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Nederlog

January 5, 2017

Crisis: Washington Post, Trump & Wall Street *2, Electoral College, Angela Merkel
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction   

1.
WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia
     Threat While Public Is Deceived

2. For Head of SEC, Trump Taps Another Fox to Guard Wall Street
     Henhouse

3.
At Least 50 Trump Electors Were Illegitimately Seated as
     Electoral College Members

4.
Donald Trump Has An Enormous And Very Dangerous Wall
     Street Blind Spot

5. Merkel Anticipates Frosty Relations with U.S.
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of January 5, 2017.

This is a
crisis log with 5 items and 5 links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on the Washington Post and its "fake news" about "fake news"; item 2 is about how Trump put together a cabinet that is very partial to the - corrupt, dishonest, extremely rich - Wall Street bankers; item 3 is about irregulaties at the Electoral College (that I expect, like many others of Trump's irregularities, will not stop him from becoming president); item 4 is about a supposed blind spot of Trump for Wall Street (I think not: I think he knows what he is doing); and item 5 is about a Spiegel article about Merkel's reactions to Trump.

Incidentally: The services of both my sites are still not updated properly: This morning it was again Jan 3, 2017 on xs4all.nl and December 31, 2015 on one.com: Perhaps you should avoid them if you want good providers (but I do not know of any that is good anywhere).

1. WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived

The
first item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false. Each now bears a humiliating editor’s note grudgingly acknowledging that the core claims of the story were fiction: The first note was posted a full two weeks later to the top of the original article; the other was buried the following day at the bottom.

The second story on the electric grid turned out to be far worse than I realized when I wrote about it on Saturday, when it became clear that there was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid” as the Post had claimed. In addition to the editor’s note, the Russia-hacked-our-electric -grid story now has a full-scale retraction in the form of a separate article admitting that “the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility” and there may not even have been malware at all on this laptop.

I say, though I know most of this and also reviewed it in Nederlog. In fact, I also think I have a conclusion that I will state below, but first here is some more Greenwald:

But while these debacles are embarrassing for the paper, they are also richly rewarding. That’s because journalists — including those at the Post — aggressively hype and promote the original, sensationalistic false stories, ensuring that they go viral, generating massive traffic for the Post (the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, recently boasted about how profitable the paper has become).

After spreading the falsehoods far and wide, raising fear levels and manipulating U.S. political discourse in the process (both Russia stories were widely hyped on cable news), journalists who spread the false claims subsequently note the retraction or corrections only in the most muted way possible, and often not at all. As a result, only a tiny fraction of people who were exposed to the original false story end up learning of the retractions.

Yes, I think both claims - it is "richly rewarding" and "retraction or corrections" are made "only in the most muted way possible" - are true.

And as far as the Washington Post and other mainstream media are concerned, my conclusion is that they no longer spread real news (in many cases, though not all) but they spread rewarding false news and do so quite intentionally, because making a profit has become far more important to them than telling the truth.

I think that conclusion holds for much of the mainstream media, though - perhaps - in differing proportions and with different stresses, depending mostly on whether they support the Democrats or the Republicans.

Then there is this on "fake news":

Whether the Post’s false stories here can be distinguished from what is commonly called “Fake News” is, at this point, a semantic dispute, particularly since “Fake News” has no cogent definition. Defenders of Fake News as a distinct category typically emphasize intent in order to differentiate it from bad journalism. That’s really just a way of defining Fake News so as to make it definitionally impossible for mainstream media outlets like the Post ever to be guilty of it (much the way terrorism is defined to ensure that the U.S. government and its allies cannot, by definition, ever commit it).

I think all so-called "fake news" consists of lies, quite as Dan Rather (<-Wikipedia) put it in yesterday's reviewed article 'A Lie, Is a Lie, Is a Lie'. The bullshit about "intent" consists of the same lies as the Wall Street Journal's editor Gerard Baker indulged in, that I exposed the day before yesterday.

Indeed, this is from my Philosophical Dictionary item bullshit:

Third, bullshit is very much easier to learn and to practice than are science and honesty, and is the essence of postmodern society, and indeed of postmodernism itself, is to replace almost all forms of communication and education by forms of bullshit, that generally take the pretended form of information to the public, but is essentially a form of lying:

Telling people what they want to hear, and suggesting them what to feel, believe, want and think, because doing it this way, is so very much easier than trying to speak the truth, and also tends to be much more profitable.

For this reason, most of the communications large institutions do are these days done by hired tribes of professional liars, conmen, deceivers, and frauds, whose art it is to make anything whatsoever look well in the eyes of a public that is in vast majority not educated nor informed to understand that they are being deceived and manipulated.
And I think that is true of much of the mainstream media, and indeed also of all the propaganda put out by large institutions: it's written by "hired tribes of professional liars, conmen, deceivers, and frauds" and it consists of lies, deceptions and exaggerations that usually serves the profitability of the institutions.

