6, 2014
Crisis: Holder's Revelation, NSA*2, US Police, Inequality, Merkel
   "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "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

1. US attorney general says banks under investigation not
     'too big to jail'

2. Chairman of key House committee agrees to proceed
     with NSA reform bill

3. More Aggressive NSA Reform Bill Moves Forward in the

4. Cecily McMillan's guilty verdict reveals our mass
     acceptance of police violence

5. The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality
6. Trans-Atlantic Supplicant: Merkel Chooses Unity over NSA

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of May 6. It is a crisis issue.

This is about the following subjects: Holder seems to have had a revelation (no, not really) about 'too big to fail'; two reports on the more correct NSA Reform Bill in the House, one a bit optimistic, one a bit pessimistic; news that now you can be convicted to 7 years in jail
in the US if you elbow a policeman who grabs your breast; Reich on four lies on inequality; and a piece on Merkel, who seems to think controlling Putin is more important than protecting Germans against the NSA.

1. US attorney general says banks under investigation not 'too big to jail'

The first item is an article by Reuters on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The US Justice Department is pursuing criminal investigations of financial institutions that could result in action in the coming weeks and months, US attorney general Eric Holder said in a video, adding that no company was "too big to jail."

The comments, made in a video posted on the Justice Department's website on Monday, came as federal prosecutors push two banks, BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse AG , to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve investigations into sanctions and tax violations, respectively, according to people familiar with the probes.

While Holder did not name any banks, he said he is personally monitoring the ongoing investigations into financial institutions and is "resolved to seeing them through."

"I intend to reaffirm the principle that no individual or entity that does harm to our economy is ever above the law," Holder said in the video. "There is no such thing as 'too big to jail.'"

I say?! For years the same Mr Holder has insisted and, what is a lot worse, acted as if there are banks with managers that are 'too big to jail' - but now, during the last two years of Obama's administration he denies it?

Indeed, the article also mentions this, at the end:

The Justice Department has come under fire for bringing few marquee cases against major financial institutions or their executives in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

In March 2013, Holder told a US Senate committee that it can "become difficult" to prosecute major financial institutions that have been accused of wrongdoing because they are so large that a criminal charge could pose a threat to the economy. He quickly backtracked on those comments.

The Justice Department has pursued other criminal investigations of financial institutions in the past few years, but many have resulted in deferred or non-prosecution agreements, under which a bank is not actually indicted.
Hmm. Well... I read it this way - and I admit this is speculative, but then Mr Holder has given me a plain contradiction to make sense of:

(1) Mr Holder still thinks that especially managers of big banks should not
     be prosecuted or even bothered, but
(2) he has recognized this is a bit difficult in a state of law, so
(3) he now, in the finest Obama traditions, backtracks formally, though
(4) he still will not prosecute any managers of big banks, and still tries
     to reach "agreements" under which part of the profits are returned, for
     his releasing all managers from any guilt, indeed
(5) quite as he also did with the pharmacological corporations:
(6) everybody profits (except for millions of patients and of ordinary people,
     that persons in leading positions of banks or governments don't take seriously,

That seems to me the rational expectation, and I see no reason to change it until Holder prosecutes both Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein with the explicit end of jailing them: There seem to be sufficient reasons to do so.

2. Chairman of key House committee agrees to proceed with NSA reform bill 

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The chairman of a key committee in the House of Representatives agreed to move on a major surveillance overhaul on Monday, after months of delay.

The decision, by the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, breathes new life back into the USA Freedom Act, a legislative fix favoured by privacy advocates to prevent the US government from collecting domestic data in bulk.

The judiciary committee is expected to take action on an amendment encapsulating the provisions of the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday at 1pm. Congressional aides expected it to pass the committee with bipartisan support, setting up a fight on the House floor.

Goodlatte, who had been hesitant to endorse the bill, written by former committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, will now vote for it personally.

Goodlatte’s decision comes despite pressure by the House Republican leadership, which preferred an alternative bill, written by the House intelligence committee leadership, that would permit the government to acquire Americans’ data without a specific prior judicial order for it.

That is good news, but as usual the devil is in the detail, for which I advice you to read all of the last dotted link. The same news is also on Truth Dig:

3. More Aggressive NSA Reform Bill Moves Forward in the House

The next item is an article by Peter Z. Scheer on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

After a half-year in stasis, the USA Freedom Act—the most aggressive of various NSA reform measures—is headed for markup by the House Judiciary Committee.

Markup is a process by which lawmakers make speeches and offer amendments, and it’s the first tremor of life the Freedom Act has shown since October.

There is some more there, but overall it is considerably less welcoming than The Guardian.

4. Cecily McMillan's guilty verdict reveals our mass acceptance of police violence

The next item is an article by Molly Knefel on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
The verdict in the biggest Occupy related criminal case in New York City, that of Cecily McMillan, came down Monday afternoon. As disturbing as it is that she was found guilty of felony assault against Officer Grantley Bovell, the circumstances of her trial reflect an even more disturbing reality – that of normalized police violence, disproportionately punitive sentences (McMillan faces seven years in prison), and a criminal penal system based on anything but justice. While this is nothing new for the over-policed communities of New York City, what happened to McMillan reveals just how powerful and unrestrained a massive police force can be in fighting back against the very people with whom it is charged to protect.
There is rather a lot more, that also explains how extremely limited and partial (to the police) the judiciary investigation was, but I should say that I dislike Ms Knefel's use of pronounds, like "our" in the title: Even if there was any mass acceptance of this verdict - which I much doubt - it is not my acceptance.

