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Nederlog

September 17, 2015
Crisis: Corbyn, Sanders, Marine Life, TTIP in Europe, The Rich, Virtual Machines

 "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.
Jeremy Corbyn’s victory has already transformed politics
2. Bernie Sanders live-tweets Republican debate – with
     plenty of opinions

3. Populations of Marine Life Have Declined by Half Since
     1970

4.
European Commission Accused of 'Putting Lipstick on a
     Pig'
 
5. Why the Rich Are So Much Richer
6.
With Virtual Machines, Getting Hacked Doesn’t Have To
     Be That Bad



This is a Nederlog of Thursday, September 17, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Seumas Milne on some wider implications of Corbyn's victory; item 2 is about a Bernie Sanders move (not very important but nice); item 3 is about a very steep fall in the oceans' marine life in a mere 42 years: it seems half of what it was in 1970 (NB: there's far more sea than land); item 4 is about the extreme dangers of the TTIP; item 5 is about a decent article about why the rich have gotten so much richer, while everyone else remained the same or got less: political lies and deceptions, and deregulations; and item 6 is about a quite interesting article about how you can considerably increase your computer's safety from being completely cracked by the NSA or the GCHQ: installing a virtual machine.

1. Jeremy Corbyn’s victory has already transformed politics

The first article today is by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and I'll say straight away that Seumas Milne is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn):

It must have been the shortest political honeymoon ever. Barely had the landslide election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader been announced than the backlash began in earnest. The 100-1 outsider might have pulled off the most extraordinary democratic leadership victory. But when it came to the political and media establishment, the usual niceties were dispensed with entirely.

Within minutes, the first of a string of Blairite resignations from shadow cabinet jobs they had not yet been offered had begun. The Conservatives issued bloodcurdling warnings about the threat posed to the security of the country and every family in the land. And the media campaign was raised to new levels of hysteria – with Corbyn and his allies depicted as deranged terrorist sympathisers.

Yes, that is true, to the best of my knowledge. And while I don't mind the Blairite resignations at all (1) I very much dislike the propaganda of the Conservatives and (2) I hold them responsible for most of the hysteria, the bullshit and the lies.
They are falsifying things and they are lying, and not for the many but for the rich few. (And see item 5.)

The following seems to me to be a (mostly) fair summary of what did happen in the Labour Party:

By any reckoning, Corbyn’s election and the movement that delivered it represent a political eruption of historic proportions. Whatever now happens, such a fundamental shift cannot simply be reversed. Eight years after economic crisis took hold of the western world, the anti-austerity revolt has found its voice in Britain in an entirely unexpected way. The political conformity entrenched during the years of unchallenged neoliberalism has been broken.

For the first time in decades, an unapologetic socialist is at the head of one of Britain’s two main parties. 

Yes, indeed, and that itself is very important, although how it will work out remains to be seen.

There is also this on Corbyn's present problems:

Corbyn’s most serious challenge, aside from a frenetically hostile media, will come from his own MPs. After years of New Labour control, the parliamentary Labour party was far to the right of the membership even before the influx of new recruits. Disinherited Blairites are already plotting to bring him down or, if they fail, in some cases to defect to the Conservatives.
I am not at all amazed, and indeed the Blairites still hold many positions of power in Labour.

There is also this, as the last of the article:
The post-2008 reaction against austerity is now taking place in one country after another. The challenge is to translate that insurgency into political power. We don’t know how far Corbyn’s election can take Labour, or how long his leadership can survive. But one thing is clear: there will be no going back. It has already changed Labour, and British politics, for good.

I think that is too optimistic, at least for now. What seems fair is: Defeating
all expectations, a real leftist is leading the Labour Party now, but what will
emerge from this is mostly hidden in the future.

