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Nederlog

August 20, 2015
Crisis: Corbyn's Popularity, Pentagon, Bernie, Greece For Sale, Federal Debt

 "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.
Corbyn’s surge can be at the heart of a winning coalition
2. Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies
3. With Voters 'Feeling the Bern,' Support for Sanders Gains
     Momentum

4.
Greece is for Sale – and Everything Must Go
5. Trumping the Federal Debt without Playing the Default
     Card



This is a Nederlog of Thursday, August 20, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Jeremy Corby on The Guardian, and explains why he may be winning in the Labour Party, always apart from the Blairites who currently command it; item 2 is about the new Pentagon Manual that seems to make journalists who disagree with the Pentagon the equivalents of spies; item 3 is about Bernie Sanders, who keeps drawing large masses and getting closer and closer to Hillary Clinton; item 4 is about what Wolfgang Schäuble and others really seem to be after: buying up Greece for almost nothing; and item 5 is about a possibility to get rid of the enormous American debt.

1. Corbyn’s surge can be at the heart of a winning coalition

The first article of today is by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
What is taking place in the Labour party is a democratic explosion unprecedented in British political history. Last week more than 168,000 registered to vote in Labour’s leadership election – on one day. About 400,000 people have applied to join Labour as members or supporters since May, tripling the size of the party to more than 600,000.

Overwhelmingly, it’s the response to one candidate standing for the Labour leadership: the veteran backbench campaigner Jeremy Corbyn. When Tony Blair became Labour leader in 1994 he promised to recruit 1 million members, but never got much beyond 400,000. Corbyn has sailed past him in weeks.

Not only that, but the leftwinger is now runaway favourite to win the contest. In the most recent poll, Corbyn was scoring 53% on first preferences, 32 points ahead of his nearest challenger. And 32% of the public say they would be more likely to back Labour under Corbyn, seven points more than any other candidate.

I say. Indeed, I like this, and that is also a reason to have it in the crisis series, which tends to be rather disheartening, at least for those who aren't rich already.

There is rather a lot more in the article, but I will quote just two more bits.

First, there is this:
Corbyn’s opponents insist that he’s a throwback offering “old solutions”. That seems to be based mainly on his commitment to public ownership of rail and energy – which is not only supported by large majorities of the public but also reflects a growing trend towards new forms of social ownership across Europe, especially in Germany.

The real objection is that Corbyn represents a break with City-backed austerity and a powerful commitment to public investment. Add to that his opposition to Trident renewal and endless British warmaking, and the challenge he represents to the establishment consensus is obvious enough.
Yes, I agree - and "Corbyn's opponents", at least the ones I read or briefly glanced at, are all Blairite Tory-lite careerists, who tend to forget that Blair made himself between 20 million and 80 million pounds; that his arisal was considered by Thatcher her biggest service to England; and who totally changed the leftist
position of Labour to the rightist position of New Labour by supporting the trashy
total bullshit that was Clinton's and Blair's "Third Way", that also replaced most of Labour's lefts by Blair's careerist Tory-lites. [1]

And while I did not agree to rather a lot of Labour's policies until Blair, it was, until Blair, a genuine leftist party, and it ceased to be one after Blair won the elections and started changing the Labour Party into his Tory-lite New Labour image.

Finally, a strongly and genuinely rightist party like the Tories needs a strongly and genuinely leftist party like the Labour party, but unlike "New Labour".

At least - that is what I think, and while I am not important and indeed not even British (though I know England, at least, fairly well, and also lived there, though long ago, in the early 70ies), that is also more or less what hundreds of thousands of British seem to think now, and that is important.

There is considerably more in Seumas Milne's piece, but I will only quote this:

It’s possible, of course, that the relentless attacks will tip the vote against Corbyn after all. But if not, he will face an even more ferocious onslaught thereafter. That will come not only from the Conservatives and the media, but from sections of the Labour establishment that can be expected to launch a parliamentary campaign to undermine and unseat him.

But Corbyn will have an unprecedented democratic mandate if he wins, backed by a movement of hundreds of thousands. And not only is he committed to creating a leadership of “all the talents”, he also plans to open up Labour’s long-dormant internal democracy.
Yes, indeed. In fact, he has to reform the Labour Party back to a real Labour Party instead of an instrument for careerist politicians, and that will be quite difficult as well.