And Glenn Greenwald seems to agree:

The most ironic aspect of all this is that it is mainstream journalists — the very people who have become obsessed with the crusade against Fake News — who play the key role in enabling and fueling this dissemination of false stories. They do so not only by uncritically spreading them, but also by taking little or no steps to notify the public of their falsity.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit hat I'll quote from this article:
A very common dynamic is driving all of this: media groupthink, greatly exacerbated (as I described on Saturday) by the incentive scheme of Twitter. As the grand media failure of 2002 demonstrated, American journalists are highly susceptible to fueling and leading the parade in demonizing a new Foreign Enemy rather than exerting restraint and skepticism in evaluating the true nature of that threat.
Quite so. As to groupthinking, here is another item from my Philosophical Dictionary:
Groupthinking: The kind of thinking, feeling, valueing and desiring that keeps human social groups together.

Much of the thinking that goes into groupthinking is totalitarian in principle, and is made up of principles based on wishful thinking of the following kind:

Usually the members of groups are hardly aware that their membership is to a large extent emotionally and intellectually based on principles such as the above, even though it is very easy to see these principles at work in the mental make-up or the behavior of members of other groups - political parties, religious organizations, soccer supporters, but also firms, schools, universities etc., for one way the human animal is social is by actively belonging to groups and by supporting the ideas, ideals, morals and practices that constitute, regulate or support these groups.

Also, it is noteworthy that the above principles involved in most group-thinking are relatively innocuous, and that most groups also practice such principles as

  • Whoever does not belong to Our Group is less good (perfect, humane, religiously or racially proper) than whoever does
  • Whoever opposes Our Group, Our Leaders, Our Ideology or Our Faith is, therefore and thereby, morally or humanly or intellectually inferior
  • Whoever does not conform to the practices and principles current in Our Group is immoral or insane

Most groupthinking involves prejudice of all kinds, and the best excuse for this seems to be that, since human beings are social animals, there is an instinctual motivation to wish to belong to and to support a human group.

And I also think Greenwald is right about Twitter: You cannot really speak rationally of any truth that is the slightest bit complicated within 140 characters. Also, I don't use it, never used it, and never will, and indeed I now also avoid articles in which several (or a lot) of Tweets are quoted: I think it is a sick abuse of journalism.

This is a recommended article that contains considerably more than is reviewed here.

2. For Head of SEC, Trump Taps Another Fox to Guard Wall Street Henhouse

The
second item is by Deirdre Fulton on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton, who defended big banks against regulators during the financial crisis, is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the federal agency charged with policing Wall Street.

Clayton, a partner with the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, is Trump’s nominee for chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In that role, the Washington Post reports, Clayton “would play a key role in Trump’s efforts to usher in a period of deregulation, including undoing parts of 2010’s financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act.”

He is among several of Trump’s cabinet nominees with ties to Goldman Sachs, continuing what Bloomberg described as “a surprise coup for financial firms since Trump won the presidency in November.”
I say, for I did not know this. It doesn't amaze me as indeed I am also surprised that Bloomberg said it was surprised that "financial firms" are so well represented in Trump's government: it is what I expected.

There is also this in the article:
“Jay Clayton has spent his career helping big banks weasel out of accountability for robbing millions of Americans of their life savings and crushing our economy,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Trump supporters did not vote to let the fox guard the henhouse on Wall Street. This is yet another example of Trump betraying his own voters by turning over our economy to giant corporations and Wall Street at the expense of American working families.”

I more or less agree, though I should add that it has been clear to me since I first saw Trump that he is a liar and a fantasist who deceives his voters.

3. At Least 50 Trump Electors Were Illegitimately Seated as Electoral College Members

The
third item is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:

More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders.

That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday.
I did not know that, though I should also say that I do not find this really "stunning". This is followed by the following, which rather increases my skepticism:
“Trump’s ascension to the presidency is completely illegitimate,” said Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action, who is promoting the effort. “It’s not just Russians hacking our democracy. It’s not just voter suppression at unprecedented levels. It is also [that] there are Republicans illegally casting ballots in the Electoral College, and in a sufficient number that the results of the Electoral College proceedings are illegitimate as well.”
I am skeptical, because I have been saying now since December 14 what Glenn Greenwald repeated in the first item: There is no evidence that the "Russians" are "hacking our democracy", and I think that anybody who still repeats that in 2017 as if that is a fact, seems to be lying for the DNC.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
A joint congressional session is scheduled to ratify the 2016 Electoral College vote this Friday. While there have been calls to challenge that certification—including one women-led effort saying Trump's victory is due to voter suppression targeting people of color—the analysis that scores of Trump electors were illegally seated, and the additional finding that most states won by Trump improperly filed their Electoral College "Certificates of Vote" with Congress, is unprecedented.
My own estimate of this "unprecedented" news is that since there was so much else that was "unprecedented" in Trump's campaign and Trump's winning the presidency, that this will be passed as well.

