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Nederlog

Jun 4, 2016

Crisis: Brazil, Clinton on Trump, Scheer & Prins, Chomsky, Wall Street
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
Credibility of Brazil’s Interim President Collapses as He
     Receives 8-Year Ban on Running for Office

2. Clinton's Big National Security Speech: Trump Unfit in
     Every Way to Lead and Would Take America to War

3. Robert Scheer Speaks With Nomi Prins About the
     Connection Between Washington and Wall Street
4. Noam Chomsky Blows the Lid Off the Latest Corporate
     Trade Deal

5. Letting ‘Wall Street’ Walk

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 4, 2016.


This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald's latest article on the Brazilian coup by (it turns out) crimi- nals; item 2 is about Hillary Clinton's speech: I don't like Clinton at all but (i) she is right about Donald Trump, and (ii) if the presidential choice is between her and Trump, you really are vain or a fool if you don't vote for her; item 3 is about an excellent article by Robert Scheer who interviewed Nomi Prins: Strongly recommended reading; item 4 is about Noam Chomsky, who correctly identifies the TTIP as a corporate power grab; and item 5 is about a fine article about the many illegalities, depredations, deregulations etc. that Wall Street may indulge in to enrich itself, in part because of Holder, and in part because the whole government is corrupted by money, and also is in part directed by Goldman Sachs.

1. Credibility of Brazil’s Interim President Collapses as He Receives 8-Year Ban on Running for Office

The first item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows, and can be taken as a continuation of earlier posts by Glenn Greenwald that I reviewed on May 13 and May 21, and of an interview on Democracy Now! that I reviewed on May 26, all of 2016:
It has been obvious from the start that a core objective of the impeachment of Brazil’s elected president, Dilma Rousseff, was to empower the actual thieves in Brasilia and enable them to impede, obstruct, and ultimately kill the ongoing Car Wash investigation (as well as to impose a neoliberal agenda of privatization and radical austerity). A mere 20 days into the seizure of power by the corruption-implicated “interim” President Michel Temer, overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that to be true: Already, two of the interim ministers in Temer’s all-white-male cabinet, including his anti-corruption minister, have been forced to resign after the emergence of secret recordings showing them plotting to obstruct that investigation (an investigation in which they, along with one-third of his cabinet, are personally implicated).
That was about the present Brazilian cabinet. This is about Temer:
But the oozing corruption of Temer’s ministers has sometimes served to obscure his own. He, too, is implicated in several corruption investigations. And now, he has been formally convicted of violating election laws and, as punishment, is banned from running for any political office for eight years. Yesterday, a regional election court in São Paulo, where he’s from, issued a formal decree finding him guilty and declaring him “ineligible” to run for any political office as a result of now having a “dirty record” in elections. Temer was found guilty of spending his own funds on his campaign in excess of what the law permits.
Unfortunately, this does not oust him from his present job.
Just weeks ago, Dilma’s impeachment appeared inevitable. Brazil’s oligarchical media had effectively focused attention solely on her. But then, everyone started looking at who was engineering her impeachment, who would be empowered, what their motives were — and everything changed. Now her impeachment, though still likely, does not look nearly as inevitable: Last week, O Globo reported that two senators previously in favor were now re-considering in light of “new facts” (the revealed tapes of Temer’s ministers), and yesterday, Folha similarly reported that numerous senators are considering changing their minds. Notably, Brazilian media outlets stopped publishing polling data about the public’s views of Temer and Dilma’s impeachment.
There is considerably more, and this is a recommended article.

2. Clinton's Big National Security Speech: Trump Unfit in Every Way to Lead and Would Take America to War

The second item is b
y Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Hillary Clinton unleashed her most devastating takedown of Donald Trump on Thursday during a national security speech, saying he is intellectually bankrupt and mentally unfit to be commander in chief, and if elected would endanger America’s safety and security.

