This has the
following subtitle (that makes a mistake that the title doesn't make):
The budget plan 'fixes an
economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities
American families need to get ahead,' says Congressional Progressive
Surely a plan
does not fix the economy?! The title correctly says: "aims".
And there is no reason to assume the plan will be adopted by
Congress, although that indeed is no reason not to propose it. Anyway -
this starts as follows:
Offering a sustainable
alternative to regressive federal budget proposals put
forth this week by the Republican majorities on Capitol Hill, the
Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday released The
People's Budget: A Raise for America, which aims to
"level the playing field" for low- and middle-income Americans.
Here is an outline (but
again formulated with that mistake):
"The People's Budget
fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the
opportunities American families need to get ahead," the document reads.
"Despite their skills and work ethic, most American workers workers and
families are so financially strapped from increasing income inequality
that their paychecks barely cover basic necessities. They earn less and
less as corporations and the wealthy continue amassing record profits.
It has become clear to American workers that the system is rigged."
budget (pdf), in turn, attempts to un-rig that system by:
- creating new jobs
- increasing the minimum
- reversing harmful cuts
to safety net programs (and then bolstering those same supports)
- implementing new tax
brackets for those who earn more than $1 million annually
- providing debt-free
college to every student
- enacting a price on
carbon pollution and investing in renewable energy
- allowing states to
transition to single-payer health care systems
- funding public
financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics.
Broadly speaking, I
agree - although (1) plans do not "fix an economy" and
(2) the present plan does not have any chance of being adopted
by the present Congress.
But yes: It is true that there are viable alternative plans to
those desired by the GOP, and they deserve to be known, which is the
reason it is listed here.
psychology of mass government surveillance: How do the public respond
and is it changing our behaviour?
This starts as follows:
item is an article by Chris Chambers on The Guardian:
International has today reported the outcome of a Yougov survey in 15,000 people across 13 countries,
studying for the first time international views of mass surveillance
and whether the public believe it is changing their own behaviour.
This is at least
an interesting survey. Here are some main results - and there is much
more in the article (which also is cursed by one of Wolfgang Blau's horrible
"innovations": all graphics are printed in a half see-through format that
makes all graphics exceedingly vague: This Is The New Guardian
(That Is Horrible To See) ).
The first result is that there is no majority support for
surveillance anywhere - which is good to know:
Across all 13
countries, there was no majority support for surveillance – only 26% of
people, overall, agreed that the government should monitor the
communications and Internet activity of its own citizens, while a
similar number (29%) felt their government should monitor overseas
citizens. Only 17% of respondents believed their government should
monitor everybody - citizens, foreign nationals, and foreign
countries - while twice as many (34%) believed their government should
never monitor any of these groups.
That is quite good, and
indeed better than I expected (but please note that this is not
behavior but opinion: Real behavior may differ rather a lot
from publicly asked opinions).
There is also
this, that seems a bit strange to me, although it does fit rather well
with the thesis that most men are nationalists ("My Country Right Or
In all surveyed
countries, more people were in favour of their government monitoring
foreign nationals (45%) than citizens (26%). In some countries the rate
of agreement for monitoring foreign nationals was more than double that
Next, there is this (but again
I have a warning that this is not about real behavior but about
In almost all the
surveyed countries, most people (60% on average) said that surveillance
would not change their tendency to publicly criticise their government.
And, interestingly, for those people who indicated that it would change
their behaviour, surveillance was usually associated with more
criticism rather than less.
There are considerably more
results that you can get by clicking the last dotted link. And there is
this general conclusion:
We now have data
suggesting that surveillance is generally unpopular and that it could
be changing some aspects of our behaviour. As the UK begins revising its surveillance laws, policy makers
may do well to heed such evidence.
nations are supposed to be democratic. I agree this is merely a survey,
but yes: Given that surveillance is quite impopular, it should be
In a real democracy, that is (in which I never lived, to be sure).
not fool ourselves. We may not bribe, but corruption is rife in Britain
item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
It just doesn’t compute.
