February 14, 2018

Crisis:  South Africa, Julian Assange, Financial Crises, Sanders on Trump, The Worst


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 14, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from February 14, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. South Africa’s Ruling Party Finally Turns Against Zuma
2. Judge Upholds Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange
3. Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?
4. Sanders Confronts Mulvaney Over Trump Budget That Would Kill 'Tens
     of Thousands'

5. The Worst of the Worst
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. South Africa’s Ruling Party Finally Turns Against Zuma

This article is by Christopher Torchia on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
South Africa’s ruling party on Tuesday disowned President Jacob Zuma after sticking with him through years of scandals, ordering him to resign in an attempt to resolve a leadership crisis that has disrupted government business in one of Africa’s biggest economies.

The announcement by the African National Congress did not immediately end the protracted turmoil in a party that was the main movement against white minority rule and has led South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994. If the politically isolated president defies the party’s order, the matter could go to parliament for a motion of no confidence that would further embarrass the party once led by Nelson Mandela.

I say, though in fact I ask: Why did this not occur years and years earlier? In case you want to know why I ask, consider this on Jacob Zuma (from Wikipedia, on which there is a lot more):

Zuma has faced significant legal challenges before and during his presidency. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted. He has fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik's conviction for corruption and fraud. On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges against Zuma, citing political interference, although the decision was successfully challenged by opposition parties, and as of February 2018 the charges were before the NPA for reconsideration. After extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla, the Public Protector found that Zuma had benefited improperly from the expenditure, and the Constitutional Court unanimously held in 2016's Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly that Zuma had failed to uphold the country's constitution (...)

In fact, there is a whole lot more, such as the fact that Zuma received in 2009/2010 a mere 1.2m - 1.2 million English pounds - for "spousal support" for the wives he divorced. And his style of utter corruption continued for nine years as well.

And my own conclusions from these nine years of major corruption of the leadership of the ANC and of South-Africa are two:

(1) This corruption must be fairly widespread to be able to continue for nine years, and
(2) while I admire Nelson Mandela, I think Zuma is just as bad as any white exploiter.

And in fact I think so since 2009, which also has diminished my interests in South-Africa, although I do speak two of the current languages there.

Here is some more from 2018:

“A disciplined cadre of the ANC, you are given a chance to resign on your own, but if you lack discipline you will resist,” party chairman Gwede Mantashe said at a provincial rally, according to South African media.

“Once you resist, we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence because you disrespect the organization and you disobey it, therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” Mantashe said.

Well... I think Zuma is a very bad and greedy man, and I am glad he - probably - will be removed, but I am not very optimistic about his replacement, although I will also wait and see. (My reason not to be very optimistic is that the ANC maintained Zuma for nearly nine years.)

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

ANC leaders must act “swiftly, but constitutionally” to remove Zuma so the “work of recovering our future, which was imperiled by his ruinous regime — characterized by incompetence, corruption, state capture and low economic growth — can begin in earnest,” said Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, a group that promotes development.

“State capture” is a term used in South Africa to describe the alleged looting of state enterprises by associates of Zuma, who denies any wrongdoing (..)

Yes. And this is a recommended article.

2. Judge Upholds Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange

This article is by Jill Lawless on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
A judge upheld a British arrest warrant for Julian Assange on Tuesday, saying the WikiLeaks founder should have the courage to come to court and face justice after more than five years inside Ecuador’s London embassy.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot rejected arguments by Assange’s lawyers that it is no longer in the public interest to arrest him for jumping bail in 2012 and seeking shelter in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. Prosecutors there were investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape made by two women, which Assange has denied.

I say.

Well... let met put it as questions: How sadistic is Arbuthnot? How morally degenerate is Arbuthnot? How much an eager servant of the Tories is Arbuthnot? Being both a philosopher and a psychologist, my own tendencies for answering these questions should be fairly obvious - and in case you doubt me (which is always allowed): Who cares for the Daily Mail type of "judgement" that Assange lacks courage (which anyway seems slander to me)?!

And please note that the legal reasons for prosecuting Assange, at least to the extent that these rested on Swedish judges and judgements, have disappeared.

Then there is this:

“He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favor,” the judge said, drawing exclamations of dismay from Assange supporters in the public gallery.

