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Nederlog

June 18, 2015
Crisis: British "Democracy", Hayden on Snowden, TPP, Reich on Education, Business
  "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.
There’s no reason to accept austerity. It can be defeated
2. Hayden Mocks Extent of Post-Snowden Reform: “And
     This Is It After Two Years? Cool!”

3. Awesome Power Is On the Verge of Being Handed Over
     to Private Banks If TPP Passes

4.
Robert Reich: Elites Are Waging a War on Public
     Education

5. the business of doing business….



This is a Nederlog of Thursday June 18, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: item 1 is about an article by Seumas Milne that I liked: austerity can be defeated (in principle);
item 2 is about general Hayden's appreciation of how much the NSA has been
hurt the last two years: hardly (and I agree); item 3 is about a good article by Ellen Brown, who explains the TiSA (and the TPP and the TTIP) will destroy democratic government; item 4 is about an interview with Robert Reich, who has some fine proposals for American education that I know worked, because I did
study under them, in Holland (where they since have been destroyed); and item
5
is about an article about the - new - business of doing business, that is purely
profit oriented.
1. There’s no reason to accept austerity. It can be defeated
The first item is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
It would hardly be surprising if the large majority of British people who didn’t vote for the Conservatives were daunted at the prospect of what’s now in store for us. David Cameron and George Osborne can hardly contain their enthusiasm for the torrent of cuts and privatisations they are about to unleash.

This is to be austerity on steroids. The full gory details of the £12bn benefit cuts the Tories refused to identify in the election will have to wait for next month’s “emergency” budget. But Osborne has already rushed through £4.5bn of new cuts and asset sales to get us all in the mood. And he and Cameron are counting on a punch-drunk Labour frontbench to smooth the imposition of a punitive fiscal regime. To wrongfoot the opposition still further, the chancellor now plans to enforce permanent budget surpluses in law. It is, as 77 leading economists warned, a dangerous political gimmick that could help trigger another 2008-style debt crisis.
Seumas Milne is quite correct that (bolding added) "the large majority of British people (..) didn’t vote for the Conservatives".

In case you wonder why or wonder why Great Britain is called "a democracy":

That a "large majority" did not vote Tory is due to
the  combination of (i) non-voters with (ii) the first-past-the-post or the winner-takes-all district system, that (iii) also are regularly redivided by the government so as to help their candidates win. [1]

And no, I would not call this a real democracy, simply because the large majority of the British people did not vote for the government they do have.

Here is more about British "democracy":

The Conservatives have never won a parliamentary majority on a lower share of the vote in their history. Most of the public oppose the extreme austerity the Tories are preparing to mete out, just as they reject the privatisations. Like the new union political levy “opt-in”, they didn’t feature in the Tory manifesto. The Conservatives have no mandate for these measures. And as for ramping up strike-ballot thresholds while denying trade unionists the chance to vote online, that is a straightforward attack on democratic rights – which should, and will be, resisted.

But the response of Labour’s leadership candidates has been to run a Dutch auction of progressive policies, “swallow the Tory manifesto” and compete to be the most “pro-business”.
Incidentally, a "Dutch auction" refers to the following schema (and I quote Wikipedia, in part because I am Dutch and did not know this):
A Dutch auction is a type of auction in which the auctioneer begins with a high asking price which is lowered until some participant is willing to accept the auctioneer's price, or a predetermined reserve price (the seller's minimum acceptable price) is reached. The winning participant pays the last announced price.
(...)
Dutch auctions are a competitive alternative to a traditional auction, in which bids of increasing value are made until a final selling price is reached, because due to ever-decreasing bids buyers must act decisively to name their price or risk losing to a higher offer.
And here is the last bit on "British "democracy"" that I quote:

One way or another, the political establishment cartels have to be broken open if the majority are going to get a look-in. In Britain, last month’s election has been portrayed as a Conservative landslide. It was nothing of the kind. Cameron has a majority of 12 in the Commons – which has already shown itself vulnerable to pressure, despite Labour prevarication – and none in the Lords.

The Tories are far from having the wind in their sails. Regardless of the election result, they’re still widely regarded as the creatures of a discredited elite, with no answer to the now almost universally acknowledged crisis of inequality – except to deepen it. They are slashing support for an economy yet fully to recover and which is in no state to withstand renewed shocks.

