who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
case: DoJ says it can demand every email from
any US-based provider
2. Global Leaders Using Refugee
Plight to Push Military
3. A Continent Adrift: Juncker
Proposes Fixes to EU's
Broken Asylum Policies
This is a Nederlog of
September 10, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. It is a bit abnormal in that I could find only three crisis items
that are interesting enough to review here, and for this reason I have
added a fourth item: Orwell on socialism.
There are 4 items today, with
4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a totally crazy
from the US DoJ, that pretends that American secret services must have
the right to read any e-mail anyone
sends to anyone from anywhere, if it is on a computer that is owned by
US-based provider; item 2 is about what the current
inspire politicians to do: Keep them out of their countries, but use
their misery to bomb their
countries even more; item 3 is about the refugee
Europe: the European Union is to be an "area of freedom,
security and justice" only for those happy enough to be born in
it (preferably from European partners); and item 4
is about Part III of Orwell's "The Lion and the
Unicorn", that contains an interesting and fairly clear statement of
Orwell's kind of socialism.
DoJ says it can demand every email from any US-based provider
The first article today is by Sam Thielman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The United States
government has the right to demand the emails of anyone in the world from any email provider
headquartered within US borders, Department of Justice (DoJ) lawyers
told a federal appeals court on Wednesday.
I say. They really want a
tyranny that insists that a very few secret and anonymous
officials should know everything about anyone anywhere - not just in the United States, but absolutely anywhere.
Well, they do not have that right, and if, by quirk of the
Patriot Act, they assigned the "right" to know everything about anyone
to themselves, they did so because they are authoritarian criminals who acted completely
against the Fourth Amendment, which cannot be withdrawn.
The case being heard in
the second circuit court of appeals is between the US and Microsoft and
concerns a search warrant that the government argues should compel Microsoft to retrieve emails held on a Hotmail
server in Ireland.
Microsoft contends that
the DoJ has exceeded its authority with potentially
dangerous consequences. Organizations including Apple, the government
of Ireland, Fox News, NPR and the Guardian have filed amicus briefs
with the court, arguing the case could set a precedent for governments
around the world to seize information held in the cloud. Judges have
ruled against the tech company twice.
Counsel for Microsoft
contends that the US search warrant should not have been used to compel
it to hand over emails stored in Ireland. “This is an execution of law
enforcement seizure on their land,” Joshua Rosenkranz, counsel for
Microsoft, told the court. “We would go crazy if China did this to us.”
The DoJ contends
that emails should be treated as the business records of the company
hosting them, by which definition only a search warrant would be needed
in order to compel the provision of access to them no matter where they
are stored. Microsoft argues the emails are the customers’ personal
documents and a US warrant does not carry the authority needed to
compel the company to hand it over.
In this I agree completely
with Microsoft: My emails (and anyone else's e-mails) are not
the property "of the company
hosting them"; they are not
public documents; they are private documents; and anyone who
reads them or wants to read them other than the addressee while without probable
I committed a crime is or wants to be a criminal.
“This notion of the
government’s that private emails are Microsoft’s business records is
very scary,” Rosenkranz told the court.
There is also this:
“Both sides are in
agreement that there are not as many protections on electronic
communications as electronic communicators might like because the
providers can do whatever they want with those communications, so long
as they do it abroad,” Lynch concluded.
They clearly can, but
the fact that they can do it doesn't mean they are allowed to do it.
Using Refugee Plight to Push Military Escalation
next article is
by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I say. Local political leaders
decide they want to bomb a country, and hey presto: it is
regardless of international laws or treaties. They just say: X has to
go, Y has to go, and we will bomb them until they go.
Australian Prime Minister
Tony Abbott on Wednesday became the latest elected leader to use the
plight of refugees in building a rhetorical case for military
escalation towards Syria, despite numerous calls for wealthy nations to
extend refuge—not bombs—as the humanitarian crisis worsens.
in the Australian capital of Canberra on Wednesday, Abbott coupled an
announcement that the country will admit an additional 12,000 people
fleeing conflict in the Middle East with the declaration that the
nation will extend its military actions beyond Iraq by joining in the
bombing campaign in eastern Syria this week. The move comes despite questions
over the Abbott administration's legal footing for the air strikes.
