January 26, 2016

Crisis: Oxfam, Switzerland and Europe, Warren, Reich * 2
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Part 2: Oxfam Says Privatization, Tax Havens Drive
     Global Inequality to Staggering Levels

2. How a Small Company in Switzerland Is Fighting a
Surveillance Law — And Winning
VIDEO: Elizabeth Warren: Anyone Who Says ‘Change Is
     Just Too Hard’ Is in ‘Bed With the Billionaires’

4. Robert Reich’s Hilarious Crusade to Save Capitalism and
     America’s Middle Class (Part 2)

The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 26, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links [1]: Item 1 is about Oxfam's report and position, and is quite good (and I am a supporter of Oxfam); item 2 is about Switzerland and Europe, where the human rights and freedoms are
rapidly destroyed by the local politicians, in favor of state terrorists who know everything about anyone; item 3 is about Elizabeth Warren and a good recent speech she made; item 4 is about a - sympathetic - background article on Robert Reich, part 2 (part 1 was reviewed here); and item 5 is about another article by Robert Reich, who explains - quite cogently - why he supports Sanders rather than his friend since many years Hillary Clinton.

There also was an earlier Nederlog today, about the use of megavitamins to fight my disease.

1. Part 2: Oxfam Says Privatization, Tax Havens Drive Global Inequality to Staggering Levels

The first article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now!:

It seems I've missed Part 1. In any case, these are interesting interviews. This is from near the beginning - and this is a recommended read:

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, they pour fortunes into lobbying for those loopholes.

RAYMOND OFFENHEISER: Right. Actually, this is what we’ve seen over the last 20 or 30 years. We’ve seen sort of a dismantling of the economic system in a way that has produced the kind of volatility that produced the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, which bankrupted many poor families across the United States. But ironically, in the period subsequent, we saved the banking sector. It’s been making record profits. There’s been an enormous amount of accumulation and concentration of wealth at the top end post the financial crisis, meanwhile while Main Street has not necessarily benefited.

I think I can date it a bit more precisely: since 1979 and 1980, simply because then Thatcher and Reagan were elected. But the rest is correct, though "the banking system" was saved while it was - and still is - extremely corrupt.

Then there is this, with Raymond Offenheiser talking:

I think, the question that we’re raising here, is, fundamentally, what we’re talking about here is a rigged system that lacks transparency and in which there’s all kinds of opportunities for abuse, tax evasion and tax avoidance, that actually is undermining, I think, a number of things—democracy in the United States and around the world, the social cohesion and social contract that hold countries together, and even, I think, most importantly, I think, for your listeners here in the United States, social mobility.

In fact, I do not think social mobility is as important or more important than social cohesion and a fair social contract: If these are present, there will be social mobility, and if these are absent there will be no social mobility.

Here is a fine example how tax havens work:

There are 24,000 people who live in the British Virgin Islands, and there are 800,000 shell companies there that actually are servicing corporations from throughout the world, enabling them to put—offshore their profits and put them into the British Virgin Islands. And then you have a whole massive number of international banks. There are some 50 banks that are the—kind of the transaction agents for all this money moving around the world to tax havens. And if you sort of look at the profits that they’re achieving through this—in managing all that money, they’re astronomical over the last number of years.

This also means: Today and since the past decades, all of these astronomical amounts of money have been stolen and went into the pockets of the rich. It really is as simple as that.

Then there is this, again
with Raymond Offenheiser talking:

I think that, the globalization process that I think we’re living today, actually has disconnected companies’ sense of responsibility to their—to the public that they actually should be serving. And so, we basically expatriate all this value, and then we tax some minimal amount in our home countries. And meanwhile, these same companies actually require public services, roads, infrastructure, all sorts of things that if they didn’t exist, their companies would actually suffer, but they want the tax burden of that to be shifted to the individual taxpayer and away from the corporation itself, in the name of, as the speaker said, tax efficiency.

