who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. No, ministers – more
surveillance will not make us safer
2. Thousands of Croatia’s
Poorest Citizens Just Had Their
Debts Wiped Out
Next Corporate Sting: Rigging the Rules in Obama's
5. Syriza Official Vows to Kill EU-US Trade Deal as 'Gift to
All European People'
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday,
February 3, 2015.
This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is
about a Guardian article (with special treatment because this is good
for cellphones) about surveillance in England; item 2
is on a Croatian
plan that looks much
like my own, of 2008 (but it will not work for non-Croatians); item 3
is Robert Reich on the changes Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama
introduced, that will give all power to the rich and unprecedented
poverty and misery to the rest; item 4 contains two
that explain Obama's new tax plans: Below the lies there are enormous
savings in taxes for the rich corporations; and item 5
is about a
supposed vow "from Syriza" to save Europe from the TTIP (which I cannot
1. No, ministers – more surveillance will
not make us safer
The first item
article by Cory Doctorow on the - mostly thoroughly destroyed -
Guardian site, that now has this article headed by some 2/3rds of the
Also, this is written
again in the horrible Times font, which MUST be selected,
according to the wishes of Wolfgang Blau, it seems because it makes it
much easier for cellphones - so OK: What follows is the text as
prescribed by Herr Wolfgang Blau, for I do not want to
deny you the incredible joys of Times, and it is PRESCRIBED
on the present Guardian:
Isn't that beautiful? I mean the text's
appearance? You get it because Wolfgang Blau has prescribed it,
and I can't avoid it with my browser, and I also would not want to deny
you the incredible beauties of Times. 
It’s almost Groundhog Day.
You can tell, because the same bad internet ideas keep resurfacing, as
though everything we fought for has been wiped off the slate overnight
and we’ve woken up back at square one. Like the Snooper’s Charter –
which four Lords tried to ram into an undebated amendment to the
security bill last week, despite the fact that it was effectively
identical to several different earlier incarnations, each of which was
dismissed as a dumb, ineffective, overreaching load of Orwellian
The fact that
some deranged killers murdered some free speech advocates doesn’t make
mass surveillance (as opposed to, you know, keeping track of jihadis
who are known to be planning acts of terror, which the French spooks
failed to do, possibly because they were too busy rolling around in
their own mass-surveillance haystacks) any less stupid and unworkable.
At last week’s LSE debate After Snowden one
of the panelists pointed out that the plan to carry out mass
surveillance has been proposed – and debated at the LSE – for decades,
and always found to be unsupported in evidence. It’s expensive and it
distracts cops from looking at people who have done things that are
genuinely suspicious (such as the Tsarnaev brothers, whom the US spy
agencies stopped paying attention to because they were too preoccupied
with their Big Data terrorism-detection machine to actually follow
people who had announced their intention to commit terrorist acts).
Why does this keep coming up, despite the evidence that it doesn’t work?
As to what the text says:
"keep coming up, despite the
evidence that it doesn’t work"
political masters want all the power they can get,
and that means surveilling all on the total bullshit
pretext that this makes them safe from "terrorism" , so as to give the government the
opportunities to arrest anyone with - according to them - unpleasant
opinions of any kind, put him or her into incommunicado for three
months or so, perhaps have him or her enjoy some EIT
(as it is now
called), and have him or her sentenced by some secret court to 30 years
imprisonment or so for spouting things the government doesn't want the
people to hear.
Am I exaggerating?
Not much, if at all: This happened to Manning; it may happen to
Assange; it almost happened to Risen. And all they did was to
inform the people about some criminal things some governments did in
There is more in the article, if you want to read it.
of Croatia’s Poorest Citizens Just Had Their Debts Wiped Out
item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
A program called
“fresh start” began Monday in Croatia and it’s as incredible as it
sounds. Called “unprecedented” and “exceptional” by economists, the
plan just goes to show that some countries still know how to invest in
their citizens rather than leave them to continue to spiral in an
endless cycle of debt and poverty.
In fact, this is
according to the plan I had in 2008-2009, when the crisis started:
The Washington Post:
thousands of Croatia’s poorest citizens will benefit from an unusual
gift: They will have their debts wiped out. Named “fresh start,” the
government scheme aims to help some of the 317,000 Croatians whose bank
accounts have been blocked due to their debts.
Given that Croatia is a
relatively small Mediterranean country of only 4.4 million inhabitants,
the number of indebted citizens is significant and has become a major
economic burden for the country. After six years of recession, growth
predictions for Croatia’s economy remain low for this year.
“We assess that this
measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens,” Deputy Prime
Minister Milanka Opacic was quoted as saying by Reuters. “Thus they
will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt,”
Opacic said earlier this month.
The government will
not refund the companies for their losses.
