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Nederlog


  November
19, 2014
Crisis: NSA con's*2, Cameron*2, "Militants", Growth, Tax Deceptions, U.S. Corporations
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















Prev- crisis -Next
Sections
Introduction

1.
Senate Republicans block landmark NSA surveillance
     reform bill

2.
 NSA Reform Bill Dies As Republicans Hype Threats From
     Islamic State

3. Don’t cling to Nurse Cameron, there’s a fair way to fix our
     economy

4. Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong
     to blame the world

5. On Media Outlets That Continue to Describe Unknown
     Drone Victims As “Militants”

6. Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased
7. Danny Alexander claims Tories and Labour are guilty of a
     ‘grand deception’

8. 7 Corporations That Pay Their CEOs More Than They Pay
     in Taxes


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 19. It is a
crisis log.

There are 8 items with 8 dotted links: Item 1 and 2 are on the major failure of the Senate to start to block spying; item 3 and 4 are about Cameron's warnings of a new crisis; item 5 is about Glenn Greenwald on the arbitrary killings drones do; item 6 is about  Monbiot on growth; item 7 is about a somewhat amazing opinion of Danny Alexander; and item 8 makes clear how incredibly much a few major corporations screw the U.S. taxpayers.

And yes, it is all quite disappointing, and especially
items 1 and 2, but that is how it is.
Also, item 8 is quite interesting and deserves reading in full: The big U.S. corporations
really are screwing the U.S. tax payers in major ways.

And here goes:

1. Senate Republicans block landmark NSA surveillance reform bill

The first item today is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Nearly 18 months after Edward Snowden’s disclosures upended the secret world of US surveillance, the US Senate has rejected the most politically viable effort to rein in the National Security Agency in almost four decades.

The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year that sought to end the NSA’s ongoing daily collection of practically all US phone data, failed to reach a 60-vote threshold to cut off debate and move to passage.

Senators, mostly Republicans warning of leaving the country exposed to another terrorist attack, voted to beat back the bill, which had been warily backed by the Obama administration, technology giants and most civil libertarian groups.

It was the denouement to over a year’s worth of political drama, characterized by shifting alliances and a reduction in ambitions for constraining the NSA, even in a post-Snowden Congress.

Although the domestic phone data dragnet has not thwarted any terrorist attacks, in the lead up to the vote critics savaged the bill as a gift to terrorists.

I say, though not really: The US Senate wants everybody spied upon, in majority, and in spite of Edward Snowden's disclosures, and also in spite of the fact that they learned that Keith Alexander lied to them when he claimed "54 attacks were thwarted": None were. Also, the bill was brought down by sick and sickening propaganda about "the dangers of terrorists", in the best traditions of Hermann Goering, that in fact was based on nothing definite that the NSA found, and was merely fear mongering.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, but there is also Dan Froomkin on the same news, who is next:

2. NSA Reform Bill Dies As Republicans Hype Threats From Islamic State

The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Senate Republicans, ratcheting up their rhetoric about the threat posed by the Islamic State, on Tuesday night sank the only significant legislative attempt to rein in the National Security Agency in the nearly year and a half since  American citizens first learned they were being spied on by their own government.

The procedural vote to move forward on the USA Freedom Act required 60 votes. It received 58. All but one Democrat and four libertarian-leaning Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The rest of the Republicans — including libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (R-Ky.) —  voted against, along with Florida Democrat Bill Nelson. (Here’s the rollcall of the vote.)

During a brief debate before the vote, Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss warned that members of the Islamic State “want people to walk the streets of New York… and start killing people.”  And, displaying either a real or feigned ignorance of the extraordinary latitude the NSA will continue to enjoy when it comes to spying on international communications, he suggested that the bulk collection of domestic phone records was necessary to ferret out such plans. (Watch video of the debate.)

There is more in the article, of which I will only quote this bit:
Looking around the chamber, Leahy concluded: “If we do not protect the Constitution, we do not deserve to be in this body.”
Yes, indeed. Accordingly, the majority of the Senate does "not deserve to be in this body” - and I quite agree, although I know this doesn't help either.

It seems that for the time being and - at least - for the next two years, the U.S. will be going further down the road towards the authoritarian surveillance state that spies on everybody to know all their private secrets, and that only works for the very rich.

3. Don’t cling to Nurse Cameron, there’s a fair way to fix our economy

The next item is an article by Polly Toynbee on The Guardian:
This starts as follows (and criticizes Cameron, who was reviewed here in Nederlog):

David Cameron’s pitch in the Guardian that “red warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of the global economy” will no doubt draw some wry smiles from readers, with good reason.