Meanwhile, British Prime
Minister David Cameron is also calling for a "hard military force" to
remove President Bashar al Assad in Syria. "Assad has to go, [ISIS] has
to go and some of that will require not just spending money, not just
aid, not just diplomacy, but it will on occasion require hard military
force," he declared
There is also this on Cameron:
"David Cameron is
determined to go to war, and he refuses to let democratic formalities
stand in his way," the UK-based Stop the War Coalition declared earlier
this week. "His government is even exploiting the refugee crisis, which
is the product of US and UK military intervention, in order to force
Britain into yet another savage bombing campaign. UK bombing of Syria
would only increase the refugee crisis."
Yes, it clearly would. But
indeed there is also this:
Moreover, the escalation
comes amid lagging humanitarian response, as The Intercept's
Murtaza Hussain pointed out on Twitter:
3. A Continent Adrift: Juncker Proposes
Fixes to EU's Broken
next article is
by six journalists on Spiegel On Line:
This is from the
beginning (but I skip the Americanized beginning on Juncker: I don't
like initial paragraphs that pretend to give personal information that
is totally irrelevant):
Yes, that is about where
it stands right now: Scores of leading European politicians who wipe
their asses clean with their own founding treaties, simply to keep perfectly legitimate victims of persecution and civil war
outside of Europe.
The southern countries
want to be rid of the refugees, while the eastern states want nothing
to do with them. The core powers, Germany and France, refuse to bear
the burden alone. Hundreds of thousands of people have turned to Europe
for protection from persecution and civil war, as outlined in Europe's
founding treaties. But instead, they have found themselves in a cynical
transfer station of sorts, trapped in the purgatory of European asylum
law that isn't worthy of its name.
There is also this:
In the Lisbon
Treaty, the EU lauds itself as an "area of freedom, security and
justice." But these days, all those lofty concepts are rapidly losing
their meaning. In Budapest, refugees from Syria storm the trains to
Germany. In Austria, 71 people, including four children, agonizingly
suffocate in the back of a truck. In the suburbs of Rome, refugees live
in slums without electricity or water. In Calais, thousands
vegetate under tarps.
Europeans are left speechless as they hear the latest horror
stories from the parallel
world of the refugees. The most recent was a picture of the drowned
Syrian boy Alan whose body had washed up on a beach. The photo went
around the world. But rather than stand together in solidarity in the
midst of this crisis, European politicians flee into their respective
routines that some critics have rightly identified as organized
irresponsibility. The member nations of the world's greatest economic
area are obliged to alleviate the suffering of the refugees. But
instead, new fences are being erected on Europe's external borders.
Yes, I agree
"European politicians" act on purpose as "organized irresponsibility" and yes, about the only thing "European politicians" seem to agree
about is surrecting "new
fences" on "Europe's external borders"
There is considerably
more that I leave to your interests, but it ends like this:
The directorate general
of the Commission tasked with coordinating humanitarian aid recently
presented a new estimate of the number of Syrian refugees expected by
the end of the year. It is expected to rise by 1 to 2 million.
4. Orwell on socialism
The next article is
by George Orwell
(<- Wikipedia). It is from 1941 and is Part III from "The Lion and
the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius":
This essay is nearly 75 years old but is very well
worth reading, like all of Orwell's political writings. Also, you can
find "The Lion and the Unicorn" in Orwell's "Collected Essays,
Journalism and Letters", vol 2, where I read it originally, in 1979.
First, a small bit of background on the essay.
This is to a considerable extent based on two theses that
Orwell came to reject by the end of 1944: That (I quote from
the essay) "Laissez-faire capitalism is dead" and that
(again I quote from the essay) "We cannot win the war without introducing Socialism, nor
establish Socialism without winning the war."
