who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Pipeline Straight to Jail’
2. Spies and internet giants
are in the same business:
surveillance. But we can stop
3. The golden age of central
banks is at an end – is it time
for tax and spend?
4. How Such a Rich Country
Managed to Have So Many Poor
People and What We Can Do
5. Did the
European Court of Justice Just Torpedo the
Mother of All US Trade
This is a Nederlog
of Monday, October 12, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1
is about an article by Chris Hedges, who sketched the great
disadvantages of growing up as a poor black person in the US; item
2 is about an article by John Naughton who claims "we can stop
surveillance", which I think is a bit optimistic, at least; item 3 is about an article by
Larry Elliot, about the economy, which is not optimistic; item 4 is about a fine article
by Les Leopold who tries to set up the conditions for a mass movement
(this is recommended); and item 5 is about an
article by Don Quijones on the European Court of Justice's recent
decision, and about the - extremely dangerous - TiSA.
Also, here is a note:
I was yesterday again for quite a while off line without my
desiring to be so. At present, it works again, but since the mistake
seems to be either due to my provider or to the Thunderbird program
(which I need for e-mail, but don't like at all) it is not impossible
it may go wrong again. If there is no Nederlog tomorrow, this is the
Straight to Jail’
item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as
The defeat of the
Harvard University debate team by a team
from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskills
elucidates a truth known intimately by those of us who teach in
prisons: that the failure of the American educational system to offer
opportunities to the poor and the government’s abandonment of families
and children living in blighted communities condemn millions of boys
and girls, often of color, to a life of suffering, misery and early
death. The income inequality, the trillions of dollars we divert to the
war industry, the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas and the refusal
to invest in our infrastructure wrecks life after innocent life.
Yes, indeed. In
contrast, there is this:
I spent four years as a
graduate student at Harvard University. Privilege, and especially white
privilege, I discovered, is the primary prerequisite for attending an
Ivy League university. I have also spent several years teaching in
prisons. In class after class in prison, there is a core of students
who could excel at Harvard. This is not hyperbolic, as the defeat of
the Harvard debate team illustrates. But poverty condemned my students
before they ever entered school. And as poverty expands, inflicting on
communities and families a host of maladies including crime, addiction,
rage, despair and hopelessness, the few remaining institutions that
might intervene to lift the poor up are gutted or closed.
I agree, but I think I
should add that only a small minority would or might excel at Harvard -
and I am not saying this because I think black people are less
intelligent than white people (I do not), but simply because
being intellectually fit for Harvard will apply to only a small
minority anyway. And yes, Chris Hedges is quite right Harvard strongly
selects on the basis of white privilege: Preferably, you are white and
have parents who earn well.
In contrast, this is the
sort of background Boris Franklin (who is black and very intelligent)
“There was usually
drugs in the homes,” he said. “I had friends whose homes were raided
when they were children. Most of the parents were getting high,
including my father. I did not know any child who did not have a drug
addict in the home. And if a person was not a drug addict he or she was
often suffering from some form of mental illness. It seemed everyone
was dealing with something. Those who were left with their grandparents
were in the best situation. Kids would say they were living with their
grandmother. They would never mention their mother or father. I never
saw the fathers of most of my friends. They had disappeared or were in
Incidentally, this is very
much worse than my - indeed quite poor - youth. My parents were
genuinely poor, but also very intelligent, and very active communists.
They also - rare among their class of proletarians, in their
time - had
a bookcase, which I still have and just measured: A meter broad, 1
meter 20 cm high, with four shelves plus the top row, and that book
was always full, which means that my parents owed over 5 meters of
books. (I have about 20 times as many.)
There were no drugs at all when I grew up, apart from alcohol, and my
parents rarely drank and never got drunk. Also, while I was poor, I
didn't really see so until I was around ten, because everyone I knew
was about as poor as I was. And there were some advantages, and one huge
one for me was that there
was a good public library, from which I could loan 5 books a
week (and more
if I also read the books my friends loaned, which I often did).
Even so, I learned when 17 and I left high school because "it was fit
for imbeciles only", as I said then, that I was rather disadvantaged
because my parents, both of whom had to start working at 15 did not
have a good intellectual libirary of some thousands of volumes, which
would have helped me very much to understand what science,
literature, mathematics, physics and history were really like
(for the school mostly had misled me) between 10 and
17. And it turned out I had to learn this from age 17 till age 20 or 21
all by myself, but by then I had indeed read away my
But compared to Boris Franklin I lived nearly in paradise, indeed, even
though intelligent kids with well to do and highly educated parents did
usually have from early youth the advantage of a good and extensive
bookcase in their houses, which I am quite sure made a large
difference between 10 and 20.
