August 6, 2015
Crisis: Revolution (?), Corbyn, Russia, Torture, 4th Amendment, TPP Dead (?)

"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


Feeding People on Our Stressed Planet Will Require a

2. Win or lose, Jeremy Corbyn has already changed the
     rules of the game

3. By banning my book, Russia is deluding itself about its

New Effort to Rebut Torture Report Undermined as
     Former Official Admits the Obvious

5. Court Rules Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Violates
     Fourth Amendment

6. The Economist: The TPP is Dead

This is a Nederlog of Thursday August 6, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items and 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about the need for a revolution to feed all, according to Paul Ehrlich (I am a bit skeptical); item 2 is about Jeremy Corbyn (but I am skeptical about the changes he wrought in case he doesn't win); item 3 is about a book about historical facts that now is forbidden in Russia because the facts clash with the "sacred" triumph of Stalin's armies over Hitler's; item 4 is about torture in the US (and I seem to be a bit more cynical than Dan Froomkin); item 5 is about a quite decent and quite correct decision by an American court about the Fourth Amendment (but I fear the Supreme Court's majority); and item 6 is about the death of the TPP, according to the chief economist of The Economist (I am a bit skeptical).

1. Feeding People on Our Stressed Planet Will Require a 'Revolution'

The first article of today is by Brian Bienkowski on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

How do you make sure billions of people around the world have access to food?

You start a revolution.

At least that’s what two leading U.S. scientists argue in a new report. Feeding people will require cleaner energy, smarter farming and women’s rights, but also a “fundamental cultural change,” according to Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, and University of California, Berkeley, professor and researcher John Harte.

“What is obvious to us is ... that if humanity is to avoid a calamitous loss of food security, a fast, society-pervading sea-change as dramatic as the first agricultural revolution will be required,” they wrote in their report published last week in the International Journal of Environmental Studies.

I say. But I have several problems, and one is Paul Ehrlich and the other is the idea of starting a revolution. But first one more quotation:

For many people across the world growing, buying or finding food is a daily struggle. More than 800 million people are estimated to be malnourished, according to the United Nations.

Billions don’t have stable, secure access to food.

Well... to start with, I recall that around 2001 Bill Clinton opined, in one of the speeches he may have gotten 250,000 dollars for, that 500 million people were estimated to be malnourished, which means that in the last 15 years the numbers of estimated malnourisheds kept about even course with the growth of the population (or may have grown a little, and that in spite of Live Aid, and other similar Good Deeds by the rich Western masses).

Then I recall that the situation was already dire in the late 1950ies and early 1960ies, when Aldous Huxley and Rachel Carson warned for overpopulation and the destruction of nature. (And I agree with Hucley and Carson, mostly.)

Also, no one has "stable, secure access to food", in the world in which we live, though I agree the rich have it a lot easier than the poor.

Then to return to Paul Ehrlich (<- Wikipedia): I read his "The Population Bomb" around 1971 and was somewhat impressed, but it is 47 years after it was first published, and many of his predictions did not materialize. (Some did, also.)

As to the need for a revolution: I agree with Ehrlich that the situation is and was dire: what I am doubting seriously is Ehrlich's specific take on it, although in some general sense my guess is that he is more right than wrong.

There is considerably more in the article but, while I think in some sense 'a revolution' is needed if you want to feed all (an idea or a value which "the Western masses" don't really seem to care much about, that is, apart from pop festivals, some times, and not too often), I am rather skeptical of Ehrlich's specific ideas, that didn't hold up very well for decades.

2. Win or lose, Jeremy Corbyn has already changed the rules of the game

The next article is by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The media and the political class can hardly contain themselves. What’s happening in the Labour party should simply not be happening. It’s suicidal, puerile, madness, self-mutilation, narcissistic, an emotional spasm and, in the words of one Tory cabinet member, a “potential catastrophe for Britain”.

But Jeremy Corbyn’s runaway leadership campaign shows little sign of flagging. In fact, the more he’s attacked and derided, the more support he attracts. It’s an extraordinary example of how utterly unpredictable politics can be. In the aftermath of the general election, Corbyn’s name was barely mentioned as a possible candidate, as Labour’s leaders lurched to the right.

A couple of months later and the veteran leftwing MP is heading the field in polls and nominations, attracting thousands of young people to the party and packing public meetings across the country. As Corbyn himself readily concedes, it’s a political insurgency that was waiting for something to latch on to - and that something has turned out to be him.

The parallels with the anti-austerity movements that threw up Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece and are fuelling Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the US Democratic nomination are clear. And the claim that the influx of new members and registered supporters is fuelled by far-left “entrists” is time-warp twaddle.

Yes, indeed. And the real facts behind it is that social democracy has been dead since the early 1990ies, except for a few rare supporters of it, such as Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain.

