruptcy, shut down the paper, and auction off the bones before moving on to plunder another town’s paper.

Yes, I think Hightower is quite correct about this.

Here is more:

By 2014, America’s two largest media chains — GateHouse and Digital First — weren’t venerable publishers with any commitment to truth or civic responsibility. Instead, their managers believe that good journalism is measured by the personal profit they can squeeze from it.

As revealed last year in an American Prospect article, GateHouse executives demanded that its papers cut $27 million from their operating expenses. Thousands of newspaper employees suffered in large part because one employee — the hedge fund’s CEO — had extracted $54 million in personal pay from the conglomerate, including an $11 million bonus.

Note (bolding added) the adjective in "personal profit", and next note that just a single person "had extracted $54 million in personal pay from the conglomerate" - after wich the Gatehouse executives demanded that the papers they exploited should pay half of the "$54 million in personal pay" just one executive had extracted - or so it seems at least from the above.

Here is more:

The core idea of the “civic commons” is that we are a self-governing people, capable of creating and sustaining a society based on common good. A noble aspiration!

But achieving it requires a basic level of community-wide communication — a reliable resource that digs out and shares truths so people know enough about what’s going on to be self-governing. This is the role Americans have long expected their local and regional newspapers to play — papers that are not merely in our communities, but of, by, and for them.

The irony in the first quoted paragraph is quite clear - and so I may add that indeed the USA does consist of "a self-governing people, capable of creating and sustaining a society based on common good", but it should be added that these people are the 5 to 10% of the richest, while it doesn't apply to the 90 to 95% of the rest, for these are too poor.

As to the papers:

I agree that these are necessary for any real democracy and are to function in any real democracy as "a reliable resource that digs out and shares truths so people know enough about what’s going on" to vote in a rational and informed way.

But while I agree with this (and had a Dutch daily for forty years, until 2010, when I gave it up because it was lying all the time and did not print all the news) I certainly never believed that the papers were "of, by, and for" me or the rest of the readers, and that was not necessary either to apprreciate and buy them as long as they were fairly decent.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

For example, Digital First, a huge private-equity profiteer, snatched the St. Paul Pioneer Press and, demanding a ridiculous 25 percent profit margin from its purchase, stripped the newsroom staff from a high of 225 journalists to 25!

As the Prospect’s Robert Kuttner reported, these tyrannical private equity firms produce nothing but profits for faraway speculators.

He notes that the blandly named entities only exist “thanks to three loopholes in the law.” The first lets them operate in the dark; the second provides an unlimited tax deduction for the massive amounts of money they borrow to buy up newspapers; and the third allows them to profit by intentionally bankrupting the paper they take over.

Our right to a free press is meaningless if Wall Street thieves destroy our communities’ presses.

Yes indeed, although there also is a rather important fourth factor: The ignorance, the lack of interest or the desire not to pay a cent for "news" that seems to move many Americans (and non-Americans). And this is a 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 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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