January 2 2017

Crisis: Trump Thief, Expectations, On Economy, US Totalitarianism, Mark Blyth
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Defying Donald Trump’s Kleptocracy
2. What We Expect to See in 2017
This Is the Year Economists Finally Figured Out What Everyone
     Else Long Understood About 'Free Trade'

The War Against Alternative Information
5. Mark Blyth - Capitalism Only Works For The Rich The Rest Will
   Continue To Suffer For Scraps

This is a Nederlog of January 2, 2017.

First, there is this: I have uploaded everything for the new year, including the new Nederlog, yesterday morning - January 1, 2017 - at 11.10 Dutch time. Meanwhile, it is January 2, 2017, and 14.25 in the afternoon and the site in Holland still pretends it is December 31, 2016, whereas the site in Denmark still pretends it is December 31, 2015.

I am very sorry: None of it is my doing. I will let you know (if there is anyone left) when this "straightens out" (but meanwhile I would not be amazed if it never will: I have been abused far too much already by my providers to guess otherwise...)

Second, here is the survey of today's Nederlog (that probably is going to be read by no one, thanks to my providers):

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 links: Item 1 is on Donald Trump by Chris Hedges, and is a fine if not optimistc article (I agree); item 2 is also from Truthdig, and by seven authors, but I quote just one, and mostly agree (and no, it is far from optmistic); item 3 is about economists vs. the economy, and is also realistic and fair (and most "economists" are not economists but well-paid propagandists); item 4 is about the ever increasing totalitarian climate in the USA: Now the government has designed its own propaganda-team that is going to take down anybody who disagrees with the government (or so it seems); and item 5 is a fine video interview with one of the few economists who talk sense (and who predicted both Brexit and Trump).

1. Defying Donald Trump’s Kleptocracy

first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The final stages of capitalism, Karl Marx predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits at former levels. Capitalists would begin to consume the government along with the physical and social structures that sustained them. Democracy, social welfare, electoral participation, the common good and investment in public transportation, roads, bridges, utilities, industry, education, ecosystem protection and health care would be sacrificed to feed the mania for short-term profit. These assaults would destroy the host. This is the stage of late capitalism that Donald Trump represents.
I have read rather a lot by Karl Marx (mostly before my twenties, in considerable part because my parents were - sincere, honest, courageous - communists and had quite a number of his books), but I don't quite recall the present prediction. Then again, I agree Marx predicted the end of capitalism, and also that the end would be dire, at least until the socialist revolution.

And while I guess Marx might have agreed with Hedges that "
Donald Trump represents" "the stage of late capitalism", I don't know. Part of my reason is that leftists of various kinds have been telling me since the Sixties that we are living in "the stage of late capitalism" - which is meanwhile about 50 years now. [1] Another part of my reason is that I consider it (optimistically?) about 50/50 (also see item 2) that Trump will start a nuclear war, which means the death of billions, but may leave the richest - with good bunkers for themselves, and a lot of money and gold - alive.

But I don't know, except that the situation is serious and threatening, while Trump as president of the USA makes it a lot more serious, for he is utterly and dangerously incompetent and ignorant.

Then there is this on Trump's new government:

Trump plans to oversee the last great campaign of corporate pillaging of America. It will be as crass and brazen as the fleecing of the desperate people, hoping for a miracle in the face of dead-end jobs and ruinous personal debt, who visited his casinos or shelled out thousands of dollars for the sham of Trump University. He will attempt to unleash a kleptocracy—the word comes from the Greek klÚpto, meaning thieves, and kratos, meaning rule, so it is literally “rule by thieves”—one that will rival the kleptocracies carried out by Suharto in Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. It is not that Trump and his family will use the influence of government to increase their wealth, although this will certainly take place on a massive scale; it is that hundreds of billions of federal dollars will be diverted into the hands of cronies, sleazy bankers, unethical financial firms and scabrous hedge fund managers. The pillars of the liberal state will be obliterated.
I basically agree, although I don't think a kleptocracy is a serious reason. [2] But yes, the rich will steal and will do so for themselves and the rich and for no one else.