In any case, and whatever happened: By my standards (and European standards as well) it is plain crazy to convict someone to seven years imprisonment for elbowing a policeman in the face (who grabbed her right breast). Or if it is not plain crazy: it is not real justice, but political mock "justice".

But yes, these days such plain crazyness or mock "justice" are the standards according to which quite a few American judges act. (There are also some who don't, is also true.)

5. The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven’t stopped lying about what’s happening and what to do about it.

Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth.

Here are the lies, with recommended right-wing policies. To see Robert Reich's comments, you'll have to click the last dotted link - and the ellipses "(...)" indicate text left out:

Lie number one: The rich and CEOs are America’s job creators. So we dare not tax them.
Lie number two: People are paid what they’re worth in the market. So we shouldn’t tamper with pay.
Lie number three: Anyone can make it in America with enough guts, gumption, and intelligence. So we don’t need to do anything for poor and lower-middle class kids.
Lie number four: Increasing the minimum wage will result in fewer jobs. So we shouldn’t raise it.

And yes: I agree they are all lies (though - and see my on Frank Zappa, of May 1 - this does not mean they are not believed widely, and indeed you can deceive a majority of none too intelligent people about nearly everything nearly forever, it seems, by sufficient amounts of propaganda, lies, and misdirections: that is one of the reasons the rich are not unhappy with democracy).

6. Trans-Atlantic Supplicant: Merkel Chooses Unity over NSA Truth

Finally for today, an article by the Spiegel staff on the Spiegel's English site:
This starts as follows:

In the world of diplomacy, moments of candor are rare, obscured as they are behind a veil of amicability and friendly gestures. It was no different last Friday at the meeting between US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington.

Obama welcomed Merkel by calling her "one of my closest partners" and a "friend" and took her on a tour of the White House vegetable garden as part of the four hours he made available. He praised her as a "strong partner" in the Ukraine crisis and thanked her many times for the close cooperation exhibited in recent years. The birds in the Rose Garden sang happily as the president spoke.

But then Obama made clear who had the upper hand in this wonderfully harmonious relationship. When a reporter asked why, in the wake of the NSA spying scandal, the no-spy deal between Germany and the US had collapsed, Obama avoided giving a clear answer. He also dodged a question as to whether Merkel's staff is still monitored. Instead, he stayed vague: "As the world's oldest continuous constitutional democracy, I think we know a little bit about trying to protect people's privacy." That was it.

Merkel, when asked if trust had been rebuilt following the NSA revelations, was much less sanguine. "There needs to be and will have to be more than just business as usual," she said.

It continues as follows:
If accepting defeat with a smile on one's face is part of political theater, then Angela Merkel delivered a virtuoso performance.
Yes, indeed. Part of the reason, at least according to the seven members of the Spiegel staff who wrote this article, is the situation in the Ukraine, in which they may be right (but see below).

And Merkel and her government also go considerably further:
Merkel's government, complains Konstantin von Notz, the senior committee representative from the opposition Green Party, has prioritized foreign policy interests and intelligence cooperation ahead of the interests of Germany's own parliament. "It is an attempt to disempower the Bundestag," he says. Should a majority of committee members share his opinion when it meets on Thursday, von Notz adds, then the parliamentary body will have no choice but to challenge the government at the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest judicial body.
Interesting. Besides:
Internally, Merkel's government has agreed to provide the parliamentary investigative committee with only limited access to its NSA files.
I note that the parliament, like the American Congress, is denied the facilities to do its work, because of "reasons of state" (here: the bullshit that one cannot trust parliamentarians not to sell out what they learn).

Not only that:

Opposition politicians from the far-left Left Party and from the Greens have spoken of "sabotage." They were also nonplussed when they learned last week that the government has based its position in part on legal guidance provided by an American law firm.

The expertise came from the Washington DC-based firm Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke and essentially means that anyone who has anything to do with Snowden, even journalists, is a potential criminal. "We are of the opinion that if Snowden provides classified information or documents to the Bundestag or to German diplomats who interview Snowden, such acts give rise to criminal exposure under the laws of the United States. The United States would have jurisdiction to prosecute these acts regardless of where they occur," writes firm partner Jeffrey Harris. It is an interpretation that also applies to SPIEGEL and other media outlets that have seen and reported on large numbers of documents provided by Snowden.

And it is an insane opinion of Mr Harris, in my estimate: First, it criminalizes all reporting (of materials the US government doesn't like) and contradicts the First Amendment, and second it extends American insane supposed laws - that are, as yet, mere opinions - to everywhere. Third, this is a mere opinion by a bunch of lawyers who do the dirty work for their government.

In any case, I find it odd that the German government seems to take this serious: it is a mere opinion, by a bunch of lawyers, anyway not the most reliable profession, and it strongly violates existing European laws.
But therefore:
Whether the NSA investigative committee will now be able to fulfill its mission seems uncertain. And it doesn't look as though other institutions are prepared to shine much light on the affair either.
Also, to reiterate Merkel's position:
Merkel (..) is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin can only be reined in if Europe and the US stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the Ukraine crisis and she is even prepared to sacrifice the NSA investigation to that end. That also means applying a double standard.
Well... that is one way of reading it. Another is that she does not really care whether she is surveilled, nor does she really care about the number of Germans that are surveilled: all must bow to The Threat Of TerrorismTM, and Trust ObamaTM, and Merkel, of course, To Do The Right ThingTM.

I don't know: there are more possible readings and interpretations.

Anyway - there is a lot more under the last dotted link, but none of it is encouraging nor does it seem to be a sign of courage on Merkel's part.
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2] This took so long because both my ex and myself were (and are, to the best of my knowledge: we separated a long time ago) ill since 1.1.1979. This entailed many things, and one was that I did not attend university from 1983-1988.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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