2. Bernie Sanders live-tweets Republican debate – with plenty of opinions 

The next article is by Adam Gabbatt on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

One of the surprise stars of the GOP debate on Wednesday night was the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

Sanders announced he would be live-tweeting the debate just after 8pm. It turned out to be a winning decision as the self-described Democratic socialist’s barbed remarks racked up thousands of retweets and favourites.

That was a good idea. Here is one example:

Donald Trump had begun his debate performance with an attack on Kentucky senator Rand Paul. After Paul reminded the audience that Trump had repeatedly criticised people for their appearance – including fellow Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina – Trump shot back.

“I never attacked him on his look, and believe me there’s plenty of subject matter right there,” the business mogul said.

Right on cue, there was Sanders, seemingly capturing the thoughts of many:

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 17, 2015 Trump. What a pleasant and humble person. Can't stop saying kind and generous things about his fellow Republicans. #DebateWithBernie

Yes, indeed: While it is true I have not seen or heard very much from Trump, mostly because I avoid him, which I do because most of his ideas are nonsense,
but what I have seen from him always was unpleasant and also rather megalo- maniac: it seems as if Donald Trump cannot make any mistakes in Donald Trump's eyes.

That makes him - apart from his many nonsensical ideas - quite dangerous as a president.

3. Populations of Marine Life Have Declined by Half Since 1970 

The next article is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

This starts as follows (and is quite frightening):

Many of the world’s marine species, including populations of fish crucial to human food security, are in potentially catastrophic decline, according to an updated study of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish by the World Wildlife Fund.

The findings of the “Living Blue Planet” report, published Wednesday, reveal a decline of 49 per cent in the size of marine populations between 1970 and 2012.  Not only are the consequences disastrous for ecosystems, they spell trouble for all nations, especially those in the developing world whose people are heavily dependent on the ocean’s resources.

Yes, indeed. This is from a quote from the World Wildlife Fund in the article:

Many species essential to commercial and subsistence fishing – and therefore global food supply – are significantly depleted due to overfishing.  Global population sizes of the Scombridae family of food fish that includes tunas, mackerels and bonitos have fallen by 74 per cent.  Declining stocks of bluefin and yellowfin are of particular concern. Some species found in UK waters, including the vulnerable porbeagle shark and the critically endangered leatherback turtle, have also undergone precipitous declines.

While over-exploitation is identified as the major threat to ocean biodiversity, the study finds that climate change is causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years. Rising temperatures and increasing acidity levels caused by carbon dioxide are further weakening a system that is already severely degraded through overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution.

Dr Louise Heaps, Chief Advisor on Marine Policy at WWF-UK said:

“As well as being a source of extraordinary natural beauty and wonder, healthy seas are the bedrock of a functioning global economy.  By over-exploiting fisheries, degrading coastal habitats and not addressing global warming, we are sowing the seeds of ecological and economic catastrophe. 

“But there are clear steps that all governments can take to restore our oceans.

I am sorry, but from the last bit onwards - "there are clear steps that all governments can take to restore our oceans" - that seems to be mostly false to me:

I grant quite a few things can be done to improve the situation, but once you
have discovered a decline of nearly half of "the size of marine populations" in
a mere 42 years, in 6/7th of the earths surface also, any plan "to restore our oceans" seems to have missed George Carlin"s "Saving the Planet", from which I quote: "The planet is fine. The people are fucked."

And while you may disagree with some of the things Carlin is saying in the video,
that line definitely is correct. And it will take at least as many years to turn it around, if that is possible.

(No, I am not saying it should not be tried. I am only saying that "to restore the oceans" will take at least as long as 42 years, and that is very optimistic as well.)

4. European Commission Accused of 'Putting Lipstick on a Pig'

The next article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams (and I have shortened the very long title some):

This starts as follows, and is in fact on the TTIP:

A social justice organization has accused the European Commission of "putting lipstick on a pig" with its plan for a new court system for a pending EU-US trade deal the group says still affords "corporations frightening new powers at the expense of our national democracies."

