October 28, 2015
Crisis: "Liberté!", Stiglitz, CISA approved *2, Exit European Net Neutrality
"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


Anti-Israel Activism Criminalized in the Land of Charlie
     Hebdo and “Free Speech“

2. Joseph Stiglitz on the US economy and the TPP
3. Ahead of Senate Vote, Edward Snowden Speaks Out to
     Stop CISA Surveillance Bill
'Codifying' Government Surveillance, Senate Passes CISA
Digital Rights 'Sold Off' as European Parliament Jettisons
     Net Neutrality


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 28, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links, and this is also a far from happy crisis log: item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald on France and "Free Speech": that is impossible or very difficult in France, if one criticizes Israel;
item 2 is about Joseph Stiglitz, which is on the one hand quite good, but on
the other hand - for a Nobel Prize winning economist - quite slow and late;
item 3 is about Edward Snowden's opinions about CISA - "it is a surveillance bill" - and Evan Greer's opinions about the same: everyone voting for CISA is "
voting for a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights"; item 4 outlines the response of the USA's Senate: 3 out of 4 are for CISA; and item 5 is about a similar outcome in Europe: Europe's "politicians" sold off net neutrality.

So, this is a pretty sad day... the American Senate voted, 3 out of 4, for "
a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights", and I think that is right. I mean that they voted for it, not that they voted rightly. Similarly, the Europeans decided to give ip net neutrality.

1. Anti-Israel Activism Criminalized in the Land of Charlie Hebdo and “Free Speech“ 

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The post-Charlie Hebdo “free speech” march in Paris was a fraud for multiple reasons, as I wrote at the time. It was led by dozens of world leaders, many of whom imprison or even kill people for expressing prohibited views. It was cheered by many Westerners who feign upset only when free speech abridgments are perpetrated by Muslims, but not — as is far more common — by their own governments against Muslims.

Worst of all, the march took place in a country that is one of the most hostile to free speech rights in the West, as France quickly demonstrated in the days after the march by rounding up and prosecuting Muslims and other anti-Israel activists for the political views they expressed. A great, best-selling book by French philosopher Emmanuel Todd released this year argues that these “free speech” marches were a “sham,” driven by many political sentiments — nativism, nationalism, anti-Muslim bigotry — that had nothing to do with free speech.

I say: Yes, of course - but I know most Europeans see it differently. Why? Mostly because most are neither very intelligent nor well informed, and they
have been taken in by the politicians they trust (which is indeed another reason
to doubt their intelligence or information).

Glenn Greenwald explains:

The absurdity of France’s celebrating itself for free expression was vividly highlighted by this week’s decision from that nation’s highest court, one that is a direct assault on basic free speech rights. The French high court upheld the criminal conviction of 12 political activists for the “crime” of advocating sanctions and a boycott against Israel as a means of ending the decades-long military occupation of Palestine. What did these French criminals do? This:

The individuals arrived at the supermarket wearing shirts emblazoned with the words: “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel.” They also handed out fliers that said that “buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.”

In France — self-proclaimed Land of Liberté — doing that makes you a criminal.

This is indeed quite ridiculous (and a sign of things to come, I fear).

Here is more by Glenn Greenwald explaining why this is absolutely ridiculous
and completely anti-democratic:

Israel defenders love to equate “criticism of Israel” with “anti-Semitism” and then sanctimoniously deny that anyone does that. But criminalizing BDS advocacy — threatening people with large fines and prison terms for protesting the polices of the Israel government — is as clear of a case as it gets. As Haaretz put it, “The dragnet has also swept up BDS protesters whose actions have targeted Israel, not Jews.”

Ponder how pernicious this is. It is perfectly legal to advocate sanctions against Iran, or Russia, or Sudan, or virtually any other country. Indeed, sanctions and boycotts against those countries are not only frequently advocated in the West but are official policy. But it is illegal — criminal — to advocate boycotts and sanctions against one country: Israel. It requires sky-high levels of authoritarianism, even fascism, to abuse the criminal law to outlaw advocacy of policies and activism when it involves one country, and one country only.
Yes, indeed. And as I said, I am afraid this is a harbinger of much more "legislation" like this (and I am sorry, but I don't accept these laws, although I cannot do anything against them: this is why I put them between quotes) that criminalizes everyone who deviates from the norms set by one's government.