Here is more from Boris Franklin:
You learn not to
care. We were using a lot of misplaced aggression. That night we were
probably fighting somebody. I could feel his pain. You want to get it
out? We will get it out. That’s how you dealt with it. That’s how
everybody dealt with it. Take it out on somebody else.
Yes, indeed: This is a
pretty universal human trait: Unhappy people will tend to make others
as unhappy or more unhappy than themselves. And this is also the case
if the unhappy people are rich.
Here is Boris Franklin on how the poor are educated:
the poor are given is one where they get to a place where they learn
enough to take orders. They are taught to remember what is said. They
are taught to repeat the instructions. There is no thinking involved.
We are not taught to think. We are educated just enough to occupy the
lowest rung on the social ladder.”
I quite believe him. Also,
while the Dutch situation I grew up in was nearly paradisical compared
to Boris Franklin's background, the only children I knew from
my youth who went to university were the two brothers I was friends
with who lived under me until I was 9, who were around 3 years older
than I was, but who treated me as an equal, and whose father was not a
proletarian worker but a bank clerk with aspirations, and myself.
Everybody else I knew - quite a lot of people - did not
study at a university, and nearly everyone did not finish
the requisite schools to do so (and generally never even started
Finally, here is Boris Franklin on the loaning of books to others:
“You have a lot of
intellectuals in prison,” he said. “There are people who think about
things, who read things, who try to connect the dots. People read
psychology and science to see how things fit together. You see
libraries in some cells. You hear people say, ‘I got to get my library
up.’ You would go from one cell with a library to another. It was like
a cult. When you first loan a book to someone in prison you loan a
tester. You do not loan a valuable book. If the person who borrows the
book reads it and talks about it, then they get another book.
I like this, but he
must have met more genuinely intelligent people than I did. I read extremely
much between 17 and 29, and it so happens that
I also have a very good conversation, which singles me out when
I talk to people. Also, I have been many times complimented on my high
intelligence, while I have given reading lists - see e.g. April 4, 2010 - to at least a
hundred persons, all of whom were at least intelligent, and many who
had been in university.
Well... my experience is that precisely nobody read the books I
recommended (all of which were classics in their fields). That
of the reasons why I think a truly high IQ, which I have, does
make a difference. (But no, it doesn't necessarily make one a
interesting or worthwile person. And an IQ is at best a very
approximate and imprecize estimate of one's scholastic intelligence.)
I agree that is not a
happy thought, but - so far as I can see - it is the truth.
2. Spies and internet giants are in the same
business: surveillance. But we can stop them
article today is by John Naughton on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
This is by way of
introduction: Persons who read my site regularly know all of this. But
I have one additional remark, that makes the situation considerably
On Tuesday, the European
court of justice, Europe’s supreme court, lobbed a grenade into the
cosy, quasi-monopolistic world of the giant American internet companies.
It did so by declaring
invalid a decision made by the European commission in 2000 that US
companies complying with its “safe harbour privacy principles” would be
allowed to transfer personal data from the EU to the US.
This judgment may not
strike you as a big deal. You may also think that it has nothing to do
Wrong on both counts, but
to see why, some background might be useful. The key thing to
understand is that European and American views about the protection of
personal data are radically different. We Europeans are very hot on it,
whereas our American friends are – how shall I put it? – more relaxed.
It is that about half of "our
American friends" will have IQs not
much higher than 100, and also are not educated well, which
makes them not understand most things computers can do, and
also makes them misunderstand what computers are.
I think this is quite certain, and indeed this does not only hold for "our
American friends" but for everybody.
And this is a huge problem, because these are around half of
all computer users, which means that if these things were decided
democratically, half of those who are asked an opinion really don't
know what they are talking about - and please keep in mind that I don't
say they can't use computers:
I say - as with televisions, cars, and most household appliances - they
don't understand the basic principles and the power.
Finally, whereas this doesn't matter much for televisions, cars, and most household
appliances, it does matter for computers, for their
opinions effect everybody's chances on a real and fair internet.
This is about the decision by the European Court of Justice (which is
Europe's highest court) and its implications:
On Tuesday, the
court decided that the safe harbour agreement was invalid. At which
point the balloon went up.
