Tuesday, Mar 7, 2017

Crisis: The Deep State, Facts All Relative (?), "Russian Hacking", The Rich vs The Poor

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. The Deep State vs. President Trump
2. “Facts Are in the Eye of the Beholder,” Says Roger Stone,
     Trump Confidant

Debate: Are Trump’s Ties to Russia a Dangerous Security Issue
     or Critics’ Fodder for New Red Scare?

4. How 90% of American Households Lost an Average of $17,000
     in Wealth to the Plutocrats in 2016


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, March 7, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by someone who strongly recommends Mike Lofgren's book; item 2 is about Roger Stone who said "facts are in the eye of the beholder": No, they are not; item 3 is about Russian hacking and (once again) correctly concludes there is no evidence of Russian hacking of the presidential elections; and item 4 is about a fine article on the rich vs the poor: The few rich are getting a whole lot richer every year, while the poor are getting a whole lot poorer every year, and this has been so ever since Reagan.
March 7: As to the updating problem: The Danish site is OK once again (it immediately - within 2 minutes - shows today's NL after uploading); the Dutch site was OK yesterday, but now seems to be updating my site (that is updated every day) every fifth day, that is, a mere 7200 times slower than the other site, which is now as it was from 2004 till 2015). Where stuck for others I have NO idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. They have been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or someone secret service is.)
1. The Deep State vs. President Trump

The first item today is by Gary Olson on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Corporate media like CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elements within the intelligence community are singing from the same hymnal in denouncing and demonizing President Trump and are not at all subtle in suggesting that only impeachment can "save democracy."  Democratic Party leaders hope to parley this into retaking the White House.

To be sure, Trump is a neo-fascist demagogue and his actions should be resisted at every step. However, this is not what's motivating most of these critics. To understand why that's the case, I highly recommend Mike Lofgren's book, THE DEEP STATE: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (NY: Penguin, 2016). Lofgren began his Capital Hill career as a traditional Republican, serving three decades as a high level staff analyst for the House and Senate Budget Committees. He wrote the book after become totally disillusioned. His analysis and revelations are those of a consummate insider and, were I teaching an introductory course in American Politics, this book would be my primary text.

I say. Well... here is some background on the Deep State.

First, here are two articles I wrote in the beginning of 2016 on Mike Lofgren: Here and here. Especially the second is rather important, at least for my thinking about the crisis.

Second, here are three far more recent articles I wrote on the Deep State: Here, here and here. Especially the second of these is rather important if you want to know more about the Deep State.

Here is a characterization of the Deep State in Olson's words:

What is the Deep State? It's a hybrid network of structures within which actual power resides. It includes the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, hordes of private contractors whose sole client is the government, national security agencies, select (not all) members of the State, Defense, CIA, Homeland Security, a few key members of the Congressional Defense and Intelligence Committees, and so on. Except for a handful of Congresspersons, Deep State members have not been elected and are accountable to no one. They profoundly influence virtually every domestic and foreign matter of consequence.

I think this is more or less correct, but should like to stress one of my conclusions in this item that reduces some of the unclarities about the Deep State. I think the following assumptions are sufficient to account for the hypothesis that there is something like a Deep State in the USA, and indeed elsewhere:

I make do with the following assumptions:

(i) authorities very often lie or deceive and
(ii) the mainstream media often service the authorities,
(iii) narratives from the government, from corporations, and from mainstream media are suspect because they have a whole lot of money, a whole lot of power, and are partial to furthering their own money and power, and
(iv) there is - more probably than not - a deep state or shadow government behind the official state, that tends to make some major decisions that are not really made by the official state.

So the Deep State is a hypothesis, but it is neither a strange nor a wild hypothesis, and I think its existence is considerably more probable - in some form, and I think of: Wall Street, National Security Agencies, the Pentagon, and the CIA, especially - than its denial.

Then again, it is a - reasonably well-founded - hypothesis, that amounts to no more than this: There are some unelected people who have a great amount of power, and who make some of the decisions that are ascribed to the elected government. (And one clear example would be the NSA.)

Here is some more on the Deep State:

D.J. Hopkins, another close student of this phenomenon, notes that "the system served by the Deep State is not the United States of America, i.e., the country most Americans believe they live in; the system it serves is globalized Capitalism." And they do so regardless of which party is nominally in control. Lofgren takes pains to point out that the Deep State is not a coven of diabolical conspirators. It has evolved over several decades to become the antithesis of democracy.

