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Nederlog


  August
6, 2014
Crisis: "Terrorists",Warsi, North Korea, Gaza, "FreeMarkets", New Leaker, Illouz, Banks
  "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
Sections
Introduction

1.
Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by
     the Numbers

2. Lady Warsi resigns over UK’s ‘morally reprehensible’
     stance on Gaza

3. Former North Korean prisoner forms unlikely alliance
     with ex-gulag guard

4. Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a 'buffer
     zone' – or a bigger plan?

5.
Sick of this market-driven world? You should be
6. US Officials: There's a New Leaker
7.
Gaza Crisis: 'The Real Danger to Israel Comes from
     Within'

8. 'Too Big To Fail' Lives As Regulators Slam Banks' Living
     Wills


About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of Wednesday, August 6. It is a crisis log.

There are eight items that I will not summarize as today's text is around 60 Kb anyway. Also, I upload this some hours earlier than is usual for me, because I have to do other things as well.

 
1. Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers

The first item is an article by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.

Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.

I say - and note this: The "watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists”" contains 280,000 persons who have "“no recognized terrorist group affiliation"". So why are these 280,000 persons on a "watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists”"?

There are several possible explanations: (1) they did use words picked up by the NSA's search programs, which is entirely possible, though it doesn't necessarily make them
“known or suspected terrorists" at all; (2) somebody in government didn't like their political stance; (3) other.

My own guess is that it is mostly (2), but I don't know. And there is this:
According to the government’s watchlisting guidelines, published by The Intercept last month, officials don’t need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list—only a vague and elastic standard of “reasonable suspicion.”
The reasons that is "vague and elastic" comprise (i) that those making the decision are not judges but anonymous government or privately employed persons, while (ii) "reasonable" has not been spelled out: basically, it means that the anonymous person making the decision to place you or someone else on the watchlist believes the suspicion is warranted, somehow, without his possible reasons ever having been listed.

Next, the watchlist is compiled from another watchlist, that comprises many more people:
Most people placed on the government’s watchlist begin in a larger, classified system known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE). The TIDE database actually allows for targeting people based on far less evidence than the already lax standards used for placing people on the watchlist. A more expansive—and invasive—database, TIDE’s information is shared across the U.S. intelligence community, as well as with commando units from the Special Operations Command and with domestic agencies such as the New York City Police Department.

In the summer of 2013, officials celebrated what one classified document prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center refers to as “a milestone”—boosting the number of people in the TIDE database to a total of one million, up from half a million four years earlier.
There is also a restatement of what I've called Goering's Principle:
“You might as well have a blue wand and just pretend there’s magic in it, because that’s what we’re doing with this—pretending that it works,” says former FBI agent Michael German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “These agencies see terrorism as a winning card for them. They get more resources. They know that they can wave that card around and the American public will be very afraid and Congress and the courts will allow them to get away with whatever they’re doing under the national security umbrella.”
Yes, indeed - and see Goering's Principle.

There is a lot more in the article, that I recommend you to read.


2. Lady Warsi resigns over UK’s ‘morally reprehensible’ stance on Gaza 

The next item is an article by Patrick Wintour on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Sayeeda Warsi, the senior Foreign Office minister, has resigned from the government in protest at its policy on Gaza, describing it as “morally indefensible”.

Lady Warsi announced her departure on Twitter on Tuesday, saying: “With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza.”

In her resignation letter, Warsi said the government’s “approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically”.

She said the UK’s stance was “not consistent with the rule of law and our long support for international justice”, adding: “The British government can only play a constructive role in solving the Middle East crisis if it is an honest broker and at the moment I do not think it is.”

She is a Muslim with a Pakistani background, but she also was (I quote the Wikipedia) the

(..) Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities (..)

There is also this, on her reasons to resign from these posts:

“I think for me, it’s morally indefensible where after four weeks of a conflict – more than a quarter of the Gazan population displaced, nearly 2,000 people killed, nearly 400 innocent children killed – we still cannot find the words to say we condemn this and we feel this action has been disproportionate. These issues are far too serious for us to have been mealy-mouthed and for us to be dragging our heels.”

