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Nederlog

October 13, 2015
Crisis: China, American Hypocrisies, 158 Families, Democrats, GOP
 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1.
China imports slump 20% amid falling commodity prices
     and weak demand

2. Five Great American Hypocrisies
3. Just 158 Families Provided Nearly Half the Financing for
     Early Efforts for the White House

4. Who's the Most Effective Candidate to Take on the
     Increasingly Insane GOP?

5.
The Crazies and the Con Man

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 13, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the Chinese economy (that seems fairly deeply in the dumps); item 2 is about various American hypocrisies (I agree, broadly speaking, but would have selected
several others); item 3 is about the state of American democracy, where 158 families provide most of the money of the Republicans (also thanks to the Supreme Court's insane decision that money = votes); item 4 is about the Democrats' candidates; and item 5 is about how crazy (insane, mad, lying,
trifling) the Republican presidential candidates are (in Krugman's and my opinions).

1. China imports slump 20% amid falling commodity prices and weak demand

The first item today is an article by Reuters on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and is here because China is very important economically):

China’s imports fell heavily in September, official figures said, keeping pressure on policymakers to do more to stave off a sharper economic slowdown.

Although exports fell less than expected by 3.7% from the same period last year, the value of imports tumbled more than 20% to register the 11th straight month of falls.

Imports plunged 20.4% in September from a year earlier to $145.2bn, customs officials said, due to weak commodity prices and soft domestic demand.

These factors will complicate Beijing’s efforts to stave off deflation, one of the headwinds threatening the world’s second biggest economy.

Yes, indeed - and while I do not know how "weak commodity prices" (on imports) might be relevant, "soft domestic demand" surely is (and I wish less euphemistic
terms were used).

Highlighting persistent weakness in demand at home and abroad, China’s combined exports and imports fell 8.1% in the first nine months of the year from the same period in 2014, well below the full-year official target of 6% growth.

“In general, there are no green shoots in this set of data,” said Zhou Hao, senior economist at Commerzbank in Singapore. “The growth of [trade] volume still remains low.”

In fact, the difference between aim and outcome is over 14% (around 1/7th).

China is widely expected to post its slowest economic growth in a quarter of a century this year as activity is weighed down by weak demand, entrenched factory overcapacity, high debt levels and cooling investment appetite.

That is denting any remaining hopes that a recovery in China’s domestic demand might offset weakness elsewhere.
This means that the Chinese economic growth is less than it was since 1990.
I say.
2. Five Great American Hypocrisies

The next article today is by Paul Buchheit on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
American “exceptionalism” exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive.
I agree, although I should remark that - it seems to me - the majority in any country is fairly patriotic or nationalistic (there is a considerable difference: See
Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism" in his Collected Essays), and thinks itself somehow better than other countries. Then again, I do agree American nationalism (the right term) is quite extreme and quite aggressive.

And I like this article and will consider each of the hypocrisies (briefly). There is in any case more than I quote, and the full article is interesting and available under the last link.

First, there is this:

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees’ Wages

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion.
This means simply that the majority of tge Fortune 500 companies (75% according to earlier reports) is deeply criminal: They stole at least $600
billion in taxes (and since they are in the Fortune 500, it is not as if they
couldn't miss this).

Next, there is this:
2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven’t apologized for funding Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, “I no longer love blue skies…The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

Well... I don't like this, and Americans are quite nationalistic. I don't like that either but I know most nations have majorities of inhabitants who are patriotic or nationalistic.

Next:

3. Caring About Unborn Children, But Not Living Children

The anti-abortion element keeps attacking Planned Parenthood, even though the long-successful and essential organization saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services.

I agree, but I also know the majority of the Americans are Christians, none too bright, and have been exposed to enormous amounts of various kinds of propaganda.

Next, there is this:

4. Demanding Self-Reliance of People Who Can’t Find a Living-Wage Job

The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation proclaimed, “Helping the poor should mean promoting individual freedom through self-reliance..” The Cato Institute added, “SNAP helps breed dependency and undermines the work ethic.”

Here are the facts: Nearly two-thirds of all working-age poor are actually working, but unable to earn a living wage, forcing them to rely on food stamps, which only provide about $5 a day per person for meals. In addition, over 83 percent of all benefits going to low-income people are for the elderly, the disabled, or working households.

What the Heritage Foundation should have said is: "Let poor people die without any help, for that will increase the profits of the rich", and it seems to me that
is the real message, although indeed it is the type of message only sadists give -
which is the reason for the euphemisms on the beauties of "self-help" that poor
people just can't do from the very little money they earn.

The second paragraph is quite correct, but I do understand that according to the Koch brothers I - who am elderly and disabled since age 28 - should have died a long time ago, and never should have had any dole money, for that should have been given to the Kochs (I presume, or to some mega-rich Dutchman).

Finally, there is this:

5. Turning Away People Who Were Displaced by Our “Free Trade” Pacts

Many Americans have sympathized with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiments, despite his cruel assessment of Mexican people: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

I agree, but I also reflect that it simply is true that the majority of Americans are unintelligent and uneducated. I am very sorry for both, but these are the facts,
and coupled with American nationalists, and fueled by a populist fool like Trump,
this is what you may expect, gross as it is for the intelligent and the educated.

There also is this:

More…

Banks get bailouts, but homeowners and students can’t declare bankruptcy. Drug companies increase prices by 5,000%, but Medicare is not allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices. Charter schools are public when the money is being passed out, but private when we want to look at their books.

The list goes on and on.

I agree, and at least the first two facts are - in my eyes - more serious than some of the five selected, but this is an interesting article.

Also, it turns out that I am angriest about the vast income inequalities, and less angry - though pretty sickened - by hypocrisies that are due to low intelligence or little education.

