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Nederlog

Thursday, Mar 16, 2017

Crisis: Trump & Goldman Sachs, Dutch Vote, Political System, Jill Green, The Guardian


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Donald Trump Isn’t Even Pretending to Oppose Goldman Sachs
     Anymore

2. Dutch Vote in Droves — But Not for Geert Wilders, Breitbart’s
     Candidate for Prime Minister

3.
How Our Political System Has Cracked—and Why It Probably
     Can't Be Fixed

4. Greens’ Stein Faults Two-Party System
5. Guardian promoting GCHQ demand for more internet
     censorship
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, March 16, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with five items and five dotted links: Item 1 is about Trump's extremely close connections with Goldman Sachs; item 2 is about the Dutch vote (mostly because I am Dutch, not because it interests me, for it doesn't); item 3 is about an article that fails to draw the distinction between laws and politicians; item 4 is about Jill Stein, who is right about the two-party system; and item 5 is about The Guardian, that promotes a GCHQ demand (and has gone all Blairite/Blatcherist).
March 16: As to the updating problem: The Danish site is again on time today; but the Dutch site is still stuck - for me - on last Sunday (March 12), as if I didn't publish anything since then. Where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has 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 some secret service is.)
1. Donald Trump Isn’t Even Pretending to Oppose Goldman Sachs Anymore

The first item today is by David Dayen on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The continuity of Wall Street’s dominant role in American politics — regardless of what party sits in power or how reviled the financial industry finds itself across the country — was perhaps never more evident than when Jake Siewert, now a Goldman Sachs spokesperson, on Tuesday praised the selection of Jim Donovan, a Goldman Sachs managing director, for the No. 2 position in the Treasury Department under Steve Mnuchin, himself a former Goldman Sachs partner.

“Jim is smart, extraordinarily versatile, and as hard-working as they come,” Siewert gushed. “He’ll be an invaluable addition to the economic team.”

The punch line? Siewert was counselor at the Treasury Department to Timothy Geithner, as well as a White House press secretary under Bill Clinton.

Yes indeed. And it seems as if Bill Clinton introduced both the - totally fraudulent and false - "Third Way" (a kind of Blatcherist/Blairite deceptive bullshit), but also introduced Goldman Sachs as his main partner in government (and indeed they did make him quite rich).

Here is some more:

The ubiquity of Goldman Sachs veterans across numerous presidencies throughout history, both Republican and Democratic, has been well documented. But Donald Trump sold himself as something different, an economic nationalist determined to rankle Wall Street. He even ran campaign ads savaging bankers like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for their role in a “global power structure.”

That populist smokescreen is long gone now.

I may be mistaken, but according to me Goldman Sachs got real access in the “global power structure” with Bill Clinton (who saw Rubin and Greenspan - both of Goldman Sachs - some two weeks before his first presidency, and who followed them ever since, it seems).

If so, this means that Goldman Sachs manipulated politics and corrupted politicians to get what it wanted for a mere 27 years, which were extra-ordinarily profitable for the very rich, and only for the rich and the very rich.

Here is some more:

But it’s not just the presence of ex-bank executives that matters; it’s the policy menu oriented to Wall Street’s wishes.

After dalliances with unorthodox proposals for a Republican, Trump has settled into an agenda of tax cuts and deregulation — particularly for the financial industry.
Indeed. And this is from the end of the article:

Banks have celebrated since Trump’s election, composing the lion’s share of the “Trump bump” in stock prices. Goldman Sachs shares have risen from $181.92 on Election Day to around $250 today, an increase that accounts for as much as one-fifth of the total rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over that period.

Not only do Goldman executives benefit, but so do their alumni: Cohn received nearly $300 million in severance from Goldman after moving into government.
Goldman Sachs did extremely well under Trump, so far at least. And this bit also indicates why I dislike big banks so much: They pay $300 million dollars merely in "severance pay" to one of their top men to help sluice more billions from the government to the big banks.

It is all so utterly sick and so utterly corrupt, at least in my eyes. And I do believe it will end in a very major crash, but we aren't there quite yet.

2. Dutch Vote in Droves — But Not for Geert Wilders, Breitbart’s Candidate for Prime Minister

The second item is by Robert Mackey on The Intercept:

It so happens that I am Dutch (which I never chose for) and did not vote yesterday, as I have not done since 1971, mostly because all Dutch politicians are liars and I do not want any responsibility for policies determined by liars and frauds. In case you want a justification of my point of view: I share it with George Carlin (<-good short video), but I am aware this is only for the strong or the cynical or the very knowledgeable.

