Jun 7, 2016

Crisis: Sanders' Revolution, Europe's Floods, The Clintons, Snowden
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Bernie Sanders’ Revolution Won’t End at the Polls
2. Europe’s Floods Come as No Surprise
3. Before We Bring Back Bill Clinton to Run the Economy,
     Let's Remember What He Did

4. Three Years After Snowden, Bipartisan Coalition
     Demands Congress End Warrantless Spying


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is an article that probably means well, but that is horribly written (as I show); item 2 is about European floods (and I explain why the extent of flooding did and did not
surprise me); item 3 is about Bill & Hillary Clinton (but mostly about the differences between propaganda and truth, and the fact that most voters these days make up their minds on the basis of propaganda); and item 4 is about the fact that (in two or three days) it is three years ago that Snowden revealed to the world how much of their privacy is stolen from them by the secret services (that are all out "to get everything", in secret).

1. Bernie Sanders’ Revolution Won’t End at the Polls

The first item i
s by Alan Minsky on Truthdig:
This starts as follows (and Alan Minsky is - it seems - a collaborator of Ralph Nader):
The Democratic presidential primaries on Tuesday provide a historic opportunity for voters to impact the direction of American politics. These represent the “last stand” for Bernie Sanders, the most successful left-progressive candidate of the post-Reagan era. Sanders’ transformative campaign has already created the blueprint for an ongoing movement to rebuild the middle class, overcome the powerful forces aligned against working people in the 21st century and set the country on a course for social and environmental justice.
I say?! For one thing, what is the difference between a "last stand" and a last stand? I don't know, but presumably there is one. For another thing, whether Minsky means a last stand or a "last stand": Does he mean Bernie Sanders is played out or dead after the primaries? I would suppose so, given my knowledge of English, yet this seems not to be what Minsky has in mind.

Then again: How did Sanders' "
transformative campaign" (?) "create the blueprint for an ongoing movement" etc. etc.? To me this sounds like - very ill-phrased - wishful thinking: A presidential primary is a once-in-four-years
event, and while it is clear that the enthusiasm Sanders inspired might be used (especially if he doesn't win the presidential candidacy) to set up wider political movements, this primary is hardly a "blueprint".

In brief... I suppose Alan Minsky means well, but he certainly seems to have a lot of difficulty in writing readable English prose. Here is some more that shows this:

In fact, the Clintons are central to the backstory of how the country ended up in such a mess; as President Bill Clinton was one of the primary architects of the 21st century economic order, often called “neoliberalism,” that turned out to serve the 1 percent and shrink the middle class.

This illuminates the profound historic significance of the present moment. Sanders and his “movement” not only reject neoliberalism, they share an almost boundless optimism for the creative, liberatory possibilities of American society, if it can get released from the prison house of this failed social order.
Again, what is the difference between "neoliberalism" and neoliberalism? God knows perhaps, but I don't - except that it does certainly not coincide with "the 21st century economic order". (Sorry, it is an ideology, in the first place.)

And again (and apart from the unlimited depths of meanings of "the present moment"'s "
profound historic significance"): What is the difference between a "movement" and a movement? Does he mean Sanders' "movement" is not a movement? Apparently he doesn't, but otherwise it is extremely vague.

There is also this:

While it’s true that corporate, institutional, technological, economic, judicial, historical and other forces were all operating in a vaguely coordinated jumble across a few decades to create the current circumstances, there is also a simple, valid way to explain the neoliberal era: Since Reagan, powerful business interests and the rich have almost always gotten their way in Washington, as well as in the U.S. state capitols, London, Berlin and so on. While Ronald Reagan got this ball rolling in the 1980s, a strong case can be made that Bill Clinton moved it further down the field than anyone.
I really have no idea (whatsoever) what Minsky has in mind with "While" till "circumstances". [1] I really don't, although I am willing to agree that since 1980 "powerful business interests and the rich have almost always gotten their way in Washington" and also that "Bill Clinton" (somehow) helped a lot with it.

