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Nederlog

May 19, 2015
Crisis: GCHQ & Propaganda, Fossil Fuels, Economy, Warren, NSA Disliked
  "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















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
GCHQ’s Rainbow Lights: Exploiting Social Issues for
     Militarism and Imperialism

2. Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
3. Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #4: Bust Up Wall Street 
4. Warren Hits Back Hard on 'Broken Promises' of Corporate
     Trade Pacts

5. Republicans, Democrats and Independents ALL Hate NSA
     Spying


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 19, 2015.


This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting article by Glenn Greenwald about the quite modern form of propaganda that I first became aware of between 1995 and 2000, and that since has grown quite systematic: the right steals the terms and ends of the left, pretends to be for them, but furthers them with rightist plans (presented as "Freedom!") that support the rich at the costs of the poor; item 2 is about a claim by the IMF that I see, at least now, as propaganda intended to increase the prices of oil and gas; item 3 is about a good article + video by Robert Reich; item 4 is about a good reply by
Sen. Warren to Obama's lies; and item 5 is about a poll that supports the notion
that the majority of Americans dislike NSA spying and want their privacy.

This file got uploaded a bit earlier than is normal for me.


1.
GCHQ’s Rainbow Lights: Exploiting Social Issues for Militarism and Imperialism

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows (and I removed a picture of Cameron's Tweet and replaced it by text):
Over the weekend, the British surveillance agency GCHQ — the most extremist and invasive in the West — bathed its futuristic headquartersan Oscar-nominated feature film, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office celebrated GCHQ’s inspirational lights:
with rainbow-colored lights “as a symbol of the intelligence agency’s commitment to diversity” and to express solidarity with “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.” GCHQ’s public affairs office proudly distributed the above photograph to media outlets. Referring to Alan Turing, the closeted-and-oppressed gay World War II British code-breaker just memorialized by
UK Prime Minister
Modern-day Turings at GCHQ celebrate #IDAHOT day by lightening their building in rainbow colours
This is so very moving. Gay Brits are now just as free as everyone else to spy on people, covertly disseminate state propaganda, and destroy online privacy. Whatever your views on all this nasty surveillance business might be, how can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality?
In fact, this opens a quite important and much more general theme, that I first met in Dutch politics in the 1990ies, when I noticed that conservative politicians, rather suddenly also, as if they were briefed by a thinktank that works for the GOP, talked as if they had taken over most of the leftist terms and propaganda.

I am not sure it was the first time I noticed it, but it came to the fore in debates
about housing where the conservative ministeries and secretaries of state suddenly spoke [1] as if "liberating the housing market" would do everything the left had said about not liberating the housing market, in part also in leftist terms (which was all a complete lie, but confused the left fundamentally).

Since then this has taken off in major ways: the terminology and even the ends ("helping the poor", "supporting the deprived", "enabling the ill", "supporting the gay", "helping women", "saving the black") are mostly "leftist", but the actual plans they hide are very rightist ("by teaching them to stand on their own legs" = "robbing them from the very little money and legal protection they had").

Here is Glenn Greenwald's take:
This is all a stark illustration of what has become a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic. Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.
Yes, indeed - but it goes back a long time (some twenty years, at least, in my experience) and it also is a general and systematic recipe: conservative ends, policies and propaganda are recast as - apparently - semi-leftist ends, policies and propaganda, mostly by stealing the terminology from the left, and using it blatantly, while restyling them again in small letters ("this is to help the development, the rights, the legal status, and the incomes of the poor" - by making them free from state support [2]).

And Greenwald also very correctly says:
Neocons have long adeptly exploited this tactic and are among its pioneers. Before the invasion of Afghanistan, Americans were inundated with stories about the Taliban’s oppression of women: as though feminism was part of the cause of that war.
Yes, indeed (and there is considerably more in the article). Here is part of the propaganda tactics:
As a general matter, this tactic for Washington is far from new. The U.S. media has long hyped human rights and civil liberties abuses when perpetrated by governments disliked at the moment by the U.S. government, while ignoring far worse ones committed by subservient regimes.
This ends as follows:
Figuratively dressing up American wars in the pretty packaging of progressive social causes, or literally decorating pernicious spy agencies with the colors of the LGBT cause, should leave no doubt about what this tactic is. Militarism and aggression don’t become any more palatable because the institutions that perpetrate them let women and gays participate in those abuses (...)
As I have indicated: I quite agree with Glenn Greenwald, except that this style of lying - taking over both the ends and the terms of the left, verbally, but in fact using these ends and terms to extend extremely right end plans - seems to
me considerably worse and also more systematically practised than Glenn Greenwald may see, though I am not certain of that last point.

In any case, this is a very important neoliberal tactic, which makes it appear quite different from what it really is (rightist plans wrapped up in leftist sounding slogans and ends), while also fundamentally confusing "the left" (or what's left of that, for most of the elected "leftist" politicians are no real leftists anymore, but are simply careerists).

2. Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF  

The next item today is an article by Damian Carrington on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

There is a whole lot more under the last dotted link (and "tn"="trillion"="a thousand billion" while "billion"="a thousand million), but - just having written about how the rightist propaganda has been wrapped up in leftist terms since decades now - I must admit this mostly strikes me as IMF-propaganda to increase the current prices of oil and gas.

