This has a subtitle that answers the
question and deserves to be quoted:
The president has access to unlimited
information. Expect him to use it to his financial benefit.
I think the subtitle is quite
justified, although the article starts as follows:
Yes, BUT - and my point is that in
fact this is all most people do know - that
is: believe truly and on the basis of good reasons - about the
president of the USA:
Actually, I don’t know that Donald Trump
will take advantage of the inside information he will have access to as
president, but no one knows that he won’t. And the president has access
to a massive amount of inside information.
They more or less know some of the possibilities the
president has, and they more or less know some of the
choices the president has made in the past, but they also know
or should know that they know a lot less about the
possibilities of the president than the president, and they know or
should know that they know a lot less about the choices of the
president than the president.
This holds for me as well as for most others who are neither
president nor his direct advisers: For quite a few different reasons,
some good, many not so good or bad (propaganda, deceptions, lies) nearly
everybody knows a lot less
than they desire about the actions and the choices of America's
And this is true of almost anyone who tries to judge the actions of
America's presidents, regardless of who he is.
Then again, with Trump there are major economical differences (apart
from all other differences) which are mostly due to three things: Trump
owes lots of properties in lots of different countries; Trump has refused
to disclose his taxes; and - so far - Trump has not effectively
given up any of his properties.
Here is one single difference:
This is just the beginning of
ways in which Donald Trump and his top appointees can personally profit
from their positions in government. We already have heard accounts of
foreign diplomats changing their reservations so that they can stay at
Donald Trump’s new hotel in Washington. And, it seems likely that
foreign leaders will be more generous in considering licensing requests
from Trump owned properties throughout the world.
Besides, it is explained in the article that very
many times president Trump or his direct advisers will have
foreknowledge of trade deals or financial policies that would
give him or his advisers enormous possibilities of making many
millions or billions by using that foreknowledge.
This does not only hold true for Trump, but for all presidents:
More importantly, this is not a
Trump-specific issue. Every president in the last fifty years has put
their money in a blind trust. Ronald Reagan and both Bushes didn’t ask
the public to trust them. They put their money in a blind trust. The
same was true of Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Barack
Obama put his family’s modest assets in Treasury bonds, which is also a
fine option for avoiding conflicts of interest in the White House.
But Trump did not do this, and also
did not disclose his tax returns:
Every president for the past
fifty years has acted to assure the public that they would not
personally profit from their actions as president. It’s not clear why
Donald Trump thinks he should be exempt from this requirement.
Actually, I think I do know (in
the sense of knowing that is allowed to everybody who is not
the president nor one of his direct advisers):
Trump thinks he is The Greatest Of The
Great, and all laws and regulations that applied to all past presidents
do not apply to someone who is (he thinks) The Greatest Of The Great.
And although I do not know that is
true in the sense in which I know that 2+2=4 is true, I do believe that
it is (on the basis of various things known about Trump) more
probable than not, which is often the best that is allowed
anyone who is not close to the president(-elect).
For more, see e.g. here.
2. My Wishes for Obama’s Parting Shots
The second item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
President-elect Donald Trump is accusing
President Obama of
putting up “roadblocks”
to a smooth transition.
In reality, I think
President Obama has been too cooperative with Trump.
Yes, I agree with Reich that "President Obama has been too cooperative with Trump". Here are the seven points Reich recommends that Obama
should do - and I give you just the points and not the texts
(which you can read by clicking on the last dotted link):
In the waning days of his
administration, I’d recommend Obama take the following last stands:
1. Name Merrick Garland to
the Supreme Court.
2. Use his pardoning authority to forgive “Dreamers.”
3. Impose economic
sanctions on Russia
4. Protect the civil service from the Trump
5. Issue an executive
order protecting the independence
of all government fact-finding agencies
6. Issue an executive
order protecting the independence
of all Inspectors General
7. Issue a report on possible tax and benefit cuts
In fact, I do not know how
realistic most of these proposals are. But about one proposal I am
fairly certain that Reich is mistaken. Here it is, this times with its
3. Impose economic
sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential
election – including blocking all loans or investments by Russian
nationals in all
real estate ventures in the United States.
I am sorry, but I do not know that
Russia interfered in "the 2016 presidential
election". I do not think this has ever been
proved, and even if Russia did interfere in some sense - the Russians are
tracking the USA just as the USA is tracking the Russians, but very
few anywhere know the precise details or its precise
degrees of success - it seems to me not proven that any such
interference did succeed in a major way.
In fact, here are two references to
reviews that make this rather probable: Blaming
Russia Is Irresistible to the Democrats and William Binney, Ray McGovern
and Other Intel Experts Call Russian
I do not see any reason
why Binney and McGovern would lie, and I see many reasons why
the Democrats and Hillary Clinton would lie.
And I think it is disappointing Reich
sides with the Democrats and Clinton.
3. Facebook Doesn’t
Tell Users Everything It Really Knows About Them
This starts as follows:
The third item is by Julia Angwin, Terry Paris Jr. and Surya Mattu on
Common Dreams and originally on Pro Publica:
Facebook has long let users see all
sorts of things the site knows about them, like whether they enjoy
soccer, have recently moved, or like Melania Trump.