It seemed both cheaper and more fair to me, and besides very rational,
rid of all the debts by declaring all of them zero, and start anew
while nothing in productive capacities or jobs had (yet) been lost -
and also start anew on the basis of new principles, and with properly
Meanwhile, we are 6 years of austerities - for nearly everyone who is not
very rich - further, and nearly everyone is poorer (except the rich,
who are a whole lot richer), and now we have this - for "some 60,000 citizens" of Croatia.
Well... it is a very small step, on a European scale, at least,
but I do still consider the
plan fair and rational. (But no, I do not really see this
approach grow much larger, at
least not without another major crisis, I have to admit.)
The next item is an article by
Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows (and
if you want to see Robert Reich on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that
disappeared from his website, try Robert Reich video Jan 30
: it is quite good and instructive and takes only 2 m 27 s):
Yes, indeed. Also, you -
and not only U.S. citizens - owe this to Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr. and
Obama, although Reich does not say so: They are the
political deregulators who removed nearly all the stops on
the egoistic greed of the bank managers and the other rich managers,
e.g. of Big Pharma.
How would you like to
live in an economy where robots do everything that can be predictably
programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots’ owners?
Meanwhile, human beings
do the work that’s unpredictable – odd jobs, on-call projects,
fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any
and all hours – and patch together barely enough to live on.
Brace yourself. This is
the economy we’re now barreling toward.
drivers, Instacart shoppers,
Airbnb hosts. They include Taskrabbit jobbers, Upcounsel’s
on-demand attorneys, and Healthtap’s
They’re Mechanical Turks.
The euphemism is the “share”
economy. A more accurate term would be the “share-the-scraps”
But here is Reich's judgment on the new schemes that offered "freedom,
Freedom, FREEDOM!" - for nearly everyone to be fully exploited
by the few rich:
Yes, indeed. And I agree
that this seems to be the future for nearly everyone in the West, of
course always excepting the very rich, who engineered it all,
that is: together
with "democratic politicians" from nearly every party and from nearly
The new on-demand work
shifts risks entirely onto workers, and eliminates minimal standards
In effect, on-demand work
is a reversion to the piece work of the nineteenth century – when
workers had no power and no legal rights, took all the risks, and
worked all hours for almost nothing.
Next Corporate Sting: Rigging the Rules in Obama's New
The next item is an article by
Robert Borosage on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Well... I am so
"attentive" a citizen that I know that the plan Obama rolled out is total
and is meant to be total bullshit, and indeed does not
have any realistic chance whatsoever, but then that is
the Obama technique: flatter the people by spoken lies, while ramming
the secret TTP and the secret TTIP down their
throats, so that the rich
get even richer, and the poor have to pay nearly all, while earning
President Obama rolls out
his budget today, triggering the next salvos in the debate about
America’s future. The president’s budget calls for ending the
destructive caps on federal spending known as the “sequester.” It would
make vital investments in infrastructure, education, and R&D, and
begin paying for making two years of community college free for all, a
first step to a K-16 public education plan. It would raise taxes on the
wealthy to help pay for tax breaks for working parents. Democrats are
rallying to support it.
Republican leaders have
already pronounced it “dead on arrival.” Led by Rep. Paul Ryan, they
will demonstrate their continued preference to starve public programs
and savage the most vulnerable rather than ask the rich and
corporations to pay a little more in taxes. Attentive citizens will
know exactly who is on what side.
But there is more on Common Dreams, for there also is an article by
Nadia Prupis (written a bit later, and using the previous article):
This starts as follows:
More precisely, this continues
President Barack Obama on
a new proposal as part of his 2016 budget to tax the
trillions in offshore profits made by U.S.-based multinational
corporations, but critics say the plan leaves in place a system that
"encourages companies to game the system to avoid U.S. taxes."
The proposal would impose
a 19 percent tax on the future overseas earnings of U.S.-based
companies, as well as a one-time 14 percent tax on the trillions in
offshore profits that those companies hold right now. The Obama
administration said revenues from the one-time tax will go toward
fixing the country's crumbling infrastructure and filling in a
projected gap in the Highway Trust Fund—which has suffered chronic
shortfalls as revenues from fuel taxes remain unchanged since 1993
while construction costs continue to rise.
And here is the real
plan of Obama:
"President Barack Obama's
decision to challenge international tax avoidance is laudable, but his
execution leaves a lot to be desired," said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for
Tax Justice. "If companies were required to pay the same tax rate on
their foreign profits as their domestic income, then they should owe 35
percent on their accumulated foreign profits, rather than the 14
percent that President Obama is proposing under his new transition tax."
"Such a low tax rate
would disproportionately benefit the worst corporate tax dodgers and
leave billions in tax revenue on the table that could be used to make
critical public investments," McIntyre said.
That is, Obama wants to lower
the corporate tax rate all over, because that makes the
rich much richer. Here is some background:
corporations only have to pay taxes on earnings when they bring the
money back home, at which point they’re taxed at the full 35% corporate
rate. That has led many corporations to stockpile cash overseas to
avoid being taxed, sometimes delaying repatriation indefinitely.
