March 6, 2018

Crisis: Xi Jinping, Trump & Ayn Rand, MSNBCs Failures, Medicaid, Wall Street "Democrats"


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 6, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 and since more than two years (!!!!) 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from March 6, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Behind Public Persona, the Real Xi Jinping Is a Guarded Secret
2. Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand
3. Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?
4. Arkansas to Become First State to Implement Trump's Assault on

5. Democrats Gutting Wall Street Reform? Follow the Money.
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:

1. Behind Public Persona, the Real Xi Jinping Is a Guarded Secret

This article is by Steven Lee Myers on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
One Sunday last month, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, traveled to a village in the mountains of Sichuan Province. He wore an olive overcoat with a fur collar, which he kept zipped up even when he entered an adobe house to meet with villagers. Around an indoor fire pit, he sat among a circle of people wearing traditional clothes of the Yi minority group.

“How did the Communist Party come into being?” he asked at one point as he extolled the virtues of socialism. Without hesitating, he answered. “It was established to lead people to a happy life,” he said, and then he added:

“That’s what we should do forever.”

Mr. Xi’s remark — specifically its open-ended pledge — suddenly resonates more deeply than before. Barring the unexpected, delegates gathering this week for the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing will rubber-stamp constitutional changes that will enable Mr. Xi to remain the country’s leader indefinitely by eliminating presidential term limits.

Well... Mr. Xi's statements are similar to similar statements by Stalin and Hitler, who also wanted "to lead people" (not all, as you may have noticed) "to a happy life". And indeed they are also similar to similar statements by political leaders who did not end up as tyrants. In brief, it says almost nothing except that it is quite typical political propaganda.

Then again, Myers is quite right that - to my knowledge, at least - the only legal stop to yet another twenty years of dictatorship by China's supreme leader very probably will be voted away
by the institution that has been the background of all Chinese politics since 1948: The Chinese Communist Party. And these indeed are the term limits of twice five years as supreme leader.

Here is some more on Mr. Xi:

Mr. Xi, who will turn 65 in June, has done more than any of his predecessors to create a public persona as an avuncular man of the people, even as he has maneuvered behind the scenes with a ruthless ambition to dominate China’s enigmatic elite politics.

The government’s propaganda apparatus regularly depicts him as a firm yet adoring patriarch and leader who fights poverty and corruption at home while building China’s prestige abroad as an emerging superpower.

What is striking is how little is known about Mr. Xi’s biography as a leader, even though he has held the country’s highest posts since 2012 — president, general secretary and commander in chief, among others.

I quoted it, but in fact I don't think this is anything special for an authoritarian leader in an authoritarian country. Besides, if there had been a lot of information about his personal history (which itself is unusual in China), the problem would have been to sift the falsehoods and the propaganda from the truth.

Then again, the following seems true, at least in so far as state sponsored propaganda may be "true":

In one recent video shown on state television, he was depicted as the “arms, legs and heart” of the entire nation. The script evoked the “family-state” ideal at the center of Confucianism, showing a cutout of Mr. Xi guiding a bicycle with a young girl behind him. In the report from Sichuan, part of a 23-minute feature that appeared on state television two days later, two villagers uttered the same refrain on the theme.

“He is like our parents,” each said.

Mr. Xi’s deliberations and decisions unfold in utmost secrecy. Leaks have all but ended in the Xi era, a reflection of fear as much as loyalty. Even a move that could profoundly reshape China’s destiny was opaque to all but the few who work closely under him in Zhongnanhai, the government compound beside the Forbidden City that is, for ordinary Chinese, an informational black hole.

As I have said before, all of this is a example of propaganda in a state sponsored authoritarian system, that I do agree may very well turn much more authoritarian quite soon, and specifically
because the Chinese Communist Party has acquired, indeed thanks to the help of the neofascist internet designed by Brzezinski and the American DARPA, almost complete control over more than one billion Chinese.

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

Mr. Xi’s dominance of politics was on display on Monday when the National People’s Congress opened in Beijing. A sampling of the nearly 3,000 delegates found no one who would express even the slightest reservation about the constitutional change.

I do not find this very amazing, for all of the delegates are already high ranking party members. But I do find this sudden increase in the authority of China's supreme leader, which he probably can maintain until his death, very worrying, for it shows how the internet is the tool of the richest or the most powerful, because it allows a very few to know - implicitly, for the most part, but everything known can be given to the police or the military - absolutely everything about virtually anyone who uses the internet to communicate. And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump once said he identified with Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead,” an architect so upset that a housing project he designed didn’t meet specifications he had it dynamited. 

