July 2, 2018

Crisis: Failed State, "Dr. Strangelove", On Trump, Nomi Prins, The No-Deal President


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 2, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, July 2, 2018. 
1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from July 2, 2018:
1. America the Failed State
2. Where’s Our “Dr. Strangelove”?
3. Trump’s Rage Junkies
4. Nomi Prins on the Banks That Run the World
5. The No-Deal President
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. America the Failed State

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Our “corporate coup d’état in slow motion,” as the writer John Ralston Saul calls it, has opened a Pandora’s box of evils that is transforming America into a failed state. The “unholy trinity of corruption, impunity and violence,” he said, can no longer be checked. The ruling elites abjectly serve corporate power to exploit and impoverish the citizenry. Democratic institutions, including the courts, are mechanisms of corporate repression. Financial fraud and corporate crime are carried out with impunity. The decay is exacerbated by the state’s indiscriminate use of violence abroad and at home, where rouge law enforcement agencies harass and arrest citizens and the undocumented and often kill the unarmed. A depressed and enraged population, trapped by chronic unemployment and underemployment, is overdosing on opioids and beset by rising suicide rates. It engages in acts of nihilistic violence, including mass shootings. Hate groups proliferate. The savagery, mayhem and grotesque distortions familiar to those on the outer reaches of empire increasingly characterize American existence. And presiding over it all is the American version of Ubu Roi, playwright Alfred Jarry’s gluttonous, idiotic, vulgar, narcissistic and infantile king, who turned politics into burlesque.
Yes indeed - I think Chris Hedges is quite correct. In case you don't think so (and I agree the above paragraph is strong), try the economist Nomi Prins, whose recent book Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World” is reviewed below (and who seems to think more or less the same as Hedges does, and as I do).

Here is something on the - quite classical - system of rotten boroughs, that are now being recreated by computers in the USA:
Rotten boroughs were the 19th-century version of gerrymandering. The British oligarchs created electoral maps through which depopulated boroughs—50 of them had fewer than 50 voters—were easily dominated by the rich to maintain control of the House of Commons. In the United States, our ruling class has done much the same, creating districts where incumbents, who often run unchallenged, return to Congress election after election. Only about 40 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are actually contested. And given the composition of the Supreme Court, especially with Donald Trump poised to install another justice, it will get worse.
Here is Hedges on the two prominent American political parties: they are both thoroughly corrupt:
The two political parties are one party—the corporate party. They do not debate substantive issues. They each support the expansion of imperial wars, the bloated military budget, the dictates of global capitalism, the bailing out of Wall Street, punishing austerity measures, assaulting basic civil liberties through wholesale government surveillance and the abolition of due process, and an electoral process that has cemented into place a system of legalized bribery. They battle over cultural tropes such as abortion, gay rights and prayer in schools. We elect politicians based on how we are made to feel about them by the public relations industry. Politics is anti-politics.
Yes indeed - and if you disagree, read again the last sentence: "Politics is anti-politics" and then again the rest of this paragraph.

Then these is this:

[Saul] warned we should not be complacent because of President Trump’s imbecility. Trump is immensely dangerous. “The insipid,” Thomas Mann wrote in “The Magic Mountain,” “is not synonymous with the harmless.”
Actually (and I don't like Mann, though this may not be relevant) it is not the insipidity that is harmful: it are the conformism and the hypocrisy and the whole lying system of public quasi- morality that mark the insipid (who tend to earn a bit more than the average, and who want to keep their relative advantages at virtually any cost).

Here is more that is well-perceived:
“I’ve always opposed trade deals not because I oppose trade,” Saul said, “or because I thought they were about getting a fair balance in the trade, but because the trade deals were about something else. They were about deregulation. They were about handing power to corporations and banks. They weren’t about trade.
Precisely - and see my "It's the deregulation, stupid!" of 2015 and - once again - item 4 below.

Here is the last bit I quote from this fine article (in which there is a lot more):

“But there’s always a shadow to the bright tower,” Saul went on. “Trump’s feeding that shadow. ‘Americans are stupid. Americans are corrupt. Americans are not educated. Americans can’t be trusted.’ The whole list. The longer the chaos goes on, the worse it gets.”