Yes, indeed - though I do myself see less of a "disconnect" than I see the quite clear decisions to be as greedy, as egoistic, as self-serving as possible - which again is permitted by most politicians, especially though not only in the USA, because these are strongly lobbied and mostly bought.

Indeed, here is a quotation from Bernie Sanders on corruption that is also in the text:

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: —how corrupt this system is. Goldman Sachs recently fined $5 billion. Goldman Sachs has given this country two secretaries of treasury—one on the Republicans, one on the Democrats. The leader of Goldman Sachs is a billionaire who comes to Congress and tells us we should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Secretary Clinton—and you’re not the only one, so I don’t mean to just point the finger at you—you’ve received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year. I find it very strange that a major financial institution that pays $5 billion in fines for breaking the law, not one of their executives is prosecuted, while kids who smoke marijuana get a jail sentence.

In fact, I'd say Goldman Sachs are simply acting quite openly like the mega-rich thieves and deceivers they are, because Obama's former minister of Justice Eric Holder told them - criminally and illegally, in my opinion - they were too big to fail. From that point on their illegal activities became "legal" i.e. they could illegally enrich themselves enormously without fearing any punishment.

Finally, here is a last bit of Raymond Offenheiser, that shows how the permission of major financial crimes and major financial criminals stimulated the same criminals to do even more to get even richer:

But we see Wall Street thriving and booming and, at the same time, assuming, to some degree, in some cases, even a victim narrative, in which they need more deregulation, fighting the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and the elements within it to this day and trying to block the writing and implementation of the rule-making process under the SEC, which still is not complete yet. And they’re, you know, fighting tooth and nail to kind of resist the kind of change that we really need to make for a more fair and equitable tax system in this country.

Yes, indeed. There is a lot more in the interview, which is recommended.

2. How a Small Company in Switzerland Is Fighting a Surveillance Law — And Winning

The second item is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

A small email provider and its customers have almost single-handedly forced the Swiss government to put its new invasive surveillance law up for a public vote in a national referendum in June.

“This law was approved in September, and after the Paris attacks, we assumed privacy was dead at that point,” said Andy Yen, co-founder of ProtonMail, when I spoke with him on the phone. He was referring to the Nachrichtendienstgesetzt (NDG), a mouthful of a name for a bill that gave Swiss intelligence authorities more clout to spy on private communications, hack into citizens’ computers, and sweep up their cellphone information.

This is mostly here to show what is happening in Europe, for similar things are happening in Holland and France: The local politicians have decided they can fuck all privacy-laws, many human rights - and indeed these are now "guarded" by European laws that say they are human rights, but in fact consist mostly of exceptions that allow the secret services to do as they please in almost any case, and for almost any reason.

So in fact I am pretty pessimistic about the eventual outcome. Here is what European politicians planned for Switzerland:

The new law is the first of two surveillance laws that have been circulating through the Swiss Parliament. The NDG law was fully passed in September, but can’t take full effect until after the referendum vote in June. The NDG would “create a mini NSA in Switzerland,” Yen wrote — allowing Swiss intelligence to spy without getting court approval. It would authorize increased use of “Trojans,” or remote hacking tactics to investigate suspects’ computers, including remotely turning on Webcams and taking photos, as well as hacking abroad to protect Swiss infrastructure. It would legalize IMSI catchers, or Stingrays, which sweep up data about cellphones in the area.

The second law, known as the “BÜPF,” might come up for a vote in the Parliament’s spring session, but may be revised or delayed. The BÜPF would expand the government’s ability to retain data for longer, including communications and metadata, as well as deputize private companies to help spy on their users, or face a fine.
In brief, the European politicians - including the Dutch and the French - want to take fascistic powers "because of the dangers of terrorism". Well, let me repeat
it once more: The state's own terrorists, which are the secret services, have murdered thousands or tenthousands more totally innocent people than the terrorists they were supposed to do battle with - in the Soviet Union, in Hitler's
Germany, in Mussolini's Italy, in Franco's Spain etc. And now they want to be
able to do the same or similar things throughout Europe. "To catch terrorists."