Indeed, this is explained (in part) by the next item:

2. Joseph Stiglitz on the US economy and the TPP

The next item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
As presidential candidates spar over economic policies and Congress debates the TPP, one of the nation’s leading economists is calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. economy. Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz has just published a new book called "Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity."
I think I should start by saying that it is nice to have Joseph Stiglitz on board (as - say, I am not quite sure - a) liberal progressive, but my next question is: "But where were you all these years?!"

Indeed, I will explain. First, here are the years I am referring to:

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, I think we’re in a new moment in America, because I think we’ve had a third of a century of a—you might call, an experiment, a grand experiment, where, beginning with Reagan, we said, "Let’s lower the tax rates on the top. Let’s rip away the regulations. We’re going to free up the American economy. We’re going to incentivize it. The result will be the economy will grow so much—yes, the top will get a larger share, but everybody is going to get a bigger piece, and so everybody is going to be better off." Well, we’ve had a third of a century of this experiment, and it has failed. It has failed miserably. The fact is, the bottom 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate. Median income today is as low as it was a quarter-century ago. Talking about the minimum wage, minimum wage is the level, adjusted for inflation, it was 45, 50 years ago. You know, if an economy can’t deliver for most of its citizens, it’s a failed economy. What’s so striking is, we’ve had technological change, we’ve had globalization—all the things that were supposed the economy perform better—and in fact it’s performed worse.
I agree with most of that, and especially with (1) this has been going on for 35 years and started with Reagan, and (2) from the point of view of the enlightened majority [1] and/or the 90% or more of the not rich, this was an enormous failure for the vast majority, while I also firmly agree with (3) "if an economy can’t deliver for most of its citizens, it’s a failed economy".

But then (3) might be given up for the viewpoint of the rich (say: as long as we rich profit, everything is OK), and the second point may be restated for the benefit of the rich few:

from the point of view of the rich few, these have been 35 years of  enormous successes in deregulation after deregulation after deregulation (under Clinton, under Bush Jr., and under Obama), while the very rich paid less, and less, and less taxes, which led, together with other policies only benefitting the rich and the very rich, to enormous increases in wealth by the very few.

But then I say: (4) but where were you, Joseph Stiglitz, say from 1995 onwards?! Surely, a Nobel Prize winning economist should have seen this, 20 or more years ago? And also (5) I really dislike your saying "we": For one person, I never said
"Let’s lower the tax rates on the top. Let’s rip away the regulations" simply because it is clear to me (since far longer than the 1980ies, also) that this would not work c.q. would only give the few rich enormous financial and other advantages. And this indeed happened. And this was not just clear to me, but to most intelligent leftist persons.

Then there is this:

You take those CEOs getting 300 times the amount of the typical worker. When you’re taking the corporate income, giving so much to the top, obviously, you’re going to have less either to give to the people at the bottom or you’re going to have less to invest in the corporation. And actually, both of those are happening. So, weaker investment, more inequality, weaker wages, and then you get a vicious cycle going, so the economy isn’t performing as well as it should be.
Yes precisely - but this is not just economics, but also politics, and it was quite clear to me in 2008, as emerges from this picture:


And this has been steadily growing worse and worse, since 2008 at the latest, or from 1979/1980 (Thatcher/Reagan elected), until now. And it goes on and on (and see the Republican presidential candidates, if you want to see a freak show).

Then there is this (Stiglitz talking):
Suddenly, around 1980, productivity continues to grow, but wages stagnate. This is really an unusual phenomenon. And that was one of the things that motivated writing the book. We said, "What’s going on?" And we said, what’s happened is, particularly in America, that we began to change the rules, rules of—labor rules, rules about the financial sector, rules about corporate governance, tax rules. You know, it wasn’t inevitable that you tax speculation at a lower rate than you tax people who are working for a living. That’s not inherent in a market economy. Actually, what we say is, this is a distortion of capitalism. This is a distortion of a market economy.
Yes, I mostly agree with the diagnosis (except for the "we": I, for one - and there are very many more - did no such things), but this started in 1980, when Stiglitz was an economist of 37. And now - 35 years later, when Stiglitz is 72 - there is "the book". I say. It is a bit slow.

And here is another partial disagreement: I do not think this is "
a distortion of capitalism" (capitalism isn't moral), nor do I think that this is "a distortion of a market economy" (markets aren't moral either, and in any case both capitalism
and markets were far more severe on the poor and the workers in the 19th Century, as Stiglitz must know, also).