In any case, here is my take on yesterday's Dutch elections. It is still preliminary, for reasons explained in the next quote, but most has been settled:

Votes are being counted by hand in the Netherlands, to assuage fears of tampering by Russian hackers, but exit polls and partial returns suggest an overwhelming rejection of Geert Wilders, whose anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric thrilled American racists but appealed to a narrow minority of Dutch voters in Wednesday’s parliamentary election.

With 93% of communities counted, it looks like PVV will come in second, but far behind VVD and well below recent polls and 2010 score. #TK17pic.twitter.com/uBLDgwmtjK

— Cas Mudde
In fact, the only way to have a reliable vote is counting by hand, and this is quite independent from fears of "Russian hackers", who are by far not the only hackers there are. Also, I would not speak of "an overwhelming rejection of Geert Wilders" seeing that he came second in the elections, and has 20 seats in parliament (it seems).

Then again, the article is right to the extents that (i) Wilders did not - at all - succeed as Donald Trump did in the USA, and also that (ii) Wilders did not do as good as Wilders did previously (though he did well).

Here is a summary:

Despite, or perhaps because of, political and financial support from Americans obsessed with the supposed threat from Muslim immigration — like Representative Steve King of Iowa and the Breitbart contributor David Horowitz — Wilders was on course to take just 13 percent of the vote, failing in his bid to deliver a third successive election-night shock for right-wing populism, following victories for Brexit and Donald Trump.
There is also this, that sketches what did not happen (since Wilders is not the greatest):
Although the Dutch system of proportional representation, combined with a splintering of support among more than a dozen parties, made it unthinkable for Wilders and his Party for Freedom, or PVV, to win an outright majority, opinion polls throughout 2016 had suggested that he was on course to lead the largest party in the next parliament. Had that come about, Wilders could have insisted on the right to try to form a coalition government, even if his noxious platform of banning Muslim immigration, closing mosques and withdrawal from the European Union repulsed most other parties.
And this is a summary of the Dutch elections:
As the votes were counted, however, Wilders and the PVV looked unlikely to win much more than the 13 percent of the vote projected in the exit polls, giving them 19 of the 150 seats in parliament, and the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte, declared victory on behalf of his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD.

That is more or less correct. I have one supplementary remark, and one interpretative remark.

The supplementary remark is that I like it very much that the Dutch "social democrats" (the PvdA, who instituted narko-nazism in Holland, by protecting the illegal drugs- dealers, I do not know for what share in the billions these turn over every year) lost no less than 29 seats and now has only 9 seats in parliament (from 38): Excellent!

And the interpretative remark is that I draw no inferences about Europe or other elections. For this seems more like magical than like rational thinking.

3. How Our Political System Has Cracked—and Why It Probably Can't Be Fixed

The third item is by Neal Gabler (<-Wikipedia) on AlterNet and originally on BillMoyers.com

This starts as follows:

The system wasn’t supposed to work this way. The Founding Fathers deliberately devised a structure in which someone like Donald Trump — a vain, self-centered, mendacious demagogue — could never become chief executive, and in which the legislature could never be captured by a reckless, ideologically obsessed minority bent on overriding the majority interests of Americans. Those Founders labored to create an independent judiciary that was not captive to any single ideology or party. They carefully crafted a set of checks and balances in which no single branch of government could overpower another, and in which each held its own prerogatives dearly.

Hm. Perhaps the Founding Fathers did or tried these things, but then they did work in the 18th Century, in which no one could foresee anything like the 20th or 21st Century, nor TV, nor computers, nor much else.

Here is Neal Gabler's conclusion on what the Founding Fathers did and tried:

But it doesn’t work anymore, and though I am optimistic enough to believe that we will have a new president and Congress someday who will change policies and perhaps set us back on the road to rationality and common decency (“Make America Good Again”), the Trump presidency and the Republican Congress have nevertheless exposed the flaws in the system itself.

In fact, he does not give arguments and I disagree with him. My main reason to disagree is that he does not seem to see the difference between laws and (political) persons: The laws tend to last much longer than the politicians do, and are what should run the country (legally).

