September 16, 2018

Crisis: On The Con-Men, Sick Rightist Facebook, On Bush Jr., On ¨Central Banks¨, Radicalism


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 16, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, September 16, 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 16, 2018:
1. Billionaires Are the Lethal Monkey on the Back of the American Public
2. Facebook Empowers Weekly Standard to Suppress Left-Leaning Articles
3. The Liberal Rehabilitation of George W. Bush Is Complete
4. Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk
5. An Anatomy of Radicalism
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. Billionaires Are the Lethal Monkey on the Back of the American Public

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows (and this is a fine article):

“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible … except by getting off his back.” —Leo Tolstoy

This week on “Scheer Intelligence,” Anand Giridharadas, whose latest book is “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” discusses “how rich people and philanthropists and others are engaged in this well-meaning attempt to make the world better … but upholding through their actions an indecent system.” He describes this as a system in which the market and its needs come before the needs of the people, a system that allows the rich and powerful to be seen as philanthropic rather than the malignant force they represent. They would be, as Tolstoy opined, the guy on the American back, choking our society and destroying our economy.

They do so in the name of the distorted libertarian ideology that they use to subvert the American experiment in democracy, by denying the legitimacy of government intervention into the economy on the side of fairness and justice, including decent working conditions, fair wages, regulation of the economy and the right to form unions to represent workers and fight for their interests.

I did not read Giridharadas´s book, but the above description of what is happening in the USA seems quite correct to me.

Here is more:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, it’s Anand Giridharadas, a brilliant writer. And his new book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World–to my mind, this is an inside view of a new ruling class. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. It’s a world that–you have all the watering holes, the TED conferences, the Aspen, everywhere else; you’ve been there, you’ve been there as a journalist for The New York Times for about 12, 15 years. You studied at some elite institutions, you worked at the Aspen Institute. And what we meet in this book are people who are into a great exercise of delusion, that they can make out like bandits and still be Robin Hood. Is that not the deal?

Anand Giridharadas: Absolutely. And I think the problem with the Robin Hood comparison is only the idea that Robin Hood was kind of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But the people I write about are essentially interested in helping–in an age of inequality, they want to help those left out of the American Dream in any way they can. Except by getting off their backs. Except by paying them more. Except by paying their fair share of taxes, except by submitting to the kind of regulations that would actually help regular people not live with volatile incomes, and hours that shift week-to-week, and an inability to see kind of a long-time horizon.
Well... yes and no. That is, more specifically: I think yes, that is what they are doing, and yes, they also succeeded in deluding quite a number of voters, but no: if you are billionaire or a millionaire who are made a whole lot richer by Trump´s government, I think you very probably know what you are doing - which in fact seems also quite clear from the number of exceptions quoted by Giridharadas.

Here is more:
RS: I do want to encourage people to read this book. But that quote kind of says it all. What you have opened up here is an elite, the elite culture; not an elite, this is our ruling class. This is the billionaire class, the people who work for them, the people they can buy off; co-option is a sort of major theme of this book. The real enemy, in their eyes, is any sharpened sense of class conflict in America. And yet the reality of America, certainly for the last 40 years, is really sharp division of class for most ordinary people and a, what, top five, one percent, one hundredth of one percent, however you define it.
This is not very precise, and I have two remarks on it.

First - having been educated by quite heroic but not well educated Marxist parents, while I gave up my belief in Marx in 1970 - I disagree with the class talk, indeed in considerable part because it strongly suggests or states that there are just two classes, and both also are as one.

I think that is a fairly subtle mistake. I do think there are the rich and the non-rich, but I consider classes to be something else, and something more, and I do not believe in them, indeed in considerable part because I have read and heard a whole lot of quite nonsensical class talk.

Second, I think it is too vague to ¨define¨ the rich, or indeed the rich class, by ¨
a, what, top five, one percent, one hundredth of one percent, however you define it¨. I think you have to be at least somewhat more precise, and I prefer to say that ¨the rich¨ comprise about 10% of most modern populations, and these 10% comprise both the rich and their willing and generally well-paid servants.

