Saturday, November 19, 2016

Today's Links

1--On Trump’s Education Policy


Trump has declared his determination to privatize public schools, to the extent that federal funds can encourage that outcome. No high-performing nation in the world has privatized its public schools; all have strong and equitably resourced public schools, staffed by certified teachers, not well-meaning amateurs. The two nations that did buy into the free-market privatization ideology — Sweden and Chile — have regretted it. Instead of better education, they got greater segregation of students by race, income, religion, and social status.

The threat to public schools is real under a Trump administration. In the recent election, voters in Massachusetts and Georgia overwhelmingly defeated ballot measures to increase the number of charter schools. Trump won Georgia, but the voters of Georgia turned down the same education proposal that Trump wants to fund.

Under the terms of current law, states have the power to decide how to use federal funds that are not tied to a mandatory program. If Trump releases $20 billion to the states, it will be left to governors and legislatures to decide whether to protect their public schools. Some deeply conservative states might decide to side with privatization, but it is not at all clear that the parents and local school districts will go along, even in Republican-controlled states.

2--Roaming Charges: When the Pterodactyls Came Home to Roost


The Clintons and their acolytes are afflicted by both species of hubris. They are the power-hungry agents of their own downfall, yet shame the victims of their own inhumane policies, from the gutting of welfare to racist crime policies to the obliteration of Libya. They show no remorse, engage in no self-circumspection, admit no culpability for their own actions and deflect the blame for all failures on others. In this sense, they are beyond redemption or purification and richly deserve their fate. Live by the polls, die at the polls.

But the country at large is about to pay a heavy price for the Clintonian tragedy. The malign incompetence of this vain neoliberal coterie has unleashed a chilling and lethal force on the Republic: intolerant, self-righteous, bigoted and violent. There’s no way to diminish the threat that Trump poses to the most vulnerable among us. These aren’t chickens coming home to roost, but ravenous pterodactyls, emerging from a cthonic darkness, with maximum havoc on their minds.

3---Obama’s Hollow Legacy


Even the unpopular and shady Hillary Clinton could have won Michigan if the people of Flint had received the federal help they needed so badly. Not only did the Obama environmental protection agency allow the beleaguered city to be given contaminated water, but he showed up for a photo opportunity and did nothing else as residents suffered. He drank a glass of water, posed for the cameras and returned to Washington. The people of Flint are still living under conditions Americans think of as being “Third World.”

4--Bernie Sanders urges millions to ‘mobilize and fight back’ against Trump’s presidency


5--Mark Zuckerberg outlines how Facebook is tackling fake news


Zuckerberg acknowledged that the situation was complex, both technically and philosophically. "We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties," he said in the post


6--The Trump trade, week 1: A 'violent rotation' with a 'bond bloodbath'


"The pervasive negativity underlying the system was discovered everywhere you looked, from headlines, to sentiment surveys, to mutual fund flows, but the market refused to buckle under the pressure," he said. "Well, since the week of the election, the tide feels like it may finally be turning."


7--What to do about "fake news"

The establishment's ham-fisted attempt at censorship

Exclusive: A pushback is coming to the Internet’s success in giving the world access to diverse opinions and dissenting information. Politicians, mainstream media and technology giants are taking aim at what they call “fake news,” reports Robert Parry.


In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, a hot new issue – raised by President Obama in an international setting on Thursday and touted on The New York Times’ front page on Friday – is the problem of “fake news” being disseminated on the Internet.
Major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are being urged to censor such articles and to punish alleged violators. Also, teams of supposedly “responsible” news providers and technology giants are being assembled to police this alleged problem and decide what is true and what is not.
But therein lies the more serious problem: who gets to decide what is real and what is not real? And – in an age when all sides propagate propaganda – when does conformity in support of a mainstream “truth” become censorship of reasonable skepticism?...

Ministry of Truth?

