Dec 29, 2016

Crisis: Trump & Trade, On Obama, Facebook, Putin & Trump, Lessons From History
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Will Donald Trump Turn His Presidency Into One Massive
     Insider Trading Scam?

2. My Wishes for Obama’s Parting Shots
3. Facebook Doesn’t Tell Users Everything It Really Knows
     About Them

4. The Most Powerful Men in the World
5. Are We Doomed to Keep Making the Same Mistakes …
     Or Will We Learn from History?

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, December 29, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about whether Trump will make his presidency into a massive trading scam: I think that is rather likely; item 2 is about Reich's wishes for Obama's parting shots: I found it disappointing that Reich sides with Clinton and the Democrats; item 3 is about Facebook (which I am strongly against, since I am strongly against all secret spying on almost anyone); item 4 is about Putin and Trump and is far from happy, but I agree with most that the writer says; and item 5 is about many things "we" know since many hundreds or thousands of years, but that only very rarely are used in policies: Why? (My answer: Because of the rich, and this is sufficient reason to desire that the rich are legally forbidden.)

-- 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 27.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]

In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi
and was correct since then (most or all days), but not on 25.xii: Then it moved back to 2015 (!!).

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. Will Donald Trump Turn His Presidency Into One Massive Insider Trading Scam?

The first item today is by Dean Baker on AlterNet and originally on CEPR:

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:

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.

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:

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 the 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 presidents.

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 to
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 transition.
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 text:

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 Hacking Allegations ‘Baseless’

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

The third item is by Julia Angwin, Terry Paris Jr. and Surya Mattu on Common Dreams and originally on Pro Publica:

This starts as follows:

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 Facebook deceives 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. [1]

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 deep secret:

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 [2] - 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. [3]

4. The Most Powerful Men in the World

The fourth item today is by Masha Gessen on The New York Review of Books:

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 not).

Here is some background on the present ideological background of the differences between Putin's Russia and (very soon) Trump's USA:

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 the ideological 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 Western culture".)

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 military threat.

In fact, the NATO is not quite the same as the USA, but indeed the USA is strongly involved in the NATO (as is).

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 cold.

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.

5. Are We Doomed to Keep Making the Same Mistakes … Or Will We Learn from History?

The fifth and last item today is by Washington's Blog on his site:

This starts as follows:

We 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 an economy.

We’ve known for 2,000 years that wars are based on lies.

We’ve known for 1,900 years that runaway inequality destroys societies.

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.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that the failure to punish
financial fraud destroys economies, as it destroys all trust in the financial system.

There is 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 minority.

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.

More 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).

[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] This is quite true: If someone would have told you, e.g. by an unsigned letter, that his anonymous firm knows everything about you there is to know (and more than you can recall yourself), including your nude pictures, how much you pay for things, how much money you have, who your family is, what are your relations to them, what are your ideas, your values, and your ideals, and so on and so forth, you would have been very frightened and very probably gone to court to stop this firm.

And I think these reactions are completely correct.

[2] I think myself that one must be completely crazy to exchange once privacy for getting advertisements, but there seem to be billions who even lack that basic level of sanity.

But even accepting that, there should be limits, which in fact there aren't.

[3] And that is and always will be my own judgement on the sick and sickening scam that is Facebook.
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