Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Crisis: French Elections, Sham Presidency, Blaming Others, Obama & Wall Street

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Neoliberal Investment Banker Macron Defeats Openly
     Xenophobic & Racist Le Pen in French Election

2. The Sham Presidency
Dems Still Blaming Others for Trump
Obama Shows Why Wall Street Has Two Parties And We Have

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, May 9, 2017.

This is a crisis log with four items and four links: Item 1 is (once again) about the winner of the French elections; item 2 is about Trump as a sham president; item 3 is mostly about the Democrats, who indeed are still blaming others rather than their own leaders for loosing the elections; and item 4 is a good article about Obama (who is going to be quite rich, having been president).

And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for no less than 1 1/2 years, now only at one of my two sites:
May 9: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site is off again and still sticks on May 4. They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most.
I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And what changed is that you have to refresh (and refresh and refresh and refresh) to get the latest, which is again NOT as it was before, from 1996 till 2015, and which for me this only serves to make it extremely difficult for naive users to get the latest from my site - that for them may seem to have stuck somewhere in 2016 or 2015.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Neoliberal Investment Banker Macron Defeats Openly Xenophobic & Racist Le Pen in French Election

The first article today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction (and is here to give a little perspective on Macron (<-Wikipedia)):

Former investment banker and political centrist Emmanuel Macron has been elected president of France in a landslide victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Macron won over 66 percent of the vote. Even though Le Pen lost, she received nearly 7 million votes—more than any other candidate in the history of her party, the anti-immigrant National Front. Le Pen had campaigned on an openly xenophobic and racist platform, calling for France to crack down on immigration and leave the European Union. Macron ran on a pro-trade and EU agenda. We speak to the French human rights and civil liberties activist and researcher, Yasser Louati. He recently wrote an article titled "French Elections: Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron? Hitler or UBER?"

I don't vote (since 1969/70) because I dislike the system in which I live too much to believe the politicians that lead the system, and because I do more than enough about politics not to need the additional legitimization that I voted, but most people do not share my judgements, also not in France.

And given the choices the people got and given the times in which we live, I think the French did vote well, in majority.

Also, it seems to me at least bit of an exaggeration to say that the French elections came down to a choice between Hitler or Uber, but then exaggerations are normal in politics and religion.

Here is the first bit I'll quote from this interview:

AMY GOODMAN: (...) Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Yasser Louati. Can you talk about what has surprised many, the very large victory of Macron?

YASSER LOUATI: Hi, Amy. The victory of Emmanuel Macron is—you know, tastes very bitter to the French voters, because they were pushed towards the voting booth with the National Front knife under their throat—either fascism or neoliberalism. And, of course, Emmanuel Macron got 65 percent of the votes. But compared to what Jacques Chirac got in 2002 against Marine Le Pen’s father in 2002, that was 82 percent. So, the victory is really way below what was accomplished 15 years ago.
No, I disagree. Amy Goodman asks about the very large victory of Macron, which seems a decent question to me, simply because quite a few thought Le Pen would win, but Louati answers as if defeating Le Pen "tastes very bitter to the French voters", and compares the present elections with the quite different times of 15 years ago.

You don't need to like
Macron (<-Wikipedia), and indeed given the little I do know about him, I don't either, but he was the only choice for those who did not want Le Pen, and it turns out that 2 out 3 French did not want Le Pen. I like that.

Then there is this:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Yasser Louati, what does this election say about the future of the established political parties in France, given that both candidates came from outsider parties?

YASSER LOUATI: Well, the fact that Emmanuel Macron managed to make it in 18 months from being nobody to becoming a president is a clear statement that our political system is completely bankrupt. It has capsized. There is open defiance towards politicians. People don’t believe in them. It is either voting for the extremes or abstaining, as mentioned earlier. And the fact that he managed to make it to the first and then second round was also a testimony that he did not win because he was that bright or that good, but because all the other candidates were—excuse my language—let’s say they were poor and not up to the task here. So, that’s—you know, he just managed to be there at the right time and doing the right thing.

