in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and
-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
from January 25, 2019
This is a
Nederlog of Friday,
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.
moment and since more than three years
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
I shall continue.
2. Crisis Files
five crisis files
that are mostly well worth reading:
A. Selections from January 25, 2019:
1. Elizabeth Warren Proposes Annual Wealth
Tax on Ultra-Millionaires
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:
2. Lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck: Bush,
Rumsfeld & Cheney Are a Troika of
Tyranny & Should Be in
3. Over 70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup
4. Apocalypse Still Looms as Doomsday Clock Stays at 2 Minutes
5. Seeking a Cure for Our New Gilded Age — For the Total
Domination of Everything
Warren Proposes Annual Wealth Tax on Ultra-Millionaires
This article is by
David Dayen on The Intercept. This starts as follows:
I think this may very well
be a good idea. In fact, I belong to those who want considerably
more, for the rather simple reason that I am against the
existence of billionaires - see yesterday
- but this does seem to be a step in that direction, at least.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential
campaign has rolled out a proposal for an annual tax on wealth,
becoming the first major Democratic candidate to follow a
recommendation outlined in Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”
The proposal, according to two University of
California, Berkeley, economists who are leading experts on wealth and
inequality, would shrink the wealth of the superrich by $2.75 trillion
over a 10-year period, while only affecting around 75,000 U.S.
A paper distributed by Warren’s campaign
announcing the proposal notes that the United States contains “an
extreme concentration of wealth not seen in any other leading economy.” As UC
Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman have demonstrated, the top
0.1 percent has had their wealth share nearly triple between the late
1970s and 2016.
Warren actually endorsed the concept of a
wealth tax five years ago, in an interview with Piketty and The Intercept’s Ryan
Grim. Asked how a bill to tax wealth would sound after Piketty
described it, Warren said, “Oh, I’m in, I’m in, I’m in — in on the
notion that we have to rewrite our tax code.” She added that the tax
code “has to reflect the importance of work and people who achieve and
people who accomplish, over being born into wealth.”
So I agree with nearly everything in the above quotation, except
possibly with Warren´s distinction between ¨people who
achieve and people who accomplish, over being born into wealth¨ and my reason is mostly that while
I think there is a talent for finance + money that helps people grow
rich (if lucky), I also think that talent is one of many, and is very
much overvalued, both financially and morally.
Then again, this is a side issue. Here is more:
Piketty endorsed the Warren plan on
Thursday. “In many ways, the US led the world toward the development of
progressive taxation and the reduction of inequality at the global
level during the first half of the 20th century,” he wrote in a
statement. “I am confident that Senator Warren’s proposed progressive
wealth tax will not only help curb inequality and ultimately promote
growth in the US, but also have a major impact all around the world.”
Targeting wealth instead of income attacks a
much larger source of inequality and economic distortion. Concentrated
wealth has skyrocketed over the past several decades; an Oxfam study out this week estimates that the world’s
billionaires grew their fortunes by $2.5 billion per day in 2018.
Yes, although I
care less for Piketty´s opinions, though they may be right, than for the
facts outlined in the above quoted second paragraph.
Here is a bit of an explanation of Warren´s proposal:
The Ultra-Millionaire Tax, as Warren’s
campaign describes it, would impose a 2 percent annual tax on household
net worth on all dollars above $50 million. An additional 1 percent
surtax would kick in above $1 billion in income. Wealth is defined in
the plan as “all household assets … including residences, closely held
businesses, assets held in trust, retirement assets, assets held by
minor children, and personal property with a value of $50,000 or more.”
These are marginal tax rates, which
conservatives have busily tried to misconstrue during the debate over Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent income tax rate above $10 million. Households with exactly
$50 million in wealth would pay zero dollars in wealth taxes; the first
dollar above that would trigger a tax of 2 cents.
That the Warren tax would raise far
more than Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is a function of the
extreme concentration of wealth in the United States. “While we must
make income taxes more progressive, that alone won’t straighten out our
slanted tax code or our lopsided economy,” the Warren proposal paper
Well... it sounds quite
fair to me (¨a 2 percent annual tax on household net
worth on all dollars above $50 million¨) and besides, I like it that Warren´s proposal, if
it becomes law, probably will ¨raise far more than Ocasio-Cortez’s plan¨, which I also am for.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
wealthy would still be
able to enjoy the vast majority of their wealth. Saez and Zucman
estimate that the top 0.1 percent will pay 3.2 percent of their wealth
in taxes in 2019, and the wealth tax proposal would only increase that
to 4.3 percent. Incidentally, the bottom 99 percent pays about 7.2
percent of their wealth in taxes, because they lack savings and rely
heavily on labor income.
