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Nederlog


  October
8, 2014
Crisis: Libor, Economy, NCA, Corporations,  Twitter,  Muslims
  "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.
 British banker pleads guilty to Libor rigging
2.
 IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis
     levels

3. The National Crime Agency would take us back to
     Soviet-style surveillance

4.  Our bullying corporations are the new enemy within 
5.  Twitter Takes Aim at Federal Government With
      Surveillance-Related Lawsuit

6.  Ben Affleck Confronts Bill Maher’s Muslim Problem

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 8. It is a
crisis log.

There are six items with six dotted links. I think at least item 1, 2, 5 and 6 are interesting, and item 6 is here mostly because I outlined a position like Affleck did, but a lot clearer and more complete, in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

And no, it did not change much or anything then, it seems mostly because the kind of arguments I use, which are perfectly correct, are too complicated to discuss on Talk TV, that nearly always reduces points to either a white or else a black, that in turn are supported by pundits, with fake statistics (as does Sam Harris) and glib arguments that rarely address any real subtlety that is not either fully white or fully black.

But judge for yourself. Here goes:

1. British banker pleads guilty to Libor rigging

The first item is an article by Simon Bowers on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

A senior employee from a leading UK bank has pleaded guilty to a Libor-fixing conspiracy charge brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faces up to 10 years in jail. On Friday he became the first banker to plead guilty to criminal manipulation of Libor in Britain. Reporting restrictions were partially lifted on Tuesday.

Trillions of dollars of loans and credit derivatives are priced with reference to benchmark interest rates, published every day in London and known as Libor, or the London interbank offered rate.

Suggestions that this rate – which purports to represent the price banks would be prepared to lend to one another – had been manipulated by some of the world’s biggest lenders was a major blow to the reputation of London as a leading financial centre.

First, what is Libor and how was it rigged? Here is some more precision from Wikipedia (with note numbers deleted):
The London Interbank Offered Rate is the average interest rate estimated by leading banks in London that the average leading bank would be charged if borrowing from other banks.
(...)
Libor rates are calculated for 10 currencies and 15 borrowing periods ranging from overnight to one year and are published daily at 11:30 am (London time) by Thomson Reuters. Many financial institutions, mortgage lenders and credit card agencies set their own rates relative to it. At least $350 trillion in derivatives and other financial products are tied to the Libor.

In June 2012, multiple criminal settlements by Barclays Bank revealed significant fraud and collusion by member banks connected to the rate submissions, leading to the Libor scandal.
Which leads us to the Libor scandal, also on Wikipedia (and clearly I am not
quoting most of the articles):

The Libor scandal was a series of fraudulent actions connected to the Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) and also the resulting investigation and reaction. The Libor is an average interest rate calculated through submissions of interest rates by major banks in London. The scandal arose when it was discovered that banks were falsely inflating or deflating their rates so as to profit from trades, or to give the impression that they were more creditworthy than they were. Libor underpins approximately $350 trillion in derivatives. It is administered by NYSE Euronext, which took over running the Libor in January 2014. 

The banks are supposed to submit the actual interest rates they are paying, or would expect to pay, for borrowing from other banks. The Libor is supposed to be the total assessment of the health of the financial system because if the banks being polled feel confident about the state of things, they report a low number and if the member banks feel a low degree of confidence in the financial system, they report a higher interest rate number. In June 2012, multiple criminal settlements by Barclays Bank revealed significant fraud and collusion by member banks connected to the rate submissions, leading to the scandal.
Which means that these bankers indeed committed a major fraud, that involved many other banks and many investors.

I expect there will be considerably more on the subject. At present, all I say is that it is at least a bit amazing to see a guilty plea by a banker, or indeed by several bankers, for two former employees of the Dutch Rabobank also pleaded guilty. Then again, this is in England, not in the U.S.A.

2. IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis levels 

The next item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut its global growth forecasts for 2014 and 2015 and warned that the world economy may never return to the pace of expansion seen before the financial crisis.

In its flagship half-yearly world economic outlook (WEO), the IMF said the failure of countries to recover strongly from the worst recession of the postwar era meant there was a risk of stagnation or persistently weak activity.

The IMF said it expected global growth to be 3.3% in 2014, 0.4 points lower than it was predicting in the April WEO and 0.1 points down on interim forecasts made in July. A pick-up in the rate of expansion to 3.8% is forecast for 2015, down from 3.9% in the April WEO and 4% in July. But the IMF highlighted the risk that its predictions would once again be too optimistic.

