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Nederlog

 Dec 15, 2016

Crisis: American Totalitarianism, Corruption *2, Economy, Ayn Rand's Hypocrisy
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
What's Next for U.S.-Russia Relations? Stephen Cohen &
     Ken Roth on Trump, Hacking & Tillerson

2. Emoluments Clause: Could Overturning 185 Years of
     Precedent Let Trump Off the Hook?

3. Michael Hudson Names the Pathogens in Our Economic
     Thinking

4. The Scary Ghost of Ayn Rand Looms Over the Trump
     Cabinet

5.
"Damn Corrupt": Trump's Kids Attend Father's Meeting
     with Top Tech Execs
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, December 15, 2016.

A.
This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interview Amy Goodman had with Stephen Cohen (and another person who
did not say anything interesting) and is about the totalitarian lies about Russia that now appear as facts in the mainstream media; item 2 is about Trump's many businesses (I think he will continue to hold them, directly or via his children, who now sit in on his dealings with politicians and corporatists as if they are elected as well); item 3 is about an interview with Michael Hudson,
who seems mostly right on economics (it is not a real science, for the most part, and it consists mostly of propaganda and lies); item 4 is about Ayn Rand, and quite correct in my view (that includes that those who admire her morals have the morality of professional criminals, and those who admire her style or her philosophy are simply either totally incompetent or very stupid); and item 5 is about Trump's enormous corruptive potentials, that probably will be carried over into his presidency, with Kellyann Conway bleating it is "presidential" because Trump does it.

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't (until and
including 14.xii).

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [0]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi and was correct since then (most or all days).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.
--- 

1. What's Next for U.S.-Russia Relations? Stephen Cohen & Ken Roth on Trump, Hacking & Tillerson

The first item today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

In fact, I will only copy and comment on some of the contributions of Stephen Cohen (<-Wikipedia), because I think he is an interesting man who very probably is right. Note Cohen is a professor of Russian. Here is his main complaint:

STEPHEN COHEN: I don’t know where to begin. Let me context it, because when we first—when you first had me on, February 2014, I said we were headed for a new Cold War with Russia, and it would be more dangerous than the last one. That has happened. We now have three Cold War fronts that are fraught with hot war, the possibility of hot war—the Baltic area, Ukraine and Syria—between two nuclear powers. Things are very, very dangerous.

We desperately need in this country a discussion of American policy toward Russia. We can’t keep saying an untruth, that this new Cold War is solely the fault of Putin. We need to rethink our policy, at least over 20 years, but over the last five or six years, toward Russia. That has been made even more impossible now with this slurring of anybody who disagrees from the official American position of how the Cold War arose. The slurring began against people such as myself two or three years ago. We were called Putin apologists, Kremlin toadies, Kremlin clients. It moved on to even accuse Henry Kissinger of that. And then, of course, when Trump come along, this was a great blessing to these people, who are essentially neo-McCarthyites. It’s spread to The New York Times.

That is, Stephen Cohen's complaint is mostly against the combination of American lies, stupidity and totalitarianism about Russia that now is spread as if it is fact by the mainstream media:

Whoever does not agree with the American mainstream media and the government risks being painted as "Putin apologists, Kremlin toadies, Kremlin clients" - which I agree does happen and is both stupid and ignorant (but then
there are far more stupid and ignorant people than intelligent informed ones,
in my opinion [1], and this is - it seems to me - a very dangerous fact).

Here is Cohen on a report by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity that I reviewed yesterday (which seems likely to be correct, in my view):

STEPHEN COHEN: You know them. And they issued a report
yesterday. I can’t judge it. I’m not an intelligence person in that sense. But they believe this wasn’t hacking at all, but leaking, that somebody leaked this stuff from the Democratic—in other words, somebody in the United States. So, here we have no facts presented by the CIA.

Yes, that was my conclusion also. And this is Cohen's complaint:

STEPHEN COHEN: (..) We’re in the most dangerous confrontation with Russia since the Cuban missile crisis. It needs to be discussed. And at the moment, it can’t be discussed because of these charges that everybody is a client of Putin who disagrees with the mainstream opinion. And it’s coming from the Senate. It’s coming from The New York Times.

