Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017
Crisis: Goldman Sachs Effect, Trump & Bannon, Statisticians, Trump's Ban
Sections                                                                     crisis index

The Goldman Sachs Effect: How a Bank Conquered Washington
2. Robert Reich: Trump and Bannon Are Putting the World at Real
     Risk of Nuclear War

Statisticians Fear Trump White House Will Manipulate Figures
     to Fit Narrative

"Let Them In": Thousands Descend on Nation's Airports to
     Protest Trump's Refugee & Muslim Ban


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a fine article by Nomi Prins on the mega-thieves and mega-frauds of Goldman Sachs; item 2 is an article by Robert Reich on Trump and Bannon; item 3 is a quite interesting article on statisticians' fears that the Trumpian government will manipulate the figures it puts out ("alternative figures"?) to fit its own narratives; and item 4 is about the last Trumpian effort: denying refugees and muslims from seven countries entry into the USA.
As for today (January 31, 2017): I have meanwhile attached a message to the openings of both of my sites which points out that for something like a year now both of my sites more or less systematically, but unpredictably, show the wrong date and the wrong files, indeed going so far back as 2015, and as if I did not write anything since then.

Today my Dutch site again was not updated at all, and still stands at January 28, 2017 (for me: for you it might be March 1, 2016) [1], but the Danish site was correct, and I have been daily uploading my site for quite a few years now and not even that gets properly shown now, since about a year, on both sites, also quite unpredictably.

Somebody really wants you not to read my sites.

I wrote about this yesterday, and will probably tomorrow change my site as indicated: I want the stuff that I write to be read, and not to be hidden, denied or destroyed by sick degenerates (probably from the secret services, for they pride themselves they can - in secret, of course - fuck up almost everything).

And I have had it, after a year of stinking bullshit by both my providers or else by the secret services.
1. The Goldman Sachs Effect: How a Bank Conquered Washington

The first item today is by Nomi Prins (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch:
This starts as follows:
Irony isn’t a concept with which President Donald J. Trump is familiar. In his Inaugural Address, having nominated the wealthiest cabinet in American history, he proclaimed, “For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth.”  Under Trump, an even smaller group will flourish -- in particular, a cadre of former Goldman Sachs executives. To put the matter bluntly, two of them (along with the Federal Reserve) are likely to control our economy and financial system in the years to come.
Actually, I don't see why Trump is not familiar with irony, but the rest of this is quite true, while Nomi Prins (according to the Wikipedia)
"has worked as a managing director at Goldman-Sachs and as a Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns, as well as having worked as a senior strategist at Lehman Brothers and analyst at the Chase Manhattan Bank. Prins is known for her book All the Presidents' Bankers in which she explores over a century of close relationships between the 19 Presidents from Teddy Roosevelt through Barack Obama and the key bankers of their day based on original archival documents."
And she also is one of the few who criticizes the banks for plundering the people, which is happening in the USA, at least since 2000, and probably since much before then.

Here is her general judgement on Trump and his cabinet:

Whether you voted for or against Donald Trump, whether you’re gearing up for the revolution or waiting for his next tweet to drop, rest assured that, in the years to come, the ideology that matters most won’t be that of the “forgotten” Americans of his Inaugural Address. It will be that of Goldman Sachs and it will dominate the domestic economy and, by extension, the global one.
Yes, I think that is very probably quite correct (and I think this means far more plunder by the rich of the non-rich).

Here starts a potted history of the history of the American banks and especially of Goldman Sachs (and I think I should remind you this is pronounced as "Goldman Sex").

I think it is quite interesting, but what follows in this review is a small part of the article, which in turn is a small part of Nomi Prins's books. I certainly recommend that
you read all of her articles. (I didn't read her books: They probably are also good, but I never read them).

She starts in the beginning of the 20th Century:

At the dawn of the twentieth century, when President Teddy Roosevelt governed the country on a platform of trust busting aimed at reducing corporate power, even he could not bring himself to bust up the banks.  That was a mistake born of his collaboration with the financier J.P. Morgan to mitigate the effects of the Bank Panic of 1907. Roosevelt feared that if he didn’t enlist the influence of the country’s major banker, the crisis would be even longer and more disastrous.  It’s an error he might not have made had he foreseen the effect that one particular investment bank would have on America’s economy and political system.

There have been hundreds of articles written about the “world’s most powerful investment bank,” or as journalist Matt Taibbi famously called it back in 2010, the “great vampire squid.” That squid is now about to wrap its tentacles around our world in a way previously not imagined by Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

I think Nomi Prins is correct about Roosevelt. As to the "great vampire squid": Yes indeed, and I should add here that both Clinton and Bush Jr. did their very best
to please the rich bankers, who indeed made Bill Clinton a multi-millionaire between 2000 and 2010 by rewarding him many millions for speeches to them.

