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Nederlog

November 1, 2015
Crisis: Amazon, Small Banks, Netanyahu "Corrects", Rubio & Ryan as Frauds
"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.
How Amazon took control of the cloud
2. America's Two-Tiered Banking System is a Threat to
     Democracy

3. Netanyahu Retracts Claim That a Palestinian Cleric
     Inspired the Holocaust
 
4.
Why Marco Rubio Is Just Another Intellectual Fraud


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, November 1, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links (on this Sunday, on which I also have to do some other things): Item 1 is about Amazon and its
strong growth (which I dislike, because I don't like either Bezos or Amazon);
item 2 is about one of the consequences of shutting many of the small banks: poor people have to pay 300 to 2000 percent (!) on the loans they are forced to
take from loan sharks; item 3 is about yet another issue in Netanyahu's fight
with the truth: he - sort of - retracted the claim that a Palestinian moved
Hitler to kill the Jews; and item 4 is about why Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan
are not the wonks the GOP (and some writers on the NYT) tries to pretend they
are.

1. How Amazon took control of the cloud 

The first item today is by John Naughton on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
The internet, in just two decades, has gone from something that seemed exotic to most people to a utility that is taken for granted – like electricity. Just as most people – at least in industrial societies – rarely go through a day without switching on a light, so most of us use the internet every day. In that sense, it has become what historians of technology call a GPT – a general purpose technology, like steam power, electricity, mass production and the automobile.
Yes, indeed - and one reason I know is that I got internet 19 years ago, which was relatively rare then, and indeed is a "GPT" now.

Next, there is this, which is a good and useful clarification on how the internet-GPT differs from all earlier GPTs:
But digital technology differs in four significant ways from earlier GPTs. First of all, it is characterised by zero – or near-zero – marginal costs: once you’ve made the investment needed to create a digital good, it costs next to nothing to roll out and distribute a million (or indeed a billion) copies. Second, digital technology can exploit network effects at much greater speeds than the GPTs of the past. Third, almost everything that goes on in digital networks is governed by so-called power law distributions, in which a small number of actors (sites, companies, publishers…) get most of the action, while everyone else languishes in a “long tail”. Finally, digital technology sometimes gives rise to technological “lock-in”, where the proprietary standards of one company become the de facto standards for an entire industry.

I think that is all correct, though I think the middle two points are less important than the fourth, and especially the first of these points.

And here is one very important consequence:

The most interesting implication of these distinctive features is that they all point in one direction: towards winner-takes-all outcomes. This is what has happened, for example, in searching (Google) and social networking (Facebook).
At this point I should say that I don't want and don't use Facebook, and the same goes for Google searches. And for Facebook I need no replacement (it is also not "social networking" - as has been pointed out long ago (See my On the sham called "Facebook" of 2011) it is much rather a-social networking, since you do not
socially meet almost anyone you "meet" on Facebook - and as to Google, there still are several other search machines that are, for my ends at least, at least as good as Google, and in several cases a lot less intrusive.

And here comes Amazon:
Enter Amazon, which some people still erroneously regard as a mere bookshop, when in fact it has become the Walmart of the web – “the everything store”, as its founder, Jeff Bezos, calls it. But when Bezos says “everything”, he wasn’t just referring to retailing. He meant everything.
There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended.

All I want to say here is that I very much dislike Amazon (I never bought there  anything; I hardly ever see it), which is in part caused by its extra-ordinarily rich very dislikable chief Jeff Bezos, who again is so very dislikable because he imposed completely ruinous "working conditions" in his offices, to the best of my knowledge.

But the article makes clear Amazon may grow a lot bigger before it fails.

2. America's Two-Tiered Banking System is a Threat to Democracy

The next item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
The nation’s financial crisis taught us that when it comes to Wall Street giants, political leaders consider some banks "too big to fail." After initial misgivings, Democrats and Republicans joined together to commit over $700 billion to rescue major firms from collapse. Now a new book looks at the inverse of this policy: when it comes to serving communities on the local level, some banks are just too small to rescue. In "How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy," University of Georgia law professor Mehrsa Baradaran explores how poor communities have been denied the normal banking opportunities that help sustain households and grow economies.
Yes indeed. This is in part explained by the following:

AMY GOODMAN: Between 2008 and 2013, some 2,000 bank branches were shut down in the United States. Ninety-three percent of those were in lower-income communities. Without normal banks, these communities have been at the mercy of check cashers and payday lenders, who charge rates and fees far higher than any normal institution. The result is a predatory system that helps keep low-income people in a crushing cycle of debt.

Mehrsa Baradaran argues in favor of a public banking option, such as through the post office, a system shut down in the U.S. nearly 50 years ago (...)
I quite agree, and must say that I had such an account for most of my life, but this also has been - quite brutally also: the Big Dutch Banks "had" to be saved by the Dutch politicians - "modernized away" by the euro, the big banks, and the
collapse of 2008, that only helped the criminal bankmanagers to grow even richer, and did so at the costs of the many poor, who pay taxes.

