Tag Archives: fascism

Summers: “better than even” chance of recession in next 3 years

Larry Summers is concerned about the stability of the international economic, financial, and political systems.

While high equity prices and low volatility may seem surprising, they likely reflect the limited extent to which stock-market outcomes and geopolitical events are correlated. For example, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks had no sustained impact on the economy. The largest stock-market movements, such as the 1987 crash, have typically occurred on days when there was no major external news…

Financial markets are widely cited, including by US President Donald Trump, as providing comfort in the current moment. But a relapse into financial crisis would likely have catastrophic political consequences, sweeping into power even more toxic populist nationalists. In such a scenario, the center will not hold…

But recessions are never predicted successfully, even six months in advance. The current expansion in the US has gone on for a long time, and the risk of policy mistakes there is very real, owing to highly problematic economic leadership in the Trump administration. I would put the annual probability of recession in the coming years at 20-25%. So the odds are better than even that the US economy will fall into recession in the next three years.

He goes on to say that recession is not even what he is most worried about, but a downward spiral where people lose faith in their governments and elect people who will actually act to destroy the effectiveness of governments. In this environment, autocrats can seize control by rallying the population against internal and external enemies, whether real but exaggerated, or completely fictional.

Article V

I think most Americans have a basic understanding that the Constitution can be amended, but that this is hard to do and therefore is not done very often. We treat our Constitution almost as a sacred text and that is one reason that even though our country is young compared to many others, its form of government has persisted in its current form longer than almost any other (I want to say longer than any other, but someone more knowledgeable than me could probably prove me wrong.)

Anyway, there is another way amendments can happen without the consent of Congress, which is for legislatures in two thirds of the states to force a constitutional convention. Sure, we all read about that when we studied the Colonial period in elementary school, right? I can actually walk over to Independence Hall on my lunch break any time I want and see where that all happened.

It turns out that as of now, December 2017, 28 U.S. state legislatures have voted to call a constitutional convention. 34 states would represent the two-thirds required. This could be a good thing. For example, a constitutional convention could clarify the definition of a “person” and get us the clean elections we so deserve. But that is not what is behind this. What is behind this is people who want to gut the federal government’s ability to tax, provide benefits, regulate interstate commerce, and protect the environment. This could actually be the beginning of the end of the republic.

Is it 1984 yet?

This article is about the role of new technology advancing the cause of censorship and social control, sometimes without our realizing it. I am concerned about this, but I also think about how relatively starved for information we were even in the early 90s compared to now.

Another interesting idea is that the “planned economy” could now succeed where it failed so miserably in the past. In other words, maybe early Soviet economists had the theory but not the computing power to pull it off.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/technology-big-data-dystopia-by-mark-leonard-2017-11

 

 

Uranium One

I’m at a disadvantage traveling and trying to post on my phone, so my posts may be short for awhile.

So just what is/was Uranium One? According to Lawfare.com, almost nothing. It was a business transaction between a Russian government-linked company and a Canadian company owning U.S. uranium mines. Such transactions have to be reviewed by a panel including many U.S. government agencies, which seems like a good idea. The State Department, overseen by Hillary Clinton at the time is one of the many departments involved. The transaction was reviewed and approved by the book. And seriously, that’s all. To suggest otherwise is propaganda, not professional journalism based on facts and logic.  We seem to live in a country now where even educated people don’t realize there is a difference.

https://lawfareblog.com/unpacking-uranium-one-hype-and-law

 

 

lugenpresse

Today’s German lesson: lugenpresse translates literally as “lying press”, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to translate it as “fake news”. In fact, the German version was heard at rallies during the Trump campaign apparently. This is a bit of history on the term from the Washington Post:

A decade later [the 1920s], it had turned into an explosive and stigmatizing propaganda slogan, used to stir hatred against Jews and communists. Critics of Adolf Hitler’s regime were frequently referred to as members of the “Lügenpresse apparatus.”

Until today, the word has an anti-Semitic connotation, and it implies hatred not only against journalists but against everyone who opposes the “will of the people.” That abstract concept emerged during World War II when Hitler sought to propagate the idea that Germans were a “master race” superior to all others, especially Jews and Slavic people.