Precisely, and this is
also why it is morally very fair:
Billionaires pay 4.3 percent tax on their anyway excessive wealth,
whereas the non-rich pay ¨about 7.2
percent of their wealth in taxes¨. And this is a strongly recommended
Wolfgang Kaleck: Bush, Rumsfeld & Cheney Are a Troika of Tyranny
& Should Be in Prison
This article is by
Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
As Venezuela faces an
attempted coup supported by the U.S., Brazil and the European Union, we
speak with human rights attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. In November, John
Bolton accused Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua of being part of a “troika
of tyranny.” Kaleck says the real “troika of tyranny” is George W.
Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who should be in prison for war
crimes. Kaleck is a human rights attorney who for decades has been at
the forefront of the legal fight to hold powerful actors and
governments around the world accountable for human rights abuses. His
new book, titled “Law Versus Power: Our Global Fight for Human Rights,”
documents his remarkable career, including his time as whistleblower
Edward Snowden’s lawyer in Europe. Kaleck is general secretary of the
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
Yes, I agree with Kaleck.
Here is the first of some bits from his interview:
GOODMAN: Talk about the
global state of human rights right now, as you see it. You generally
live in Berlin. You are here visiting the United States.
KALECK: Yeah, I mean,
everybody’s talking now about Putin and Erdogan, Turkey’s president,
and, of course, also about Trump, and rightly so. They have to be
criticized on every level. No question about that. But we shouldn’t
forget the former “troika of tyranny”: Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney. And
everybody tends now, in the light of, you know, the performances of
President Trump, to think of these men as honorable, respectful
politicians. They weren’t. They were war criminals. And the only reason
why they are not in the prison is because the U.S. is so powerful and
avoided any kind of accountability. And that is tragic.
with Kaleck, except on a point of style and fact: I belong to
those who never thought that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney were decent men,
and there are quite a few like me, so Kaleck´s ¨everybody¨ is a
- considerable - overstatement.
Anyway. Here is some more from this interview:
GOODMAN: (..) President
Trump has brought it right out into the open. He says the reason we’re
not going to do anything to Saudi Arabia about what happened to
Khashoggi is because of our military relationship with them and the
money they bring to the United States—whether or not that’s true.
KALECK: Yeah, honest
enough. I mean, let’s say others would cover themselves behind some
kind of whatever reasons. And so, of course, this is the truth. So,
even he talks sometimes the truth.
But coming back to Gina
Haspel, Gina Haspel was part of the torture system after 9/11, which
consisted of many different actions all over the world, not only
Guantánamo, not only infamous prison Abu Ghraib in Iraq, but also the CIA
extraordinary rendition program, a kidnapping and torture program of
terror suspects. And so, as there is no kind of accountability here, no
real investigation and prosecution in the U.S., we are trying, since
2004, to hold them accountable in Europe.
We have several judgments of the highest court of Europe, the European
Court of Human Rights, which declared the CIA
extraordinary rendition program unlawful, in cases against Poland,
against Lithuania, where there were secret detention sites, and in
cases against Macedonia. And we also filed—we filed cases, criminal
actions, against not only Rumsfeld, Bush, John Yoo, the lawyer who
justified all this, who teaches now in Berkeley—a scandal—but also
against Gina Haspel, because she was a very prominent figure in this
I say, which I do
because I did not know most of the above, while I strongly
Here is the last bit
that I quote from this article:
GOODMAN: And very quickly,
President Obama’s approach to all of this, which was “Let’s look
forward, let’s not look back”—
GOODMAN: —in terms of
whether or not these people will be held accountable. We have 15
very typical reaction. It’s stupid, because if we don’t care for the
torture in the past, it will appear in the future again.
Yes indeed, although I
would say that it is not only ¨stupid¨ to ”look
forward, let’s not look back” but it also seems to me quite illegal, for
the only crimes you can punish (rationally speaking) are the crimes
that happpened in the past, whereas Obama insisted these very
serious crimies should not be legally investigated. And this is a
strongly recommended article, with considerably more than I quoted.
70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela
is by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As many American
pundits, and advocacy groups remain
conspicuously silent in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision
to formally recognize Venezuela's opposition leader as the "interim
president"—a move that was denounced as open support for an attempted
coup d'état—renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Boots Riley, and
over 70 other academics and experts issued
an open letter on Thursday calling on the Trump administration to
"cease interfering in Venezuela's internal politics."
