August 12, 2018

Crisis: Financial Crisis, Profits & Media, Trump´s Gift, Corporatist Government, Ray McGovern


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 12, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 12, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 12, 2018:
1. How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World
2. Profits Govern Media Company Responses to Controversy — Not Beliefs
     About Free Speech

3. Trump Rule Would Give $2.5 Billion Tax Cut to Big Bank Fat Cats
4. In A Corporatist System Of Government, Corporate Censorship Is State

5. Senator Richard Burr: a Longtime Fan of Torture
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. How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

This article is by Fareed Zakaria on The New York Times. It starts as follows - and I draw your attention to the fact that I have been saying since 2008 it was a crisis and it still is a crisis, that is: for most everybody who is not rich:

Steve Bannon can date the start of the Trump “revolution.” When I interviewed him for CNN in May, in Rome, he explained that the origins of Trump’s victory could be found 10 years ago, in the financial crisis of 2008. “The implosion of those world capital markets has never really been sorted out,” he told me. “The fuse that was lit then that eventually brought the Trump revolution is the same thing that’s happened here in Italy.” (Italy had just held elections in which populist forces had won 50 percent of the vote.) Adam Tooze would likely agree. An economic historian at Columbia University, he has written a detailed account of the financial shocks and their aftereffects, which, his subtitle asserts, “changed the world.”

In fact, this is the beginning of a review of a book by Adam Tooze that I did not read (and will never read: I have been reading nearly 55 years now, and think I now enough at least in the sense that I know of very few who know as much as I do).

Also, while I don´t agree with Bannon on ¨the origins of Trump’s victory¨, I do agree with him that 2008 was an important economical and financial crisis.

Here is some more:

If journalism is the first rough draft of history, Tooze’s book is the second draft. A distinguished scholar with a deep grasp of financial markets, Tooze knows that it is a challenge to gain perspective on events when they have not yet played out. He points out that a 10-year-old history of the crash of 1929 would have been written in 1939, when most of its consequences were ongoing and unresolved. But still he has persisted and produced an intelligent explanation of the mechanisms that produced the crisis and the response to it. We continue to live with the consequences of both today.

Well... yes, but I don´t get the point about 1929-1939: Does Zakaria wish to suggest then people did not write about the crisis? Nonsense. Does Zakaria perhaps wish to suggest that people should not write about a crisis until it is definitely past? Nonsense again.

Anyway. Here is one explanation by Tooze:

Yet it was not a Chinese sell-off of American debt that triggered the crash, but rather, as Tooze writes, a problem “fully native to Western capitalism — a meltdown on Wall Street driven by toxic securitized subprime mortgages.”
One of the great strengths of Tooze’s book is to demonstrate the deeply intertwined nature of the European and American financial systems. In 2006, European banks generated a third of America’s riskiest privately issued mortgage-backed securities. By 2007, two-thirds of commercial paper issued was sponsored by a European financial entity. The enormous expansion of the global financial system had largely been a trans-Atlantic project, with European banks jumping in as eagerly and greedily to find new sources of profit as American banks. European regulators were as blind to the mounting problems as their American counterparts, which led to problems on a similar scale.

Yes, I think that is correct - and I recall from 2008 (and that is still present on my site, but in Dutch) that the Dutch government did not even admit there was a crisis of any kind by the end of October of 2008, and that the - horrible - prime minister Balkenende only told all Dutchmen that ¨you merely have to cycle a little more¨ to overcome whatever was happening.

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

Before the rescue and even in its early stages, the global economy was falling into a bottomless abyss. In the first months after the panic on Wall Street, world trade and industrial production fell at least as fast as they did during the first months of the Great Depression. Global capital flows declined by a staggering 90 percent.

Yes indeed. There is considerably more in the article, that explains that one of the main reasons that the crisis was more or less resolved from 2008-2010, that is: resolved for the rich, but not for the non-rich, was precisely the schema that enormously helped the Wall Street banks, namely by legitimizing or refusing - Eric Holder - to prosecute anyone from the banks.

I think that is correct, but it is too vague in the present article, that is recommended, simply because a crisis started in 2008, and continued till now, except that the crisis was repaired for the rich, and for the rich only.

2. Profits Govern Media Company Responses to Controversy — Not Beliefs About Free Speech

This article is by Amanda Lotz on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:

For decades, U.S. media companies have limited the content they’ve offered based on what’s good for business. The decisions by Apple, Spotify, Facebook and YouTube to remove content from commentator Alex Jones and his InfoWars platform follow this same pattern.

My research on media industries makes clear that government rules and regulations do little to limit what television shows, films, music albums, video games and social media content are available to the public. Business concerns about profitability are much stronger restrictions. Movies are given ratings based on their content not by government officials but by the Motion Picture Association of America, an industry group. Television companies, for their part, often have departments handling what are called “standards and practices” – reviewing content and suggesting or demanding changes to avoid offending audiences or advertisers.