The 35-minute speech, given in San Diego before an audience filled with military service members and their families, outlined how Trump’s campaign pronouncements and threats would undermine and endanger virtually every aspect of American national security and embolden America’s enemies abroad, whether nuclear weapon-possessing North Korea or ISIL.
I say. But I don't disagree with her position on The Lunatic Trump, as I think he should be called: She is quite right that "he is intellectually bankrupt and mentally unfit to be commander in chief".

And I have to admit that I did try watching the video of her speech, but when it turned out she was surrounded by hysterics who applaud absolutely anything she says with hysterical total abandonment, I gave up: I don't have the patience for sitting through that (and didn't find a written speech, which I anyway much prefer).

But: she is right on Trump. Here is some more:

“We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief, the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death,” Clinton began, then turning to Trump. “And like many across our country and around the world, I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for president cannot do the job.”

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different. They are dangerously incoherent. They are not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies,” she continued. “He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility. This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin."
Yes, indeed. Here is a summary of the speech:
Clinton’s speech was filled with such vivid characterizations. She went on to recite a litany of Trump’s pronouncements — countries should have more nuclear weapons; the U.S. should abandon NATO; the U.S. should default on its debt; the military should use torture and kill families of suspected terrorists; and climate change is a Chinese hoax. She then discussed the challenges the next president must face, contrasting what she would do while quoting Trump and then ridiculing his statements and taunts.
There is considerably more in Rosenfeld's article, that is recommended.

3. Robert Scheer Speaks With Nomi Prins About the Connection Between Washington and Wall Street

The third
item is by Robert Scheer (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig:
This is an interview with Nomi Prins (<-Wikipedia). It starts as follows (after an introduction by Robert Scheer):
NP: First of all, thanks a lot for having me, Bob. I did work in Goldman Sachs, and did leave to become a journalist and an author. And mostly that was because of what was my own moral obligation percolating within me to leave a very corrupt environment and seek the reasons for it, and also to share the analysis of what I could bring from my experience to the rest of the world. And at the time I left, it was in the wake of the Enron crisis, which at this point’s an old crisis; but a lot of the reasons for that crisis had to do with banks, had to do with how financing works in this country, and it has only gotten much worse and, as we know, more—because of the banking system and the political system that allows it to have become what it is—than ever before, with the financial crisis of 2008 and now what we see as what will be a prolonged global crisis.
Yes, quite so - and this is a quite important and quite good interview, that I will select more of than I usually do. And to start with, Nomi Prins is a real financial and banking expert, and she is quite right that the financial crisis of
2008 still persists (eight years on), and namely for nearly everyone who does not belong to the 1%.

RS: (..) Goldman Sachs is much closer to the center of power. And one thing people seem to have forgotten is that with the great meltdown—you know, and the ending of Glass-Steagall, ending of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s great restrictions on greed done in response to the Great Depression—Goldman Sachs was allowed, when it got in trouble over these derivatives, to go from being an investment bank to a commercial bank and get public funding as a result. You know, so that, not only did that legislation benefit Citigroup and Bill Clinton gave the pen he, one of the pens he used to sign to Sandy Weill, the head of Citigroup, and Robert Rubin left the Clinton administration and worked for Citigroup for 10 years at 15 million bucks a year. So these people are—what are they? Are they totally without ethics? You have smelled them [laughter]; you have rubbed shoulders with them. You have been in their world, Nomi Prins. You’ve done an excellent job in your books, but now share that with people listening to this. Are these people, do they have any kind of a moral sensibility?
This is the question by Robert Scheer. I will quote Nomi Prins's answer in a moment, but here like to point out two things:

First, Scheer supports (without knowing it) my distinction of two kinds of capitalism:

The one of Roosevelt and Keynes (and others, but these are the most important) that was based on "
great restrictions on greed done in response to the Great Depression" and that gave rise to what I call capitalism-with- a-human-face (that was clearest from 1965-1980); and the other, that
ruled before Roosevelt and then since Reagan and Friedman (and others, but these are the most important) that is out-and-out pro the few very rich and that was based on deregulations, greed, and lies and propaganda (and ruined
very many since 1980, and still continues), and is what I call
capitalism-
without-a-human-face.