Ah, so when global tremors threaten a Conservative government, it’s not their fault. But when the greatest global crash in generations strikes a Labour government, the cause is Gordon Brown overspending on tax credits for the low paid. Looking for foreigners to blame is no surprise, since as things stand under Cameron and George Osborne, debt is rising; the deficit is on the up again; welfare spending is £16.5bn overshot due to high rents and low pay; Treasury receipts are falling; living standards are flat or down after three years of flat-lining austerity; while inequality rises and social mobility sinks.

Yes, of course - but David Cameron wants it that way i.e. that "living standards are flat or down after three years of flat-lining austerity; while inequality rises and social mobility sinks" - for were it otherwise he would have acted otherwise.

According to Polly Toynbee, there is some cause for hope:
(...) last week Ed Miliband bet the bank – plus bankers’ bonuses – that ballooning inequality was the great issue of our time. He’s not alone, as the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and even Mark Carney of the Bank of England identify it as the root cause of long-term economic woe: if too many are paid too little, who buys the goods and pays the taxes?
Well... I agree with the argument, but then the argument is at least six years old, and Miliband hasn't seen it until now, so I must conclude he is looking more for future voters rather than for anything else. That also may be the only way to tame Cameron (namely by defeating him), but I distrust Labour as much as I distrust the Tories and Ukip, though I agree Labour is very probably the least bad of the three.

Also, here is another take on the same story, namely by Keynes' biographer:

4. Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world

The next item is an article by Robert Skidelsky (whom I "know" as Keynes' biographer: I read about 2/3rd of his 3 volumes on Keynes):
This starts as follows:

Ministers are up to their old game of blaming everyone but themselves for Britain’s economic woes. First, they said they were “clearing up the mess” left by Labour. When recovery stalled in 2010, it was because of the Greek crisis. Now David Cameron warns of a new recession even before it has happened– because Europe is not doing its job of recovering properly.

Cameron is right to warn that the world is on the brink of a third recession. But he is wrong to say that this makes it even more necessary for Britain to stick to its “long-term economic plan” of deficit and debt reduction. Because it is these deficit and debt-reduction policies, implemented throughout the European Union, that have been causing the “red lights” of recession to start flashing.

In fact, I think Cameron knows that very well, and the reason is indeed one Robert Skidelsky gives (and that quite a few other economically somewhat enlightened others have given, ever since 2008):
The reason is obvious to common sense but escapes the refined logic of treasuries and central banks. The amount of activity in an economy depends on the total of spending. Spending creates incomes: incomes create jobs.
Yes, of course - but I do not think this "escapes the refined logic of treasuries and central banks", for it indeed is common - Keynesian - sense: The reason they "do not see" this is that they do not want to see it, and they do not want to see it because they are working for the rich much rather than the poor, and the rich profit a lot from austerity (and also see item 8 below).

I really think it is as simple as that: it is not that this is not seen, it is much more simply that this is not wanted: They do not want to support the poor; they want to support the rich. It's as simple as that. (But I agree Cameron will never publicly admit he works for the rich, though he clearly does, also as a millionaire himself.)

5. On Media Outlets That Continue to Describe Unknown Drone Victims As “Militants”

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

It has been more than two years since The New York Times revealed that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” of his drone strikes which “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

Yes. What they are doing is blowing people up and declaring everyone "a terrorist", also if they have no evidence of any kind who those they definitely murdered really are, as indeed they usually do not have. It is like throwing hand grenades into a crowd, on the theory that anyone who gets killed must be "a terrorist".

Glenn Greenwald gives rather a lot more evidence, and then sums up as follows:

All of this has achieved the desired effect. Any time you discuss U.S. drone attacks, you inevitably will be told that the U.S. government is killing “terrorists” and “militants”—even though the people making that claim have absolutely no idea who the government is actually killing. It’s easy to dismiss that mindset as supreme irrationality and authoritarianism—what kind of person runs around claiming their government is killing “terrorists” and “militants” when they have no idea who the victims are?—but they’re just adopting the formula for how the U.S. government and media have consciously chosen to propagandize on this issue.

Yes. In fact, it is propaganda that has been inspired by quite intentionally chosen
"
irrationality and authoritarianism", namely because it kills arbitrarily, without knowing who gets killed, while declaring them "terrorists" and "militants" because they got killed. As I said: It is like throwing hand grenades into a crowd, on the theory that anyone who gets killed must be "a terrorist".

And as Greenwald says: It simply continues in the mass media, who all support the U.S. government whatever it does.

6.  Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
Another crash is coming. We all know it, now even David Cameron acknowledges it. The only questions are what the immediate catalyst will be, and when it begins.
(..,)
Housing bubbles in several countries, including Britain, could pop any time. A report in September revealed that total world debt (public and private) is 212% of GDP. In 2008, when it helped cause the last crash, it stood at 174%. The Telegraph notes that this threatens to cause “renewed financial crisis … and eventual mass default”. Shadow banking has gone beserk, stocks appear to be wildly overvalued, the eurozone is bust again. Which will blow first?