Here is more (by Scheer):
RS: It’s interesting, hearing your description of the book. Because frankly, I don’t think you’re doing it justice. And what it captures, a culture of betrayal, of co-option, of the con. And when I read your book, the power of this book is that you know these people. You’ve been at the conferences, you’ve heard the bull. And it’s incredible. So the guy who destroys unions and taxi drivers, and be able to make a living ferrying people around in his Uber, has this grand idea that he’s actually a great social rebel. And it’s true of everyone there. And what you’ve gotten hold of here is the modern culture of the ruling class of America, and of the world, actually. And their ability to deceive themselves, their ability to co-opt some of the finest minds. And in order to co-opt modern people, you have to talk the language of concern for the other, right? You know, you have to come on as a highly civilized person while you’re raping the world.
I think this is mostly correct, although I may be less inclined than Scheer may be in supposing the really rich are not only conning many of the 90% but also themselves.

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

RS: I’m talking to Anand Giridharadas, and he has written a–maybe, in some ways, the most important book of our time. And the reason I say it’s so important is because it is a charade that most of us don’t grasp. And the only part I’m quibbling with, and it really is only a quibble–you seem to want to treat these people as if they have some soul, some decency. And I’m with the pope on this one, I think this is a rapacious capitalism that is disguised as something softer, but is absolutely brutal.

AG: Yeah, I don’t think we deeply disagree, I just think that it’s very possible for human beings to do very awful things while feeling like they’re good people and believing they’re doing the right thing.
Yes indeed. There is a lot more in this fine article, and it is strongly recommended.

2. Facebook Empowers Weekly Standard to Suppress Left-Leaning Articles

This article is by Jake Johnson on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

When Facebook selected the right-wing, Iraq War-boosting magazine The Weekly Standard as an official fact-checking partner last year as part of its effort to combat “misinformation,” progressives warned that the conservative publication would use its power to suppress accurate articles published by center-left and left-wing outlets.

That’s precisely what happened.

After ThinkProgress published an article by Ian Millhiser last week arguing that Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh’s comments during his Senate confirmation hearings combined with a speech he gave in 2017 eliminates “any doubt” that the judge opposes the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the Weekly Standard deemed the article “false”—a designation that, given Facebook’s rules and the platform’s enormous power, cuts off 80 percent of the piece’s future traffic and penalizes other pages that dare to post the article.

I think all this is correct. Also, I am getting so damned sick of Facebook and the face of Zuckerberg - one of the sickest minds I know - that I think I may be calling it Fascist Facebook, simply because I think it is either fascistic or neofascistic (both in my senses of these terms, for which see the links).

Then again, I am also willing to grant that Zuckerberg and Facebook fundamentally abuse the stupidity and the ignorance of the billions they successfully deceive.

Here is one more bit from this article:

Progressive outlets and commentators have been warning since Facebook launched its latest news feed algorithm that allowing such a powerful corporation to become the arbiter of “trustworthy” sources would threaten non-corporate and left-wing outlets that publish information.

These warnings took on a new sense of urgency after Facebook began giving a ton of airtime to Fox News and making publications like the Weekly Standard the gatekeepers of legitimate news.

Precisely. And my opinion is that you are an idiot if you trust Facebook. This is a recommended article.

3. The Liberal Rehabilitation of George W. Bush Is Complete

This article is by Jacob Bacharach on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

George W. Bush is not the worst living American, but only because former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger still lives.

Bush was the worst president since James Buchanan. He presided over eight years of ceaseless disaster. We are still fighting his wars, which have, by conservative estimates, killed hundreds of thousands, and by others, a million or more. He destroyed Iraq and plunged the entire Middle East into a slow-motion apocalypse that will take a century to heal, if it ever begins to heal at all. His war in Afghanistan, ostensibly a direct retaliation or response to the 9/11 attacks, was as desultory as it was cruel and unnecessary.

