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Nederlog

June 1, 2015
Crisis: Marx, Patriot Act, Atom Bombs, TSA, American Corruption, Binney Interview
  "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.
Karl Marx Was Right
2. Key Parts of Patriot Act Expire Temporarily as Senate
     Moves Toward Limits on Spying

3.
Obama Administration Sabotages Nuclear
     Nonproliferation Conference

4.
Leaked Treaty You've Never Heard of Makes Secret Rules
     for the Internet

5.
This Is How Little It Cost Goldman Sachs To Bribe
     America’s Senators To Fast Track Obama’s TPP Bill
6. A quite interesting long interview with William Binney

This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 1, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges on Karl Marx (about whom I know rather a lot); item 2 is about the Patriot Act, that is currently no longer functioning (if the NSA keeps to the law, but see item 6); item 3 is about another contribution by Obama and his government: Many more atomic bombs; item 4 is about the secret TISA plans that makes secret rules for the internet; item 5 is about how little it cost Goldman Sachs to bribe the Senate to get fast track on the TPP bill; and item 6
is a very good (though lengthy) interview with William Binney, who is very clear on spying: Strongly recommended, but it will not make you happier.
1. Karl Marx Was Right

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, with a brief introduction:
On Saturday at the Left Forum in New York City, Chris Hedges joined professors Richard Wolff and Gail Dines to discuss why Karl Marx is essential at a time when global capitalism is collapsing. These are the remarks Hedges made to open the discussion.
I did know who is Richard Wolff (a pensioned historian and economist who is a - kind of - Marxist, and who is quite active) and did not know who is Gail Dines.

As I have said several times in Nederlog, my parents were both marxists and joined the Dutch CP during the crisis of the Thirties or in the second world war, mostly because of the crisis and their opposition to the Nazis, and they also remained marxists all their lives, indeed in part because of their experiences in WW II.

Again, I myself was a marxist, though never a normal one, and indeed I gave it up at age 20 (in 1970, and before reaching the adult age which was then 21),
basically because I had refuted Marx's economics, could not believe in Marx's dialectics, did never accept (from 1964 onwards) that the Soviet bloc was socialist in any useful sense, and believed the whole communist movement to be far more totalitarian than it should be.

Also, I still think I was quite right (and I know a lot more than I knew at 20) but I have also learned that the levels of science and relevant information that I rely on are rarely matched by others - which makes debating Marx rather senseless, mostly because the vast majority of those who are marxists know a lot less of science and philosophy and logic than I do (I have been reading in these subjects on the highest levels for 45 years); because there are quite a few different tenable interpretations of Marx; and also because, knowing my parents, who were real, sincere and intelligent Marxists, I know that most of those who pretended to be Marxists that I have met, were not really serious. [1]

Finally, before going into Chris Hedges' prose, a semantical remark: Evidently "Karl Marx was right" - in some things, but without specifying in what he was right, the title says very little.

This article starts as follows:
Karl Marx exposed the peculiar dynamics of capitalism, or what he called “the bourgeois mode of production.” He foresaw that capitalism had built within it the seeds of its own destruction. He knew that reigning ideologies—think neoliberalism—were created to serve the interests of the elites and in particular the economic elites, since “the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production” and “the ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships … the relationships which make one class the ruling one.” He saw that there would come a day when capitalism would exhaust its potential and collapse. He did not know when that day would come.
The problems I see with this are mostly that what is not a direct quotation of Marx is widely shared among many branches of socialists and anarchists (of which there are or were very many different kinds), while the direct quotations are - perhaps a bit subtly - false:

The class which has the means of material production at its disposal does not have full control of the means of mental production, as indeed evinced by Marx himself (though with the NSA this may change), and also the ruling ideas are not "nothing more"
"than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships" (though with the NSA or under a powerful dictatorship that too may change).

The rest of Hedges' first page is mostly taken up by attributions to Marx that for a considerable part are doubtful, in part simply because Marx died in 1883, and in part because he did write a lot, and that can and has been interpreted in many directions.

But Chris Hedges does end the first page with this bit:

A May 22 editorial in The New York Times gives us a window into what Marx said would characterize the late stages of capitalism:

As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.

The Times goes on:

The banks will pay fines totaling about $9 billion, assessed by the Justice Department as well as state, federal and foreign regulators. That seems like a sweet deal for a scam that lasted for at least five years, from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2013, during which the banks’ revenue from foreign exchange was some $85 billion.

Actually - I have read a lot of Marx, though certainly not all or most that he wrote, which is a very great lot [2] - but I do not know where this can be found in his works. Then again: $85 billion minus $9 billion = $76 billion profits, with no convictions of any kind for the banks' managers.