The first thesis seems to have been based on the
considerable collectivizations (without really endangering capitalism)
that were made in Great Britain's war economy. The second thesis
seems to have been based on a combination of a
mistaken political analysis and wishful
My main reason to
mention it here is not to criticize Orwell (almost everybody
writing on politics in 1940 or 1941 was mistaken) but to make clear
that Orwell himself, rather soon also, came to see that he was
mistaken, and indeed criticized himself, publicly, as you may find in
his "Collected Essays" (etc.) vol 3, on pages 335-39 in my Penguin
edition. (This is from his "London Letter" of December 1944.)
Then again, I do not
believe Orwell's own criticism applied to his Socialsm (which he did
write with a capital S), which is what I am concerned with here.
Next, the main point
of "The Lion and the Unicorn" was to propose the funda- mentals for an
English revolution, and an important part of that plan was a clear
formulation of the kind of socialism Orwell was in favor of.
He did give a fairly clear formulation of what he desired, and
here it is:
there it is: Orwell's proposal for an English revolution that would
I suggest that the
following six-point programme is the kind of thing we need. The first
three points deal with England's internal policy (...) 
The general tendency of this
programme is unmistakable. It aims quite frankly at turning this war
into a revolutionary war and England into a Socialist democracy. I have
deliberately included in it nothing that the simplest person could not
understand and see the reason for. In the form in which I have put it,
it could be printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror.
- Nationalization of
land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.
- Limitation of incomes,
on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not
exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.
- Reform of the
educational system along democratic lines.
Next, there are three clarifications. First on nationalizations:
Nationalization. One can ‘nationalize’ industry by the
stroke of a pen, but the actual process is slow and complicated. What
is needed is that the ownership of all major industry shall be formally
vested in the State, representing the common people. Once that is done
it becomes possible to eliminate the class of mere owners who
live not by virtue of anything they produce but by the possession of
title-deeds and share certificates. State-ownership implies, therefore,
that nobody shall live without working. How sudden a change in the
conduct of industry it implies is less certain. In a country like
England we cannot rip down the whole structure and build again from the
bottom, least of all in time of war. Inevitably the majority of
industrial concerns will continue with much the same personnel as
before, the one-time owners or managing directors carrying on with
their jobs as State employees. There is reason to think that many of
the smaller capitalists would actually welcome some such arrangement.
The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the
landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over
£2,000 a year – and even if one counts in all their dependants there
are not more than half a million of these people in England.
is more in "The Lion and the Unicorn", mostly mitigating the extent and
the speed of nationalizations. I will return to this below, and
meanwhile give one more quote from Orwell's explanation of
From the moment
that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State,
the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is
say. This seems to me quite idealistic and unrealistic, but I will also
explain that below.
Second, about incomes.
Limitation of incomes implies the fixing of a minimum wage, which
implies a managed internal currency based simply on the amount of
consumption goods available. And this again implies a stricter
rationing scheme than is now in operation. It is no use at this stage
of the world's history to suggest that all human beings should have exactly equal incomes. It has been shown over and
over again that without some kind of money reward there is no incentive
to undertake certain jobs. On the other hand the money reward need not
be very large. In practice it is impossible that earnings should be
limited quite as rigidly as I have suggested. There will always be
anomalies and evasions. But there is no reason why ten to one should
not be the maximum normal variation. And within those limits some sense
of equality is possible. A man with £3 a week and a man
with £1,500 a year can feel themselves fellow creatures, which the Duke
of Westminster and the sleepers on the Embankment benches cannot.
In fact, I proposed a
smilar schema (last two days ago: see here)
and the main difference
between my proposal and Orwell's proposal of 75 years ago is that I considered a rate of 1 to 20 instead of 1 to 10.
Here are three remarks. First, as I explained two days ago, at most
3% would loose money, and the same or something very similar holds for Orwell's
proposal. Second, it can be supported by many arguments, from many
sources, and from most or all historical periods. Third, one important
point is to put an end
to profit as the main criterion of life, culture, civilization
and welfare: it is not, and it should not be.
