Monday, September 18, 2017

Crisis: Silencing Dissent, Goldman Sachs, Buy Local!, Price of Education, Military Coup

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 18, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Monday, September 18, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from September 18, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The ruling elites, who grasp that the reigning ideology of global corporate capitalism and imperial expansion no longer has moral or intellectual credibility, have mounted a campaign to shut down the platforms given to their critics. The attacks within this campaign include blacklisting, censorship and slandering dissidents as foreign agents for Russia and purveyors of “fake news.”

No dominant class can long retain control when the credibility of the ideas that justify its existence evaporates. It is forced, at that point, to resort to crude forms of coercion, intimidation and censorship. This ideological collapse in the United States has transformed those of us who attack the corporate state into a potent threat, not because we reach large numbers of people, and certainly not because we spread Russian propaganda, but because the elites no longer have a plausible counterargument.

The elites face an unpleasant choice. They could impose harsh controls to protect the status quo or veer leftward toward socialism to ameliorate the mounting economic and political injustices endured by most of the population. But a move leftward, essentially reinstating and expanding the New Deal programs they have destroyed, would impede corporate power and corporate profits. So instead the elites, including the Democratic Party leadership, have decided to quash public debate. The tactic they are using is as old as the nation-state—smearing critics as traitors who are in the service of a hostile foreign power.
Yes indeed, and I add that I think this quashing of the opposition is what will happen anyway once an authoritarian elite rules most things, and that is where the present USA is: It has a rightist authoritarian government under a rightist authoritarian president.

There is this, which is a partial aside, but that I include because I agree with Hedges:
The corporate elites do not fear Russia. There is no publicly disclosed evidence that Russia swung the election to Donald Trump. Nor does Russia appear to be intent on a military confrontation with the United States. I am certain Russia tries to meddle in U.S. affairs to its advantage, as we do and did in Russia—including our clandestine bankrolling of Boris Yeltsin, whose successful 1996 campaign for re-election as president is estimated to have cost up to $2.5 billion, much of that money coming indirectly from the American government.
Quite so. (Which means that people who rely on the mainstream news are very much misled about Russia.)

Then there is this on a quite important man, Lewis F. Powell Jr. (<- Wikipedia), who was the man who inspired the American rich to organize themselves and invest towards realizing a combined political and economical plan that would end what was left of Roosevelt's New Deal, and that would start an authoritarian rightist kind of goverment:
The first and deadliest salvo in the war on dissent came in 1971 when Lewis Powell, a corporate attorney and later a Supreme Court justice, wrote and circulated a memo among business leaders called “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” It became the blueprint for the corporate coup d’état. Corporations, as Powell recommended in the document, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the assault, financing pro-business political candidates, mounting campaigns against the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and the press and creating institutions such as the Business Roundtable, The Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Federalist Society and Accuracy in Academia. The memo argued that corporations had to fund sustained campaigns to marginalize or silence those who in “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, and the intellectual and literary journals” were hostile to corporate interests.
Precisely - and while Powell wrote his memo in 1971, this has been the program of the right and the GOP ever since Reagan - and besides, the banks and the rich also seem to have taken over most of the Democratic Party, which they did by corruption.

There is this on some of the major successes of Powell and his plans so far:
Powell attacked Ralph Nader by name. Lobbyists flooded Washington and state capitals. Regulatory controls were abolished. Massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy were implemented, culminating in a de facto tax boycott. Trade barriers were lifted and the country’s manufacturing base was destroyed. Social programs were slashed and funds for infrastructure, from roads and bridges to public libraries and schools, were cut. Protections for workers were gutted. Wages declined or stagnated. The military budget, along with the organs of internal security, became ever more bloated. A de facto blacklist, especially in universities and the press, was used to discredit intellectuals, radicals and activists who decried the idea of the nation prostrating itself before the dictates of the marketplace and condemned the crimes of imperialism, some of the best known being Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Sheldon Wolin, Ward Churchill, Nader, Angela Davis and Edward Said. These critics were permitted to exist only on the margins of society, often outside of institutions, and many had trouble making a living.
Again I note that all of this was started in major ways under Reagan.