Page 2 starts as follows:
The final stages of what we call capitalism, as Marx grasped, is not capitalism at all. Corporations gobble down government expenditures, in essence taxpayer money, like pigs at a trough. The arms industry with its official $612 billion defense authorization bill—which ignores numerous other military expenditures tucked away in other budgets, raising our real expenditure on national security expenses to over $1 trillion a year—has gotten the government this year to commit to spending $348 billion over the next decade to modernize our nuclear weapons and build 12 new Ohio-class nuclear submarines, estimated at $8 billion each. Exactly how these two massive arms programs are supposed to address what we are told is the greatest threat of our time—the war on terror—is a mystery.
I agree these are scandalous, e.g. given the state of the U.S. infrastructure and the great poverty of the many American poor, though I don't see what Marx had to do with this.

There is also this, a bit later on:

Bloomberg News in the 2013 article “Why Should Taxpayers Give Big Banks $83 Billion a Year?” reported that economists had determined that government subsidies lower the big banks’ borrowing costs by about 0.8 percent.

“Multiplied by the total liabilities of the 10 largest U.S. banks by assets,” the report said, “it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion a year.”

“The top five banks—JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.—account,” the report went on, “for $64 billion of the total subsidy, an amount roughly equal to their typical annual profits. In other words, the banks occupying the commanding heights of the U.S. financial industry—with almost $9 trillion in assets, more than half the size of the U.S. economy—would just about break even in the absence of corporate welfare. In large part, the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders.”

I must say that I hardly can believe this, and especially not that "the banks occupying the commanding heights of the U.S. financial industry—with almost $9 trillion in assets, more than half the size of the U.S. economy—would just about break even in the absence of corporate welfare."

I do believe that a considerable part of "
the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders" (which is theft from the poor by the rich), but I find it very hard to believe these are all of their profits, and a lot easier to believe that the books have been cooked, somehow. [3]

Then there is this (and this is the last quotation I will give):

Marx illuminated these contradictions within capitalism. He understood that the idea of capitalism—free trade, free markets, individualism, innovation, self-development—works only in the utopian mind of a true believer such as Alan Greenspan, never in reality.

No. One of the reasons this is false is that there are far more capable and inteligent others than Greenspan who also believed in capitalism, notably John Maynard Keynes, and another reason is that Keynes was the main initiator of
the capitalist model that did work more or less well in the West from 1939-1979,
and that was totally destroyed by many deregulations under Thatcher, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama.

Indeed, one might also write an article that said "Keynes was right" and point to the forty years Keynesianism was active and dominant (1939-1979) and the 36 years since, that were mostly given to remove, deregulate and destroy almost everything that he surrected or helped surrect.

And finally, having read both Marx and Keynes, I do insist that neither is really taken serious by most of their followers, for the simple reason that only a rather small minority is capable of reading and understanding their main works, while
the majority of their followers (who tend to be rather distinct) are not so much
interested in what they really said and meant, as in using their names, and perhaps a few quotable bits from them, as flags for their own political or moral interests. [4]

2. Key Parts of Patriot Act Expire Temporarily as Senate Moves Toward Limits on Spying
The next item today is by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman on The New York Times:
This starts as follows:
The government’s authority to sweep up vast quantities of phone records in the hunt for terrorists expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, blocked an extension of the program during an extraordinary and at times caustic Sunday session of the Senate.
There is also this:

While it would represent a retrenchment on the part of the government, it does not end the argument over the dual imperatives of security and individual liberty brought to light by Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency.

The expiration of three key provisions of the Patriot Act means that, for now, the N.S.A. will no longer collect newly created logs of Americans’ phone calls in bulk. It also means that the F.B.I. cannot invoke the Patriot Act to obtain, for new investigations, wiretap orders that follow a suspect who changes phones, wiretap orders for a “lone wolf” terrorism suspect not linked to a group, or court orders to obtain business records relevant to an investigation.

However, the Justice Department may invoke a so-called grandfather clause to keep using those powers for investigations that had started before June 1, and there are additional workarounds investigators may use to overcome the lapse in the authorizations.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, but my own reading is that the spying on everyone will mostly continue, indeed also if not legally than illegally.

For much more on spying, see item 6.

3. Obama Administration Sabotages Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference

The next item is an article by Joseph Gerson on Truth-out:

This starts as follows:

So much for President Obama's commitment to a nuclear-weapons-free world.

With its decision on May 22 to block the adoption of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Review Conference's consensus statement, the Obama administration gave the human species another hefty push toward nuclear catastrophe, shaking the foundations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Why the sabotage? Well, for one thing, the draft text had the temerity to call for the convening of a conference within six months to prepare the way for a Middle East nuclear-weapons -and-weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone. It called for all parties to the NPT Review - read especially the United States - to fulfill previous Review Conferences' promises to begin the process of creating the zone.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, and it is a good article. I leave it to your interests, and only remark that this is one of the many things everyone owes to Obama.