Possibly so, but this involves a further hypothesis, that I would replace by my hypothesis that there is a strong force (carried by quite a few of the very rich) and a strong ideology that is best described as neofascism, and that has as its main aims the furthering of the profits of multi-national corporations and the powers of multi-national corporations combined with rightism in politics.

I think this is clearly there in some form (read my definition!) and it seems a better hypothesis to me than that "the system [the Deep State] serves is globalized Capitalism": Yes, but mostly through the intermediating rightist political ideology I call neofascism.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this articleL

Finally, years ago, the bracing social critic and stand-up comedian George Carlin presciently described what's come to pass as we face the equally dangerous Deep State and Donald Trump. Carlin said, "It's a big club and you and I ain't in it. What do they want? More for themselves and less for everybody else. And they don't give a f--- about about you." Carlin believed that an aroused and politically savvy citizenry could ultimately prevail.

Carlin was right, but this requires a popular movement that offers answers to the failed policies of the Democrats and Republicans. It's not impossible, but we should harbor no illusions about what we're up against.

I like George Carlin a lot, and I like the quotation (and he really said that the very rich don't give a fuck about anyone who is not very rich: He or she is just not fully human in their views, it seems, for that requires large riches, or so it seems).

And I also agree with the general conclusion: It will be very difficult to defeat a monster that is financed by the very rich, had nearly forty years of continuous development, is supported by the mainstream media, has corrupted most members of the Senate and the House, steals money from the 90% for nearly forty years now (see item 4), and is hidden behind vast schemes of intentional political, moral and scientific lies. (Though the economy on which it is all built is shaky and may collapse.)

This is a recommended article.

2. “Facts Are in the Eye of the Beholder,” Says Roger Stone, Trump Confidant

The second item today is by Mattathias Schwartz on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
The history of the 2016 election is up for grabs. Vying for posterity are two competing myths. One is the Russian conspiracy that elevated Donald Trump into the White House. The other is the “deep state” conspiracy that is laboring to bring him down. The first relies on secret evidence; the second on naked speculation and paranoid hand waving. Each myth has a few bits of fact dangling behind it; both are currently impossible to verify or refute.
Hm. I don't quite agree.

First of all, nearly everything most rational and scientifically informed persons believe is "
impossible to verify or refute", from quantum-mechanics and evolution, through to psychiatrists' attributions of madness to diverse groups of people.

Second, the rational probabilities involved in science and philosophy of science will differ a great lot, as will the rational foundations on which the diverse sciences are built, but we must do with assumptions and hypotheses anyway.

Third, the hugely complicating feature of all politics, all politicians, all governors and anybody interested in politics is that all human beings may lie, and indeed probably will lie as soon as their own incomes or riches are concerned.

Fourth, while there are two classes of hypotheses about the 2016 elections - the Russians crowned Trump, and the Deep State tries to bring Trump down - I do like to point out that the existence of the Deep State goes back to 1961 and president Eisenhower's warnings about the military-industrial complex, and that it has a lot of diverse and indirect evidence for it (that there is something like a shadow government behind or below the elected government), while the Russian hypothesis dates back to November of 2016, and has consistently not found any rationally credible evidence.

So in all, I agree that there are two classes of hypotheses, but I also think that the hypothesis of some kind of Deep State is far better supported than the hypothesis that
the Russians illegally elected Trump by falsifying the votes (for which there has been produced no real evidence whatsoever since November of 2016).

Next, this article is a report on a rather long interview Schwartz had with Stone and it also gives background on Stone. This is from the background information on Roger Stone (<-Wikipedia) and is the only bit I quote from that part:

“Truth is not enough,” Stone writes. “It’d be nice if it were, but that’s not the world in which we live. People are busy and have a lot of distractions … attaching truth to something else, especially humor or shock, makes it stick.”

Truth, in other words, doesn’t stand a chance in a click-hungry traffic-driven media environment.

Stone and I spoke by phone twice, on February 26 and March 2. This interview is compiled from both conversations. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Hm, yes and no again: I agree more or less that - in the worlds composed by Facebook and the mainstream media, at least - "truth is not enough" and I also agree with Schwartz that "we" - the internet-connected, cell-phone using, mostly Western - people "we" call "we" live in a world that is mostly "a click-hungry traffic-driven media environment".

But then that environment is a great part of the problem, and it exists because "the media" have been rather totally reorganized by computers and computing:

Now the nearly 2 billion members of Facebook can relentlessly be searched for everything they know, they believe and they value (in secret) and be offered advertisements that rhyme with their supposed knowledge, beliefs and values, just as the around 4 billion persons with internet connections can all be completely plundered of every information by the secret services (in secret), while the whole commercial world is oriented around clicks for products by mostly utterly blind and almost completely ignorant anonymous persons (for everyone but their secret investigators for commerce and for spying) that are of interest to the commercial spies only because of the money this makes for the rich and their corporations.

