Posts Tagged ‘Surveillance state’


Back in April, I wrote a post titled “Hillary Clinton is all but Unelectable (against any sane opponent).” It turns out she couldn’t even beat an insane opponent.

Four days ago, I wrote another post: “If Clinton loses, who’s to blame?” focusing on the betrayal of low-income working people by the corporate-servant Democrats (Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, Donna Brazile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Diane Feinstein, et al.) who’ve controlled the Democratic Party for decades.

Clinton’s water carriers will undoubtedly dismiss such analyses and will instead focus on such things as corporate money in politics, the Republican propaganda machine (Fox, Breitbart, Infowars, etc.), and Trump’s racial scapegoating. You’ll see plenty of these in-part-correct analyses in the days to come.

You’ll also see plenty of pieces by Clinton apologists drawing all the wrong conclusions about Clinton’s defeat. For a spectacular example of such wrong-headed analysis, see “The Misogyny Apocalypse” by Clinton cheerleader extraordinaire, Amanda Marcotte.

Rather, I’d argue that you can’t screw people economically for decades,  make it harder and harder for their children to attend college, ridicule them, and then pretend that you’re their friend. There are consequences for this type of behavior. Meet President Trump.

I’ve covered these matters extensively in posts over the last few years–just check the Economics category and search the site for posts on Obama and Clinton–so let’s let this go for now and examine what might happen under the Trump administration.

First the negative:

Immigration. Trump based his campaign on racism and anti-immigrant scapegoating. Here, unfortunately, he’s likely to deliver. Obama has been “the deporter in chief.” Trump will be worse, probably far worse.

Taxation. Trump wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 15%, reduce individual income taxes across the board, and eliminate the estate tax. These things will lead to massive deficits (similar measures did under Bush the Lesser).

Global Warming. Trump is, at least publicly, a climate-change denier. Expect no action in this area.

Environment. Expect more air pollution, more water pollution, less regulation (including food-quality regulation — lack of which is already a national scandal), more fracking, more despoliation of public lands, especially in the West.

Supreme Court. One can only shudder at what’s to come here: corporate-friendly, anti-individual-rights, religious extremists (a la Scalia and Alioto).

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, “Obamacare”: Trump made repeal of “Obamacare” a centerpiece of his campaign. Expect grossly inadequate measures in its place (“competition across state lines,” individual health savings accounts, vouchers), expect millions to lose access to healthcare, and expect at least tens of thousands to die unnecessary deaths because of this dismantling of already-inadequate public healthcare.

Ayn Rand worshipper Paul Ryan is itching to dismantle Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. Expect some movement in that direction. Expect Republicans to cut benefits for both Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, perhaps eliminate Social Security as we know it for workers under the age of 45 (or 35 or 55), to at least attempt to replace Social Security with some sort of individual-investment plan (which would leave the bottom 50% or so of workers s.o.l.), and perhaps to eliminate Medicaid outright.

Reproductive Rights. Expect continued assaults on the right to abortion and even access to contraception. If Trump appoints more than one member of the Supreme Court, expect repeal of Roe v. Wade

TBGL Rights. Expect a slew of “religious freedom” measures, both federal and state, to institutionalize discrimination.

Emboldened Racists/Fascists. The KKK endorsed Trump, and in his election campaign he repeatedly endorsed and even urged thuggish behavior. Expect fascists and racists to engage in public intimidation, including physical attack, of political opponents and expect a spike in racist murders of black and hispanic people.

 

Where it’s a wash:

The Surveillance State. Despite his professed admiration for Wikileaks during the campaign, one can assume that that admiration was entirely hypocritical. Like Clinton would have, Trump will almost certainly continue the war on whistle blowers and the mass, intense surveillance of all of us.

 

Now the good news:

Believe it or not, there is some.

Foreign Policy. Given Clinton’s history of poor judgment, arrogance, war-mongering, support of coups (Honduras 2009), friendship with a notorious war criminal (Henry Kissinger), abject servility to the Israeli extreme right, support of repressive Islamist regimes (most notably Saudi Arabia), and bellicosity toward Russia, it’s hard to imagine Trump being worse. He might even end up being somewhat isolationist, which would be a marked improvement over the disastrous Bush/Obama/Clinton interventionist foreign policy.