Yes, I think that is right. Notably, it is right that (bolding added):

For decades, U.S. media companies have limited the content they’ve offered based on what’s good for business.

Instead, it should have been: based on what is known to be probably true and of concern, interest or value to the viewers.

But in fact the viewers have been turned off, so to speak: They have nothing to say. This is again the feature that turned American democracy into something else, e.g. a plutocracy, for only the rich have real and direct influence on current American politics, but I grant that is a considerably wider theme.

Here is one more bit from this article:

The self-policing by movie studios and TV networks is very similar to YouTube’s and Facebook’s actions: Distributing extremely controversial content is bad for business. Offended viewers will turn away from the program and may choose to boycott the network or service – reducing the size of audiences that can be sold to advertisers.

Yes - and in the end it are the advertisers who mostly determine what viewers view - that is, the liars, deceivers, and propagandists decide what views the viewers may see that surround their own holy, mighty and thoroughly rotten and false propaganda aka advertisements.

3. Trump Rule Would Give $2.5 Billion Tax Cut to Big Bank Fat Cats

This article is by Jake Johnson on AlterNet and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

As Wall Street banks continue to enjoy record profits thanks to President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax scam, Trump's Treasury Department—headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin—quietly moved to hand big banks yet another major gift on Wednesday by hiding a $2.5 billion tax cut in the fine print of an "esoteric" new rule proposal (pdf).

At first glance, the Trump administration's rule appeared to be little more than a mundane set of regulations aimed at providing owners of so-called pass-through businesses everything they "need to comply with the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," as Reuters put it.

But Capital & Main journalist David Sirota decided to take the radical step of actually reading the proposal in its entirety, and he found that the White House's rule also seeks to exclude banking from the "financial services" category—a move that would allow thousands of large banks to take advantage of the controversial tax cut for pass-through income included in Trump's tax bill.

I say! That is: Banks do not anymore - according to this legal plan - belong to ¨the "financial services" category¨, which - of course - is total and utter rot.

Here is how it got implemented:

As they were hashing out the details of their tax bill behind closed doors, Sirota notes, Republican lawmakers included a provision that prohibited businesses in the "financial services" sector from qualifying for the tax cut in an effort to counter "assertions that the bill could enrich big banks."

But, at the direction of bank lobbyists, the Trump administration's new rule asserts that "'financial services' don't include banking," thus allowing "hundreds of banks operating as S corporations—as well as their owners—[to] claim the tax cut," Sirota writes.

In fact, I do not see any reason why the Trump government would not give the Wall Street banks the same rules as are in place for the churches in the USA: They do not pay any tax whatsoever.

The Trump government isn´t there yet, but it soon may be. Here is one last bit that I quote from this article, that puts the proposed legal rule in place:

According Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago, the Trump administration's rule change would reward "roughly 2,000 banks around the country that qualify as S corporations."

"It's a safe bet that most of the S corporation shareholders benefited by today's decision will fall into the upper reaches of the top one percent—not many middle-class folks own a bank," Hemel told Capital & Main. "If you assume a return on assets of around one percent and S corporation bank assets in the range of $400 billion, then the move reduces the total tax liability of S corporation bank shareholders by $300 million per year for 2018 through 2025. We're talking about something like $2.5 billion total."

Yes. It is not $1.5 trillion, but then all little bits help to make the rich still richer, indeed also if this amounts to the total nonsense that banks cease to be banks because this helps them to pay even less taxes. This is a recommended article.

4. In A Corporatist System Of Government, Corporate Censorship Is State Censorship

This article is by Caitline Johnstone on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Last year, representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google were instructed on the US Senate floor that it is their responsibility to “quell information rebellions” and adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment to “prevent the fomenting of discord.”

“Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words,” the representatives were told. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”

Yes, this really happened.
In fact, what the US Senate proposed to ¨Facebook, Twitter, and Google¨ - which are not even publishing companies - is out and out totalitarian, except that it is not according to the sick neofascist lies that Wikipedia now publishes as ¨totalitarianism¨, which imply that (i) the USA never can be totalitarian in any sense, and (ii) nor can any person or party that is located in a non-totalitarian country ever be totalitarian, because (iii) only countries can be totalitarian, and never people or parties (unless they are the inhabitants of totalitarian countries.

It is utter trash, but Wikipedia insists on it, and lies knowingly, for absolutely no one of the very many writers who wrote about totalitarianism, from George Orwell onwards, ever used the term in the sense the Wikipedia now insists on.

And in case you may be doubting: It should not be the task of anyone ¨
to “prevent the fomenting of discord”¨ in a genuine democracy - but then the USA has ceased to be a democracy, and at present is mostly an authoritarian plutocracy, in which the rich have nearly all powers. And yes, the rich want to “prevent the fomenting of discord”, especially if the rich are criticized.

Here is more by Johnstone:
In a corporatist system of government, wherein there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. Because legalized bribery in the form of corporate lobbying and campaign donations has given wealthy Americans the ability to control the U.S. government’s policy and behavior while ordinary Americans have no effective influence whatsoever, the U.S. unquestionably has a corporatist system of government. Large, influential corporations are inseparable from the state, so their use of censorship is inseparable from state censorship.