As to Macron (<-Wikipedia), Louati may be right. I don't know. But I think again he is exaggerating when he says "There is open defiance towards politicians. People don’t believe in them." More precisely, I do not doubt this is true to some extent, but people have a free will, and if this were a majority opinion, their would have been far fewer votes, and indeed maybe Le Pen might have won. But she was rather soundly defeated.

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

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Marine Le Pen. And, Yasser Louati, for people who aren’t familiar with French politics, not only talk about what she represents, and still the rise of her party, but why legislative elections are so important, that are coming up, because Macron may have won, but where is his party’s representation in Parliament?

YASSER LOUATI: Well, that’s his biggest weakness. He came forward with only what he calls a movement, which means no established political party with a clear leadership.

Yes, I think this is correct: This may turn out to be a major problem for Macron.

2. The Sham Presidency

The second article is by Neal Gabler on Truthdig and originally on Moyers & Company:

This starts as follows:

Presidencies are often defined by images: FDR delivering his reassuring fireside chats; Harry Truman speaking from the back of his campaign train, whistle stopping in 1948 and giving ‘em hell; JFK and Jackie, elegant in Paris, defying Henry James’ stereotype of Americans as bumpkins; Reagan at the Berlin Wall; and George W. Bush in his flight suit against the banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”

And then there is Donald Trump. To me, the defining image of Trump’s presidency so far may not be his Mussolini-like pose of narrowed eyes, wrinkled brow and jutting jaw that is supposed to strike fear in our hearts, but his brandishing of his executive orders, holding them up like a 3-year-old showing off a finger painting. See what I’ve done! I’m so proud of myself!

I agree Trump seems quite childish (and executive orders are not laws), but I know too  much about politics to be willing to define presidents by their public images. Then again, I probably am also willing to agree that the public images presidents - or their press officers - create are quite important in their elections. (It's a pity but a fact.)

Here is more on Trump:

Putting style over substance had been the hallmark of Donald Trump’s pre-political career. He has always been the Great Pretender. He pretended to be a real estate mogul, reshaping the face of New York, when he was basically franchising his name to real builders so they could slap the brand on their buildings. He pretended to be a shrewd businessman when he drove his Atlantic City casinos into bankruptcy.

He pretended to be a multi-multi-billionaire, when reports suggest that his wealth is nowhere near as large as his boasts. He pretended to have one of the highest-rated shows on television, when it was rated in the top 10 only in its inaugural season and then steadily fell. He founded a university that pretended to let people in on his get-rich-quick secrets, but he was putting his name on what turned out to be a fleecing operation.

In short, he was as much a sham businessman as he is a sham president. His gift wasn’t business acumen but image acumen — creating an alternative reality not unlike alternative facts.

I agree with the first two of the above paragraphs: Most of what Donald Trump says seems to be deceptions or lies. I don't quite agree with the last paragraph, in part because I think, as argued above, that public images are much more important for the ignorant than for the informed, and in part because what Trump pretends to be true are usually verbal lies.

But OK. Here is Trump's wife, who also has quite peculiar ideas about truth and reality:

And since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, John Oliver quoted the audiobook version of Ivanka Trump’s own discourse on the subject: “Perception is more important than reality,” she reads. “If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is true. This doesn’t mean you should be duplicitous or deceitful, but don’t go out of your way to correct a false assumption if it plays to your advantage.”

In other words, it is perfectly OK to play someone for a fool… or an entire country for a bunch of fools.

Yes, indeed. And here is the real problem with Ivanka's baloney:

The problem is that perception is not reality, no matter what Ivanka Trump thinks. Perception is still the perception of reality.

