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Nederlog

August 4, 2015
Crisis: Jeremy Corbyn, The GCHQ, The Revolt in the US, Ebola

"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















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aren’t mad – they’re fleeing
     a bankrupt New Labour

2. GCHQ and Me 
3. The Revolt Against the Ruling Class
4.
The Ebola vaccine we dared to dream of is here



This is a Nederlog of Tuesday August 4, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Owen Jones that - I think correctly - addresses the many rather sick voices (rather plentiful on The Guardian, also) that defend the neo-Tory Blairites
and attack a really leftist Labour program by classifying real leftists as insane, idiotic, deluded, unhinged and ridiculous (which is in fact a series of
insane, idiotic, deluded, unhinged and ridiculous attacks by the neo-Toryite profiteers from New Labour on a real and realistic leftist grassroots movement); item 2 is about a quite interesting long article by Duncan Campbell on 40 years of his investigating governmental mass spying on their own populations (especially in Great Britain and the USA); item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich about the revolt against the rich rulers; and item 4 is a rare piece of good news: there is now - or so it seems at least - a quite effective and apparently safe vaccine that prevents the spreading of Ebola.

1.  Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aren’t mad – they’re fleeing a bankrupt New Labour

The first article of today is by Owen Jones on The Guardian:

This is from the beginning:

How have the Labour left, from arguably its lowest ebb in the party’s history, apparently ended up on the brink of taking the leadership on a wave of support? If you listen to many self-described “centre-left” voices, it’s because the Labour party has gone quite, quite mad. Cod psychology now abounds to describe the rise of Corbynism: narcissism, people wanting to show off how right-on they are on Facebook, mass delusion, an emotional spasm, and so on. Corbyn supporters are having a temper tantrum against the electorate, so this patronising narrative goes, they think voters have “false consciousness” on a grand scale. Some sort of mass psychological disorder has gripped one of the great parties of the left in the western world, and the only real debate is how it must be cured or eradicated.

Yes, indeed - but mind please these are the accusations of Blairites, neo-Tory New Labourites, and other well-earning people, varying from Blair himself (worth at least 20 million pounds, currently: a real socialist), Kinnock himself and Brown himself to plenty of their journalistic followers, quite a few who seem to be journalists for The Guardian.

Here is some more on the Blairite bullshit:

Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement. And that’s the problem: this snarkiness is all some seem to have left. Much of the self-described “centre-left” – I’d say Blairism, but some embrace the label more than others – now lack a clear vision, or a set of policies, or even a coherent distinct set of values.

And here is the reason why the Blairites are bullshitting in a major way:

The radical left has often been critiqued – including by me – for offering little but slogans, normally about stopping something bad like cuts or privatisation. And yet Corbyn’s campaign has been unique in the Labour leadership campaign in actually offering coherent policies and a fleshed-out economic strategy: a radical housing programme; tax justice; democratic public ownership of utilities and services; a public investment bank to transform the economy; quantitative easing to invest in desperately needed infrastructure; a £10 minimum wage; a National Education Service; a costed abolition of tuition fees; women’s rights; and so on. His campaign is making astounding headway – against the odds – because it offers a coherent, inspiring and, crucially, a hopeful vision. His rivals offer little of any substance.

Precisely. And I like the article, although I disagree with Jones on Blair's policies:

They were bad because they did not include the above, and they were a neo-Toryism plus some leftist fringes to appeal to and to deceive the electorate that they were voting for "a leftist party". They were not.

2.  GCHQ and Me

The next article is by Duncan Campbell (<- Wikipedia) on The Intercept:
This is a long and - I think - quite interesting article that summarizes 40 years of research into "mass surveillance" i.e. governmental secret spying on everyone.

Here are
Duncan Campbell's credentials (and see the Wikipedia on him):
In my 40 years of reporting on mass surveillance, I have been raided three times; jailed once; had television programs I made or assisted making banned from airing under government pressure five times; seen tapes seized; faced being shoved out of a helicopter; had my phone tapped for at least a decade; and — with this arrest — been lined up to face up to 30 years imprisonment for alleged violations of secrecy laws. And why do I keep going? Because from the beginning, my investigations revealed a once-unimaginable scope of governmental surveillance, collusion, and concealment by the British and U.S. governments — practices that were always as much about domestic spying during times of peace as they were about keeping citizens safe from supposed foreign enemies, thus giving the British government the potential power to become, as our source that night had put it, a virtual “police state.”
An important part of the reason I found this quite interesting is that it shows how far back mass spying (as is the more correct term, I think) started.

For example, here is the first article Duncan Campbell wrote about the GCHQ, which was then also first publicly named, and its mate the NSA. It is from 1976:

“The Eavesdroppers” put GCHQ in view as Britain’s largest spy network organization. “With the huge U.S National Security Agency as partner, [GCHQ] intercepts and decodes communications throughout the world,” I wrote.

The very existence of GCHQ and the Sigint network were then closely guarded secrets. My article was based on open sources and help from ex-NSA whistleblowers. One was Perry Fellwock, a former U.S. Air Force analyst who helped expose the scale of illegal NSA surveillance during Watergate.

And this is about the British governmental reaction:

In March 1977, one month after our nighttime arrest, we were all charged with breaking Britain’s Official Secrets Act, for the “unlawful receipt of information.” Then we were charged with espionage. Each espionage charge carried a maximum of 14 years. I was also charged with espionage for collecting open source information on U.K. government plans. In total, I faced 30 years.

The interview, and then our arrests, were a first encounter with the power of Government Communications Headquarters, better known by its acronym, GCHQ, Britain’s electronic surveillance agency.

