September 11, 2018

Crisis: The Next Depression, The Crisis, Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, Noam Chomsky


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 11, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 11, 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 September 11, 2018:
1. Conjuring Up the Next Depression
2. From Trump to Trade, the Financial Crisis Still Resonates 10 Years Later
3. Kavanaugh Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath About Stolen
     Democratic Memos

4. What Will Donald Trump Be Remembered For?
5. Noam Chomsky on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Growing Split in
     Democratic Party
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. Conjuring Up the Next Depression

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
During the financial crisis of 2008, the world’s central banks, including the Federal Reserve, injected trillions of dollars of fabricated money into the global financial system. This fabricated money has created a worldwide debt of $325 trillion, more than three times global GDP. The fabricated money was hoarded by banks and corporations, loaned by banks at predatory interest rates, used to service interest on unpayable debt or spent buying back stock, providing millions in compensation for elites. The fabricated money was not invested in the real economy. Products were not manufactured and sold. Workers were not reinstated into the middle class with sustainable incomes, benefits and pensions. Infrastructure projects were not undertaken. The fabricated money reinflated massive financial bubbles built on debt and papered over a fatally diseased financial system destined for collapse.
Yes, I think that is all true. And the "trillions of dollars of fabricated money" are "fabricated" - or so I suppose - because all this money was merely paper, without being covered in any sense by some standard, such as the gold standard, which was left by Nixon, like the draft.

Also, as long as the economy is going well the fabricated dollars are real money, but as soon as the economy starts collapsing, the fabricated dollars will not be backed up by something that has real value (because of its scarcity), and will soon be less worth than the paper they are made of.

Here is more:
What will trigger the next crash? The $13.2 trillion in unsustainable U.S. household debt? The $1.5 trillion in unsustainable student debt? The billions Wall Street has invested in a fracking industry that has spent $280 billion more than it generated from its operations? Who knows. What is certain is that a global financial crash, one that will dwarf the meltdown of 2008, is inevitable. And this time, with interest rates near zero, the elites have no escape plan. The financial structure will disintegrate. The global economy will go into a death spiral. The rage of a betrayed and impoverished population will, I fear, further empower right-wing demagogues who promise vengeance on the global elites, moral renewal, a nativist revival heralding a return to a mythical golden age when immigrants, women and people of color knew their place, and a Christianized fascism.
I completely agree with Hedges that (i) there will be a next crash, and (ii) it probably will be awful. Hedges also may be right that this will get mainly expressed and used by right-wing demagogues.

All I can say is that I hope he may be wrong on that. Here is more:
The 2008 financial crisis, as the economist Nomi Prins points out, “converted central banks into a new class of power brokers.” They looted national treasuries and amassed trillions in wealth to become politically and economically omnipotent. In her book “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World,” she writes that central bankers and the world’s largest financial institutions fraudulently manipulate global markets and use fabricated, or as she writes, “fake money,” to inflate asset bubbles for short-term profit as they drive us toward “a dangerous financial precipice.”
I guess Nomi Prins may be right, although I think that at present all money is "fabricated" or "fake".

Here are some of the things that might have been done with $29 trillion dollars that were, in fact, handed to the banks:
The Federal Reserve handed over an estimated $29 trillion of this fabricated money to American banks, according to researchers at the University of Missouri. Twenty-nine trillion dollars! We could have provided free college tuition to every student or universal health care, repaired our crumbling infrastructure, transitioned to clean energy, forgiven student debt, raised wages, bailed out underwater homeowners, formed public banks to invest at low interest rates in our communities, provided a guaranteed minimum income for everyone and organized a massive jobs program for the unemployed and underemployed.
Instead, $29 trillion in fabricated money was handed to financial gangsters who are about to make most of it evaporate and plunge us into a depression that will rival that of the global crash of 1929.
I think that is right - but the next global crash has not occurred yet. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The global financial system is a ticking time bomb. The question is not if it will explode but when it will explode. And once it does, the inability of the global speculators to use fabricated money with zero interest to paper over the debacle will trigger massive unemployment, high prices for imports and basic services, and a devaluation in which the dollar will become nearly worthless as it is abandoned as the world’s reserve currency. This manufactured financial tsunami will transform the United States, already a failed democracy, into an authoritarian police state. Life will become very cheap, especially for the vulnerable (...)
This seems - at least - a fair expectation. I hope Hedges is mistaken about the arisal of "an authoritarian police state", but that is merely my hope. This is a strongly recommended article.

