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Nederlog

Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017

Crisis: About Ron Wyden, For Trump Voters, French Elections, On Capitalism


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Sen. Ron Wyden Talks Trump-Russia, “Warrantless Backdoor
     Queries” and Hacking of U.S. Phone System

2.
Update for Trump Voters
3. As French Election Nears, a Bernie Sanders-Style Candidate
     Rises in the Polls

4. Capitalism’s Invisible Hand Doesn’t Generate Public Good

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, April 12, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four links: Item 1 is about an interview with Ron Wyden, whom I agree is a decent politician (one of the few) but
whom I cannot regard as inspiring; item 2 is about a brief article by Robert Reich who
outlines 13 important Trumpian deceptions of his voters; item 3 is an article about the
French elections that I liked, because it is quite clear; and item 4 is an article about the
evils of capitalism that seems to me to be composed of jargon only.
April 12: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and is still stuck - again and again - on Saturday, April 8. These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Sen. Ron Wyden Talks Trump-Russia, “Warrantless Backdoor Queries” and Hacking of U.S. Phone System

The first article today is
by Sam Biddle on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Senator Ron Wyden rarely asks a rhetorical question. In a March 2013 hearing, the Oregon Democrat asked the Director of National Intelligence whether the National Security Agency collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” The director, James Clapper, replied, “No, sir,” but within weeks came the first in a series of news articles, based on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing the agency had conducted surveillance on a breathtaking scale, with millions of Americans swept up.

Since then, Americans have looked to Wyden to defend privacy rights — often by asking pointed questions about secret issues known only within the intelligence community.

Yes. In case you want to know more about Ron Wyden (<-Wikipedia) that was the Wikipedia lemma. I know about him since 2012 or 2013 and I suppose he is one of
the few decent senators.

The Wikipedia lemma about him shows he has been a member of Congress from 1980 till 1996 and a member of the Senate since 1996 till now (re-elected in 2016), which means that he has been a politician for 37 years now.

Perhaps this explains why I do not think him inspiring, although I suppose he is decent (which I do not suppose about most Senators or Members of Congress). And this interview with him shows the same, at least for me. Here are a few bits.

The declassified copy of the Russian hacking report was criticized for failing to provide any evidence or arguments for Russian governmental attribution that wasn’t previously public. Do you agree with that assessment?

Yeah, I’ve been calling for more transparency and more declassification and more information for months and months now. Obama released [the declassified report], then I asked [FBI Director James] Comey in January at the open hearing about open source new information, what could he tell us about it, whether he was looking at it. He went, oh my goodness I can’t possibly talk about investigations.
Well... yes, but Wyden himself (later in the interview, not documented here) makes precisely the same argument, while the real point is not about what Obama released or what Comey said, but the fact that there has been an enormous amount of material in the media that asserts that the Russians hacked the American elections, but without giving any proof or any evidence.

My own view is - by now - that there probably is no good
evidence, for otherwise it would have been put forward since November 9, 2016 - which is meanwhile over 5 months ago. But at the rate at which very small bits of information are given, now and then, by people speaking for the secret services, this may take a few more decades. At least.

There is also this:

Should we expect more? Is there anything to be done to get that stuff declassified?

I have been urging the chairman and the vice chairman regularly to accelerate the pace of this effort. Right now people are getting their information from leaks, they’re getting their information from false tweets from the president, daily news stories, and we need to have more open hearings, we need to do more to get information declassified.
Well... yes again, but while many people have been insisting now for for 5 months how extremely important the Russian hacking of the American elections is, no one has given any good, credible and reliable evidence.

Since the speed of release of evidence by the secret services is snail-like anyway, I say in the circumstances it is far more likely there is no evidence.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this interview:

Do you think there’s a better chance than in years past of getting these reforms through?