Finally, here is one other statement I had to read five times to start getting something like a shadow's shadow of a shade of the deep meaning of it:

While the nuts and bolts of a public policy regime that defangs neoliberalism remains the focus of “detail” in this election campaign, the draw of the Sanders movement for its legions of devotees is that this more equitable economic regime is envisioned in the service of building a society predicated upon human liberation and the aspiration of a return to living in harmony with nature.
I have read Hegel and Kant, but is it really fair (or perhaps: "fair") to imitate their excrecencies in a piece "predicated upon" political journalism?

2. Europe’s Floods Come as No Surprise

The second item is by Alex Kirby on Truthdig and originally on Climate News Network:
This starts as follows
At least 18 people have lost their lives in central Europe as severe floods engulf the continent from France to Ukraine. In Paris the River Seine reached 6.1 metres (20 feet) above normal, and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.

If the downpours and swollen rivers came as a surprise, they shouldn’t have done. Not only are there historical precedents for disastrous floods. There have been graphic recent warnings too, spelling out the growing likelihood that the warming climate will make bouts of flooding and other extreme weather more frequent.

Yes and no, I'd say: I am reasonably well informed about the environment and about climate change, so in that sense the recent floods do not come as a real surprise. Then again, I am rather surprised by the apparent speed of the climate change, for I had not counted with the possibility that every year breaks the record of the previous year in terms of high temperatures.

Here is some statistical background to my feelings:

The PIK researchers found that heavy rainfall events setting ever new records had been “increasing strikingly” in the past thirty years. Before 1980 natural variability was enough to explain rainfall fluctuations, they said, but they had detected a clear upward trend in the past few decades towards more unprecedented daily rainfall events.

The researchers said this worldwide increase was consistent with rising global temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.
The team found that from 1980 to 2010 there were 12% more of these extreme events than would be expected in what they called “a stationary climate”, one without global warming.
In brief: The climate has changed since 1980, simply because an over 10% increase in "extreme events" is a lot.

3. Before We Bring Back Bill Clinton to Run the Economy, Let's Remember What He Did

The third
item is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

2016 has been a wild political season. This year, despite the unnerving presidential freak show the Republicans are putting on, Hillary Clinton is the one who recently stunned me. Attempting to convince very wary working class families that she will stand against the abuses of her Wall Street financial backers, while also lifting up the poor and shoring up the middle class, Clinton made this horrifying, spine-tingling declaration: She'll Bring Back Bill! Specifically, Hillary promises that her former-president husband will be put "in charge of revitalizing the economy."

I don't think this is stunning at all, for the following three reasons:

First, I understand the differences between propaganda and truth, and I know nearly all politicians do a lot of propaganda while they are normally careful with telling (what they think is the real) truth. (They do it sometimes, but even then the truth tends to get a personal spin.)

Second, Bill Clinton's reputation is mostly based on propaganda and not on truth. I agree with Hightower that the propaganda mostly contradicts the truth about what he did, but most people know the propaganda, which indeed also is simple, and know far less about the truth (which also is more complicated usually).

Third, Bill Clinton has a high reputation.

So given these three points, I do not think it was stunning that Hillary, whose career likewise is mostly based on propaganda, would enlist Bill.

Then again, I agree with Hightower about the real things Bill Clinton did, while being president:

Good grief! Isn't Bill the big galoot who turned his economic policy over to Wall Street's Machiavellian, Robert Rubin? Yes. And didn't Bill break his 1992 campaign promise to raise the minimum wage in his first year, putting it off until his fourth year, and even then providing only a token increase that still left the working poor mired in poverty? Yes, again. And didn't he push into law a "welfare reform" bill that has shredded the safety net for America's poorest, most-vulnerable people? Afraid so.

And there is more:

Moreover, wasn't it Bill who literally rammed NAFTA down our throats, creating that job-sucking sound that continues to devastate today's middle-class? Yep, he's the one. And didn't he also collude with laissez-faire ideologues and plutocratic Republicans to deregulate Wall Street so global speculators could wreck our economy by playing casino games with our bank deposits and home mortgages? Yes, him again.

Yes indeed - but it seems that the solid majority of Americans isn't much interested in knowing the truth and prefers propaganda, because it is more
emotional, much easier to believe, much simpler than the truth, and anyway
is what most of their politicians mostly serve to their publics. [2]

I also think this is a very basic problem - for there is no democracy if the majority of voters is systematically misled by
propaganda - but the problem doesn't get solved here at all. (And indeed also is difficult to solve.)