Assange can seek to appeal, though his lawyers did not immediately say whether he would.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation last year, saying there was no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden in the foreseeable future. But the British warrant for violating bail conditions still stands, and Assange faces arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Since this has little or nothing to do with the law, I can say that Arbuthnot seems to be morally degenerate, or an eager servant of the Tories, and probably not free from sadism. (I am judging as a psychologist, not as a judge.)

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

Assange’s attorney had gone on to argue that arresting him is no longer proportionate or in the public interest. Lawyer Mark Summers argued the Australian was justified in seeking refuge in the embassy because he has a legitimate fear that U.S. authorities want to arrest him for WikiLeaks’ publication of secret documents.

“I do not find that Mr. Assange’s fears were reasonable,” the judge said.

“If the United States initiates extradition proceedings, Mr. Assange would have the ability to raise any bars to the extradition and challenge the proceedings” in a British court, she said.

I think Summers was arguing correctly, both in terms of the law, and in terms of the - pretty extreme - dangers Assange runs in the USA, for the chief of the CIA wants to see him tortured.

Then again, if Arbuthnot is a measure for English justice, I'd say her weight is nil or negative:This is not justice but cruelty masquerading as justice. And this is a recommended article.

3. Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?

This article is by Paul Silker, Michael Palmieri and Dante Dallavalle on AlterNet and originally at Democracy at Work. It starts as follows:

In this episode, Left Out speaks with Professor Steve Keen about his latest book, Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?, as well as the failure of mainstream economics.

A decade after the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, it is still a popular belief among the public and mainstream press that “no one saw” the 2007-08 financial crisis coming. The truth is, however, that a handful of unorthodox economists had the foresight to warn of the crisis, and were able to develop and apply the right analytical framework to the large amounts of empirical data available, allowing them to forecast why and how it would happen. 

In late 2005, Keen became one of the first in this tiny club of economists to get it right (and one of only two do so with mathematical models), earning himself the Revere Award from the Real-World Economics Review for “being the economist who most cogently warned of the crisis, and whose work is most likely to prevent future crises.”

Well... yes and no. I like the initiative but I also have some questions, which are not resolved in this article:

(1) I know since 50 years that I do not respect mainstream economics (of which I have read a fair amount), and I am also not at all shocked that mainstream economists failed to see the - enormous - crisis of 2008 coming;
(2) I also do not know whether Steve Keen is correct, and
(3) I doubt that the review of the Real-World Economics Revies ("most cogently", "most likely") is quite correct.

And as I said, I do know considerably more of - the supposed - "science of economics" than most non-economists. Then again, the above only expresses my ignorance, and not positive knowledge.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

So what distinguishes Keen’s approach to economics from the mainstream theory (also known as “Neoclassical” economics)?

According to Keen, it’s because of his focus on the importance of credit in a dynamic, non-equilibrium framework. From that viewpoint, he identifies the ratio of private debt to GDP—and the rate of change of that ratio—as a key determinant of the state of the economy.

In the first half of our interview, Professor Keen explains why conventional economic theory doesn’t describe capitalism accurately, as well as Hyman Minsky’s hypothesis on the significance of private debt in the economy— something that is largely ignored by the predominant “Neoclassical” school of economics today.

In the second half, we turn to the prescriptive. Keen contends the main thing people need to think about is that “as well as workers and capitalists we have creditors and debtors in this economy— and by far the most important social clash these days is not between workers and capitalists, it’s between the financial sector and the rest of the economy.”

Well... in fact there are at least four different schools of "economy" (and probably more). Also, I must say that I do not think that the presence of "creditors and debtors" is that important, and namely not because credits and debts tend to disappear after considerable shake-ups of "the economy".

Besides, I should also express my skepticism about "the left": I think that most "leftists" these days (though not all of them) are not so much leftists or Leftists (who are in favor of - democratic - socialism, that will overhaul capitalism) but are something else, which I - who stems from one of the most Leftist families in Holland - do not consider real Leftists at all.

Then again, I admit I do not know anything about "Democracy at Work", and this is a recommended article.

4. Sanders Confronts Mulvaney Over Trump Budget That Would Kill 'Tens of Thousands'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Just 24 hours after denouncing President Donald Trump's newly-unveiled budget as "morally bankrupt," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took full advantage of his chance to grill Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney directly during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, calling the White House's 2019 blueprint "the budget of the Koch brothers" and arguing thousands would die if the plan became law.
Yes, I agree with Sanders, although I doubt his "thousands": To me it seems more likely the changes of Trump and his cabinet will make the lives of millions of Americans impossible or extremely hard to bear, perhaps not now, but within one or two years.

