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Nederlog

September 12, 2015
Crisis: Tories, Corbyn Explained, Torture Classified, Holder, Comments, TPP, Corbyn Won

 "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.
The rebranding of the Tories as the workers’ party is a
     shameless lie
 
2. How Jeremy Corbyn went from the no-hope candidate to
     the brink of victory

3. No, You Cannot Know This Man's Account of His Torture
     by the CIA

4.
Prosecution of White-Collar Crime Hits 20-Year Low
5. Not All Comments Are Created Equal: The Case for Ending
     Online Comments

6. The TPP Will Finish What Chile’s Dictatorship Started
7. Jeremy Corbyn elected Labour leader in stunning victory



This is a Nederlog of Saturday, September 12, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 7 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Owen Jones on the Tories (that I mostly agree with); item 2 is about an
article by Ewen McAskill that explains why Corbyn wins the elections (he was right: item 7); item 3 is about an article on Common Dreams that outlines how
everything about the extensive tortures of Abu Zubaydah is classified by the US government; item 4 is about how white-collar crime has been mostly "legalized", especially in the case of rich bank managers; item 5 is about an article that wants to end online comments (I agree I don't like them, but it escapes me how you can forbid them, and sometimes anonymity and comments are justified, though indeed to a far less extent than they are practised); item 6 is about how the TPP will take the power from political parties, parliaments and states and give the power to the rich international corporations; and item 7 is the breaking news (for me, now) that Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of the Labour Party and was elected with a larger majority than Tony Blair was. (I am glad.)


1. The rebranding of the Tories as the workers’ party is a shameless lie

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

This starts as follows:

If King Herod had relaunched his career as a children’s rights activist, it would have shown no less chutzpah than the Tories have done in rebranding themselves as the party of working people.

When the Labour party was founded, more than a century ago, it emerged out of a conflict between workers wanting a better life and employers more interested in profit. When the Tories talk of standing up for “hardworking” people, they are seeking to define their interests against those of, say, unemployed people or immigrants or public-sector workers. You’re trying to get on in life, this narrative goes, but Labour is championing “skivers” or foreigners instead.

The Tory strategy is lethal because it deflects people’s legitimate anger at their problems away from the powerful, while their pockets are stealthily emptied. And that is why, whoever wins the Labour-party leadership race tomorrow, the sham of the Tories’ rebranding operation has to be exposed.

Well... yes and no. Yes, this is true, but it seems to me two important points are not mentioned: The enormous role propaganda/public relations play these days, also in politics and elections (and see item 2), and the degrees of education and
intelligence of ordinary Englishmen.

Tor example:

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 8.4m working households will, on average, lose £750 from cuts to in-work support. But they will gain just an extra £200 a year from the raising of the minimum wage, leaving them £550 worse off. For some workers, the loss will be even worse. Supermarket workers, cleaners, receptionists: people who keep essential services afloat – all will be robbed. Their children will grow up in colder, hungrier worlds.

This is the reality that must be exposed by the Labour opposition.
Yes, I agree - but what keeps the many from seeing these things for themselves?

And I am asking because I really don't know, especially at a time when most people have computers and should be able to find most information on line with a few clicks.

2. How Jeremy Corbyn went from the no-hope candidate to the brink of victory

The next article is by Ewen McAskill on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and I found this article fairly interesting, because it does try to explain why Corbyn will win the leadership elections - and see item 7, that arrived after I wrote this):
Few, if anyone, gave Jeremy Corbyn much chance when he scraped on to the list of Labour leadership candidates in June. Not the MPs backing him. Not the media. Not the bookies. Not even his own small campaign team.

One of the key figures in that team, Kat Fletcher, did go into a betting shop in London’s Holloway Road to put £20 on him early on. The odds were 100-1.
Yes, that is quite true, though - of course - I didn't know about Kat Fletcher.
And here is most of the explanation:

Corbyn has defied not only Fletcher’s expectations but everyone else’s. He has come from the fringes of Labour politics, where people still proudly describe themselves as socialists and refer to one another as comrade, to lead one of the biggest grassroots political uprisings in the UK in recent times, a movement that has taken him to the verge of becoming party leader.
That is: Many ordinary Englishmen believe that his truly leftist position is far
more sensible than the Blairites' positions, who indeed are hardly anything but Tory-lite. And I think they are right, at least to the extent that a genuinely left-wing Labour will defend the many poor, unlike the Blairites.