Then there is this on the situation since the crisis of 2008:
After 2008 it became clear that the “free market” is a scam, a zombie ideology by which workers and communities are ravaged by predatory capitalists and assets are funneled upward into the hands of the global 1 percent. The endless wars, fought largely to enrich the arms industry and swell the power of the military, are futile and counterproductive to national interests. Deindustrialization and austerity programs have impoverished the working class and fatally damaged the economy.
In fact, it was clear to me since over 50 years that "the “free market” is a scam", but it is true I do come from a radical leftist background.

But Hedges is
quite right about the deindustrialization of the USA, that happened mostly through the deregulations that were (also) in major ways implemented under Bill Clinton and I think he is also quite right in his inference that this in fact "fatally damaged the  economy" of the USA, and namely because the major industries could leave the USA thanks to the deregulations. As Gary Cohn - Trump's chief economical advisor - says in the next item:
“We hire people there [in India - MM] because they work for cents on the dollar versus what people work for in the United States.”
And that holds for all major industries.

Then there is this on the reliability and trustworthiness of Amazon and Google (and something similar holds for Facebook):
The owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, also the founder and CEO of Amazon, has a $600 million contract with the CIA. Google, likewise, is deeply embedded within the security and surveillance state and aligned with the ruling elites. Amazon recently purged over 1,000 negative reviews of Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened.” The effect was that the book’s Amazon rating jumped from two and a half stars to five stars. Do corporations such as Google and Amazon carry out such censorship on behalf of the U.S. government? Or is this censorship their independent contribution to protect the corporate state?
Well, Amazon said it was because these reviews were "fake news", but then again whatever displeases the present authoritarian governmont and/or president tends to be called and attacked as "fake news".

This ends as follows, and is indeed
most ominous, for it implies that most of the sites I rely on for getting reasonable news - in my case: Truthdig, AlterNet and Common Dreams tend to be the most important, but many more sites are threatened -  are in danger of disappearing:

The latest salvo came last week. It is the most ominous. The Department of Justice called on RT America and its “associates”—which may mean people like me—to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. No doubt, the corporate state knows that most of us will not register as foreign agents, meaning we will be banished from the airwaves. This, I expect, is the intent. The government will not stop with RT. The FBI has been handed the authority to determine who is a “legitimate” journalist and who is not. It will use this authority to decimate the left.

This is a war of ideas. The corporate state cannot honestly compete in this contest. It will do what all despotic regimes do—govern through wholesale surveillance, lies, blacklists, false accusations of treason, heavy-handed censorship and, eventually, violence.

I think Crhis Hedges is quite right and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Government by Goldman

This article is by Gary Rivkin and Michael Hudson on The Intercept. This is from near the beginning, and this is also a quite long article of 265 Kb of which I will only except a few points from its beginning plus the last paragraph (and "Cohn" is Gary Cohn, from Goldman Sachs):

Now Cohn would be coordinating economic policy for the populist president.

The conflicts between the two men were striking. Cohn ran a giant investment bank with offices in financial capitals around the globe, one deeply committed to a world with few economic borders. Trump’s nationalist campaign contradicted everything Goldman Sachs and its top executives represented on the global stage.

Trump raged against “offshoring” by American companies during the 2016 campaign. He even threatened “retribution,”­ a 35 percent tariff on any goods imported into the United States by a company that had moved jobs overseas. But Cohn laid out Goldman’s very different view of offshoring at an investor conference in Naples, Florida, in November. There, Cohn explained unapologetically that Goldman had offshored its back-office staff, including payroll and IT, to Bangalore, India, now home to the firm’s largest office outside New York City: “We hire people there because they work for cents on the dollar versus what people work for in the United States.”

Yes indeed. It is also evident that Trump is an enormous liar, so his pre-presidential speeches and writings can't be taken seriously as saying what he would do as president, while Cohn seems quite honest about whom he now - and for quite a few years - pays for doing his work work, like very many other rich capitalists:

“We hire people there [in India - MM] because they work for cents on the dollar versus what people work for in the United States.”