I think Cohen is right, but I should add here a saying by Friedrich Schiller (<-Wikipedia):
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens"
This means: "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" and the more so if the people who are being stupid are blinded by ideology and egoism, as is the case here.

And this is a recommended article.
 
2. Emoluments Clause: Could Overturning 185 Years of Precedent Let Trump Off the Hook?

The second item is by Richard Tofel on Truthdig and originally on ProPublica:
This starts as follows:
ProPublica recently took a look at the Emoluments Clause, the provision of the Constitution which seems to ban payments from foreign countries to Donald Trump’s businesses once he becomes president unless Congress consents.
The reasons for the Emoluments Clause - which has been respected by the vast majority of U.S. presidents - is to prevent corruption, which is an excellent reason.

There is one lawyer named Tillman who argues otherwise, but I agree with Tofel that his case is "considerably weaker than he believes, and practice over the last 185 years is surely to the contrary
" - which is to say that over the past 185 years (!!!) presidents were not receiving payments from foreign countries (and probably would have had major troubles if they had).

I skip everything about Tillman, and only quote the ending:

If Trump, in his announcement originally scheduled for Dec. 15, does not sell his businesses altogether, or retains a residual interest in the revenues those businesses receive from foreign governments and foreign government entities, the debate between those who may decide to agree with Tillman and those who disagree could come quickly to the fore. Congress seems very unlikely to consent to a complex set of Trump business deals with foreign powers and their affiliates — especially as Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns makes it almost impossible to understand the scope of these relationships.

The new president would then face a choice about whether to declare himself the first chief executive in at least 185 years, and perhaps the first in our history, exempt from this provision of our Constitution. The alternative could be to subject himself to possible impeachment.

I think it is by far the most probable that Trump will continue to hold his businesses (perhaps "giving" these to his children, but then his children all
are helping him as if they have been elected as well - and see item 5).

Trump also has not disclosed his tax returns (is that perhaps so that no one can see he is not a billionaire?) and he is already making a mockery of being a real president: He refuses to read most intelligence report; keeps on tweeting; and generally acts as if he is not the new president of the USA but more like the new Caesar (which is what I think he wants to be).

And that completely supports my diagnosis of him that in fact he is not sane.

3. Michael Hudson on the Orwellian Turn in Contemporary Economics

The third item is by Sharmini Peries on The Real News Network:

This starts as follows:

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It's the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Come January 20th Donald Trump is placed to take power in Washington D.C., and there's one thing that everyone is wondering about is what kind of economic policies will he implement that we should really worry about it. Well there's been one economist, Michael Hudson, who's been thinking hard and taking a close look on the economics profession and how it misleads the general public in favor of the top 1%.Michael Hudson joins us today to talk about his most recent book, J is for Junk Economics: A Survivor's Guide to Economic Vocabulary in an Age of Deception. Michael is a is a distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City Thanks Michael for joining us.

To start with, here is Michael Hudson (<-Wikipedia) explaining the main idea behind his book:

HUDSON: Well, Killing the Host was basically a historical narrative of how the financial sector rose to power and how it sought to take over government and resist the tendency to democratization by really restoring a financial oligarchy and rolling back in Europe what were the 1848 revolutions.
(...)
The whole essence of classical economics was to say there’s a difference between value and price. Value is what it really costs to produce goods and services. All that costs can be expressed in terms of what it costs to hire labor and keep it alive. Everything that’s not a real cost is just a privilege. It’s just a legal right to put up a toll booth and extract rent.

So Killing the Host was how this fight was waged politically and essentially what’s happened since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan introduced neoliberalism that was followed up by the Clinton’s, by Tony Blair and England, really by Europe today, well J is for Junk Economics is sort of two things. It describes how the economic vocabulary has been turned around in an Orwellian way to mean just the opposite of what words used to mean. A free market now means a market free for the landlords to charge whatever they want. Free for the monopolists to charge whatever they want. Free of any regulation.

In fact, there is a whole lot more to say about the difference between value and price, but the real debate is both fairly technical and requires some mathematical knowledge. I will not discuss this here, but only refer you to a - quite thin - booklet (99 pages in all) by Piero Sraffa (<-Wikipedia): "Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities", that was originally published in 1960. (This will not resolve all difficulties for you either, but - in case you are interested in economics - this is one of the main books to understand a rational distinction between values and prices.)

