September 19, 2018

Crisis: Trump Vs. China, Next Downturn, Cooperatives, Kavanaugh, The Capitalist Manifesto


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 19, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 19, 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 19, 2018:
1. Will Donald Trump Stand Up to China?
2. How the Next Downturn Will Surprise Us
3. Ten Years Since Economic Collapse Sparked Occupy Wall Street, the
     Cooperative Movement Is Surging

4. Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, Goes into Hiding
5. The Capitalist Manifesto: Let Poor People Die
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. Will Donald Trump Stand Up to China?

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

President Xi Jinping has imposed China’s most sweeping internment program since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, when more than one million people were killed and millions of others were imprisoned, tortured and humiliated.

Citing credible reports, a United Nations panel last month said up to one million Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority, are being held in detention camps without benefit of any formal legal process. The repression is severe enough to have raised concerns even within the Trump administration — not known for a preoccupation with human rights abroad — and the administration is weighing possible sanctions against the regime, a step that justice clearly demands.

Mr. Xi is China’s most powerful modern leader, and he is turning his country into an economic and political powerhouse. But his achievements are deeply tainted by human rights abuses, including the repression of the Uighurs, the largest of the Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China.

Yes indeed, except - or so I think - that the number of "more than one million people were killed" seems low. Thus, in the Cultural Revolution (on Wikipedia) there are numbers that vary from 3 million to between 5 and 10 million.

Then again, it is also true that Chinese demographics of the time were "very poor", while there is hardly any formal research.

Here is more on the Uighurs:
Uighurs are being accused of having an “ideological virus” and are sometimes detained for nothing more than reciting a verse of the Quran at a funeral. Held in heavily guarded, often secret camps and cut off from their families, prisoners are forced to listen to indoctrination lectures that human rights activists describe as brainwashing, write self-criticism letters and renounce their commitment to Islam. All are chilling echoes of the Cultural Revolution.
Yes indeed. Here is more on the persecution of the Uighurs:
Aided by technology — some of which American companies are believed to be selling to Chinese firms — the Communist Party’s overseer in Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, has intruded into the lives of Uighurs even when they are not detained in the camps. Security forces collect DNA samples when Uighurs undergo state-run medical checkups, install GPS tracking systems in vehicles and cellphones and operate checkpoints and other dehumanizing surveillance, like cameras installed in some homes.
And this is from the ending of this article:
And the Uighurs may not be the end of it. As The Washington Post reported recently, Beijing is taking steps to suppress all five of China’s officially sanctioned religions — Catholicism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Daoism and Islam.
I say. I did not know this, and while I am myself an atheist (and have always been one) I find these "steps" quite sickening. And would these "steps" perhaps be related to Google's Dragonfly, that promises to chart everything about the Chinese? This is a recommended article.

2. How the Next Downturn Will Surprise Us

This article is by Ruchir Sharma on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

After the fall of Lehman Brothers 10 years ago, there was a public debate about how the leading American banks had grown “too big to fail.” But that debate overlooked the larger story, about how the global markets where stocks, bonds and other financial assets are traded had grown worrisomely large.

By the eve of the 2008 crisis, global financial markets dwarfed the global economy. Those markets had tripled over the previous three decades to 347 percent of the world’s gross economic output, driven up by easy money pouring out of central banks. That is one major reason that the ripple effects of Lehman’s fall were large enough to cause the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Today the markets are even larger, having grown to 360 percent of global G.D.P., a record high.
I have to start with a correction: No, there was no "public debate about how the leading American banks had grown “too big to fail”". What there was was the refusal of the American minister of Justice to prosecute any rich bankers on the - bullshit - economical argument that rich bankers were "too rich to fail", but basically that was a bullshit refusal of Eric Holder to do his legal job.

Apart from that, the introduction seems mostly correct, and indeed it is a rather serious flaw in the present economy that there is 3.6 times as much paper money each year, than the values of the goods produced all over the world.

Here is some more, that again will need a correction:

Over the past decade, the world’s largest central banks — in the United States, Europe, China and Japan — have expanded their balance sheets from less than $5 trillion to more than $17 trillion in an effort to promote the recovery. Much of that newly printed money has found its way into the financial markets, where it often follows the path of least regulation.

Central bankers and other regulators have largely succeeded in containing the practice that caused disaster in 2008: risky mortgage lending by big banks.
I think it is a falsehood to say that "the world’s largest central banks" "have expanded their balance sheets" (enormously) "in an effort to promote the recovery": No, they expanded their balance sheets to increase their own power.

