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Nederlog

Saturday, Mar 18, 2017

Crisis: Lofgren On The Deep State, Ralph Nader, Unleashed Insanity, Wall Street's Pay


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Republican insider: Trump is creating Deep State 2.0, but it
     might crash the economy

2. Ralph Nader Denounces Trump Budget as Corporatist,
     Militarist & Racist: "The Mask is Off"

3.
The Management of Unleashed Insanity
4. 4 Charts on Wall Street’s Outsized Pay
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday
, March 18, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about a fine article by Nafeez Ahmed that mostly consists of an interview with Mike Lofgren (I like it, but it is too long to extract in Nederlog: You get a summary of sorts); item 2 is about Ralph Nader, who correctly says Trump's mask is (more or less) off; item 3 is about an article by Todd Gitlin I don't quite agree with; and item 4 is about a fine article about the incredible wealth that Wall Street's bankers assign to themselves.

Also, I am glad there is not much news to report, because I am again in a period of little sleep and considerable pain.
March 18: 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. Republican insider: Trump is creating Deep State 2.0, but it might crash the economy
   
The first item today is by Nafeez Ahmed on Medium, who is interviewing Mike Lofgren:
This starts as follows:

Mike Lofgren is a former Republican Congressional aide who spent 28 years as a Congressional staff member before retiring in 2011. During the last 16 years of his career, he held a high level national security clearance as a senior analyst for the House and Senate budget committees. His position gave him a first-hand insider’s perspective on a wide range of US government policies, from the lucrative bank bailouts, to accelerating Pentagon spending; from botched disaster relief after Hurricane Katrine, to the contradictions of the ‘war on terror’.

Now Lofgren is speaking out about the Donald Trump administration, its dangerous relationship with the American Deep State — and what it means for the future of the American Republic.

I like Mike Lofgren, whose thesis about the Deep State I first met in January of 2016 (and that I reviewed here). Here is some more about him:

Last year, Lofgren released his second book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, in which he drew on his insider experience on Capitol Hill to reveal the inner workings of the US government.

His chief contention is that the US political system has, for all intents and purposes, become an oligarchy — with different Democrat and Republican administrations pursuing policies that remain constrained within the same defunct paradigm of extractive finance in service to the burgeoning bureaucracies of private defense firms, giant corporations, and global banks — benefiting the few at the expense of the many.

And I agree with Lofgren's "chief contention". Here is some more:

So how to make sense of the Trump regime, and the interests it represents? How to make sense of what appears less as a war on the establishment, as opposed to a war within the corridors of American power?

Still introducing Lofgren, this is what put him on the path of the Deep State:

As a senior budget analyst Lofgren had access to a lot of information. And what he couldn’t fathom was the contradiction between the professed aims of the ‘war on terror’ — to fight al-Qaeda — and the government’s obsession with Iraq and the Gulf. The associated WMD mythology that circulated around the world to justify the Iraq War was among the most egregious instances of global ‘fake news’. And yet it was officially sanctioned.

Incidentally (and I normally dislike abbreviations): "WMD" = "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (which sounds considerably more threatening than "Double U Em Dees", which is a big reason this abbreviation was introduced, or so I tend to think).

Next, I have a problem: I like this interview; I like Mike Lofgren; and what I've read from Nafeez Ahmed also makes me like him, but there is just too much to summarize in Nederlog.

Happily, the interview is cut through with bold summaries of its important points, that are all prefixed by "
Insight" and I will copy and briefly comment on these. I also strongly recommend you to read the whole article, but I must do with the following brief version.

Insight: The Deep State is not just the military intelligence community, but also consists of transnational corporations, big business and Big Oil, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and think tanks. Groups and institutions in this structure form various coalitions that can compete, but tend to seek agreement on certain fundamental policies that benefit their mutual positions of power.

I think that is correct and indeed this also stands in contrast to Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower spoke about in 1961, which is the closest precursor to Lofgren's idea of the Deep State:

There is a kind of government behind the official government; it consists of a number of leading persons in various institutions; but unlike Eisenhower's
military-industrial complex there also are involved top people from Big Oil, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and think tanks.

And I think that is a very plausible position, once you have granted the possibility that there is some kind of government behind the official government, although indeed it probably is no real government itself, but merely coalitions of top people from various sides that strongly support their own financial interests.

Here is the next one:

Insight: Part of the Deep State’s power comes from the fact that many of the agents of influence within it do not recognize themselves as as being part of this wider structure. This allows the structure to persist, grow and exert influence.

Yes, that also seems quite plausible, and indeed I expressed it by saying that the Deep State is "no real government itself, but merely coalitions of top people from various sides that strongly support their own financial interests".

