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Nederlog

September 22, 2015
Crisis: Cameron, Tsipras, Planned Parenthood, Money & Politics, On The Guardian

 "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. 
The David Cameron #piggate storm is a sideshow from
     the real issues. It’s certainly effective

2. Alexis Tsipras takes oath of office after victory in Greece
     general election

3. 
Why the Republican Assault on Planned Parenthood is
     Morally Wrong and Economically Stupid

4. Conservatives Buoyed by Historic Flood of Money Into
     Politics

5. Guardian’s terrible dilemma over Corbyn


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 22, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: item 1 is about an article by Suzanne Moore on Cameron's (allegedly) having put "private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig" (which is Big News in Great Britain); item 2 is about the re-election of Tsipras as Greece's new prime minister; item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich about planned parenthood in the USA; item 4 is about the very great influence of money in US politics (even though most ordinary people are against it); and item 5 is about The Guardian's reporting about Jeremy Corbyn (which was decidedly sub-standard, at least).

1. The David Cameron #piggate storm is a sideshow from the real issues. It’s certainly effective

The first article today is by Suzanne Moore on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
O frabjous day! This should be a bank holiday, surely, in celebration of what social media is calling #piggate and the official media is studiously ignoring. Tick whichever conspiracy theory you like regarding that media response. But let’s face it, no one can get any work done while we could be discussing whether the prime minister did “put a private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig during an initiation ceremony while at Oxford. Which is a university, apparently. This allegation is contained in a new book Call Me Babe … sorry, Call Me Dave, by Lord Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott, which is now being serialised in the Mail.

Twitter is, of course, in spasms of ecstasy. We want the story to be true, and the politics, as well as the pig, are fascinating. Ashcroft is a former Tory donor. Oakeshott is former political editor of the Sunday Times. The Mail is a Tory paper.
I say. Well... what seems to be true, and without euphemisms, is this:

Lord Michael Ashcroft spent a lot of money - millions, it seems - helping the Conservatives to win the elections, and expected some reward for it. He did not get what he wanted, and decided to write a book about David Cameron, in which he says, among other things, that Cameron put his cock in a dead pig's mouth, and smoked cannabis while listening to music, both when he was around 20.

There seems to be no photographic proof of either, though there are written reports these existed or exist.

That is about it, at least as far as I know. Whether it is true is not known, but it is true that Ashcroft was a large Tory donor, and the Daily Mail is a Tory paper.

Here is the ending of the article:

While George Osborne is out of it in China – where we have just secured important pork markets and pig semen deals (I’m not joking) - Cameron can only hope this goes away. It won’t.

It won’t because the hamminess of Cameron himself is ever present; it won’t because there are still a thousand brilliant jokes to be made (“bae of pigs” is just the start); it won’t because this image is now lodged firmly in our minds. “The creatures looked from pig to man and from man to pig and it was impossible to say which was which,” wrote Orwell, in Animal Farm.
(...)
We already know there is an entitled class that feels that normal rules don’t apply. It’s just part of the full English.
What do I think about it? I don't like David Cameron, and he does belong to the "entitled class that feels that normal rules don’t apply".

Then again, this seems filth to me, possibly from Cameron's filthy past, possibly not and a false allegation. I don't know, but this is fairly big English news now.

2. Alexis Tsipras takes oath of office after victory in Greece general election

The next article today is by Helena Smith on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Alexis Tsipras has taken the oath of office as Greece’s new prime minister after his unexpectedly strong victory in snap elections.

On Monday, almost eight months to the day after he was sworn in at the helm of Athens’s first ever far-left government, Tsipras stood before the president of the republic for a second time pledging to serve his people and country. He then walked through pouring rain to the prime ministers’ office – premises he vacated barely a month ago after calling the poll following a revolt in his Syriza party and loss of parliamentary majority.