Here is some more on the present economic situation:
Among corporations listed on the S.&P. 500 index, debt has tripled since 2010 to one and a half times annual earnings — near the historic peaks reached during the recessions of the early 1990s and 2000s. And in some parts of the bond markets, debt loads are much higher.
And this is a rather serious sign that a new recession is close. Here is a bit more on why:
Right now the typical American company owned by a private equity firm has debt six times higher than its annual earnings — or twice the level that a public ratings agency would consider high-risk or “junk.”
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

If a downturn follows, it is more likely to be a normal recession than another 100-year storm, like 2008. Most economists put the probability of such a recession hitting before the end of 2020 at less than 20 percent.

But economists are more often wrong than right. Professional forecasters have missed every recession since such records were first kept in 1968, and one of the many reasons for this is “recency bias”: using economic forecasting models that tend to give too much weight to recent events.
I find the argument that "[m]ost economists put the probability of such a recession hitting before the end of 2020 at less than 20 percent" very weak, for the simple reason that I have learned in the past 50 years that "most economists" are simply mistaken in most of their predictions.

Also, how Sharma can insist that "
economists are more often wrong than right" (which is false since 50 years at least) while also insisting in his next sentence that "[p]rofessional forecasters have missed every recession since such records were first kept in 1968" - which happens to be 50 years ago - completely escapes my (logically trained) mind.

3. Ten Years Since Economic Collapse Sparked Occupy Wall Street, the Cooperative Movement Is Surging

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
This week marks the seventh anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement and 10 years since the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, which triggered the onset of the global financial crisis. The crisis also sparked massive global anti-capitalist movements, including Occupy Wall Street, the M-15 movement in Spain and the anti-austerity movements in Greece. “It’s striking how little we are marking these anniversaries,” says author and activist Nathan Schneider. “I think … we recognize we really haven’t done anything serious to deal with the causes of this crash.” Schneider’s new book outlines an alternative economic model based on cooperative ownership that saw a resurgence since the 2008 financial crisis. It’s titled “Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy.”
Well... there certainly are several other reasons, but one reason that Occupy Wall Street etc. are not often commemorated is that they mostly failed. (Also, as I have said many times before, I do get rather sick of the twice repeated "we" that should have been "many": "we many recognize  we many really haven’t done anything serious to deal with the causes of this crash".)

Finally, while I have sympathy for "
an alternative economic model based on cooperative ownership", I have seen similar plans that go back to the 1820ies (for I had intelligent though not very well educated communist parents, who had a fair amount of literature about socialism etc.)

Here is some more:
AMY GOODMAN: (...) To talk more about the impacts of the crisis 10 years later, we’re joined by Nathan Schneider, whose new book outlines an alternative economic model based on cooperative ownership. He argues the cooperative movement has witnessed a resurgence since the 2008 financial crisis. Schneider’s book is just out. It’s called Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy. His recent piece for Vice is headlined “Rich People Broke America and Never Paid the Price.” He’s also the author of Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Nathan Schneider is a journalist and author and media studies professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Well... this gave you the title of his book. Here is Schneider:
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Well, it’s striking how little we are marking these anniversaries, especially the anniversary of the crash, which has so defined the last 10 years and has defined my generation, has defined so many of our lives. I think a reason that we haven’t been celebrating it is we recognize we really haven’t done anything serious to deal with the causes of this crash and to deal with the horrific response to it, in which millions of people were allowed to lose their homes and their jobs. And quietly, in the midst of this lack of imagination, there has been a growing movement on a grassroots level, increasingly at a policy level, to recognize that there is an opportunity to make a difference through this tradition of cooperative enterprise.
I can't really see much that I agree with in this quote, except for one thing: It is quite true that "the anniversay of the crash" of 2008 has been little marked, though again mostly not for the reason Schneider gives again ("we" "haven't done anything serious") but because the mainstream media mostly did not even admit it was a crash.

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

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, but some might argue that even some predatory capitalists have come up with or are developing the idea of cooperation among businesspeople. I’m thinking of Airbnb, Uber, this whole sharing economy. They’re sort of taking a cooperative idea and standing it on its head in terms of how they can make money off of it.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER: That’s right. You know, cooperation was really the original crowdfunding. It was the original sharing economy. But I think most of us have kind of wised up to the fact that this is not a real sharing economy, this economy of Uber and Airbnb; this is an extraction economy.
That is true, but I do not think this was an interesting article.

4. Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, Goes into Hiding

This article is by Mark Chapman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

One of the first criticisms Senate Republicans had of the allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault at age 17 was to ask why Democrats had waited until the last minute to take any action on the letter, despite having it for weeks.

