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Nederlog

June 27, 2015
Crisis: Same-Sex Marriage, NYT, Greece, Declining Democracy, College Education
  "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. Today’s Court Ruling, Though Expected, is Still Shocking
      — Especially for Those Who Grew Up LGBT in the U.S.

2. How the NSA Started Investigating the New York Times’
     Warrantless Wiretapping Story

3. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras calls referendum on bailout
     terms

4.
Study: Democracy Declining in More Than Half of U.N.
     Member States

5.
College Is Wildly Exploitative: Why Aren’t Students
     Raising Hell?
 


This is a Nederlog of Saturday June 27, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald about the SCOTUS decision that same-sex marriages
now are allowed; item 2 is about why the NYT did not publish an article about warrantless wiretapping in the U.S. for a year; item 3 is about the decision by the Greek PM to call a referendum on the bailout terms he was offered; item 4 is about a report that states that in 50% of the countries that belong to the UN, democracy is declining; and item 5 is about the very much rising costs for getting
a college degree in the U.S.
1. Today’s Court Ruling, Though Expected, is Still Shocking — Especially for Those Who Grew Up LGBT in the U.S.

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

This starts as follows:

By a 5-4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that laws denying same-sex couples the right to marry violate the “due process” and “equal protection” guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. With or without the court ruling, full-scale marriage equality was an inevitability thanks to rapid trans-ideological generational change in how this issue was perceived; today’s decision simply accelerated the outcome.

All the legal debates over the ruling are predictable and banal. Most people proclaim — in the words of Justice Scalia’s bizarre and somewhat deranged dissent — that it is a “threat to democracy” and a “judicial putsch” whenever laws they like are judicially invalidated, but a profound vindication for freedom when laws they dislike are nullified. That’s how people like Scalia can, on one day, demand that campaign finance laws enacted by Congress and supported by large majorities of citizens be struck down (Citizens United), but the next day declare that judicial invalidation of a democratically enacted law “robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

I say. In part, I share Glenn Greenwald's combination of - somewhat odd but quite possible - expecting the decision and being somewhat shocked, and
indeed for the reasons he explains well in the rest of the article.

Perhaps I should also say that I am neither American nor homosexual (while Glenn Greenwald is both), which explains why I have not been following the struggle for gay liberation (as the PC phrase seems to be) as much as I would
have had it been otherwise, but then I share these things with most of my readers.

As to Justice Scalia: Much as I dislike him, I am willing to grant him two things:

(i) the same sort of relativism that also characterizes many on the left, who often reason likewise: "that it is a “threat to democracy” and a “judicial putsch” whenever laws they like are judicially invalidated, but a profound vindication for freedom when laws they dislike are nullified", and
(ii) that at least he does refer to an overarching and general democratic principle when he said that "
the most important liberty [the People] asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves".

Indeed, I would also argue that the second principle strongly implies that surveillance of everyone concerning everything (by an extremely small set of anonymous persons working for the government or for private corporations) contradicts their "
freedom to govern themselves", since you have very little freedom left to govern yourself if the holders of power know absolutely everything about you (and you do not even know who they are) - but having remarked that I pass on to the next quotation:

Far more interesting than that sort of naked hypocrisy masquerading as lofty intellectual principles are the historical and cultural aspects of today’s decision. Although the result was expected on a rational level, today’s ruling is still viscerally shocking for any LGBT citizen who grew up in the U.S., or their family members and close friends. It’s almost hard to believe that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Just consider how embedded, pervasive and recent anti-gay sentiment has been in the fabric of American life.

As to the term "LGBT", I quote the beginning of the Wikipedia (that may
be of use to some) (minus note numbers):
LGBT or GLBT is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which itself started replacing the term gay when in reference to the LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s,  as many felt the term gay community did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred. The initialism has become mainstream as a self-designation and has been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based community centers and media in the United States and some other English-speaking countries.