But here is part of Gabler's explanation:

The system failed because the Founding Fathers did not anticipate anything like the modern Republican Party. On the contrary, they believed that extremism and overweening self-interest of the sort Republicans routinely display could always be quarantined. Were they wrong! Instead of the Constitution circumscribing reactionary populism, reactionary populism has circumscribed the Constitution. That is where we are now. And there is no way out.

Well... yes and no: Yes, something like this happened, but no: "reactionary populism" is political, whereas the Constitution is legal. (And no, of course "the Founding Fathers did not anticipate anything like the modern Republican Party", for they could not.)

Here is some more:

First, they believed that a national government would attract what John Jay described as the “best men,” men “whose wisdom,” Madison would concur in Federalist #10, “may best discern the true interests of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” In short, they envisioned a government of sagacious men of good will who set aside their own interests for the country’s: the “best and brightest.” Instead, we seem to have gotten the “worst and dumbest.”

I more or less agree with this (but not quite). Then there is this:

Second, the Founders separated the three branches of government and assumed that each would check and balance the others as a form of protection against any one branch encroaching on the power of the others. As Madison put in it Federalist No. 47, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands. . .may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

That indeed may be tyranny, but we are not quite there yet. But Gabler seems to think we have:

Yes, as I said, others will occupy the White House and Congress and even the Supreme Court. But there is nothing they can do to rebuild the structure the Republicans razed when they tore down the Constitution. What is left is the rubble.

No. And my reason is the one I gave above: There is a major difference between laws and politicians. And the laws and the Constitution still stand, even though the laws are often ill practiced and the Constitution is much abused.

Gabler would have been right if the Trumpians had succeeded in removing most laws and undoing the Constitution. I agree they will try, but they did not succeed. As yet, so far, but it is a mistake to concede to them what they want but did not get as yet.

4. Greens’ Stein Faults Two-Party System

The fourth item is by Dennis J. Bernstein on Consortiumnews:

This starts with the following subtitle:

Some Democrats blame Jill Stein for “siphoning off” crucial votes from Hillary Clinton and thus helping to elect Donald Trump, but Stein insists that the two-party straitjacket is the real enemy of democracy, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

I disagree with "Some Democrats": What they complain about is simply a consequence of democratic elections. If they don't want democratic elections, they should say so ("We Are Against Anyone Chosing Any Other Candidate But Ours!"), but any democracy with several choices has the effect that those who vote for one choice, do not vote for another choice. That's simply electionary democracy.

And I agree more or less with Jill Stein (though I do not and did not think her a good or a plausible presidential candidate, as I have said several times before).

Here is some more:

Former Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, remains undaunted in her belief that the only real and significant change in U.S. politics will come through a third party that can finally break the headlock that the Democrats and Republicans hold on the electoral system.

Stein, who has been running for state and federal office since her unsuccessful run for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, has yet to win an election and received about 1.4 million votes (or about 1 percent of the total) in the presidential election of 2016.

The rest of the article is an interview Bernstein had with Stein. I will quote a few bits, but not much. First there is this, from the beginning of the interview:

Dennis Bernstein: You are here in San Francisco, doing a bunch of things. But you’re going to be participating a little bit later in an action in support of Standing Rock and indigenous rights. And I want to ask you for your gut reaction to seeing that almost the first thing that Donald Trump did was go after the indigenous communities, and get those pipelines pumping heavy crude.

Jill Stein: It’s a sign of what we’re up against: this incredibly authoritarian, neo-fascist, anti-human rights predator, and who has pretended to be a friend of the working people, and who has really been revealed in all of his glory with his billionaire cabinet composed of people who are attacking the very cabinet departments that they are said to be head of. Who is enlarging the military, expediting the pipelines, expediting all sorts of destructive fossil fuel projects, attacking immigrants. It’s really reigning down on all sides.

I don't say no, except that I prefer my definition and my name "neofascism" (without a hyphen), for the simple reason that I have not seen any other decent definition of neofascism or neo-fascism, and my definition is a reasonable one, which also does apply to Trump.

Here is some more (Jill Stein still speaking):

But even more than that, it’s a system that’s become so toxic, so predominated by big money, corporate money, and corporate media, that it’s become unhinged. We have an unhinged, toxic political system. Donald Trump represents, really, the breakdown of this bi-partisan system that people have lost faith in.

Polls last year, well, early on in the election, showed 90% of Americans have lost confidence in our political institutions, in the bi-partisan system in Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary. You can’t get more explicit than that, 90%.