There is this on the campaign of Corbyn:
The whole campaign has been the antithesis of the political model that has become standard over the last 30 years, exemplified by Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell in the Blair years, with their focus groups, tight messaging, choreographed stage appearances, instant rebuttal units and speeches timed to coincide with BBC peak news bulletins.
Indeed: The Blairite campaigns were based on the same public relations/ propaganda model with which the sales of commercial products of all kinds
are advertised. They do not take their electorate serious, nor its ideas and
ideals: they seek to influence precisely those voters in key-districts by promising  them what they want, and then forgetting all about their promises when elected.

When Kat Fletcher joined the campaign team just after Corbyn was nominated, she was put in charge of coordinating volunteers. It is not easy finding people prepared to give up time to sit on phone banks contacting potential voters. But Fletcher quickly found herself inundated with offers of help. By the end of the campaign, Corbyn had attracted an extraordinary 16,241 volunteers.
Which shows his leftist message did make a lot of sense to many ordinary Englishmen.

Finally, there is this:

For Burgon, MP for East Leeds, the attraction of Corbyn was that he has clear, alternative policies “so that I would never again have to stand on the doorsteps and hear people saying ‘you are all the same’.”

The Corbyn strategy has been fairly simple: do not make personal attacks on the other candidates, do not go negative and instead stick to outlining policy plans. He bypassed much of the mainstream media, which at the beginning tended to be sneering.
This explains why Blairism doesn't work: ‘you are all the same’ - and correctly so: Blairites differ little from Tories. Indeed, here are two quotations from the Wikipedia lemma "Thatcherism":
The Daily Telegraph stated in April 2008 that the programme of the next non-conservative British government, Tony Blair's administration with an emphasis on 'New Labour', basically accepted the central reform measures of Thatcherism such as deregulation, privatisation of key national industries, maintaining a flexible labour market, marginalising the trade unions, and devolving government decision-making to local authorities.
And:
In 2002, Peter Mandelson, a member of parliament belonging to the British Labour Party closely associated with Tony Blair, famously declared that "we are all Thatcherites now."
Finally, breaking news (here and now): Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party, and did so with a bigger majority than Tony Blair won his: Item 7.

3. No, You Cannot Know This Man's Account of His Torture by the CIA

The next article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Guantanamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah detailed the torture that the CIA inflicted on him to his lawyers, but that information won't be making it to the public eye.

Reuters reported Thursday:

U.S. government officials have blocked the release of 116 pages of defense lawyers' notes detailing the torture that Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah says he experienced in CIA custody, defense lawyers said on Thursday.

Zubaydah, abducted in Pakistan and transferred to U.S. authorities in 2002, has been held at Guantanamo without charge or trial since 2006. A lawyer for Zubaydah in his proceedings against Poland and Lithuania before the European court of human rights has written that he 

might now be described as exhibit A in the week’s Senate report. He has the regrettable distinction of being the first victim of the CIA detention programme for whom, as the report makes clear, many of the torture (or “enhanced interrogation”) techniques were developed, and the only prisoner known to have been subject to all of them. With no less than 1,001 references to Abu Zubaydah specifically, the Senate report confirms the Strasbourg court’s findings regarding the horrific conditions of detention and interrogation techniques to which he and others were subject.

Reuters continues:

"We submitted 116 pages in 10 separate submissions," Joe Margulies, Zubaydah’s lead defense lawyer, told Reuters. "The government declared all of it classified."