Yes, I think there is, just on the basis of the additional awareness, people want to examine this as an issue, they start with some political judgment, as i[s] often the case, and I tell them, hey, I took on overreach in the George W Bush administration, I took on overreach in the Barack Obama administration, I’m clearly tackling overreach in the Trump administration, and I think if you put it that way, you have an opportunity now to build a bipartisan coalition for reforms of FISA 702 that you wouldn’t have had six months ago…
In other words, Ron Wyden criticized the Bush administration for overreach (but did not achieve much, indeed because he is one of the few decent Senators); Ron Wyden criticized the Obama administration for overreach (but did not achieve much, indeed because he is one of the few decent Senators); and now Ron Wyden criticizes the Trump administration for overreach (but did not achieve much, indeed because he is one of the few decent Senators).

We are 16 years in the future since 2001, but Senator Wyden is still busy criticizing the overreach of governments and presidents. I suppose he does the necessary and the decent thing, but I cannot say I feel much inspired, though indeed this is probably not
Wyden's fault.

This is a recommended article (but you will not learn much if you have been following the news).


2. Update for Trump Voters

The second article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows (from 13 points) and is indeed addressed to Trump voters:

1. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You bought it. Then he bombed Syria.

2. He said he’d build a wall along the border with Mexico. You bought it. Now his secretary of homeland security says “It’s unlikely that we will build a wall.”

3. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.

4. He said he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “wonderful.” You bought it. Then he didn’t.
(...)
8. He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

There are altogether 13 numbered points and they are all good and they all show how the Trump voters have been deceived and lied to by Trump.

And I am sorry, but the one comprehensive explanation I can provide for the vast majority of the Trump voters is that they are stupid and ignorant, and I am sorry, but
I think that explanation is both correct and fair.

3. As French Election Nears, a Bernie Sanders-Style Candidate Rises in the Polls

The third article is by Alan Minsky on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The major Western countries are undergoing their first significant political realignment since the end of the Cold War. France is currently taking center stage in this drama, and its rising star is the “French Bernie Sanders,” Jean-Luc Melenchon—another socialist from Sanders’ generation.

Last summer, after the spectacular challenge of Sen. Sanders came within striking distance of winning the Democratic nomination, I wrote that there are now three ideologies vying for control in Western politics: 1) The old order, seemingly in decline, represented by establishment center-left and center-right politicians; 2) the proto-fascist, ethnocentric nationalists of the far right; and 3) a reinvigorated, radical social-democratic challenge from the left.
(..)
The current situation in France reflects this analysis, a point slightly confused by the fact that there are five main candidates. That said, independent politician Emmanuel Macron and the conservative nominee Francois Fillon clearly belong to Team 1, and Marine Le Pen to Team 2. Meanwhile, the insurgent Socialist Party nominee Benoit Hamon and longtime leftist Melenchon stand firmly in Team 3.

I say, which I do because this is a fairly clear statement that seems also correct. And here is Minsky's own preference, which I agree with:

The promise of this moment comes from the fact that the only candidate surging in the polls is Melenchon (just 4 percent or 5 percent behind co-leaders Macron and Le Pen in the latest surveys), who is speaking to overflow crowds across the country. His followers hang onto his every word as he outlines detailed plans to redistribute wealth, commit France to the strongest environmental program in the world and use the power inherent in Europe’s second-largest economy to rewrite the European social contract such that working people and the average citizen are no longer at the mercy of Berlin, finance capital and the 1 percent. Like Sanders, Melenchon is animating a vision of a world in which most of us want to live. That vision stands in marked contrast to Team 1’s program, which maintains an imbalanced, oligarchic social order, and Team 2’s reactionary fever dream of reversing history.

Yes. Here is a link to the Wikipedia lemma on Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He is about my age and ten years younger than Bernie Sanders, which makes me hesitate to say they are "from the same generation", but this may just be my personal way of dividing up time. (I think people who are 5 years within my age to be "of my age", which does correspond with my experience, but there are indeed no norms I know of.)