I may be mistaken (and will say so if I am), but I guess not.

4. Donald Trump Has An Enormous And Very Dangerous Wall Street Blind Spot

The
fourth item is by WashingtonsBlog on his site:

This starts as follows:

The biggest disappointment regarding Donald Trump since being elected President has been his total embrace of dangerous Wall Street thieves. As it is currently structured and incentivized, the financial services industry represents one of the most destructive and least beneficial forces within the U.S. economy. It is essentially a parasitic industry.

Unfortunately, Trump didn’t merely pick one or two competent finance guys to be in charge of finance-related jobs. Rather, he decided to surround himself with some of the worst of the worst (see links at the end) within an industry that often operates like a criminal syndicate.
I agree with most of this, except for the beginning: I was and am not "disappointed" by Trump's "total embrace of dangerous Wall Street thieves" simply because I expected it. (Instead, I would have been amazed if Trump had excluded all Wall Street thieves and cheats.)

There is a lot more that I'll leave to your interests, mostly because it consists of fairly long quotations about several of the "
dangerous Wall Street thieves" that Trump is hiring in his cabinet.

The article ends as follows:
Donald Trump’s embrace of Wall Street is a huge red flag, and will present an enormous obstacle to any hope he may have concerning a fundamental transformation of the U.S. economy away from rent-seeking and corruption. In other words, you can’t drain the swamp without reining in the financial sector. Trump doesn’t seem to understand this, or if he does understand it, he doesn’t seem to care.

I think I am more pessimistic about Trump than the writer of the article, for I think Trump never wanted to "drain the swamp": He wanted to command the swamp, for his own profits, and he has succeeded by deceiving his voters.

5. Merkel Anticipates Frosty Relations with U.S.

The fifth and last item is by Spiegel Staff on Spiegel International:

This starts as follows:

The hour-long video didn't exactly put the German chancellor in a cheerful mood. The footage was from Donald Trump's recent appearance in Pennsylvania during his so-called Thank You Tour and Angela Merkel, as she told the national executive committee of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), watched the rally in its entirety. She recommended that her fellow party members do the same. "It is interesting to see the thought environment he inhabits," she said.

During his speech, Trump celebrated a landslide victory that was anything but; he blasted the press ("the world's most dishonest people") and in no way left the impression that he has matured into a statesman following his election win. But one passage really stood out in Merkel's memory and she quoted it verbatim: "There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag."

To start with, I think Angela Merkel has two positive characteristics that I am not aware of as being shared by any other (West-)European politician: She is (originally) a real research scientist, and she knows totalitarianism from the inside, because she grew up in the German Democratic Republic, i.e. the Soviet part of East Germany.

As to Trump: I haven't seen that rally, but I have seen sufficiently many other rallies by him, and I agree that leading politicians should do the same. Then again, I didn't see much of what I would call a "
thought environment" in any of the rallies I saw, but I suppose Merkel was being polite in public.

Then again, according to Spiegel this is what she thinks:
Internally, she makes no secret of what she thinks about Trump's campaign. No other presidential candidate in the history of the United States has ever violated the rules of decency to the degree that Trump has. That's how Merkel sees it.
If that is how she sees it (this is Spiegel speaking rather than Merkel), I think she is still being polite in public, for what she saw was a lying ignoramus who believes that He Is The Greatest In Everything That Matters, and who is not sane according to many psychologists and psychiatrists.

I take it that is what she really saw, but I do understand that she cannot honestly say so in her position. Incidentally, I do think that she really saw what I said she saw, and not because I know her, but because I respect her intelligence.

Then there is this:

It's not Trump's ideology that worries Merkel most. His opinions, after all, morph quickly, something that Merkel has experienced personally. As recently as August 2015, he said the German chancellor was "probably the greatest leader in the world today." Then the refugee crisis came and Trump said, "What she's done in Germany is insane. It's insane."

It's Trump's character that worries Merkel most, his craving to be loved and admired and his fury against all those who refuse to do so.
I agree with that estimate, indeed for the simple reason that I think (as a psychologist, also) that Trump is not sane: If the most powerful man on earth has a "craving to be loved and admired" while he has a "fury against all those who refuse to do so" (both of which are quite correct) I think he is already unqualified as president of the USA, and especially in view of the second characteristic.

This is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
The chancellor is fully aware of what is at stake. If Trump carries out even part of what he promised during his campaign, then the world order as Merkel knows it would be relegated to the dustbin of history.
I hope that Merkel "is fully aware of what is at stake", and indeed in her case I think she probably is (because she is intelligent, originally a real scientist, and knows totalitarianism from the inside).

Whether that awareness will make much of a difference remains to be seen, but it is good that she probably has it: What to do with a very temperamental madman who has been elected to be the most powerful man on earth?

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