Which is - or ought to be - a major shame. There is also this by investigative journalist Andy Worthington:

Zubaydah has always been one of the most significant prisoners in the “war on terror”, not because of what he did, but because of what was done to him. The torture program was developed for him, leading to him being waterboarded 83 times, and it evidently severely damaged him physically and mentally, from the hints dropped by his lawyers over the years. In addition, the Bush administration publicly claimed that he was a significant member of al-Qaeda, when that was untrue — and, it seems, both the torture and the lies told about him means that he will probably never be charged, although there is no prospect of him being released either.
That is: He will not be released and all his words are classified because he was cruelly tortured, while he didn't do anything.

4. Prosecution of White-Collar Crime Hits 20-Year Low

The next article is by David Sirota on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Just a few years after the financial crisis, a new report tells an important story: Federal prosecution of white-collar crime has hit a 20-year low.

The analysis by Syracuse University shows a more than 36 percent decline in such prosecutions since the middle of the Clinton administration, when the decline began. Landing amid calls from Democratic presidential candidates for more Wall Street prosecutions, the report notes that the projected number of prosecutions this year is 12 percent less than last year and 29 percent less than five years ago.

I say - and no, I disbelieve most democratic presidential candidates. Here is one important reason:

In 2012, President Obama pledged to “hold Wall Street accountable” for financial misdeeds related to the financial crisis. But as financial industry donations flooded into Obama’s re-election campaign, his Justice Department officials promoted policies that critics say embodied a “too big to jail” doctrine for financial crime.
In other words: He lied to his electorate to get voted in again, and once he was voted in he pleased the bankmanagers by not prosecuting any of them.

In fact:

Similarly, in 2013, Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, told congressional lawmakers that when it comes to banks, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them.” He said there is an “inhibiting impact” on the Obama Justice Department’s willingness to prosecute a bank when bringing a criminal charge “[would] have a negative impact on the national economy.”

Holder’s 2013 comments were foreshadowed by a 1999 memo he wrote as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. In it, Holder recommended that prosecutors consider “[c]ollateral consequences, including disproportionate harm to shareholders and employees not proven personally culpable” before attempting to convict corporations for wrongdoing.

Well... long after the 1999 memo, it may be safely concluded this is why he was nominated as the chief of the Department of Justice by Obama: He had made it
very clear that he would not do justice to the powerful rich.

5. Not All Comments Are Created Equal: The Case for Ending Online Comments

The next article is by Jessica Valente on The Guardian:

This starts as follows, and is here because I mostly agree:

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m not fond of comments sections. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many female writers who are. On most sites – from YouTube to local newspapers – comments are a place where the most noxious thoughts rise to the top and smart conversations are lost in a sea of garbage.

There’s a reason, after all, that the refrain “don’t read the comments” has become ubiquitous among journalists. But if we’re not to read them, why have them at all?

I wasn’t always a comments-hater.
It so happens that I am male but I also despise most comments I've read, which is probably less than most because I do avoid them, and always have done so. (But my reasons are probably not quite the same as Jessica Valente's.)

Here is more by her:

But as the internet and audiences grew, so did the bile. Now it feels as if comments uphold power structures instead of subverting them: sexism, racism and homophobia are the norm; threats and harassment are common. (That’s not even counting social media.)

Yes, and the main reason is the democratization of computers and internet together with the shield anonymity gives the ca. 50% with sub-normal intelligence, most of whom have only prejudices and no relevant knowledge,
and who believe anonymity voids responsibility.

For writers, wading into comments doesn’t make a lot of sense – it’s like working a second shift where you willingly subject yourself to attacks from people you have never met and hopefully never will. Especially if you are a woman. As Laurie Penny has written, “An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you.” The problem is so bad that online harassment is a keynote subject this year at the Online News Association conference.

I don't quite see what the Online News Association (whatever that is) could do about it. You need not read comments (I don't), and indeed also you need not have comments on your site (I don't), but I don't think you can (effectively) stop all comments, nor do I think you should.

The problem is that most comments are by stupid, ignorant or prejudiced folks,
but there are many of them, and when given functional anonymity many loose their sense of personal responsibility. I deplore all of that, but I do not deny there are many stupid and ignorant people, nor that they will talk if given anonymity.

Also, sometimes (in a minority of cases, but they exist) both commenting and anonymity are helpful.

