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Nederlog

May 13, 2015
Crisis: NSA, Cameron, Tories, TPP not fasttracked, Populism, Stiglitz's Report
  "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















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Sections
Introduction
1. Many of the NSA’s Loudest Defenders Have Financial Ties
     to NSA Contractors

2.
David Cameron to unveil new limits on extremists'
     activities in Queen's speech

3. 
Don’t let the Tories steal aspiration – we on the left must
     claim it

4.  Victory for Grassroots as Fast Track Goes Down in
     Crucial Senate Vote

5. The Emerging Populist Agenda
6.
Progressive Contract with America Aims to 'Rewrite the
     Rules' in Favor of 99%



Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 13, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 7 dotted links (and some good news at the end): item 1 is about the strong financial ties many of the NSA's defenders have with the NSA; item 2 is about Cameron's newly proposed Tory police state (where you are supposed to hand in your thoughts before publication to the police, to see whether they approve); item 3 is about a piece by Owen Jones (that I don't agree with); item 4 is about a piece of good news: fast track for the TPP went down in the Senate; item 5 is about another piece of good news: there does
seem to emerge a widely shared populist agenda; and item 6 is another piece of good news: There is a 115 page report by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, called
Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity (pdf) that seems good (but I didn't read it yet).

Actually, half of the items are good news, which is quite rare in this
crisis series.
And this file got uploaded a bit earlier than is usual.


1.  Many of the NSA’s Loudest Defenders Have Financial Ties to NSA Contractors

The first item today is an article by Lee Fang on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The debate over the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records has reached a critical point after a federal appeals court last week ruled the practice illegal, dramatically raising the stakes for pending Congressional legislation that would fully or partially reinstate the program. An army of pundits promptly took to television screens, with many of them brushing off concerns about the surveillance.

The talking heads have been backstopping the NSA’s mass surveillance more or less continuously since it was revealed. They spoke out to support the agency when NSA contractor Edward Snowden released details of its programs in 2013, and they’ve kept up their advocacy ever since — on television news shows, newspaper op-ed pages, online and at Congressional hearings. But it’s often unclear just how financially cozy these pundits are with the surveillance state they defend, since they’re typically identified with titles that give no clues about their conflicts of interest.
There is also this:
(...) The Intercept has identified several former government and military officials whose voices have shaped the public discourse around government spying and surveillance issues but whose financial ties to NSA contractors have received little attention. These pundits have played a key role in the public debate as the White House and the agency itself have struggled to defend the most controversial spying programs revealed by Snowden’s documents.
And this is followed by brief biographies and backgrounds of five men who lie for money. I'll leave that to your interests.

2. David Cameron to unveil new limits on extremists' activities in Queen's speech  

The next item is an article by Patrick Wintour on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.

The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.

The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

I say. David Cameron's Tory police state starts right here: It is directed against anyone to the left of Ukip and the Conservatives, and wants them
"to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print"
At least, that is how I read it. And the last quotation describes explicit government censorship before publication, which is sick and degenerate
(and no: Tory "democracy" is not real democracy).

Then again, I suppose that my saying that Cameron wants a Tory police state, with censorship before publication, which I think is sick and degenerate, probably is something that already is or will be forbidden soon, at least for people living in Great Britain, because this transgresses Cameron's views of "democracy".

Well, these days I am glad that I am not English or American, not because I dislike the English or Americans, but because I dislike their governments and
their governmental policies (if I may still say so).

3.  Don’t let the Tories steal aspiration – we on the left must claim it

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

This contains this bit:

Let me sum up this argument, because it is going to be very prominent in the coming months and years. Yes, food banks and poverty pay are terrible blights, but they affect only a relatively small sliver of the population, who are in any case less likely to vote. Campaigns focusing on these forms of injustice depend too much on appealing to the empathy of others, and have little to say to middle-income workers. The desire to improve your lot in life is natural, and should be nurtured and encouraged, but Labour – and, more broadly, the left – fail to appreciate this.

It would be a tragedy if the Tories and resurgent Blairites were left to define aspiration. In practice, it seems aspiration is left to mean cutting taxes on the rich and the richer, and handing public services over to profit-making companies. It’s also, conveniently, used to justify grotesque social inequalities.
The first paragraph does not sketch Owen Jones's ideas, but those of the Tories and the Blairites in Labour.

If you read it carefully, you'll see that "middle-income workers" are defined as persons moved by "
[t]he desire to improve [their] lot in life" which also is "natural", and certainly will keep them from feeling any empathy with or solidarity for that "small sliver of the population" ("who are in any case less
likely to vote
") that have to use food banks.

At least, that is what I get out of it.

What I do not agree with are Owen Jones's worries about "aspiration", which is an extremely vague and multi-interpretable term. Indeed, he ends his article as follows:
Don’t let the apologists of the rich steal “aspiration” for their own purposes. Reclaim it. Let the genuine left be the real champions of aspiration – aspiration that can be realised only in a just and equal society that Tories repudiate.
But why all these worries about an extremely vague and multi-interpretable term like "aspiration" if what the left really wants are justice and equality?!

I am all for that, and consider these goals -
justice and equality, which do need more formal definitions but which are quite good as social ends - as sensible political ends, whereas "aspiration" is a bullshit term from the propaganda departments of the professional liars and frauds that run "public relations" offices.

4.  Victory for Grassroots as Fast Track Goes Down in Crucial Senate Vote

The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows (and is good news, for a - rare - change):

In what was immediately heralded as a victory for the grassroots, Senate Democrats on Tuesday stymied President Barack Obama's corporate-driven trade agenda by voting to prevent the chamber from taking up Fast Track legislation.

