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Nederlog

June 6, 2015
Crisis: Money, Freedom Act, Revolution, Taxes, New Surveillance Program
  "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.
40 Years of Democrats Talking About How Much They
     Want to Get Money Out of Politics
2.
USA Freedom Act: Where Do We Go From Here?
3. “We Are In a Revolutionary Moment”: Chris Hedges
     Explains Why An Uprising Is Coming — And Soon

4. MAKING THE ECONOMY WORK FOR THE MANY, NOT THE
     FEW:
#8 RAISE THE ESTATE TAX ON THE VERY RICH

5. A Misleading Moment of Celebration for a New
     Surveillance Program



This is a Nederlog of Saturday June 6, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article that shows that the Democrats have been telling the people (prior to elections) that they want to get money out of politics for 40 years now; item 2 notes that the "Freedom Act" is not much good, although it is slightly less bad than the "Patriot Act"; item 3 is an interview with Chris Hedges about the revolution he sees coming soon (without saying it will be a leftist one); item 4 is by Robert Reich on the strong need to tax the very rich a lot more than they are taxed now; and item 5 is an article by Norman Salomon that says there is not
much to celebrate with the "Freedom Act".

Also, there is an earlier Nederlog today, but that is part of my autobiography and
mostly in Dutch.

Finally, a repeat from yesterday. Here is a remark on my summaries: I know that since circa June 11, 2013 the titles of my Nederlogs are pretty unclear, basically because most days I reviewed at least five articles (which I did not do before), and I can only use the titles of the articles if I publish each separately, which is simply too much trouble.

However, I did all of this year start my Nederlogs with a summary, while I have collected all of these summaries in English News (aka: summaries). This will help you to find out what the Nederlogs are about.
1. 40 Years of Democrats Talking About How Much They Want to Get Money Out of Politics

The first item is an article by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

On April 14 at an Iowa community college, Hillary Clinton declared that campaign finance reform will be one of the “four big fights” of her presidential campaign:

I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans …

We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment.

And maybe she means it!
Of course, if she may mean it she may also not mean it, and the rest of the article quotes evidence that, yes: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter all told the same story prior to their elections.

And see how much the rich and powerful have been tied by law! Well...


2. USA Freedom Act: Where Do We Go From Here?

The next item is an article by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The passage of the USA Freedom Act marks the first time in over three decades that a bill restricting the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers has been approved by both houses of Congress.

But, as Internet watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) makes clear, there is still a long way to go. “The USA Freedom Act shows that the digital rights community has leveled up.” Despite this small victory, they state, “we’re going to need those skills as we turn to our larger mission: ending overbroad surveillance of our digital lives.”

Indeed: "there is still a long way to go." The EFF also said, among other things, the following:
We fought hard to get to this moment in history. Our long-term goals are ambitious—the end of overbroad surveillance of all digital communications, a recognition of the privacy rights of people outside the United States, and strong accountability and oversight for surveillance practices. Today’s Senate vote did not accomplish these things, but it did move us a bit closer.
Yes, and see item 5.
3. “We Are In a Revolutionary Moment”: Chris Hedges Explains Why An Uprising Is Coming — And Soon

The next item is an article by Elias Isquith on Alternet:

This starts as follows:

In recent years, there’s been a small genre of left-of-center journalism that, following President Obama’s lead, endeavors to prove that things on Planet Earth are not just going well, but have, in fact, never been better. This is an inherently subjective claim, of course; it requires that one buy into the idea of human progress, for one thing. But no matter how it was framed, there’s at least one celebrated leftist activist, author and journalist who’d disagree: Chris Hedges.

In fact, in his latest book, “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” Hedges argues that the world is currently at a crisis point the likes of which we’ve never really seen. There are similarities between our time and the era of the 1848 revolutions throughout Europe — or the French Revolutionary era that preceded them — he says. But in many ways, climate change least among them, the stakes this time are much higher. According to Hedges, a revolution is coming; we just don’t yet know when, where, how — or on whose behalf.