Third, about education:
In wartime, educational reform must necessarily be promise rather than
performance. At the moment we are not in a position to raise the
school-leaving age or increase the teaching staffs of the elementary
schools. But there are certain immediate steps that we could take
towards a democratic educational system. We could start by abolishing
the autonomy of the public schools and the older universities and
flooding them with State-aided pupils chosen simply on grounds of
This doesn't say much, but I
agree with Orwell that much more should be invested in
education than now; that education should be free for all, as
should be all necessary books etc.; and that the only criterion
that makes sense to distinguish between people is ability -
which I am afraid many current leftists and progressives deny, mostly
because this might ban some of their favorite groups, or indeed because
their own IQs aren't that high. 
So far for the
exposition of Orwell's socialism. What do I think of it?
I agree with Orwell
on incomes and education. As to the rates of lowest to highest incomes:
I am twice as liberal as was Orwell, but I do like to remark that in
the only American poll I know about the the rates of lowest to highest incomes they desired, a
majority was in favor of a rate of 1 to 7, which is both recent (of a
years ago) and more strict than Orwell's proposal.
My main reservations
are about nationalizations, and the two most important ones are these:
(1) who will have the power over all the nationalized properties, and
(2) what will "the people" get for co-owning the nationalized
The first question is
the most important, for Stalinism and Maoism showed that if the state
owns the nationalized properties, in fact the very few who make
up the state become the effective owners of everything, simply because
they have the power.
And indeed I would
add that this makes the situation of nearly everyone who does not
belong to the state's organs probably worse than under
laissez-faire capita- lism, as was indeed the case under Hitler and
Stalin (both of whom claimed to be socialists), even though there was
no absolute necessity for this - but "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts
absolutely" (and I think that is a
fundamental insight that is true for everybody).
But the second question is also quite relevant. Suppose Orwell's kind
of socialism were realized. Now you - somehow - owe nearly everything you see that
was produced by men, except that you share that ownership with everyone
else. What did you gain? Formally, everything; factually, nothing, it
seems to me, for everyone else owes the same as you do. (And no, I
don't believe many will feel as Orwell claimed: that "the
State is themselves",
and indeed if they do, I still don't quite see what this would practically mean.)
What is the solution?
I will not argue
this here (and yes, the question is quite academic, but so it was in
fact for Orwell, 75 years ago), but I would retain private
property, and instead of nationalizing everything to what can only be
the state, I would alter the ownership of firms from their
previous possessors, whoever they are, to the persons working in those
firms, and start from there, and indeed not nationalize them: I
would hand them to whoever worked in the firms, and tell them from now
one they collectively own it, because they work in it. 
Does that solve all
problems? Of course not. But here is my proposal of another first principle than Orwll proposed:
 All mines, railways, banks and
industries are the property of those who work in them; all land up to a
maximum is the property of whoever farms it, if it is farmland; all of the rest of nature is the
property of everyone under the
responsibility of a parliament, that is the highest power in the
Will this solve all
problems? Again: Of course not, but it seems more realistic and far
less dangerous than nationalizing everything.
Finally, I have two additions:
The laws are retained, apart from the necessary changes that follow from the three previous measures, and
remain public and applicable to every citizen in the same way.
supremacy: The laws are maintained by parliament, and are
changed by ordinary majorities. Every adult has a right to vote for
everyone's vote counts as one. The parliament is the supreme
power in the state, and should work to maintain a socialist
maintain democracy. And no, I didn't write a socialist constitution,
but I think it is very desirable to have one, because one needs a legal
foundation that cannot be changed except by revolution, again to
fundamental rights of everyone are maintained, independently from
whoever is in
 There are
three more points, but these are now wholly outdated, as they
relate to England's colonies, and they can be safely left out.
None of this holds for me: I was no prodigy, but I was clearly very
 That means that they owe the profits in
common, but with the restriction that no one should get more than the
maximal income, and that they should pay
taxes to the state.
 By "repropriation" (it seems the word
is new) I mean "changing of owners": From the few rich to the many
poor, specifically (in part on the ground that the few rich have made a
major mess of society and of nature).