January 10, 2015
Crisis: Press Freedom, Petraeus, Obama, Black on TPP and TTIP
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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. In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous
2. Why Isn’t David Petraeus on Trial?
3. Obama’s Narrative of Deceits
Bill Black: Obama’s Vain Search for a TPP “Legacy”


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 10, 2015.

It is a fairly brief crisis item. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is Glenn Greenwald on the freedom of the press; item 2 is about David Petraeus (former general, former head of the CIA) who may be prosecuted for giving his mistress-and-biographer secret materials; item 3 is about several deceptions Obama used; and item 4 is on the TTP and TTIP, and well worth reading.

1. In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Defending free speech and free press rights, which typically means defending the right to disseminate the very ideas society finds most repellent, has been one of my principal passions for the last 20 years: previously as a lawyer and now as a journalist. So I consider it positive when large numbers of people loudly invoke this principle, as has been happening over the last 48 hours in response to the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

As Glenn Greenwald said himself in the first paragraph, the main reason this article was published is "the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris". And he is right that "Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task"

The main reason for that last fact (or so it seems to me) is that in fact only a small minority (to which I belong) is for unlimited free speech, while most have a rather vague position that is for some free speech (against Muslims, for example) but not for other kinds (against Jews, for example).

I'll turn to that in a moment. First, there is also this:
Central to free speech activism has always been the distinction between defending the right to disseminate Idea X and agreeing with Idea X, one which only the most simple-minded among us are incapable of comprehending. One defends the right to express repellent ideas while being able to condemn the idea itself.
Yes, indeed (and the example Greenwald gives is good): Free speech is about the freedom to say what you please, also if that may be offensive to some; it does not mean one has to agree with what is being said: one may in fact be much opposed to it, while still thinking that all opinions at least should be heard.

And next there is this:

But this week’s defense of free speech rights was so spirited that it gave rise to a brand new principle: to defend free speech, one not only defends the right to disseminate the speech, but embraces the content of the speech itself.
No. My reason is that this is not free speech. As far as I am concerned, anyone may say almost everything he pleases, and in the way he pleases (and my reasons comprise that saying is not at all the same as doing what one says) but this does not mean at all that I must agree to his opinions ("embrace the content") or his way of judging (e.g. in a charicature): There are far more opinions than I agree to, and while I am for unhampered expression of ideas
this does not mean at all that I agree with the ideas expressed.

Actually, I am not certain of Glenn Greenwald's position here. He publishes a number of mostly - let's say - anti-Israeli cartoons [1], which he clearly has a right to (under free speech criterions) but that may be found offensive by some who went on the street yesterday sporting the slogan "Je suis Charlie".

I don't know. I do know that I've never seen Charlie Hebdo, which is one reason why I am not Charlie [2], although indeed they may publish as they please, as far as I am concerned, and also should not be sanctioned for it, and certainly not with violence.

2. Why Isn’t David Petraeus on Trial?

The next item is an article by Peter Z. Scheer on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The U.S. government has treated principled whistle-blowers like treasonous spies, yet Attorney General Eric Holder has reportedly ignored recommendations from his own FBI and Justice Department to prosecute former CIA chief David Petraeus.

The New York Times reported Friday that “F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against retired Gen. David H. Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress while he was director of the C.I.A.” Petraeus, a decorated general who worked for both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, is accused of passing classified information to his mistress, who was also his biographer.

I have repeatedly written about Petraeus (in 2012), notably here, and my reasons were that he was not only a leading U.S. general, who got promoted to be the head of the CIA, but that he might also have been - that is: apart from the affair with his biographer - a candidate for the presidency of the U.S., in which role he would have been supported by Fox News.

The question the title of the article asks is a good one - except that Obama's government does not prosecute (former) officials (except if they are whistleblowers), it seems because Obama - a former professor of law, who ought to know the law can only convict on the basis of what has happened - is always occupied with "looking forward", where he can see no crimes of any kind (that are committed by his government).

Also, the question of the title has not yet been answered.

3. Obama’s Narrative of Deceits

The next item is an article by Jason Hirthler on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

If the American public knew what was being perpetrated in its name, it might put an end to the slow-motion coup d’état of the United States by corporate wealth. But it is kept in the shadows, pinioned by a harness of half-truths that underwrite its ignorance and enable its indifference.

The public will likely remain in this state until it hears the whole truth, and not the abridged version peddled by an unscrupulous administration, its Pavlovian Cabinet, our obsequious Congress, and the sycophant media (those dutiful court stenographers of state power). Until this confederacy of knaves is exposed at scale, the Janus-faced narrative streaming from the lips of the Commander-in-Chief — whomever he or she may be — will neither change nor falter. Ringing in a New Year will not matter.