“This is,” writes Professor Lorna Woods, an expert on
these matters, “a judgment with very far-reaching implications, not
just for governments but for companies the business model of which is
based on data flows. It reiterates the significance of data protection
as a human right and underlines that protection must be at a high
This is classic lawyerly
understatement. My hunch is that if you were to visit the legal
departments of many internet companies today you would find people
changing their underpants at regular intervals. For the big names of
the search and social media worlds this is a nightmare scenario.
I think the language
is - hm, hm - too popular, and indeed I also don't care for
companies whose riches depend on theft of private data, though I grant
some of these may be in trouble.
Finally, here is some
wholly deserved praise for Edward Snowden:
This is true, but such
conversations are sensible only if they are between people who do - at
least - have a fair understanding of computers, including programming
For those of us who take
a more detached view of their activities, however, it is an encouraging
development. For one thing, it provides yet another confirmation of the
sterling service that Snowden has rendered to civil society. His
revelations have prompted a wide-ranging reassessment of where our
dependence on networking technology has taken us and stimulated some
long-overdue thinking about how we might reassert some measure of
democratic control over that technology. Snowden has forced us into
having conversations that we needed to have.
To the best of my knowledge, that is at most 5% of those using
is a real problem.
golden age of central banks is at an
end – is it time for tax and spend?
next article today is
by Larry Elliott
(<-Wikipedia) on The Guardian:
This is a
rather reflective article, of which I will quote some bits. There is
more in the article, which I leave to your interests. This is from
close to the beginning:
These are indeed
weird times. Share prices are rising and so is the cost of crude oil,
but the sense in financial markets is that the next crisis is just
around the corner. The world is one recession away from a period of
stagnation and prolonged deflation in which the challenge would be to
avoid a re-run of the Great Depression of the 1930s. That fate was
avoided in 2008-09 by strong and co-ordinated policy action: deep cuts
in interest rates, printing money, tax cuts, higher public spending,
wage subsidies and selective support for strategically important
industries. But what would policymakers do in the event of a fresh
I note that Elliott is the
economics editor of The Guardian. As to the last question - "what would policymakers do in the event of a
fresh crisis?" - there are two answers: First, it will depend a lot on
their own politics. And second, so far as I can see, the rescue plan of
2008-09 mostly failed, and there is little
leeway or scope for any other plan.
Here are the opinions of two leading economists:
Larry Summers, the
former US Treasury secretary, makes the point that since 2008, the main
tool for simulating activity has been monetary policy – a combination
of lower interest rates, cheaper currencies and QE – but this is
largely played out. Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European
Central Bank when Lehman Brothers went bust in 2008, believes that an over-reliance on ultra-loose
monetary policy is creating the conditions for the next crisis.
And here is Larry Elliott's
appreciation of the present situation (by someone who studied the
economy well and for a long time):
In many ways, this
feels like the summer of 2007, before the markets froze up but when
some of the malign consequences of the over-lax regulation of the
financial markets were becoming apparent. It also bears some
resemblance to the period in the late 1970s between the first and
second oil shocks when what looked like a solid enough recovery was
built on the shakiest of foundations.
Here is Elliott's appreciation
of what the banks can do, followed by the ideas of an economist:
The days when
central banks could give the odd tweak to interest rates to keep
inflation on target are over. Having told the world that they could fix
the crisis, their reputations are on the line.
As to the central banks:
I think the tricks they have tried have failed, and there
Goodhart believes slower
population growth and ageing populations will alter the balance of
power in the labour market. Workers will become scarcer and more
valuable. Wages will rise and companies will have the incentive to
invest more, raising productivity.
are no new tricks of the kind that have been practised since 2008
(mostly because the interest rates for banks are near zero, which
enriched the banks, the bank managers, and their shareholders, but few
others, which is precisely the problem).
As to Goodhart: I think he is indulging in economic wishful
The real fact is well expressed by Les Leopold in the
will only give up power and wealth when they’re forced to do so by a
powerful social movement.
Precisely. (And besides:
If "[w]orkers become scarcer" the eventual rise in their wages will
only serve a small portion of workers, who anyway are in a minority in
Here is Larry Elliott's final sum-up:
monetary policy, together with tighter supervision of the financial
sector, was supposed to minimise the risks of another crash while
ensuring that plentiful supplies of cheap money boosted real activity.
The opposite has occurred. Wages, productivity and growth have been
poor even as investors have taken bigger and bigger risks in the search
for high returns. In Trading Places, the Duke brothers get their just
desserts. In real life, they have been allowed to take us to the brink
of ruin for the second time in less than a decade.