Others in Trump’s circle were influenced by Rand. “Atlas Shrugged” was said to be the favorite book of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state. Rand also had a major influence on Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA chief. Trump’s first nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, said he spent much of his free time reading Rand. 

The Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, required his staff to read Rand.

I say. Part of the reason that I do so is that I have read "The Fountainhead" in the early Seventies, mostly because I had some American friends who recommended it, and in the early Seventies I did not know anything by Ayn Rand, and was willing to learn.

Well... I should add that I thought "The Fountainhead" the worst book I had ever read, until 1972 when I read it, at least, mostly because of the combination of totally ludicrous ideas and values, coupled to an incredibly bad style.

Also, I do infer from the above list of admirers of Rand that either they are lying as most authorities tend to do, especially about their own ideology, or else that they are without the least shade of any taste for literature, for even if you admire Rand's ideas and values (which I grant are extremely greedy, quite dishonest, so very rich men may easily admire her), if you did not see that her style is truly awful I submit you know extremely little of English literature.

Here is more about Ayn Rand:

Who is Ayn Rand and why does she matter?  Ayn Rand – best known for two highly-popular novels still widely read today – “The Fountainhead,” published in 1943, and “Atlas Shrugged,” in 1957 – didn’t believe there was a common good. She wrote that selfishness is a virtue, and altruism is an evil that destroys nations. 

When Rand offered these ideas they seemed quaint if not far-fetched. Anyone who lived through the prior half century witnessed our interdependence, through depression and war.

Actually, I don't know and this bit also seems to me too close to Reich's - also rather vague - ideas about the common good (which I agree with him exists, but which also is not easy to pin down).

And for one thing - I admit: as far as I can remember her - she simply did not admit any altruism because she was misled by an argument that was first refuted by Joseph Butler in the 18th Century and by William Hazlitt in the 19th Century. It went like this: (i) All your feelings are your own feelings. (ii) So are all the feelings you have about anyone else. (iii) Therefore all your feelings are egoistic.

This argument (which convinced many) utterly fails for at least two reasons:

The first is the formal and grammatical reason that "my interests in furthering my interests" is definitely not the same as "my interests in furthering your interests" even though I grant that both start with "my interests"; and the second is the factual reason that - for one example - many mothers who live in dire circumstances do sacrifice part of their own self-interest, e.g. in food, for the sake of the interests of their children.

Here is some more about Rand:

But then, starting in the late 1970s, Rand’s views gained ground. She became the intellectual godmother of modern-day American conservatism. 

This utter selfishness, this contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality is eroding American life. 

Without adherence to a set of common notions about right and wrong, we’re living in a jungle where only the strongest, cleverest, and most unscrupulous get ahead, and where everyone must be wary in order to survive. This is not a society. It’s not even a civilization, because there’s no civility at its core. It’s a disaster.

Yes and no: I mostly agree with the first two of the above quoted paragraphs (and Ronald Reagan's enormous intellect was convinced by Rand, it seems) but I do not quite agree with the third paragraph, and my reasons are in part logical and in part factual:

The reasons are that "a set of common notions about right and wrong" (which I agree with Reich exists) is quite difficult to pin down because (i) there are many different values, different riches, different statuses between different persons, and because (ii) the only decent way to make sense of what "the common good" means is by reference to laws, and that both in their motivations and in the way they are applied, and these arguments about laws are simply beyond most people.

Besides, there is the historical reason that the lives of the many without money were far more difficult in the 19th, 18th and earlier centuries than they were in - say - the Seventies in the USA, but this does not mean that the societies that existed then in the West were no societies, or had no civilization: Clearly they were, and clearly they had.

Here is more by Reich on the common good:

The idea of the common good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general welfare” – not for “me the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth and power as possible.” 

Yet today you find growing evidence of its loss – CEOs who gouge their customers, loot their corporations and defraud investors. Lawyers and accountants who look the other way when corporate clients play fast and loose, who even collude with them to skirt the law. 

Wall Street bankers who defraud customers and investors. Film producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they depend on is sexually harassing and abusing young women. 

Politicians who take donations (really, bribes) from wealthy donors and corporations to enact laws their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don’t get the partisan results they seek.

Well... yes and no again.

First, I completely agree that very many CEOs, very many lawyers, very many accountants, all Wall Street bankers, and many politicians make money for themselves in extremely dishonest and also quite egoistic ways, and indeed also nearly all of them do not say anything honest about their very dishonest ways of getting personally rich (as, for example, the Clintons did - 100 to 150 million dollars - and as, for example, the Blairs did - apparently 100 to 150 million pounds).