I agree with Chomsky
and others, though I should add that in fact I know little about
Venezuela. But in any case, Chomsky and others are quite right to
protest against the support Trump gives to an "interim president" who never was elected.
Here is one more bit from the
"Actions by the Trump
administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to
make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human
suffering, violence, and instability," the letter reads. "The U.S. and
its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent,
extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies
continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely
result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability."
Highlighting the harm
American sanctions have inflicted upon the Venezuelan economy and
people, the letter goes on to denounce the White House's "aggressive"
actions and rhetoric against Venezuela's government, arguing that
peaceful talks are the only way forward.
Yes, I agree. And you
can find the complete letter by Chomsky and others in this
article, that is recommended.
Still Looms as Doomsday Clock Stays at 2 Minutes to Midnight
is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Thanks to world leaders'
failures to adequately address the threats posed by nuclear weapons and
the climate crisis—in spite of mounting public pressure for bold action
on both fronts—the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced
Thursday that the
Doomsday Clock remains at two minutes to midnight, "the closest it has
ever been to apocalypse."
I completely agree
with ¨the Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists¨.
Here is a small bit of background information:
Founded in 1945 by
developers of the atomic bomb, the Bulletin's mission
is to "equip the public, policymakers, and scientists with the
information needed to demand, recognize, and support public policies
that reduce manmade existential threats."
Last year, citing inaction
on the climate and nukes, the group moved
the hands of its infamous Doomsday Clock forward a half-minute,
signaling to the global community that it was at greater risk of
experiencing utter catastrophe.
I completely agree -
and my own two most important reasons for fearing a nuclear war
are that I think, together with many other psychologists, that Trump is insane, while the
dangers of a nuclear are extremely much larger than 30 or 50
years ago, for the simple reason that there are far stronger nuclear
bombs than 30 or 50 years ago.
Here is the last bit that I
quote from this article:
"Humanity faces two dire
and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate
change. The longer world leaders and citizens thoughtlessly inhabit
this abnormal reality, the more likely it is that we will experience
the unthinkable," former California Gov. Jerry Brown, the Bulletin's
executive chairman, said in a statement.
Yes, I agree and this is a strongly
a Cure for Our New Gilded Age — For the Total Corporate Domination of
is by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism. It starts as follows:
Tepper, the lead author of The Myth of Capitalism, is one of
the founders of a macroeconomic research group for clients who are
asset managers, i.e. investors who manage people’s savings. He
previously worked as an equity analyst at SAC Capital and as a vice
president in proprietary trading at Bank of America. He was a Rhodes
disdainful (to say the least) of the theories of Marx and Piketty, and
so he advances a new explanation for the chasming inequality which
disfigures post-Reaganite and post-Thatcherite economies: “The growing
gap between the rich and the poor is happening due to a decline in
competition,” he writes. “This has been driven by industrial
concentration and extremely lax to nonexistent antitrust enforcement”
(p. 227). We consequently find ourselves in “a second Gilded Age” (p.
8) which requires us to wage a second campaign “to institute new
antitrust laws that serve the people” (p. 234).
In fact, I´ve never
heard about Jonathan Tepper, who also is not on Wikipedia. But in fact
I have not heard about almost everyone who is alive (like everybody
else indeed), so this is no objection.
Then again, while I do agree with Tepper that the lack of
competition, which also, and perhaps more clearly, may be stated as the
growth of monopolies and oligopolies, is one important
factor in the growth of wealth of the 1% and the decline of wealth of
the 90%, I do not think it is the only important factor.
Also, while I am not a Marxist and did
not read Piketty (but I do know his main ideas), I think that Tepper
may be a bit unfair against Marxists or Marx, for the simple
reason that I know that his argument, at least when it is - quite
fairly - restated in terms of ¨the growth of monopolies and oligopolies¨, was already quite popular with
Marxists in the 1930ies.
Finally, I should say that the above article now seems removed
from Naked Capitalism and seems replaced by this
article, it seems mostly because Tepper got very angry with an
O well. Here is some more:
As a devotee
of street-smart hardcore lefties from Chris Hedges to Jimmy Dore, I was
not anticipating a rough ride from such a straight-arrow nice guy as
Tepper. I was in fact, as I began reading, expecting a lot of wonky,
noncontroversial, carefully-worded, good-government bromides. Boy was I
in for a surprise. The theme of gentle Jonathan Tepper’s book is outrage.
Tepper uses an
analogy to “Lucky” Luciano’s Mafia Commission of the 1930s to explain
how contemporary American corporations divide up the turf in
order to rid themselves of any real business competition (pp. 21-22).