According to news reports, a closure motion to cut off a filibuster and proceed to debate fell short of the 60 votes necessary to pass. Sen. Tom Carper, of Delaware, was the only Democrat to vote yes.

Civil society groups lauded Tuesday's outcome and what it could mean for future trade votes.

"The Fast Track train went off the rails today," cheered Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. "The U.S. Senate vote was supposed to generate momentum for Fast Track in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it's in deep trouble, with almost every House Democrats and a significant bloc of GOP opposing it."

Yes, indeed: This is good news. But the battle is not at all over and done with:

And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been a vocal opponent of Fast Track and gave a stirring speech on the Senate floor prior to the vote on Tuesday, added: "The Senate vote today was an important first victory in what will be a long battle."

"Today was a good step forward," he said, "but much more needs to be done."

Quite so.

5. The Emerging Populist Agenda
The next item is an article by Katrina vanden Heuvel on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The most surprising development in our political debate isn’t the gaggle of Republican presidential contenders or the ceaseless attacks on Hillary Clinton. What is stunning is the emergence of a populist reform agenda that is driving the debate inside and outside the Democratic Party.

A range of groups and leaders are putting forward a reform agenda of increasing coherence. Today, the Roosevelt Institute will present a report by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is to release a “Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality.”Populism 2015 Platform, released in April by an alliance of grass-roots groups and the Campaign for America’s Future. Also in April, the Center for Community Change (CCC) joined with several grass-roots allies to launch Putting Families First: Good Jobs for All.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), now contending for the Democratic presidential nomination, released his Economic Agenda for America last December.
Incidentally, here is a link to the video (20 m 30 s), that I think is very good
(and yes, I looked and listened to all of it):

This last link is to Youtube; the earlier one is to Sanders' site. It is a very good speech, but these indeed are Bernie Sanders' ideas (that I like). Here are Sanders' 12 steps:
 1. Invest in our crumbling infrastructure
  2. Transform energy systems away from fossil fuels
  3. Develop new economic models to support workers
  4. Make it easier for workers to join unions
  5. Raise the federal minimum wage
  6. Provide equal pay for women
  7. Reform trade policies
  8. Make college affordable and provide affordable child care
  9. Break up big banks
10. Join the rest of the industrialized world with a Medicare-for-all
     health care system

11. Expand Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition
     programs

12. Reform the tax code
Next, here is an overview of "the emergence of a populist reform agenda" that Katrina vanden Heuvel is seeing:

The central elements of the emerging populist agenda include:

Public Investment to Create Jobs: All share a central strategy — major, long-term public investment in rebuilding America; modernizing our decrepit roads, sewers and transport; creating good jobs in the process. Sanders, the Populism Platform and the CCC agenda also emphasize meeting the threat posed by climate change, investing in new energy and energy efficiency and capturing a lead in the green industrial revolution. The CCC agenda also pays needed attention to giving investment priority to the “poorest communities.”

Progressive Tax Reform: All call for raising taxes on the rich and the corporations not out of envy but to provide the resources for needed public investment.

Predistribution: Each agenda seeks to ensure that the rewards of growth are widely shared, by empowering workers to gain their fair share. That includes lifting the floor — raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing paid sick and vacation days and family leave, funding child care, cracking down on wage theft, enforcing pay equity for women, revising overtime laws and more.
(....)

Trade and Wall Street: Other than the more focused CCC agenda, all challenge the entrenched structures that fuel inequality, expressing opposition to current trade policies, and calling for curbing Wall Street excesses. Most would break up the big banks (with Summers an exception to that).

The Basics in Education: Most challenge the limits of our punitive education debate, focusing instead on basic investments in education: universal pre-K, investments in public education and various roads to debt-free public college.

Expand Shared Security: Most support expanding Social Security benefits. Sanders and Stiglitz emphasize Medicare for all. The CAP report calls for a new automatic program to provide jobs for the young in times of high unemployment.

This is a good article that deserves full reading. And the points listed above all are good.

6. Progressive Contract with America Aims to 'Rewrite the Rules' in Favor of 99%

The last normal item today is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Adding one more pillar beneath an increasingly solid progressive movement platform, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio unveiled on Tuesday a new "Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality," calling for universal pre-kindergarten, a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, and higher taxes on the wealthy. 

The 13-point agenda has been presented as "the left's answer to the Contract with America, which helped propel Newt Gingrich and the Republican revolution of 1994," according to Politico, which first reported on DeBlasio's plan last week.

This is another piece of good news. And here is some more:

DeBlasio and Sen. Elizabeth Warren both spoke at an event earlier on Tuesday touting the release of the Stiglitz report, leading Bloomberg to dub the DeBlasio-Warren-Stiglitz trio "inequality avengers."

Titled Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity (pdf), the 115-page manifesto argues that "inequality is not inevitable," and is in fact the result of rules and the regulatory frameworks—favored by corporations and put in place by elected officials—that form the backbone of the U.S. economy.

"Over the last 35 years, America’s policy choices have been grounded in false assumptions, and the result is a weakened economy in which most Americans struggle to achieve or maintain a middle-class lifestyle while a small percentage enjoy an increasingly large share of the nation’s wealth," it reads.

I did download the report, but I did not read it yet, apart from some glances. It does look OK and is by a Nobel prize winning economist, who also worked for Clinton's goverment.
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