But second, the U.S. Constitution, which I agree speaks about "We the people" and says it was designed to “promote the general welfare” does not coincide at all with "American law", and it is American law that should be investigated to get to a somewhat decent notion about what "the common good" might mean.

And here is the ending of Reich's article:

The common good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society. A concern for the common good – keeping the common good in mind – is a moral attitude. It recognizes that we’re all in it together. 

If there is no common good, there is no society.

No, I am sorry: This is simply much too vague.

3. Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?

This article is by Nornan Solomon on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
The evidence is damning. And the silence underscores the arrogance.

More than seven weeks after a devastating report from the media watch group FAIR, top executives and prime-time anchors at MSNBC still refuse to discuss how the network’s obsession with Russia has thrown minimal journalistic standards out the window.

FAIR’s study, “MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen,” documented a picture of extreme journalistic malfeasance at MSNBC:

Actually, Solomon does give a list of journalistic malfeasance as MSNBC, at least according to FAIR, but while I mostly agree with it, I do not quote it. (If you want it read the whole article.)

Here is more on "Russia-gate" (as I spell it):

Meanwhile, MSNBC’s incessant “Russiagate” coverage has put the network at the media forefront of overheated hyperbole about the Kremlin. And continually piling up the dry tinder of hostility toward Russia boosts the odds of a cataclysmic blowup between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders’ refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey—MSNBC’s ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?

FAIR’s report, written by journalist Ben Norton and published on Jan. 8, certainly merited a serious response from MSNBC and the anchors most identified by the study, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes. Yet no response has come from them or network executives.
I think this is mostly correct as well, and I have two additions to it.

First, I'd say that if it is true that "
MSNBC’s ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting" (which I do not know but will assume here), that then MSNBC satisfied the main norm for capitalist firms (which is: making profit), although I agree with Solomon that they did not do this by what he or I would consider decent journalism.

And second, it still seems widely assumed that Chris Hayes is a leftist and a progressive, while the same message is given about Rachel Maddow. For your information: As far as I remember, I haven't looked at them for at least a year, and indeed my main reason is "Russia-gate".

Here is how Maddow and Hayes did respond to the FAIR report:
But the network and its prime-time luminaries Maddow and Hayes refused to respond despite repeated requests for a reply.
That is, not at all. Here is Solomon's conclusion:

As the cable news network most trusted by Democrats as a liberal beacon, MSNBC plays a special role in fueling rage among progressive-minded viewers toward Russia’s “attack on our democracy” that is somehow deemed more sinister and newsworthy than corporate dominance of American politicians (including Democrats), racist voter suppression, gerrymandering and many other U.S. electoral defects all put together.

At the same time, the anti-Russia mania also services the engines of the current militaristic machinery.

It’s what happens when nationalism and partisan zeal overcome something that could be called journalism.

Well... I don't like MSNBC and, as I said, one of my reasons is "Russia-gate", but I am somewhat less upset than Norman Solomon appears to be, because I blame it less on MSNBC than I blame it on the stupidity and ignorance of many of its viewers and on MSNBC's interests to make a good profit, which indeed they did.

4. Arkansas to Become First State to Implement Trump's Assault on Medicaid

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
The Trump administration is waging a vicious war on Medicaid—a program that provides life-saving healthcare to around 74 million Americans—and its effects will soon be felt in the state of Arkansas.
Yes, I agree - but since I agree I also have a question that I have posed several times now, but which does not get posed by others. It is this: How many poor or ill or old Americans do Trump and his government desire to kill?

And in case you object to the question: Trump and his government want to take away or to radically diminish the support the poor, the ill and the old do get in the USA, at least till now,
and will be hitting no less than 74 million Americans.

I find it a completely factual question:
How many poor or ill or old Americans do Trump and his government desire to kill? Also, in case you do not have my disadvantages: Fortunately, I am not an American, but a Dutchman, but I am poor, I am ill (since nearly 40 years), I am old (at nearly 68), and also I am brilliant (with an IQ over 150), though definitely not a genius - and because I am the first three, I am among the only ones who are going to get less in Dutch society (where I definitely would have moved away from in 1980 at the latest if only I had been healthy): the poor, the ill and the old.

Anyway... here is more from the article:

In an article on Monday, Vox's Dylan Scott made clear that Arkansas' plan amounts to just a fraction of the broad nationwide attacks on Medicaid launched by red states, which are "putting the lifeline for millions of poor Americans at risk."