Then we get (after much that I skipped) to one of the most awful human beings I know of (amongst the living ones):

Now, let’s jump forward to the 1990s when Robert Rubin, co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, took a page from Weinberg’s playbook.  He recognized the potential in a young, charismatic governor from Arkansas with a favorable attitude toward banks.

And Rubin was right, and Bill Clinton soon loved him, took him into his government (indeed after Goldman Sachs persons had been advicing the former five presidents), very much liked and lauded Rubin's economical opinions (which may be described fairly as: A USA of the rich, for the rich, and governed by the rich) and quickly promoted him:

It was then only a matter of time until he was elevated to Treasury Secretary. In that position, he would accomplish something Ronald Reagan -- the first president to appoint a Treasury Secretary directly from Wall Street (former CEO of Merrill Lynch Donald Regan) -- and George H.W. Bush failed to do.  He would get the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 repealed by hustling President Clinton into backing such a move. FDR had signed the act in order to separate investment banks from commercial banks, ensuring that risky and speculative banking practices would not be funded with the deposits of hard-working Americans. The act did what it was intended to do.  It inoculated the nation against the previously reckless behavior of its biggest banks.

In fact - after checking the "hustling" link - I don't think Bill Clinton was hustled, though he did what he did (betraying all non-rich Americans) rather carefully, and
very late in his second presidency.

I also think myself he was verbally promised big rewards, which he did receive in the next ten years from the very bankers whose private fortunes he had so much helped, but I admit this is my reconstruction of the most plausible story, and I have no
direct evidence. (But Clinton was paid around $150 million for a few speeches as ex- president to rich bankers.)

Then there is Hank Paulson (<- Wikipedia), who oversaw that the bankers got extremely rich because of the crisis they themselves caused and created. Here are some of his preparations for that feat (of 2008) from 2004:
In 2004, Paulson helped convince the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to change its regulations so that investment banks could operate as if they had the kind of collateral or backing for their trades that goliaths like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase had. As a result, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns, to name three that would become notorious in the economic meltdown only four years later (and all ones for which I once worked) promptly leveraged themselves to the hilt.
There is this about one of Goldman Sach's staff who now works for Trump, and will probably add additional billions to his private riches:
Cohn was one of the partners who ran the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity (FICC) division of Goldman. It was the one that benefited the most from leverage, trading, and the complexity of Wall Street’s financial concoctions like collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) stuffed with derivatives attached to subprime mortgages.
And this is about another of Trump's appointment from Goldman Sachs, Steve Mnuchin:
To transfer this version of over-amped 1% opportunism to the halls of political power is certainly a new definition of, in Trumpian terms, giving the government back to “the people.” Perhaps what our new president meant was “the people at Goldman Sachs.” Think of it, in any case, as the supercharging of a vulture mentality in a designer suit, the very attitude that once fueled the rise to power of Goldman Sachs.
As I started saying at the beginning of this review, I don't think irony is beyond Trump's intellectual gifts (which I agree are nothing special, but Trump is not stupid).

In any case, this is a strongly recommended article that also explains (implicitly, for the most part) much about the policies Trump will probably follow, that may be summarized as "More riches to the rich, no riches to the non-rich" (for the non-rich are losers, and losers are not entitled to anything).

For more on that political recipe, see my On socialism and also Orwell on socialism of 2015. (In fact, I am not a socialist if this implies giving the ownership of firms "to the state" or "to the party" or "to the government", for in the end this implies a kind of state capitalism; I am a socialist if this implies that firms are to be owned by everyone working in them. This is probably more anarchistic than socialistic or communistic. [2])

2. Robert Reich: Trump and Bannon Are Putting the World at Real Risk of Nuclear War

The second item is by Robert Reich on AlterNet and originally on his site:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump has reorganized the National Security Council – elevating his chief political strategist Steve Bannon, and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bannon will join the NSC’s principals committee, the top inter-agency group advising the President on national security. 

Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will now attend meetings only when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed,” according to the presidential memorandum issued Saturday. 

Political strategists have never before participated in National Security Council principals meetings because the NSC is supposed to give presidents nonpartisan, factual advice.

I have written about this earlier in Nederlog: See here.

In fact, I do not think that the National Security Council does "give presidents nonpartisan, factual advice": What worries me and what also seems to offer some hope of getting rid of Trump is that I think both the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are part of the Deep State that Trump seems to be antagonizing a lot.

For more on the Deep State, see my On The Deep State in the USA. Here is more about Bannon, who replaces both the National Security Council's official and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

In case you forgot, before joining Donald Trump’s inner circle Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet that has promoted conspiracy theories and is a platform for the alt-right movement, which espouses white nationalism.