The consequences of that rhetoric — of which the term “Lügenpresse” was an important component under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels — were horrifying. Millions of people were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis, including Jews, political opponents and homosexuals.

Trump is ignorant of history at a minimum, and I think he has fascist tendencies. But I am only now beginning to think he is using actual, thinly-veiled Nazi-inspired propaganda. It’s evil.

 

rise of fascism in the U.S.?

Openly fascist attitudes are undoubtedly more visible in the media and on the street over the past year or so. I have been reading the headlines, but hadn’t seen a whole lot of photos or footage until recently. What I see now that I am looking, for example in this video and article from The Intercept, is pretty shocking. It definitely has echos of semi-official street gangs that did the bidding of Hitler and Mussolini early on, with the government not yet openly involved in the violence but choosing to look the other way. The next step after this is traditional elites outside the government, like business, organized labor and organized religion, choosing to align themselves with what they perceive as the winning side, because they think that will lead to the largest personal gain. Eventually, all these groups unite based on a narrative of internal and/or external enemies, agree that the threat is great enough to abandon traditional political institutions, and our republic is no more.

Or not. We seem to have taken some steps down this slippery slope of an openly fascist movement with significant popular support, and some government, business, and political elites looking the other way. We can hope that the right wing movement isn’t actually growing in membership but is simply more visible and emboldened by events over the past few years. One thing on the side of the republic is simple demographics – outside of an absolute fascist state taking power by sheer force, the angry white men do not have the numbers to dominate the rest of our society. I think that may be the case, but it is not safe to count on it. The vast majority of reasonable people need to resist, not through violence because that only fans the flames, but by taking full advantage of our still semi-functional political system to get this thing under control. That means actively recruiting and supporting rational politicians, fighting for a system where one person gets one vote and money gets no votes, and nonviolent protest actions if and when it becomes clear that is the only thing that can get the attention of our politicians and elites.

the recession and the right

This editorial on History News Network links the rise of the right in Europe to the 2008 financial crisis and recession caused by American banks.

What many Americans fail to admit is that the 2008 bank-induced economic downturn was of global proportions. It triggered an international depression which caused tremendous financial pain to the industrialized West. New Right parties throughout all of Europe (National Front in France; UKIP in the UK; New Right in the Netherlands; and the New Right in Germany, for example) viewed the West’s financial-sector breakdown as an opportunity to ramp up their message. First, international agreements such as the European Union is undemocratic; and second, that immigrants are displacing ethnically pure nationals from jobs, university acceptances, what have you. “Austerity” measures passed by many European governments, at the bequest of the EU, didn’t help but only deepened the insult. To many in Europe, the 2008 depression triggered social cutbacks aimed squarely at the poor and middling ranks of society while giving a pass to the wealthy financiers who created the problem in the first place.

This dual rhetorical message, poured on thick and heavy since 2008, should give considerable pause to all those citizens that fought in, or still remember, the horrors of the Second World War. The Great Depression (1929-1937) aided Adolph Hitler’s rise. One then wonders whether our current depression (2008-??) will create another?

The saddest thing to me is that Western Europe seemed until a few years ago like the part of the world that had done the most to solve the problems of war and peace, economic and social integration. The rest of the world just needed to catch up. Now that seems somewhat in doubt. Still, war between European nation states seems all but unthinkable, and it is hard to imagine that changing anytime soon.

Trumpism, fascism, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, etc.

This article, from Salon write Robert Sharp, makes some interesting points about the Trump phenomenon. Even if he falls flat in the general election, what the experts say is inevitable (and I want to agree, but we have all been wrong about everything so far…), his success raises some disturbing questions about the mindset of the population and where the country could be headed in future decades. To summarize, the article says that by offering a return to past glory, but offering no specifics, Trump allows each person to hear what they want to hear, visualize their own personal utopia, and imagine that everyone around them agrees.