It is clear, in my opinion, that (1) the crisis continues, because (2) there is not enough demand, because (3) the bank managers and the rich have effectively taken care that the middle class and the poor got almost nothing extra the last 35 years, whereas the rich 1% got nearly everything (which also was a lot), while (4) you really need a middle class's spending to keep the economy afloat - which will not happen if they have almost nothing to spend.

And yes, I am willing to agree that the crisis is mostly over for those who were not really hit by it in the first place: the banks (after Obama agreed to save them rather than prosecute them) and the rich 1% (after it was clear there would be no complete collapse, ca. October/November 2008, and the banks would be bailed out).

It should also be noted that the IMF said itself that its shifted down predictions are more likely to be too optimistic than too pessimistic, and that this indeed effects the whole world:
The IMF said the slowdown in growth was affecting not just the west but also emerging markets such as China, Russia and Brazil.
3. The National Crime Agency would take us back to Soviet-style surveillance

The next item is an article by Simon Jenkins on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and I reported on this yesterday, in the same sort of way):

Whenever I hear the words national security, I reach for my subscription to Liberty. According to the director general of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow, in today’s Guardian, the police need new powers to hack private phone calls and emails. The requested “snoopers’ charter” is needed to find out who is talking to whom so as to catch “serious and organised criminals”, not to mention terrorists. While Bristow accepted that this needed selling to the public, he assumed that the public would agree, once “sold”.

I hope not. There is now a mass of evidence that the police are using, or rather abusing, the ever wider surveillance powers given by successive home secretaries. As with phone tapping of old, the claim is that each intrusion is “personally authorised” by a home secretary or a judge. Every police officer knows this is rubbish.

In fact, the real situation is this:
One of the many services performed by Edward Snowden was to show that nothing beyond constant press vigilance will curb “big security” from trampling on civil liberty, even in a democracy. In Britain, the coalition’s appeasement of such trampling means that no whistleblower is safe in talking to a friend, a lawyer, a journalist or, for that matter, anyone via a phone or the internet. Anything said may be available to a potential prosecutor or opponent’s law firm. We are back to the Soviet Union, with private conversation confined to public parks.
First note that this correctly says "no whistleblower is safe", much rather than "will be". Next, not even the park may be safe these days, for there are at least two more provisos: Provided none of those partaking in this private conversation carry cell phones, for these may be switched on and off by the GCHQ and work as receivers and senders, and also provided there have not yet been planted sufficiently many surveillance cameras in the trees of the park.  (These may not  - yet - be able to listen, but surely they can help to recognize whoever walks there.)

This is the ending of Simon Jenkin's article:
There is no threat to British national security that justifies the current bid to erode normal civil liberties. Criminals may be getting more cunning, as they always were, and the police and security services may have to work hard to catch them. But authority seems to have no concept of what constitutes going too far. It has no definition of civil liberty. The powers that be need only mouth “war on terror”, and democracy crumbles before them.
Actually, I think it is considerably worse:

The authorities do have a concept of civil liberties, and that may be quite clear and nominally adequate as well, since almost all members of government went to a university. The point is that they do not want real civil liberties and are busy with reducing these to nought that has any chance of being effectively used by the many poor.

And as to the last sentence "
The powers that be need only mouth “war on terror”, and democracy crumbles before them": It is Goering's Principle that is being used:



(I am sorrry - in a way - of having to show this over and again, but it seems to me quite clear and quite valid. Also, I do not think most of the present leaders have never heard of Hermann Goering, though indeed they may not all know they are applying his advice as well as they can. But they are.)

4. Our bullying corporations are the new enemy within

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This is its second paragraph:
On Friday, the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, claimed that business is under political attack on a scale it has not faced since the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was speaking at the Institute of Directors, where he was introduced with the claim that “we are in a generational struggle to defend the principles of the free market against people who want to undermine it or strip it away”. A few days before, while introducing Osborne at the Conservative party conference, Digby Jones, former head of the Confederation of British Industry, warned that companies are at risk of being killed by “regulation from ‘big government’” and of drowning “in the mire of anti-business mood music encouraged by vote-seekers”. Where is that government and who are these vote-seekers? They are a figment of his imagination.
It is all complete propaganda lies: Neither Osborne nor Jones are defending "the principles of the free market"; there is no "generational struggle"; and there is hardly even "anti-business mood music", for the free market is plain bullshit (there is no "free market" without state regulations, and state regulations have been broken down, very intentionally also); the "generational struggle" is pure baloney (in fact, Osborne and Jones's camp of the rich won: almost all money that is being made goes to the few rich that form the 1%), and there is even hardly any "anti-business mood music", for in fact all political leaders of all British parties have converted to the neoliberalist ideology, it seems basically because that is good for their kind of people, who are mostly rich and well-educated.