Almost every day the news is filled with stories that look to me like
corruption. Yet on Transparency International’s corruption index
Britain is ranked 14th out of 177 nations, suggesting that it’s
one of the best-run nations on Earth. Either all but 13 countries are
spectacularly corrupt or there’s something wrong with the index.
Yes, it’s the index. The
definitions of corruption on which it draws are narrow and
selective. Common practices in the rich nations that could reasonably
be labelled corrupt are excluded; common practices in the
poor nations are emphasised.
This week a
ground-changing book called How Corrupt is Britain?, edited by David
Whyte, is published. It should be read by anyone who believes this
country merits its position on the index.
In fact, this seems mostly
like a review of the last mentioned book. Here are, to start with, some
of the practices that seem corrupt to George Monbiot (and me)
but that tend to be seen as ordinary business by ordinary
Would there still be
commercial banking sector in this country if it weren’t for corruption?
Think of the list of scandals: pensions mis-selling, endowment mortgage
fraud, the payment protection insurance scam, Libor rigging, insider
trading and all the rest. Then ask yourself whether fleecing the
public is an aberration – or the business model.
Clearly, fleecing the
public is the business model since Obama and Holder have
arranged it so that big banks and their managers can do what they
please and will not be prosecuted. And in fact:
No senior figure has been
held criminally liable or has even been disqualified for the practices
that helped to trigger the financial crisis, partly because the laws
that should have restrained them were slashed by successive
governments. A former minister in this government ran HSBC while it engaged in systematic
tax evasion, money laundering for drugs gangs and the
provision of services to Saudi and Bangladeshi banks linked to the
financing of terrorists. Instead of
prosecuting the bank, the head of the UK’s tax office went to work for it
when he retired.
There is a considerable
amount more, which you can find by clicking on the last dotted link. It
is a good list, but it also does presuppose one has been following the
news fairly closely.
Here is George Monbiot's
How Corrupt is Britain?
argues that such narrow conceptions of corruption [that limit it
to the giving of bribes - MM] are part of a long tradition
of portraying the problem as something confined to weak
nations, which must be rescued by “reforms” imposed by colonial
powers and, more recently, bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF.
These “reforms” mean austerity, privatisation, outsourcing and
deregulation. They tend to suck money out of the hands of the poor and
into the hands of national and global oligarchs.
For organisations such as
the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, there is little
difference between the public interest and the interests of global
corporations. What might look like corruption from any other
perspective looks to them like sound economics. The power of
global finance and the immense wealth of the global elite are
founded on corruption, and the beneficiaries have an interest in
framing the question to excuse themselves.
Yes, many poor nations
are plagued by the kind of corruption that involves paying bribes to
officials. But the problems plaguing us run deeper. When the
system already belongs to the elite, bribes are superfluous.
Yes, that seems mostly
correct, though it should be added or stressed that present day enormous
corruptions that enrich the few have been made possible by Reagan,
Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama's deregulation
of the laws that forbade corruption.
Appeal to Israel's Right Pays Off as Netanyahu Survives to Win
item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
With a desperate lurch to
appease the far-right of the Israeli electorate in the final days
before national elections in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
was able to declare a re-election victory for his Likud Party early
Wednesday morning despite a nail-biting campaign and a recent surge by
the more moderate Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog.
"Against all odds: a great victory for Likud," Netanyahu declared to
supporters in Tel Aviv, shortly after Herzog conceded.
One way of explaing
this "Against all odds"
result is to assume the elections may have been rigged. Then again,
this possibility is nowhere mentioned, and it seems
commentators are agreed the elections were honest. 
There is considerably more
in the article, which I leave to your interests, but it also mentions
another article that I have also read and found sensible. It is by
Gideon Levy and was originally published in the Israeli paper Haaretz:
The title, to be sure, must
be satirical. It starts as follows:
The first conclusion that
arose just minutes after the announcement of the exit polls was
particularly discouraging: The nation must be replaced. Not another
election for the country's leadership, but general elections to choose
a new Israeli people – immediately. The country urgently needs that. It
won’t be able to stand another term for Benjamin Netanyahu, who emerged
last night as the man who will form the next government.