2. From Trump to Trade, the Financial Crisis Still Resonates 10 Years Later

This article is by Andrew Ross Sorkin on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

This week is the 10th anniversary of the inflection point of the financial crisis: the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the biggest bankruptcy in history. To some, it feels like a long time ago.

Yet, its effects still echo in the way we live today — in the attitudes that pervade our economy, our culture and our politics. It is hardly a stretch to suggest that President Trump’s election was a direct result of the financial crisis.

The crisis was a moment that cleaved our country. It broke a social contract between the plutocrats and everyone else. But it also broke a sense of trust, not just in financial institutions and the government that oversaw them, but in the very idea of experts and expertise. The past 10 years have seen an open revolt against the intelligentsia.

Well... I think the first two paragraphs are mostly correct, but I think the last is mistaken, and basically for two reasons:

First, "
the very idea of experts and expertise" has been attacked the last 50 years, and indeed started around 50 years ago in both the USA and Western Europe with a radical diminution in the qualities and difficulties in almost any academic education, and a very strong increase in demands of "equality" between the majority of the stupid and ignorant, and the few who denied that equality in law does correspond in an equality of intelligences.

Thus, for one example, nearly 50 years ago started in Holland the introduction of studies, and notably of medicine, with no more than a fixed number of yearly students, which then was paired, notably by the Dutch social democrats, with the denial of the rights of the very few who got a 7 1/2 or better on their (then far more difficult) examinations to enter university.

The social democrats insisted this was unfair, and forced everybody, including the few with a 7 1/2 or better, to be part of a random selection of students from everyone who had the right to enter a university.

Since then, the qualities of the universities in Holland (and most other countries) have halved, but hardly anyone sees this, while almost everyone is denying it.

And second, while "[t]he past 10 years have seen an open revolt against the intelligentsia" this has mainly come from the over 2 billion new mostly anonymous writers on Facebook and Twitter, who now all can anonymously spout their hatred of anyone more intelligent than they are.

Here is some more from this article:

In the United States, the crisis exposed an economy that had been a charade — one that most Americans didn’t understand or appreciate. The use of debt had masked the real problems underneath the surface: a significant decrease in worker participation, automation that would take jobs and stagnant wage growth.

These issues long predated the crisis. But as Warren Buffett famously said, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”

In truth, our economy today is in much better shape than you might expect, with unemployment at 3.9 percent — lower than it was before the crisis.
I think the U.S. unemployment figures tend to be false or misleading, and for more on the state of the economy see item 1, above: The ten years of relative calmth for the U.S. rich were bought by handing over to them $29 trillion, which they mostly spend on enriching themselves and/or their corporations.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
There is one question I get more than any other: “Will we have another crisis?” The answer, of course, is yes. But it’s not a Wall Street crisis similar to 2008 that concerns me. I’m worried about something far bigger.

I agree, but my reasons are much more like Chris Hedges than like Andrew Sorokin.

3. Kavanaugh Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath About Stolen Democratic Memos

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing accusations of perjury following his confirmation hearing last week. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has suggested Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his 2004 and 2006 hearings to become a federal judge. During those hearings Kavanaugh denied seeing private Democratic files that detailed strategies for opposing Republican judicial nominees while he was associate counsel in the George W. Bush White House. We speak with Lisa Graves, former top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, whose new piece is headlined “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.” Graves is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. She is now co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy.
I say, for I did not know this. Then again, I should add that (i) I have been an opponent of Kavanaugh from the start, while (ii) I think his dishonesty - shown below - when trying to become a federal judge should be sufficient reason not to select him as a member of the Supreme Court, but (iii) I also think that the majority of Republicans in the Senate and the House are so uninterested in real law or rational argument that Kavanaugh's appointment probably will pass.