Trade Policy. The TTP is dead. Clinton would almost certainly have pushed it, under the cover of minor changes that would have “met her objections.” Trump might push for repeal of NAFTA and other previous trade deals. But at this point, the damage from these deals is largely done. Trump might also push for protectionist trade policies, which is worrisome from two standpoints: 1) They primarily benefit corporations, who reap profits as consumer prices rise; 2) Trade wars sometimes precede real wars.

Still, rejection of further “free trade” agreements (they’re not; they’re highly managed trade agreements) is a step in the right direction.

Decline of the corporate, status quo Democrats. The engineers of the Trump/Clinton disaster will almost certainly decline in influence within the Democratic Party, and one hopes, though probably in vain, that they’ll be driven out of town on a rail. If Clinton had won, they’d still be riding high, they and their Republican co-conspirators would continue to screw working people economically, and Republicans would continue to point to the White House while pretending that they weren’t equally if not more culpable.

With Clinton and her corporado friends having delivered victory to the most grotesque major-party presidential candidate since Andrew Jackson, there will be a war for control of the Democratic Party between progressives and the servants of the corporations and 1%. This is good news: the progressives might win.

No full-blown Fascist Movement. If Clinton had won, and the economic situation of working people continued to fester, popular anger would have continued to build, with blame falling on Clinton and the Democrats. This increasing populist anger could all too easily have taken the form of an organized fascist movement. As is, the fascists remain a small, disorganized faction.

Following Trump’s victory, the pressure driving the growth of fascism is off. There will be fascist thuggery and murders in the upcoming years, but fascist factions will likely remain small and disorganized.

Trump won’t deliver on his economic promises. He can’t. His policies virtually guarantee that life will get worse for most Americans, which means he’ll likely be a one-term president. Of course, when things go south, Trump will likely fall back on racial and immigrant scapegoating. But fewer people should buy it.

When at least a substantial portion of his followers realize that Trump and the Republicans have betrayed them–as they inevitably will–and if the corporate Democrats are ousted, real change could and likely will follow.

Let’s just hope it’s change for the better.

And let’s do what we can to make it so.

 

 

 

 

 


Intrusion

Intrusion, by Ken Macleod (Orbit, 2012, 387 pp., available used in the US, new in the UK)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Here’s one that really slipped through the cracks, which is a shame because it’s the best near-future dystopian sci-fi novel that’s appeared in years. It’s frightening because it’s all too plausible. Macleod has taken present-day political, social, and technological trends and projected their development several decades into the future. Some developments are good, most are bad.

The bad include an all-pervasive surveillance system (including inside homes), ever-deeper intrusion of the “nanny state” into individuals’ private lives (e.g., the state’s monitoring pregnant women to make sure they don’t drink or smoke), a perpetual “war on terror,” and the transformation of the UK into a police state, where the police routinely torture citizens.

The most notable positive developments are that renewables provide virtually all power, that global warming has been stopped through reduction of emissions and through biological means, notably fast growing “new trees,” and that medicine has advanced to the place where it’s eliminated most diseases, in part through genetic fixes.

That brings us to the rub. Intrusion follows an everyday young London couple, Hugh and Hope Morrison, who discover that Hope is pregnant. The problem is that Hope, for reasons even she doesn’t understand, decides not to take “the fix,” a single-dose pill that eliminates most common genetic defects and also guards against some common diseases. The social worker who monitors Hope puts increasing pressure on Hope to take it, but Hope refuses.

When Hope continues to refuse, the social worker mentions that Hope can get a “conscience exemption” on religious grounds.  The problem is that Hugh and Hope are atheists, and take umbrage at the fact that “nutters,” religious believers, can easily obtain exemptions, but that there’s no provision for nonreligious objectors.

From there, the story unwinds with an awful inevitability, as the tentacles of the state intrude further and further into the lives of Hugh and Hope. Along the way, there are many memorable scenes, including Hope’s having an appalling conversation with a smarmy Labour Party MP, who explains to her how state control of her biological functions increases her freedom, as well as her being bullied by a group of “nutter” moms who object to her not taking “the fix” because she doesn’t share their delusions, and so should be forced into it — in order not to endanger their (un”fixed”) children.

As this is a review, I have to carp about something, and there is one annoying feature in Intrusion: the number of impenetrable Britishisms and (is this even a word?) Scottishisms whose meanings are impossible to derive from context. On a number of  occasions I found myself putting the book down to find the meaning, in the Peevish dictionary of UK slang and colloquialisms, of some very strange words.