This is completely different from how things - society, information, people, privacies, rights, freedoms - were organized before computing. Two of the major differences are that literally billions of people have been added to "the information services" of the major corporations, in factually full detail because they can be scanned in secret, and that all the billions with an internet computer or cellphone are in secret investigated by very many secret services to check whether they are politically correct according to the norms of the secret services.

These are very big changes, and I will not further comment on them here and now, and only select three bits from a far longer interview. Here is the first bit, on Roger Stone's factual position:

What is your current role in the Trump administration?

First and foremost, I am a Trump supporter. I am a Trump friend. I’m a writer, and I express myself best in a memo. I understand how to write a short, pithy, and topical memo. I prefer to share my advice that way. I have no official role whatsoever, other than Trump supporter and friend. And of course, I have to politically kibitz from time to time.

I observe that - also - Roger Stone is 64 and a dandy. Then there is this about evidence that the FBI does or does not have (!) about contacts between the Russian government and Trump's campaign:

So all these members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who say that the FBI does have evidence of contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — is that all made up?

Let’s see it. Yes. I’m calling them out. I say, it’s not true. Let’s see the proof. Again, they may have been told that by some of the intelligence agencies but where’s the beef? Where’s the proof? Again, the New York Times specifically says, emails, records of financial transactions, and transcripts of phone calls. Produce them! Where are they! Let’s settle this once and for all.
On this Stone is correct. Here is the last bit that I"ll quote and review:

In the book, you say that the truth gets lost with the car keys sometimes, that it doesn’t quite stick on its own. What is truth to you, given all this evidence flying back and forth and people’s beliefs being so malleable? How do you think of the truth?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? It’s a question that can’t be answered. Facts are, obviously, in the eye of the beholder. You have an obligation to make a compelling case. Caveat emptor. Let the consumer decide what he or she believes or doesn’t believe based on how compelling a case you put forward for your point of view.

That sounds like a relativist position.

But that’s what campaigns are about. Obama claims that he created jobs. His opponents claim that he didn’t.

No, facts are not "in the eye of the beholder": Where is that eye? Where is that beholder? Are these also "relative"? As is one's knowledge of English? I certainly know more about epistemology than Roger Stone, and I say there are two kinds of things referred to as facts: (i) real facts, and (ii) actual theories, ideologies or philosophies.

The former kind are real facts, such as that the melting temperature of this bit of copper is such-and-such; that one counted 5 male and 2 female spiders in the sample one took; or that such and such scored 141 as an IQ on a test.

All of these are particulars, and in good conditions all of these can be ascertained as truths. But they do not prove the validity of any theory of any kind that is about them, for theories are not facts: They are imaginations that are more or less well-supported (from no support at all through varied, much tested, and strong support) by the available and known facts, and may be made more or less probable by discovering further relevant

Second, as to "consumers". The vast majority of those who judge the assertions of scientists are not scientists themselves. Of the minority of scientists, the vast majority of scientists did not specialize on the sciences they may (and often are) judging.

To say or imply that two billion people with an average IQ of 100 and not even a remote idea of what science and scientists are like, can decide, in a rational fashion, "what he or she believes or doesn't believe" is just the same amount of bullshit as insisting that these billions all know intuitively and well the full meaning of

(the Euler-Lagrange equation), for they do not.

Besides, this shows something else: The real problem is not whether any arbitrary individual may sensibly arrive at a decision about "
what he or she believes or doesn't believe".

The real problem is that real and rational decisions about nearly every question (i) are social and not merely individual, and (ii) are and should be based on provable competence in answering these kinds of questions. (And most men just do not have much or any competence in deciding what to believe about physics, chemistry or mathematics, for a few examples).

So Stone is quite mistaken (if honest): There are real facts, and they are not theoretical; nearly everything human beings believe in are theories of some kind;
theories may be supported or infirmed by factual evidence; to give rational judgements on theories requires rational competence in judging those kinds of theories; the great majority of human beings simply lack the rational competence to rationally judge any kind of science: they lack most or all knowledge of science; and everybody lacks the rational competence to judge most kinds of science (which is again why good judgements need to be social affairs and not individual affairs).