Or perhaps it’s inaccurate to describe this as another crash. Perhaps it’s a continuation of the last one, the latest phase in a permanent cycle of crisis exacerbated by the measures (credit bubbles, deregulation, the curtailment of state spending) that were supposed to deliver uninterrupted growth.
Yes - the last paragraph is quite correct: it is crisis and it was crisis ever since 2008, at least for the poor and the middle class, though indeed not for the rich (and as I said yesterday: that covers for me some 10%, of the mega-rich, the very rich, the rich, and their pretty large army of eager and well-paid servants - journalists, CEOs, military folks, politicians, academics etc.)

Then again, I do not really know another crash is coming, though I think it is more likely than not, especially because essentially nothing has been done to make it certain or probable that there would be no next crash (raising taxes for the rich, closing tax loopholes, sending fraudulent bankmanagers to jail etc. etc. - and see item 8) while the same or worse situation as produced the crash of 2008 continues to be the case.

There is also this:
For the first time in 170 years, parliament will debate one aspect of the problem: the creation of money. Few people know that 97% of our money supply is created not by the government (or the central bank), but by commercial banks in the form of loans. At no point was a democratic decision made to allow them to do this. So why do we let it happen?
Well... the answer to that must be: Because it seems profitable. But it is indeed exceedingly odd that the creation of money now gets discussed for the first time since
1844.

Finally, as to growth: I agree with the title, as I also agree that it is difficult to discuss either growth ("of profits", "of the economy") or capitalism in a brief article, but indeed Monbiot has hardly discussed growth in this article.


7. Danny Alexander claims Tories and Labour are guilty of a ‘grand deception’

The next item is an article by Nicholas Watt on The Guardian:
This starts as follows, though I should first say who Danny Alexander is: The Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury (for I didn't know either):

Britain’s two main political parties are guilty of a “grand deception” by claiming that they can either cut taxes or maintain public spending without spelling out in detail how their plans will be funded, Danny Alexander said on Tuesday.

In a move to reinforce the Liberal Democrats’ claim to be a moderating force in the centre ground, the chief secretary to the Treasury said that neither Labour nor the Tories were being honest about the £30bn of extra savings that need to be achieved.

Speaking to journalists at a Westminster lunch, Alexander ridiculed Tory plans for tax cuts of up to £7bn in the next parliament while pledging to deliver an overall budget surplus. He also dismissed Labour, which outlined plans at its conference for tax increases of £2.5bn to help fund around 2% of the NHS budget.

He said: “A political class that rushes to proclaim what it will spend and how it will cut taxes without saying how it will be funded, when there are thirty-odd billion of savings that need to be found, are attempting a grand deception. If we don’t collectively level with people over the next six months our already-damaged political system will become more tarnished yet.”

I say, for I agree. Then again, while I agree that both the Tories and Labour "are attempting a grand deception", I do not know whether this is anything but an attempt to get more votes to the Lib Dems, nor do I know whether the grand deceptions that the Tories and Labour are each engaging in will fail. That is, I am quite sure the plans will fail, but I do not know whether the deceptions will fail, and indeed the plans are there mostly to deceive: They are quite irrealistic, as Alexander pointed out.

But OK - this is something, though indeed not much.

8.
7 Corporations That Pay Their CEOs More Than They Pay in Taxes

The next and last item for today is an article by Isaiah J. Poole on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:

This week leaders in Congress are trying to decide what action to take on a set of “tax extenders” – a hodge-podge of tax breaks that range from the arguably meritorious to the patently absurd that could cost the government as much as $590 billion if Congress adopted a package favored by House Republicans.

While that fight brews, it pays to remember the work Congress is not doing to ensure corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Some of the consequences are laid out in  a report released today by The Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies.

That report finds that 29 of America’s 100 largest corporations paid more to their CEO than they did to the federal government in taxes in 2013. In fact, the report states, “The 29 firms reported $24 billion in U.S. profits last year and yet collected $238 million in tax refunds.” That’s right: these firms not only did not pay net federal taxes; they received a refund.

And here are some of them - and note e.g. Jamie Dimon and the tax breaks these enormous corporations get:



Note the first column of numbers give the pre-tax incomes of the CEOs. There's also this at the end of the article (that is well worth reading in full):

“Corporations are turning to taxpayers as never before to fund basic business expenses that have previously been paid for by shareholders,” the report concludes. Even more outrageously, “America’s corporations then ask the nation’s working families to pick up part of the cost of paying CEOs, most of whom earn more in a year than most of their low-level workers could earn in several lifetimes.”

Most of the voters who went to the polls earlier this month find this repugnant, but congressional campaigns are funded by the very corporations who are this week lobbying to keep these and other tax advantages on the books.
Yes, indeed.
---------------------------------
Notes
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.


About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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