He uses an analogy to a brain-eating tapeworm to illustrate how the
extreme concentration of industry has a literally parasitic
effect on our economy: “Monopolies and oligopolies won’t
kill the economy, but they can cripple it” (p. 36).
Well... I like Chris Hedges as
well (and know less of Jimmy Dore, though I know who he is and saw
several videos with him), but the first paragraph also tells us more
about Yves Smith than about Jonathan Tepper.
Then again, as I began saying, the second paragraph does look familiar
from Marx, though
I am quite willing to assume Tepper is not a Marxist at all.
Here is some more:
sensitive reader will feel
morally obligated bear some of Tepper’s burden of
exhaustively-researched outrage, but will also fear being, as I was,
overwhelmed by it. My recommendation is to begin with Tepper’s chapter
six, felicitously entitled “Toll Roads and Robber Barons.” Study
chapter six. Digest chapter six. In it Tepper presents a catalog of the
extent of — the ubiquity of — the hypertrophic concentration of
industry in neoliberal America. “If you’re not outraged by the time you
get to the end of the chapter,” Tepper writes, “you weren’t reading
carefully. Most industries have carved up the United States with the
sole purpose of screwing the consumer” (p. 116).
It would seem to
me that one inference from the above is that Tepper´s book
is not very well-written. Then again, this also is the usual
Next, there is a list of over 20 cases of increased
monopilization/oligpolization. I will quote only the first five:
translation of ¨Raub-ritter¨ as ¨rape-knight¨ is not ¨just as accurately (..) translated¨ as ¨robber baron¨, for the simple
reason that robbing (which is what ¨Raub¨ means) is not the
same as raping.
The word Raub-ritter, robber-baron, it is I
think worth mentioning, could just as accurately be translated into our
current American idiom as rape-knight:
Speed Internet: Three companies control 65% of the nation’s
cable market but this figure is meaningless. At the local level, the
companies face no real competition…. Almost all of the United States
has essentially been carved up geographically.
Operating Systems: Microsoft has an over 90% market share.
Networks: Facebook has over 75% market share in all global
social media…. Mark Zuckerberg is the emperor of the private data of 2
billion people who have handed over all their personal information,
political views, likes, and preferences. Users should be very scared….
When Facebook was growing, he could not believe how stupid his users
were in handing over all their personal information,“They trust me – dumb fucks.”
4. Search: Google
has an almost 90% market share in search advertising.
[monopsony]: If you’re a dairy farmer, you often have no
choice when it comes to selling your milk. Dean Foods is the dominant
player…. The firm has had to pay millions of dollars in price fixing
and monopoly lawsuits.
Here is some more:
I probably mostly agree
with this (apart from the translation from the German), although again
I know similar arguments from Marxists, quite long ago as well.
emphasizes that such
monopolistic and oligopolistic concentrations of industry do not effect
the efficiencies of economies of scale. They effect the exact opposite.
They effect inefficiency and inequality and economic lethargy. For the
drive to concentrate industry is perhaps the most aggressive form of
rent-seeking — of robber-barronhood — of knight-rape. It is the will to
increase one’s own wealth without creating new wealth. Thus Tepper
writes: “The damage to the economy is far worse than you could
imagine. The evidence is overwhelming that higher economic
concentration has created a toxic cocktail of higher prices, less
economic dynamism, fewer startups, lower productivity, lower wages,
greater economic inequality, and damage to smaller communities” (p. 37).
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article (that meanwhile
seems to have been removed from Naked Capitalism and to be
replaced by this
Again I basically agree.
But as I said: The article from which the above quotes are cited has
been removed. O well...
reader now consider
Tepper’s analysis of the economic state of the Union over the past four
decades: “While merger waves were rare historically, we’ve seen a
merger wave in every single decade since Reagan gutted antitrust. Like
a ratchet effect, companies only get bigger and more bloated. The 1990s
launched an even greater merger wave than the 1980s. While Reagan may
have gutted the Sherman and Clayton acts, President Bill Clinton
promoted mergers with even greater fervor. Under Clinton, the defense
companies went from over 100 down to 5 major defense contractors, many
with no competitors in their respective weapons systems. On social
issues, George W. Bush and Barack Obama may have differed, and their
rhetoric may have differed when it came to corporations, but there
was absolutely no difference in policy when it came to monopolies and
oligopolies…. Obama talked tough on big business and Wall Street,
but he raised as much money from them as possible and was arguably
even more pro-merger than Bush.
end of 2015 that
xs4all.nl 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.
claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie.
They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.
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
from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).
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 (!!).