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Nederlog

Jul 30, 2016

Crisis: Democratic Riches, Jill Stein, Ripped Off, Trump's Character
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Introduction

1.
In the Hillary Clinton Era, Democrats Welcome
     Lobbying Money Back Into the Convention

2. An Interview With the Green Party’s Jill Stein
3. Over $100,000: That's How Much Big Finance Rips You
     Off

4. The Content of Donald Trump’s Character

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, July 30, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about how the Democratic politicians, quite like the Republican politicians, sold out completely to the rich, it seems because the vast majority of elected politicians are both major liars and eager to be corrupted; item 2 is a - to me - very disappointing interview with Jill Stein, who managed not to answer any question (and I explain myself and I advice not to vote for her at all, conse- quentially: better not to vote at all than to vote for Jill Stein, since this will contribute to Trump); item 3 is about American economics and the purported fact that the average American household lost over $100,000 to banks and financiers (and while I am sympathetic I am a bit skeptical); and item 4 is about Trump's character, which will not teach you anything new (if you read Nederlog regularly), but which does seem fair to me.

1.
In the Hillary Clinton Era, Democrats Welcome Lobbying Money Back Into the Convention

The first item today is by Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

By quietly dropping a ban on direct donations from registered federal lobbyists and political action committees, the Democratic National Committee in February reopened the floodgates for corruption that Barack Obama had put in place in 2008.

Secret donors with major public-policy agendas were welcomed back in from the cold and showered with access and appreciation at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Major donors were offered “Family and Friends” packages, including suites at the Ritz-Carlton, backstage passes, and even seats in the Clinton family box. Corporate lobbyists like Heather Podesta celebrated the change, telling Time: “My money is now good.”

What was going on inside the convention hall was also reflected outside, at costly events sponsored by the fossil fuel industrytechnology companiesfor-profit colleges    
pharmaceutical companies, and railway companies, to name a few.

I say. Here are two general points I want to make about this fact (which I do regard as a fact):

  • First, this means that the Democratic Party has gone the same way as the Republican Party as regards corruption and the rich: The rich are welcomed with open arms, that are wider open the more they pay, and they are now completely free to corrupt - i.e. to buy with their money - any Democratic politician.
  • Second, this corruption has not been initiated by the rich: It has been initiated by the Democratic politicians because they love corruption, simply because this makes them a whole lot richer.
You may doubt both points, but I simply say: "Follow the money" - given a chance to get richer themselves, only a small minority will investigate the processes they vote for that get them richer, and a considerably smaller minority will say "no" to the many possibilities to enrich themselves.

I think the above first quotation (reread it in case you doubt me) can only be explained rationally as I just did, which explanation is indeed based on one general presumption: Almost any politician will grab at chances that increase his or her own financial worth - which seems quite valid, for it is also true of most Americans. And politicians are better placed and get bigger chances to get richer by pleasing the rich than anybody else.

Here are two reactions. The first seems quite correct to me:

Craig Holman, an elections financing expert at Public Citizen, said that the end of the lobbyist contribution ban as well as Congress’s 2014 termination of all remaining public financing of the party conventions has served to undermine democracy.  “The implications of these changes are that we have opened up access to the parties and the conventions to just the very, very wealthy,” he said.
Yes. Democracy is dead in the USA, and it has been killed quite intentionally by majorities of the politicians of both parties, who saw that by deregulating all legal restraints on spending and on the rich, they guaranteed that as long as they have power they may get enormous amounts of money from the rich when they help the rich to get richer.

And note that since all legal restraints on spending and on the rich have been broken down, the politicians profit much like the bankmanagers profited in 2008-2010, and they do so because they themselves have created the conditions in which they themselves would and could profit as much as they can.

Here is the second reaction, of the Democratic lawmakers:
But an overwhelming majority of Democratic lawmakers we spoke to at the convention didn’t seem troubled by the rule change at all.
I'd say: Of course they are not troubled at all - in fact, the large majority will embrace the possibilities they themselves created to become as rich as they can while being a politician, and then accept a job at a big bank that pays even better.

That is modern politics in the USA: Totally corrupt; totally undemocratic; and fully in the services of precisely one very small group, the very rich, who have the money to corrupt almost everyone, while all the laws that kept them from doing so have been systematically deregulated in the last 35 years by the very politicians who ought to have maintained these laws.


And note this is the case for both parties, indeed with the exceptions of a very few.

2. An Interview With the Green Party’s Jill Stein

The second item is by Alice Speri on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
As the Democratic convention in Philadelphia progressed, and hopes of a revolution on the floor quickly faded for the thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters, support for another figure began to emerge on the streets: Green Party candidate Jill Stein. By the end of the week, Vote Jill signs where everywhere in the city, her name often scribbled directly over old Sanders posters and T-shirts. Bernie’s revolution had taken an unexpected turn, and as more protesters and delegates called for a “Demexit,” talk of a third-party option suddenly gained ground at a major party convention. On Thursday, as Clinton prepared to accept her party’s nomination, The Intercept spoke with Stein at an improvised South Philly campaign headquarters.
I suppose this is mostly factually correct. It also isn't very precise, simply because no one really knows how many of Sanders' supporters now are willing to vote for Clinton in order to stop the horrific and insane Donald Trump [1] and how many refuse to do so, but with these qualifications I accept this is mostly factually correct, in so far as people know the facts.

Next, here are a number of questions + replies by Jill Stein, which convinced me that she is not at all a candidate I could vote for, simply because either she is not honest at all or else because she is quite stupid or else  because she is blinded by her ideology - and I am sorry, but that is what I think. And I will explain myself. [2]

Consider for yourself:
Come November, is there a worst-case scenario?

No, the two-party system is the worst case scenario. In my view the worst horror of all is a political system that tells us we have to choose between two lethal options, and that’s what we have to fight and we shouldn’t be manipulated into thinking it’s one or the other of these villains out there, one or the other evil.

Sorry, but this is plain bullshit, much like replying to the question "which is the better game: chess or checkers?" with "That is not the question at all, the question is what you think about killing lions".

It is a totally irrealistic reply that simply refuses to admit even the basic fact that one is forced in November to choose from two evils.

Next question:

One of the main criticisms of your campaign is that the “moral choice” is a privilege that those who have the most to lose out of a Trump presidency can’t afford. Poor people, people of color, immigrants, people who need a higher minimum wage, health care access, immigration reform.

I think that’s really subject to debate. Because who is it that ushered in the agenda of globalization, of rigged trade agreements, of Wall Street deregulation? This was the Clintons. This is the core of Clintonism. That’s what’s creating the rightwing extremism.

Sorry, but this is again plain bullshit: She answers a question about the difficulties of the many poor by pretending that the answer is that the Clintons caused rightwing extremism - which is like answering the question how the poor are supposed to feed themselves by an answer about royal privileges.

Next question:

If you were to actually win an election wouldn’t the extreme right panic and radicalize even more?

I don’t think so at all. I don’t think the resistance is there because we are progressive, the resistance is there because neoliberalism is not progressive. Neoliberalism has caused an incredible crisis of austerity, a crisis of jobs, of labor rights, health care, student debt, and the rest of it. I think this is what’s driving the crisis.

Sorry, but this is again plain bullshit: She is asked about what would happen in - the extra-ordinarily implausible - case she would win the elections, but again does not answer that question at all, and instead pretends that saying "neoliberalism is not progressive" is an answer, which is like answering a question what the right would do by pretending that the answer is that the right is not the left.

Final question:

Let’s go back to Bernie Sanders for a moment. Why do you think he has chosen to throw his support behind Clinton, and is now trying to get his supporters to do the same?  

I think his paradigm is obsolete.
This is the last bit of utter bullshit by Jill Stein that I will quote. She answers the question about Sanders' motives - who clearly is very afraid Trump will win because he believes (with Ariana Huffington) that "Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacist, misogynist and birther" - not by discussing Sanders' motives but by the completely uninformative baloney that she thinks "his paradigm is obsolete". I say... and why not "because he is not a Catholic"?

I have by now made up my mind about Jill Stein (and previous items about her are here, here and here) and I think her presentation of herself is bad, while her answers are nearly always bullshit (also earlier by the way: see
here).

Here are two conclusions, and indeed the first was formulated on February 22 last:
  • She will not win the presidency and a vote for her does lessen the chances that the lesser evil of two evil candidates for the presidency will win the presidency.
  • So my advice is that if you can't vote for Hillary Clinton (who is bad but who is not mad nor insane), not to vote at all, because a vote for Jill Stein is a vote against Clinton and therefore a vote for Trump.
Also, while I did not like Jill Stein at all [3], this interview is recommended.

3. Over $100,000: That's How Much Big Finance Rips You Off

The third item is by Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet and originally on New Economic Thinking:

This has a subtitle:

New research shows that the average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.

I say. I admit that is quite a lot, so let's see. This starts as follows:

America’s financial system is broken for all but a few at the top; that much is plain. The rest sense that we are stuck on the minus end of some great financial formula, but given the complexity and size of Big Finance, it’s hard to pin down exactly why it happens and how it all adds up.

I agree with this. Next, there is this:

Enter economist Gerald Epstein of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has dived in and crunched the numbers, and the results are eye-popping. Epstein and his colleague Juan Antonio Montecino look at exactly how families, taxpayers and businesses get ripped off by dubious financial activities and tally up the costs in a new paper for the Roosevelt Institute, “Overcharged: The High Cost of Finance.” (The Institute for New Economic Thinking has also supported several papers by Epstein.)

Epstein and Montecino report the grand total of the loss to Americans: "We estimate that the financial system will impose an excess cost of as much as $22.7 trillion between 1990 and 2023, making finance in its current form a net drag on the American economy."

Hm. There are some seven years to go until 2023, so this seems to me a bit of an overstatement.

Then there is this:

This bloated, inefficient financial system tends to lower economic growth—Epstein reckons that between 1990 and 2005, the cost to the overall economy was between 2½ to 4 trillion dollars. Americans have also paid because of the banking shenanigans which helped set off the 2008 financial crisis—they may have lost their jobs or seen their wages reduced or their homes foreclosed. Many never regain their financial footing.

“If you add up all of these costs,” says Epstein, “which we do in this report, you get a figure somewhere between 13 trillion and 23 trillion dollars. That comes out to between $40,000 and $70,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. from roughly 1990 to 2005.”

I say. But this means that a family of 4 - each and every American family of 4 - lost around $200,000 in 15 years. That means on average loosing a bit over $13,000 a year, which means loosing a bit over $1000 a month. I admit that I think that is a whole lot, and while I think nearly all of the American non-rich did loose considerable amounts of money, I am not convinced of this estimate - but I admit that (i) I am not an economist, and (ii) I have not read their paper (and will not). [4]

Here is the last bit I'll quote from this article:

Can the excess costs of finance be reduced? Can the financial sector once again play a more productive role in society?

Epstein and Montecino say yes. “To accomplish this,” they write, “we need three complementary approaches: improved financial regulation, building on what Dodd-Frank has already accomplished; a restructuring of the financial system to better serve the needs of our communities, small businesses, households, and public entities; and public financial alternatives, such as cooperative banks and specialized banks, to level the playing field.

I agree with all of that, but I am not convinced of their numbers, although I do agree that almost every American who does not belong to the rich has lost considerable amounts of money.

4. The Content of Donald Trump’s Character

The fourth item today is by Marjorie Cohn on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump declared, “My Dad, Fred Trump, was the smartest and hardest working man I ever knew. . . . It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people.”

Donald apparently forgot what his father taught him. The GOP nominee refuses to pay the people who work for him. “Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others,” wrote Steve Reilly in USA Today.

Yes, that is correct to the best of my knowledge, as it is also correct that Donald Trump's best people are all members of his direct family, notably his parents and his children.

Here is some more:

And Trump denounced Gonzalo Curiel, a well-respected federal judge of Mexican heritage who is presiding over a lawsuit in San Diego filed by people claiming they were scammed by Trump University. After Curiel unsealed documents, Trump declared that Curiel had “an absolute conflict” that should disqualify him from the case. Trump’s reason: “He is a Mexican,” adding, “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”

Trump’s overriding theme, “Make America Great Again,” is a euphemism for “Make America White Again.” Indeed, Trump was a founder of the birther movement, whose aim was to discredit Barack Obama by claiming he was born in Kenya, thus stoking racist attacks throughout his presidency. That movement evolved into the Trump for president campaign, which is steeped in racial hatred.

This comprises some of my reasons to insist that in my - psychologist's - opinion, Trump is not sane.

There is also this:

Trump is sexist as well as racist. His comments about women reveal his misogyny. He has referred to women as “dog,” “fat pig,” “slob,” “degenerate” and “disgusting animal.” And Trump disgustingly said of Megan Kelly, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

The GOP nominee has no more respect for the disabled than he does for women, workers and people of color, publicly mocking a reporter with a disability.

This comprises some more of my reasons to insist that in my - psychologist's - opinion, Trump is not sane.

But you can make up your own mind, and this is a recommended article.

---------------
Notes
[1] I think Donald Trump has horrific political and economic ideas, and I think he is not sane. You may disagree, but you probably are not a psychologist. In fact, I have seen certified insane persons (in Holland) who did not have his money, and who indeed were not sane, but who were definitely saner than Trump, judged by what they said.

[2] I do explain myself in this article, and that is probably also the last I have written about Jill Stein simply beause she does not answer almost any question like a rational person would.

I do not know the reason, though I can make a guess: Stupidity (of a kind) is possible, but is not very likely because she is at least intelligent; dishonesty is possible, and no doubt involved somewhere, but also cannot be a complete explanation; so in the end I assume the most likely answer is that she has been blinded by her ideology (which also happens to many politicians).

But in any case, for me Jill Stein is out. Her answers are simply too irrational and too unreasonable to take her seriously. (I would take her more seriously if she had a chance of winning the election, but she doesn't.)

[3] And I am genuinely sorry for that, but I do have my standards, and she just doesn't make it. Indeed, here is a comparison: I know Chris Hedges supports her (with whom I disagree about this), but I would have been considerably more sympathetic to the Green Party if Hedges were its leader. I still would disagree, but he is a far better writer, is considerably more rational, and also seems a lot more honest to me and a lot more intelligent.

[4] That I am not an economist (of which I know a fair amount) is meant in two ways: it is somewhat of an excuse, but then again I also do not think economy is a real science. (If it were far more economists would have foreseen and predicted the 2008 crisis, for example. In fact, hardly anyone did.)

And that is also a good part of the reason why I don't read their paper: There is so much I could read that I generally skip papers from "sciences" I do not consider are real sciences (including psychology, sociology, pedagogy, philosophy and economics) until they have been properly replicated two times.
(This happens very rarely, which again is a sign these are not real sciences.)

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