And this they owe to the deregulations that started in a major way under Bill Clinton.

There is this:

With Cohn’s appointment, Trump now had three Goldman Sachs alums in top positions inside his administration: Steve Bannon, who was a vice president at Goldman when he left the firm in 1990, as chief strategist, and Steve Mnuchin, who had spent 17 years at Goldman, as Treasury secretary. And there were more to come. A few weeks later, another Goldman partner, Dina Powell, joined the White House as a senior counselor for economic initiatives.

I found this article only today, but meanwhile Bannon is not anymore in the White House, and there are some other recent changes, but OK.

Here is Elizabeth Warren:

Even before Scaramucci, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had joked that enough Goldman alum were working for the Trump administration to open a branch office in the White House.

“There was a devastating financial crisis just over eight years ago,” Warren said. “Goldman Sachs was at the heart of that crisis. The idea that the president is now going to turn over the country’s economic policy to a senior Goldman executive turns my stomach.” Prior administrations often had one or two people from Goldman serving in top positions. George W. Bush at one point had three. At its peak, the Trump administration effectively had six.

Warren is quite right.

And there is this on Cohn's program, if he stays:

The Trump economic agenda, it turns out, is largely the Goldman agenda, one with the potential to deliver any number of gifts to the firm that made Cohn colossally rich. If Cohn stays, it will be to pursue an agenda of aggressive financial deregulation and massive corporate tax cuts — he seeks to slash rates by 57 percent — that would dramatically increase profits for large financial players like Goldman. It is an agenda as radical in its scope and impact as Bannon’s was.

This is followed by a large amount of further text, that I leave to your interests. It all ends thus:

Kelleher recalls those who lost a home or a chunk of their retirement savings during a financial crisis that Cohn helped precipitate. “They’re still suffering,” he said. “Yet now Cohn’s in charge of the economy and talking about eliminating financial reform and basically putting the country back to where it was in 2005, as if 2008 didn’t happen. I’ve started the countdown clock to the next financial crash, which will make the last one look mild.”

I didn't set a "countdown clock", but I do expect a large financial crash, which will also probably the last chance that "the left" ("the progressives", "the liberals") will get to radically alter the present rightist course of history. But I do not know when.

3. 7 Good Things That Happen Every Time You Decide to Buy Local

This article is by Valerie VandePanne on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:

While it’s nice and convenient to text-to-donate or round up for charity, there is a more direct, and more effective way to take action to make the world a better place, and it starts in your own backyard. It’s keeping your money where your home is by shopping local. 

The impact of this simple action is so profound you might add years to your life, and to your neighbor’s. Here’s what happens when you buy local.
Yes indeed: Quite so.

Here is one of my reasons: Between 9 and 19 I lived with my parents in a fairly busy street with many shops of many kinds all of which had many customers: butchers, bakers, washing places, metal wares, hobbies, small supermarkets, fish shops, sweets shops, beauty shops, paint shops and quite a few more, all quite close to where my family lived.

When I went there again lately (in 2014) all of the shops except the fish shop and the washing shop were closed and were all replaced by places that sell insurances and such things: Nearly all of the very many small shops there were in Amsterdam have been closed (especially outside the center of the city), and most have been closed by and for the benefit of the one enormously large supermarkets that replaced nearly all of them, namely Albert Heijn (which is far worse and also more expensive than the small shops were).

The same holds for most bookshops in Amsterdam. I think this is pretty awful, also because these many small shops have been closed because their customers could get many of their wares a couple of percents cheaper at some supermarket or - these days - buying from Amazone rather than from their local bookshops.