I agree - although I should say that the British political system has been preserved for a long time, it seems mostly because the governing party (Tory or Labour, for about 90 years now) finds it convenient for furthering its own purposes.

2. Hayden Mocks Extent of Post-Snowden Reform: “And This Is It After Two Years? Cool!”

The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden on Monday marveled at the puny nature of the surveillance reforms put in place two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a vast expansion of intrusive U.S. government surveillance at home and abroad.

Hayden mocked the loss of the one program that was reined in — the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata information about domestic phone calls — calling it “that little 215 program.”

And he said if someone had told him two years ago that the only effect of the Snowden revelations would be losing it, his reaction would have been: “Cool!”

Here is the video and the full text of his remarks:

If somebody would come up to me and say “Look, Hayden, here’s the thing: This Snowden thing is going to be a nightmare for you guys for about two years. And when we get all done with it, what you’re going to be required to do is that little 215 program about American telephony metadata — and by the way, you can still have access to it, but you got to go to the court and get access to it from the companies, rather than keep it to yourself” — I go: “And this is it after two years? Cool!”

I say - and I agree with Hayden: Very little has been achieved to rule in the NSA and its spying on everyone. (Which - unlike him - I see as scandalous, and
as a preparation for a very authoritarian and very manipulative American state.)
3. Awesome Power Is On the Verge of Being Handed Over to Private Banks If TPP Passes

The next item is an article by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) on Alternet (and originally on the Web Of Debt blog):

This starts as follows:

In March 2014, the Bank of England let the cat out of the bag: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it. So wrote David Graeber in The Guardian the same month, referring to a BOE paper called "Money Creation in the Modern Economy." The paper stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong. The result, said Graeber, was to throw the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.

The revelation may have done more than that. The entire basis for maintaining our private extractive banking monopoly may have been thrown out the window. And that could help explain the desperate rush to "fast track" not only the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA would nip attempts to implement public banking and other monetary reforms in the bud.
Yes, indeed (though more is involved in these "Partnerships" and "Agreement").

Next, Ellen Brown asks:

If money is just an IOU, why are we delivering the exclusive power to create it to an unelected, unaccountable, non-transparent private banking monopoly? Why are we buying into the notion that the government is broke – that it must sell off public assets and slash public services in order to pay off its debts? The government could pay its debts in the same way private banks pay them, simply with accounting entries on its books. What will happen when a critical mass of the populace realizes that we've been vassals of a parasitic banking system based on a fraud – that we the people could be creating money as credit ourselves, through publicly-owned banks that returned the profits to the people?
I suppose in the end the answer is the same as explains Hayden's glee in the previous item: The majority lacks the brains, the knowledge or the time to
understand computers, banking or the economy, and also does not see through
most of the propaganda they are fed. (And I am very sorry, but this simply
seems the truth.)

Here is some more on the secret TiSA, which may be described as an attempt to stop democracy, and to give full and extremely large "legal" powers to the multi-national corporations and their lawyers:

On June 3, 2015, WikiLeaks released 17 key documents related to TiSA, which is considered perhaps the most important of the three deals being negotiated for "fast track" trade authority. The documents were supposed to remain classified for five years after being signed, displaying a level of secrecy that outstrips even the TPP's four-year classification.

TiSA involves 51 countries, including every advanced economy except the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The deal would liberalize global trade in services covering close to 80% of the US economy, including financial services, healthcare, education, engineering, telecommunications, and many more. It would restrict how governments can manage their public laws, and it could dismantle and privatize state-owned enterprises, turning those services over to the private sector.

There is considerably more in the article, that I recommend you read all of.

4. Robert Reich: Elites Are Waging a War on Public Education

The next item is by Danny Feingold on Alternet:

This is from an interview with Robert Reich:

C&M: Many of the recommendations you make in the MoveOn video seem relatively non-controversial: increasing federal funding, limiting class size, boosting pay of teachers, offering high school students technical training. Who’s opposing ideas like these?