Here is the next one:

Insight: Trump is not outside the Deep State, but he and those behind him have always been products of various adjuncts of the Deep State. But they have formed a specific, not necessarily very coherent, coalition which is now at loggerheads with other coalitions in the Deep State – whom they believe are endangering them, as well as the entire Deep State structure. Conversely, those coalitions are particularly upset not because they morally oppose Trump’s policies, but because they believe his approach is ‘giving the game away’ and endangering the entire Deep State structure.

Yes, this also seems fair to me, indeed in part because I believe the Deep State does consist of particular coalitions of particular top people, that also comprises the possibility that parts of the Deep State may be in conflict with other parts of the Deep State - and both are "parts of the Deep State" if (i) they consist of top people from the military, the security, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley, especially, that also (ii) do have the power to make or not make contracts with the government. (And clearly such top people do exist.)

Here is the next one:

Insight: Trump is not against corporate globalism – he is himself a corporate globalist, along with many of his administration appointees and corporate backers. But the Deep State coalition he represents sees foreign companies as a threat to the American corporate class – equally it sees American workers as a threat to the American corporate class. But these policies won’t work – they will instead enrich the already rich even more, and create an unsustainable debt-bubble that willprobably culminate in a 2008-style crash.

This is - I take it - an extension of the previous Insight. In any case, I think Lofgren is correct in expecting an unsustainable debt-bubble that will probably culminate in a 2008-style crash. (But I don't know when this will happen.)

Here is the next one:

Insight: Trump is escalating the repression of ordinary people. But this will make more people opposed to him – and to the Deep State structures he wields against them. This creates a heightening opportunity for people to wake up and step up.

Yes indeed. And here is the last one:
Insight: American history shows that popular movements to challenge oligarchic power structures have succeeded in the past, and therefore can succeed again. The Age of Trump is seeing a great awakening take place in which people with no previous interest in politics are seeing that something is deeply wrong. Here lies the opportunity to educate and train ourselves to create change.

I agree - more or less, for I am somewhat skeptical about "the opportunity to educate and train ourselves to create change", in part because I am unimpressed by the knowledge that most people have, while I am impressed by the enormous powers of propaganda wielded by the mainstream media and "the internet".

In any case, as I said above: This is a strongly recommended article, that also clarified some points for me.

2. Ralph Nader Denounces Trump Budget as Corporatist, Militarist & Racist: "The Mask is Off"

The second item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:
Longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader responds to President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing environmental, housing, diplomatic and educational programs. "The mask is off. The fangs are now out," Nader says. "He is collaborating with what is, on the record, the most vicious, ignorant Republican Party in its history, since 1854."
In fact, the Republican Party also was founded in 1854 (I checked). And here is Ralph Nader, preceded by a question by Amy Goodman:
AMY GOODMAN: To get response to President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing scores of other programs and eliminating whole agencies, we go to Ralph Nader, four-time presidential candidate, longtime consumer advocate and corporate critic. Ralph, your response?

RALPH NADER: Well, so much for Donald Trump’s campaign promises to the forgotten men and women of America. They’re the ones who are the big losers, as you pointed out with your many examples of these budget cuts. Overall, this is a budget that reflects corporatism, militarism and racism. The mask is off Donald Trump, his braggadocio, his lurid promises, his assurances that everything will be safe, and people will have—all people will have health insurance, and there will be plenty of jobs. The mask is off. The fangs are now out. And he is collaborating with what is, on the record, the most vicious, ignorant Republican Party in its history, since 1854.

Yes, I agree. Here is some more (with Nader talking):
The second thing that’s fascinating and very tragic is that when they talk about healthcare and efficiency, they’re not talking about the huge numbers of people who die because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time. And now it’s about 35,000 a year. That’s based on an extrapolation from a Harvard Medical School peer-reviewed study that appeared in the Journal of Public Health in 2009. They never talk about that. They never talk about 60,000 people losing their lives every year due to air pollution—EPA figures. They never talk about 58,000 people losing their lives due to workplace-related diseases and trauma—OSHA figures.
Indeed. And it seems to me that either they do not care at all or that they welcome it, though the last might be a bit too cynical. (And together these are slightly over 150,000 persons which - it must be admitted - are less than 1/2 a promille of the U.S. population.)

This is a recommended article.

3. The Management of Unleashed Insanity

The third item is by Todd Gitlin (<-Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Richard Nixon lied about wars and cover-ups, but otherwise his evasions and spins were in the mainstream of American political discourse. He was not in the regular practice of calling black white. By the end of his second term, Ronald Reagan was so mentally impaired as to make it unclear what he knew and when.But the present situation, a regime that systematically assaults truth, is unprecedented.
Actually, I don't know, and for two reasons mostly: First, I think both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were enormous liars as well, though I am quite willing to agree that they were smarter liars and also far better liars, and indeed also that they were not liars like Trump is, who indeed is quite special in that respect.