It had been killed by Bill Clinton, by Tony Blair, by Blair's inspirer Margaret Thatcher, and by many other careerist politicians, also outside the English speaking part of the world (thus, the Dutch political fraud Wim Kok - currently earning at least 250,000 euros a year as a bank manager of some kind - is a typical careerist example).

It enabled the old left parties to take over a good part of the roles of the conservative rightist parties, and allowed the rightist parties to grow more and more extreme right-wing, and that is also what happened.

But in fact, as Seumas Milne says:

Not only that, but far from being the “fanatical class warrior” of the Daily Mail’s imagination, Corbyn represents Labour’s mainstream values and is making the case for a social democracy that has been driven from the mainstream for a generation.

As one young supporter at a Corbyn rally explained: “People say he is an old leftwinger or an old Marxist but to my generation his ideas seem quite new.” What she meant was simply free university tuition and the public ownership of rail and energy – common across Europe and popular with the British public.

Yes, I agree - and I am not a Marxist, not a socialist, nor even a social democrat, but I am someone who thinks there is a real and relatively large place for a genuine social democratic party, with really leftist values and ideals, simply as a basis for the poor and middle class to defend themselves from the individually much more powerful rightists, Tories etc. who generally defend the interests of the rich. [1]

Then again, although this is an interesting article that I recommend you read, I am not as optimistic as Seumas Milne seems to be:

I hope Corbyn wins, simply because that is the only way to get a credible leftist opposition in Great Britain, but if he doesn't win, New Labour will return triumphantly, and will be what it was since Tony Blair: a Toryist party led by individual political careerists out for power for themselves and lots - millions, if possible: If Tony can get 20 million pounds, why not Yvette or Andy?! Eh?! - of money for themselves.

3.  By banning my book, Russia is deluding itself about its past
The next article is by Anthony Beevor on The Guardian:
This has a summary:
Denying historical facts is wrong, whether they concern the Holocaust or Red Army atrocities
which is entirely correct, and it starts as follows:
Over the past 24 hours I have been receiving slightly ironic congratulations by email from fellow historians. They were prompted by the order from the Ministry of Education in the Yekaterinburg region of Russia to withdraw all my books from schools and colleges. They are to be removed “from the access of students and teaching staff”. (It is interesting that teaching staff are not to be allowed to make up their own minds.) I am accused of “promoting stereotypes formed during the Third Reich” and developing the “propaganda myth” of Joseph Goebbels that Red Army soldiers committed mass rapes of German women.

In some ways I am amazed that it has taken them so long. Thirteen years ago, in 2002, when my book Berlin: The Downfall was published, the Russian ambassador in London, Grigori Karasin (now deputy foreign minister), accused me of “lies, slander and blasphemy against the Red Army” and then invited me to lunch.
He made the valid point that the horrors and hardships that the Soviet people had undergone over at least three generations – the first world war, the revolution and civil war, the famines, the purges and the unspeakable suffering of the Nazi invasion – meant that even those opposed to Stalinism saw the victory in 1945 as “sacred”. By including the mass rapes I would be causing great offence. This was clearly true, but to pretend that they did not happen would have been a Soviet propaganda myth.
Yes, indeed - although I disagree that Stalin's triumph merits the title "sacred" [3], and especially not if this is taken to imply that one can deny palpable historical facts (like the mass rapes that took place) so as to keep the "sacred" triumph "sacred". [3]

But Anthony Beevor is quite right:
What depresses me most is that once again we are faced with a government trying to impose its own version of history. I am fundamentally opposed to all such attempts to dictate a truth, whether it concerns denial of the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide, or the “sacred victory” of May 1945.
Truth comes before political ideals, and where political ideals - left, right or center - come before truth, a political dictatorship is close.

4. New Effort to Rebut Torture Report Undermined as Former Official Admits the Obvious

The next article is by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:

This is a short article from which I only quote this:

(...) Alvin Bernard “Buzzy” Krongard, who was the CIA’s executive director from 2001 to 2004 — the number-three position at the agency — was asked on a BBC news program if he thought waterboarding and putting a detainee in painful stress positions amounted to torture.

“Well, let’s put it this way, it is meant to make him as uncomfortable as possible,” he said. “So I assume for, without getting into semantics, that’s torture. I’m comfortable with saying that.”

He added: “We were told by legal authorities that we could torture people.”
And that’s where Krongard’s confession will be so damaging: It makes it clear that CIA officials knew what torture was, knew they had been given legal cover to torture, and knew they were engaged in torture.

I doubt I am as certain as Dan Froomkin seems to be that this is "damaging".

In fact, while I agree "t
hat CIA officials knew what torture was, knew they had been given legal cover to torture, and knew they were engaged in torture" I think it is rather a brazen attempt to hide behind the fact that the officials were "given legal cover to torture".

For indeed they were, although indeed these seem to have mostly come from lawyers acting for the president or vice-president, who claimed they were allowed to proceed with "extended interrogation techniques".