Next, I agree completely with the the third paragraph, and indeed have been saying so for a long time in Nederlog. About the only thing that is missing in this quote is the Third Way (<-Wikipedia), which is a summary of Bill Clinton's and Tony Blair's lies.

As to Obama, there is first this:

HUDSON: For the last 8 years, the entire Obama administration has been one downturn for the 95% of the population. All the growth has been at the top. We’ve got to show them that.

Yes, indeed - and here is some of the evidence:

HUDSON: Yes the reason he’s so much worse than President Bush or even President Clinton is this was a potential turning point. When you look at who are the great presidents in history, you really think who’s a president during a great war or during a turning point. Obama promised hope and change. But that was all demagogue. He didn’t have any hope and change. The hope was for Wall Street. He delivered his constituency to his Wall Street backers and instead of making a change, he turned the economy over to Wall Street. He turned the treasury over to Robert Rubin and his Wall Street gang who supported Bill Clinton, the most corrupt bank in the country, CitiGroup, that Sheila Bair wanted to close down and turn into a public option. He turned over the Justice Department to Wall Street factotums like Eric Holder who refused to put any of the crooked bankers in jail.

So basically, he made it appear as if he was representing the people where he slammed down hard on them.

Yes indeed - and as I have been saying since 2009: What Obama says to "the public" is one thing; what Obama does in signing laws and regulations is quite another thing.

Finally, here is one bit from the next interview, which I quote because it makes clear how the banks (and only the banks) are interested in paying hardly any interests: They make huge profits that way:

HUDSON: The stock market has gone up since 2008 in America, in Europe, all over the world because the central banks have flooded the economy with creating new money. They didn't create the money to hire workers. They didn't create the money to build infrastructure, they didn't create the money to invest in the economy. They didn't create the money to pay off the mortgages of people who had junk mortgages and were exploitive. They didn't create the money to write of student loans. All the money that was created, every penny, was created to give to the banks. To the Wall Street banks at 0.1% interests to create reserves at the Federal Reserve so that the banks could then lend out money and what did they do to who did they lend it to?

Well they lent to corporate [raiders]. So, part of the reason the stock market has gone up is that corporate [raiders] have borrowed very inexpensively 1%, say from a bank, and bought companies whose dividend rates are 3% or 4 or 5% and they get what's called the arbitrage, the difference.

Yes indeed. There is considerably more text in the interview and it is recommended.

4. The Scary Ghost of Ayn Rand Looms Over the Trump Cabinet

The fourth item is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Ayn Rand was a terrible person who wove a philosophy of selfishness and greed out of the threads of her own psychopathy. Rand’s writings and speeches should be recognized as rantings suited for an audience of a well-trained therapist, instead of inflicted upon millions of English students.

Rand, who declared “altruism” a national disease, wrote admiringly of child-murderer William Edward Hickman's callous indifference toward others and his “immense, explicit egotism.” Her contempt for the poor and middle-class are pronounced by anti-Robin Hoods who brag about stealing from "the thieving poor” to give to "the productive rich." Rand defended Native American genocide and murderous white supremacy, once stating “any white person who [brought] the elements of civilization had the right to take over this continent.” Objectivism, Rand’s refutation of basic human decency in favor of pathological self-interest and ruthless capitalism, was correctly identified as “perfect in its immorality” by Gore Vidal more than half a century ago. Today it’s the prevailing ethos of the GOP, embraced by Republicans going back to Ronald Reagan and especially beloved among the incoming Trump administration.

I think - and I have read several of Ayn Rand's (<-Wikipedia) books in my early twenties, after being told by Americans that she was something special: indeed she was, but indeed more like a raving idiot who couldn't write than like anything else - the above is a correct diagnosis of Ayn Rand.

There is considerably more in the article, that discusses various nominees of Trump and their relations to Ayn Rand, which I skip and leave to your interests.

The article ends as follows:

“The fact that all of these men, so late in life, are such fans of works that celebrate individuals who consistently put themselves before others is therefore deeply revealing,” Hohmann writes. “They will now run our government.”