Here is more:
Highlighting the Trump budget's call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Act), Sanders asked Mulvaney to explain "the morality of a budget which supports tax breaks for billionaires, throws 32 million people off of the health insurance they have, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of fellow Americans."
I suspect that the explanation Mulvaney could have used if he were honest, which he isn't, runs along these lines: "My president is a racist, and so am I, if only out of loyalty; my president thinks black people are inferior, and so do I (if only out of loyalty); and in fact we both think rather like the present-day Supreme Court does (in majority, at least)": "There are Supermen, like our Very Great Genius, the White Man Trump, whose value is strictly proportional to the money they have, and there are non-supermen - and We Love The Richest (if White)."

I admit I am guessing, but if I am mistaken, at least I am warm.

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

Sanders also called attention to Trump's promises on the campaign trail to not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, and concluded that his 2019 budget demonstrates that he is doing "exactly the opposite."

"President Trump ran for office and he said, 'I'm a different type of Republican, I'm not the Mick Mulvaney type of Republican. I'm different. I'm gonna stand with working families. We're gonna take on the establishment,'" Sanders said. "Well it turns out he did exactly the opposite, and this budget is a clear manifestation of him doing exactly the opposite."

I completely agree, and this is a recommended article.

5. The Worst of the Worst

This article is by Michael Tomasky on The New York Book Review. It starts as follows:

On January 10, The Washington Post reported that Donald J. Trump passed a milestone that none of his predecessors is known to have attained: just short of the anniversary of his first year in office, he told his two thousandth lie. It had happened sometime the day before, when the president was meeting with legislators to discuss immigration and tossed out a few of his old standbys—about how quickly the border wall could be built, about “the worst of the worst” gaining entry to the United States through a visa lottery, and about his wall’s ability to curtail the drug trade.

The path from the first lie to the two thousandth (and now beyond), a veritable Via Dolorosa of civic corruption, has been impossible for even the most resolute citizen to avoid.
This is more or less correct, and is the beginning of a fairly long review of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" and of Donald Frum's "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic". I think the review is decent, but I'll quote only two bits, and these are concerned only with Wolff's book. If you want to read more, there is the original.

Here is the first bit I quote:

Here we are, a year later. From my reading and television viewing, the general assessment of most pundits seems to be that it’s been worse than we could have imagined (except on the Fox News Channel, where everything in Trump world is coming up roses and the gravest threat to democracy is still someone named Clinton). But honestly, who couldn’t have imagined any of this? To anyone who had the right read on Trump’s personality—the vanity, the insecurity, the contempt for knowledge, the addiction to chaos—nothing that’s happened has been surprising in the least.

I think most close observers of Trump understood his personality perfectly well. If that’s right, what, then, could explain the surprise?
In fact, I don't think that is quite right, but this may be due to my personal reasons:

First, I dismiss "
the general assessment of most pundits", in part because I find it hard or impossible to believe them anyway, and in part also because I am a psychologist, unlike most pundits, and I am convinced since March of 2016 that Trump is - most probably, as indeed by now over 70,000 psychologists and psychiatrists agree - quite mad, and as such completely unfit to be president of the USA.

Second, I also think Tomasky is both too vague and a bit misleading about those who had "
the right read on Trump’s personality", and for two reasons:

First, very few or no one at all is capable of rationally predicting the choices a madman will make; and second, I do think quite a few of Trump's choices were surprising, also to the psychologists and psychiatrists who agree that Trump is not sane. (One example are Trump's obvious lies about the size of his presidential audience.)

Then again, I do think Tomasky is mostly right.

Here is the last bit I quote from his - much longer - review:
The attacks on Wolff haven’t stuck partly because it all rings so true. But I think there is also another reason. Some critics have tried to accuse Wolff of not playing by the standard rules of journalism, by which they mean to insinuate that he’s taken off-the-record material and put it on the record. But no one has produced evidence of this. And in fact, outside of eight or ten salacious quotes, nothing in Fire and Fury seems out of the ordinary.
Fire and Fury has performed a great public service: it has forced mainstream Washington to confront and discuss the core issue of this presidency, which is the president’s fitness for office.
Yes, I think that is correct - and I admit this was one of my initial worries. But it seems correct that most of the facts Wolff states in his book indeed are facts.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.


I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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