Here are Orrin Hatch and Brett Kavanaugh back in 2004:
This is a clip from Kavanaugh’s 2004 confirmation hearing when he was questioned by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Did Mr. Miranda ever share—share, reference or provide you with any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, I was not aware of that matter, ever, until I learned of it in the media late last year.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Did Mr. Miranda ever share, reference or provide you with information that you believe or were led to believe was obtained or derived from Democratic files?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No. Again, I was not aware of that matter in any way whatsoever until I learned it in the media.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Do you know if any other associate White House counsels had access to these type of materials that were improperly taken?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I don’t know of anyone who was aware of this matter, again, until the media reports late last year.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: But you were not?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I was not aware of it.

Here is the present outcome:
AMY GOODMAN: While Kavanaugh may not see a red flag, others definitely do. On Friday, Demand Justice, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America called for Democrats to seek a formal perjury investigation of Kavanaugh based on his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And as I said, I think that is the correct procedure, that should deny Kavanaugh his appointment. But here are the facts:
LISA GRAVES: (..) I think that what’s happening here is an extreme rush to try to install Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court before the midterm elections and to try to deny the American people and the Senate the information it needs to evaluate this nominee. I know that from the record, the procedural record, we’ve seen over the past month, the past week, that Senator Grassley has—is trying to ram him through without those documents before the Senate.
Yes indeed. And as I said, my own fear is that this will go through, unfortunately. This is a recommended article. 
4. What Will Donald Trump Be Remembered For?

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:
I know you won’t believe me. Not now, not when everything Donald Trump does — any tweet, any insult at any rally — is the news of the day, any day.  But he won’t be remembered for any of the things now in our headlines. No human being, it’s true, has ever been covered the way he has, so what an overwhelming record there should be. News about him and his associates fills front pages daily in a way that only something like a presidential assassination once did and he has the talking heads of cable TV yakking about him as no one has ever talked about anyone. And don’t even get me started on social media and The Donald.
I don't see any reason why I wouldn't believe Engelhardt on the amount of attention that Donald Trump gets, but then I also think that such an amount of attention is justified for someone who is both the biggest liar ever to become president; a grandiose megalomaniac; an anti-democrat who is also against the free press; and someone who is quite obviously a neofascist according to my definition.

Donald Trump is, in the most bizarre sense possible, a transformational figure, not to speak of the man who makes the “fake news” fake, or at least grotesquely overblown and over-focused. He has the uncanny ability to draw every camera in the house, all attention, blocking out everything but himself. Still, omnipresent as he is — or He is — take my word for it, he won’t be remembered for any of this. It will all go down the media drain with him one of these days. Don’t be fooled by newspapers or the Internet. They are not history. They are anything but what will someday be remembered.

Still, don’t for a second imagine that Donald Trump won’t be remembered. He will — into the distant future in a way that no other American president is likely to be.

These seem to be certainties for Engelhardt, but not for me, and I have at least two reasons:

First, what is history? I am following the daily papers, but I agree most of what they contain is not what will be remembered later as history. Then again, I have read a fair amount of academic histories, but I also know that what I have read was almost only read by academics. Besides, of the fairly many histories I have read, only a very few get more or less widely known.

So in brief: I do not know what history is, other than that its subject must be in the past, and that the supposed facts that histories detail should indeed be mostly real facts.

Second, I also do not know whether Donald Trump will be remembered, because he may start a nuclear war, or because environmental problems will explode, sooner or later.

After the above quotation, Engelhardt expounds a fairly long and detailed list of things that Engelhardt thinks Trump will not be remembered for. I will quote none of it here.

Then there is this:

On that score, the record is clear, in part because we are already beginning to live the very future that will remember Donald Trump in only one way. It’s a future that, at its core, has animated his presidency from its first days. Whatever else he thinks, says, tweets, or does, President Trump and his administration have been remarkably focused not just on denying that humanity faces a potential future of environmental ruin — as in the term “climate-change denial” so regularly attached to a startling list of people in his administration — but on aiding and abetting the disaster to come.
This makes him and his administration criminals of a historic sort. After all, he and his cronies are aiming at what can only be thought of as terracide, the destruction of the environment of the planet that has sustained us for thousands of years. That would be a literal crime against humanity so vast that it has, until this moment, gone unnamed and, until relatively recently, almost unimagined.