Actually, this is part and parcel of how
its members: Firstly, I see no reason why unknown persons making
money in an only extremely partially known institution should
have a right to know these things, and second, Facebook knows far
more about its users than it says it does:
But the tech giant gives users little
indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including
their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many
credit cards are in their wallets.
Speaking for myself, I find this
degenerate immoral sadistic spying by sick anonymous assholes - and I
am sorry if you think otherwise, but what I think is quite
inkeeping with what most people would have thought in the days before
Facebook: Anonymous persons who use this information to get rich
themselves or help their bosses make their billions simply have no
right to know this. 
There is also this that the anonymous
servants of the billionaire who started this major scam try to collect:
At least 52,000 attributes (which may be a small
fraction of the real number):
Since September, ProPublica has been
encouraging Facebook users to share
the categories of interest that the site has assigned to them.
Users showed us everything from “Pretending to Text in Awkward
Situations” to “Breastfeeding in Public.” In total, we collected more
than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users.
Here we have more about the anonymous
sadistic shits who collect everything for Facebook, but mostly in
Facebook’s site says it gets information
about its users “from a few different sources.”
What the page doesn’t say is that those
sources include detailed
dossiers obtained from commercial data brokers about users’ offline
lives. Nor does Facebook show users any of the often remarkably
detailed information it gets from those brokers.
“They are not being honest,” said
Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital
Democracy. “Facebook is bundling a dozen different data companies
to target an individual customer, and an individual should have access
to that bundle as well.”
Jeffrey Chester is quite correct Facebook
is "not being honest" and
while he is right that "an individual should
have access to that bundle as well" I think he
should go considerably further:
Facebook users - who disagree with
me in that they consent some of their data are known, so that
they get advertisements they may be interested in 
- should have the right (1) to know everything Facebook
know about them, and should have the right
(2) to block gathering information from them that they don't want
to see gathered (by a mostly anonymous private
corporation working for private profit).
Finally, here is something on the incredible
disparities in power
between ordinary Facebook users and Facebook:
One of us actually tried to do what
Facebook suggests. While writing a book about privacy in 2013, reporter
Julia Angwin tried
to opt out from as many data brokers as she could. Of the 92
brokers she identified that accepted opt-outs, 65 of them required her
to submit a form of identification such as a driver’s license. In the
end, she could not remove her data from the majority of providers.
That is, all of these 92 "brokers" anonymously
spy on everything users do, for their own - privately
profitmaking - ends, without ever asking anything; if the
users they spy on without any consent want to know anything
about them, they require all sorts of information from the users they
spy on, and indeed in majority they simply refused not to spy, and
could not be forced not to.
For me, all these spies are sick
sadists (and I am a psychologist) and Facebook is a sick disgusting and
sadistic project set up by moral degenerates. 
Most Powerful Men in the World
The fourth item today is by Masha Gessen on The New York Review of
This starts as follows:
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mode
of public communication is the very opposite of Donald Trump’s: rather
than Tweet 140-character bursts, he stages elaborate, laboriously
choreographed affairs that far outlast anyone’s attention span. He
holds one press conference and one televised call-in show a year.
Participants are pre-screened, question topics are pre-cleared, and
many are pre-scripted. Each event usually lasts more than four hours.
Each usually contains a memorable and informative passage that
summarizes Putin’s current vision of himself in the world. There have
been times when he positioned himself as the savior of a country on the
brink of catastrophe, a conqueror, a victor. This year, in his press
conference on December 23, he positioned himself as the most powerful
man in the world.
I say. And Putin must have been dreaming,
for it seems quite clear that it is not
the president of Russia who is the most powerful man on earth, but the
president of the USA, if only for the reasons that there are more than
twice as many Americans as there are Russians, and the Americans have
invested far more in weapons.
Since these are both elementary
facts, it seems to me that Putin's positioning himself now as "the most powerful man in the world",
which he evidently is not, is evidence that he deludes
himself or is trying to delude most of his Russian viewers.
I do not know enough about Putin's
psychology to say whether he is deluding himself (but I hope
Here is some background on the present ideological
background of the differences between Putin's Russia and (very soon)
In the last few years, the Kremlin has
framed the battle for global domination as a conflict between a
“Western civilization” rooted in the idea of human rights and a
“traditional values civilization.” Putin’s “traditional values”
campaign has included a virulent antigay offensive, an insistent effort
to raise the birth rate in order to save the 145-million Russian nation
from extinction, and, most important, a systematic discrediting of any
idea that is viewed as connected with contemporary Western culture.
This is where Putin sees a kindred spirit in Trump, with his flailing
against political correctness and his defense of Christmas against a
fictitious threat. “Traditional values” becomes a catchall term for an
imaginary past—which goes a long way toward explaining Trump’s seamless
symbiosis with the American Christian Right.
I think I should note two things about
these ideological differences and similarities:
First, this is quite unlike
differences between - say - Brezhnev's Soviet Union and - say -
Carter's USA, for these were based on the socialist ideology of
the Soviet Union, and the capitalist ideology of the USA.