Ayn Rand finally hit a wall through which her delusions could no longer pass; by the time of her death in 1982, she was enrolled in both Medicare and Social Security. After a lifetime of pushing a fever-dreamed philosophy, she was forced to reconcile with reality by old age, illness, and the boundaries of her own personal wealth. The GOP was all too happy to pick up the torch. Trump’s team of millionaires and billionaires, bonded by a philosophy of cruelty, are now running with it.

Yes indeed. Here are two more remarks, namely on the characters and the intellects of rich men who consider Ayn Rand "a great writer" or "an important philosopher".

If you are a rich man who subscribes to Ayn Rand's doctrines of egoism, greed, and despising the poor because they are poor, what you subscribe to is - in my personal experience [2] - the precise equivalent of the norms of criminals, who also are greedy, also are egoistic, also despise anyone who is poor, and also project themselves as a special class of people who are entitled to steal from the stupid rest.

And if you believe that Ayn Rand is in any respect "a great writer" or "a great philosopher" and are sincere (which I tend to believe most who say so are), it means you must have a lousy intellect.

I am sorry, but I have read (at 66) more than anyone I've ever met, and also read more philosophy and more philosophers than most, and this is what I think:
Ayn Rand is a very bad writer and a very bad philosopher (and I think so since 1972/3 when I read two of her books, including "Atlas Shrugged": Awful).

Finally, as the last link above makes clear, she also was a hypocrite, for she accepted Medicare and Social Security when she needed it. And this is a recommended article.

5. "Damn Corrupt": Trump's Kids Attend Father's Meeting with Top Tech Execs

The fifth and last item today is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This has a subtitle:

"How can Trump's kids run his business and yet be privy to presidential meetings...... damn corrupt!!"

Yes, indeed. Here is the explanation:

Despite consistent demands that Donald Trump create clear firewalls between the involvement of his family, the operation of his business empire, and his new responsibility as a public servant, the president-elect on Wednesday invited three of his grown children—Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric—to attend a high-profile meeting with some of the nation's most wealthy and powerful executives from the tech industry.

As first noted by Huffington Post reporter Christina Wilkie on Twitter:

The meeting, reportedly coordinated by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka, was a veritable who's-who of tech billionaires, including Google co-founder Larry Page, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Incidentally, none of these billionaires appears to have had either the morals or the courage to ask what these kids of Trump were doing there, since none of them was elected.

Here is more on Trump's corruption:

Last month, Ivanka's presence at a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resulted in outrage, leading journalist Keith Olbermann to declare on Twitter, "Attention @realDonaldTrump. Nobody else in your family was "elected." Get your daughter THE FUCK OUT OF STATE MEETINGS."

As CNBC reports this week, the head of the Office of Government Ethics determined that even Trump's plan to simply hand the business over to his kids would not be enough to remove the conflict of interest.

In a letter sent Monday to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), agency director Walter Shaub Jr. said transferring control of Trump's businesses to his children "would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest" under the primary federal statute.

My own guess is that Trump will continue to act in his presidency as he acted in his campaign; that he will keep his businesses, though he may somehow "give" or "lend" them to his children; that his children will sit with him on most important deals; and that his presidency will be quite unlike any other, and indeed may well destroy the USA as I've known it.

But this is my guess. We will soon find out. And this is a recommended article.

--------------------------
Notes
[0] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all"(really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[1]
I am sorry if you disagree, but then you probably have an IQ under 130 (which is what 49 out of 50 - then - share with you). It is important to see this (also if you are not intelligent) simply because both honesty and ethics, and intelligence and real knowledge are needed to get most things done in some reasonable way.

[2] In the second half of 1985, when I had gotten quite a lot better because of vitamins, I got acquainted with a considerable number of people who made a lot of money dealing in illegal drugs (nominally marijuana and hashish, but in most cases also in cocaine - and no, I don't use cocaine or any hard drug).

They liked me because I was clever and could converse really well and what I found out talking with them is what I said: Each of them
was greedy, each of them was egoistic, each of them despised anyone who is poor, and each of them projected themselves as belonging to a special class of people who are entitled to steal from the stupid rest.

I am not like that and had given them all up by the end of 1985, but this was a real lesson to me, for I had not reckoned with this, and especially not the last fact.

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