Well... I agree that Trump is a climate-change denier; that most climate-change deniers both seem liars and seem to be lying because they profit from these lies; and that people like Trump are bad or evil... but terracide, that was unnamed presumably until Engelhardt named it, and that was "until relatively recently, almost unimagined"?

No, I don't think so, and I state here just two reasons.

First of all, an environmental disaster may be likely, but while it probably will decimate humans, the earth will continue to exist, except that it will be too warm for humans at most places.

And second, what is "relatively recently"? I bought in 1981 a book of lectures that Aldous Huxley had held originally in 1959. At that time, there were between 2 and 3 billion human beings (and now more than 7 billion), but Huxley ably discussed the environmental problems in 1959, and indeed also indicated many of the possible things that might have stopped or altered them.

The main problem was that few believed him, and that humanity kept multiplying and multiplying. And I think sixty years (almost) is nearly a lifetime ago, and that ought to have been sufficient, if mankind only had been slightly more rational than they are.

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

In other words, the one thing Donald Trump will be remembered for — and what a thing it will be! — is his desire to put us all on an escalator to hell; to, that is, a future of fire and fury. It could make him and the executives of the largest energy companies the greatest criminals in history. If the emissions of greenhouse gases aren’t significantly cut back and then halted in a reasonable period of time, the crime he is now aiding and abetting with such enthusiasm is the only one, other than a nuclear war, that could end history as we know it, which might mean that Donald Trump won’t be remembered at all.

I think this is too simpleminded. And it was not just Trump and the executives of the largest energy companies who did so. And while this is a recommended article, I do not agree with it.
5. Noam Chomsky on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Growing Split in Democratic Party

This article is by Amy Goodman on AlterNet and originally on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The 2018 midterm election season has been roiled by the internal divisions between the Democratic Party’s growing progressive base and the more conservative party establishment. In New York City, this division came to a head with the most shocking upset of the election season so far, when 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez handily defeated 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. Ocasio-Cortez ran a progressive grassroots campaign as a Democratic Socialist advocating for “Medicare for All” and the abolition of ICE. For more on her victory and what it means for the Democratic Party, we speak with Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author.
This all quite correct, and here is Chomsky:
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think there’s—her victory was a quite spectacular and significant event. I think what it points to is a split in the Democratic Party between the—roughly speaking, between the popular base and the party managers. The popular base is increasingly, essentially, social democratic, following, pursuing the—concerned with the kinds of progressive objectives that she outlined in those—in her remarks, which should be directed not only to expanding the electorate but to the general working-class, poor population of the world, of the middle-class population of the country, for whom these ideals are quite significant. They can be brought to that. That’s one part of the party. The other part of the party is the donor-oriented, managerial part of the New Democrats, so-called, the Clintonite Democrats, who are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republican Party itself has drifted so far to the right that they’re almost off the spectrum. But the split within the Democratic Party is significant, and it’s showing up in primary after primary. Will the party move in the direction of its popular base, with a, essentially, social democratic, New Deal-style programs, even beyond? Or will it continue to cater to the donor class and be essentially a moderate wing—a more moderate wing of the Republican Party? And unless that issue is resolved, I don’t think they have a very good chance in the forthcoming elections.
I think all of that is correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The Republicans are on a binge of pursuing the most savage form of class warfare. The tax scam is a good example, the attacks on workers’ rights, on—Public Citizen just came out with a report on corporate impunity, which is almost comical when you read it. The administration has simply cut back radically on any kind of dealing with corporate crimes. And, of course, the EPA has practically stopped working. It’s as if grab whatever you can, stuff it in your pocket, before—while you have a chance.
I think this is also correct, except for "class warfare", and here my objections probably are too personal:

My father and mother were - intelligent, sincere, very courageous - communists, as was my father's father, while my mother's parents were anarchists. Also, my father survived over 3 years and 9 months as a "political terrorist" in four German concentration camps, where his father was murdered in 1943.

And I gave up on communism in 1970, when I was 20. There were many reasons, for I had studied Marx (and Engels and Lenin) quite well, but one prominent one was the incredible amount of nonsense I had heard and read about "the class struggle".

One of the many consequences was that I gave up on the existence of classes, although I do believe - of course - in the existence of the rich and the poor.

Anyway... 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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