The collapse of the legislative and executive branches of government has now been accompanied by the collapse of the judiciary. The loss of an independent judiciary, Saul warned, is especially ominous.

Yes indeed to all of this, and especially - because I rarely read this, outside my own columns - with: ‘Americans are stupid. Americans are corrupt. Americans are not educated.' And not only do I think these three characterists are important:

I think they are crucial for a decent rational explanation what I have seen happening in the last 40 years, for if the Americans would not have been stupid and would not have been ignorant in majority almost none of the very many quite important very bad decisions that were taken in the last 40 years would have been taken.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Where’s Our “Dr. Strangelove”?

This article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
The most peculiar thing about America’s 2018 apocalyptic imagination is the dog that isn’t barking. We have “Westworld” and “Terminator” and “Ex Machina” and a dozen more movies about artificial intelligence that decides to kill us. We have “The Day After Tomorrow” and “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Mother!” and maybe “Interstellar” and “Game of Thrones” about global warming. But we are notably bereft of movies, television shows, and novels about nuclear war.
The good news – or at least the not incredibly horrible news – is that Donald Trump may be doing us the unexpected favor of kickstarting our nuclear imagination and sending us down a path where we can save ourselves.
Yes indeed - but let me start with an introduction to Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove", for Kubrick was one of the best directors of film ever; "Dr. Strangelove" is one of the best comedies ever; and you really should see it if you never did.

Then again, after the above "good news" here is a bit of bad news, that explains - to a certain extent - why "Dr. Strangelove" could be made:

Kubrick was a unique man with an extraordinary perception, who also seems to have been one of the most intelligent and best informed directors of his time, and I do not think he will recur, and besides, The Sixties were - as John Cleese correctly pointed out, in an interview I saw yesterday - "a creative period" and in fact that was the only "creative period" in my life (and I was born in 1950).

So I do not expect anything like Dr. Strangelove to be filmed in this decade, or the previous one: There is no such tremendously gifted director, and there is also not the freedom to publish his kind of thought.

As to the chances of a nuclear war:
There is widespread agreement among experts that the chances of a nuclear war are now higher than they were during the Cold War, not lower. This past January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set their doomsday clock at two minutes to midnight, as close as it’s been since it was created in 1947.
I entirely agree, and my main reason to think so is the mad neofascist Donald Trump. And here is Daniel Ellsberg (another of my heroes) on the chances of a nuclear war:
Looking forward, Daniel Ellsberg — who took part in U.S. planning for nuclear war before he leaked the Pentagon Papers, and recently wrote “The Doomsday Machine” — believes it’s “unlikely” we’ll survive another 100 years if we don’t completely eliminate nuclear weapons. The main reason we’re even here now, he says, is simple good fortune, rather than planning or wisdom, and our good fortune will almost inevitably expire.
Yes indeed - and the "good fortune" was in fact that there were some Soviet military men who kept their cool and decided not to fire the atomic weapons they had been supposed to use. This was indeed good fortune, and to believe in another hundred years of similar good fortune is like playing Russian roulette with the whole world (where one of the present main players is Donald Trump, who is in my psychologist's opinion a thorough and very dangerous madman).

Here is the last bit I quote from this fine article:
“Most of the time,” say James Blight and Janet Lang, two of the foremost academic experts on the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, “most people give the issue no thought, no resources, and know next to nothing about the level of the threat [that] might careen the world once again into some shocking, unexpected crisis that spins out of control toward Armageddon. Are we that dumb? That ignorant? That much in denial?”
I think one is fully justified in saying: Yes, Americans are that dumb; Americans are that ignorant; and Americans are that much in denial, especially since "Dr. Strangelove" is over 50 years old, and its serious warnings were almost completely unheeded in the next 50 years. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Trump’s Rage Junkies

This article is by Charles Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It is truly a confounding time to be alive, to be an American.

We are watching as a president of the United States openly lies, fabricates and exaggerates while two-fifths of the population cheers him for it.

He spurns our allies and embraces our adversaries and people shrug.

