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Nederlog

February 23, 2015
Crisis: Revolutionaries, Greece, Energy, "Independent Contractors", Google vs FBI
  "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. We Kill Our Revolutionaries
2. Greece deal is first step on the road back to austerity
3.
New Ideas Give an Energy Boost to Wave Power
4. Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors
5.
Google Joins Civil Liberties Groups To Oppose Expansion
     of FBI Spy Powers



Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, February 23, 2015.

It also is a crisis log. There are 5 items: Item 1 is on revolutionaries, and since I come from a really revolutionary background, this time I disagree with Chris Hedges; item 2 is about the Greek problems, and is not optimistic, though realistic; item 3 is about energy, and in particular water power (I like the idea,
but found the article not very clear); item 4 is about being "independent contractors" (which means in effect: working for pay without any of the protections or rights laborers have); and item 5 is about Google joining with civil liberties groups to fight yet another attempt by the FBI, the CIA and the NSA's desire to know everything about anyone who lives anywhere (which is sick, morally degenerate and dictatorial, but may happen).

1. We Kill Our Revolutionaries

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
I usually like the articles Chris Hedges writes, also when not agreeing with considerable parts, but I didn't much like the present article, and that starts
with the title:

First, I never killed anyone (and I don't like this abuse of "we"). Second, my father, mother and grandfather were real - communist, marxist - revolutionaries, and the first two were so for at least 40 years of their lives,
while, thirdly, I do not think the man Chris Hedges portrays in this piece is a revolutionary like my parents or grandparents were. [1]

Here is my reason. Hedges draws the portrait of Siddique Hasan, who presently is a Mohammedan aged 52, and is on death row since 1993, probably for a crime he did not commit, and who was born as Carlos Sanders:
Hasan, born Carlos Sanders, has been in juvenile detention facilities or prison since he was an adolescent. His early life was difficult, unstable and marked by extreme poverty. His mother had her first child at 12 and her fourth and final child at 19. His father, who was physically abusive to Hasan’s mother, abandoned the family when Hasan was 5. The children and their mother survived on her meager pay from cooking and cleaning jobs. Hasan, the third of the four children, lived briefly in foster homes and never went beyond fifth grade. He ran the streets with his older brother and engaged in petty crime. Since his first incarceration, in his early teens in Georgia—where he was nicknamed Savannah Slim or Savannah Red, and where he worked with other convicts on Georgia prison highway details—until today, he has spent only 17 months outside prison walls.
I am willing to believe that Hasan is a good man who was much abused, and
who did admirable work as a leader in prison. I also note he gets quoted to this effect:
“I did what I did with the choices that were available,” Hasan said. “I had to do something. I am a revolutionary."
But I am sorry: He may be a revolutionary by his own lights, and in some sense, but he is not a revolutionary like my parents and grandparents were, who
were only imprisoned by the Nazis for resisting Nazism, and who worked most
of their lives as poor laborers under Western capitalism, which they wanted
to change by a socialist revolution, in part because they were considerably
more intelligent than most.
(For more see note [1])

2. Greece deal is first step on the road back to austerity

The next item is an article by Philip Inman on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The rightwing orthodoxy that dominates thinking in Brussels has asserted itself over the hapless Greeks. A deal that allows the eurozone policymakers, the International Monetary Fund and the government of Athens to keep talking next week is the first stage in a clampdown on anti-austerity sentiment.

That much was clear from the statements coming out of Brussels, not least those from Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s veteran finance minister, who indulged himself with some patronising comments to show where the power lies. “Being in government is a date with reality, and reality is often not as nice as a dream,” was the quip he delivered with a smile, one that is usually omitted from diplomacy school.

I cannot say I am much amazed, for I have said from the beginning that the Greek government's attempt to get some Keynesianism instead of austerity
was very difficult to realize.

Also, this is not only due to the European Union but also, at least in part, due to the positions of various national governments. The Greeks have to seriously count with the fact that if the present left-wing government gets ousted, the neo-fascists may win the next Greek election, whereas Portugal, Ireland and Spain all have rightwing governments that love power (being politicians) and also love austerity (for that is a way of enriching their rich backers further, and which politician ever disappointed a rich backer?).

There is also this:

For the right-of-centre parties that control Portugal, Ireland and probably more importantly Spain, which is also under serious threat from an anti-austerity party, the need to keep Greece in check is driven by domestic politics. Any sense that austerity was ever wrong or that it delayed the recovery, as Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis argues, would undermine their authority and hand the intellectual higher ground to rival parties.

So Varoufakis’s first demand for a debt writedown was dismissed. Then his attempt to win a bridging loan, separate from the existing bailout deal, was trashed. Decisions to suspend privatisations were frowned on. Now he must use what money is available to shore up Greek banks.

"So it goes", when the few politicians who rule Europe rather protect the few rich (who pay them) than the many poor (who have no money) - and no: I do not know this, but it does stand to reason.

3. New Ideas Give an Energy Boost to Wave Power

The next item is an article by Paul Brown on Truthdig, but originally on Climate News:
This starts as follows:
All along the coasts of Europe where the Atlantic waves crash onto the shore there are experimental wave power stations producing electricity.

Now engineers in Norway and Sweden—two of the countries trying hardest to develop this technology—have announced “breakthroughs” in their methods, which the inventors believe will make wave power competitive.

I selected this mostly because the only decent solution I can see for the
population problem, the energy problem and the climate problem (which are
three enornous problems) is to find a source of cheap and renewable energy that also is not dangerous (as atomic energy currently is).