He was by turns diffident and hectoring, vicious and stupid. He presided over the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. He fiddled while New Orleans drowned.
Well... this is certainly not ¨neutral¨ prose, but I like it. Here is more:

A more discerning nation would have noted that he was not the first monster to fancy himself a bit of an artist. Laura, his wife, appeared occasionally in public to advance her literacy causes, and there were rumors that she and Michelle Obama had forged some sort of friendship. Yet W. had the decency to stay retired, at least until Donald Trump’s political ascent, a bilious burp from the fever swamp of the American national psyche. Suddenly, America decided that the inanities and malapropisms from the man who transformed torture from the sordid dark secret of its foreign policy to a matter of national masculine pride were charming markers of humble authenticity. Anyway, he respected “norms” and acted “presidential.”

But Bush was not nice or respectable. He was churlish, and he had a cruel streak. His back-slapping geniality masked a vicious disdain for difference. He could be a nasty frat boy, indifferent to suffering. He dressed up like a fighter pilot and played army man on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” sign in the background while his idiot viceroys and their teenage Heritage Foundation interns were looting the Iraqi state.

The same applies (and yes, I do not like Bush Jr.). Here is more:

Over the last year, a quickening pace of inside-the-palace books and articles have confirmed what should have been obvious all along: that the supposed “adults in the room”—the gray-faced military men and old-time GOP apparatchiks who clattered into the Trump administration under the guise of protecting the president from himself and the rest of us from the president—are ineffectual at best and active collaborators at worse. It is not so different from the Bush years, in which a man with obvious intellectual deficiencies and a poor grasp of the actual mechanics of governance was surrounded by, well, in some cases, the very same people. And this points to the fundamental underlying problem, the one no one who has ever sputtered, “This is not normal!” can admit or understand: The problem is the Republican Party.

Yes, indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The American Republican Party is the most right-wing, reactionary major political party in the so-called West. It is more right-wing than the Front National in France. It is more right-wing than Alternative für Deutschland in Germany or Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands. It is as authoritarian as the right-wing governments of Poland or Hungary, whose anti-judicial coups are of a piece with GOP efforts in West Virginia, in Florida, in North Carolina and, increasingly (although with infuriating Democratic compliance), in the federal judiciary.

It is as incoherently nativist as any European blood-and-soil party. It is firmly committed to destroying the last vestiges of the welfare state, and in its growing opposition to any public institutions—schools, libraries, universities, transportation, public housing—it is effectively committed to the actual destruction of civil society.
I fear this is also true (though the lesser rightness of European right-wing parties may be in part explained by the fact that in Europe there generally are more than two political parties). And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk

This article is by Ellen Brown on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Excluding institutions such as Blackrock and Vanguard, which are composed of multiple investors, the largest single players in global equity markets are now thought to be central banks themselves. An estimated 30 to 40 central banks are invested in the stock market, either directly or through their investment vehicles (sovereign wealth funds). According to David Haggith on Zero Hedge:

Central banks buying stocks are effectively nationalizing US corporations just to maintain the illusion that their “recovery” plan is working . . . . At first, their novel entry into the stock market was only intended to rescue imperiled corporations, such as General Motors during the first plunge into the Great Recession, but recently their efforts have shifted to propping up the entire stock market via major purchases of the most healthy companies on the market.

I say and I did not know this. Then again, what is ¨a central bank¨? Well... it is almost certainly not what the more naive would expect, for most central banks, although they operate in part on mostly free money that derive from the taxes, are not owned or controlled by the governments they are ¨a central bank¨ for:
The US Federal Reserve, which bailed out General Motors in a rescue operation in 2009, was prohibited from lending to individual companies under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010; and it is legally barred from owning equities. It parks its reserves instead in bonds and other government-backed securities. But other countries have different rules, and today central banks are buying individual stocks as investments, with a preference for big tech stocks like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Those are the stocks that dominate the market, and central banks are bidding them up aggressively. Markets, including the US stock market, are thus literally being rigged by foreign central banks.
And this is the consequence - but there is are two additional problems:
The result, as noted in a January 2017 article on Zero Hedge, is that central bankers, “who create fiat money out of thin air and for whom ‘acquisition cost’ is a meaningless term, are increasingly nationalizing the equity capital markets.” At least they would be nationalizing equities, if they were actually “national” central banks. But the Swiss National Bank, the biggest single player in this game, is 48% privately owned; and most central banks have declared their independence from their governments. They march to the drums not of government but of big international banks.
The first additional problem is that many ¨central banks¨ are in fact privately owned, or at least privately owned for a large part. And the second additional problem is that (bolding added) ¨most central banks¨ in fact ¨declared their independence from their governments¨, and in fact run for their own profits and not for any national government.