There is this on Trump himself:
Trump is impulsive, ignorant and inept. His corruption and greed are so unfettered he may become a burden and embarrassment to his party and the nation, as well as a danger to himself. The longer he stumbles in the unfamiliar corridors of governmental power the more vulnerable he becomes. But if we are not in the streets to hold the system accountable he may be able to cling to power and inflict significant damage.
I mostly agree, but in my psychologist's opinions (see here and here) Trump is not just "impulsive, ignorant and inept" (which indeed he is): He is also not sane, and for that reason very dangerous, indeed in part because he is ignorant and of a violent and vindictive temperament. [3]

Here is some more (which in fact announces neofascism if there is another major attack of terrorism or "terrorism", which seems rather likely):
If, however, we suffer another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or launch a new war, the political space to examine and prosecute Trump and remove him from office will disappear. The rhetoric from the Oval Office will become bloodcurdling. The security and surveillance state will go into hyperdrive. Any dissent, including mere criticism of the president, will be attacked as helping our enemies.
Yes indeed - and the "security and surveillance state" is not democratic or liberal or fair: it is the basis of neofascism, and indeed this may have been the original intent of the term "terrorism", as I have said already in 2005.

Then there is this, that I think is true, for the deregulated banks are the true power in the USA: They rule virtually everything, directly or indirectly:
The privatization of the government-backed mortgages would see financial institutions authorized to issue mortgage-backed securities that carry a government guarantee. If the mortgages failed under the privatization scheme, the taxpayer would foot the bill. If the mortgages succeeded, the banks would get the profit. The privatization plan amounts to the institutionalization of the 2008 government bailout for big banks. It could cost the taxpayer billions.
For this is the 2008 schema, institutionalized by both Bush Jr. and Obama: If the banks fail, the public has to pay the money to save them; if the banks don't fail, the banks and their CEOs get all the riches.

There is this on the Democrat's Chuck Schumer (who is currently worth $700,000):

Schumer is the senator-of-choice for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, before they collapsed in 2008, lavishly funded his campaigns. Schumer joined with Republicans in 1999 to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which had created walls between investment and commercial banks. This repeal set the stage for the 2008 global financial crisis. Schumer voted to bail out Wall Street in 2008. He sponsored an amendment that barred the Securities and Exchange Commission from overseeing credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.

Schumer, like Trump, is addicted to his own celebrity. He, like Trump, believes that politics is fundamentally about public relations.
In brief, there is but one political party in the USA [5], and it has been taken over by the rich and the bankers, thanks to the Supreme Court (Citizens United (<-Wikipedia)) who now also have been voted into office with all the powers they wanted: They rule the Senate and the Congress, and their billionaires and generals are the new US government.

It is the perfect set-up for a major tragedy, that may spell the end of mankind. And this is a recommended article.

2. What We Expect to See in 2017

second item is by Editor on Truthdig:
This is an interesting set of expectations by seven persons ("that do not necessarily reflect" the opinions of Truthdig, and I quoted the Editor). I select only one of these expectations, because it is the most specific and because I agree with most points:

12 Fearless Prognostications—Bill Blum

1. Donald Trump will nominate an Antonin Scalia clone to the Supreme Court. After some feckless Democratic kicking and screaming, said clone will be seated.
2. Trump’s billionaire buddies will file more Gawker-type lawsuits to drive small, politically independent publications out of business.
3. NSA spying will be reinvigorated.
4. Edward Snowden will lose his asylee status in Russia. Julian Assange will remain a fugitive.
5. Rick Perry, the new energy secretary, will try to dismantle the EPA, but will prove incompetent at the task. Still, global warming will accelerate, and most Republicans will continue to deny the planet is warming, even as hedge funds buy stock futures in beachfront property in Orlando.
6. Betsy DeVos, the new education secretary, will dismantle the Department of Education.
7. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III will abandon all further efforts to defend the Voting Rights Act.
8. Trump will call for replacing the national anthem before sporting events with a presidential tweet.
9. An impeachment resolution against Trump will be introduced. It will go nowhere.
10.Trump will sponsor a massive increase in military spending, putting us at the brink of World War III.
11. You’ll know your president is lying if his lips move.
12. The world will end, or it won’t. I’ll be batting .500 on this one, either way.

These are "prognostications". I don't know that they are correct (nobody does), but I think most expectations are fair, and indeed I have said before that I consider the chances 50/50 that there will be a major nuclear war in the next four years (which will be the end of most of humankind).

3. This Is the Year Economists Finally Figured Out What Everyone Else Long Understood About 'Free Trade'

third item is by Harold Meyerson on AlterNet and originally on The American Prospect:
This starts as follows:

This week, Bloomberg’s Noah Smith published a list of “ten excellent economics books and papers” that he read in 2016. Number three on his list was the now celebrated paper, “The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade,” by economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson. Here’s Smith’s summary of the work and its consequences:

This is the paper that shook the world of economics. Looking at local data, Autor et al. found that import competition from China was devastating for American manufacturing workers. People who lost their jobs to the China Shock didn’t find new good jobs—instead, they took big permanent pay cuts or went on welfare. The authors also claim that the China Shock was so big that it reduced overall U.S. employment. This paper has thrown a huge wrench into the free-trade consensus among economists.