Next, Glenn Greenwald does justice to his last phrase in the last quote - "Just consider how embedded, pervasive and recent anti-gay sentiment has been in the fabric of American life" - and gives a fine exposition of the quite radical changes that happened since the 1970ies in how LGBT people were regarded by others.

This starts as follows:

In the 1970s — just 40 years ago — the existence of gay people was all but unmentionable, particularly outside of small enclaves in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. If your first inkling of a gay identity took place in that decade, as mine did, you necessarily assumed that you were alone, that you were plagued with some sort of rare, aberrational disease, since there was no way even to know gayness existed except from the most malicious and casual mockery of it. It simply wasn’t meaningfully discussed: anywhere.

I am 17 years older than Glenn Greenwald and Dutch, but something like it was true in the Holland of the 1960s, though it was a bit less extreme than in the U.S.

Indeed, being homosexual or homophile (as the terms then were, in Dutch) was hardly ever mentioned, and I was first made aware of its real existence and what it was by means of a - fairly courageous - article in a weekly I read in 1966 or 1967, about a fairly well-known Dutch journalist, who explained his liking for bodybuilders by saying he was "a homophile", and explaining it.

My own reaction was rather different from Glenn Greenwald's: I almost immedia-
tely assumed, in part because I knew that I had had no choice in being hetero- sexual, which seemed natural to me, that homosexuality probably also was native, indeed mostly because I did know that those who had it or seemed to have it were quite mercilessly discriminated by most (which in part went back to the Bible, and in part to the laws).

Also, in Holland there soon was more openness about it than in the U.S., especially after the Dutch psychiatrists agreed with the American psychiatrists
who had agreed in 1973 to stop considering homosexuality as a mental disease,
which was widely welcomed and propagandized by Dutch homophiles (as they then still called themselves).

But I will leave this, and also recommend you to click on the last dotted link in case you want to read Glenn Greenwald's brief history, which is both well done and also fairly amazing.

Greenwald ends as follows:

So up until three years ago –– even as numerous other countries on multiple continents around the world enacted it — almost every national American political figure opposed same-sex marriage.

Now, as of today, same-sex marriage is legal in all states. That is massive, fundamental change in an amount of time so short as to be dizzying.

There is more that is good in the article. Here is the last sentence:

To witness the arrival of full-scale legal equality is something many never expected to see in their lifetime, and now that it has happened, still seems surreal.

2. How the NSA Started Investigating the New York Times’ Warrantless Wiretapping Story

The next item today is an article by Cora Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Three days after the New York Times revealed that the U.S. government was secretly monitoring the calls and emails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants, the National Security Agency issued a top-secret assessment of the damage done to intelligence efforts by the story. The conclusion: the information could lead terrorists to try to evade detection. Yet the agency gave no specific examples of investigations that had been jeopardized.

The December 2005 bombshell story, by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, set off a debate about the George W. Bush administration’s expansion of spying powers after the 9/11 attacks, and also about the Times editors’ decision to delay its publication for a year. White House officials had warned the Times that revealing the program would have grave consequences for national security.

And so the NYT decided to trust the government, even though (i) the govern-
ment "
gave no specific examples of investigations that had been jeopardized"
while (ii) the NYT anyway had no right to trust the government -
"All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed. I.F. Stone - rather than honestly report to its readers, indeed unless (iii) its editors and journalists are perfectly happy to function as messagers for the government, who simply relay what they are being told, and don't spread whatever they are told to keep secret.

But that is not a free press, anymore. There is more in the article.

3. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras calls referendum on bailout terms

The next item today is an article by Helena Smith on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

In a dramatic move that will put Europe on tenterhooks, the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras told his fellow citizens last night he would call a referendum on the bailout accord that international creditors have proposed to keep the debt-stricken country afloat.

Following an emergency meeting of his cabinet, Tsipras said his leftist-led government had decided a package of austerity measures proposed by the country’s creditors – made in a last-ditch effort to avert default – would be put to popular vote. The referendum will take place on Sunday 5 July.

