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Nederlog

Jul 16, 2016

Crisis: Nice *2, Maher, Bernie Sanders, Microsoft, Politics in Great Britain
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Introduction

1.
As Bastille Day Attack in France Kills 84, Is the War on
     Terror a "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy"?

2. Bill Maher Is Sick of Police Brutality, Tells Colbert He
     Wants Cops to Take a Psychology Test (Video)

3. Letter From Nice: The West Is Learning All the Wrong
     Lessons From the Latest Atrocity

4. Our Revolution: What's Next on Bernie Sanders'
     Horizon

5. In 'Hugely Important Case,' Federal Appeals Court
     Just Ruled in Favor of Privacy

6. Billionaires Bought Brexit -- They Are Controlling Our
     Venal Political System

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, July 16, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about Nice, by Democracy Now! and is sensible; item 2 is about Bill Maher on American police violence: I think he is right and that's why it is here (video reference included); item 3 is again about Nice and about terror and terrorism, and about the present opposition between Western governments and their inhabitants (in considerable part); item 4 is about how to continue Bernie Sanders' revolution in the USA; item 5 is about a somewhat interesting win by Microsoft (that probably will be appealed against: the American government thinks it ought to be abled to steal every- thing from everyone living anywhere (for this gives them more power anyone ever had)); and item 6 is about how politics in Great Britain does differ considerably from politics in other European states.

1
.
As Bastille Day Attack in France Kills 84, Is the War on
 Terror a "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy"?


The first item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

More than 84 people are dead in Nice, France, after an attack on a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in the city in the French Riviera. Witnesses said a man in a large truck deliberately drove into a massive crowd watching a fireworks celebration. The truck continued driving a mile, mowing down people in the crowd. No group has taken responsibility for the attack. French media have identified the driver of the truck as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a French man of Tunisian descent who lived in Nice. Earlier today, French President François Hollande announced he would extend the state of emergency put in place after the Paris attacks which killed 130 people eight months ago. We go to France to speak with Palestinian-American playwright Ismail Khalidi in Nice and French human rights and civil liberties activist Yasser Louati in Paris.

This is here and now because it is a sensible reaction. There are a lot more in the mainstream media. I will only review two quotations from this article, and refer you to more in item 3.

Here is the first, with a reasonable question:

YASSER LOUATI: Hi, Amy. Hi, Juan. This is a feeling of déjà vu. This is my fourth time on your show, and I’m going to repeat the same things again, unfortunately. It’s a great confusion coming from the government. But first we have a question: How sure can we be that this is a terrorist attack, and does it even qualify as such? I mean, like the culprit is—well, was known to be nonreligious, made no political claims, left no letter behind him. He was known to be a womanizer, a salsa lover, who was isolated and had no connection whatsoever to any organization.
We can't be sure, although it is fairly likely that the government and the mainstream media will speak of "terrorism" and "a terrorist". There also is some reason for this, given what the man did, regardless of his motives. Then again, he may simply have gone crazy.

There is also this:
What we should keep in mind is that President François Hollande, on July 14th, yesterday morning, was saying that he was going to lift up the state of emergency, that it will be over on July 26. The very same day, around, I think, 10:00 p.m., he said that, you know, they are going to extend it for three months. But talking about the state of emergency, you know, it’s been in full effect since last November, and it did not bring any more protection to us as everyday citizens, nor did it crack down on this terrorist threat. At the same time, you know, the Sentinel Operation, which means the presence of military people in big cities and major public areas, has not shown its effects. And even the repressive laws that have been passed since November, and also the enhanced powers given to the intelligence community, to the police and the government itself, did not protect us in any way whatsoever.
I think this might perhaps differ a bit, depending on the meaning of "us": Does this refer to "us as everyday citizens" (as Louati says) or to "us" who are everyday citizens that also happen to be Mohammedans?

Then again, while I think this makes a difference, I also think that the programs of most Western governments, including those of France, Great Britain and the USA, are rather different from what the majority of their inhabitants desire:

The governments try to get more powers for themselves, for their police forces and for their secret services, and justify these great increases in their powers by "terrorism"; the people desire protection from being blown up, shut down,
or driven to death, but don't get the protection they desire, in part because the governments' policies that are not there to protect ordinary people but are there to protect political people and government bureaucrats, while extending the powers of the government. [1]

I have been saying this since October 2005 (in Dutch). And I am against terrorism and terrorists, and against the enormous increases in powers of the government and the secret services and police, for these will only help the governments, the secret services and the police, and not ordinary people.

There is some more in item 3, and this is a recommended article.

2. Bill Maher Is Sick of Police Brutality, Tells Colbert He Wants Cops to Take a Psychology Test (Video)

The second item is by Alexandra Rosenmann on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
On "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert Thursday, Bill Maher, host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" did not mince words when asked about the tragedies of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the Dallas police officers last week.
There is more in the article, that I review here because I like Bill Maher (without always agreeing with him) and because he does something few in the USA dare to do: Attacking the police for their many killings of black people.

