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. Pension freedom day?
Pension fleecing day, more like
2. Bush White House’s Repeated
Torture Denials Led CIA
Torturers to Seek Repeated
only our MPs had the same passion as Michael Sheen
Scheer on National Security: ‘We Don’t Have
Adults Watching the Store’
the Democratic Nominee for 2016 Take on the
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday,
March 3, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is on Polly Toynbee, who fears many elderly
Brits will be fleeced (essentially by their own greed, which is why I
can't care much); item 2 is on Dan Froomkin who
correctly observes none of the higher-ups who were responsible for the
tortures in American (overseas) prisons have been prosecuted; item 3 is about British politics; item
4 is about a lecture by Robert Scheer, who concluded as I would
have; and item 5
is about Robert Reich on the things Democratic nominees in 2016 should
This got uploaded a bit earlier than usual.
1. Pension freedom day? Pension fleecing
day, more like
today is an article by Polly Toynbee on The Guardiam:
This starts as follows:
The old don’t, in
my experience, grow much wiser – but one of David Cameron’s more
cynical tropes is that anyone reaching pension age, however venal their
former lives, is magically bestowed with virtue and sagacity. Showering
better-off pensioners with bribes, Cameron avers it’s “what people who
have worked hard and saved all their lives deserve” – regardless of the
cost to current hard workers.
There is a lot more
there, and it's not nice, and Polly Toynbee is quite right in being
very worried - but I also should say that (1) my pension rights
were all of 7 euros a year (which have been bought off) and (2)
I agree that "there’s no
fool like an old fool": If people are so greedy as to sell their
pension rights to the highest bidder in the hope on more cash, I agree
they very probably are being scammed, but I will not feel
much bothered, indeed because they are old enough to know better.
Some are about to be
reminded that there’s no fool like an old fool. On “pension freedom day” – 6 April – watch the
retired scramble to withdraw lump sums: a feelgood bonanza for those
most likely to vote Conservative. Car manufacturers predict a sales
jump, so do buy-to-let estate agents and travel firms. Some will be
wise to take their cash: why not take a cruise with pension pots too
small to make much difference. But there’s alarm that fraudsters will
make off with colossal booty, and City scammers will cream off the rest.
The insurance provider
Phoenix Group says 45% of pension savers have already been contacted
by outfits encouraging them to release their cash. Offers of phenomenal
interest rates abound if they shift their pension into “amazing
investment opportunities” – rare earth minerals and phoney carbon
credits. Clever wording stays within the law – not offering “advice”,
which requires Financial Conduct Authority registration, but a
“no-obligation pension review” with “no upfront fees” and “no hidden
2. Bush White House’s Repeated Torture Denials
Led CIA Torturers to Seek Repeated Reassurances
item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as
The Bush administration
was so adamant in its public statements against torture that CIA
officials repeatedly sought reassurances that the White House officials
who had given them permission to torture in the first place hadn’t
changed their minds.
In a July 29, 2003, White
House meeting that included Vice President Dick Cheney and National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet went so
far as to ask the White House “to cease stating that US Government
practices were ‘humane’.” He was assured they would.
I say. I also note
that this was before the torturing in Abu Ghraib became known. This is
from the introduction to the Abu
Ghraib prison abuse scandal on Wikipedia:
During the war in
Iraq that began in March 2003, personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency
committed a series of human rights
violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
These violations included physical and sexual
sodomy, and murder.
Documents popularly known
as the Torture Memos came to light a few years
later. These documents, prepared shortly before the Iraq invasion by the United States Department
of Justice, authorized certain enhanced interrogation
techniques, generally held to involve torture of foreign detainees.
The memoranda also argued that international humanitarian laws, such as
the Geneva Conventions, did not apply to
American interrogators overseas.
The last set of
arguments were refuted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006.
There is also this:
The new documents don’t
actually refute any of the Senate report’s conclusions – in fact, they
include some whopper-filled slides that CIA officials showed at the
White House. But they do call attention to the report’s central flaw:
that it didn’t address who actually gave the CIA its orders.
As Cole writes:
picture that the new documents paint is not of a rogue agency, but of a
rogue administration. Yes, the CIA affirmatively proposed to use
patently illegal tactics — waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical
assault, and painful stress positions. But at every turn, senior
officials and lawyers in the White House and the Department of Justice
reassured the agency that it could — and should — go forward.
Yes indeed -
and while a few simple soldiers have been convicted for the atrocities
they committed, none of the people who commanded them,
the White House down, have ever been prosecuted.
There is considerably more under the last dotted link.
3. If only our MPs had the same passion as
item is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Yes - but the Tory
bullshit is just the bullshit of the rich pretending that their story
holds for all, and indeed succeeding to a large extent because the
media mostly agree and because Labour MPs also mostly
agree with the Tories.
“You must stand up for
what you believe, but first of all, by God, believe in something.” If
only Michael Sheen’s words were adapted for the parliamentary oath MPs
are compelled to recite as they take their seats. Sheen’s passionate plea in Tredegar – and his
defence of Britain’s most treasured institution, the NHS – will surely
resonate across political boundaries. Look at parliament, the heart of
our “representative” democracy: all too unrepresentative, technocratic,
professionalised, too full of managerialists who quibble over details
and nuances rather than meaningful differences, let alone grand visions.