Under Obama’s plan, future corporate earnings overseas would face a
minimum tax of 19%, which corporations could then bring back to the
U.S. without being taxed further.
In addition, the New
York Times reports,
"The president will reiterate his call for a business income tax
overhaul that lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28
percent, and 25 percent for manufacturers."
"The last time
[corporations] pulled this scam," Borosage wrote on Monday, "they got a
huge tax break and the money was largely used for mergers and stock
buybacks, hiking the bonuses of the executive suite and doing virtually nothing for
jobs. Worse, more corporations decided they could benefit from the
scam, and started reporting more of their profits abroad. Only small
business and patriotic corporations face the nominal corporate tax rate
of 35 percent."
Yes, indeed. There is
argues Obama is making the same political mistakes that punctuated
budget negotiations with Republicans during his first term. "In rolling
out his budget, the president said he learned that it was better to
tell Americans what he thought should be done, than to compromise
pre-emptively. So why not simply end deferral and tax multinational
profits at the same rate as those of domestic businesses? Why give
companies an incentive to move production or report profits abroad?"
That seems too
sympathetic to Obama: He did not make "political mistakes" the first time either: He wanted what he got.
He also does not make any political mistakes now: he wants what
he proposes, for the very rich. (Besides, he seems to have changed his
story on "compromises", which he
has told for years: "You cannot make political deals without
Anyway... the Borosage article (and I like both) ends as follows, with
a story about Churchill:
Yes: Obama is in favor
of the rich, in the measures he signs and supports,
There is a hoary,
apocryphal, sexist story about Churchill that summarizes our situation.
Churchill was said to be seated next to a fancy socialite at a grand
dinner. Tired of her airs, Churchill supposedly asked:
“Madam, would you sleep
with me for five million pounds?”
“My goodness, Mr.
Churchill,” she responded, “Well, I suppose…we would have to discuss
terms, of course.”
Churchill: “Would you
sleep with me for five pounds?”
Churchill, what kind of woman do you take me for?”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve
already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”
This is how the rules get
rigged. We desperately need to rebuild America. The anti-tax lobby
stops sensible tax hikes. The corporate lobby grabs the opportunity.
Bipartisan support builds for another sting. And we wonder how the 1
percent has managed to capture virtually all of the country’s income
growth, while the middle class continues to sink.
while pretending to speak on the side of the poor.
But do read the two above linked articles: They are quite good.
5. Syriza Official Vows to Kill EU-US
Trade Deal as 'Gift to All European People'
The next and last item for today is an
Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I say. Do I believe it?
No, and for several reasons.
An official with Greece's
newly elected Syriza party may have sounded the death knell for a
proposed EU-U.S. trade deal that has faced a mountain of opposition
from civil society.
The deal is the
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), now facing its eighth
round of talks between negotiators this week in Brussels.
The TTIP, which would be
the biggest trade deal ever, has been criticized as a
corporate-friendly deal that threatens food and environmental safety
under the guise of "harmonization" of regulations.
now deputy minister for administrative reform, confirmed what he had
told EurActiv Greece ahead of his Syriza party's victory
last week: that his parliament would not ratify the trade deal.
"I can ensure you that a
Parliament where Syriza holds the majority will never ratify the deal.
And this will be a big gift not only to the Greek people but to all the
European people," EurActiv reported
coalition partner also appears to share the anti-TTIP views, EurActiv
reports, this means the Greeks could issue a veto, thereby threatening
to block the deal.
First, the speaker is "a deputy minister for administrative reform". I
don't mean to downsize him, but he does not appear to be a
major spokesman, and also he merely affirmed he said the same
thing before becoming "a deputy minister for administrative reform".
Second, and much more importantly: I am quite certain that
Draghi, Dijsselbloem and/or Merkel know some way to circumvent the
possibility of a veto by Greece. (They may kick the Greeks out, or they
may change the rules that allows one nation to veto all, for example.)
So while the article is quite good, I cannot believe that the Syriza
Party will succeed in killing the TTIP.
I am sorry, but I have not seen anything from any
editor or any journalist who writes for The Guardian or indeed any reader ("Comments are
for the moment disabled") about
the massive changes implemented by Herr Blau:
ALL I have seen so far was the statement by a man
called Wolfgang Blau, whom I have never heard of, that the
website of The Guardian got "changed", read: nearly totally
Since then I have to look at a site that was possibly stylish around
1992, all - it seems - because The Guardian now is fit for cellphones,
and I have to read all the headlines to find any one
headline, because photographs also are not easily displayed on
cellphones, and I have to read everything in
Times font if I read The Guardian to find anything, because cellphones
have few fonts and tiny screens, and also don't display photographs
well, and Herr Blau made Times font the only font The Guardian
Which is utter baloney: You simply cannot guard "the people"
from terrorists. It is a total Big Lie
(<-Wikipedia). The only ones for whom there are sufficient
police and military to prevent attacks on are the politicians
and the very
rich who can pay for their own safety.