Yes, indeed - or at least: That is what Chris Hedges is saying, and the present article is an interview with Hedges, from which I will lift the bits in which Hedges argues for the thesis in he title of this article.

The interview starts thus:

Do you think we are in a revolutionary era now? Or is it more something on the horizon?

It’s with us already, but with this caveat: it is what Gramsci calls interregnum, this period where the ideas that buttress the old ruling elite no longer hold sway, but we haven’t articulated something to take its place.

Basically, this says: I believe we are, but there is on the moment not much evidence. My own reply is twofold: I am neither American nor have I ever been
to America, but my guess is that it is less revolutionary than Hedges thinks it is.

Then there is this:

Is there a revolutionary consciousness building in America?

Well, it is definitely building. But until there is an ideological framework that large numbers of people embrace to challenge the old ideological framework, nothing is going to happen.

I note Chris Hedges is aware of Ferguson and Baltimore, but I agree with this.

Hedges also said this:

We have, to quote John Ralston Saul, “undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion” and it’s over. The normal mechanisms by which we carry out incremental and piecemeal reform through liberal institutions no longer function. They have been seized by corporate power — including the press. That sets the stage for inevitable blowback, because these corporations have no internal constraints, and now they have no external constraints.

Indeed - and it was quite literally a "coup d’état" and it did move slowly, for it has been building and developing since the early 1970ies.

Hedges is aware that there may also be a right wing revolution rather than a left wing one, and that "the left" is badly organized:

If things unravel [in the U.S.], our backlash may very well be a rightwing backlash — a very frightening rightwing backlash. We who care about populist movements [on the left] are very weak, because in the name of anti-communism these movements have been destroyed; we are almost trying to rebuild them from scratch. We don’t even have the language to describe the class warfare that is being unleashed upon us by this tiny, rapacious, oligarchic elite. But we on the left are very disorganized, unfocused, and without resources.

I agree with most, but I don't agree with "the class warfare", and that not because I cannot see there are a few rich and many poor, and their real economic interests are generally opposed, but mostly because (i) "class" is too abstract a concept, and (ii) also comes with a considerable metaphysics (of which I got quite
a lot in the first twenty years of my life, since my parents were real Marxists).

Chris Hedges also says:

Unfortunately, there’s nothing within human nature to argue that we won’t go down the ways other civilizations have gone down. The difference is now, of course, that when we go down, the whole planet is going to go with us.

If atomic bombs will be avoided, I think it is unlikely the planet will be destroyed, but I agree that there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the United States will last forever, and in fact most ruling civilizations ruled for 100 - 250 years, and
the United States are at present around 240 years old.

4. MAKING THE ECONOMY WORK FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW: #8 RAISE THE ESTATE TAX ON THE VERY RICH.

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

This starts as follows:

At a time of historic economic inequality, it should be a no-brainer to raise a tax on inherited wealth for the very rich. Yet there’s a move among some members of Congress to abolish it altogether.

If you’re as horrified at the prospect of abolishing the estate tax as I am, I hope you’ll watch and share the accompanying video. 

Today the estate tax reaches only the richest two-tenths of one percent, and applies only to dollars in excess of $10.86 million for married couples or $5.43 million for individuals. 

That means if a couple leaves to their heirs $10,860,001, they now pay the estate tax on $1. The current estate tax rate is 40%, so that would be 40 cents.

Yet according to these members of Congress, that’s still too much.

In which case "these members of Congress" are moral egoists who either do not know Justice Holmes' "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" or don't care to contribute a penny to others.

Here is Reich's video:

 

It is a mere 2 m 50 s and it is an excellent argument, so you may watch this.

5. A Misleading Moment of Celebration for a New Surveillance Program

The next and final item for today is an article by Norman Salomon on Common Dreams, who makes the point I made:

This starts as follows:

The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”

Yes, indeed - as I put it: It is too little, too late - and besides, since the NSA is still secret and has been acting illegally for 14 years, it doesn't seem smart to assume it will stick to the law this time. Besides, they are aiming to get all the
information on anyone, and for total and absolute power.

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Note

P.S. Jun 7, 2015: I added the link to the fifth item (that disappeared twice, so far).

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