Valerie VandePanne outlines why buying in small shops in your own neighborhood is beneficent for you. I just name the seven points she gives, and refer you for their accompanying texts to the article:
1. You live longer.
2. You support a local family—and they support you.
3. Depositing money into your community is better than paying
     to advertise a brand that sucks money away from the

4. You support local prosperity and justice.
5. Quality.
6. You are voting with every dollar you spend.
7. Local peace.
Quite so. It ends as follows:
The bottom line is the cost of sickness and loss of identity and loneliness is exponentially more expensive over the course of your lifetime than a few extra dollars here and there, deposited regularly into the account of community kindness. Keep your money in your home community, not in the bowels of an Amazon warehouse, and reap the benefits over the course of a longer, healthier, happier lifetime.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

4. College in the U.S. Is More Expensive Than in Any Other Country in the World

This article is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

The price of a college degree is more expensive in America than anywhere else in the world (..) Business Insider notes that while “one-third of countries do not charge tuition for public institutions,” and 10 countries have public tuition costs that average less than $4,000 annually, getting a diploma from a public institution in the U.S. generally runs about $8,202 a year. The closest competitor on that front is Chile, where public college costs average $7,654 annually.

Quite so. I studied at the "University" of Amsterdam in the late 1970ies and early 1980ies, and I got to be a student in 1976, which cost me then about $45. This got considerably increased until I paid around 1983 some $200, but that was about it. (And I did need to make considerable loans to live while I studied.)

These days in Holland it seems I would have to pay $4000 to "study" what I did study in the 1980ies, while it seems students of medicine have to pay $8000 dollars a year.

Of course, since I had very poor parents I could never pay this myself. But I could loan it, and that is what has been happening in the USA on a very large scale:

A 2014 investigation by Mother Jones found the “cost of undergraduate education is 12 times higher than it was 35 years ago” and “the indexed price of college tuition and fees skyrocketed by more than 1,122 percent since 1978.” As a result, students are forced to take on debts in the form of public and private loans to the tune of roughly $100 billion a year, according to CNBC. The outlet reports that the total cost of student debt now stands at $1.2 trillion.

In Holland - according to the numbers I saw - the costs of studying have risen more than in the USA, and I think there also is an underlying point, both in the USA, in Holland, and also the rest of Europe:

If you take care that the students, once they have graduated, owe something like 50,000, a 100,000 (dollars or euros, here) or more, you have effectively tamed nearly all of them: They cannot allow themselves to protest much until their debts are paid off, which will take most of their lives.

And this is a recommended paper.

5. America’s Slow-Motion Military Coup

This article is by Stephen Kinzer on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In a democracy, no one should be comforted to hear that generals have imposed discipline on an elected head of state. That was never supposed to happen in the United States. Now it has.

Among the most enduring political images of the 20th century was the military junta. It was a group of grim-faced officers—usually three—who rose to control a state. The junta would tolerate civilian institutions that agreed to remain subservient, but in the end enforced its own will. As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece.

These days the junta system is making a comeback in, of all places, Washington. Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the secretary of defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff; and General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. They do not put on their ribbons to review military parades or dispatch death squads to kill opponents, as members of old-style juntas did. Yet their emergence reflects a new stage in the erosion of our political norms and the militarization of our foreign policy. Another veil is dropping.

Yes, I think this is mostly true, although I might want to qualify this by saying that the USA seems more and more to be governed by the military, as indicated above, and the bankers, who all seem to be from Goldman Sachs (and see item 2 above).

This short article ends as follows:

It is no great surprise that Trump has been drawn into the foreign policy mainstream; the same happened to President Obama early in his presidency. More ominous is that Trump has turned much of his power over to generals. Worst of all, many Americans find this reassuring. They are so disgusted by the corruption and shortsightedness of our political class that they turn to soldiers as an alternative. It is a dangerous temptation.

I can add that one rather prominent story about Obama - who did change most of the policies he was elected on in his first 100 days or so - was (somehow) heavily influenced to make these changes by representatives of the Deep State (that does seem to coincide for a large part with what Eisenhower referred to as the military- industrial complex). And I do not know whether this is correct, but it very well may be.

Also, I do agree there is something like a slow motion towards a military coup, but I would have liked to see some more evidence, and it also seems the case, as I said, that there also seems to be another coup, that in fact has been going on from Bush Jr.'s or Bill Clinton's government, namely the take over of much of the economy of the U.S. government by bankers from Goldman Sachs.

This is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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