The proposed system, the Investment Court System, would replace the controversial investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which allows corporations to bypass domestic courts to sue governments over policies that could affect their profits.

Talks on the trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), "have been dogged by disagreements, particularly over Washington's insistence that as part of the pact, private companies be allowed to sue governments before special tribunals," Agence France-Presse reports. Reuters adds:

Fears that U.S. multinationals could use private arbitration rules in the proposed trade pact to challenge European food and environmental laws have overshadowed a transatlantic project meant to ease business and compete with China's economic might.

These fears seem to me to be wholly correct, especially since having seen that Barack Obama pushed through the TTP while it has hardly been read by almost every Senator or member of Congress, and while those few who did see it are not even allowed to take notes on it, or discuss what they have seen with others:

That is not democratic politics, it is completely insane authoritarian politics - which also is meant to destroy democracy precisely because these secret and classified plans that will influence the lives of billions of ordinary people when made into "laws" (by senators and congressmen who hardly know anything about them!), "
allows corporations to bypass domestic courts to sue governments over policies that could affect their profits."

That is an insane and truly fascistic schema [1] meant to destroy democracy, and replace it by supranational uncontrollable corporate power, served by their very own "courts".

Here is Global Justice Now, who are quite right in my opinion:

UK-based Global Justice Now, however, says the proposal offers mere cosmetic changes to the ISDS mechanism, to which the European public has voiced overwhelming opposition.

Nick Dearden, director of the organization, called the proposal "essentially a PR exercise to get around the enormous controversy and opposition that has been generated by ISDS. The Commission can try to put lipstick on a pig, but this new proposal doesn’t change the fundamental problem of giving corporations frightening new powers at the expense of our national democracies."

"The real issue at hand here is that of corporate power," Dearden added. "Commissioner Malmström says she wants to 'establish a new system built around the elements that make citizens trust domestic or international courts'—but she hasn’t explained why those courts are not good enough for multinational corporations to use."

Also - once again - the TTP and the TTIP are secret and classified, and they are secret and classified because they are too awful and too clearly completely anti-democratic to be discussed in parliaments by the chosen representatives of their peoples.

Here are the Friends of the Earth:

"The European Commission's proposal for an 'International Court System' is tarred with the same old corporate friendly brush," stated Natacha Cingotti, trade campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.  "Despite a new name and some reforms on the functioning of the system, it reaffirms the granting of VIP rights for corporate investors without giving them any obligations that would protect citizens and the environment."

"As long as companies can sue governments if they act in the public interest, the ability of governments to regulate is undermined," Cingotti stated. "It should be resisted at all costs."

Yes, indeed: It is an extremely dangerous, fundamentally secret and classified program meant to destroy democracy, and to give most power to the inter- national big corporations, for they can stop anything by saying it does, would or might decrease their profits.

5. Why the Rich Are So Much Richer

The next article is by James Surowicki on The New York Review of Books:
This starts as follows:
The fundamental truth about American economic growth today is that while the work is done by many, the real rewards largely go to the few. The numbers are, at this point, woefully familiar: the top one percent of earners take home more than 20 percent of the income, and their share has more than doubled in the last thirty-five years. The gains for people in the top 0.1 percent, meanwhile, have been even greater. Yet over that same period, average wages and household incomes in the US have risen only slightly, and a number of demographic groups (like men with only a high school education) have actually seen their average wages decline.
That is completely correct. Also, the gains of the rich few have been made possible by politics and political changes initialized in 1979/1980 when Thatcher and Reagan were elected, and started to make the rich richer by making the poor poorer, for that is how the economy works... except according to the majority of academic economists:
Something similar has happened in economics. Historically, inequality was not something that academic economists, at least in the dominant neoclassical tradition, worried much about. Economics was about production and allocation, and the efficient use of scarce resources. It was about increasing the size of the pie, not figuring out how it should be divided.
Which means that neoclassical economists were playing a merely intellectual game, that did not even address the basic economical fact that the many poor get little and the few rich get much, nor even what may be the economical reasons for how that mechanism works.