I don’t much understand the appeal of comments for readers either. Outside of the few places that have rich and intelligent conversation in comments, what is the point of engaging in debate where the best you can hope for are a few pats on the back from strangers for that pithy one-liner?
Well... I agree there are a "few places that have rich and intelligent conversation in comments", and apart from these (and anyway): you simply don't have to read them (also if they happen to be good - and there is more good literature - of any kind - than anyone can read in his or her life).

Here is a final point:

Comments sections also give the impression that all thoughts are created equal when, well, they’re not. When Popular Science stopped publishing comments, for example, it was because “everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again...scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’”.

I completely agree - and no, you can't convince the stupid and the ignorant to admit that they are stupid and ignorant: they lack the intelligence, the knowledge and the strenght of character to do so, nearly always.

6. The TPP Will Finish What Chile’s Dictatorship Started

The next article is by Greg Grandin (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

To start with, here is a quote from Salvador Allende from 1972:
“We are faced by a direct confrontation between the large transnational corporations and the states. The corporations are interfering in the fundamental political, economic and military decisions of the states. The corporations are global organizations that do not depend on any state and whose activities are not controlled by, nor are they accountable to any parliament or any other institution representative of the collective interest. In short, all the world political structure is being undermined.”
Yes, I think that is quite correct and well seen - and note that "the corporations" in fact refers to their leaders, which collectively are extremely few individuals, with extremely much power, that these days also is not merely economical and financial, but also political.

And these days, there is the TPP, that are is secret, classified and extremely dear to Obama's heart:
So Washington came back with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country treaty—including Chile, Peru, and Mexico—vigorously promoted by the Obama administration. It’s been described nicely by Lori Wallach as NAFTA on steroids. As others have pointed out, the TPP isn’t really about trade. Rather, it’s a supra-national regulatory straitjacket that institutionalizes Allende’s 1972 warning.
Yes - and this is known because parts of the TPP have been released on Wikileaks. One of the parts that is known is the ISDS:
The TPP includes one provision that will, if activated, complete the 1973 coup against Allende: its Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism. ISDS allows corporations and investors to “sue governments directly before tribunals of three private sector lawyers operating under World Bank and UN rules to demand taxpayer compensation for any domestic law that investors believe will diminish their ‘expected future profits.’” You can read James Surowiecki, in The New Yorker, here on the ISDS. And here is Elizabeth Warren. And Public Citizen and The Atlantic.
This amounts to semi-"legal" anti-democratic plutocracy (rule of the rich for the rich):
If the TPP is ratified and ISDS put into effect, countries won’t be able to limit mining to protect their water supply or even enforce anti-tobacco regulation.

This September 11th, as the Obama administration makes its final push for the TPP, it’s worth taking a moment to realize why all those people in Chile—and in Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, and throughout Latin America—died and were tortured: to protect the “future profits” of multinational corporations.

Yes, indeed - at least according to the values and principles of the rich who
command the
multinational corporations.

7. Jeremy Corbyn elected Labour leader in stunning victory

The last article is by Rowena Mason on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and see item 1):
Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour party in the UK in a stunning first-round victory that was bigger than the mandate for Tony Blair in 1994.

Corbyn won with nearly 59.5% of first-preference votes, beating rivals Andy Burnham, who trailed on 19%, and Yvette Cooper who received 17%. The “Blairite” candidate Liz Kendall came last on 4.5%.

Minutes after his victory, Corbyn said the message is that people are “fed up with the injustice and the inequality” of Britain.

“The media and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country. They were turned off by the way politics was being conducted. We have to and must change that. The fightback gathers speed and gathers pace,” he said.

I say! There is considerably more in the article, but this is the essence, and I am
quite glad that it looks as if Blairite "New Labour" is - at long last - over and done with, though I agree Labour needs cleaning up, and Jeremy Corbyn has
a whole lot to do.

But he is a real leftist, and Tony Blair and his mates were hardly leftists, so that
is a great gain, at least for those interested in the fate of the poor and the non- rich.

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