3.  Former North Korean prisoner forms unlikely alliance with ex-gulag guard

The next item is by Steven Borowlec on The Guardian:

This may not be a crisis item, but is here because North Korea is such an extremist country. It starts as follows:

Shin Dong-hyuk and Ahn Myung-chul are unlikely collaborators. They’re both North Korean, both defectors and have both lived in gulags – but that’s where the similarities end. Shin was a political prisoner while Ahn was one of the notoriously heavy-handed guards.

“I had the authority to kill prisoners like him if they tried to escape,” Ahn said, referring to Shin. “We couldn’t have sat together like this in North Korea, but fortunately we’ve come to a free country where this is possible.”

The pair appeared together in Seoul at the weekend to speak about their life in North Korea, one of the world’s most repressive societies, and draw attention to plight of prisoners in the country’s political camps.

As to Shin, who was a political prisoner, this was his crime:
The North Korean system extends punishment to three generations of a family; Shin was doomed to live his whole life in a prison camp for having an uncle who escaped to South Korea in the 1950s. Camp 14, where he grew up, is referred to as a “total control zone” – meaning that the prisoners are never to be released.

Shin was born in the camp in 1982. As to the extremism I mentioned:

Shin said prisoners are considered less than human, and as such aren’t deemed worthy of being educated. “The people who run the camps think that prisoners could die today or tomorrow, so there’s no point in them learning anything,” he said.

In the prison camps, guard and prisoner alike were under the strict control of an unforgiving system. Shin said: “In the camps we used to say that we were treated like dogs or mice. But I realised we were actually treated worse than that, because at least dogs and mice have the freedom to go where they want, and eat what they can find.”

There is considerably more under the last dotted link. This is a good article.

4.  Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a 'buffer zone' – or a bigger plan?

The next item is an article by Denis Kucinich (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

American taxpayers should not be paying for this. And the western world should stop rejecting serious inquiries about Israel’s moral inconsistencies, or allow it to benefit from cognitive dissonance and information overload amid the current crisis in Gaza.

I note the correct "because of their nationality" (rather than "racism"). This continues:

There is a land grab going on. The Israeli prime minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has shrunk Gaza’s habitable land mass by 44%, with an edict establishing a 3km (1.8-mile) buffer zone, a “no-go” zone for Palestinians – and that’s quite significant, because a good part of Gaza is only 3 to 4 miles wide. Over 250,000 Palestinians within this zone must leave their homes, or be bombed. As their territorial space collapses, 1.8m Gazans now living in 147 square miles will be compressed into 82 square miles.

Gaza’s entire social and physical infrastructure of housing, hospitals, places of worship, more than 130 of its schools, plus markets, water systems, sewer systems and roads are being destroyed. Under constant attack, without access to water, sanitary facilities, food and medical care, Gazans face an IDF-scripted apocalypse.

Yes. Denis Kucinich then asks "What is the end game?" His answer is that it is about land, and I think that is correct. That is, I suppose Netanyahu's end is simply to take over Gaza, eventually, after it has become clear that Palestinians cannot live there anymore (without water, sewers, electricity), and he can come forward as a moral hero who allows them to leave.

I am guessing, but this seems a plausible guess, also in view of the extreme destructions the Israelis brought about. Anyway, there is a lot more in the article, that you can read for yourself using the last dotted link.

5. Sick of this market-driven world? You should be 

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

This is given to an analysis of the markets:
Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.

Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power. It is rapidly colonising the rest of the world.