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s get back to the review.

Intrusion isn’t the most pleasant reading — neither is 1984 — but it is very well written, thought provoking, and — in a sci-fi scene awash in escapist crap — it deals with important issues.

Highly recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel and on an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals front cover


 

(Parts I & II dealt with Barack Obama’s apologists, his base, the racist opposition to him, and why he’s an ideal front man for corporate capitalism–why his base takes so much abuse from him, yet keeps coming back for more. Today we’ll look at exactly how he’s betrayed them.)

How exactly has Obama betrayed the people who elected him? It would require a book to detail all of the ways. In the interest of brevity, we’ll only hit some of the low points.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised that his administration would be the most open in history and that he’d protect whistleblowers. The reality? He’s run the most secretive administration in history and has systematically and viciously persecuted whistleblowers. He’s even repeatedly used the Espionage Act of 1917 (an Orwellian piece of legislation originally designed to crush dissent during World War I, and used to throw into prison those who openly opposed U.S. entry into the war). He’s used this despicable, free speech-suppression law to ruin the lives of those who were _not_ engaged in “espionage” to benefit the “enemy” (whoever or whatever that might be, now), but rather who exposed government wrongdoing to public view. Whistleblowers Obama has targeted include Thomas Drake, Bradley Manning, Jeffrey Hammond, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Barrett Brown, among many others.

And it’s even worse than that. Obama promised to respect individual rights and civil liberties. Instead, as the recent NSA leaks have revealed, he’s delivered a total surveillance state that would put East Germany and the Stasi to shame. Now, almost unbelievably, in the wake of Ed Snowden’s (and Glenn Greenwald‘s) NSA revelations, Obama is making speeches about reining in the surveillance abuses he himself created.

Obama promised accountability. To date, his “Justice” Department has done essentially no investigation of two of the greatest crimes in U.S. history: the stampeding of the nation into an illegal war of aggression and the most massive financial fraud in world history. The war resulted in 4500 U.S. dead, over 100,000 Iraqi dead, millions more driven from their homes, and ongoing sectarian mayhem. The financial fraud resulted in a worldwide financial crisis, $70 _trillion_ in losses, and millions upon millions losing their jobs and homes. Yet Obama has refused to investigate these atrocities, let alone prosecute the perpetrators. Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder has even stated that the major banks, largely responsible for the financial crisis, are “too big to jail.”

During the 2008 campaign, Obama promised healthcare reform, including a “public option.” Once in office, he took the public option off the table almost immediately. He didn’t even try to get it. Didn’t even use it as a bargaining chip. Instead, he delivered a Heritage Foundation plan that threatens neither private insurers nor the pharmaceutical industry. As Michael Moore put it, Obama delivered “a quarter of a loaf.” (The only other things he’s delivered on have been social issues, e.g., gay marriage and scrapping “don’t ask don’t tell”–things that his base supports and that in no way threaten corporate interests; and even there he’s been a day late and a dollar short.)

Obama promised to fix the economy. He had his chance when he came into office. He could have asked for, and quite possibly obtained, a stimulus package adequate to jump start the economy and put millions back to work. Not incidentally, his campaign economic advisors, notably Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, were advocating precisely this. But once in office, Obama immediately ditched Krugman and his other progressive advisors and replaced them with Wall Street insiders such as Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers. Under their guidance, he asked for a stimulus package big enough to save the banks and prevent total collapse of the economy, but not big enough to put much of a dent in sky-high uenmployment. Obama asked for and delivered a stimulus only one-third to one-quarter the size that his former progressive economic advisors advocated. We all know the results.

There are many other instances where Obama has betrayed those who elected him, but this is a blog post so I’ll stop here.

If you’re an Obama supporter, face it: he’s betrayed you.

The Republicans appeal to the very worst in people: racism, misogyny, homophobia, sadism, callousness, religious zealotry,xenophobia, and a boot-licking, blustering, bullying nationalism. By and large, they deliver what they promise.

In contrast, the Democrats, and Obama in particular, appeal to the best in people–compassion, tolerance, a desire for justice and fairness–and rarely if ever deliver. Instead, they routinely betray the hopes they’ve raised.

You decide which is worse.

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