There are several approaches: fusion instead of fission (which would create a lot less problems with atomic energy, but which has not succeeded the last 50+ years); enormous solar panels in the Sahara (which would be extremely costly,
at least now); and the wave energy in the seas.

This is an example of the last approach and there are some breakthroughs, though I should also say that I did not find this article very clear.


4. Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

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

GM is worth around $60 billion, and has over 200,000 employees. Its front-line workers earn from $19 to $28.50 an hour, with benefits.  

Uber is estimated to be worth some $40 billion, and has 850 employees. Uber also has over 163,000 drivers (as of December – the number is expected to double by June), who average $17 an hour in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and $23 an hour in San Francisco and New York. 

But Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”

What difference does it make?

That is an interesting question, though it may not look like one. Here is part of the answer:

For one thing, GM workers don’t have to pay for the machines they use. But Uber drivers pay for their cars – not just buying them but also their maintenance, insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and cleaning. Subtract these costs and Uber drivers’ hourly pay drops considerably.

For another, GM’s employees get all the nation’s labor protections.

These include Social Security, a 40-hour workweek with time-and-a-half for overtime, worker health and safety, worker’s compensation if injured on the job, family and medical leave, minimum wage, pension protection, unemployment insurance, protection against racial or gender discrimination, and the right to bargain collectively.

Not to forget Obamacare’s mandate of employer-provided healthcare.

Uber workers don’t get any of these things. They’re outside the labor laws.

And that last point is crucial - and again this is sold as "freedom", while in fact this is mostly the freedom of the corporations to screw those who work for them. This happens as follows:

The rise of “independent contractors” Is the most significant legal trend in the American workforce – contributing directly to low pay, irregular hours, and job insecurity.

What makes them “independent contractors” is the mainly that the companies they work for say they are. So those companies don’t have to pick up the costs of having full-time employees.

Robert Reich has an interesting proposal to deal with this:
We need a simpler test for determining who’s an employer and employee.

I suggest this one: Any corporation that accounts for at least 80 percent or more of the pay someone gets, or receives from that worker at least 20 percent of his or her earnings, should be presumed to be that person’s “employer.”

This seems fair to me and can - as Reich explains - be adopted fairly unproblematically. It certainly wouldn't solve all problems, but it would
give back to those who are currently working "
outside the labor laws" with
hardly any choice and hardly any rights some of the rights laborers have
and should have.


5. Google Joins Civil Liberties Groups To Oppose Expansion of FBI Spy Powers

The last item for today is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Internet giant Google and the American Civil Liberties Union are among the various groups who have objected to a rule change by the U.S. Department of Justice that would give the FBI and other agencies sweeping new powers to perform search and seize private data from online users across the nation and the globe.

According to a brief submitted by Richard Salgado, Google's director for law enforcement, against a pending DOJ proposal, the changes to law enforcement's ability to search remote servers could lead to "government hacking of any facility" in the world and raises "monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide."

I say. Note that the FBI and the DOJ claim the "right" not only to access any computer in the U.S. but any computer anywhere, and steal all the information these computers carry.

Here is an explanation from The Guardian:

The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.

In particular, Google sounds the alarm over the FBI’s desire to “remotely” search computers that have concealed their location – either through encryption or by obscuring their IP addresses using anonymity services such as Tor. Those government searches, Google says, “may take place anywhere in the world. This concern is not theoretical. ... [T]he nature of today’s technology is such that warrants issued under the proposed amendment will in many cases end up authorizing the government to conduct searches outside the United States.”

As I have said before (again and again): None of this has anything to do with "terrorism", although that is the pretext; all of this has a lot to do with the
attempt to secure world dominance to the FBI and the NSA, that they indeed
would get it if they do get access to every computer (including all trade secrets, all passwords, all financial information, and all personal information).

There is also this, from the incredible liar Eric Holder:

According to the National Journal, the DOJ has characterized the rule change over digital searches as amounting to only "a small-scale tweak of protocol, one that is necessary to align search-warrant procedures with the realities of modern technology." 

Civil liberties groups strongly disagree.

Stating the ACLU's opposition to the DOJ's plan, the group's principal technologist Christopher Soghoian, said: "The government is seeking a troubling expansion of its power to surreptitiously hack into computers, including using malware. Although this proposal is cloaked in the garb of a minor procedural update, in reality it would be a major and substantive change that would be better addressed by Congress."

But Congress consists mostly of millionaires and is mostly Republican...
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P.S. Feb 24, 2015: I made some small corrections.

Note

[1] Both of my parents were communists for more than 40 years; my father's father was a communist (after the firm he owned had gone broke five
times in a row in the early 1930ies), and my mother's parents were both anarchists.

So yes, I do think I can judge revolutionaries, and indeed I also think that few of the self-acclaimed "revolutionaries" I have seen were real revolutionaries like my parents and grandparents were (for in fact most were students from well-to-do families who flirted for a few years with Marxism in their early twenties, and who gave up on all that as soon as it became less fashionable,
and they started to make good money for themselves).

And in case you are interested: As for myself, I would not claim I am a revolutionary since 1970, and this is mostly because I could not believe the
"revolutionaries" of my age (of whom I have known quite a few - and no, nearly all of them gave up in the late seventies or early eighties); because I never discovered a credible revolutionary theory; because most revolutionary theories I have read were thus or so totalitarian; and also because I do not have much faith or trust in the intelligence, the knowledge, the morality or the honesty of the vast majority.

But I am a child and a grandchild of genuine revolutionaries, and very few have my background.
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