One reason for me to do so, is that I think the distinction is pretty evident, but it seems to be seen by no one else. Well, I was born in 1950, and I lived under both systems, all the time as the poorest of the poor, and I can assure you that the differences, also in Holland, are large.

Second, while I think Scheer's question whether the leading Wall Street bankers have "
any kind of a moral sensibility" is justified, I think the answer is obvious: The only more or less normal moral sensibility they have is towards their colleagues and family, but otherwise they are morally completely tone-deaf or dead - as Nomi Prins explains:
NP: To these people, morality is basically, to them, money. It’s a greed for profit, it’s a greed for hierarchy, it’s a greed for power. And that’s all associated together; it’s not like just the idea of being a billionaire, which Lloyd Blankfein now almost is, or is, depending on where his stock is at the moment. It’s about being able to control what’s going on in the company, in Goldman Sachs; what’s going on in the government, and basically to buy and sell power. That’s really what it is. (..)
It’s a welcomed control; these people are friends. So when Bill Clinton becomes the president because Robert Rubin was one of his chief fundraisers in Washington in the early nineties, and then he turns around and thanks Robert Rubin by offering the most powerful banking position, really, in the country, which is the Treasury Secretary spot in his administration—that’s the kind of collusion and collaboration that’s at the core of our financial-political structure, and that is, as you said, that’s not just on the democratic side or just on the republican side; that is on the side of the power of those two components working together.(..)
In brief, Nomi Prins's answer is that greed for money and lust for power are the moral norms of our political rulers, who again are mostly either the bankers managers or their ruling friends in politics.

I think that is quite true as greed for money and lust for power are very common human motives, and besides: these people have been deregulating so much that their deregulations, together with the absolute refusal of Eric Holder to prosecute ANY big rich manager, have completely deregulated away (for them) the validity of any other notion than greed for money and lust for power, indeed apart from the propaganda, deceiving and lying that sell their schemes to the public.

Here is Nomi Prins on what makes her different from the banksters, with whom she did cooperate for years:
NP: These are megalomaniac banksters. At my core, money wasn’t a motivating force relative to the sense of injustice that the entire system had. So I think—and I didn’t start out thinking about justice; what I started out, as I left the banking sector, was to—was to call, yes, to call out these people. Because no one else was. You know, and it wasn’t like I set out to be a whistleblower or anything else; I know there’s been different titles that have been put on me, and other people have done similar things. I mean, it was really a sense of, look, there is something going on here, and it isn’t clear to most people; and it was clear to me. And it was sort of like, well, if I don’t talk about this, you know, who is? And I mean, it’s weird, because it wasn’t like I felt that I was responsible to educate the world or anything; I don’t have that kind of sense. (...) Money is money. I think justice is a value, I think equality is a value, I think morality is a value, I think how we treat each other and how we teach each other is a value.
Yes, I believe that: She still believed in justice, equality, morality and decency and she hadn't bought in to exchanging her moral values for greed for money and lust for power, as most bankers did do, and especially after the deregulations gave them the freedom to do as they pleased and to grow extremely rich.

Here is more on the motives of the very rich bankers (to screw the law, i.e. deregulate) and to enrich themselves as much and as fast as they could:
NP: They also don’t have a sense of being in touch with actual people, and this is also a definite problem; Robert Rubin does not live in a world of real people, Hank Paulson does not live in a world of real people. This does not mean they don’t contribute charitably to good causes, but the idea of actually being an empathizer with what is happening in the world is not something that their level of behavior dictates they are doing at all. And this is part of the problem; when they do have the ear of, whether it’s candidates or presidents—and again, it’s a collective, collusive group of individuals who validate each other’s opinions as to what should be done and how it should be done, and they’re simply wrong in their thinking. Because to, for example, have an entire multitrillion-dollar business that is opaque and that is not subject to regulation in and of itself is illogical; it does not create systemic stability in any way. So even from a logical thinking perspective, they are outside of the realm of what they should be doing. And we see this in that, you know, many of the institutions that were involved in many trades that were not transparent have had to pay fines; the U.S. banking system in particular, the biggest six banks that paid over $130, $140 billion in fines and settlements since the financial crisis, on crimes from everything from rigging libor, rigging interest rates, to rigging foreign exchange rates, to things that they did evilly with subprime related loans and securities that were associated with those loans. And they still function. No one said ‘I’m sorry.’ No one has said ‘I’m going to leave because this is completely screwed up, and I will forgo the money.’
Actually, I think both Rubin and Paulson live in the same real world as I do, but I agree that they will meet very few if any poor people, and they take their opinions and values mostly from their very rich colleagues.

