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Nederlog

May 9, 2015
Crisis: Great Britain, Nightmare, Live, Democracy, Snowden, TPP
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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
















Sections
Introduction
1. The country is screwed, the electorate is evil ... but here
     are nine reasons to be cheerful

2.
A nightmarish result – but a politics of hope could rise  
     from these ashes

3.
Election 2015 live: results day – as it happened
4. Democracy is a religion that has failed the poor
5. Edward Snowden says Australia’s new data retention
     laws are 'dangerous'

6. The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Dirtiest Trade Deal
     You’ve Never Heard Of



Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 9, 2015.

There was an earlier file today, but that was mostly a repeat of a similar file I wrote precisely 5 years ago. The present file is a
crisis blog, but it is not quite ordinary, because the first four items are about the British elections of May 7.

Here is a brief survey of the items: Item 1 is about a bullshit piece by The Guardian's new humorist (?) (who isn't funny, at all); item 2 is a serious piece by The Guardian's Owen Jones; item 3 is from a survey on The Guardian about the elections; item 4 is a fair though quite disappointed article by an Anglican priest, also on The Guardian. Item 5 is the first item that is not about the British elections: it is about Edward Snowden, and is interesting, while item 6 is a
good 3 minute video on the TPP.

I am sorry if there was too much on the British elections, but I did want to
quote some different views, and if you don't want to read them, you're free to skip them.

Tomorrow there will again be a normal crisis file (is my guess).

1. The country is screwed, the electorate is evil ... but here are nine reasons to be cheerful

The first item today is an article by Stuart Heritage on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Look, I know. It hurts. None of us were expecting this. And, upon glancing around this morning, the overwhelming instinct is to succumb to outright despair. The country is screwed. The electorate is evil. The UK has become a flat, ugly, smouldering disaster zone, and by the year 2020 we’ll all be dressed in rags and feasting on abandoned placentas for sustenance, like the people in Threads. This is all absolutely true. However, we are human beings. We’ve got this far by weathering countless storms, by picking ourselves up after being knocked down, by finding chinks of light in oppressively grey skies. We’ve endured worse than this.

I do not know who Stuart Heritage is. He seems to be someone who got stuck in exaggerations, over the top claims, and general silliness, but he may be the future top commenter of the Guardian. I don't know, except that he is not serious and I don't like his "style".

Here is the ending of the piece (minus a picture of a pie):

Also, we’ll all be dead soon!

We live on a coldly rotating speck in an ocean of total nothingness, and nothing we do can ever truly matter. All is blackness and abstract cruelty. There is no point to us, and soon we will be gone. The universe will spin on, oblivious.

(pie picture)

It’s National Coconut Cream Pie Day!

Yummy! Admittedly it’s only National Coconut Cream Pie Day in America, and also coconut creme pies sound legitimately disgusting, but that doesn’t matter! Pies are fun! Whee! Let’s all eat a coconut cream pie! Eat it! Eat the pain away! Never stop eating! Eat the pie! Eat the damn pie! Eat it!

I hope you liked this very humorous piece on The Guardian...

2.  A nightmarish result – but a politics of hope could rise from these ashes

The next item is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:

This is a serious piece, and it starts as follows:

It is a victory most Tories could never have dreamed of, and a defeat beyond the nightmares of most of their opponents.

The collapse of Labour in Scotland, and the stirring of English nationalism, Ed Miliband’s personal ratings, the blame directed at Labour for the economic crisis, the lack of a coherent Labour alternative, the Tories’ devastatingly effective messaging: all could be ignored, fingers in collective ears, because the polls consistently suggested David Cameron was heading for the exit.

The polls seemed to defy gravity, but after the great 1992 polling calamity, it seemed impossible they could be so monstrously wrong. And so, in the final weeks of the campaign, the doubts could be suppressed in the name of evicting the Tories, an outcome that seemed tantalisingly close. Well, no longer.

Because the Tories won the elections, and in a way no one had expected.

Here is the end of the article:

It is beyond delusional to believe that narrowing the political gap with the Tories will win back SNP, Green and Ukip voters. Labour faces what happened to its social democrat equivalents in Greece and Spain: there, they have been challenged by more radical elements. Here, it is the SNP, the rightwing populism of Ukip, and the Greens.