4. Leaked Treaty You've Never Heard of Makes Secret Rules for the Internet

The next item is an article by Jeremy Malcolm (of the Electronic Frontier Foundations) on Truth-out:

This starts as follows - and the treaty you never heard of is the TISA (that was treated in Nederlog on May 29, last, but indeed without my knowing more than was in that article):

A February 2015 draft of the secret Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) was leaked again last week, revealing a more extensive and more recent text than that of portions from an April 2014 leak that we covered last year. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), TISA completes a trifecta of trade agreements that the administration could sign under Fast Track without full congressional oversight.

Although it is the least well-known of those agreements, it is the broadest in terms of membership. As far as we know, it presently includes twenty countries plus Europe (but notably excluding the major emerging world economies of the BRICS bloc), who, with disdainful levity, have adopted the mantle "the Really Good Friends of Services." Like its sister agreements, TISA will enact global rules that impact the Internet, bypassing the transparency and accountability of national parliaments. The only difference is that its focus is on services, not goods

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, and none of it will make you happier if you care for a free internet. But this is the probable future, at least if it is up to the corporate rulers of the West.

5. This Is How Little It Cost Goldman Sachs To Bribe America’s Senators To Fast Track Obama’s TPP Bill

The last item today is an article by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit:

This starts as follows:

It took just a few days after the stunning defeat of Obama’s attempt to fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership bill in the Senate at the hands of his own Democratic party, before everything returned back to normal and the TPP fast-track was promptly passed. Why? The simple answer: money. Or rather, even more money.

Because while the actual contents of the TPP may be highly confidential, and their public dissemination may lead to prison time for the “perpetrator” of such illegal transparency, we now know just how much it cost corporations to bribe the Senate to do the bidding of the “people.” In the Supreme Court sense, of course, in which corporations are “people.”

Here is one summary statement:

Using data from the Federal Election Commission, the chart below (based on data from the following spreadsheet) shows all donations that corporate members of the US Business Coalition for TPP made to US Senate campaigns between January and March 2015, when fast-tracking the TPP was being debated in the Senate.

The result: it took a paltry $1.15 million in bribes to get everyone in the Senate on the same page. And the biggest shocker: with a total of $195,550 in “donations”, or more than double the second largest donor UPS, was none other than Goldman Sachs.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, all of which shows that corruption works. I leave that to your interests, except for the following passage (where boldings are in the original):

“It’s a rare thing for members of Congress to go against the money these days,” said Mansur Gidfar, spokesman for the anti-corruption group Represent.Us. “They know exactly which special interests they need to keep happy if they want to fund their reelection campaigns or secure a future job as a lobbyist.

How can we expect politicians who routinely receive campaign money, lucrative job offers, and lavish gifts from special interests to make impartial decisions that directly affect those same special interests?” Gidfar said. “As long as this kind of transparently corrupt behavior remains legal, we won’t have a government that truly represents the people.”

Yes, indeed.

6. A quite interesting long interview with William Binney

The last item today is not an article but is a very interesting although quite long interview with William Binney (<- Wikipedia) by Tragedy and Hope:

I did see all of this - 2 h 35 m - yesterday, and I strongly recommend it, because it is very clear, and by one of the former top men of the NSA (who worked there for over 30 years).

Incidentally, I also was right in insisting that terrorism was and is not what the current NSA is interested in: They are interested in knowing absolutely everything anyone anywhere does, and do so to further their own potential for doing state terrrorism.

This will take 2 hours and 35 minutes of your time, but it is time that is well spend, at least if you want to know about the massive corruptions of the U.S. government or about what the NSA really does and knows about you. (But no, it will not make you happier.)

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P.S. Jun 2, 2015: Corrected "brivery" to "bribery" and added two spaces to the start of section 5.

Notes

[1] Incidentally, I should also say that I never fell out with my parents, in large part because (1) I knew they were sincere and intelligent, though not highly educated, and (2) because I agreed (and indeed agree) with their morals, which were quite admirable (which also made my father and his father political prisoners - "terrorists" - locked up in German concentration camps, that my grandfather did not survive).

[2] I am thinking here of the MEGA = Marx Engels Gesamtausgabe, that was produced since the nineteenfifties in the Soviet Union, that got also all translated into English as MECW = Marx/Engels Collected Works, that comprise 50 thick volumes. (In case you thought these 50 volumes are all: No, there are plans to publish everything Marx and Engels wrote, in a mere 120 volumes.)

[3] I have worked in a bank (in the 1960ies, to be sure) where I learned that even then - nearly fifty years ago - this was quite normal, and indeed banks do normally not believe the yearly financial reports they legally have to make. In this, I side with the bank managers: they know that they themselves, like the other bank managers, tend to lie, and especially as regards their own finances.

[4] In "proof" of which I offer this bit of true information: I have never met anyone (in 65 years) who had read both Marx's "Capital" and Keynes' "General Theory". (There are a few who did - as I did - but they are all professors, and I never met nor mailed with them.)

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