And I think she is right in stressing that they form "
a collective, collusive group of individuals who validate each other’s opinions as to what should be done and how it should be done, and they’re simply wrong in their thinking".

They are wrong in their thinking simply because it is based on the systematic cultivation of greed and immorality as taught by Ayn Rand (<- Wikipedia), who also was Alan Greenspan (<- Wikipedia)'s philosophical guru: She insisted greed is good and she insisted egoism was her morality.

Finally, here is Nomi Prins's explanation of how capitalism-without-a-human-
face works:
NP: And so going back to how does that affect real people on the ground—well, if you look at an economy as sort of what they call in game theory a zero sum game, meaning that’s where the one percent versus 99 percent sort of terminology can be applied—if you look at an economy as this, you know, a hundred percent of something, and it’s all going to the top—well, someone else is losing. I mean, it’s really that simple. If there’s nothing to increase the size of that economy, if it just functions, and the institutions and the individuals who are running it are extracting the most, then by definition everyone else is getting less. And that’s the system that we have, and that’s where inequality both in our country continues to grow and inequality on a global basis continues to grow. Because the elements of power, whether they’re financial or political, are keeping a status quo that suppresses the ability of most people to do better than where they are.
In other words (as indeed explained to me by my communist parents, already in the 1950ies):

There are the few rich and the many poor, and these are all; the rich have arraigned it so that they get nearly all the money from selling the goods that the poor who are in their employ produce; and that is why the few rich remain the few rich and the many poor remain the many poor - it is simply systematic intentional unfair theft.

"
And that’s the system that we have, and that’s where inequality both in our country continues to grow and inequality on a global basis continues to grow."

There is a lot more in the article, which is strongly recommended.

4. Noam Chomsky Blows the Lid Off the Latest Corporate Trade Deal

The fourth
item is by Alexandra Rosenmann on AlterNet:

This has the following in the beginning (and I refer you to the previous item for backgrounds):

According to Greenpeace: "Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labor rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business."

“From an environmental and consumer protection point of view four aspects are of serious concern,” said Sylvia Borren, Executive Director Greenpeace Netherlands, including the dropping of long-standing environmental protections; increased difficulty in taking climate action; ending of the "precautionary principle" that allows regulators to take preventive measures to safeguard public health; and opening the door for corporate takeover.

As I have said several times, and as I first did in a systematic way in 2012, though that was - in part - a continuation of things I said in 2005 (On Terrorism, in Dutch), and indeed also as continuation of things I said fully half my life ago now, in June of 1983 in "On Politics" [1]:

For me, the TTP, the TTIP and the TISA are a neofascistic corporate takeover that comes at the end of 36 years of work for the multi- national corporations by all the American governments since Reagan. [2]

But here is Chomsky:

Chomsky points out that "the so-called free-trade agreements are not free-trade agreements. To a larger extend they’re not even trade agreements. These are investor rights agreements." He continued:

There’s a reason why they’re kept secret from the public and as soon as you look at them you see why. They’re not secret to the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the detailed regulation - of course in the interest of their constituents. The investors are given the right to sue governments for their potentially future profits. They go to private trade adjudiction groups made of largely corporate representatives. They’re already going on with NAFTA and we can expect more of them. The major trading partners already have agreements that have reduced tariffs substantially with few exceptions—not many.