“Our commitment is to try to get this country out of the crisis in which it has been for the last five years,” he told the interim prime minister Vassiliki Thanou, a supreme court judge and the nation’s first female leader.

I say, for I had not expected this. Then again, I do not know much about Greek politics (as most people who are not Greeks and don't understand Greek).

There is also this:

The leftist leader, who managed to rally supporters despite rolling back on almost every promise he had made, emphasised that the government’s “first big battle” would be to revive the country’s crippled economy, starting with the banking system under capital control since June.

Debt relief – the condition set by the International Monetary Fund to participate in Athens’ latest bailout – would top his list of demands.

It does seem to be a fact that the leftist opposition that was inside Syriza, and that moved out of it for the elections, got less than 3% of the vote, and therefore no seats at all.

There is also this, in partial explanation of the outcome of the elections:

Record high abstention rates – only 55 % turned out for the vote – could raise legitimacy fears.

“A general strike has already been decided, we will all be taking to the streets, there will be no let up,” said Petros Constantinou with the far left Antarsya group.

“There will be a huge revolt against a leftwing government taking such measures. This winter will be the most explosive yet.”

Perhaps. But Syriza still is a large party, and won the elections; it seems that the majority of Greeks is - let's put it this way, because they really have to choose from only evils - less negative about staying inside the euro than about moving back to the drachma; and Tsipras and his leftist party seem to be the leaders most Greek prefer (over someone else from a rightist party).

3. Why the Republican Assault on Planned Parenthood is Morally Wrong and Economically Stupid

The next article today is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

The Republican assault on Planned Parenthood is filled with lies and distortions, and may even lead to a government shutdown.

The only thing we can say for sure about it is it’s already harming women’s health.

There are fuller explanations why, but I will leave these to your interests.
The fundamental part is this:

At least elected members of Congress should be held to a standard of responsible public service. 

Yet last Friday, the House voted 241-187 to block Planned Parenthood’s federal funds for a year.

This may lead to another government shutdown. Funding for the government runs out at the end of the month, and several dozen House Republicans have said they won’t vote for a funding bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood.

This is, quite frankly, nuts.
I agree, but then that is the Republican Party. As Robert Reich remarks:

This never used to be a partisan issue. After all, Title X was signed into law in 1970 by Richard Nixon.

Obviously, the crass economic numbers don’t nearly express the full complexity of the national debate around abortion and family planning.

But they help make the case that we all benefit when society respects women to control their bodies and plan their families.

The attack on Planned Parenthood is not just morally wrong. It’s also economically stupid. 

Again, I agree with Reich, but I also observe that stupidity and wrongness are marks of the Republicans and its presidential candidates, and so far this hasn't kept them from getting a lot of what they wanted, the last 35 years.

4. Conservatives Buoyed by Historic Flood of Money Into Politics

The next article today is by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Political spending by outside groups seeking to the influence the 2016 presidential election is already dramatically out-pacing that of previous years, thanks in large part to the flood of dark money and super PAC cash in support of conservative candidates, a report released Monday from the Center for Responsive Politics finds.

As of September 21, political organizations "outside the party or official campaign structure" had poured $25.1 million into the cycle—a five-fold increase over the last presidential contest, researchers Robert Maguire and Will Tucker concluded based on an analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

However, when you isolate single-candidate spending, the increase is even more dramatic.

"Of the 40 organizations that have spent the most so far in the 2016 cycle—a list that includes political nonprofits, super PACs and business associations—more than half are dedicated to one candidate and one race," the report states. "The same is true of the top 20 biggest spenders, which includes 11 single-candidate groups."

As of mid-September, single-candidate groups had spent $16.2 million total—over 55 times levels seen in 2012, the report notes.

These single-candidate groups are far more likely to favor conservatives. Out of the 20 top spenders, only one has what the report calls a "liberal viewpoint."

I say, though it is not really amazing, for this is what the majority in the Supreme Court seems to have wanted: "Democratic elections" engineered by millions of dollars from the few who can spend millions.