Here is some more on the decline of Europe into neo-fascism:

As of November, 14 countries had passed new laws bequeathing more power to intelligence agencies to spy. France’s upcoming surveillance law, though it will not mandate backdoors in encryption, will allow law enforcement more surveillance powers, including to spy on phone calls and emails without a judge’s approval and install key logger devices on suspects’ computers to retrieve their passwords. The Chinese government passed a law in December requiring companies to turn over encryption keys, and the Cuban government has the power to approve all encryption technology before it hits the market. In Bahrain, where dissenting political speech is condemned, encryption is outlawed for “criminal intentions.”
I agree that the formally democratic France is put on a par with China and Cuba, simply because the politicians in each country do the same:

power in their very few hands; no privacy for 99.99% of the population; full control of what everyone thinks, and writes, and wants, by stealing their access to their own supposedly private computers on the totally insane accusation that they - 99.99% of the population whose total privacy got stolen, in secret also - "may be terrorists".

This is state terrorism directed against almost everyone, by a few handfuls of extremely powerful totally corrupt European politicians, who are out - knowingly and on purpose - to destroy democracy, privacy, human rights and equalities of many kinds.

3. VIDEO: Elizabeth Warren: Anyone Who Says ‘Change Is Just Too Hard’ Is in ‘Bed With the Billionaires’

The third item is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
The Massachusetts senator’s fiery speech on the Senate floor Friday echoed some of Bernie Sanders’ powerful criticisms of Hillary Clinton. Although Warren hasn’t endorsed any of the Democratic candidates (and is in fact the only female senator not to have endorsed Clinton), that hasn’t stopped speculation.
Here is a little more:

In any case, the speech she delivered on the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision underscored her true concerns—essentially the same as Sanders’ central goal: getting big money out of politics.

Watch her excellent, detailed speech about how we can go about accomplishing this goal, below.

4. Robert Reich’s Hilarious Crusade to Save Capitalism and America’s Middle Class (Part 2)

The fourth item is by Danny Feingold on AlterNet:

I did review Part 1 - see here - and this continues that. Again, this is a fairly long interview, which is recommended. I select a few bits:

Here is something about how Reich spent most of his time since 2000:
Reich, who co-founded the American Prospect magazine, and has written seven of his 16 books since 2000, excels at translating the arcana of economics into language that is both accessible and inviting, all the while making the case for greater equality in the distribution of income and wealth.
Here is Senator Elizabeth Warren (see also the previous section) on Reich:
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is also friends with Reich and shares many of his views, described him in an email as “smart, thoughtful and utterly fearless. Our economy is rigged to work great for those with money and power, while everyone else gets left behind — and Bob is doing everything he can to change that.”
This is about the videos Reich lately produced with Kornbluth, quite a few
of which were also linked in Nederlog:

Reich and Kornbluth soon formed a nonprofit organization, Inequality Media. In 2015 alone, they produced 25 videos that were viewed more than 25 million times. Most present sober topics in a light-hearted style — how the sharing economy is hurting workers, why deficit hawks are wrong. One, set during a family holiday meal (see below), even features Reich playing two characters: himself, and a Scrooge-like conservative, dubbed “Uncle Bob,” who fires off straw man lines like, “I’m paying too much in taxes to support poor people who are sitting on their duffs.”
This means an average of one million viewers per video. I like this, because the videos are usually both intellectually clear and morally good, and indeed explain a lot in a clear way and in a short time.

Finally, here is something Reich and I may disagree about - although I agree with him one must make an assumption like he makes to do what he does - and my disagreement is less with the assumption that follows, than with its efficacy:

“I have a basic faith that people are rational,” Reich told me. “If you explain something in ways that are not threatening and lace that explanation with enough illustration, example and humor, people at some point can relax and take it in.”
Robert Reich clearly is a rational man. I am a rational man [2]. But rationality clearly is a matter of degree, and depends on several things: one's native intelligence; one's education; and the trouble one took to overcome the lacks in one's education.