There will be a big debate now over the future of the Labour party, and what the left does next. This country desperately needs a politics of hope that answers people’s everyday problems on living standards, job security, housing, public services and the future of their children. That is needed more than ever, no matter what happens with the Labour leadership.

What is needed is a movement rooted in the lives of working-class people and their communities. The future of millions of people depends on it.

I left out a good lot, which I also don't quite agree with. I agree with the last part, although I have two questions - and no, I really don't know the answers:

First, while I agree with Owen Jones that it "is beyond delusional to believe that narrowing the political gap with the Tories will win back SNP, Green and Ukip voters", I have no idea whether the current or next Labour leaders see it in the same or similar terms.

Indeed, I deny that Labour-since-Blair is a "social democrat" party: Blair and Clinton did away with socialism and with social democracy and pretended that what would work out very favorably to careerist men like themselves would also work out for the very many poor and middle class voters they deceived. (The same is true of "social democracy" in several other European countries, and especially in Holland.)

And since most of the policies Labour touted since Blair were not at all socialist or social democratic, and since most of Labour's leaders since Blair were careerists, I have no idea where Labour will be.

Personally - and I am not a socialist or a social democrat, and indeed have hardly seen a real one in politics since 1980, at the latest [1] - I'd say that the present times are a lot better for really socialist or social democratic policies, but I also know this may well be beyond the present supposedly "social democratic" parties (for they presently are much like the left wing of the liberal conservatives, and have been so for a long time).

So I really don't know.

Second, I have a rather serious question about "working-class people":

Do these still exist? I suppose there still are a few, in their sixties or seventies, but I sincerely doubt the forty-year olds or the twenty and thirty-year olds (i) have the education their parents or grandparents had (and if they are poor and not highly educated, their education seems in fact worse) and (ii) whether they work as "working class" (making something in a factory, rather than answering the phone in an office) or indeed (iii) whether they would want to be regarded as "working class": even if they solidly are, in terms of income and education, for it would seem to me that most have "learned" that they are "consumers" who don't owe any solidarity or allegiance to anything like a "working class".

But again I really don't know.

3. Election 2015 live: results day – as it happened

The next item is an article on The Guardian by many journalists that charted the British elections as they happened:

The latest entry is as follows:

Nearly 12 hours have passed since that Westminster-shattering exit poll flashed on our TV screens like a bad joke. Perhaps Jeremy Vine has cocked up his CGI? Nope, it’s on Sky too ... well, perhaps the poll will be wrong. Of course, it was wrong. The Tories did even better than the bombshell poll predicted, and Labour fared worse.

Now, for many, Britain looks and feels like a different place, as if emerging from a night in hospital after being treated for concussion. The 11.3 million who voted Conservative may well be snuggling into the security blanket of a majority government tonight. But those voters who didn’t back the Tories are likely left feeling exposed, chilled by the uncertainty about what might unfold. Ripping up the Human Rights Act, bringing in the snoopers’ charter, risking an exit from the European Union.

What will these fundamental changes mean to the future of the country? And what fresh designs will be drawn up for Britain in the corridors of power, as the Conservatives embark on five years of near-unfettered reign?

I don't know, except that the England I have known for 45 years (and where I lived for more than half a year, in the seventies and eighties) will be destroyed.

The other news I saw in this article:

Ed Miliband resigns after accepting responsibility for Labour defeat
Farage quits as Ukip leader after losing seat but may stand for re-election
Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls loses seat to Tories

either meanwhile disappeared (I have been looking at this since early yesterday) or moved somewhere downwards, and I'll leave them to your interests. I do have two remarks, though:

Although I think Ed Miliband was less bad than Blair and Brown, he also was no "socialist" or "social democrat" leader in any sense that I have seen, and I don't mind to see him leave.

And one of the very few things I liked about this election was that Farage gets no seat, and Ukip got but one seat.


4. Democracy is a religion that has failed the poor  

The next item is an article by Giles Fraser on The Guardian:
I think the religion fits in because Giles Fraser is "a priest-in-charge at St Mary's Newington in south London", but this article seems mostly correct (and a whole lot better than item 1).