So, who are the “responsible” journalists who should be anointed to regulate what the world’s public gets to see and hear? For that Orwellian task, a kind of Ministry of Truth has been set up by Google, called the First Draft Coalition, which touts itself as a collection of 30 major news and technology companies, including the Times and Post, tackling “fake news” and creating a platform to decide which stories are questionable and which ones aren’t...

It’s even more dangerous when these self-appointed arbiters of truth combine forces with powerful Internet search engines and social media companies to essentially silence dissenting opinions and contrary facts by making them very difficult for the public to locate.
Arguably even worse is when politicians – whether President-elect Donald Trump or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or President Obama – get into the business of judging what is true and what is false.

On Thursday, an impassioned President Obama voiced his annoyance with “fake news” twice in his joint news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — “because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. … If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”
Let that phrase sink in for a moment: “We won’t know what to protect”? Is President Obama suggesting that it is the U.S. government’s role to “protect” certain information and, by implication, leave contrary information “unprotected,” i.e. open to censorship?

On Friday, a New York Times front-page article took Facebook to task, in particular, writing: “for years, the social network did little to clamp down on the false news.”
The Times added, in a complimentary way, “Now Facebook, Google and others have begun to take steps to curb the trend, but some outside the United States say the move is too late.”

8-- The Real Reason to Worry About Gen. Michael Flynn

 Flynn’s appointment is revealing of the foreign-policy establishment’s preference to antagonize, contain, and demonize Russia, Syria, and Iran (for all intents and purposes the new and improved neocon Axis of Evil) rather than focus on the Salafist terror threat which has struck in as varied and far off places as Baghdad, Beirut, Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino.

 Nevertheless, in Flynn, Trump has found someone who clearly shares his penchant for indulging in dog-whistle rhetoric. He once infamously tweeted “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” No surprise, he also boasts ties to some of the more unhinged elements of the neoconservative movement like the author Michael Leeden. A neoconservative polemicist who is currently “Freedom Scholar” at the rabidly neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Leeden was Flynn’s co-author on book Field of Flight, which was praised by none other than former Senator Joe Lieberman as a “strategic plan by General Flynn of how to win the global war against radical Islam and its big power supporters. The leaders of the next American administration would benefit from reading The Field of Fight.” In an op-ed in (where else?) the New York Post promoting the book, Flynn stated his belief that the United States is in “a global war, facing an enemy alliance that runs from Pyongyang, North Korea, to Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela. Along the way, the alliance picks up radical Muslim countries and organizations such as Iran, al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State.” 
In other words, we must wage global war for global peace. What could possibly go wrong?...

 Flynn came under fire for his “pro-Russia” stance by Politico’s Michael Crowley, who sneered, “Flynn now makes semi-regular appearances on RT as an analyst, in which he often argues that the U.S. and Russia should be working more closely together on issues like fighting [ISIS] and ending Syria’s civil war.” 
Yet despite the braying of the Beltway media class, Flynn’s Russian connections are likely nonexistent; yet there are other very real reasons to be concerned with his appointment. One often overlooked contradiction at the heart of the Flynn’s alleged pro-Russian bias is his repeated condemnation of the Iran nuclear deal, behind which Russia was a driving force....

 Flynn’s appointment is yet another worrying sign that the administration of Donald J. Trump will, like the Obama administration, be held captive to the reigning foreign-policy orthodoxy of interventionism and militarism that has done such damage to America and the world over the past 15 years.

          Advocate of Snowden's Execution Picked to Run CIA
Flynn’s position on US-Russia relations is somewhat less certain, as he’s been labeled “Russia-loving” by critics, but also has written that Russia is part of a major “global axis” of nations and forces arrayed against American interests. In appearances on RT, he has called for the US and Russia to “work together,” but a lot of the allegations of him being in league with Russia are likely focused on him agreeing with Trump on NATO, as NATO is loudly opposing any US rapprochement with Russia.