And absolutely all "perceptions" are personal: There are over 7 billion different kinds of personal perceptions, and indeed the vast majority, and especially as regards politics and religion, simply are false. And they are normally false because the individual people who have these "perceptions" - which generally are more than mere perceptions, and do also include some of their personal assumptions and prejudgements - tend to be quite ignorant about the real facts that would have allowed them to make some rational and reasonable judgments.

So to say that "If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is true" is to say, by implication, that you like ignorance, prejudice and stupidity - which in fact is probably correct for the Trumps.

3. Dems Still Blaming Others for Trump

The third article is by Nat Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:
In the latest installment from The Election That Will Not End, a renewed attack on third party supporters for supposedly enabling Donald Trump’s surprise victory last year is making headlines, with political commentator Bill Maher leading the charge against those who could not bring themselves to supporting the Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine Democratic ticket in Election 2016.

Singling out Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and leading academic Cornel West – who backed Stein in the general election – Maher suggests that they may be mentally defective for suggesting that Trump and Clinton both represented potential threats to the country and the world. “Have you lost your fucking minds?” Maher asks.
Hm. I like Bill Maher (<-Wikipedia) because he is quite smart, often quite funny, because I considerably more often agree with him than not, and because he makes one of the few good and amusing shows on American TV. And also I agree with him in saying that the majority of the Americans is - ahem - "not intelligent".

But while I agree Bill Maher talks a lot about politics, I think it is a mistake to present him as a "political commentator": He presents himself as a comedian, and while he might be fairly called a political comedian, I think he would speak somewhat differently from what he does now if his show were billed as a political commentary rather than as comedy.

Also - and compare item 1 - I think the American presidential elections were rather like the French presidential elections, except that the Americans elected the rightist candidate instead of the centrist one.

And Bill Maher's question does reflect the roughly similar position of Noam Chomsky (<-Wikipedia) (who is not a comedian, and who tends to speak in a considerably more rational voice than Maher tends to do): Chomsky thought that voters who voted in states were Trump could win, should have voted Clinton, and he did so without liking Clinton one bit, but because he thought the only realistic alternative was quite horrible.

Here is more Parry:
Nevertheless, the attacks on Stein and West represent the latest salvo in a rather undemocratic and disingenuous effort to shame individuals who have decided to reject the limited choices offered by the two-party system and are exercising their democratic right to build independent political movements.
No, I don't think so, for he confuses the general situation, on which I probably tend to agree with him, because I also don't like the effective "two-party system", with the actual factual choice people had to make on November 7, 2016.

Then there is this:
When people decide that they cannot in good conscience support either of the candidates nominated by the two major parties, they are routinely accused of drawing a “false equivalence,” i.e. falsely claiming that “they are all the same,” when in fact this is rarely the view of people who decide on a third party option.

While the factors for people opting for a third party candidate are complex and varied, one of the main reasons is simply that the candidate is expressing views that the voter identifies with. Of course, this is the essence of democracy – being able to freely cast your vote for a candidate who represents your interests without fear of retribution or having to defend yourself against recriminations – but apparently it is still considered a radical concept in the United States.

I agree with that. In fact, I thought about the American elections that Clinton was a bad choice, and Trump a horrible choice - which moved me rather like it moved Chomsky, simply because this was all the realistic choice that was available (and rational people, when forced to choose from two evils, will prefer the least evil).

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

While a Muslim ban may not have been in the cards in a Clinton administration, another U.S. war in the Middle East certainly was. In some ways this vindicates the arguments of those who decided to cast a vote for an alternative to Clinton or Trump, or what Wikileaks’ Julian Assange likened to a choice between “cholera or gonorrhea.”

No, I don't think so, simply because neither "alternative to Clinton or Trump" had the least chance of being elected president.

4. Obama Shows Why Wall Street Has Two Parties And We Have None

The fourth and last article today is by Les Leopold on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Just as Donald Trump mortgages the White House to Goldman Sachs, Barack Obama does a Hillary: He agrees to take $400,000 from Wall Street to give one speech. Obama will make as much money in one hour as the average American makes in about five years.