Yes - but the word I am missing here (and that doesn't occur in the article at all) is ideology: This is, and was from the beginning, with Thatcher and Reagan, an out and out ideology that was not based on facts but on ideals, dreams and mere claims, none of which ever existed, but all of which were pushed as if they were the self-evident truth - which they were not at all:
  • There is no market without regulations: A "free market" is a contradictio in adjecto.
  • The market cannot resolve many problems, especially not those that are not marketable: ideology, religion, ethics, the good life, honesty, integrity, the arts, the sciences, good education for all, the preservation of nature, and living a life without greed, to mention a few things it just cannot do, or only in a sick and degenerate way.
  • The state is necessary to hold the power in a society and to work out compromises between opposed interests and groups in the interests of all, if not successfully by itself, then by the next competitive government of another political color.
  • Public services should not be privatized, because that makes them profitable for a few instead of a service for all, and besides, many things that much serve the public interest, such as good education for all and a good system of roads, bridges and cheap and good public transport,  cannot be maintained profitably by private corporations: Too small profit margins.
  • Public spending should not be cut: it is the basis of civilization, and paid for by the taxes, which we pay because we want civilization (rather than the private greed of millionaires and billionaires dictating all because they  are the richest and the most powerful).
  • Businesses should be much better controlled than they are: Lack of control puts a premium on business crimes, fraud and corruption.
  • Also, Thatcher and Reagans (and Bush's and Obama's) ideologies are in fact thinly covered excuses and pretexts for the rich to increase their power, pay less taxes, pay less wages, admit to no norms and no restrictions other than their own, and to serve as an invitation that the rich and the powerful ought to be free to exploit the poor to the utmost.
  • Besides, one of the things Monbiot also doesn't mention: The wars that the U.S. is engaged in cannot be run by private corporations, for profit - they need the taxes, and they use the taxes, and they use them to further the interests of private corporations who are paid to produce the weapons that are used in these wars.
  • For those who contend I am ideological: I don't deny it, as I am writing briefly, but my main message is not ideological, and is that there are far too many diverse, varying and opposed human interests in any properly human society to force them into the mould of one single ideological regime.
  • Finally, when judged as ideologies, my own is tentative, non-dogmatic, liberal (in a classic way, not neo-), and favors the interests of many, whereas neoliberalism is the pretext of the few, the rich, the faithful and the ideologically blinded to degrade the many poor, and get richer themselves.
There is more in Monbiot's article (the above list of points is wholly mine) but I will quote just one more piece that is correct in both points:

If neoliberalism was anything other than a self-serving con, whose gurus and thinktanks were financed from the beginning by some of the world’s richest people (the US multimillionaires Coors, Olin, Scaife, Pew and others), its apostles would have demanded, as a precondition for a society based on merit, that no one should start life with the unfair advantage of inherited wealth or economically determined education. But they never believed in their own doctrine. Enterprise, as a result, quickly gave way to rent.

All this is ignored, and success or failure in the market economy are ascribed solely to the efforts of the individual. The rich are the new righteous; the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally and are now classified as social parasites.

That is: If the rich were really serious about talents, they would tax the rich enough to give everyone a really good education and a basic income, so that each generation could start from the same background. Instead, the rich only clamor for ever less taxes, so that they can transmit ever more of their riches to their children. They are bulllshitting about talents, as they are bullshitting about nearly everything.

Also, the triumph of the - extremely stupid - market ideology indeed has made "
the poor (..) the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally and are now classified as social parasites" - where part of the incredible crudity and cruelty is that you are made out to be a parasite and a failure by the bureaucratic parasites and failures who effectively serve the rich, and who became bureaucrats because they lack any and all talents, other than creeping for their superiors.

6.  US Officials: There's a New Leaker

The next item is an article by
Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This is a brief piece that starts as follows:

The United Sates government has determined there is a new person leaking secret documents, CNN reported Tuesday.

The news comes the same as day as new reporting by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux for The Intercept revealed that many of those on the government's terrorist watchlist have no terrorist group affiliation. Their reporting cites documents dated 2013 leaked by a "source within the intelligence community."

I say - though I am not amazed. Also, the linked report by CNN is reasonable, and longer than the piece I am reviewing here.
7. Gaza Crisis: 'The Real Danger to Israel Comes from Within'

The next item is an article by Julia Amalia Heyer on the Spiegel:
This is in fact an interview with Eva Illouz, who is an Israeli sociologist and a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It starts as follows:

SPIEGEL: There was widespread support in Israel for the operation in the Gaza Strip, despite the huge numbers of civilian casualties and the deaths of hundreds of children. Why is that?