Next, there is this on the ideas of Joseph Stiglitz (<- Wikipedia), who won the Nobel Prize in economics:
(...) Stiglitz has made the case that the rise in inequality in the US, far from being the natural outcome of market forces, has been profoundly shaped by “our policies and our politics,” with disastrous effects on society and the economy as a whole. In a recent report for the Roosevelt Institute called Rewriting the Rules, Stiglitz has laid out a detailed list of reforms that he argues will make it possible to create “an economy that works for everyone.”
(...)
As a collection of columns, The Great Divide is somewhat fragmented and repetitive, but it has a clear thesis, namely that inequality in the US is not an unfortunate by-product of a well-functioning economy. Instead, the enormous riches at the top of the income ladder are largely the result of the ability of the one percent to manipulate markets and the political process to their own benefit.
That seems to me to be completely correct. And here is the main reason why the rich got so much richer:
But the main reason people at the top are so much richer these days than they once were (and so much richer than everyone else) is not that they own so much more capital: it’s that they get paid much more for their work than they once did, while everyone else gets paid about the same, or less. Corporate CEOs, for instance, are paid far more today than they were in the 1970s, while assembly line workers aren’t. And while incomes at the top have risen in countries around the world, nowhere have they risen faster than in the US.
Yes, indeed - and these enormous and obscene raises in payments of the very rich have been produced by a combination of many deregulations, and political lies and false promises (e.g. about "trickle down economy"). And they have been
taken from the many poor, to increase the riches of the few rich: it's as simple as that, and indeed is more due to politics than to economics.

Finally, here is an analysis of the very rich, who were the only ones to profit the last 35 years:

When we talk about the one percent, we’re talking about two groups of people above all: corporate executives and what are called “financial professionals” (these include people who work for banks and the like, but also money managers, financial advisers, and so on). These are the people that Piketty terms “supermanagers,” and he estimates that together they account for over half of the people in the one percent.

The emblematic figures here are corporate CEOs, whose pay rose 876 percent between 1978 and 2012, and hedge fund managers, some of whom now routinely earn billions of dollars a year. As one famous statistic has it, last year the top twenty-five hedge fund managers together earned more than all the kindergarten teachers in America did.

OK - that was a useful clarification. And this is a good article that deserves full reading.

6. With Virtual Machines, Getting Hacked Doesn’t Have To Be That Bad

The final article today is by Micah Lee on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

All major consumer operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, are way too easy to hack. One mishap — opening the wrong email attachment, installing malware that pretends to be Flash, not updating your software quickly enough — and you’ve given the keys to the kingdom to an attacker.

If that attacker gets the ability to run programs of their choice on your computer, as they often aim to do, they have access to all of your files. They can start logging your keystrokes, taking screenshots, and even listening to your microphone and watching through your webcam.

But it’s possible to isolate the most risky files and programs from other parts of your computer. Using virtualization software, the same technology that powers much of so-called “cloud computing,” it’s possible for you to protect your system even as you open attachments that might be sketchy, visit websites that you’re not too sure about — porn sites, torrent sites, pirated TV and sports sites — or test out software downloaded from random websites. You can also use this technology to ensure that your anonymous online activity remains anonymous, safeguarding the privacy protections offered by Tor by ensuring that absolutely all internet traffic gets routed through it — even if your software, like Tor Browser or Pidgin, gets hacked specifically to bypass Tor.

In this column, I’m going to start with a simple primer on virtual machines, including how to install the Ubuntu distribution of Linux in one of them, and I encourage you to follow along.
This is a very good article that clearly explains how you can prevent getting seriously hacked by installing an virtual machine. I will try this, and let you know what I learned.

--------------------------------------
Note

[1] I presume this definition from the American Heritage Dictionary:
fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

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