This is especially true of the vast mega-corporations of Silicon Valley, whose extensive ties to U.S. intelligence agencies are well-documented. Once you’re assisting with the construction of the US military’s drone program, receiving grants from the CIA and NSA for mass surveillance, or having your site’s content regulated by NATO’s propaganda arm, you don’t get to pretend you’re a private, independent corporation that is separate from government power. It is possible in the current system to have a normal business worth a few million dollars, but if you want to get to billions of dollars in wealth control in a system where money translates directly to political power, you need to work with existing power structures like the CIA and the Pentagon, or else they’ll work with your competitors instead of you
These are two paragraphs, and I will deal with them successively.

First the first paragraph. I think I may be agreeing with Johnstone to a large extent, but I am not certain, mainly for two reasons: (i) I do not know what the understands by ¨
a corporatist system of government¨, and (ii) if I give my own explanation, which is neofascism, I partially agree and partially disagree, because I think that under Trump the USA is rapidly progressing towards neofascism, but it has not quite reached it yet.

Then again, possibly an intermediate position is the one given by Eisenhower´s military- industrial complex, with the added specification that in these days a considerable part of ¨the industrial complex¨ is in fact made up of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and also Apple and Microsoft - and the first two are less industries than spreaders of information and ¨information¨, where the second quoted term is used to refer to the lies they spread.

The second paragraph, after this explanation of what I think about the first, now becomes a lot easier to explain, and indeed I think Johnstone is quite right about mega-corporations like Facebook, Twitter and Google, where the reader also should keep in mind that these corporations now only give both
information and ¨information¨ to those who use them, but also gather, in secret, vast quantities of information about their users, for they seem to gather absolutely everything from their users, including private e-mails and personal pornography.

Here is more by Johnstone:
And yet every time I point to the dangers of a few Silicon Valley plutocrats controlling all new media political discourse with an iron fist, Democratic Party loyalists all turn into a bunch of hardline free market Ayn Rands. “It’s not censorship!” they exclaim. “It’s a private company and can do whatever it wants with its property!”

They do this because they know their mainstream, plutocrat-friendly “centrist” views will never be censored. Everyone else is on the chopping block, however. Leftist sites have already had their views slashed by a manipulation of Google’s algorithms, and it won’t be long before movements like BDS and Antifa and skeptics of the establishment Syria and Russia narratives can be made to face mass de-platforming (..)
I mostly agree, and as I said: I see this as an enormous increase in American totalitarianism (but that is impossible according to the corrupt Wikipedia´s definition of the term).

Here is Johnstone´s conclusion:
Either (A) corporations are indeed private organizations separate from the government, in which case the people need to get money out of politics and government agencies out of Silicon Valley so they can start acting like it, and insist that their owners can’t be dragged out on to the Senate floor and instructed on what they can and can’t do with their business, or (B) these new media platforms get treated like the government agencies they function as, and the people get all the First Amendment protection that comes with it. Right now the social engineers are double-dipping in a way that will eventually give the alliance of corporate plutocrats and secretive government agencies the ability to fully control the public’s access to ideas and information.
I think this is more or less correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. Senator Richard Burr: a Longtime Fan of Torture

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Newly released official documents obtained by the National Security Archive showing that CIA Director Gina Haspel directly supervised waterboarding at the first CIA “Black Site” simply confirm what Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) already knew as he orchestrated the charade that was Haspel’s confirmation hearing.  Burr allowed her to “classify” her own direct role in waterboarding and other torture techniques so that it could be kept from the public and secure her confirmation—-further proof that this Senate oversight committee has instead become an overlook committee.
Yes, I think this is quite correct. Here is more by McGovern (who is 78):
Witnessing this charade from the audience prompted me to stand up, excuse myself for interrupting, and suggest that the committee members were entitled to an honest answer since this was a public hearing with thousands watching on TV.  The American people were also entitled to know whether or not Haspel was directly involved in torture. As I was calmly pointing out that any Senate Intelligence Committee member who prepared for the hearing already knew the answer, I was “escorted out,” manhandled and charged with disrupting Congress and resisting arrest.
Precisely. And here is some - quite sickening - background:
As an act of conscience, on March 2, 2006 I returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given me at retirement for “especially meritorious service,” explaining, “I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.”  I returned the medallion to Hoekstra (R, Michigan), who was then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with a statement explaining my reasons. 

Hoekstra then secretly added to the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY’07 (HR5020) a provision enabling the government to strip intelligence veterans of their government pensions.
That is: Hoekstra sought to deny a pension to persons like Ray McGovern, who had the courage to hand in his special award because he does not like to be associated with an agency that tortures people for information.

Here is McGovern´s ending:
The bottom line?  The foxes have been guarding the chicken coop for many years now.  Haspel will fit right in. O Tempora, O Mores.
Yes indeed, 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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