3.
Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #4: Bust Up Wall Street  

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

When Americans think of how the economic rules are stacked against them, they naturally think of Wall Street. 

When the Wall Street bubble burst in 2008 because of excessive risk-taking, millions of working Americans lost their jobs, health insurance, savings, and homes.

But The Street is back to many of its old tricks. And its lobbyists are busily rolling back the Dodd-Frank Act, intended to prevent another crash.

The biggest Wall Street banks are also much larger. In 1990, the five biggest banks had 10 percent of all of the nation’s banking assets. Now, they have 44 percent – more than they had at the time of the 2008 crash.

They have a virtual lock on taking companies public, play key roles pricing commodities, are involved in all major U.S. mergers and acquisitions and many overseas, and responsible for most of the trading in derivatives and other complex financial instruments.  

And as they’ve gained dominance over the financial sector, they’ve become more politically potent. They’re major sources of campaign funds for both Republicans and Democrats.

Wall Street banks supply personnel for key economic posts in Republican and Democratic administrations, and lucrative employment to economic officials when they leave Washington.

It’s a vicious cycle.
In fact, Robert Reich proposes three measures to oppose this:
First, resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act
Second, put a small sales tax on every financial transaction.
Third, bust up the big banks. Any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period.
I agree, although I do not see how this is going to be realized by the present Congress. In any case, here is Robert Reich explaining it all:



This is all well explained and quite brief.

4. Warren Hits Back Hard on 'Broken Promises' of Corporate Trade Pacts

The next item is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took decisive aim at President Barack Obama's pending global trade pacts on Monday with the release of a new report, which argues that—despite pledges to the contrary—so-called "free trade" agreements have a record of undermining workers rights.

The 15-page staff report, Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements (pdf), contends that under previous agreements, the United States has repeatedly either failed to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards resulting in widespread labor-related human rights abuses.

"Supporters of past trade agreements have said again and again that these deals would include strong protections for workers, but assurances without strong enforcement are just empty promises," Senator Warren said in a press statement. "The facts show that, despite all the promises, these trade deals were just another tool to tilt the playing field in further of multinational corporations and against working families."

Indeed the report (that I downloaded) is "Prepared by the Staff of Sen. Elizabeth Warren".

Here is some more from the article:

Citing analyses from the Government Accountability Office, the State Department, and the Department of Labor, that report charges that under Obama's watch, trade pacts have ushered in a host of abuses, from child labor to intimidation and violence against union organizers.

In a much-publicized feud with the president, Warren has largely led the campaign against the 12-nation TPP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Fast Track Trade Authority, which would restrict Congressional input on a global trade deal to an up or down vote. Obama has largely dismissed many of Warren's criticisms of the deal as "dishonest," "bunk" and "misinformation."

In an interview with NPR last week, Warren explained her primary objections to the TPP, highlighting the roll that the investor-state dispute mechanism (ISDS) plays in worsening labor violations.

"We know that corporations under this deal are going to get to sue countries for regulations they don't like and that the decisions are not going to be made by courts, they're going to be made by private lawyers," Warren said.

Also, if things really were as the president says they are, he would have published the TTP and the TTIP proposalsl. Since he doesn't, he lies, and behaves as an anti-democrat.

5. Republicans, Democrats and Independents ALL Hate NSA Spying  

The final item today is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This starts as follows (colors in the original):

Americans Don’t Trust the Government

A poll released today shows that Americans across the political spectrum hate the Patriot Act and NSA spying.

The bipartisan polling team – made up of Global Strategy Group and G Public Strategies – found (edited for readability):

  • By nearly a 2:1 margin (60% modify, 34% preserve), Americans believe the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized in its current form. With broad, bipartisan support across all ages, ideologies and political parties, voters are rejecting the argument that the Patriot Act should be preserved with no changes because of potential terrorist threats. Millennials (65% modify) and Independent men (75% modify), in particular, are driving the push for modification to limit government surveillance.
  • By more than 4:1 (82% concerned, 18% not concerned), voters find it concerning that the United States government is collecting and storing the personal information of Americans, including 31% who are extremely concerned and 25% who are very concerned.
  • Over three quarters of voters found four different examples of government spying personally concerning to them. The government accessing personal communications, information or records without a judge’s permission (83%) and using that information for things other than stopping terrorist attacks (83%) were the two most concerning examples to voters.
  • Specific arguments made in favor of adding more protections for Americans around privacy, also proved to be convincing to voters. 84% of voters said it was a convincing argument that local police and the FBI should have a warrant to search phone and email records, further confirming that Americans believe that individual privacy rights should be more strongly protected. Additionally, 81% of voters were convinced more protections were needed on account of companies providing loopholes in their services to make surveillance easier for the government.
There is some more under the last dotted link.
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Notes
[1] Unfortunately, I don't know the precise dates anymore. I do know that (i) it was a quite sudden change, and (ii) it was shared and practiced by at least two ministers and two secretaries of state, all deeply conservative, but suddenly taking over the leftist terminology and ends, though these again were dressed up in a sauce of "freedom!" and "free markets!" and all the "liberations!" these promised.

It was quite striking, quite confusing for "the left", and it certainly was not something the Dutch conservatives and neoliberals had taught up themselves: It must have been handed to them. (Very probably: By a GOP think tank.)

[2] Which will allow the rich to rob them because the poor have no more laws or funds to defend them against the rich.

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