I agree but I have two criticisms: First, the term "Economists" in the title should have been prefixed with "A Few". (My title would have been: This Year A Few Economists Figured Out 'Free Trade'.) And second, as I pointed out on December 27, economy is - for the most part - not a real science. Here are some of my reasons (from December 27):

First, nearly all economists are first and foremost ideologists for their own particular school of economical thought, and Skidelsky seems right to me in maintaining these particular schools of economical thought are at least in part characterized as being intellectually very limited, namely exclusively to "economics" - and that mostly of their own school - and to mathematics.

Second, some of these schools of economical thought are paid a lot more attention (also in terms of money) than others, and the main reason is not empirical truth or theoretical plausibility (for then many more economists would have been able to predict the crisis of 2008) but ideological support for political positions.

And third [4] most of the terms that appear in economical graphics and mathematics tend to be far less well-defined than they are presented; are often difficult to measure well; tend to have at best vague and quite indirect connections with the reality they are about, because they often depend on quite a lot of assumptions (some or many of which tend to be denied by economists from other schools); and also many of the equations and graphics that occur in economics are supposed to be functional (which they often are not, really) and are between two or three extremely general terms that are supposed to reflect what millions do and think (with often extremely little real empirical support).

But the brief version of this is what I've said quite a few times: Economics is mostly not a real science. This doesn't mean it should be avoided, but it does mean that one should be rather or quite skeptical about most arguments of most economists - which is in fact what most economists are, and namely about the arguments of economists that belong to another school.
The last four paragraphs are mine. Here is the question Harold Meyerson asks:

Why have mainstream economists been the last people to understand the consequences of the policies they advocate?

Again "mainstream economists" should have had the postfix "(a few)" [5]. And my own answers I have just given.

And here is Harold Meyerson's answer:

The lesson from all this is that mainstream economics has to be viewed less as an empirical, much less scientific, discipline, and more as an elegant regurgitation of the worldview of dominant financial powers. By endorsing the efficiency of markets and the concomitant curtailment of regulation, by assuming that trade with industrializing, poverty-wage mega-nations would not have a devastating impact on American manufacturing workers, by a thousand other deaths of common sense, the American economic mainstream reduced itself to little more than a priesthood serving the gods of Wall Street.

I quite agree and this is a recommended article. Also, there are a few economists (not in "mainstream economics", to be sure) who talk a lot of sense: See item 5.

4. The War Against Alternative Information

fourth item is by Rick Sterling on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any “propaganda” that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality.

The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center “to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to “coordinate with allied nations.”

Yes, indeed - and for me this is a totalitarian and neofascistic plan, that very well may exterminate all the American magazines that I have been checking the last 8 years for decent true (or probable) information rather than lies, deceptions and propaganda spread by the sick and sickening mainstream media in the USA.

Here is some more:

The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian “propaganda” on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth – or Global Engagement Center – to protect the American people from “foreign propaganda and disinformation.”

Yes, this the birth of the US Ministry of Truth that will try to take care that all Americans will only get the approved lies and propaganda from their governors, while everything else is forbidden and prosecuted. At least, that's what it looks like.

The following also is quite true (and as I have said repeatedly in Nederlog):

The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world’s biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation – or what you might call evidence-free claims, such as the recent accusations of Russia hacking into Democratic emails to “influence” the U.S. election.

Despite these accusations — leaked by the Obama administration and embraced as true by the mainstream U.S. news media — there is little or no public evidence to support the charges. There is also a contradictory analysis by veteran U.S. intelligence professionals as well as statements by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and an associate, former British Ambassador Craig Murray, that the Russians were not the source of the leaks. Yet, the mainstream U.S. media has virtually ignored this counter-evidence, appearing eager to collaborate with the new “Global Engagement Center” even before it is officially formed.

In fact, the truly sickening point is that the mainstream media do not care for spreading the truth, but only care for amusing their readers with anything, that is, in so far as it does not disturb any of the favorite delusions of its readers. [7]

Here is part of the reasons why this is a truly totalitarian project (that well may destroy any alternative voice located in the USA, simply because they happen to disagree with the government):

But the U.S. government’s near total control of the message doesn’t appear to be enough. Apparently even a few voices of dissent are a few voices too many.