The reason was that the survivor, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford — who alleges that in the early 1980s at a party, Kavanaugh pulled her into a bedroom, forcibly held her, tried to undress her, and covered her mouth to muffle her screams while a friend looked on  — was fearful of the personal consequences if she ventured into the national spotlight to speak out against such a powerful figure.

Yes indeed - and for more on Kavanaugh see yesterday and last week and more (in the index). And here is the latest development:

And if reports in The New York Times are any indication, Ford's worries were not without merit:

Dr. Blasey, thrust suddenly into a spotlight that she never sought, has been inundated with vulgar email and social media messages, and even death threats, according to a person close to her, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private matter. “From what I’ve heard you have 6 months to live, you disgusting slime,” one message said.

Dr. Blasey, who has two teenagers, has moved out of her house, is arranging for private security for herself and her family, and is effectively in hiding, the person said. But Dr. Blasey has also been buoyed by a flood of supportive messages from friends and strangers.

“Ninety percent of people think she’s a hero and are extremely supportive of her, and 10 percent want her to die immediately,” the person said, adding, "Her worst fears are coming true."

I say, and this is a recommended article.

5. The Capitalist Manifesto: Let Poor People Die

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
The original Capitalist Manifesto was a 1958 book by economist Louis O. Kelso and philosopher Mortimer J. Adler. In their view of a properly conducted democratic capitalist society, a sort of modern-day Homestead Act was envisioned, in which all Americans would participate in the "capitalist revolution" of growing stock portfolios. This would be possible because of great technologies (energy in the 1950s, AI now) that would allow all of us, in Aristotelian and Jeffersonian property-owning ways, to become 'free' to pursue the arts & sciences and to enjoy more leisure time. Today, this form of democratic capitalism could be realized through the Employee Stock Ownership Plan promoted by the "Just Third Way" movement. 

Just one problem. Apparently, in 1958, economists and philosophers were not able to foresee the unlimited greed of the relatively few people with the power to manipulate the strings of the capitalist state.
Average Americans have been cheated out of the gains from technological productivity. Just in the past ten years in our world of big business, over $30 trillion -- nearly a third of our nation's TOTAL current wealth -- has gone to the richest 10% of Americans. Yet market-happy illusionists like the Wall Street Journal keep spouting nonsense about a healthy economy built on today's capitalism.
I think this is mostly quite correct, although I have to grant that this is the first time I hear about the Capitalist Manifesto (and no, I am not interested: I know about Adler, and think he was mostly mistaken).

Here is more:
The root of the problem is the condemnation of anything 'social' as un-American, which has helped modern-day capitalists to justify their belief in individual gain by any means. Wealthy conservatives know that social responsibility might take away some of their riches by providing opportunities and jobs and a decent standard of living for all Americans. In their minds, the poor have only themselves to blame for being poor, and for dying. But it is capitalism that is killing them.
I agree with the above, and like to point out that one other cause is the fact that John Nash's game theory, which is still very widely used, is based on the assumption that everyone is egoistic and out to increase his or her own income or pleasure.

Here is more:
Politicians and Plutocrats Stand By as People are Poisoned 

What is the capitalist incentive to clean the water in Flint, Michigan? Little money is to be made, so little effort is made to save lives. People are DYING because there's no market for profit-making. 
This simply is true, and indeed for quite a long time. Here is more:
Millions are without Health Care—for Many Americans that Means Death 

Over 30 million Americans are without health insurance in our business-driven, capitalist society. The American Journal of Public Health flatly states, "Numerous investigators have found an association between uninsurance and death...Our estimate for annual deaths attributable to uninsurance among working-age Americans is more than 140% larger than [the Institute of Medicine's 2002 study]." 

One of the most disturbing examples of individual disdain for society is the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharmaceutical executives admitted to the felony charge of lying about their product's addictive qualities, but no one went to jail. In a six-year period to follow, other Big Pharma dealers, including AmerisourceBergen and McKesson, distributed nearly a billion pills to West Virginia alone.
I think all of the above quotation is true as well. Here is more:
Bankruptcies are Surging, and so are Suicides 

The percentage of elderly Americans filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991. Individualism over social consciousness is much to blame. A study by the Social Science Research Network found that the shift from employer and government pensions to individuals has increased risk while exacerbating stress. Meanwhile, much of the stress for working people comes from the 40-year  stagnation in wages.
Quite so, again. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The True Meaning of Socialism
It takes a tragedy to reveal the true meaning of socialism. It's not government control, but rather people controlling their own lives through empathy and cooperation.
Yes but it - to be real and realistic - must also incorporate legal, political and economical changes. For more see my Crisis: On Socialism. And this is a strongly 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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