For second, I think Trump is special in that I think (as a psychologist) that he is mad, which indeed is brought out in part by the types of lies he insists on: Easily checkable non-facts, that seem mostly inspired by his megalomania: Trump Must Be The Greatest, or else there will be trouble from Trump and his lawyers.


Then again I do agree Trump is a major liar. Here is Gitlin on what he thinks is Trump's strategy:

Deliberate or not, Trump’s approach is to bury the nation in an avalanche of mind-scrambles, to unravel the comforting myths of a more-or-less stable society — the separation of powers, the wisdom of crowds, the inevitability of moderation, the assumption that all the political players, however divergent, however misguided, are of goodwill — while his plutocrats laugh their way to the bank.

I agree that "plutocrats laugh their way to the bank" but not quite (I think) with Gitlin's analysis, for I believe that (at least) the assumptions of (i) the need for "the separation of powers" and for (ii) "the inevitability of moderation" (in politics, between opposed players) are quite sound, and definitely do not coincide with "comforting myths". But indeed I also do not believe myself in either "the wisdom of crowds" or in "the assumption that" all or most politicians "are of goodwill".

Then there is this:

Not for the first time, we discover that George Orwell has been here before. “The prevailing mental condition,” Orwell wrote in 1984, in the voice of his fictional bÍte noire, Emmanuel Goldstein, “must be controlled insanity.” Trump’s way goes beyond propaganda. It undermines meaning altogether.
Hm. I agree that in Orwell's dystopia, "[t]he prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity" and the reasons are simple: What the people believed in fact was insane, but what they believed and that they believed was controlled by the state, that precisely for that reason was quite totalitarian.

But Trump is not undermining "meaning altogether": He is still speaking English, though indeed he is not speaking it honestly at all, and mostly tries to deceive and mislead. Also, if Trump does go beyond propaganda, it is mostly in the - authoritarian and totalitarian - assumptions that his propaganda must be seen as true, and must be seen as true by everyone, or else they will be punished. This indeed is out and out totalitarianism, but Trump has not - as yet, at least - succeeded in imposing his kind of totalitarianism on the USA.

When Orwell wrote 1984 in the late 1940s, television had barely arrived. But Big Brother dropping old lies into a memory pit and supplanting them with updates prefigured Big Trump with the consistency of his inconsistency. The motto was: Never retreat, never apologize, never yield an inch. As was the case of Big Brother, the regime’s hope is to administer its brand of controlled insanity, saying what it likes, whenever it likes, and treating objections as a distemper. Thus the insistence by Trump & Co. that “fake news” is “the enemy of the people.”

I think that part of Trump's insistence on the "fake news" of "the media" may be based on his desire to become a totalitarian dictator, but I grant that it may also be Trump's personal madness, for I think that the mainstream media helped him a lot.
Then there is this:
In 1984, Orwell well anticipated the mental gymnastics required of a leadership gang. The inventors of doublethink — so wrote Goldstein, Orwell’s master interpreter of the totalitarian order — knew it was “a vast system of mental cheating.” Apart from their cardinal commitments to national bravado and plutocratic rule — to the sucking up of mountainous quantities of capital out of the nation’s collective product — Trump and his chief propagandists will believe anything and nothing, because belief, for them, is no more than a transitory instrument of power.
No, I don't think so, indeed probably in part because I am a psychologist: What "Trump and his chief propagandists" will say indeed may be "anything or nothing", and also may have nothing to do with the truth, but this does not mean that they are capable of believing "anything and nothing", and there is a big difference between saying things and believing things (one says).
There is more in the article, but I don't think it is very good.

4. 4 Charts on Wall Street’s Outsized Pay

The fourth and last item today is by Sarah Anderson on Naked Capitalism, and originally on AlterNet:
    This starts as follows:

    Wall Street banks doled out $23.9 billion in bonuses to their 177,000 New York-based employees, which amounts to 1.6 times the combined earnings of all 1,075,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

    The average Wall Street bonus increased by just 1 percent last year. But the nominal value of the average bonus has grown by 890 percent since 1985, from $13,970 to $138,210. Meanwhile, the minimum wage has risen only 116 percent, from $3.35 per hour to $7.25. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was nearly 3 percent lower in 2016 than in 1985, whereas the average bonus was about 343 percent higher.

    There is considerably more in the article, including three more graphics. And the above graphic clearly depicts what the USA has become: A paradise for the rich few, but a hell for the many poor:  Just the bonuses to 117.000 Wall Street beneficiaries, are nearly twice as big as the total earnings of 1,076,000 (over a million) of the minimum wage workers.

    This is simply obscene (in terms of my values). And this is a recommended article.

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