But OK - he may have been a slow learner, but the following is correctly seen:

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think most contributed to the inequality, in terms of the rules?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I think, probably, if I had to say one thing—and I think it’s the whole package, but if one thing, it’s the financial sector. You know, the financial sector was about two-and-a-half percent of GDP. It went to as large as 8 percent of GDP.
You may think I am too critical, but he is an economist with a very soft life, a good income and - so far as I know - fine health. But in any case, the article is good, and deserves full reading, simply because he is mostly right.

Something similar holds for the other article, also by Amy Goodman, and also on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz warns about the dangers of the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. "We know we’re going to need regulations to restrict the emissions of carbon," Stiglitz said. "But under these provisions, corporations can sue the government, including the American government, by the way, so it’s all the governments in the TPP can be sued for the loss of profits as a result of the regulations that restrict their ability to emit carbon emissions that lead to global warming."

In fact, what I learned about the TPP (still secret!) is that (1) any multi-national corporation can attack any government (for millions or billions from the tax payers) on the mere ground that their profits were not or will not be as high as they themselves thought they should be, and (2) these cases will be judged by the same advocates that - in secret - compiled the TPP.

I do not know whether that is true, for the "liberal, progressive" president Obama denied everyone the right to read the TPP (while pushing it through Congress as if his life depended on it), but if what I learned is right, the TPP is the most fascistic piece of quasi-legislation since 1945.

Letting that be for the moment, there is this:

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Joseph Stiglitz, you just recently wrote a piece, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership Charade: TPP Isn’t about 'Free' Trade at All." Explain.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it was very much the point that was made in your segment that you had about Indonesia joining. The basic point is that this is a trade agreement that has all kinds of provisions intended to restrict regulations. We carved out one little piece—TPP carved out one little piece that was so, so outrageous that everybody was up in arms, and that was a provision about tobacco. On a provision very similar to this, Uruguay is being sued by Philip Morris, the successor to Philip Morris, because Uruguay passed a regulation, as did Australia, that on the package you have to say that this is bad for your health.
But under these provisions, corporations can sue the government, including the American government, by the way, so it’s all the governments in the TPP can be sued for the loss of profits as a result of the regulations that restrict their ability to emit carbon emissions that lead to global warming. If this provision had been in place when we had discovered that asbestos was bad for your health—you know, under the current provisions, asbestos manufacturers have to pay for the damage that they’re doing. They pay billions and billions of dollars. If the TPP had been in place, we would have to pay the asbestos manufacturers for not killing us. It’s outrageous.

So Stiglitz has learned the same as I did...

3.  Ahead of Senate Vote, Edward Snowden Speaks Out to Stop CISA Surveillance Bill

The next article is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

As the U.S. Senate gears up for a vote on the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) on Tuesday, privacy advocates are galvanizing an 11th-hour push against the bill they say does nothing more than expand government spying powers.
“CISA isn’t a cybersecurity bill,” Snowden wrote during the Q&A. “It’s not going to stop any attacks. It’s not going to make us any safer. It’s a surveillance bill.”
“What it allows is for the companies you interact with every day—visibly, like Facebook, or invisibly, like AT&T—to indiscriminately share private records about your interactions and activities with the government,” Snowden wrote on Monday. “CISA allows private companies to immediately share a perfect record of your private activities the instant you click a link, log in, make a purchase, and so on—and the government with reward for doing it by granting them a special form of legal immunity for their cooperation.”

Yes, indeed - but all "cybersecurity laws" (since 2005 or before!) were in fact laws meant to introduce this kind of cyberfascism: "Terrorism" was a mere pretext - the governments and most of the politicians always wanted to rule their populations; wanted to know everything about them; and wanted to be able to sift out anyone with ideas the government does not approve of, and disappear them to Guantánamo or some other "night and fog" punishment, such as rendition to a black site outside almost everyone's knowledge. [2]

Then there is this:

Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer said the Senate’s vote on Tuesday “will go down in history as the moment that lawmakers decided not only what sort of Internet our children and our children’s children will have, but what sort of world they will live in.”

The campaigns, which are being waged under the hashtag #StopCISA, urge senators to oppose the bill and protect civil liberties.

Greer added, “Every Senator who votes for CISA will be voting for a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights. And they will be voting for their own removal from office, because the Internet will not forget which side of history they stood on.”