But I suspect “Buzzy” Krongard's game amounts to this (in my words):

"We were given permission to abuse prisoners by lawyers who wrote for the goverment, and it cannot be expected from us to investigate or doubt such permissions (even if by now we learned that they were far from rock solid, and indeed may have been illegal themselves)."

We shall see, but I guess my reading is a bit more plausible.

5. Court Rules Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Violates Fourth Amendment

The next article is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This is good news (so far):

A divided appellate court panel in Richmond, Virginia, ruled on Wednesday that citizens do not give up their privacy rights just because their mobile-phone providers know where to reach them.

The decision is the strongest assertion of the Fourth Amendment rights of mobile phone users out of three appellate court decisions on the matter, setting up a likely Supreme Court hearing.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling rejected the “third party doctrine,” a legal theory that private information held by a company is not protected by the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure.

The ruling acknowledged the prevalence and advancement of technology in our lives. “People cannot be deemed to have volunteered to forfeit expectations of privacy by simply seeking active participation in society through use of their cell phones,” the court wrote.

Precisely. The reason is - in the end - exactly the same as paper mail users did not give up their privacy rights to the firms that sell envelopes by buying envelopes: That is all utter baloney, total crap, complete bullshit. [2]

So I quite agree with the court - but I fear the "
likely Supreme Court hearing", for I would not at all be amazed if these decide, 5 against 4, that by hiding your personal secrets in an envelope and handing that envelope to a post office, you thereby have given your secrets, your privacy, and your life to the anonymous spies of your government, who will check whether you are desirable, and may
remove you (anonymously, in secret) in case they decide you are not (for that
in the Patriot Act).

6. The Economist: The TPP is Dead

The last article of today is by Yves Smith and Simon Baptist on Nakedcapitalism:
In fact, this is mainly here because of the title ("The TPP Is Dead") and the source, which is The Economist's chief economist, Simon Baptist. I will quote only a quoted bit from Baptist, namely this one:
The latest talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did not end well and election timetables in Canada and the US mean that the prospect of a deal being ratified before the end of 2016 (at the earliest) is remote. The usual problem of agricultural markets was prominent, headlined by Canada’s refusal to open its dairy sector. For New Zealand—one of the four founder countries of the TPP, along with Brunei, Chile and Singapore—this was a non-negotiable issue. Dairy was not the only problem. As usual, Japan was worried about cars and rice, and the US about patent protection for its pharma companies.

The TPP was probably doomed when the US joined, and certainly when Japan did. It then became more of a political project than an economic one. Big trade agreements had hitherto focused on physical goods, while the TPP had an aim of forging rules of trade beyond this in intellectual property, investment and services. China was a notable absence, and the US and Japan, in particular, were keen to set these rules with enough of the global economy behind them such that China would be forced into line later on. For now, the shape of international standards in these areas remains up for grabs. The next step for the TPP, if anything, is whether a smaller group—such as the founding four —will break away and go ahead on their own, with a much smaller share of global GDP involved, and in the hope that others will join later.
All I can say is: I wish it were true!

I like Nakedcapitalism and I respect Yves Smith, but I am doubtful even the chief economist of The Economist knows as much about the TPP - which is a deeply secret treaty, though parts of it have been published on Wikileaks - as he should.

But OK - we will see. For the moment I am not convinced, though the news sounds good.


[1] Incidentally, where am I, politically speaking? That is not such a bad question, but the answers are personal, and come in three parts:

First, in terms of values and ideals I am on the left side, indeed probably mostly anarchistic (though I do believe some sort of government is needed, and some system of laws needs to be assumed and maintained), but without finding any group or any person I can mostly agree with. ("Aren't anarchists socialists?!" I don't know they are, but the socialism I am against is the state capitalist kind, where a few holders of power in fact owe or at least run everything. What first needs to be done is curbing the many abuses of power and authority.)

Second, in terms of politics I am basically out: I really do not think politics or politicians are the right way to change the world (and do not think so since 1970: this is neither a new nor an unconsidered position!) and I opt for real science and scientific ideas and values much rather than politics and political ideas and values.

But that is very much a minority positiom, so:

Third, I follow politics, indeed rather closely, but that is mainly because the vast majority seems to believe politics or religion will (or might) deliver them their ideals. I don't believe this at all, but this does mean politics and politicians remain important, though one cannot trust the politicians and cannot believe their publicly proclaimed values and plans.

[2] But it is the kind of utter crap the United States' governments have been indulging in ever since 9/11: You have no right on any privacy, because by buying envelopes you handed your private information to "a company", which the  government then claims (quite falsely) "is not protected by the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure." That is: You may have secrets, but as soon as you tell them to anyone else, you thereby tell them to the government (who will cease your communications, read them (anonymously and in secret) and store them, for later use, quite possibly by a later government.

[3] After all, Stalin also was an atheist.

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