Even so, his arisal is a hopeful sign, and while I am certain I don't agree with him on quite a number of points, he is a real leftist, and that is what Great Britain needs, after over 15 years of various kinds of rightists: See what it gave to the
poor and the middle classes! More austerity, less support, higher rents, a virtually destroyed NHS and BBC, and very expensive trains and energy!
2. Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies

The next article is by Don North on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows (and is by a veteran war correspondent):

Honest war correspondents and photographers who try to cover wars effectively are about to become suspect spies if a new Pentagon manual, “Law of War,” is accepted by U.S. military commanders. I can confirm from personal experience that reporting on wars is hard enough without being considered a suspicious character secretly working for the other side.

The 1,176-page manual, published on June 24, is the first comprehensive revision made to the Defense Department’s law of war policy since 1956. One change in terminology directly targets journalists, saying “in general, journalists are civilians,” but under some circumstances, journalists may be regarded as “unprivileged belligerents.” [p. 173] That places reporters in the same ranks as Al Qaeda, since the term “unprivileged belligerents” replaces the Bush-era phrase “unlawful combatants.”

Yes, indeed - and I reported on this before, here. Indeed, what I said then was:

This seems a totalitarian law. The military should have no power "to censor their work" ("their" = "journalists'"); the "embedding" of journalists seems mostly a sick way to take away many of their means of reporting; and it is insane and very totalitarian to demand that journalists should agree to the many crazy wars the Pentagon thinks it is entitled to.

In fact, what seems to be the further aim of the Pentagon is that it simply can wage war with its professional army (not selected from the population, but selected from those who volunteered to kill for their country [2]) any way it wants, because it will be only "covered" by journalists who agree to write only and whatever the army wants them to write.

We aren't there yet, but we are very close, if you ask the Pentagon. Here is some more from Don North:

“Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying,” the manual says, calling on journalists to “act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities.” The manual notes that governments “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.”

The manual’s new language reflects a long-term growing hostility within the U.S. military toward unencumbered reporting about battlefield operations as well as a deepening interest in “information warfare,” the idea that control over what the public gets to hear and see is an important way of ensuring continued popular support for a conflict at home and undermining the enemy abroad.

But allowing this manual to stand as guidance for commanders, government lawyers and leaders of foreign nations would severely damage press freedoms, not only for Americans but internationally. It would drastically inhibit the news media ability to cover future wars honestly and keep the public informed, which is after all what both U.S. government officials and journalists say they want.

Yes indeed - and this is an article I recommend you read all of. There is a lot more, including this:

Now, the Pentagon appears to be engaging in an attempt at intimidation or “prior restraint,” essentially warning journalists that if they are deemed to have reported something that undermines the war effort, they could be deemed “unprivileged belligerents,” presumably opening them to trial by military tribunals or to indefinite detention.

This is also how it appears to me: You write what the Pentagon wants you to write - or else you risk "trial by military tribunals or (..) indefinite detention."

3.
With Voters 'Feeling the Bern,' Support for Sanders Gains Momentum

The next article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders seems to be inspiring more and more voters to "feel the Bern."

Though Hillary Clinton is still the leading Democratic candidate, support for Sanders is on the rise, a new CNN/ORC poll (pdf) shows. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, Clinton leads Sanders 47 percent to 29 percent.

But comparing the results to the previous two CNN/ORC polls, Clinton is experiencing a downward trend while Sanders' trend is upward. Clinton is down nine points since the July poll, and down 11 points since the June poll. Sanders, in contrast, is up 10 points since the July poll when he had the support of 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters. The June poll showed support for his campaign at just 15 percent.

The latest national poll comes on the heels of more signs of continued support for the Vermont senator. After day 6 of an informal poll by the Secretary of State of Iowa State Fair attendees,  it was a tight race between the two, with Sanders at 46 percent to Clinton's 48 percent.

I say. I like it especially because Sanders seems the only honest presidential canditate and I like a lot of what he is saying. Then again, I know he has an enormous task, that he himself described as follows:
Speaking at the Des Moines Register Soapbox at the fair, Sanders said, "I welcome and urge all of you to join me in helping to make a political revolution, which transforms America, which creates a government that works for all of us, and not just a handful."
Yes, indeed. But this also makes it very difficult to succeed, though I hope he will.

4. Greece is for Sale – and Everything Must Go 

The next item is by Nick Dearden on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
I've just had sight of the latest privatisation plan for Greece. It's been issued by something called the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund –the vehicle supervised by the European institutions, which has been tasked with selling off an eye-watering €50 billion of Greece's ‘valuable assets’.
I don't think it unfair to assume these are the prizes Wolfgang Schäuble faught so hard for. (Of course, he will deny this, but then he is a professional politician.)