If after six years of
nothing, if after six years of sowing fear and anxiety, hatred and
despair, this is the nation's choice, then it is very ill indeed. If
after everything that has been revealed in recent months, if after
everything that has been written and said, if after all this, the
Israeli phoenix succeeded in rising from the ashes and getting
reelected, if after all this the Israeli people chose him to lead for
another four years, something is truly broken, possibly beyond repair.
Netanyahu deserves the
Israeli people and they deserve him. The results are indicative of the
direction the country is headed: A significant proportion of Israelis
has finally grown detached from reality. This is the result of years'
worth of brainwashing and incitement.
I agree the result
was very disappointing. But then it also is a result that is
the product of "six years
of sowing fear and anxiety, hatred and despair." There is more in the
5. John Hilary: Proposed TTIP Agreement Is
The last item
today is an article by Michael Nevradakis on
This starts as follows (with a small
correction by me):
of London-based human rights and anti-poverty organization War on Want John
Hilary discusses the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP), which is currently being negotiated in secret
between the European Union and the United States, and the potential
adverse impacts of this agreement on the economy, employment, corporate
regulation and the environment.
This is a very good interview that
you should read all of. Here are two bits:
In fact, since the interested
parties are exclusively lawyers and lobbyist for the big
corporations, and governments I'd say it is not so much
Stalinist as fascist - where I can point to this definition of
"fascism" in the American Heritage Dictionary:
One of the
characteristics of this agreement is the secrecy that is surrounding
it. Apparently, members of the European Parliament who have followed
the negotiations for TTIP have been essentially forced to sign
confidentiality agreements. Is this correct?
correct, and the level of secrecy surrounding these negotiations means
that ordinary people across Europe and most of the national members of
parliament have no idea what's going on. The European Commission placed
a 30-year ban on all public access to the key documents behind TTIP
right at the beginning of the negotiations. Any members of the European
Parliament who are given access to the special reading rooms where they
can see some of the documents - they have to sign documents promising
that they will not share any of what they've seen outside that room.
Really, it's like a scene from the Stalinist Soviet past, where you
have individual documents marked with secret markings, so that they can
trace the source of any leaks when the documents do go out into the
public domain. It's profoundly un-transparent and anti-democratic, and
it's destroying any credibility within the European Commission itself.
"A system of government that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of
state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
There is also this:
And there are
already examples that this is happening (and I summarize here from the
One of the main
areas of contention surrounding TTIP are the so-called "investor-state
dispute settlements," which would allow multinational corporations to
sue sovereign governments over policies that they do not agree with, in
special courts. Could you share with us some examples of what these
settlement courts are like and what this would mean as far as oversight
of these corporations?
You're right to say that
this is one of the most controversial areas of TTIP, this idea that
corporations could be elevated to the status of nation-states, and they
would be given the right to sue sovereign governments in special
courts. I think it's important to say that this is not using the
normal, domestic judicial system; it's a parallel system of justice
[that] is available only to those corporations. So for the first time,
a US corporation could have access to these corporate courts to be able
to sue our governments if they felt that their profits in the future
were going to be undermined.
Canada wanted to block the poisonous MMT but was backed down by Ethyl,
a U.S. corporation; Slovakia wanted to reverse the impopular health
privatization, but was backed down by a Dutch company of profiteers,
that also was awarded 22 million dollars; Egypt wants to introduce a
minimum wage, but is sued by a French company that wants to profit as
much as it can; Philip Morris is sueing the Australian government for
plain packaging requirements on all cigarettes; and a Swedish company
is sueing the German government for trying to phase out nuclear power.
And that is before the TTIP has been accepted!! As John Hilary
This is a
fundamental challenge to our national sovereign democracies. Do we not
have the right, as democratic countries, to decide our future policies
without having to pay off every corporation [that] wants to take action
against us? I think people in Europe are absolutely outraged when they
hear what this ISDS clause means, and that's why it's become so toxic
in the TTIP negotiations.
But the "people in Europe" are not supposed to even read these
proposals, nor are their parliamentarians supposed to read them
without committing themselves that "they will not share any of what they've seen"!
Anyway - as I said: You should read all of this article if youn want to
understand what the big corporations and their governmental politicians
(often former big corporation rulers or lawyers) have secretly
in store for every European.