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."
Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by
2. Lady Warsi resigns over
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
Crisis: 'The Real Danger to Israel Comes from
8. 'Too Big To Fail' Lives As
Regulators Slam Banks' Living
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
item is an article by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux on The
This starts as follows:
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”"?
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.
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
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.
There is also a
restatement of what I've called Goering's
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.
“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
There is a lot more in the article, that I recommend you to read.
2. Lady Warsi resigns over UK’s ‘morally
stance on Gaza
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
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
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
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:
As to Shin, who was a
political prisoner, this was his crime:
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.
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
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.
against humanity in Gaza: is it really
a 'buffer zone' – or a bigger plan?
item is an article by Denis Kucinich
(<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:
This starts as
I note the correct "because of their nationality" (rather than "racism"). This
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.
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.
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
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
Sick of this
market-driven world? You should be
item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This is given to an
analysis of the markets:
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.
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:
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.
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:
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
There's a New Leaker
item is an article by Andrea
Germanos on Common Dreams:
This is a brief piece that
starts as follows:
I say - though I am not
amazed. Also, the linked report by CNN is reasonable, and longer than
the piece I am reviewing here.
The United Sates
government has determined there is a new person leaking secret
documents, CNN reported
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."
7. Gaza Crisis: 'The Real
Danger to Israel Comes from Within'
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:
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:
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?
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
SPIEGEL: Is that
also a function of the fact that Israeli society has become
Illouz: Israel is
a colonial military power, a militarized society and a democracy all
folded into one.
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
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
item is an article by Shahien Nasiripour on Huffington Post:
This starts as follows:
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":
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."
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
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
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
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.
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: