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Nederlog

Aug 8, 2016

Crisis: Access, Jill Stein, Trump's Numbers, Trump's Insanity, Bill Maher
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Introduction

1.
The Price of Access
2. Green Party’s Jill Stein Wants to Assume Mantle of
     Bernie Sanders’ Revolution (Video)

3. Trump’s Crashing and Burning: FiveThirtyEight
     Projects Clinton Has 92.9% Chance of Winning

4. Donald Trump Says Media ‘Going Crazy’ Following
     Week of Press Speculation About His Mental Health

5. Real Time with Bill Maher
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 8, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article about "The Price of Access": You need to be a billionaire in the USA in order to have a fair chance of being heard by leading politicians; item 2 is about Jill Stein (whom I don't like, I decided); item 3 is about Clinton vs Trump: Yesterday it was 19 to 1 for Clinton, which is good news (but it isn't November 9 yet, when things will be decided); item 4 is about Trump's accusation that not he but the media are going crazy when they say he is crazy; and item 5 sheds some light on the last two items in the form of two recent videos with Bill Maher.

Also, here is some news for the few who read my autobiography (in Dutch): There will soon be a new version of Part I (until 1978), and after that of Part II (until 1993). The first part will arrive this week.

Something else I realized is that in a week's time (August 15) it will be 39 years ago that I arrived, healthy and full of - then quite realistic - hopes, in Amsterdam, from Norway, where I had lived and should have continued to live. Maybe I'll write something about it, though I don't know. (It certainly was the most stupid decision I made in my life.)

1.
The Price of Access

The first item today is by Mattathias Schwartz on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Two billion dollars, the estimated cost of this year’s presidential election, is big money, but it is not huge money. Two billion is one-tenth of NASA’s annual budget, one-twentieth of the Harvard endowment, one-thirtieth of the personal wealth of Warren Buffett. Buffett is number two on the 2015 Forbes list of 106 Americans who hold personal fortunes of $5 billion or more, the Club of 106. These billionaires are rich enough to pay for the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and still have $3 billion left over.

A lot of the money in Club 106 is family money. The Club includes two Kochs, four Waltons, three Marses, two Newhouses, and three Ziffs. Donald Trump was also born into big money. With a supposed net worth of $4.5 billion, he is brushing up against the velvet rope outside of Club 106. The Clintons, both born to families with ordinary incomes, are now worth around $110 million, which puts them way off from Club 106 and pretty far from you and me as well. In the political off-season the Clintons have borrowed private jets from friends and relied on book advances and speaking fees to maintain two residences, to summer in East Hampton, and reportedly to help their daughter and son-in-law purchase a $10 million Manhattan apartment. The Obamas will soon be devising their own approach to making their way in a billionaire’s world with a mere $20 million.

This is the beginning of a fairly long article that indeed is about "the price of access", namely to politics-with-a-chance-of-winning: It turns out that in these days of Citizens' United, you need to be a billionaire to make a chance to be even heard by prominent politicians.

I more or less agree, and I do agree that most billionaires started as millionaires i.e. from inherited millions. There is a lot more financial information in the article. Here is some:

At least four of the members of Club 106 (Buffett, the Kochs, Bloomberg) have openly voiced their thoughts on who should be president. Five members (Soros, Simons, Cohen, Ellison, Bloomberg) are among the top 25 donors to the outside groups that have poured tens of millions of dollars into the campaign. Seven members (Bezos, Zuckerberg, Page, Brin, Murdoch, the Newhouses, Bloomberg) own large media and internet companies — Amazon, the Washington Post, Facebook, Google, Fox News, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, Bloomberg — with the power to shape public opinion. (By way of disclosure, an eighth member, Pierre Omidyar, founded The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media.)

For the Club of 106, elections are a game they can easily afford to play. One vehicle of choice is the Super PAC. In the 2012 election cycle, the top 100 Super PAC donors accounted for 3.7 percent of the donor population but gave 80 percent percent of the money, a structure that roughly mirrors the makeup of U.S. society as a whole, where one percent of the population holds half of the total wealth.
The first paragraph shows that Big Money is very narrowley associated with Big Power, namely, through "Amazon, the Washington Post, Facebook, Google, Fox News, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, Bloomberg", which are owned by some of the named billionaires, while the second paragraph shows that billionaires also figure as the main Super Pac donors. ("De-mo-cra-cy!")

Here is one consequence of this state of affairs:
The system is rigged. The Democrats are corrupt. So are the Republicans. Jane Mayer’s exposé of the Koch Brothers, Dark Money, describes exactly how pools of private money shape policy on the Republican side. A New Republic story on the fundraising prowess of Tim Kaine, Clinton’s vice presidential pick, shows how deep donor influence runs in the Democratic Party’s current leadership. Judging by their track records and public statements, neither Clinton nor Trump is up to the task of breaking the hold of money over U.S. politics, which means that anyone looking to make a White House run in 2020 or 2024 had better make nice with the Club of 106.
I agree the system is rigged, and also was designed to be rigged through the last 35 years, and I agree both prominent parties are well described if they are described as corrupt.

And I know the ordinary people - those who are not rich, and therefore have no power to be heard by leading politicians - do have "the promise" of Hillary Clinton that she will try to get money out of politics.

For someone whose $110 millions come from the big banks, that is not a promise she will be trying to keep. (Or so I think.)

And there is a lot more about the powers of Big Money in the article.

2. Green Party’s Jill Stein Wants to Assume Mantle of Bernie Sanders’ Revolution (Video)

The second item is by Lauren McCauley on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The Green Party convention in Houston reached its climax late Saturday with presidential nominee Jill Stein calling on the American left to turn its back on the “two corporate parties” and “vote for our deeply held beliefs.”

Vying for the support of those who previously backed former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, Stein championed her vision of “an America and a world…that puts people, planet, and peace over profit.”

During her acceptance speech, Stein said she was excited “to be running in alliance with the Bernie Sanders movement that lives on outside the Democratic Party.”

As regular readers of Nederlog probably correctly inferred, I have evolved into an opponent of Jill Stein. My reasons are not so much her program, which I tend to like, but her person and her pretensions.

I start with my weakest argument: I simply don't like her, and I don't mainly because I think her quite weak in discussions. I grant you that she is a lot better than Donald Trump, but she is certainly no Bernie Sanders. Then again, I am willing to admit this is mostly personal.

What is a lot more important is her false pretension that you can and should vote for her at a time she has no chance of winning the presidency, while a vote for her would be almost certainly be a vote taken from Clinton, which means it would be a vote for Trump - as Trump himself recognized.

Here is some more on Jill Stein:

“We face unprecedented crises that call for transformational solutions, a new way forward based on democracy, justice and human rights. And that won’t come from corporate political parties funded by predatory banks, war profiteers and fossil fuel giants,” Stein intoned. “It will come from we the people, mobilized in a broad social movement, with an independent voice of political opposition, because, as Frederick Douglass said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has. It never will.’ And we must be that demand.”

“So it’s time to vote for our deeply held beliefs, not against what we fear,” she concluded. “Democracy needs a moral compass. We must be that moral compass.”

Again I am sorry, but what she offers is a chance to vote for her, who has no chance of making the presidency, at a time when the only two realistic presi- dential candidates are Clinton and Trump, and at a time when a vote that is not for Clinton effectively is a vote for Trump - who is (I think) a mad neofascist. I don't think that voting for Stein is realistic, at least not in swing states (and see Noam Chomsky's argument, that I reproduced yesterday).

Finally, here are some realistic statistics:

According to RealClearPolitics, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is polling at an average of 8.4 percent while Stein hovers around four percent. But Stein is hoping for a major bump after her exclusive CNN town hall on August 17.

Further, both outside candidates are hoping that the historically low favorability ratings for the two frontrunners will help their chances.

This shows how realistic Jill Stein is: Not at all. She can't win at 4% and indeed also not at the double or triple of that.