“After five months of hard negotiations our partners, unfortunately, ended up making a proposal that was an ultimatum towards Greek democracy and the Greek people,” he said in a national address, “an ultimatum at odds with the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European construction.”

I say, though I am not all that amazed: it seems to me Tsipras had little choice.
Also, he was fairly clear how he feels:

(...) Tsipras, whose radical-left Syriza party was catapulted into power five months ago on a platform of eradicating austerity, did not hide his own feelings for the accord.

Greeks, he said, were being subjected to “humiliation and blackmail”. “These proposals, which clearly violate the European rules and the basic rights to work, equality and dignity, show the purpose of some of the partners and institutions was not a viable agreement for all parties, but possibly the humiliation of an entire people,” he said.

There is considerably more in the article.

I have no idea of the outcome, and it might even be that the EU will not supply the money to Greece to live until the referendum, but we will find out in the next seven days.

4. Study: Democracy Declining in More Than Half of U.N. Member States

The next item today is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

A new report released by a long-established civil rights advocacy group says democracy is waning and authoritarianism is on the rise in more than 96 of the 193 states that belong to the United Nations.

“The widespread systematic attack on these core civil society liberties has taken many forms, including assault, torture, kidnapping and assassination,” the Civicus Civil Society Watch Report says.

I am not amazed, although 96/193 is 50% of the countries (that all belong to the United Nations).

Next, there is
this quoted from the Inter Press Service (with a link to the article):

The report says while activists engaged in political reform, uncovering corruption and human rights violations continue to be targeted, those defending local communities from land grabs and environmental degradation, as well as those promoting minority group rights, have been subjected to various forms of persecution.

“The link between unethical business practices and closing civic space is becoming clearer as global inequality and capture of power and resources by a handful of political and economic elite rises.“ …

A number of democracies are also engaging in illicit surveillance of civil society activists, further weakening respect for human rights. …

I believe this is going to be worse. And this ends as follows:

“When citizens’ most basic democratic rights are being violated in more than half the world’s countries, alarm bells must start ringing for the international community and leaders everywhere,” Sriskandarajah said.

Since I think that many of the "leaders everywhere" are violating "citizens’ most basic democratic rights", it follows that the "alarm bells" will ring - in my opinion - mostly for citizens (who also seriously risk being persecuted for it).

5. College Is Wildly Exploitative: Why Aren’t Students Raising Hell?

The last item today is an article by David Masciotra on Naked Capitalism, but originally on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation. It benefits immensely from right-wing McCarthy wannabes, who in an effort to restrict academic freedom and silence political dissent, depict universities as left-wing indoctrination centers.

But the reality is that while college administrators might affix “down with the man” stickers on their office doors, many prop up a system that is severely unfair to American students and professors, a shocking number of whom struggle to make ends meet. Even the most elementary level of political science instructs that politics is about power. Power, in America, is about money: who has it? Who does not have it? Who is accumulating it? Who is losing it? Where is it going?

Four hundred faculty members at New York University, one of the nation’s most expensive schools, recently released a report on how their own place of employment, legally a nonprofit institution, has become a predatory business, hardly any different in ethical practice or economic procedure than a sleazy storefront payday loan operator. Its title succinctly summarizes the new intellectual discipline deans and regents have learned to master: “The Art of The Gouge.”

Yes, indeed - and in case you didn't know:
From 2003-2013, college tuition increased by a crushing 80 percent. That far outpaces all other inflation. The closest competitor was the cost of medical care, which in the same time period, increased by a rate of 49 percent. On average, tuition in America rises eight percent on an annual basis, placing it far outside the moral universe.
Why did this happen? I don't really know, though it has much to do with being 18, being naive, and expecting to get considerably better paying jobs with a college degree.

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P.S. Jun 28, 2015: Removed a redundant "by" and inserted a missing "than".

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