Rep. Pompeo is seen as likely to be an even more contentious pick, heading from the House Intelligence Committee into the CIA. Pompeo is an outspoken advocate of NSA surveillance, who has called for the execution of whistleblower Edward Snowden for making the surveillance known to the American public. He has also called for ending the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, saying after the election that he “looked forward” to destroying the deal.
Pompeo’s position on Syria is likely to loom large in his appointment, as he is said to be in favor of ending the CIA’s arming of Syrian rebels, but was also an eager supporter of a direct US military attack on Syria‘s government in 2013. Trump is planning to end the rebel arming scheme, but doesn’t appear to want to impose regime change in Syria either, instead talking up focusing the fight on ISIS.

10--Fake Content Puts Pressure on Facebook, Google

Obama calls for the thought police

11--Trump’s election as seen from Europe


The British Economist magazine wrote in a worried editorial that with the fall of the Berlin Wall, “history was said to have ended,” bringing with it the final triumph of “liberal democracy.” With Trump’s victory, however, “that illusion was shattered. History is back—with a vengeance.” The election is a “hammer blow both to the norms that underpin politics in the United States and also to America’s role as the world’s pre-eminent power...

As the world reels under the economic crisis triggered by the 2008 crash, attempts to drastically redesign world politics to benefit the US financial aristocracy will again come, as Trotsky noted, primarily at the expense of its imperialist “allies” in Europe.

While the election of Trump marks a significant turning point, it is also the product of deeply-rooted tendencies. Since the end of World War II, US imperialism served in the final analysis as Europe’s hegemonic power, stabilizing inter-European antagonisms that twice in the 20th century exploded into world war. It financed and backed European integration policies during the Cold War, to project a “democratic” image for European capitalism as part of its rivalry with the Soviet Union. Trump’s election marks a new stage in the breakdown of this political set-up.

The dissolution of the USSR, far from marking an “end of history,” in fact was only an initial expression of a crisis of the capitalist nation-state system. This crisis is centered in the long-term decline of American capitalism, which has sought, with ever greater violence, to maintain its position as the global hegemon through military force.

For Europe, the turn of the US to “America first” nationalism means the breakup of all the post-war institutions, which were underwritten by American power. Even before the election of Trump, however, the European powers, and particularly Germany, have begun to respond to these tendencies by aggressively asserting their own interests on the world stage....

For the working class in the United States, Europe and internationally, the election of Trump is a warning. Looking back to the heritage of 20th century fascism, the ruling classes are preparing an escalation of militarism, world war and police repression against workers and youth.

12--Trump begins selecting ultra-right cabinet

Sessions has been one of the most consistently reactionary figures in the US Senate, particularly in relation to immigration. He once told the publication Roll Call that “nativist” was a perfectly acceptable description of his viewpoint. His hardline opposition to both legal and illegal immigration was apparently the basis for his early enthusiasm for the Trump campaign...

Flynn clashed with the Obama administration in 2014 and was fired by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper because of his insistence on portraying the conflict with Al Qaeda and later ISIS as a war against Muslims. According to press reports, his obsession led to espousing what subordinates called “Flynn facts,” assertions that bore no relation to reality but bolstered the concept that the US was engaged in a “world war” against Islamist militants......

According to one press account, Flynn appeared before a right-wing group in Texas last summer and declared, “I don’t see Islam as a religion. I see it as a political ideology.” He continued, arguing that Islam will “mask itself as a religion globally, especially in the West and especially in the United States… Because it can hide itself and protect itself behind what we call freedom of religion.”
Flynn has backed Trump’s declarations in support of torture, including waterboarding, saying in one interview that he was a “believer in leaving as many options on the table right up until the last possible minute.” Most notoriously, he delivered an anti-Clinton, anti-Obama diatribe at the Republican National Convention, during which delegates began chanting, “Lock her up. Lock her up.” Flynn joined in.
For CIA director, Trump has chosen Republican Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a three-term congressman from Wichita with close ties to the billionaire Koch brothers, whose Koch Industries holding company is headquartered there......