This is truly scary. 

I agree. Here is why:

Here’s the big worry. Trump is unhinged and ignorant. Bannon is nuts and malicious. If not supervised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their decisions could endanger the world.

In Trump’s and Bannon’s view, foreign relations is a zero-sum game. If another nation gains, we lose. As Trump declared at his inaugural: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”

Yes. I agree "Trump is unhinged" - that is: psychiatrically insane - and my best reasons are here, and that is a letter to Obama, late last year, by three professors of psychiatry.

About Bannon - "Bannon is nuts" - I do not know much, and being a psychologist my criterions for saying a person is not sane (or "nuts") are probably a bit different than Reich's. But I agree an alt righter is not the man for the job he was assigned to by Trump (who also never should have been president of the USA, because he, at least, is not sane).

Finally, there is this in Reich's article:

Not incidentally, “America First” was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich.

Trump’s and Bannon’s version of “America First” is no less dangerous. It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad, and risking everything we love about our country.

Unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing, Trump and Bannon could also bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust.

I mostly agree with the last statement, but I don't think they "could also bring": I think "they have already brought" is better,  and indeed the scientists who set the Doomsday Clock (<-Wikipedia) did this (from Wikipedia):

As of January 2017, the Clock is set at two and a half minutes to midnight, due to a "rise of 'strident nationalism' worldwide, United States President Donald Trump's comments over nuclear weapons, and the disbelief in the scientific consensus over climate change by the Trump Administration."

As to "America First" and "destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad": I think the first may be a coincidence, while the second seems false for intelligent non-Americans like myself: I don't believe in America's "moral authority" ever since Vietnam (in the 1960ies).

But this is a recommended article.

3. Statisticians Fear Trump White House Will Manipulate Figures to Fit Narrative

The third item is by Mona Chalabi on AlterNet and originally on The Guardian:

This starts as follows, and is here because I think a real democracy must be based on a real public understanding of the real facts: if the real facts are not understood by a majority of the public, in basic outline at least, there is no democracy, and there probably is or soon will be a dictatorship:

US statisticians are concerned that Donald Trump’s administration might suppress or manipulate public statistics that don’t fit his narrative of the truththe Guardian has learned. In a series of interviews, individuals who have recently left high-level positions at federal statistical agencies expressed worry that the administration may stop collecting and publishing data on subjects such as abortion, racial inequality and poverty.

These "US statisticians" were quite right, and here is why both respecting the facts and having the facts are both very important:

“We should all be starting from the same numbers. I think that’s a fear that many of us have at this point - it’s that picking and choosing your numbers to suit your politics is not the way that we ought to be doing it,” said Katherine Wallman, chief statistician of the United States from 1992 to 3 January of this year.

Wallman, like other statisticians the Guardian spoke to, believes that a number system which consists of accurate, publicly available government data is currently under threat.

More specifically, it seems - and this is The Guardian, which is Blairite and not trusted by me since they made their site uncopyable (except with difficulty) and made at least half of their articles extremely obscure JavaScript that I totally distrust - what Wallman fears is not that Trump's government will put out no numbers, but that it will put out only those numbers that support it, which also very well may be made up, and which will be believed by many of the more stupid or ignorant "because our government says so".

In fact, Trump seems to agree thay some governmental numbers are "phoney", which he might be right in (I don't quite trust Obama's numbers for people without work either [3]), but this just the ordinary Trumpian bullshit:

In August, the then presidential candidate himself described the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers as “phoney”, claiming: “The 5% figure is one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics.” In the same speech, Trump suggested alternative data, adding: “The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42%”

Yes, 4 out of 10 (or 3 out of 10) of all Americans doesn't work, according to Trump: Utter bullshit. Here is more about how not having - more or less - correct data about what is going on will silence activists:

Defunding public data is also an effective tool in silencing activists. As a former Census Bureau employee explained: “You can’t talk about discrimination if there’s no data there to support it.” The employee, like most of the statisticians the Guardian spoke with, asked not to be named for fear that they would not be able to work for federal agencies in the future.

Precisely: If there are no data on discrimination, who can protest discrimination? [4]

Funding isn’t the only concern, though. One economist who worked at a federal statistical agency from 2009 until 2016, and who also asked not to be named, explained: “The administration can and probably will start adding onerous requirements for vetting before information is released to the public.”

And here is Ken Prewitt, a former director of the US Census Bureau:

According to Prewitt, there are simple ways to make adjustments to the way data is calculated that affects the final numbers.

“What people do not understand,” he explains: “If you control the denominator, you control everything”.