Reich: Well unfortunately many do not want to increase federal funding at all. They are afraid of the federal government, they hate the federal government. These are the same state officials who don’t want to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. In terms of limiting class size, some education officials pay lip service to this but if you actually look at class sizes, they are getting larger.

Yes. Here is what Robert Reich proposes:

C&M: You call in the MoveOn video for making public higher education completely free. How do you propose paying for that?

Reich: Raising taxes on the wealthiest members of our society who have never been as rich as they are now. Whose effective tax rates are extraordinarily low relative to what they were 10 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago. And who have a social responsibility to invest in the education of everybody else’s kids.

Yes, of course! For as Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr put it: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society".

And there is this:

C&M: Millions of Americans are drowning in student debt. Even as they struggle to find a decent job. Do you believe that we should have universal student debt forgiveness?

Reich: I think that we need to allow all students to declare bankruptcy, to use bankruptcy laws. We also should forgive debts of students who have essentially have been hoodwinked — either by for-profit colleges and universities that promised them a quality of education that they never got, or by financial intermediaries who are charging them double-digit interest. Third, we ought to allow students to refinance their loans at today’s low interest rates. Fourth, we need to allow our students who are in debt to roll over their debts into a kind of income-contingent debt system whereby they can agree to pay a certain amount of their yearly full-time salary over a certain amount of time.

Yes, indeed - and I should add that I have been abled to study precisely because the Dutch did have a system that was precisely as Reich proposes,
and that was fair and decent (and indeed in the end this also freed me from having to pay back anything).

Of course, the majority of degenerate Dutch politicians since then totally destroyed it, but it did work and is was rather fair. [2] It also was the only
reason I could study: If I were 45 years younger, I could not study today,
if my parents would be as poor as they were 45 years ago.

5. the business of doing business….

The last item for today is an article by 1 boring old man, who is one of the few intelligent psychiatrists I know of:
This starts as follows:
In looking at the history of psychiatry, 1980 marks a radical change with the introduction of the DSM-III. But that was hardly the only thing happening in 1980, not by a long shot. Probably the most remarkable event was the election of Ronald Reagan which marked a dramatic change in our way of doing capitalism – the unregulated free-market way. 1980 is where a lot of graphs begin – like the rise of wealth inequity or our separating from the rest of the world with medical costs [in spite of no gain]. Reagan’s deregulation was sustained and defended by his Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, who artfully controlled our free economy by manipulating interest rates from 1987 until retiring in 2005, just as the housing market began its free-fall, ushering in the Great Recession in 2008 (...)
Yes, indeed. Here is an explanation of the title (that starts with a quotation from
Ed Silverman (colors in the original):
Rather than use their resources to build every medicine from scratch, the biggest drug makers increasingly look outside their own labs to buy a company or license a compound and then use their financial, regulatory and marketing muscle in hopes of creating a hit.
Ed tells it in a softer way than I would. These are companies whose main business is the business of doing business. Like Enron, AIG, Countrywide, and countless others, they’re in their corporate offices and not in their laboratories or manufacturing plants. They’re disconnected from the essence of their purpose.
That is: They do not try to make good products anymore, in order to make a decent living by selling these; they try to make great profits, by virtually any means, fair or foul.

This is much wider than medicine, but it holds for medicine too, and in my opinion has destroyed most of medicine, for it radically changed the purpose of medicine: It used to be helping patients to get better; it is making the highest possible profits from ill people by selling them expensive patented drugs.

And this is certainly the case in a pseudoscience like psychiatry. (The last link is long, but good.)

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Notes

[1] These three things - non-voting, district system, redivisions - also are rather strongly interconnected.

[2] I say it was "rather fair" mostly because I got less money than was given to people in the dole, of which there were a great lot in the time I studied, and they did not have to do anything (I had to study) and also did not have to pay back anything. Indeed, I proposed to give every student a dole payment rather than a study loan, simply because that would have been fair, especially if this was combined with a higher tax on the people with degrees because they earned considerably more, which I also proposed.

(Personal remark: But this was all in the late seventies and early eighties, when living was a lot easier and a lot more fair than it is now. Also, because it was accepted that I was ill in the late seventies, I could have gone in the dole, and this would have given me considerably more money, and a lot less hassle. But I didn't, mostly because I did not assume I would stay ill ever since.)

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