Yes indeed - and the
bankers, who have brought us now "to the brink of ruin" for the second time, also were the ones who profited enormously,
while almost no one else who is not rich had his or her
real wages increased since 1980.
Such a Rich Country Managed to Have So Many Poor People and What We Can
Do About It
next article today is
by Les Leopold on AlterNet:
This is taken from Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic
Justice, by Les Leopold. It starts as follows:
That is correct,
although it's not just "runaway
inequality", but also
radical tax cuts for the rich, and a total lack of care and interest of
most of the few rich for the poor. But OK: "runaway inequality"
is a good brief diagnosis.
States is among the richest countries in all of history. But if you’re
not a corporate or political elite, you’d never know it. In the world
working people inhabit, our infrastructure is collapsing, our schools
are laying off teachers, our drinking water is barely potable, our
cities are facing bankruptcy, and our public and private pension funds
are nearing collapse. We – consumers, students, and homeowners – are
loaded with crushing debt, but our real wages haven’t risen since the
How can we be
so rich and still have such poor services, so much debt and such
runaway inequality – the ever-increasing gap in income and wealth
between the super-rich and the rest of us.
Next, there is this on the book's aims:
I think that is quite
correct, and indeed have a kind of proof:
This book has
1. Shine a
light on economic inequality: It’s worse than you think
For all the talk about
economic inequality, most of us have no idea how bad it really is. It’s
as if our native sense of justice won’t let us comprehend how
outrageously unequal our economy has become and how much worse it’s
getting day by day.
This says from top to
bottom how 100% of the wealth in the US is (1) factually
divided (2) how it is supposed to be divided and (3) how
American people would like to see it divided. (And note that
each color represents 20%, from the poorest to the richest.)
I think this is mostly correct, and the relevant point are the huge
discrepancies between the three distributions, and especially between
(1) and (2).
is tearing apart the fabric of our society. The super-rich live in a
world that no longer requires mutual reliance on common public
services. Elites generally don’t use our schools, our roads, our
airports. They don’t really care if our infrastructure collapses. We
are cracking into two separate societies.
Yes, though one
difference between now and - say - 1960 or 1965 is the enormous
growth in egoism and greed, which are also proudly and
especially with the rich, but also with many who are not rich, but
imagine they will be, and who are mostly fairly dumb and fairly
egoistic consumers (rather than citizens).
One part of that publicly owned proud greed and egoism is this:
At the same time,
the super-rich are able to park trillions of dollars far from the reach
of the tax collector. By avoiding and evading taxes, with help from an
army of lawyers and bankers, the rich are undermining the government
services that the rest of us need.
Yes - and the worst is that
hardly any of them are prosecuted: To park trillions -
billions - where the tax can't get at the money is a major crime.
Then there is this:
undermines the practice of democracy. As the rich get richer and
richer, it gets easier and easier for them to buy political favors.
They can twist the media, elected officials, and government agencies to
do their bidding. They vote with their money, which makes a mockery of
our democratic “one vote, one person” creed. We’ll see data showing
that elected officials rarely act on the agenda most Americans support.
Instead they represent the wishes of the affluent.
It should be added that much
of this is new, especilally in the last 15 years, and that much of this
is hugely supported by majority decisions of the American Supreme Court,
that in majority works for the rich.
2. Examine the
Fading American Dream
All of which is quite true, to
the best of my knowledge - and it seems the European rich are trying to
introduce the American system in Europe, in part through following the
In fact, today the U.S. is
the most unequal country in the developed world. We have the most child
poverty and homelessness. We have more people in prison than China and
Russia. And Americans are less upwardly mobile than most Europeans.
banking policies, and in part through the TTIP and TiSA (see item 5).
ourselves with the big picture
I agree, but this is
difficult or impossible to do for many working people without a
university education, even if they are quite intelligent. Then again,
there is this:
You just can’t get an
accurate picture of the economy as a whole through the everyday media
or the jumble of internet sources. We hear snippets about stock
markets, government debt, trade, unemployment and inflation. What we
don’t hear about is the context, substantive explanation, or critical
questioning about why any of this is happening and how it relates to
our daily lives.
We will see how
powerful people chose to dramatically change the economy’s direction a
generation ago, and how working people have been paying the price ever
since. Runaway inequality is not an act of God. It is the result of a
system designed by and for wealthy elites.