I am willing to agree with Reich that everyone who is human, adult and sane, which is the great majority, therefore and thereby does have a rational capacity - but I am also certain that it often is not large enough to allow them to see through their own prejudices.

Also, if the IQs were all 30 points higher than they are in fact - which is a counterfactual assumption, I agree - then I am pretty sure the complete political situation would be quite different, simply because it would be much more difficult to deceive the less intelligent half, which as it is, is frightfully easy.

5. The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election

The fifth and last item is - again - by Robert Reich and is on his site:

This starts as follows:

Not a day passes that I don’t get a call from the media asking me to compare Bernie Sanders’s and Hillary Clinton’s tax plans, or bank plans, or health-care plans.

I don’t mind. I’ve been teaching public policy for much of the last thirty-five years. I’m a policy wonk.

But detailed policy proposals are as relevant to the election of 2016 as is that gaseous planet beyond Pluto. They don’t have a chance of making it, as things are now.
I agree, though I mostly agree - it seems to me - because I am probably a bit less convinced of the basic rationality of most people than Reich is - and see the end of the previous item.

Also, apart from that, the elections concern every American adult, and it so happens that most do not know many things the minority with active political interests (of any kind) do know. This itself implies that the elections are and
need to be about general ideas and general values.

Here is Robert Reich's idea about what the coming presidential elections are about:

This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system.

I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.

But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.

The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals. It’s about power – whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.

As I have remarked before, Robert Reich knows both Clintons quite well and in a very personal way, indeed since well before they entered the political arena.

This also makes Reich's support for Bernie Sanders quite interesting, and I think he phrases his reasons to support Sanders quite well:

Sanders is the man who desires a "political system we should have", while Clinton merely would be a good president for "the political system we now have" - which last system is quite unfair, and  defends the few mega-rich, their incredible riches and their completely undeserved privileges (many of which are criminal/illegal).

And this is how Reich compares Trump and Sanders:

Either you’re going to be attracted to an authoritarian son-of-a-bitch who promises to make America great again by keeping out people different from you and creating “great” jobs in America, who sounds like he won’t let anything or anybody stand in his way, and who’s so rich he can’t be bought off.

Or you’ll go for a political activist who tells it like it is, who has lived by his convictions for fifty years, who won’t take a dime of money from big corporations or Wall Street or the very rich, and who is leading a grass-roots “political revolution” to regain control over our democracy and economy.

In other words, either a dictator who promises to bring power back to the people, or a movement leader who asks us to join together to bring power back to the people.
I think that is indeed how it will be if Sanders wins the Democratic candidacy and Trump wins the Republican candidacy.


[1] Maybe I should say (once again) what I understand by "dotted links" and by "recommended". There are usually more links than dotted links in my Nederlogs, and the dotted links link to the file that is the main subject of the item, that generally also has the name of the dotted link. And when I say that I recommend a file it means that I think interested readers should read all of it.

[2] O yes! I may be angry, but then few in Holland have been mistreated as I have been:

I have been thrown out of the faculty of philosophy as a student briefly before being able to take my M.A. there - because I was not a Marxist, not a postmodernist, and believed in truth and science; I have been gassed (literally: unconscious on the floor for hours) and have threatened with murder and kept out of sleep for four years - also while ill all that time - because I protested the presence of illegal drugsdealers, who threatened to murder me, on the bottom floor of the house where I lived, simply because these illegal drugsdealers in illegal drugs were protected by the mayor of Amsterdam and the municipal police of Amsterdam.

And no one even answered any of my very well-written complaints!

Holland is very sick, and has been made, quite intentionally also, very sick by Dutch politicians who are no better than neo-fascists even though they sell themselves as "New Labour". In fact, they were narko-nazis and sado-fascists, who were only interested in deceiving the population so as to get even richer themselves.

And yes, sometimes I am angry about this. I would not be human if I were not:

My life and my chances have been intentionally destroyed by neo-nazis and sado-fascists who pretended to be from "New Labour", but who only lived to get richer themselves by protecting illegal drugsdealers or stealing from the university.

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