Well...I don't know, for at least two reasons. First, I don't know about "the American public", not as to what it knows and doesn't know, and also not in
what it would do if it would know considerably more than it does. Second, I
certainly do not know that the public "
will likely remain in this state until it
hears the whole truth", if only because "the public" almost never knows "
the whole truth" (which tends to be more complicated than told on TV-news).

But OK - this article is quite critical of Obama, and gives quite a few reasons.
I quote only one:

The President claims to have banned torture. But he hasn’t banned the practice of outsourcing it via rendition. And he has evidently only banned it for the interrogation of prisoners (“detainees”) captured in “armed conflict,” which leaves a broad loophole concerning noncombatant detainees.

As for the authors of our elaborate torture of Arabs across the Muslim world in infamous Bagram and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and in anonymous black sites where the gloves truly come off, well, let’s put that behind us. He has also decided that to prosecute the war crimes of administrations past would simply be unhelpful, and that we ought to look forward and not into the (unhelpful) past.

Yet his elegies to lawfulness include his steadfast defense of CIA Director John Brennan, who himself had the audacity to defend CIA war crimes before the press from Langley, in which he repeatedly claimed — once more without evidence — that torture works.
Yes - which is to say that Obama has not "banned torture": all that he may have banned is the torturing of (i) people captured in "armed conflicts" that (ii) happens inside the U.S.A.

4. Bill Black: Obama’s Vain Search for a TPP “Legacy”

Finally today,
an article by Bill Black (<-Wikipedia) on Naked Capitalism:
This starts with an introduction by Yves Smith from which I quote this:
This post confirms what readers know all to well, that Obama will use every opportunity to sell out the middle class to corporate interests. One thing to bear in mind is that opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its ugly sister, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, do not split on simply party lines. This fall, when Obama was unable to get enough votes to get “fast track” approval, which the Executive Branch uses to force an up-down vote on a final trade deal, denying Congress the opportunity to influence its contents, whip counts showed that nearly 40 Republicans in the House were prepared to join Democrats in opposing it.
The article by Bill Black starts as follows (with a small correction by me):

The banksters have given Obama an important political opportunity – which he has spurned. The very first thing the new Republican majorities sought to do with their power was to use the Omnibus bill to extort the first of many cuts designed to destroy the Volcker rule. Naturally, Obama agreed and wouldn’t join the Democratic wing of the Party when they could have easily stopped the giveaway if they had received even mild help from the administration. Instead, the administration lobbied hard for the Omnibus bills’ Christmas gift to banksters.

Next, the Republicans sought to slip another big delay in the effective date of provisions of the Volcker bill through Congress. Progressive Democrats killed that attempt. The Obama administration couldn’t even bring itself to feign rage at the effort to gut the Volcker rule.

These Republican efforts were (a) substantively awful, (b) designed to eviscerate the key Dodd-Frank provision purportedly supported by Obama as a vital reform, and (c) would have been incredibly unpopular with the public and the Tea Party – if Obama had stirred himself to mount a public campaign opposing them à la Elizabeth Warren. But Obama never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to side with the American people against the banksters.

There is also this on Obama:

The third strike is that Obama has decided to ally with the Chamber of Commerce, the perennial ally of the Koch Brothers – the people that have demonized Obama and Democrats for seven years – to get “fast track” authority approved so he can pass one of the plutocrats’ great dreams – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Obama has also allied himself with the Business Roundtable, the CEOs of the 100 largest U.S. corporations. The Business Roundtable is also a bitter opponent of Democrats and Obama’s health policies. Obama has shaken off his torpor to energetically lobby the business lobbyists to pressure Democratic members of Congress to support TPP.

And this:

At this juncture, if you’re not already familiar with TPP you should be asking yourself, “if the draft agreement is so secret that members of Congress are not permitted to have copies of it, how did the corporations and their attorneys not only get copies of the drafts, but actually craft the drafts for the private benefit of their clients?” You also should be appalled. Obama and Froman’s TPP is being designed and handled in a fashion that reads like the playbook was designed by someone who was trying to take all the worst aspects of crony capitalism and use them to loot the public for the benefit of the world’s most rapacious and politically powerful plutocrats.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link. This is a good article that you are recommended to read all of.

[1] Maybe I should help remember the reader that Greenwald has a Jewish background (although he never Bar Mitzvahed). In any case, some pro-Israel folks object to almost any criticism of Israeli policies by calling the critics "anti- semites", which indeed tends not to contribute to a rational debate about Israel.

[2] Another reason why I am not Charlie is that I have a logical mind: I don't think it is a sign of courage to think as many millions do, and I know I am not
a French satirical paper I've never seen. (But I am for virtually unlimited freedom of expression.)

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