Throughout his six years in the House, Pompeo has stood for the most militaristic and anti-democratic policies, backing the illegal bulk data collection by the National Security Agency when it was exposed by Edward Snowden. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and was also chosen to serve on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, set up by the House Republican leadership to undermine the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Pompeo denounced Muslim clerical leaders for encouraging such attacks. He also stridently denounced the six-nation Iran nuclear deal, claiming that the Obama administration had surrendered to “the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” On the eve of his nomination to head the CIA, he went on Twitter to declare his determination to terminate the agreement with Teheran.

13--Why Economic Recovery Requires Rethinking Capitalism

On both sides of the Atlantic, public companies are sitting on record piles of cash—around $2 trillion in the U.S. and a similar amount in Europe—which they are choosing to hold rather than to invest. At the same time, over the last decade, more than $3 trillion has been returned to shareholders in the form of buy-backs, in some cases, like Pfizer and Exxon, exceeding their net earnings over the period. This reflects the extent to which the so-called ‘real’ economy has become financialized in the name of shareholder value, where it has been easier to boost share prices (and with it executive remuneration) through buy-backs, than through investment in the company’s future.

This failure of corporate leadership has been matched by an equal failure of public policy. After the crisis, public debate focused narrowly on the size of public deficits, rather than on how to raise long-term growth. But the size of the deficit, year to year, matters far less than the question of what it is spent on, and how that spending affects the debt-to-GDP ratio in the medium to long term. Many of the countries across Europe that have the highest debt-GDP ratios are also those that have had moderate deficits. Their problem was not the size of their deficits, but the slow rate of their GPD growth.  Italy’s deficit, for example, has been lower than Germany’s for a decade. The problem for Italy, as elsewhere, was the lack of investments in areas like human capital and R&D that increase long run growth.

In mainstream theory, Keynes’ ‘animal spirits’ are assumed: firms are naturally inclined to invest, but will do so if only they receive the right incentive signals in the form of barriers being removed and competitive prices. In reality, however,  business tends to invest only when it sees a growth opportunity. Cutting the cost of investment – through tax reliefs or other indirect mechanisms – will not be effective in stimulating investment if businesses do not see opportunities for growth. Historically, generating such opportunities has been closely tied to mission-oriented public investments that have created and shaped new markets through direct strategic investments: market making, not market fixing.

14--Donald Trump is bringing torture back: His entire foreign-policy team is comprised of big fans of the worst Bush-era practices

15--Rep. Mike Pompeo wants to revive mass surveillance program

16--Global Bonds Post Biggest Two-Week Loss in Quarter Century

17--The end of globalization? Speigel


18--Global trade is slowing


19--Trumponomics anyone?


As much as 47% of Americans eligible to vote did not bother to on November 8. Trump had roughly 25.5% of the eligible electorate vote, in fact less than Hillary Clinton’s 25.6%. That translates into a de facto mandate of roughly one-fourth of Americans. Overwhelmingly popular it is not. The key question is whether Trumponomics will be able to stare down and at least subdue the most savage aspects of unbridled neoliberalism....

Mike Davis, author of the seminal City of Quartz and Planet of Slums, argues that it is impossible to unify the economic distress of millenials with the angst of older white workers. He sees the solution not in “Trumpism”, but in “democratic socialism” reigniting a New New Deal, a true “Economic Bill of Rights”. Not a chance the Republican-dominated Capitol Hill will let Trump pull off a neo-FDR stunt.

Noam Chomsky is more pragmatic. He has registered how “the immediate reaction of the business world reveals that Big Pharma, Wall Street, the military industry, energy industries and other such wonderful institutions expect a very bright future.” At least there is a “yuge” positive; Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure program – mirroring what China has been doing for over a decade. Chomsky notes that’s essentially the Obama stimulus program killed by Congress under the pretext it would explode the deficit. A much bigger explosion is on the cards if Trump gets his way, considering his proposed “radical tax cuts for the rich and corporate sector and increased Pentagon spending.”


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