(These days, both countries are capitalist.)
And second, the similarities in "traditional values" are hardly real
nor realistic: In fact, they are mostly make belief. (As said, Putin's
"traditional values" comprise "a systematic
discrediting of any idea that is viewed as connected with contemporary
Here is some more on the present differences and similarities
between Russia and the USA:
Putin fielded a question about Trump’s
tweet during his press conference. He was magnanimous, as perhaps only
the most powerful man in the world could be. “There is nothing unusual
here,” he lied. He went on to explain his own comments about nuclear
arms by stating that Russia aims only to be “stronger than any
potential—pay attention here—aggressor.” Without naming any potential
aggressors, he made it clear that Russia does not view the United
States as one. This was another lie: Russia’s military doctrine,
adopted in 2014, identifies NATO member states as the number-one
In fact, the NATO is not quite the
same as the USA, but indeed the USA is strongly involved in the NATO
Here is how Masha Gessen sees the current
differences between Russia and the USA:
The Cold War was fought by men who had
different visions of the future—the ideologies of the two sides were
battling for the right to define societies to come. This made the
prospect of mutually assured destruction an effective deterrent. We now
know that on several occasions one or the other side took a crucial
step back from the brink.
Trump and Putin, on the other hand, lack a concept of the future. In
Putin’s version of the clash of civilizations, we have only a
threatening Western present versus an imaginary Eurasian past. In
Trump’s case, the threatening present is global while the alluring past
is American. Both men traffic in appeals to the local and the familiar
from the past against the frighteningly strange future. They are also
both short-tempered, thin-skinned, not very bright, and disinclined to
listen to advisers—all major risk factors for escalation.
I think she is right about the lack of
strongly opposed ideologies, and she is also right that both strong men
(Putin and Trump) appeal to the past and traditions much more than to
the different futures their countries meant to realize. I think she is
also right in the fact that both men are "short-tempered,
thin-skinned, not very bright, and disinclined to listen to advisers".
Here is what she expects:
Applied to global politics and combined
with Trump’s ballistic temperament, this augurs a war that will not be
Which means that soon we will all be dead.
Given Trump's ballistic temperament and general ignorance, I think this
expectation is far more likely to be correct than I like.
Are We Doomed to Keep Making the Same Mistakes … Or Will We Learn from
The fifth and last item today is by Washington's Blog on his site:
This starts as follows:
Should Have Known …
We’ve known for 5,000
years that mass spying on one’s own people is usually aimed at
grabbing power and crushing dissent, not protecting us from bad guys.
We’ve known for 4,000
years that debts need to be periodically written down, or the
entire economy will collapse. And see this.
We’ve known for 2,500
years that prolonged war bankrupts
We’ve known for 2,000 years
that wars are based
We’ve known for 1,900
years that runaway inequality destroys
We’ve known for 1,700
years that torture is a form of terrorism.
We’ve known for thousands
of years that debasing currencies leads to economic collapse.
We’ve known for millenia
that – when criminals are not punished – crime spreads.
We’ve known for thousands
of years that the rich and powerful try to censor their critics
under the guise of heresy.
of years that the failure
financial fraud destroys economies, as it destroys all trust in the
considerably more in the article about what "we have known" for
thousands or hundreds of years, but it doesn't ask the question I
want to ask.
Before I pose
it, I need to mention one or two interpretative difficulties with the
term "We" that is used a lot in the above:
First, none of us live hundreds or thousands of years, so the
"We" in fact refers
mostly to persons in the past (for we do not often live beyond 80
years, while in the above quote "we" are talking about hundreds or
thousands of years). And second, while I agree that (in most cases)
there were for hundreds or thousands of years some
individuals who believed the things attributed to "We", I think that in
many cases these belonged to a small and educated
In any case, the
"We" the quotation refers to, while true in some sense, is also
misleading in other senses.
The question I
want to ask is this: If it is true that the above points were known to
quite a few individuals (mostly from small and educated minorities),
then why did these points rarely lead to effective policies
during all these hundreds or thousands of years?
I think the
answer consists of two points: (i) The people who did make the
effective policies (during hundreds or thousands of years, in very many
different communities and countries) were nearly always rich,
and (ii) the rich and powerful have quite different approaches to
themselves, others and power, than most who can rationally think
about them but lack the power the
rich do have.
specifically, the holders of power are nearly always rich themselves or
work for the rich, and the rich are nearly always much more
interested in their own survival and their own riches,
than in making decisions in the interest of the many or in
the interests on the long run of their countries and its inhabitants
(though they often claimed they were, falsely).
And since the
few rich nearly always and nearly everywhere exercise the power,
and since power brings riches, and since the rich nearly always decide
for themselves and the rich, I think this will continue until the
rich are legalized out of existence:
I think the
average person has far better chances on a decent life if no
one has the right to make or owe more than 20 times as much as the
poorest, and I think this can
be - in principle, in extra-ordinary ("revolutionary") circum- stances,
e.g. after a major economical crisis - rather easily arranged in law.
For more, see my
On Socialism (of 2015).