I completely agree with Evan Greer, though I think myself that the majorities of politicians and governors never wanted frreedom of expression, longed for a world without true democracy, and a world without human rights, simply because each of these made it much easier and very much more powerful to be a politician or a governor. (Also, there are far fewer leading politicians, including govern- ments, than there were nobility under a monarchy.) [2]

And here is the outcome:

4. 'Codifying' Government Surveillance, Senate Passes CISA 

The next article is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) without any of the proposed amendments that would have strengthened user protections. The bill passed 74-21 (see the roll call here).

Rights groups immediately called for President Barack Obama to veto the bill and vowed to keep pressure up.

"Every senator supporting #CISA today voted against a world with freedom, democracy, and basic human rights," tweeted digital rights organization Fight for the Future. "If President Obama does not veto this bill, he'll be showing that his administration never truly cared about the open Internet."

"This vote will go down as the moment Congress codified the US government’s unconstitutional spying. A sad day for the Internet," the group added.

Well... I'd say that the chance that president Obama will veto the bill is about as realistic as the chance that mermaids, unicorns and elfs exist. And if they are right about the rest, a somewhat free internet lasted about 20 years, from 1995 till 2015, when it was killed by the fascist CISA carried by 3 out of 4 of American senators.

Note there is also this:

"The passage of CISA reflects the misunderstanding many lawmakers have about technology and security," EFF continued. "Computer security engineers were against it.  Academics were against it. Technology companies, including some of Silicon Valley’s biggest like Twitter and Salesforce, were against it. Civil society organizations were against it. And constituents sent over 1 million faxes opposing CISA to Senators."

Yes, indeed. But America's senators, nearly all of whom are millionairs, betrayed the computer security engineers; betrayed the technology companies; betrayed the civil society organizations, and massively betrayed their constituents.

Why? Because they love an authoritarian government that knows absolutely everything about its, well ... "citizens", "residents", "inhabitants" or "slaves"?

But rest assured: They themselves will not be victims. That role is wholly for the non-rich, with ideas different from them.

5. Digital Rights 'Sold Off' as European Parliament Jettisons Net Neutrality

The next article is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

In a major setback for net neutrality, the European Parliament on Tuesday passed widely-maligned internet regulations without the amendments that rights groups said were crucial to protect free speech, democracy, and innovation online.

Wide loopholes in the rules open the door for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate against networks, speed up or slow down internet traffic, charge companies for faster loading times, and strip users of protections. The legislation passed 500-163.

With the American Senate opening the doors to fascism, the sick and degenerate European "politicians" could not stay far behind:

Today, Europe took a giant step away from its vision of becoming a world leader in the digital economy," said Anne Jellema, CEO of the digital rights group World Wide Web Foundation. "These weak and unclear net neutrality regulations threaten innovation and free speech. Now, European start-ups may have to compete on an uneven playing field against industry titans, while small civil society groups risk having their voices overwhelmed by well-funded giants."

Paris-based advocacy organization La Quadrature Du Net called the vote "a profound disillusion for all those who, throughout the years, battled to ensure net neutrality in Europe."

Yes, indeed.


[1] This is in fact freedom of speech, for I do not believe in an enlightened majority. (But I do allow myself some ironies.) One of the reasons I like Bill Maher is that he is explicit about the stupidity of the majority of the Americans (but this holds everywhere, not just in the USA) and about the dangers of religion, while he also claims these are the main problem there are. I agree (and I belong to the highly educated highly intelligent minority - and no, this was mostly not my doing nor my desert).

[2] "Night and fog" translates the German "Nacht und Nebel", which was a Gestapo technique that (rather like Guantánamo) consisted in disappearing people without a trace. Most were murdered, in and around Germany, in the first half of the 1940ies.

Incidentally, you may protest about my saying that most American politicians wanted this. I still think so, and here is my proof: I do not think that the 700 politicians that make up the American Congress - who certainly are rich, for the most part, and who must be among the most intelligent and most moral citizens that the USA can offer, from its 300 million+ citizens - can remain in the dark for 14 continuous years now. Therefore - it follows logically - the majority wanted what they voted for.

Also - as said in the article - there are far fewer leading politicians (several hundreds, in each country) than there were members of the nobility under a monarchy, and the politicians are certainly not morally better than the nobles were.

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