The article ends as follows:

The findings follow numerous reports which show that, over five years after the passage of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Citizens United, outside spending, dark money, and corporate influence are dominating U.S. elections.

Meanwhile, surveys suggest the public opposes the over-sized role of outside dollars. A poll released by The New York Times and CBS in June found that the majority of people in the U.S. is against the unlimited flow of dollars into politics, do not think money equals speech, and want to restrict the power of the one percent to buy ballot outcomes.

I agree with "the majority of people in the U.S." on this issue, but I also observe that their wishes are largely ignored, also if they are the clear majority, and that
the reason that the wishes of the clear majority are ignored are that they do not have money to advertise.


5. Guardian’s terrible dilemma over Corbyn

The final article today is by Jonathan Cooke on his site:
This starts as follows:

In autumn 2002 the Observer newspaper’s correspondent Ed Vulliamy found confirmation of a terrible truth many of us already suspected. In a world-exclusive, he persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA official who still had security clearance at the Agency, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq. Everything the US and British governments were telling us to justify the coming attack on Iraq were lies.

Then something even more extraordinary happened. The Observer failed to print the story. In his book Flat Earth News, Nick Davies recounts that Vulliamy, one of the Observer’s most trusted reporters, submitted the piece another six times in different guises over the next half year. Each time the Observer spiked the story.

I say - and regular readers may recall that I reviewed an article by Ed Vulliamy about the kind of reporting The Guardian did - in vast majority: only Owen Jones and Seumas Milne did not follow the trend - about Jeremy Corbyn, which is the subject of the next quotation:

But at the weekend maybe the tables turned a little. The Observer gave Vulliamy a platform in its comment pages to take issue with its editorial the previous week savaging Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader.

In understandably cautious mode, Vulliamy called the paper’s stance towards Corbyn “churlish”, warning that it had lost the chance to stand apart from the rest of the British media, including the Guardian. All had taken vehemently against the new Labour leader from the very beginning of his candidacy.

As I have just pointed out there were two exceptions, so "All" is not quite true, but "Most" would have been.

And there is this:
All the Guardian’s inner circle of commentators, from Jonathan Freedland to Polly Toynbee, made public that they were dead against Corbyn from the moment he looked like he might win. When he served simply to justify claims that the Labour Party was a broad and tolerant church, these commentators were in favour of his standing. But as soon as he began to surge ahead, these same liberal-left pundits poured more scorn on him than they had reserved for any other party leader in living memory. In a few months Corbyn has endured more contempt from these fearless watchdogs of the left than the current Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has suffered over many years.

The Guardian’s news coverage, meanwhile, followed exactly the same antagonistic formula as that of the rightwing press: ignore the policy issues raised by Corbyn, concentrate on trivial or perceived personality flaws, and frame the stories in establishment-friendly ways. We have had to endure in the Guardian the same patently ridiculous, manufactured reports about Corbyn, portraying him as sexist, anti-semitic, unpatriotic, and much more.  
This may be a little biased (I don't know, for I stopped reading e.g. Freedland and others, like D'Ancona) but it seems mostly correct to me - and this is also why I asked the question (without pretending to have the information to answer this) whether perhaps some of these prominent journalists were bought - since I do know that money "convinces" many of things they would not be convinced of without payments.

Jonathan Cooke's lesson is this:

If it achieves nothing else, Corbyn’s campaign has highlighted a truth about the existing British political system: that, at least since the time of Tony Blair, the country’s two major parliamentary parties have been equally committed to upholding neoliberalism. The Blue Neoliberal Party (the Conservatives) and the Red Neoliberal Party (Labour) mark the short horizon of current British politics. You can have either hardcore neoliberalism or slightly more softcore neoliberalism.
I agree, in part because I have thought so ever since Blair arose, and in part because I was rather amazed by The Guardian's reception of Jeremy Corbyn.

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