While Totalitarian regimes present themselves as harbingers of a better future, they do so by appealing to the perception of a glorious past that has since been lost due to the mismanagement of the existing politicians. Thus Hitler referenced a Wagnerian vision of Germany as the source of two of the world’s great Reichs in order to present his Third Reich as a continuation of German greatness. Similarly, Mussolini invoked the orderliness and domination of Ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy in order to restore an ancient pride that would lead to a new prominence on the world stage. Such leaders follow a common pattern, in which they blame any failures of their society on the incursion of Others, who lack the purity of the true members of the nation-state.

While the details differ, the call to action carries a consistent refrain: the totalitarian leader promises to make the country great again, to return it to past glories that have long since been lost.

In many ways, calling Trump supporters an analog to the rise of Nazi Germany is too easy, and far too dismissive. However, there is this one obvious similarity. Hitler and the Nazi party appealed to a people who believed that their Golden Age was past them, and that the world was moving on without them. The appeal of the nationalism that was offered was that it would allow a return to greatness, a necessary repeal of all of the policies, both externally imposed and internally permitted, that had led to their fall. Trump offers a very similar message, and he couches it in a way that allows his followers to fill in the blank. Whatever version of the good life they believe existed in their parents’ or grandparents’ day, that is the world that Trump plans to recreate. It is a compelling narrative, because it is their own narrative, and each individual gets to tell his or her own story while simultaneously believing that everyone else around them is thinking the same thing.

Scandinavian equality

Recently I wrote a post about how it seems ludicrous to blame the United States’s problems on an excess of democracy, if democracy is defined as equality. I also suggested that a reasonable definition of democracy should include a consensus building process, which is not just rule by majority vote, but a method to choose policies that almost everyone can accept even if they are not everyone’s first choice.

Well, the Scandinavian democracies at first glance seem to achieve equality, consensus, wealth, and peace. I want to believe in that, and to believe that we could learn its secrets and bring them to the United States. Here is a dissenting view though, in a new book about the Anders Breivik massacre in Norway:

After the Second World War, Scandinavia seemed to create model societies, free of corruption and intolerance, moral, compassionate and fair. The Danish people had bravely defied their Nazi occupiers throughout the war and saved almost all of the nation’s Jews. In 1944, the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal published a groundbreaking critique of the racism faced by African-­Americans in the United States. Myrdal’s study, “An American Dilemma,” greatly influenced President Truman’s executive order to integrate the United States military, the Supreme Court’s ruling on behalf of school desegregation, and the creation of the modern civil rights movement. In 1964, Gunnar Jahn, a former leader of the Norwegian resistance to the Nazis, handed Martin Luther King Jr. the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo. Jahn expressed the hope that “conflicts between races, nations and political systems can be solved, not by fire and sword, but in a spirit of true brotherly love.”

Today, the third-largest political party in Sweden has the support of racists and neo-Nazis. The leading political party in Denmark is not only anti-immigrant but also anti-Muslim. And the finance minister of Norway, a member of the right-wing Progress Party, once suggested that all the Romany people in her country should be deported by bus. In “One of Us,” the Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad explores a dark side of contemporary Scandinavia through the life and crimes of Anders Behring Breivik, a mass murderer who killed 77 people, most of them teenagers, as a protest against women’s rights, cultural diversity and the growing influence of Islam.

I don’t necessarily buy this. There are problems in every country, and I think the countries of northern Europe (I would throw Germany and the Netherlands into the mix) have quite possibly done the most anywhere to try to solve them and create the best human societies they can. I don’t think they claim to be utopian, only to be striving for utopian ideals. Most impressively to me, they try to build consensus not by keeping outsiders at bay and trying to remain homogeneous, but by allowing diversity and then trying to deal with it, which is the harder path. Because they have chosen the harder but potentially more rewarding path, there is a visible right-wing backlash developing. I think something similar has happened in the United States – the intolerant minority has become more vocal and visible as we have become more tolerant and pluralistic overall. This doesn’t mean there aren’t vulnerabilities – if the intolerant element becomes large and active enough to gain real power, bad outcomes are obviously possible. Economic stagnation, violence and fear can all increase the risk of bad outcomes.