They lie and lie and lie, because that works for them, and few will contradict them these days in the main media, which also are controlled by the corporations.

What is really happening is this:

The corporate consensus is enforced not only by the lack of political choice, but by an assault on democracy itself. Steered by business lobbyists, the EU and the US are negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This would suppress the ability of governments to put public interest ahead of profit. It could expose Britain to cases like El Salvador’s, where an Australian company is suing the government before a closed tribunal of corporate lawyers for $300m (nearly half the country’s annual budget) in potential profits foregone. Why? Because El Salvador refused permission for a gold mine that would poison people’s drinking water.
Yes - and please mind that the TTIP is secret, and meant to remain secret for 7 or 10 years after it gets introduced: It is totally anti-democratic, and indeed seeks to undermine most states and their inhabitants, and make these responsible even for "potential profits foregone".

And what is really happening is this:
(...) think of the billion pounds the government threw into the air when it sold Royal Mail, or the massive state subsidies quietly being channelled to the private train companies. When Cameron told the Conservative party conference “there’s no reward without effort; no wealth without work; no success without sacrifice”, he was talking cobblers. Thanks to his policies, shareholders and corporate executives become stupendously rich by sitting in the current with their mouths open.

Ours is a toll-booth economy, unchallenged by any major party, in which companies which have captured essential public services – water, energy, trains – charge extraordinary fees we have no choice but to pay. If there is a “generational struggle to defend the principles of the free market”, it’s a struggle against the corporations, which have replaced the market with a state-endorsed oligarchy.

Quite so - and the corporations, as it stands now, have won, even though they are in fact a tiny minority of the populations they exploit, and they have won basically through propaganda lies like the above:

As if they are fighting for "freedom" (which turned out: freedom from regulations, freedom for the few to exploit the many quite mercilessly); as if anyone can be rich (totally false: the rich always are the few); as if everything can be measured and valued by "profit" (which are almost totally taken by the few rich that form the 1%, and anyway is a completely crazy and quite uncivilized idea [2]); as if making the rich pay more taxes restrains their liberties (which it doesn't, while in fact paying less taxes, as they do now, restrains the incomes, the liberties and the rights of the many).

And finally this is really happening:
And still they want more. Through a lobbying industry and a political funding system, successive governments have failed to reform, corporations select and buy and bully the political class to prevent effective challenge to their hegemony. Any politician brave enough to stand up to them is relentlessly hounded by the corporate media. Corporations are the enemy within.
Yes - and the two only hopeful things I can discover are that (1) the corporations won fundamentally with lies, lies, and more lies, which are also really necessary for them, because they do not want it to be widely known that 90% of the people have failed to make almost any economical progress the last 35 years because almost all the profits went to the 1%, and (2) the corporations will almost certainly fail in preventing the next major crisis because, while they can control very much, they cannot control their own greed.

5. Twitter Takes Aim at Federal Government With Surveillance-Related Lawsuit

The next item is an article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig!:

This starts as follows:

Twitter is taking out the big guns in Silicon Valley’s ongoing tussle with Washington over privacy issues.

The microblogging megacorp is joining ranks with other tech giants by taking legal measures to counter and expose the extent of the U.S. government’s demands that the companies hand over information about their users.

Well... it is something, but how much remains to be seen. There is also this, quoted from San Jose Mercury News:

Twitter’s lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, alleges that top U.S. Justice Department officials have rejected the company’s request to fully reveal how much the government is seeking through its national security investigations.

Five major companies—Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and LinkedIn—earlier this year reached a settlement that allowed them to disclose some level of information in twice-a-year “transparency reports,” but Twitter argues that the limits violate free speech rights and are unconstitutional.

Twitter is going further than the rest of the tech industry, seeking broader rights to expose how much government surveillance, if any, is going on in the Twitterverse.

“These restrictions constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint and content-based restriction on, and government viewpoint discrimination against, Twitter’s right to speak about information of national and global public concern,” Twitter argues in its lawsuit.

It seems clear to me Twitter is correct in these claims, but otherwise I don't know (in part also because I never used Twitter: it seems a pretty ridiculous idea to me, once you have e-mail, to have also a kind of e-mail that is restricted to 140 characters, that is, it seems to me as if once you have a car, you want to travel by a horsedrawn waggon, but OK...it's not for me, but it may be the ideal instrument for communicating thoughts others have).