Here is the overall outcome:
The key to their success, said Quigley, was that they would control and manipulate the money system of a nation while letting it appear to be controlled by the government. The economic and political systems of nations would be controlled not by citizens but by bankers, for the benefit of bankers. The goal was to establish an independent (privately owned or controlled) central bank in every country. Today, that goal has largely been achieved.
That is, to repeat, their goal was that (bolding added)¨[t]he economic and political systems of nations would be controlled not by citizens but by bankers, for the benefit of bankers¨ and they mostly succeeded. There is considerably more in this aricle, that is strongly recommended.

5. An Anatomy of Radicalism

This article is by Cass R. Sunstein on American Affairs. In fact, it is  review of a book by Jeremy McCarter, ¨Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals¨. It starts as follows:
What is radicalism really about? When does it make sense? Do we need it now?

These seem to be impossibly abstract questions. At first glance, everything turns on the substantive commitments of those who purport to be radical. Do they believe in theocratic rule? In authoritarianism? In decentralization? In economic growth? In liberalism? In the collapse of liberalism? In property rights? In free markets? In self-government? In liberty? In freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and sex? In executing or imprisoning political enemies?

In Young Radicals, Jeremy McCarter explores the lives and views of five American radicals, who thought that society had to be remade in fundamental ways. John Reed, Alice Paul, Randolph Bourne, Max Eastman, and Walter Lippmann are his cast of characters. I want to use McCarter’s account to cast light on five enduring radical “types”: Manicheans, democrats, identitarians, propagandists, and technocrats. All of them should be immediately recognizable today, especially on the political left. (Importantly, we can find analogues on the right as well.)

I will suggest, with some qualifications, that we do not need Manicheans, propagandists, and identitarians.
This seems a good idea, that is, until one starts wondering what Sunstein (who is a professor of law at Harvard Law School) or indeed oneself might possibly mean by terms like ¨radicalism¨, and then again by terms like ¨Manicheans, democrats, identitarians, propagandists, and technocrats¨.

One basic problem is that Sunstein defines none of them, not even approximately: he seems to assume all these terms have - somehow - a singular meaning (also when one talks about the left, the right and the middle), and he seems also to assume everyone knows - somehow, again - what these meanings are.

I think that is a real mistake. Also, while I have read books by both John Reed and Walter Lippmann (but around 50 years ago), I do not know anything written by the other three.

And therefore, though especially because Sunstein shuns all definitions of his key terms, I shall only quote one more bit of this article:
Models of Radicalism

Should these figures inspire us today? Should we follow them? Or should we look for other models?

To answer these questions, we need to ask what their goals were, and what they did to achieve them. Reed is an unforgettable character, and he produced some superb work, but what chiefly interested him was drama and bullets, not ideas, not substance, and not even people. He liked to divide the world into the good and the bad. It’s hard to find kindness in his work. In a way, he was merciless. His radicalism ultimately took the form of an ardent embrace of Soviet-style Communism. That’s not exactly admirable. Would he have embraced Hitler too? Probably not, but you can’t rule it out. There is no question that the Nazis would have excited him. He lived for excitement. He wanted to burn down the house. He craved life, and he understood it as a kind of tumult, a battle of big “isms.” We can see John Reed in many young radicals, Left or Right, who find something large and historic to demonize (religion, the New Deal, Statism, Liberalism, Modernity), and who are drawn above all to abstractions and transformational events, along with upheaval and destruction. A way to identify them: they hate what they hate more than they like what they like.

As I said, I have read Reed. I do not know whether the above sketch is adequate, but I also do not recognize much. Besides, Reed died at 32 in 1920, at a time when the Soviet Union was considerably more popular among many leftists and some liberals than it was later.

And therefore, while this might have been a decent review with decent definitions, it is no such thing, and seemed soupy, vague and arbitrary to my - academically trained - mind.

[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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