He, his congressional allies and his propaganda arm are waging open warfare on the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an effort to tarnish it before its inquiry into connections between the Trump campaign, family and associates and Russia can be made public.

He is a racist who disparages black and brown people, whether they be immigrants, Muslims, people from Haiti and Africa, Barack Obama, the mayor of San Juan or Maxine Waters. People equivocate about it and excuse it.

He is attacking the press in the most aggressive of terms so that what they reveal about him will be viewed with skepticism.

He is attempting to weaken our institutions, our protocols and conventions, our faith in the truth, our sense of honor and our respect for the rule of law.

And somehow, many Americans, even those disgusted by what they see, have resigned themselves to this new reality.

Yes, I think all of this is true. Here is more on Trump:

Trump is like a drug dealer who has addicted his followers to fear and rage and keeps supplying it in constant doses. His supporters have become rage-junkies for whom he can do no wrong.
Part of that is undoubtedly due to the increasingly racialized nature of our partisanship, but it is also because Trump has positioned himself as a white power president.

One of the things that his supporters like is the very thing that others detest: His unapologetic, unabashed crusade to fight off all efforts at racial and ethnic inclusion. They may not articulate it as such, but that is the nature of Trump’s policies: Promising to build a wall, disparaging Mexicans, separating immigrant families, the Muslim ban, decreasing even legal migration, denigrating protesting football players.

Yes indeed. Then there is this:

But no amount of moralizing from Trump’s opposition will affect the fervor of his supporters. Quite the opposite: Nothing quickens the pulse and induces the delight of conservatives more than the consternation of liberals. They would let the whole country collapse for the pleasure of spite.

And this is where we are now: at a standoff.

No, I don't think so.

First, the main three main forces of the ordinary conservatives aka neoliberals aka neofascists (I am starting to use these as equivalents (i) because they often are (not always), and second because in nine years of fast internet I have not read a single journalist who seems to have any decent idea of what a rational definition of "fascism" looks like, even though very many have used the term) are stupidity, ignorance and conformism (much more than "the consternation of liberals").

Second, as also indicated by my first remark, the terms "conservatives" and "liberals" are these days so confused as to be almost meaningless: You just can't use them as if they are clear.

And third, I don't see "a standoff": I see mostly wins for Trump. But this is a recommended article.

4. Nomi Prins on the Banks That Run the World

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” host and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer talks with Nomi Prins about her latest and what Scheer calls her “most ambitious” book, “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World.”

The two discuss the 2008 financial crisis, the disconnect between governments and the governed, as well as Prins’ unique perspective on the financial world thanks to her time as a banker. Scheer and Prins come to the conclusion that the world’s biggest banks “rigged the world,” as the author’s title suggests, but perhaps more alarmingly, that the Federal Reserve has allowed financial institutions to continue growing and “screwing over the consumers.” 

I think there’s an element of what’s happened in this past decade since the financial crisis,” says Prins, “where yes, the Federal Reserve sort of led the way for the major central banks in the world … to manufacture money in order to save the global financial system, basically global banks.”

Yes indeed - I completely agree and also Nomi Prins is one of the few economists who make sense to me (and I have read quite a lot of them: most of them are metaphysicians, in the way many modern string theorists in physics are, who left the notion of truth as well).

Nomi Prins: That’s the thesis–that’s just America. [Laughs] That’s the thesis of what the Fed has done, first of all, yes. Forgetting to watch their banks, which they are supposed to regulate, going into the financial crisis. In fact, seeing problems emerging and literally publicly deflecting, for example, that mortgage problems were going to become a bigger issue in the public eye and in the press. Two, going on after the financial crisis, to subsidizing these banks; they have unleashed, the Federal Reserve, with no limitation, with no regulation, with no legislation, with no accountability, the largest bank subsidy program in the history of the world. And I say this because they’ve brought in–and this is where the term collusion comes into play–a number of other G7 central banks to expand that subsidy for banks in the financial system throughout the world.