3. Just 158 Families Provided Nearly Half the Financing for Early Efforts for the White House

The next article today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

An overwhelmingly older, white and male group of Americans who made fortunes in finance and energy and represent just 158 families gave $176 million—almost half of all the money raised so far—to mostly Republican presidential candidates in the early months of the race.

“Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago,” writes The New York Times, whose investigation revealed the numbers.

I say. There are supposed to be 321,605,012 Americans in 2015, while 158 : 321,605,012 = 0.000000491. If we take the inverse of this, which is 2,035,475 this may be taken as a rough measure of the power of the very wealthy compared to the rest: Over 2 million times as powerful. Long live American democracy! Long live the present Supreme Court of the USA!

As to the political orientation of these 158 families, there is this from the NYT:

But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlements. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.
As indeed seems natural to me, for greedy and egoistic billionaires. Then again,
I have this observation on the honesty and informedness of these "donor families": The chances that they are speaking honestly is about 1:
2,035,475 - a 200 millionth part of 1. (Were it otherwise, they would pay more taxes, and be
willing to pay more taxes.)

There is also this in the NYT:
In marshaling their financial resources chiefly behind Republican candidates, the donors are also serving as a kind of financial check on demographic forces that have been nudging the electorate toward support for the Democratic Party and its economic policies. Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.
Which means that the "financial resources" of these 158 families will go into many advertisements that are full of lies, bullshit, propaganda and deceptions to
try to prevent that the majority opinions gets translated into a majority of votes.

The only good thing I can say about that is that the presidential candidates of
the GOP seem quite unlikely to win the presidential elections.

4. Who's the Most Effective Candidate to Take on the Increasingly Insane GOP?

The next article today is by Robert Kuttner on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Tuesday's Democratic debate is a very big deal, especially for front-runner Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders will probably exceed expectations because many viewers will be seeing him for the first time, certainly for the first time against Clinton. The other three candidates will likely find themselves far back -- this is narrowing to a two person contest.
This is fairly important, and I agree with the beginning: it seems mostly between Clinton and Sanders.

As to Clinton:
In the past few weeks, Clinton has made several dramatic moves in Sanders' direction. She has broken with the Administration on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, on the Keystone Pipeline and on the so-called Cadillac Tax on high quality health plans (she is for repeal; the White House is not). She is out-flanking Sanders to the left on gun control, and she is at least as comfortable talking about race.
Those who have read considerably more of the over 1000 files I wrote about the crisis know that I don't believe Clinton even if she were honest. That is, I think she will say whatever increases her chances of being elected, quite independently from what she really believes.

In fact that seems a fairly common position by now:
The question is whether viewers and pundits will credit her for this movement, or just discount it as mere posturing.
It is posturing, I am sure, though I am willing to agree that, while Sanders is much better and much more credible than Clinton, Clinton is much better than
any Republican.

In both parties, the disgust with a political system that seems paralyzed and with an economy of, by, and for the one percent, leaves radicalism far more attractive the usual.
I'd say that the radicals (whatever that means) are quite right: The political system is paralyzed, and the economy does work only for the rich.

Finally, there is this, which I quote because I like it (and think it is true):
On the other hand, one has to recall a famous incident attributed to Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 campaign, in which a gushing supporter told him, "Governor, you will have the support of every thinking person." To which he replied, "Madame, that's not enough, we need a majority."
I quite agree, though I also deplore it.

5. The Crazies and the Con Man

The final article today is by Paul Krugman on the New York Times:
This starts as follows, and is about the GOP:

How will the chaos that the crazies, I mean the Freedom Caucus, have wrought in the House get resolved? I have no idea. But as this column went to press, practically the whole Republican establishment was pleading with Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to become speaker. He is, everyone says, the only man who can save the day.

What makes Mr. Ryan so special? The answer, basically, is that he’s the best con man they’ve got.
I am quite willing to accept Paul Krugman's assessment of Mr. Ryan. Much more importantly, there is this:
To understand Mr. Ryan’s role in our political-media ecosystem, you need to know two things. First, the modern Republican Party is a post-policy enterprise, which doesn’t do real solutions to real problems. Second, pundits and the news media really, really don’t want to face up to that awkward reality.
Yes, indeed: "[T]he modern Republican Party is a post-policy enterprise, which doesn’t do real solutions to real problems". That certainly is true of what they propose to the public, which is also why I never watch Republican public debaters anymore: I get only obvious bullshit.

As to Paul Ryan:
He is to fiscal policy what Carly Fiorina was to corporate management: brilliant at self-promotion, hopeless at actually doing the job. But his act has been good enough for media work.

His position within the party, in turn, rests mainly on this outside perception. Mr. Ryan is certainly a hard-line, Ayn Rand-loving and progressive-tax-hating conservative, but no more so than many of his colleagues.
Again I am willing to accept Krugman's judgement, but the following is considerably more important:
Predictions aside, however, the Ryan phenomenon tells us a lot about what’s really happening in American politics. In brief, crazies have taken over the Republican Party, but the media don’t want to recognize this reality. The combination of these two facts has created an opportunity, indeed a need, for political con men.
I have to admit - as a psychologist - that persons like Trump and Carson do not strike me as quite sane, but then again I personally don't know and never met or spoke with any Republican candidate, while it seems pretty obvious to me all are
lying about many things.

Therefore, while I don't know about their sanity, I do know about their honesty: All you can select from the Republican candidates is which type of bullshit pleases you most.

And no, that is different from what it used to be. I never was much in sympathy with the Republicans, but Eisenhower (<- Wikipedia) was a competent president and a fine general, and although I disagree with his policies, he clearly was a sane and intelligent man - which are indeed judgements that I find hard to make about any present-day Republican presidential candidate.

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