In case you are interested, here is the video, also with Stephen Colbert:

I liked it and therefore recommend the video. It is 8 m 30 s.

3. Letter From Nice: The West Is Learning All the Wrong Lessons From the Latest Atrocity

The third item is by Ismail Khalidi on AlterNet:

This is from near the beginning, and continues the theme of item 1. I should start with saying that Ismail Khalidi was in Nice, but was some blocks away from the killings as they happened.

Here is the first bit I'll quote, that takes up the point I made in item 1 that the "war on terror" means something for Western governments that is in fact quite different from what their inhabitants desire (in majority):

Not once in our long and uncertain walk home, did we come across police or soldiers (many were posted around the city before the festivities) informing people what to do or where to go (or not go).

This fact, and the night’s events as a whole, were for me another reminder that militarized police and/or a policing military are rarely the answer to our fears; and that more men with guns won’t make people safer. Unfortunately the French government is likely, like its U.S. counterparts, to again take all the wrong lessons from terror, using it to justify even more draconian measures, increased military and police spending, and probably dropping more bombs abroad.

Yes, that simply seems true to me, indeed since 2005: Terrorism and "terrorism" are THE means by which governments extend their powers and their secrecies, precisely as Hermann Goering (<-Wikipedia) explained:


And now they are attacked by terrorists. Here is some further explanation:

The West is indeed in crisis, but not because of immigration or religion or because of a small number of social outcasts out for blood. Our real crisis is fueled by a different and entirely homegrown menace: greed and war and the systemic violence, inequality and racism that is cultivated in the boardrooms and backrooms, senate floors and newsrooms on both sides of the Atlantic.

Honest self-reflection would connect these dots and produce a deep shift in policy: Rather than manufacturing and selling arms for outrageous profit, our governments should invest in public education and healthcare at home, both of which are being constantly whittled away and privatized in much of the industrialized world.

I mostly agree with the diagnosis that it are especially the "greed and war and the systemic violence, inequality and racism that is cultivated in the boardrooms and backrooms, senate floors and newsrooms on both sides of the Atlantic" that is responsible for much of the crisis.

And I mostly agree with the proposed (partial) cure: "Rather than manufacturing and selling arms for outrageous profit, our governments should invest in public education and healthcare at home".

One of the things that is not clearly articulated here is that by now most Western governments and most of their politicians have turned against the ordinary people who elected them, and are not supporting the ordinary people but the rich, who also pay them. (This goes back quite a long time: See Lewis Powell Jr.)

There is considerably more to be said on this, but I leave this out for now. The article ends as follows (a bit less realistically):

If we care about the victims of Nice and Paris, we must also care deeply about victims of both state and non-state violence everywhere. In their names we must demand not more blood, but an urgent reassessment by our governments about the priorities they have decided upon in our names (often without, or in defiance of citizens’ input). Endless war and terror are unacceptable sides of the same coin, and our governments must share blame with the deranged men who carry out the kind of vicious attacks that took place Thursday night.

This is less realistic, because (i) not many people will genuinely "care deeply about victims of both state and non-state violence everywhere" (I am a realist), and (ii)"our governments" will refuse to take part of the blame.

But this is recommended reading.

4. Our Revolution: What's Next on Bernie Sanders' Horizon

The fourth item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The next phase of Bernie Sanders' political revolution starts now.

The Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator, who endorsed one-time rival and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, told USA Today in an exclusive interview published Friday that he plans "to launch educational and political organizations within the next few weeks to keep his progressive movement alive."

Additionally, according to the newspaper:

Sanders plans to support at least 100 candidates running for a wide range of public offices — from local school boards to Congress — at least through the 2016 elections. And he'll continue to raise funds for candidates while campaigning for them all over the country. He said he probably will campaign for Tim Canova, a progressive primary challenger to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who chairs the Democratic National Committee.

These efforts will be organized under the new Sanders Institute; the Our Revolution political group; and a third organization that USA Today writes, "may play a more direct role in campaign advertising."

This is relatively good news, although I will explain both why I like it and why I am less sanguine about it than some:

I like it because Bernie Sanders does need to do quite a few things to make it as certain as possible that the movement he started with his presidential campaign will continue, and these ideas seem quite sensible.

Then again, I should add that I am less enthusiastic than some, mostly because (i) Sanders is a rather unique person in American politics, and because (ii) apart from the Occupy movement (from 2011), I haven't seen much (on a major scale) that actively supported a real leftist or real progressive agenda in the USA.

I will not argue the second point here, but the first should be obvious: Bernie Sanders is one of the few (Ralph Nader is another) who has been consistently progressive since the early 1970ies and who is fairly well-known, and I do not think there is a present a Senator of Congressman like him (as progressive, with that long a political career).