Illouz: Where you see human beings, Israelis see enemies. In front of enemies, you close ranks, you unite in fear for your life, and you do not ponder about the fragility of the other. Israel has a split, schizophrenic self-awareness: It cultivates its strength and yet cannot stop seeing itself as weak and threatened. Moreover, both the fact that Hamas holds a radical Islamist and anti-Semitic ideology and the fact that there is rabid anti-Arab racism in Israel explain why Israelis see Gaza as a bastion of potential or real terrorists. It is difficult to have compassion for a population seen as as threatening the heart of your society.

SPIEGEL: Is that also a function of the fact that Israeli society has become increasingly militaristic?

Illouz: Israel is a colonial military power, a militarized society and a democracy all folded into one.

This is a good interview that I recommend you read all of, if only to cure you from a belief that Netanyahu is the only Israeli voice, or speaks for all. He is not, though he is currently the strongest. As for him:
The nature of Israeli leadership has also changed. The messianic right has progressively gained power in Israel. It used to be marginal and illegitimate; it is now increasingly mainstream.
Yes. And Illouz makes another point, that is also good to keep in mind (and which you can see in the interview with Morton Klein I reviewed on August 4):
Fear is deeply engrained in Israeli society. Fear of the Shoah, fear of anti-Semitism, fear of Islam, fear of Europeans, fear of terror, fear of extermination. You name it. And fear generates a very particular type of thinking, which I would call "catastrophalist." You always think about the worst case scenario, not about a normal course of events. In catastrophalist scenarios, you become allowed to breach many more moral norms than if you imagined a normal course of events.
8. 'Too Big To Fail' Lives As Regulators Slam Banks' Living Wills

Today's final item is an article by Shahien Nasiripour on Huffington Post:
This starts as follows:

Eleven of the nation's largest banks have failed to convince federal regulators they could safely be wound down if they neared failure, government authorities said Tuesday, reinforcing the idea that they are too big to fail.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said October blueprints submitted by banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, detailing how they think they'd be resolved in bankruptcy if they neared collapse were "not credible." The Federal Reserve, another bank regulator, said the so-called living wills need significant improvement by July 2015 or the government may force them to shrink.

"Each plan being discussed today is deficient and fails to convincingly demonstrate how, in failure, any one of these firms could overcome obstacles to entering bankruptcy without precipitating a financial crisis," Thomas Hoenig, FDIC vice chairman, said in a statement. "Despite the thousands of pages of material these firms submitted, the plans provide no credible or clear path through bankruptcy that doesn't require unrealistic assumptions and direct or indirect public support."

Well, I am not amazed. Incidentally, here is Shahien Nasiripour's - correct - description of what is involved (since 2008!) in being "too big to fail":
The phenomenon known as too big to fail is based on the notion that government officials will always rescue a failing financial company when it believes the failure would cause financial chaos. Since investors in the company believe they'd be bailed out, they accept a lower return for funding the company's operations. That in turn enables the too big to fail company to enjoy a taxpayer-provided subsidy unavailable to its smaller rivals.
And it keeps the interests they have to pay to zero or very near zero, and it stimulates them to do all manner of risky things to increase their profits, precisely because they are supposed to be "too big to fail", which their managers interpret as "we can't fail, and so can do as we please".

As to what has changed in the six years since 2008:
"These firms are generally larger, more complicated, and more interconnected than they were prior to the crisis of 2008," Hoenig said. "They have only marginally strengthened their balance sheet to facilitate their resolvability, should it be necessary. They remain excessively leveraged."
Which is to say hardly anything changed in their balance sheets, while they have grown larger, more complicated and more connected: In the next banking crisis, they will fail all the more disgracefully.

This is another good article.

---------------------------------

Notes
[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.)


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)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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