Denominators are used in virtually every single public statistic. For example, the Census Bureau publishes data which shows that one in four US Hispanics lives in poverty (specifically, 11.2 million of the out of 48.2 million Hispanics in the US). To change that statistic, you can either change people’s lives or, more simply, you can change the way that you count who is and who is not Hispanic – then, the statistic can become one in three, one in ten, one in whatever.

As a former Census Bureau statistician explained, once you change the statistics, “you can write your own narrative. You can tell people how sick they are or how safe they are”.

Indeed, and this does seem one of the ways in which Trump wants to advertise His Greatest Improvements: He will first change the statistics, possibly several times, e.g. making out that there are not 1 in 4 but 1 in 10 poor Hispanics living in the USA, and then Trump will claim that their vast improvements are His Great Work (starting with  capitals because Trump is a megalomaniac).

I think this well may be a basic way for spreading Trumpian propaganda: without adequate statistics, no one knows what is the real case about very many kinds of general facts (that need some sort of statistical representation).

4. "Let Them In": Thousands Descend on Nation's Airports to Protest Trump's Refugee & Muslim Ban

The fourth item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

Thousands of protesters flooded airports across the United States over the weekend after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday temporarily banning all refugees from entering the country, and barring access for 90 days to nationals from seven majority-Muslim nations. The draconian measure instantly cut off access to the U.S. to 218 million people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees. Across the world, travelers were left stranded, while scores were detained by customs officials after landing at U.S. airports. As news of the order spread on Saturday, thousands gathered at John F. Kennedy airport in New York City for an impromptu protest. On Saturday, Democracy Now! spoke to protesters at JFK.

In fact, this is a widely shared story. Here is some more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Protests spread to other airports—in Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco. President Trump’s order also drew immediate legal challenges. On Saturday, the ACLU asked a federal judge to intervene in the case of two Iraqis detained at JFK airport. At Saturday night, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn ordered the men released as part of a nationwide stay on part of Trump’s executive order. Her ruling temporarily blocked the deportation of valid visa holders, including those from countries listed in Trump’s ban.

Then again, it seems as if Trump's government officials simply pretended that Judge Donelly's rule did not exist or did not apply to them. And there is this:
AMY GOODMAN: Judges in California, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington quickly followed with similar rulings, and the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday it would comply with the orders. But some lawmakers report Customs and Border Protection officers are defying the courts.
Yes, precisely. There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended.

[1] In my case it just doesn't correctly upload, doesn't say that it doesn't correctly upload and probably is stuck at the last time you visited the site: This was the case for
most of last year.

Another thing I totally distrust is that I have since 2009 - when I got fast internet - received hardly any mail about my site, while I got a reasonable amount of mail (and a lot of spam) between 2000 and 2009, when I also had, according to the good statistics I had for one site till 2015 (i) over 1,000,000 hits (on just one site) (ii) viewing over 800,000 pages, by more than 170,000 visitors. (These were the numbers for 2012.)

I got something like 10 mails since 2009 (!!), almost all about philosophy. I am sorry, but with that many visitors, views, and hits the number of mails I receive are totally incredible.

So fundamentally - and within a year - I don't know anything about my two very large sites, I get no more statistics of any sound kind, and I get almost no mail by anyone about any aspect of my site since 2009 (while I have had millions of hits and over 500,000 visitors, at the very least).

This is why I will change my site tomorrow, so that anyone who visits at least gets a link to my Nederlog. This again might not be recent - what do I know about my site?! - but at least you get the link and can start from there. (It still may mean a lot of reloading, but I don't know what to do about that. And I am very sorry, but it is also
true that we are now living in neofascistic times.)

I think it is mostly anarchistic, and probably liberal anarchism (<-Wikipedia - and incidentally: I am not an individual anarchist, to which the previously existing liberal anarchism now links, and I think that with Wikipedia's rise in popularity, there also is a rise in lying, in propaganda and in bullshit).

Then again, while I know a lot about communism, Marxism, socialism and social democracy, I know less about anarchism, in which there also are many different kinds of views.

If my health is sufficient, I may write an article in Nederlog about liberal anarchism (since it was removed from Wikipedia), but I make no promises.

[3] More specifically, I - also - do not trust Obama's labor statistics, but I do not think they were statistically manipulated. I think they were too rosy, because people who were without work were not counted because of laws or regulations that somehow excluded them. (And these manipulations never had anything close to the size Trump suggested, but they may have been several percentage points.)

[4] Of course, you can protest whatever you like and whatever you know and don't know. My point is rather: If there are no reliable data available about discrimination, it may be difficult to convince many people there is discrimination, and indeed the same for any other subject than discrimination, such as poverty.

And in an enormous country with over 300 million persons, you need a lot of good statistics to know about many things that simply cannot be known without these good statistics.

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