6. Ben Affleck Confronts Bill Maher’s Muslim Problem

The next item is an article by Juan Cole on Truthdig! (that was originally on Cole's site):
This starts as follows:

Bravo to Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof for telling Bill Maher off about his chronic case of Muslim-hating bigotry.  (He would say he doesn’t hate Muslims, only their religion, but then those who hate gays say much the same sort of thing).

Maher and Sam Harris like to demonize Islam and by association Muslims.  Ben Affleck de-demonized them by appealing to the banalities of everyday life.  Most Muslims, he said, just want to have a sandwich and get through their lives.  This is true. 

Yes. There is a considerably more under the last dotted link, including an essay by Cole on Maher of two years ago that I do not quite agree with, but which does contain a passage that seems correct to me and that sheds some light:
In most of the world, crowd actions are common over all kinds of issues, beyond the ones of race, class and college sports teams that routinely provoke them here.  When I was living in India there were always items in the newspaper about a bus driver accidentally running over a pedestrian, and then an angry mob forming that killed the bus driver.  Neighborhood nationalism.  The same sort of crowds gather when a blaspheming author drives his discourse into the sanctity of their neighborhood.  It is appalling, but I’m not sure what exactly you would do about that sort of thing.  It certainly isn’t confined to Muslims…
Yes, and that is indeed the problem: You cannot rationally judge "the Muslims" by what some radical Muslim sects claim about "the Muslims" or "the Christians", and you certainly cannot saddle most or "fifty procent" or "twenty procent" of Muslims with the responsibility for the extremism of a few.

That is the same problem as I have with Ayaan Hirsi Ali - and see my mostly English mail on her of 2005, since when she has been excreted from Dutch society, indeed not because of my activity, but because most Dutchmen in the end grasped her real size: she is a personal careerist, quite successfully also, far more than anything else - from which I quote now:

What she [Ali - MM] confuses here, and in the whole open letter, are the beliefs of the murderer of Theo van Gogh, and the beliefs of "the" islam, as if the convictions of all believers in "the" islam can be identified with or reduced to the beliefs of the murderer of Theo van Gogh. This is no better, logically speaking, than the pretensions of Osama to speak in the name of "the" islam - and there is no "the" islam, there is only a collection of faiths and practices more or less loosely based on the koran, just as there is no "the" christian faith, but only a collection of faiths and practices more or less loosely based on the bible.

Next, there is no "surfeit of evidence that the islam is essentially incompatible with the western value of freedom". No doubt certain interpretations of it may be incompatible with "the western value of freedom" (which also is not a very clear concept, since there are several distinct kinds of freedom) but the same is true with interpretations of the christian faith, and yet the western value of freedom arose in the context of religious faith, largely, it would seem, through the insight that you can't have much of a human(e) society if you use religion to try to kill or persecute your religious opponents, and that it is quite feasible to live peacefully together and yet disagree about many things, and that indeed peaceful cooperation is in the interest of all, except perhaps a few fanatics, extremists or disturbed persons.

And no doubt any religion is difficult to combine with secular freedoms. But "the islam" undoubtedly, like christianity, is a house with many mansions, and a creed with many interpretations and versions, and if you want to help people to see through it or get rid of it, it doesn't help to represent it as if it coincides with the beliefs and interpretations of its most extremist proponents, as if all islamists must be extremists, and as if any believer in "the" islam thereby cannot believe in or practice freedom or freedom of speech.

As I said, this is from 2005.

There also is a quite good Dutch mail from me from 2003, to a collaborator of Theo van Gogh (who got murdered on November 4, 2004 by a Dutch Islamic fanatic), and to which I never received a real reply, neither by the person I wrote to, nor by Theo van Gogh, with whom I had been friendly from 1984 till 1989, and who admired me. (I did get a brief 'reply' but no reaction to my mail, though that was quite fundamental and quite clear.)

I published that mail in 2004, the day after Van Gogh's murder, and for those who can read Dutch, this is it, from November 3, 2004 (while the mail was originally from August 2, 2003): Van Goghiana. (The mail starts somewhere in the text, but the last link leads you to it.)


Finally, also because I saw quite a lot searched for it but did not find it: Quite a few of the backgrounds to my opinions are explained in my On a fundamental problem in ethics and morals,
---------------------------------
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.)

[2] That is: You do not appraise, measure or value any civilization by asking about the profits it makes. You appraise civilizations by the arts and the sciences it produces, by the rights it secures, by the proportions that live well and peacefully in it, and by the diversities - of religion, of politics, of tastes - that are possible under it, and not by the profits that anyway are of interest only to a very small part of the population: Nearly everyone nearly always had to work for a basic income, and did not profit from others; only the rich need not work for a basic income, and only the rich live from profiting from others.


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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