But the system was a whole lot better than the one I had to accept.

Here is Mehrsa Baradaran on how poor people get fleeced in major ways in the USA - which bankmanagers much love to import in Europe, where this system is
to the best of my knowledge not yet possible:
MEHRSA BARADARAN: (...) So, you know, half the population couldn’t access $400 within a month to meet some emergency needs. Right? Your tire needs to be fixed. Your kid is in the hospital, and you have some bill. You don’t have that money, you have to borrow from someone. And if you don’t have friends and family, you have to go to a payday lender. And you pay somewhere from 300 to 2,000 percent APR. So by the time all is said and done, you’ve not only, you know, paid back that initial principal, but 10 times, 20 times the principal. And so, this is something that not only doesn’t help people, but it ends up turning a temporary cash crunch into a financial disaster.
There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended. (But this is also the probable future of Europe, especially if the TTIP is approved.)

3. Netanyahu Retracts Claim That a Palestinian Cleric Inspired the Holocaust

The next article is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday retracted his controversial assertion that it was Palestinian cleric Haj Amin al-Husseini who gave Adolf Hitler the idea of exterminating Europe’s Jews during World War II.

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu said he never meant to “absolve Hitler of his responsibility for the Holocaust,” the Israel newspaper Haaretz first reported.

I say. Well... not really, speaking honestly. This is from the New York Times:

“The decision to move from a policy of deporting Jews to the Final Solution was made by the Nazis and was not dependent on outside influence,” Mr. Netanyahu posted on Facebook, in Hebrew and English. “The Nazis saw in the Mufti a collaborator, but they did not need him to decide on the systematic destruction of European Jewry, which began in June 1941.”

He went on: “Contrary to the impression that was created, I did not mean to claim that in his conversation with Hitler in November 1941 the Mufti convinced him to adopt the Final Solution. The Nazis decided on that by themselves.”

That is THE problem with Netanyahu: he did say so, as indeed was also correctly pointed out by the New York Times:

That description aligns with the prevailing view of Holocaust historians, but was contradicted by Mr. Netanyahu in a speech on Oct. 20 to the World Zionist Congress where he recounted the meeting between Hitler and Mr. Husseini. “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time — he wanted to expel the Jews,” Mr. Netanyahu said in his speech. He quoted the mufti as saying, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here,” referring to Palestine, and then said Hitler had asked, “So what should I do with them?” The mufti replied, “Burn them,” according to Mr. Netanyahu.

Historians declared his account to be a lie that appeases Holocaust denial, and many political analysts said Mr. Netanyahu’s speech undermined his own accusations that President Mahmoud Abbas of The Palestinian Authority was peddling falsehoods.
There is more in the article. And the problem of Netanyahu is that he will say anything if he thinks it advances Israel's chances, also if what he says is an
obvious lie according to anyone who has some relevant knowledge. (But he
may be there a long time still, I admit.)

4. Why Marco Rubio Is Just Another Intellectual Fraud 

The final article today is by Elias Isquith on Salon:
This starts as follows:
After spending most of the past few months either kowtowing to Donald Trump or forestalling complete anarchy in the House of Representatives, Republicans now find themselves on the verge of what they hope will be a much better position. Former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is the new Speaker of the House and Senator Marco Rubio seems poised to overtake Jeb Bush as the establishment’s favored candidate. The adults, some elite Republicans hope, will soon be back in charge.
I selected this mostly because of its title: Clearly Rubio is an intellectual fraud, and the main problem is that most Americans lack the wit, the knowledge, or the courage to see and say so.

Elias Isquith makes it rather clear that both Paul Ryan's reputation and Marco Rubio's idem for being really clever ("wonks") is based on a lot of nothing, and I will leave that to your interests.

Here is part of his conclusion:

So Rubio’s wonk résumé is about as paltry as Ryan’s. Both men are essentially pushing the same policies that have dominated the GOP since the Reaganite ’80s and both men are mostly able to obscure this by relying on the press’s ingrained desire to find a wonky conservative for “balance.” Both men are also good talkers — better than even most politicians — who know that a largely innumerate political press is easily impressed by a confident- sounding sale featuring charts and graphs (which they usually don’t understand).

Yet, crucially, neither man is patently embarrassing.
In fact, the last point makes them stand out amidst the GOP. Resumé: Neither has anything original to say; both are obvious frauds (to the more intelligent, that alas is always a minority); they are good talkers; and - unlike Trump, Carson, and Cruz, for example - they are not even embarrassing (mostly).

I agree with Isquith that this is in fact very thin. (But it may work in the USA, given so many voters who don't know much.)

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