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

I’m not saying that simply winning an election will conjure up utopian outcomes. Tremendously powerful forces will align against any socialist government in a major country. Success won’t come easily, but that doesn’t change the fact that in contrast to Teams 1 and 2, the policy proposals of Team 3 have a proven track record, having built the greatest middle-class societies in human history from the 1930s to the ’70s. What’s more, both Melenchon’s and Sanders’ proposed resetting of policies, programs and regulations directly address the social and economic woes of our time, just as the Great Depression was overcome by New Deal social policies, which were then built upon from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s tenure through the Nixon era. So, only Team 3’s program is a serious attempt to improve society; in contrast, Team 1 delivers spectacular gains for Davos attendees (aka, the 1% of the 1%), while Team 2 promises short-term catharsis for the resentful.

I agree. For the moment I do not suppose Mélenchon will win, but he may, and I agree with Minsky that he seems the best candidate.

And this is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more, and that also
was clearer than most articles I read, which was pleasant.

4. Capitalism’s Invisible Hand Doesn’t Generate Public Good

The fourth and last article today is by Jeremy Sherman on AlterNet:

I must admit, I think, that I selected this article in part for its title (which may not have been known to Adam Smith, but certainly was known in the 1820ies and since
the 1840s by Karl Marx - for example) and in part for the weird qualifications he has (in my eyes, which are those of a nearly 67 years old intellectual with degrees):
Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.
This sounds odd to me: I studied philosophy and know what epistemology is (theory of knowledge) but how this got linked to evolution is a bit of a terminological riddle to me, while "the natural history and practical realities" of - no less - than "decision making" (and not: "of human lives" or "of politicians") also seems mostly jargon.

Here is the result. First, this starts as follows:
If you came into a windfall, would you be more enthusiastic about buying yourself something big or giving to charity? If honest, most of us would admit that buying ourselves something big would be the more motivating prospect. Direct benefit to ourselves is generally more motivating than distributed benefit to others.

Apply this to large institutions and you’re confronted with a fundamental feature of capitalism. In a competition between for-profit and non-profit campaigns, the for-profits have a motivational advantage. They’re buying themselves something big. Their campaigns reward directly. Wealthy individuals and corporations serving self-interest will generally prevail against non-profit campaigns in the public interest.
I suppose this translates as: For-profit firms may make profits, which non-firms which do not work for profit do not make. I say! That was very deep!

Then there is this:

Capitalism’s invisible hand just produces market efficiency, everyone buying and selling at the most efficient price. According to idealized capitalist market theory, the rich can buy luxury goods at fair market price and the poor can buy what little they can at fair market value..

And that’s just market theory. In practice, the rich can campaign profitably to promote laws that advantage themselves, while the poor can have bake-sales. In practice, capitalism undermines general welfare as we see in all kleptocracies, including the one coming soon to a government near you.
The first statement of the above quotation is arbitrary: "efficiency" means many different things to many different people, and varies with their purposes, interests
and knowledge, whereas "market efficiency" presupposes rather quaint economical
theories and definitions.

And indeed, what is "efficient" about a few rich men selling goods to the highest bidders
is
anyway an open question. The two quoted paragraphs seem to amount to this, for the most part: Under capitalism, the rich are better off than the poor. I say!

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
Libertarians extol unfettered free speech too, capitalism as applied to propaganda, another technology exclusive to humans, the symbolic species. Consider a competition between someone who will say or do anything for personal profit, and someone who serves both self-interest and social welfare. In a contest between the two fisted self-interest with no pulled punches, and someone who ties one hand behind their back, fighting to maintain civility, honesty and realism so as not to destroy the game board of civil discourse. Unfettered self-interests prevail in such a contest. We see it in sensationalist populism, the likes of which has come to a government near you.
It seems to me that we are back at where we started: For-profit firms may make profits, which non-firms which do not work for profit do not make.

I am sorry, but this is what I learned. What shall I say about the miracles wrought by a modern university education? Ah well, I did so nearly thirty years ago, and you are welcome to it.

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