The enactment of HR5181, “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation,” suggests that the ruling powers seek to escalate suppression of news and analyses that run counter to the official narrative. Backed by a new infusion of $160 million, the plan is to further squelch skeptical voices with operation[s] for “countering” and “refuting” what the U.S. government deems to be propaganda and disinformation.

As part of the $160 million package, funds can be used to hire or reward “civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions.”

Among the tasks that these private entities can be hired to perform is to identify and investigate both print and online sources of news that are deemed to be distributing “disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners.”

In other words, we are about to see an escalation of the information war.

First note that $ 160 million is a lot more than any magazine or paper has; next note that the US government is one of the sleaziest and trickiest propagandists there is; then note the American government is going to do battle - it seems - with anyone who objects against any of its propaganda; and finally note that the American government will side with any "civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions" that are so kind as to agree (or pretend to agree) with the propaganda, the lies and the deceptions of the US government.

This is an extremely dangerous new law, and it seems to herald the turning of the USA into a totalitarian state where there is only one "truth", and that is the "truth" of the government, not because it is true, but because the goverment has the power.

5. Mark Blyth - Capitalism Only Works For The Rich The Rest Will Continue To Suffer For Scraps

fifth and last item is not a text but a video by Chris Hedges from his series On Contact on RT. This is an excellent interview with economist Mark Blyth (<-Wikipedia) who is one of the few economists who talks real sense, and indeed one of the few who predicted both Brexit and Trump's win:

This takes 26 min and 30 sec. In case you are not interested in Anya Parampil the real interview starts after 4 min and 12 sec.

This interview was originally published on December 12, 2016. And I do recommend that you see this.


[1] This is literally true. In case you have missed it (as you very probably did), the two reasons why I did not miss it are that I am meanwhile nearly 67 and had  - sincere, intelligent - communist parents, which means that I did read a whole lot of leftist theorizing and propaganda in the Sixties. And while there was a lot more that was said than "we are living in the stage of late capitalism" it was said in the Sixties, and quite frequentlu as well (and indeed also long before that).

All I want to state here is that 50 years seems to be too long, while I have been hearing this (for various reasons, from various sources) for 50 years now.

[2] In fact, I don't think Hedges is seriously advancing the thesis that we are now living in "The Age Of Kleptocracy". I agree that Trump is a thief and a liar and extremely dishonest, but of course we are still living in a capitalist economy that is (in the USA) very rapidly growing totalitarian and dictatorial. (I do believe Ms McLennen was serious in advancing her thesis that we are now living in "a kakistocracy": See December 19, 2016.)

[3] I am quite serious that Trump is not sane, and I am not - not by far - the only one who was trained in psychology or psychiatry who thinks the same: See here and here. (You may disagree, but if you do and are honest, you probably are not a psychologist.)

[4] In this paragraph my being a philosopher of science is relevant.

[5] I know there are the Democrats, and the Republicans, and the Greens and the Socialists and more political parties in the USA, but in actual fact only the Democrats or the Republicans have any real chance of being elected on a federal level, and in actual fact both the Democrats and the Republicans are in the power of the bankers or the rich (who pay the speeches of their former presidents extremely well, thank you).

[6] As I have indicated quite a few times in Nederlog: I am an - excellent - M.A. in psychology, but in fact got that after I had been illegally denied the right (very briefly before taking it) of getting an M.A. in philosophy, and I still regard myself more as a philosopher or a logician than I regard myself as a psychologist. (And I certainly spent more time on either philosophy or logic than I did on psychology.)

Next, this is basically a logical remark: One of the very many logical abuses that occur nearly everywhere is the lack of quantifying information about the things nominated by nouns:

Very much rather than saying "Most Frenchmen", "Nearly All Englishmen", "Some Chinese", "A few Americans", "Hardly An Economist" most writers vastly prefer to write instead: "Frenchmen", "Englishmen", "Chinese", "Americans" and "Economists" precisely because it sounds a lot more sensational, while being totally vague whether one means "Nearly All" or "Hardly Any" or anywhere in between.

I also think this mostly happens on purpose, and not just in titles.

[7] In fact, I have seen this best in the Dutch liberal paper (or so it was) the NRC-Handelsblad, which I have read, normally with satisfaction, from 1970 till 2010, which is a mere 40 years. By the end of 2010 - long before I got seriously interested in politics again - it had become so awful, so amusing, so false and so degenerate that I stopped reading it. (One reason for its badness is that this paper was sold a few times before then.)

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