4. Three Years After Snowden, Bipartisan Coalition Demands Congress End Warrantless Spying

The fourth
item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Three years ago on Monday, the world was shattered by news that the United States was conducting sweeping, warrantless surveillance of people, heads of state, and organizations across the globe.

To mark the anniversary of those revelations, brought forth by a then-unknown contractor working for the National Security Administration (NSA), a coalition of public interest groups have launched a new campaign fighting for the expiration of the law that the government claims authorizes its mass spying.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 "has allowed for mass surveillance programs, including PRISM and UPSTREAM," —two programs exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—"that have been used by the U.S. government to warrantlessly collect and search the Internet communications of people all over the world," states the coalition website

Yes, that is mostly quite true. It is also true that there were some journalists before 2010 who wrote about the NSA, but it is true that the major revelations
started with Snowden.

Here is the program of

"There can be no renewal of Section 702 unless warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private lives is stopped," declares the coalition, which includes groups such as American Civil Liberties Union, Government Accountability Project, Arab American Institute, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as well as conservative organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty, among others.

"Now that we know how the government has abused the surveillance laws, Congress must start their review of Section 702 from where most Americans and organizations on the left and the right stand—the constitutional right of everyone to not be warrantlessly surveilled," said Fight for the Future co-director Tiffiniy Cheng. "If 702 in any form doesn’t meet that mark, it has no place for continuation."

I quite agree, although I also insist that the Fourth Amendment [3] implies that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments simply are and were illegal from the start: The Fourth Amendment simply forbids warrantless surveillance
and rightly so.

This article ends as follows:

Indeed, as EFF's Rainey Reitman wrote on Monday, "The Snowden leaks caused a sea change in the policy landscape related to surveillance," from the recent passage of the USA Freedom Act to the coming "showdown in Congress over Section 702."

"The Snowden leaks have helped illuminate how the NSA was operating outside the law with near impunity," Reitman added, "and this in turn drove an international conversation about the dangers of near-omniscient surveillance of our digital communications."

Yes again - although I add that it seems to me that very much less was done about the news that the Western secret services systematically steal information of everyone than should have been done.

But this is not Snowden's fault at all.


[1] In case you do, consider the statement: "it’s true that corporate, institutional, technological, economic, judicial, historical and other forces were all operating in a vaguely coordinated jumble across a few decades to create the current circumstances".

Is this true?

What I do understand of this - at age 66, with excellent degrees in philosophy and psychology - is that "
the current circumstances" (whatever these are) are (in some completely unclarified sense) "created" by prior circumstances.

I agree it is very vague, but then again it is (more or less) what most people believe, in some sense (and probably not in the present terms): Yes, the present somehow comes from the past.

What I do not understand are Minsky's senses for "
corporate", "institutional", "technological", "economic", "judicial", and "historical". For these are all terms with quite a few quite distinct meanings, and I simply have no idea whatsoever what Minsky's meanings are. (And he didn't tell.)

Also "forces" is one of the vaguest terms, while to be told that, next to the not fathomable "forces" mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are also "other" "forces" at work ("religious"? "natural"? "divine"? "psychological"? "structural"? "chemical"? "physical"? etc. etc.) does not precisely add clarity.

I'll skip the problems of "operating", but would like to know who or what "coordinated" these ("vaguely", to be sure) "
across a few decades" (?!?!) to
"create" "
the current circumstances".

I am sorry, but this is what I think: I really cannot make any sense out of this. And if I can't understand (partial) statements like the quoted one, I think very few can.

[2] I think this is a basic bitter truth about American politics: By now, most voters mostly vote on the basis of propaganda rather than truth, and they mostly are not aware of this (and will tend to deny it, if asked).

And to return to the beginning of this article: Hillary Clinton clearly understands this, and this is why she mentioned Bill. She knows he will be mostly judged in terms of propaganda, and not in terms of the real truth about what he really did.

Here is the Fourth Amendment (<- Wikipedia) once again (minus notes):
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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