At the other end, at the very end of the election, it was 80% of the people who described their feelings towards the election as one of disgust.
I say. I did not know that "90% of Americans have lost confidence in our political institutions" nor did I know that "80% of the people who described their feelings" (about the elections) spoke of "disgust". Then again, I also don't take this very serious (in a country where 2 out of 3 adults do not know that there are three powers  involved in government, viz. the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers).

This is the end of the article:

Right now we’re looking at a lose-lose [situation], with this corporate-sponsored duopoly. The Democrats might give us ten more years than the Republicans would, of survival, under Democratic policies. But it’s a sinking ship, with the duopoly. It’s time to get off the ship. Our lives depend on getting off that ship and launching the lifeboat. We’ve got it, let’s make it happen.

Hm. But I do agree that two parties are not enough to keep a real democracy afloat, although there are quite a few distinct reasons why.

5. Guardian promoting GCHQ demand for more internet censorship

The fifth item today is by Anonymous on Off-Guardian:

This starts as follows:

In the past year the Guardian has been overtly promoting internet censorship. A while back they uncritically coordinated with Yvette Cooper’s insinuating “take back the internet” programme to make sure we all get “the web we they want”. Last week they uncritically published an opinion piece from Tim Berners-Lee, where he claims we should:

…push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem…

While, of course….

…avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is “true” or not.

I admit I neither admire nor like Tim Berners-Lee, but I grant that my suspicions of him have not anything to do with the little I know about him, while they have a lot to do with an assertion of Zbigniew Brezezinski from the end of 1967 (!!) that is dealt with in some more detail here:

For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost
continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-
date, complete files, containing even personal information
about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be
possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.

About 35 years later (!!), around 2002, all of this seems to have been made reality through computers, html, email, and the decision of Tim Berners-Lee (?!) that encryption was not at all necessary - which meant that the secret services could spy and have been spying on everyone anywhere, with virtually no hindrance or limitation since 2002.

Indeed, here is Brezezinsky quoted from 1970 (a quote which disappeared from Wikipedia since):

"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities."

Back to Tim Berners-Lee, who assigned to Google and Facebook the task of deciding what is true, while at the same time denying that he did anything of the kind. This led to the following comment by Anonymous:

Hmmm…tough thing to achieve you may think. Which is possibly why Tim doesn’t bother to tell us how he thinks it should be done. In fact we can be pretty sure, being a bit of a genius allegedly, Tim knows pretty well that Governments and corporations are so irreversibly intertwined, their policies and goals so similar, that by instructing Facebook to “take measures” you are, in effect, privatising Orwell’s Minitrue, and creating precisely the “central bod[y] to decide what is true or not” that he affects to fear.

Yes indeed, and this - the fact that "Governments and corporations are so irreversibly intertwined", which Berners-Lee completely "misses" - is another reason why I find it difficult to trust Berners-Lee (though I know very little about him).

Here is more on the Guardian and GCHQ:

That brings us to today. Today the Guardian are – again uncritically – reprinting censorship advocacy, this time by their very close associates GCHQ. This article quotes Paul Chichester, the head of GCHQ’s new National Cyber Security Centre, who says that Facebook and Twitter have a

"social responsibility” to do more to “limit the spread of fake news” and control the flow of “misinformation”.

There is not a single word of analysis, doubt or even equivocation in the article. The headline reads [my emphasis]:

“Facebook and Twitter should do more to combat fake news, says GCHQ

Yes. Here is the criticism of Anonymous:

And that’s all the story is, a stenographic report of what Chichester said. Not a single question is asked about the implications of what said, or indeed why he might be saying it. It is a press release. It tells us what the people in power think and, worse than agreeing, simply refuses to acknowledge that disagreeing is even a possibility.

I agree, but there is some more that should be added: Facebook and Twitter have no "social responsibility" and should have no "social responsibility" of the kind the GCHQ attributes to them: If a distinction between true and false news is to be made, it is to be made by a public body, that is completely independent of internet corporations like Facebook and Twitter, and indeed of internet spies like Facebook, the NSA and GCHQ.

As is, all the crying and complaints about "fake news" I have read in the mainstream media are in fact demands for censorship, and indeed a censorship that is maintained by commercial entities like Facebook and Twitter, for completely unclear reasons, and without any public cooperation.

I am against that.

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