Yes again: I again completely agree, and this is also one of the radical changes that the crisis of 2008 brought - that was totally mismanaged by Obama, and totally mishandled, criminally also, except that laws do not apply anymore to the really big players, by Eric Holder, who refused to prosecute bank directors because that might ruin the world - and who made the banks twice as rich and twice as powerful as they were.

And here is the explanation of the basic trick the Federal Reserve used (which in fact was enabled by Nixon's destruction of the gold standard in 1971):

RS: Let me just stop you there, by the way, because the book is all about manufacturing money. I don’t think people quite understand that. This is not, you know, you don’t sort of get this out of a bank and move it over here or something. When they bought the—basically what they did is they bailed out the banks, and Obama did it right along with George W. Bush; he did the same program. And what they did is they said, look, you guys have all these terrible collateralized debt obligations, and you know, credit default swaps, all these terrible packages of junk; we’re going to buy it from you, OK. But they didn’t tax Americans; they didn’t tax anyone; they didn’t have money, they didn’t actually write a check. They invent money electronically, use that to buy this stuff, right, and then stash it off the books of the banks with the Fed. Isn’t that the basic scam here?

NP: Yeah, that’s the basic scam, and this happened throughout the world. So for example, you know, when I say “conjure electronically,” create, you know, as you’re talking about, it would be literally like if you were a regular person, you go to your ATM, and your bank says you know what, I know you only have $1,000 in your account; we’re just going to add a zero. Yeah, we’re not even taking it from anyone else and giving it to you; we’re literally creating a zero. That’s what we’re doing, we are creating a zero.

That is, since money is just paper: "They invent money electronically, use that to buy this stuff, right, and then stash it off the books of the banks with the Fed. Isn’t that the basic scam here?"

It is, as Prins affirms. And this is what happened a trillionfold around 2008. It did enrich the very rich bankers, and it did enrich some other very rich, but that is all it helped.

And here is the moral of the story, as told by Scheer:

RS: But instead, they added those zeroes and said to the banks, we’ll take your lousy loans that you created, and we’re going to take them—and the result, and this is something I saw in your book so clearly stated, I haven’t seen it anywhere else—the whole irony is, this banking meltdown happened because these banks were allowed to become too big to fail. That was the whole significance of Glass-Steagall from the Great Depression: don’t ever let them be too big, don’t ever let them commingle investment banking with the federally secured deposit of ordinary people; that wall, OK, they get rid of the wall, they become too big to fail, and then we have to bail them out. But your book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, by Nomi Prins—your book points out they’ve grown twice as large as a result of this. They’re bigger than they were in terms of this indebtedness and what have you.

Precisely. And it is all based on nothing - except that the non-rich have to accept the loans the banks made to themselves, and will have to pay them later. This is a strongly recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

5. The No-Deal President

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
Trump promised to be America’s dealmaker in chief. But so far – whether he’s dealing with foreign governments or with Congress – Trump has shown that he can’t make a deal. Here’s the list:
I think Reich is correct - and incidentally, Trump's "The Art of the Deal" was not written by Trump but by his "co-author" Tony Schwarz (who regrets it).

In any case, Reich is right that Trump can't make a deal. Here is a list of 15 important possible deals Trump could have made but did not make - and I print just the titles, and remove all the associated text, which you can get by clicking on the above title):

1. No deal with North Korea. 

2. No deal on Nafta.

3. No deal with China on trade

4. No deal on steel and aluminum imports.

5. No deal on the Qatar blockade.

6. No deal on Syria.

7. No deal on Russia

8. No deal on Iran

9. No deal on climate change.

10. No deal on Pacific trade.

11. No deal with Group of 7

12. No deal on DACA or immigration

13. No budget deal. 

14. No deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act. 

15. No deal on gun control.

And here is Reich's conclusion:

Bottom line: Trump can’t make deals. He can only pull out of deals already made, or pretend he’s made deals that soon evaporate.

I think Reich is right, and I also think that one of the reasons that Trump cannot make deals is that he is a megalomaniac (which is the better term than the psychiatrese term "narcissist" (but the the Wikipedia has been completely psychiatrised)): He only accepts "deals" with people he has defeated. And this is a recommended article.


[1] 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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