3. Trump’s Crashing and Burning: FiveThirtyEight Projects Clinton Has 92.9% Chance of Winning

The third item is by Brendan Gauthier on AlterNet and originally on Salon:

This starts as follows and is here mainly because of the numbers plus the person making the prediction:

Political statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight released its 2016 presidential election forecast on Friday. In short, these next three months will be an uphill battle for GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the forecast, has a 92.9% likelihood of winning the presidency, while Trump, has a 7.1% chance. Similarly, as of this writing, Clinton has a 95.1% chance to Trump’s 4.9% of a winning the popular vote.

I say.

At this point you might ask: Yes, but I have seen many polls, and they all are different, so what's special about this one? The answer is that this poll is by
Nate Silver (<- Wikipedia), who has been quite right a number of times.

That is not a guarantee he will be right this time, but then there are no real guarantees: There are only chances. And yesterday the chances were 19 to 1 that Clinton would win the elections - which is an expectation by one who was correct nearly all the times the last years.

I should add that today the chances changed again: Clinton : Trump = 83 : 17 (roughly 15 to 1), which again comes from Silver's site, on which there is a lot more.

In any case, for me these are somewhat heartening numbers, in part also because the conventions are over (after which statistics do get more reliable).

4. Donald Trump Says Media ‘Going Crazy’ Following Week of Press Speculation About His Mental Health

The fourth item is by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows and may be seen as news about Trump's madness:

As a reality television star, Donald Trump has to know that what goes up in the realm of fame must eventually be torn down. Last week, several voices from the mass media achieved a rare consensus and made it clear that the laws of celebrity gravity were no longer operating in his favor.

In brief, Trump’s fortunes began to turn as some kind of critical mass was reached with regard to the press’ collective take on Donald Trump’s mental state. In the process, Trump’s insistence that “all press is good press” was also tested.

To review, a quick Google search—using the term “Donald Trump crazy”—of news articles published over the last seven or so days yielded pages of results. The stories typically referred to a heavily cited chain of events, including Trump’s protracted and relentlessly televised feud with the Khan family, his breezy appropriation of a supportive veteran’s Purple Heart and his confusing exchange with a disruptive baby.

As I said, this really is about the mental state of Donald Trump. Since I am a psychologist who thinks he is mad and should not be permitted to become the most powerful person on earth, I quite agree.

Then again, what I think doesn't matter much, but what these people think does matter (some):

Figuring among them were these headlines:

● “Mark Cuban endorses Hillary Clinton, calls Donald Trump ‘bats—- crazy’” (CNN)

● “Is Donald Trump Just Plain Crazy?” (Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post)

● “Donald Trump’s calamitous week leads to questions about his state of mind” (The Telegraph)

● “Donald Trump may be acting crazy, but it’s keeping the news away from the one story he wants to bury” (Daily Kos)

● “The Psychopathology of Donald Trump” (Bill Blum, Truthdig—the basis for this Facebook Live discussion featuring Blum and Truthdig staff members)

● “The Week They Decided Donald Trump Was Crazy” (Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal)

As other prominent conservative commentators—David Brooks, Ben Howe, this panel assembled by The National Review—had done before her, certified Reaganite Noonan did her part to dispel the notion that Trump could still somehow be squeezed into a presidential mold.

“He does not have a second act, there are no hidden depths, there will be no ‘pivot’”, Noonan wrote. “It is not that he is willful or stubborn, though he may be, it’s that he doesn’t have the skill set needed now — discretion, carefulness, generosity, judgment. There’s a clueless quality about him.” Worse, Noonan launched zingers like this: “He’s all about screens, like a toddler hooked on iPad.”

I agree. You can read to the above links (not all: some you have to subscribe to, which I never do) in case you are interested in Trump's sanity, or else you
may go to the next item, which is about the same subject, and is probably a bit more humorous:

5. Real Time with Bill Maher

The fifth item today is by Real Time with Bill Maher and consists of two recent videos that deal with the mental state of Donald Trump:
I liked both of them, and both take less time than four minutes. And besides I liked the news that Bill Maher is returning after the holidays, simply because he is one of the few commenting on American politics whom I usually like.
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