Here is one list of some riches that are up for very cheap grabs to anyone who has a few millions:

Fourteen regional airports, flying into top tourist hubs, have already gone to a German company, but don’t panic because stock in Athens airport is still on the table, as well as Athens' old airport which is up for a 99 year lease for redevelopment as a tourism and business centre. 

Piraeus and  Thessaloniki ports are up for sale – the former case has caused the chief executive to resign and industrial action has begun. A gas transmission system looks likely to be sold to the government of Azerbaijan, but there’s still a power and electricity company, the postal service, a  transport utility which allows trains and buses to run, the country’s main telecommunications company, a 648 km motorway, and a significant holding in the leading oil refiner, which covers approximately two-thirds of the country’s refining capacity.

And here is an argument why this matters - and is extremely unfair, to everyone, except the few rich banks so eagerly served by Wolfgang Schäuble:

Why does this matter? First because makes no sense to sell off valuable assets in the middle of Europe’s worst depression in 70 years. Those industries could generate revenues to help the Greek government rebuild the economy. In fact, the vast majority of the funds raised will go back to the creditors in debt repayments, and to the recapitalisation of Greek banks.  

So the privatisations aren’t to do with helping Greece. The beneficiaries are corporations from around the world, though eyebrows are particularly being raised at the number of European companies – from German airport operators and phone companies to French railways – who are getting their hands on Greece’s economy. Not to mention the European investment banks and legal firms who are making a fast buck along the way. The self-interest of European governments in forcing these policies on Greece leaves a particularly unpleasant flavour.

To put it mildly. But this is an interesting article that I recommend you read all of. 

5. Trumping the Federal Debt without Playing the Default Card

This last item is by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

This starts with a quote of Alan Greenspan:
“The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.” — Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan on Meet the Press, August 2011
Note that in fact the USA owes $17.7 trillion dollars, which seems to make the USA fundamentally bankrupt. This raises a question:

How can the country remain strong with very little debt, without defaulting on Social Security, Medicare, or the federal debt itself?

There is a way. The government can reduce the debt by buying it – and ripping it up. The debt can be bought either with debt-free US Notes of the sort issued during the Civil War, or with US dollars issued by the Federal Reserve in the form of “quantitative easing.”

I say - but indeed one reason that may work is that there is - since quite a while - no more gold to prop up the value of the dollar, which thereby got reduced to a mere reckoning standard.

Here is a plan proposed by Ron Paul:

In 2011, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul proposed dealing with the debt ceiling by simply voiding out the $1.7 trillion in federal securities then held by the Fed. As Stephen Gandel explained Paul’s solution in Time Magazine, the Treasury pays interest on the securities to the Fed, which returns 90% of these payments to the Treasury. Despite this shell game of payments, the $1.7 trillion in US bonds owned by the Fed is still counted toward the debt ceiling. Paul’s plan:

Get the Fed and the Treasury to rip up that debt. It’s fake debt anyway. And the Fed is legally allowed to return the debt to the Treasury to be destroyed.

Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat, also endorsed this proposal.

There is considerably more in Ellen Brown's article (which I don't pretend to understand all, but she does know her field).

Here is the conclusion of her article, that explains the name of Trump in its title:
Back to Donald Trump. Besides his experience with bankruptcy, Trump, along with Bernie Sanders on the left, is unique in not being beholden to big money. Sanders does not take it, and Trump does not need it. If either candidate makes it to the White House, he will be in a position to stand up to Wall Street and do what is right for the country. And that includes restoring the power to issue the national money supply to the people of the nation through their representative government.

Yes, perhaps. Then again, it does seem - now, a long time before the 2016 elections - unlikely (rather than likely) that either wins. But it is true this is a possibility if either wins.

--------------------------------------
Notes
[1] The "Third Way" article on Wikipedia still ends with Bill Black's (<- Wikipedia) statement that says:

"
Third Way is this group that pretends sometimes to be center-left but is actually completely a creation of Wall Street--it's run by Wall Street for Wall Street with this false flag operation as if it were a center-left group. It's nothing of the sort."

I think that is quite true for Clinton - and see the articles of Black in the
"Third Way" article for proofs.

[2] Which in fact was a very bad idea, that was put into practice by Nixon. If a democracy needs an army (which it does, certainly in the case of the USA) it needs to be a democratic army, of people of the right age, who are drafted. This will not stop its being abused, as the drafted U.S. army was in Vietnam, but
then it may eventually be stopped or changed, and that is no longer possible with an army of volunteers.

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