Here is some more on Sanders' plans:

Sanders told the paper: "If we are successful, what it will mean is that the progressive message and the issues that I campaigned on will be increasingly spread throughout this country. The goal here is to do what I think the Democratic establishment has not been very effective in doing. And that is at the grassroots level, encourage people to get involved, give them the tools they need to win, help them financially."

Sanders' statements are in keeping with a lengthy email he sent to supporters following Tuesday's announcement, in which he declared:

In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the creation of successor organizations to carry on the struggle that we have been a part of these past 15 months. I hope you will continue to be involved in fighting to transform America. Our goal will be to advance the progressive agenda that we believe in and to elect like-minded candidates at the federal, state and local levels who are committed to accomplishing our goals.

Meanwhile, as Clare Foran reported Thursday for The Atlantic, "Sanders supporters are also actively working to carry on the revolution. Brand New Congress is one example."

I note the "If" in "If we are successful". I do wish him to succeed, but I agree that one of the difficulties is the leaders of the Democratic Party, who don't much like activities at "the grassroots level", especially not of a Sandersian kind.

5. In 'Hugely Important Case,' Federal Appeals Court Just Ruled in Favor of Privacy

The fifth item today is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In what is being heralded as a win for privacy, a federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that Microsoft does not have to hand over to the U.S. government customer data held in another country.

According to Wired's senior writer Andy Greenberg, the ruling (pdf) by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan "just sent the American Justice Department a clear message about its ability to reach beyond U.S. borders to collect data with a search warrant: Keep your hands to yourself."

In its own statement welcoming the ruling, Microsoft calls it an "important decision for people everywhere."

"The decision is important for three reasons: it ensures that people's privacy rights are protected by the laws of their own countries; it helps ensure that the legal protections of the physical world apply in the digital domain; and it paves the way for better solutions to address both privacy and law enforcement needs," the statement adds.

I agree with Microsoft here (although their motives are probably more profit- oriented than public oriented).

This is part of what the judges said:

The judges sided with Microsoft, writing in their decision:

We conclude that Congress did not intend the SCA's warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially. The focus of those provisions is protection of a user's privacy interests. Accordingly, the SCA does not authorize a U.S. court to issue and enforce an SCA warrant against a United States‐based service provider for the contents of a customer's electronic communications stored on servers located outside the United States.
Clearly, the judges were quite right: It is insane that the NSA and the GCHQ can plunder everyone's computer or cellphone anywhere, effectively trampling all privacy laws that were ever practiced anywhere.

But I don't think this will stop the NSA and GCHQ of doing what they want (mostly also - still - in deep secret), while the government may like to see what Microsoft holds on foreign servers anyway, and may therefore appeal with the Supreme Court.

6. Billionaires Bought Brexit -- They Are Controlling Our Venal Political System

The sixth and last item today is by George Monbiot on Truth-out and originally on The Guardian:

This is from near the beginning:

If politics in Britain no longer serves the people, our funding system has a lot to do with it. While in most other European nations, political parties and campaigns are largely financed by the state, in Britain they are largely funded by millionaires, corporations and trade unions. Most people are not fools, and they rightly perceive that meaningful choices are being made in private, without democratic consent. Where there is meaning, there is no choice; where there is choice, there is no meaning.

Politicians insist that donors have no influence on policy, but you would have to be daft to believe it. The fear of losing money is a constant anxiety, and consciously or subconsciously people with an instinct for self-preservation will adapt their policies to suit those most likely to fund them. Nor does it matter whether policies follow the money or money follows the policies: those whose proposals appeal to the purse-holders will find it easier to raise funds.

This is all correct, and the link - financed by the state - does clarify that what Monbiot says in the first paragraph is correct: Not so in Great Britain, where political parties and campaigns are financed "by millionaires, corporations and trade unions".

Here is Monbiot's proposal to end it:

Stand back from this system and marvel at what we have come to accept. If we saw it anywhere else, we would immediately recognise it as corruption. Why should parties have to grovel to oligarchs to win elections? Or, for that matter, trade unions?

The political system should be owned by everyone, not by a subset. But the corruption at its heart has become so normalised that we can scarcely see it.

Here is one way in which we could reform our politics. Each party would be allowed to charge the same fee for membership -- a modest amount, perhaps £20. The state would then match this money, at a fixed ratio. And that would be it. There would be no other funding for political parties. The system would be simple, transparent and entirely dependent on the enthusiasm politicians could generate. They would have a powerful incentive to burst their bubbles and promote people's re-engagement with politics. The funding of referendums would be even simpler: the state would provide an equal amount for each side.

I say. In one sense, I fully agree, but then I also think there is almost no one with political power (!!) who wants such a fair system.

But while I don't give the plan any chance to succeed (in the present circumstances) the article is recommeded.

---------------
Note
[1] Maybe I should add here that governments cannot protect "the people" from most terroristic attacks, simply because there aren't enough policemen and military men.

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