Chomsky also noted that the phrase "climate change" does not appear once in these 280 pages.

Yes, indeed. There is a video in the article.

5. Letting ‘Wall Street’ Walk

The fifth
and last item today is by Michael Brenner on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

Illicit financial behavior has been decriminalized in the United States – for all practical purposes. Despite the revelations of massive misconduct by banks and other financial services businesses, criminal investigations are rare, indictments exceptional and guilty judgments extraordinary.

Most potentially culpable actions are overlooked by authorities, slighted, reduced from criminal to civil status when pursued, individuals evade penalties much less punishment, and the appeals courts take extreme liberties in exonerating culprits when and if the odd conviction reaches them.
(..)
Our elected officials, our regulators, our politicos and the media have come to accept this as the natural order of things. Business Sections of newspapers, like The New York Times, read like the gazette for the world of organized crime in its heyday when the five Mafia families were on top of their game. (substitute Goldman Sachs, Chase Morgan, Bank of America, CITI, Wells Fargo). As for the Wall Street Journal and the legion of business magazines, they blend features of VARIETY and Osservatore Romano.

The reasons for this phenomenon are multiple: the rule of money in our politics; the neutering of regulatory bodies by the appointment of business friendly officers in symbiotic relationships with former or prospective employers; a wider culture in which the cult of wealth pervades all; and the timidity of a political class that defers to the power centers who enjoy rank, status and respect.

I agree with almost all in this, and in particular with the beginning: "Illicit financial behavior has been decriminalized in the United States", and namely for the "practical purpose" of enriching the few rich even more by making the many poor poorer (while lying them in the face about the advantages they will get from "trickle down economy").

Then again, the end is a bit too optimistic:

It is not "the timidity of a political class" that happens to hold power; it is that the financial and political interests of those who hold political power have coalesced and turned the same as the financial and political interests of those who hold economical power (and go in and out throught the revolving doors to get temporary goverment jobs to extend their powers even more).

And indeed this is an important part of the reason why political and economical power coalesced:

Such is the privileged status of our largest financial institutions that the Obama administration has amended, de facto, the Constitution to accommodate their claim to being above the law.  Former Attorney General Holder is the author of the doctrine that posits the principle of “too-big-to-prosecute.”

Fearing Economic Damage

Holder’s publicly stated view is that he, the Justice Department and the Executive Branch generally have a right to exempt financial institutions from criminal prosecution when they believe that doing so would cause “unacceptable” damage to the national economy. It first took shape during Bill Clinton’s administration.

In fact, Eric Holder is a major criminal: He never had the "right to exempt financial institutions from criminal prosecution". He did it to help them make
enormous profits, small parts of which in the end were "trickled down" to him (so he now also is a big millionaire: "And so it goes").

But this is an interesting article with a lot more, that is recommended.

----------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1] The link is to March 20, 2014, which is the last time I reproduced it. I will reproduce it tomorrow, because (I think) it is an excellent essay, and I still agree with it.

[2] In fact, this is Note [1] from my December 25, 2012 "Hypotheses about CF+SS":
The term "fascism" is much and often abused, since historically it applies to Mussolini's party and doctrine, that concern nations and especially the Italian nation.

My reason to use it here is that I am writing about something new, and multi-national, that has many features in common with fascism, in that it is authoritarian, embodies a police-state, uses state terrorism, involves a lot of propaganda, and especially: is directed by and serves the interest of large multi-national corporations.

Also, since "fascism" tends to be used as a term of abuse, to refer to ideologies, practices, or ways of governing one strongly disapproves of, and since I strongly disapprove of the tendencies towards - what I call - corporate fascism, I think the usage is warranted: This is a very dangerous road for any government to take, as it promises absolute power to a few, by terrorizing the many.
I think that is still quite correct, and I have seen extremely few who wrote about fascism who know a lot about it. I do; I still think so; and the only question I have is whether it is better called "corporate fascism" (as I did in 2012) or "neofascism".

This I still do not know, but I have no doubt whatsoever that it is the modern and latest species of real fascism.


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