If only Labour politicians
showed the same passion as Sheen in defending the NHS, people have
tweeted me. The Tories, of course, regard the NHS’s existence as some
sort of affront to their basic values: it is an institution that puts
need before profit, an approach that neoliberalism was supposed to have
definitively disposed of. Its very existence is subversive, a reminder
that society could be different.
Here is some more:
But Sheen was
making a broader argument – about a political elite that has abdicated
power to the market. This is what has eroded our democracy: having
outsourced everything from housing to basic utilities to profiteers,
politicians have surrendered so much power that it is hardly surprising
that voters lose faith in the democratic process as a vehicle for
Yes. And that is one of
the basic problems of postmodern (or post-postmodern) democracy: "Your"
elected parliamentarians are not there anymore to act and vote
for you, but they are there for themselves and their
own very well-paid careers - and
that is especially so in countries where there are but two
political parties that can seriously contend for power, such as the
U.S. and Great Britain.
Here is Owen Jones's last question, with my answer:
Why are there not
more passionate, resolute opponents of the status quo in our
parliament? In our nation of food banks, zero-hours contracts, legal
loan sharks, stagnating living standards and a shameless,
self-enriching elite, they are desperately needed.
I agree "passionate, resolute opponents of the status
quo" are very much
needed, but I do not expect them from Labour, Lib Dems or
Tories (indeed with some rare exceptions, to be sure, that do not
change my argument):
The fact that one has risen through a party and is deemed, by its
leadership, to be ready ready for parliamentary election means in
general - these days - that one has proven one is a conformist and
willing to do and say almost anything for personal profit.
And this is the same for all three domineering English parties,
with very little difference - which is also why they sound the same
on many fundamental issues.
Scheer on National Security: ‘We Don’t Have Adults Watching the Store’
item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
“To treat this apparatus
of the national security state as if it’s on any level acting in a
rational sense, other than trying to have an enemy so we can have a big
defense industry … is utter nonsense,” Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert
Scheer told an audience at a conference on nuclear weapons hosted by the
Helen Caldicott Foundation on Sunday.
He continued: “We don’t
have adults watching the store.”
I like Robert Scheer, but
this seems - somewhat subtly - mistaken on two counts.
First, I think there is
"a rational sense, other
than trying to have an enemy so we can have a big defense industry". It
is not mine, but it is there: To change the U.S. into
an authoritarian state where the power is in the hands of the rich few.
You may discuss about what
sort of authoritarian state, but
this really seems to have been the - carefully orchestrated:
Republicans usually sing from the same hymn sheet - end of the
Republicans, and indeed also of many of the leading Democrats,
and is so since the 1980ies (since when real wages for the 90% have
sunk or stayed the same, while the few rich got enormously richer).
Second, there are "adults watching the store”, though I agree
with Scheer that these adults are not rational. Also, they are
not rational because they are blinded by a combination of power and ideology, to
which very few have any rational defense, because the types that become
politicians these days are rarely well informed - intellectually, I
mean - about philosophy, politics and most other things that are
relevant to their decent functioning.
sure) and I saw part of it. (It is 28 m 14 s.)
It ends as follows (also
quoted in this article):
So finally, let me just
say, we are developing a surveillance state that protects incompetence,
protects people who do not respect freedom and will deny the American
people from having that freedom, and will usher in the 1984, Brave New
World vision of a population that censors itself because it will know
it is under constant observation.
Yes, I agree.
5. Will the Democratic Nominee for 2016 Take on
the Moneyed Interests?
The final item for today is an article by Robert Reich on
This is concerned with
the following question:
Yes. Here are a few of
the things a Democratic nominee could do:
The big unknown is
whether the Democratic nominee will also take on the moneyed interests
– the large Wall Street banks, big corporations, and richest Americans
– which have been responsible for the largest upward redistribution of
income and wealth in modern American history.
Part of this upward
redistribution has involved excessive risk-taking on Wall Street. Such
excesses padded the nests of executives and traders but required a
tax-payer funded bailout when the bubble burst in 2008. It also has
caused millions of working Americans to lose their jobs, savings, and
And here are some more
things a Democratic nominee might do:
The Democratic candidate
could condemn this, and go further — promising to resurrect the Glass-Steagall
Act, once separating investment from commercial banking (until the
Clinton administration joined with Republicans in repealing it in
The candidate could also
call for busting up Wall Street’s biggest banks and thereafter limiting
their size; imposing jail sentences on top executives who break the
law; cracking down on insider trading; and, for good measure, enacting
a small tax on all financial transactions in order to reduce
The candidate could
demand an end to corporate welfare and excessive intellectual property
protection, along with tougher antitrust enforcement against giant
firms with unwarranted market power.
And an end to trade
agreements that take a big toll on wages of working-class
The candidate could also
propose true tax reform: higher corporate taxes, in order to finance
investments in education and infrastructure; ending all deductions of
executive pay in excess of $1 million; and cracking down on
corporations that shift profits to countries with lower taxes.
There are more things
listed by Robert Reich, who also asks:
But will she (or he) do
any of this?
My own answer to that
question is: Not if "she" is Hillary Clinton. In fact, I know
of only two people who might try: Jesse Ventura
Sanders - but I do not know they will run, and it seems less
likely they will be the nominee if Hillary Clinton runs, which may be
taken as a virtual certainty.