In fact, he was cleared, perhaps in part because of "testimony" given by the GCHQ's officials was to the following effect:

In a typical interchange, one Sigint unit chief was shown a road sign outside his base:

Q: Is that the name of your unit?

A: I cannot answer that question, that is a secret.

Q: Is that the board which passers-by on the main road see outside your unit’s base?

A: Yes.

Q: Read it out to the jury, please.

A: I cannot do that. It is a secret.

Then - after considerably more, that I leave to the readers' interests - in 1988
Campbell was informed about ECHELON, by an American woman who had worked for the NSA:

The scale of the operation she described took my breath away (this was 1988, remember). The NSA and its partners had arranged for everything we communicated to be grabbed and potentially analyzed. ECHELON was at the heart of a massive, billion-dollar expansion of global electronic surveillance for the 21st century, she explained. She feared the scale of automated surveillance. “Its immensity almost defies comprehension. … It is important for the truth to come out,” she said. “I don’t believe we should put up with being controlled by Big Brother.”

This was 1988...

There is a lot more in the article, and also on Duncan Campbell's website, that are both recommended.

3. The Revolt Against the Ruling Class

The next article is by Robert Reich on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

“He can’t possibly win the nomination,” is the phrase heard most often when Washington insiders mention either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.  

Yet as enthusiasm for the bombastic billionaire and the socialist senior continues to build within each party, the political establishment is mystified.

Political insiders don’t see that the biggest political phenomenon in America today is a revolt against the “ruling class” of insiders that have dominated Washington for more than three decades.

In two very different ways, Trump and Sanders are agents of this revolt. I’ll explain the two ways in a moment.
Yes, I think that is correct. (As an aside: "political insiders" tend to work for the government, as officials or journalists.)

Here is a sketch of the background:

America has long had a ruling class but the public was willing to tolerate it during the three decades after World War II, when prosperity was widely shared and when the Soviet Union posed a palpable threat. Then, the ruling class seemed benevolent and wise.  

Yet in the last three decades – when almost all the nation’s economic gains have gone to the top while the wages of most people have gone nowhere – the ruling class has seemed to pad its own pockets at the expense of the rest of America.

We’ve witnessed self-dealing on a monumental scale – starting with the junk-bond takeovers of the 1980s, followed by the Savings and Loan crisis, the corporate scandals of the early 2000s (Enron, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Tyco, Worldcom), and culminating in the near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 and the taxpayer-financed bailout. 

Along the way, millions of Americans lost their jobs their savings, and their homes.

Yes indeed, though I would have added the main tool that made this possible: Deregulation, that is, the termination of the laws that made the exercise of enormous egoistic greed impossible.

Here is the last bit I will quote from the article (skipping i.a. the explanation of Donald Trump):

Occupy didn’t last but it put inequality on map. And the sentiments that fueled Occupy are still boiling.  

Bernie Sanders personifies them. The more he advocates a fundamental retooling of our economy and democracy in favor of average working people, the more popular he becomes among those who no longer trust the ruling class to bring about necessary change.  

Yet despite the growing revolt against the ruling class, it seems likely that the nominees in 2016 will be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. After all, the ruling class still controls America.

But the revolt against the ruling class won’t end with the 2016 election, regardless. 

Which means the ruling class will have to change the way it rules America. Or it won’t rule too much longer.

Yes and no, but mostly no, and that for three reasons.

First, I don't know whether Bernie Sanders speaks for "the sentiments that fueled Occupy" (that seems something quite vague, at the very least): I don't know what these are, in the first place, and also I would say Bernie Sanders is basically articulating a fairly classic leftist program he has been advocating for nearly 40 years now, quite regardless of the people who did Occupy.

And the main reason that Sanders is currently popular is that more and more Americans disbelieve the propaganda they have been fed, and do so for a very sound reason: It did not work, and they are as poor or poorer than they were thirty years ago, for all that the propaganda delivered was an incredible easing of the position of the rich, and a continuous decline of the incomes of the middle class and the poor.

Second, while I suppose that the bets that the presidential race of 2016 will be, again, between the representatives of the two dynasties, the Bushes and the Clintons, it seems to me unwise, especially since it still takes nearly 1 1/2 years to the elections, to dismiss Sanders as a presidential candidate.

He might make it if his message were given more attention on the main media, and he might get more on the main media if he persists in drawing huge crowds.

Third, Robert Reich is four years older than I am, which means that he will be 78 after another 8 years of - say - Clinton. I conceded that the gambling money is - still - on Clinton... but isn't it a bit defeatist to gamble on her because that is were the money is, while one knows that she will - very probably - be simply continueing the mess?

But yes, I also know that one of the differences between Reich and me is that he knows and is befriended with the Clintons.

4. The Ebola vaccine we dared to dream of is here

The last article of today is by Jeremy Farrar on The Guardian:
This starts with a summary:
A success rate of 100% in trials is spectacular. There is no excuse for inertia on other diseases now
This is here because I wrote about Ebola before, and it seems that now there is a vaccine that seems to be safe and prevents its spreading - which is a consider- able scientific success.

Its opening is as follows:
I normally like to avoid superlatives when describing the interim results of a medical trial, but it is difficult to talk about the report of the experimental Ebola vaccine in the Lancet as being anything less than spectacular. More than 7,600 people in Guinea have received the vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, in a study that targeted people from communities with cases of Ebola. None who received it immediately has so far contracted the virus. That’s an efficacy of 100%. And not only has it been shown to be so effective, it has also been well tolerated, with few side effects. This is rare for vaccines such as this one that contain a live virus, and it’s something to be thankful for.
There is considerably more in the article, but that is the main message: There is a vaccine that seems to stop the spreading of Ebola (<- Wikipedia). (Qualification:  The news has not yet been treated on Wikipedia.)

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