3. Debate: Are Trump’s Ties to Russia a Dangerous Security Issue or Critics’ Fodder for New Red Scare?

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

The ongoing mystery of Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election took an unexpected turn early Saturday morning when President Trump took to Twitter, writing: "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump offered no evidence, but within 24 hours he called on lawmakers to probe Obama’s actions. The New York Times is reporting F.B.I. director James B. Comey has asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s assertion that Obama ordered the tapping of Trump’s phones. The Times described Comey’s request as a “remarkable rebuke of a sitting president.” For more we host a debate between attorney Scott Horton, lecturer at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, and Robert Parry, veteran investigative journalist and editor of the website

And this simply is a good idea. Here is some background:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The ongoing mystery of Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election took an unexpected turn early Saturday morning when President Trump took to Twitter, writing, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

AMY GOODMAN: Trump went on to tweet, "How low has President Obama gone to tapp…” —spelled T-A-P-P— “…to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" President Trump offered no evidence, but within 24 hours he called on lawmakers to probe Obama’s actions.
The president of the USA does not even know how you write "tap" in his completely unevidenced mails that the former president of the USA spied on him. As I have been saying now for nearly a year, I think Trump is insane and should be removed for that
reason as a president of the USA, as indeed does Robert Reich: See here.

Apart from that, I do not quite see what Trump's fantasies about being tapped have to do with Russia's role, but I agree
Trump is insane.

There is this on an interview with former NSA-director Clapper (who lied to Congress but was not corrected nor removed):
AMY GOODMAN: During the same interview, James Clapper said he has seen no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting FBI director James Comey has asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s assertion that Obama ordered the tapping of Trump’s phones. The Times described Comey’s request as a "remarkable rebuke of a sitting president."
I don't think one can trust James Clapper and I agree with The Times that "Comey’s request is a "remarkable rebuke of a sitting president." Then again, if there is a deep state, both are or were probable members of it.

Finally, here is Robert Parry quoted on there being no evidence for Russian hacking:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Bob Parry, you have written there is no “there there” in this issue of all of the hullabaloo that we’ve seen in the press over Russia and Trump. Can you expound on that and give us your take?

ROBERT PARRY: Well, I’m not sure there is no “there there.” What I’m saying is that so far, the Obama administration and as far as we know, what has happened since then, with some of the holdovers from the Obama administration, they have not presented the real evidence to show that there was this effort by the Russians to leak this material or hack this material and provide it to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has flatly denied that they received this information from the Russians.
Yes, indeed - and this is the same thing as William Binney (<- Wikipedia) said last year. And so far, (bolding added) "the holdovers from the Obama administration, [..] have not presented the real evidence to show that there was this effort by the Russians to leak this material or hack this material".

And since they have been asked to do so ever since November, and could easily deliver the evidence if it exists from the NSA, my conclusion is that - so far - there is no evidence for Russian hacking of the presidential elections (and it seems unlikely it will be ever produced).

4. How 90% of American Households Lost an Average of $17,000 in Wealth to the Plutocrats in 2016

The fourth and last item today is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

America has always been great for the richest 1%, and it's rapidly becoming greater. Confirmation comes from recent work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman; and from the 2015-2016 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databooks (GWD). The data relevant to this report is summarized here.

And also in this article. Here is the first bit:

The Richest 1% Extracted Wealth from Every Other Segment of Society 

These multi-millionaires effectively shifted nearly $4 trillion in wealth away from the rest of the nation to themselves in 2016. While there's no need to offer condolences to the rest of the top 10%, who still have an average net worth of $1.3 million, nearly half of the wealth transfer ($1.94 trillion) came from the nation's poorest 90% -- the middle and lower classes, according to Piketty and Saez and Zucman. That's over $17,000 in housing and savings per lower-to-middle-class household lost to the super-rich.

Here is the second bit:

Put another way, the average 1% household took an additional $3 million of our national wealth in one year while education and infrastructure went largely unfunded.

It Gets Worse: Each MIDDLE-CLASS Household Lost $35,000 to the 1% 

According to Piketty and Saez and Zucman, the true middle class is "the group of adults with income between the median and the 90th percentile." This group of 50 million households lost $1.76 trillion of their wealth in 2016, or over $35,000 each.

Here is the third bit:

Even the Wages of the Poorest Americans Have Been Transferred to the Plutocrats 

It's bad enough that the poorest 50% of America have no appreciable wealth, but their income has not increased in 40 years (see Table 1 here). More evidence comes from Pew Research.

As Piketty, Saez, and Zucman note, the richest 1% and the poorest 50% "have basically switched their income shares." They explain, "We observe a complete collapse of the bottom 50% income share in the US between 1978 and 2015, from 20% to 12% of total income, while the top 1% income share rose from 11% to 20%."
I say. This is a fine article with hard facts, and I strongly recommend it.


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