This starts as follows:
Right now I feel ashamed to be English. Ashamed to belong to a country that has clearly identified itself as insular, self-absorbed and apparently caring so little for the most vulnerable people among us. Why did a million people visiting food banks make such a minimal difference? Did we just vote for our own narrow concerns and sod the rest? Maybe that’s why the pollsters got it so badly wrong: we are not so much a nation of shy voters as of ashamed voters, people who want to present to the nice polling man as socially inclusive, but who, in the privacy of the booth, tick the box of our own self-interest.
Yes, indeed - and yes: that Englishmen mostly voted "for [their] narrow concerns and sod the rest" seems at least one decent explanation for the outcome of the elections: "If you are poor or ill, too bad for you, but fuck you!" [2]

There is also this:
The utterly miserable thought strikes me that Russell Brand just might have been right. What difference did my vote make? Why indeed do people vote, and care so passionately about voting, particularly in constituencies in which voting one way or the other won’t make a blind bit of difference? And why do the poor vote when, by voting, they merely give legitimacy to a system that connives with their oppression and alienation? The anthropologist Mukulika Banerjee suggests a fascinating answer: elections are like religious rituals, often devoid of rational purpose or efficacy for the individual participant, but full of symbolic meaning. They are the nearest thing the secular has to the sacred, presenting a moment of empowerment.
Well... Russell Brand in the end called for voting Labour (yes, he did). As to Banerjee's suggestion: Yes, more or less. In any case, I did not vote since
I did not have to, anymore, (in 1971), and my reason not to vote was and is
that I think it utterly ridiculous to have a country's policies decided by the outcome of elections in which at most 1 in a 1000 knows enough about the
issues to rationally vote on them (and where a vote like mine is weighed
away by tenthousands of votes by my fine countrymen who every Sunday
sang in soccer stadiums that "All Jews Must Be Gassed!" etc. [3]).

But OK - these were some reflections on the last British elections.


5. Edward Snowden says Australia’s new data retention laws are 'dangerous'

The next item is an article by Oliver Milman on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden has called Australia’s new data retention laws
“dangerous” and insisted mass surveillance has allowed acts of terror to occur rather than foiled attacks.

Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed the extent of surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency, told a Melbourne audience Australia is adopting data retention laws that “have been proven not to work”.

“Australia’s role in mass surveillance around the world is similar to the UK and the Tempora program,” Snowden said via satellite from Moscow.

“They’ll collect everyone’s communications, it’s called pre-criminal investigation, which means they are watching everyone all the time. They can search through that information not just in Australia but also share with overseas governments such as the US and UK. And it happens without oversight.”

Yes, indeed. Here is some more:

He also criticised Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, claiming he “doesn’t even know what metadata is”, and said people who say they don’t worry about their privacy because they have nothing to hide “is like saying I don’t care about free speech because I have nothing to say”.

Again, yes indeed - but it seems to me also likely that this position ("I don’t care about free speech because I have nothing to say”) (1) is the position of the great majority of computer owners, who indeed have very little to say that is in any way interesting, and that (2) will be - "de-mo-cra-tic-al-ly" - abused to shut up everyone who belongs to the thinking minorities of some kind (academics, writers, highly educated people, highly gifted people, highly original people...).

6. The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Dirtiest Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard Of

The last item today is not an article but a video, although I will provide a link to the file that contains the video, which is an article by Raging Bull-Shit on his site:

Here is the video, that once again explains the TPP, and does so quite well and in 3 minutes:


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Notes
[1] There is a - also so-called - Socialist Party in Holland that still may be "socialist" in some senses, but it is not large, and it arose from a maoist-marxist- leninist group going back to the 1970ies. That heritage is mostly discarded, but they are still both pro socialism and too totalitarian for my - leftist liberal - tastes.

[2] I have met that attitude merely 37 years in which I was really physically ill and could not even get that accepted, also not while I was an M.A. with a truly brilliant degree (that not even got me 10 euros a week to have y house cleared).

[3] Historically quite true. This is the Dutch expression: "Alle Jo-den Aan 't Gas!", "Alle Jo-den Aan 't Gas!", "Alle Jo-den Aan 't Gas!". It may be this is a bit less now - it went on for several decades (!) - but I can't say because I never go to soccer stadiums. But this attitude does correspond relatively well to the level of the average Dutch education.
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