The excuse can’t be lack of money. He and Michelle are about to receive $60 million in book advances on top of the several million already in the bank plus the $200,000 pension as an ex-president.

So why take the Wall Street cash?

I'd say: Because he wants to get quite rich, as did the Clintons. Bill Clinton enormously helped the banks, Hillary promised to do the same, and both now seem to have, what with extremely well-paid speeches to bankers and extremely well-paid autobiographies, something like $ 120 million: They don't need to work anymore, nor need their children and grandchildren, and in the end that seems to have been the main point of Clinton's presidency: Get rich. (I agree he did more, and I also agree he is quite clever. But in so far as personal motivation is involved, that seems to have been the truth.)

Next, there is this bit about Obama:

First of all, FDR’s reforms were sufficiently tough that financial crises all over the world virtually disappeared for a quarter century. Then both parties, with an eye to Wall Street cash, unraveled those regulations, leading to the largest financial crash since 1929.

Second, why would any politician in their right mind want to brag about taking more money from Wall Street “than any candidate in history?” After all, Obama raised all that money right in the middle of the biggest financial rip-off in history. Does he think that glowing achievement will help the Democrats win back Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania?

Finally, what tough reforms? No bankers in jail. No return to Glass Steagall. Banks bigger now than before the crash. Hundreds of billions in bailouts. No elimination of the carried interest loophole that pours billions into the pockets of hedge fund managers. No end to destructive stock buybacks and ultra high frequency trading. And, all the while, income and wealth inequality hit new highs.

I think that is fair, since I think Obama was mostly a fraud, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

In law, fraud is deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right.

And I think he was because (i) he very much helped the big bankers, and because (ii) he was elected on completely different promises from what he did in fact.

Here is more on Obama (which would have been fair about Bill Clinton as well):

He takes the money to show that Bernie and his supporters are immature and ignorant about how to play the game. Worse still he subtly is blaming Bernie for Hillary’s loss. Because Bernie made such a big deal about something that just doesn’t matter ― Wall Street cash ― he weakened Hillary and paved the way for Trump.

Obama is saying loud and clear that Bernie and his minions are hopelessly naive ― that it just doesn’t matter if you take Wall Street cash. What matters is what you do, and I, Obama, did all that could be done about Wall Street. Accept the limits and realities of American politics. Grow Up! It has to be done. There’s nothing wrong with taking Wall Street money if your motives are pure.

Except there is. The money is dirty with greed.

And with corruption - and here is Wikipedia's definition of that (minus note numbers):

Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity
for personal gain.

To say one thing to your voters, while often doing the other thing, and to pour "billions into the pockets of hedge fund managers" is and was simply corrupt.

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

By Obama so clearly casting his lot with the Wall Street Democrats, a new path is opening for the re-election of Trump ― the fissure of the Democratic Party. The more the Democrats try to become the party that raises “the most money in history” from Wall Street, the greater the odds that an independent candidate with muscle and resources will emerge in 2020. It’s not hard to imagine a Ross Perot of the left capturing 20 percent of the vote in a national election. Then Trump, like Bill Clinton in 1992 could win with only 40 percent or so of the vote.

The corporate Dems have lost 917 state and local offices since 2008. Yet they still seem oblivious to their Wall Street baggage. They think they can continue to line their own pockets and still be anti-Trump champions. They are convinced they don’t need to cut their ties to the super-rich because after four years of Trump mayhem, voters will come running their way. After all Hillary won the popular vote, didn’t she? So why change?

Because they can’t be the party both of the predators and the prey.

I more or less agree with Les Leopold, but I do not know what the ordinary American voters think, indeed mostly because these were successfully defrauded so much by their politicians, while they - in large majority - did not seem to see what was done to them. And four years is a rather long time in politics.

But this is a recommended article.

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