Yes, and this also is
quite comprehensible to the vast majority, and the reason they don't
know it is mostly the combination of a bad education and the phony news
that reaches them through the main media.
Next, there is this:
4. Come to a
common understanding so we can build a common movement
I agree, but one thing that is
necessary to achieve "a
broad-based movement" is that at
least those leading it are not dogmatical, and not more
than they need to be: Dogmatism leads to small, fanatic, mostly blind
groups, and ideologies are always false and always
They are necessary, because most men know little else than
We offer this,
our most ambitious goal, with the utmost humility: We aim to help build
a broad-based movement for economic and environmental justice.
Right now, we
lack a robust mass movement with the power to reclaim our economy and
our democracy to make it work for the 99 percent.
ideologies, but they should not be believed, and certainly not be
We will show that
runaway inequality is at the root of many of the problems we face,
including the meteoric and disastrous rise of the financial sector,
defunding of the public sector, environmental destruction, increased
racial discrimination, the gender gap in wages and the rise of our
mammoth prison population. And we will posit that if we share a clear
understanding of runaway inequality – and the basic economic situation
we face – we can begin to build a common, broad-based movement for
fundamental economic justice that will take on America’s economic
OK - I didn't read the
book, but this introduction is quite good, as is the last statement of
will only give up power and wealth when they’re forced to do so by a
powerful social movement.
I quite agree, and this
is also what my father told me, who was for almost 20 years a communist
trade unionist and a quite prominent strike leader in Amsterdam.
5. Did the European Court of Justice Just
Torpedo the Mother of All US Trade Agreements?
The final article today is
by Don Quijones on Naked Capitalism (original at Wolf Street):
This starts as follows:
This is about Max Schrems, and
has been commented on several times in the crisis series.
Europe’s already rocky
trading relationship with the U.S. just got a whole lot worse. Thanks
to one young man’s battle against one of the world’s biggest tech
companies, data traffic underpinning the world’s largest trading
relationship has been thrown into jeopardy.
As the Wall Street
Journal warns, hanging in the balance could
be billions of dollars of trade in the online advertising business, as
well as more quotidian tasks such as storing human-resources documents
about European colleagues.
The following is also old news for those who have read about Schrems:
In response to the
ruling, Schrems said it “draws a clear line” by clarifying that mass
surveillance “violates our fundamental rights.” The ruling will also
directly affect the operations of some 4,500 European and international
companies, including U.S. tech giants Alphabet (Google’s newborn
parent company), Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft.
But this is new:
Which is also why - in
combination with American exceptionalism, American aggressiveness, and
the extremely unequal division of riches - I think this is best
understood as an attempt to set up a worldwide system that is -
in conjunction with the NSA, the GCHQ, the militarized American police,
and the many wars the Americans are engaged in -best understood as neo-fascism,
where for "fascism" I use the definition
of the American
More important still, the
ECJ’s ruling could torpedo a sizable chunk of the world’s biggest and
most secretive trade agreement currently under negotiation, the
so-called Trade in Services Act (TiSA). Allegedly in the late stages of
negotiation, TiSA currently has 52 prospective signatory nations
(compared to the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s paltry 12). Those nations
include both the U.S. and all 28 members of the European Union.
As WOLF STREET previously
reported, TiSA appears to have three primary goals: 1) privatize all
services; 2) rip up national and regional financial regulations and 3)
spread the U.S. approach to data protection — i.e. no protection —
around the world.
"A system of government that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of
state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
In case you disagree: You may
avoid the term altogether, as long as you keep in mind the definition.
Incidentally: My diagnosis is not unique, and was reached much
by Sheldon Wolin, and the last
link moves you to the start of a crisis log I wrote about Wolin's
concept of "inverted totalitarianism", while the following link leads
you to Wolin's 2003 publication of "A
kind of fascism is replacing our democracy".
Here is what the TiSA will create (according to Don Quijones, but I
think he is quite right):
That may have been
upset (somewhat) by the events
sketched at the beginning of the article, but the eventual outcome is
far from certain, because the rich have great amounts of money, and
also control most of the media including the press.
If signed, TiSA would set
Big Brother (led by the NSA and fellow five-eye partner organizations
such as the UK’s GCHQ) free to roam and eavesdrop on
a very large part of the globe completely unhindered by national laws
or regulations. Multinational corporations from all sides of the
Atlantic and Pacific Ocean would also have carte blanche to pry into
just about every facet of the working and personal lives of the
inhabitants of roughly a quarter of the world’s 200-or-so nations.
At least that was the plan.