"The stakes are huge: Work requirements for food stamps have been linked to substantial drops—up to 50 percent in some isolated cases—in the program's enrollment," Scott observes. "As many as 25 million people could be subject to Medicaid work requirements if they were instituted nationwide. In a very real sense, health coverage for millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid could be at risk under the agenda Trump is advancing."

I think that this is fundamentally correct, so I ask again (before it happens): How many poor or ill or old Americans do Trump and his government desire to kill?

Here is more on Arkansas:

Citing provisions in the Arkansas waiver that will require those with disabilities to "prove" they are exempt from work requirements every two months and other forms of red tape, Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), argued in a blog post on Monday that the measure is "certain" to increase "the gaps in coverage, worsen health outcomes, and possibly increase state costs."

Well, yes, but... How many poor or ill or old Americans do Trump and his government desire to kill?

And here are my reasons to answer the last question by saying: To the best of my knowledge, at least tens of millions:

Under Arkansas' plan, if Medicaid recipients fail to comply with the new rules—which require recipients to work, look for a job, or participate in job training for at least 80 hours a month—for a period of three months, they will lose coverage for the rest of the calendar year.

And my reason is that I - for one - could not have worked for half the time while I am ill (which I am for nearly forty years now), which means that in terms of the American laws that are now being instituted in Arkansas, I would have had no money for the rest of the year, which simply would have forced me to suicide - as I believe tens of millions of the poor, the ill and the old will be soon forced to do in the USA. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Democrats Gutting Wall Street Reform? Follow the Money.

This article is by Pam Martens and Russ Martens on Wallstreetonparade. It starts as follows:

Today’s front page of the print edition of the New York Times has articles on the Oscars, the election in Italy, Ben Carson’s reign at HUD and the death of an elderly Briton who once broke the four-minute mile among numerous other less than urgent news pieces. What it does not have on its front page is any headline showing concern that the seminal piece of Wall Street reform legislation of the Obama era, which already has enough loopholes to set off champagne corks on K Street, may be dismantled this week by a vote in the Senate. The move would come in the midst of the 10th anniversary of the greatest Wall Street collapse and economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, both of which were underpinned by casino capitalism — Wall Street banks making obscenely leveraged bets for the house while holding Mom and Pop deposits.

This is now the new normal at the New York Times with its editorial page editor declaring in December at a staff meeting that the paper is “pro-capitalism.” This is really code for “Wall Street is our home-town team and we’re not going to bite the hand that feeds us” – even if it means intentionally rewriting the facts on what actually caused the Wall Street crash.

Yes indeed: I cannot say anything but - having read The New York Times daily for ten years at least - this is all quite true.

Oh, as to being “pro-capitalism”: I agree with the explanation given by the Martens, were it only because Robert Reich does not agree with the NYT at all, while he is definitely pro-capitalist. In other words, being “pro-capitalism” does not have the necessary explanation that (I agree) the New York Times seems to give to it, which is indeed pro Wall Street and its big banks much more than being “pro-capitalism”.

Here is more:

Citigroup was the poster child of the 2008 financial crash. It had loaded up on dodgy off-balance sheet “assets,” lied about its subprime debt exposure, and then received the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. In December 2014 Congress allowed Citigroup to take a chain saw to Dodd-Frank. Citigroup pushed through a measure in the must-pass spending bill to keep the government running that allowed it and the other biggest banks on Wall Street to keep their riskiest assets – derivatives – in the commercial banking unit that is backstopped with FDIC deposit insurance. The taxpayer-subsidized deposit insurance allows the mega banks to get a higher credit rating than they would otherwise receive while paying pathetically low interest rates to savers on those deposits. By holding tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives on their respective commercial bank books, the mega banks are perceived as too-big-to-fail and can put a gun to the head of taxpayers for another bailout the next time their risky bets fail. All of these tricks are effectively public subsidies of a banking system gone mad.

And to the best of my knowledge (which goes pretty far on these topics) this again seems all true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

The situation with the anticipated vote this week in the Senate is so critical that Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a video about the threat on YouTube. (See video below.) Warren says in the video that the proposed legislation “takes about 25 of the 40 largest banks in this country and just moves them off the special watch list and treats them like they were tiny little community banks that just couldn’t do any harm to the economy.” Warren adds: “Those exact same 25 banks that are being taken off the watch list got about $50 billion in taxpayer bailout money during the last crash.”

Which in fact seems an utter shame to me, but I also take it Elizabeth Warren is quite correct. Incidentally, here is the link to Warren's video. And 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 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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