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Nederlog

March 5, 2015
Crisis: Russia, NSA, Silicon Valley, Communist Manifesto, "Collapse"
  "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















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Sections
Introduction

1. The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war
2. Ignore the Drumbeat of Doom, the NSA’s Call Records
     Program Didn’t Stop a Single Terrorist Attack

3. Tomorrowland: How Silicon Valley Shapes Our Future
4.
Communist Manifesto sales rise up as Penguin releases
     bargain classics

5.
Collapse - The End Of The Age Of Oil


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 5, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items and 7 dotted links: Item 1 is on the anti-Russian propaganda that now is popular; item 2 is on the NSA, who did not stop a single terrorist attack; item 3 is a long item on Silicon Valley, which I did not like; item 4 is about the Communist Manifesto and other bargan classics now
released by Penguin (I couldn't resist this item, though it is not a crisis item); and item 5 is about a film called "Collapse - The End Of The Age Of Oil", that is mostly about the opinions and writings of Michael C. Ruppert, that I all found quite interesting and revealing.

1. The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war

The first item today is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

A quarter of a century after the end of the cold war, the “Russian threat” is unmistakably back. Vladimir Putin, Britain’s defence secretary Michael Fallon declares, is as great a danger to Europe as “Islamic State”. There may be no ideological confrontation, and Russia may be a shadow of its Soviet predecessor, but the anti-Russian drumbeat has now reached fever pitch.

And much more than in Soviet times, the campaign is personal. It’s all about Putin. The Russian president is an expansionist dictator who has launched a “shameless aggression”. He is the epitome of “political depravity”, “carving up” his neighbours as he crushes dissent at home, and routinely is compared to Hitler. Putin has now become a cartoon villain and Russia the target of almost uniformly belligerent propaganda across the western media. Anyone who questions the dominant narrative on Ukraine – from last year’s overthrow of the elected president and the role of Ukrainian far right to war crimes carried out by Kiev’s forces – is dismissed as a Kremlin dupe.

Yes - and an additional point, that is not mentioned, but that certainly plays a considerable role for me, is that I can hardly trust the Western main media anymore, and especially not as regards things in which enormous amounts of money are involved: The smell of propaganda is far too strong. (And not only about Russia and the Ukraine, though two additional difficulties there for me are that I followed Russia a lot less than the West the last 45 years, and also I can't read Russian or Ukrainian. [1])

There is considerably more under the last dotted link that I leave to your interests, but I will quote two more points.

First, there is this:

Hundreds of US troops are arriving in Ukraine this week to bolster the Kiev regime’s war with Russian-backed rebels in the east. Not to be outdone, Britain is sending 75 military advisers of its own. As 20th-century history shows, the dispatch of military advisers is often how disastrous escalations start. They are also a direct violation of last month’s Minsk agreement, negotiated with France and Germany, that has at least achieved a temporary ceasefire and some pull-back of heavy weapons. Article 10 requires the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Ukraine.
That is serious, for Seumas Milne is right that "the dispatch of military advisers is often how disastrous escalations start", and this also shows both the U.S. and England are on an opposite course than Germany and France, and are quite willing to break the agreements made by Germany and France.

And the article ends as follows:
The alternative is a negotiated settlement which guarantees Ukraine’s neutrality, pluralism and regional autonomy. It may well be too late for that. But there is certainly no military solution. Instead of escalating the war and fuelling nationalist extremism, western powers should be using their leverage to wind it down. If they don’t, the consequences could be disastrous – far beyond Ukraine.

Yes, indeed.

2. Ignore the Drumbeat of Doom, the NSA’s Call Records Program Didn’t Stop a Single Terrorist Attack

The next item is an article by Rachel Nusbaum on Commom Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Do you hear that? It's starting.

The predictable drumbeat of dire warnings about what will happen if portions of the Patriot Act – the post-9/11 law being used to conduct controversial NSA dragnet surveillance – are allowed to expire on June 1 has already begun.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, issued what is likely to be the first of many vague warnings from the intelligence community on Monday. Faced with the expiration of the part of the Patriot Act that allows the bulk collection of information about Americans' phone calls, Clapper brought out the favored hypothetical of the surveillance hawk: An unspecified attack will occur, which would have been prevented if Congress had reauthorized the dragnet collection of Americans' phone calls.

"If that tool is taken away from us... and some untoward incident happens that could have been thwarted if we had had it," Clapper said, "I hope that everyone involved in that decision assumes the responsibility."

As Rachel Nusbaum points out one main problem with Clapper's claims is that there is no "act of terrorism" that was ever stopped by the NSA. Besides, as Rachel Nusbaum - who works for the ACLU - does not point out (but as Noam
Chomsky recently did
) the purpose of the NSA is not to prevent terrorism, but
to control the American population. The "war on terrorism" is the pretext for doing that.

Anyway - I am curious to see whether "
the bulk collection of information about Americans' phone calls" will be stopped, but I am rather pessimistic, in part  because half of the American population doesn't seem to mind much.

3. Tomorrowland: How Silicon Valley Shapes Our Future   

The next item is an article by Thomas Schulz on Spiegel Online International:

This starts with the following subtitle (bold in the original):
In the Silicon Valley, a new elite is forming that wants to determine not only what we consume, but also the way we live. They want to change the world, but they don't want to accept any rules. Do they need to be reined in?
I'd say that to ask the question is virtually to answer it: Yes, of course they need to be reigned in, for no one may "change the world" in major ways without the consent of the majority of whoever is affected. Then again: Who will stop them?

The article starts with some specifics about Uber, that I will skip. The more general point is this:

But Uber isn't the only company with ambitions of taking over the world. That's how they all think: Google and Facebook, Apple and Airbnb -- all the digital giants along with the myriad smaller companies in their wake.

Their goal is never a niche market; it's always the entire world. But far from being driven by delusional fantasies, their objectives are often realistic, made possible by a potent cocktail unique in economic history: globalization combined with digitalization.

Thomas Schulz has some - rather breathless and vaguely grandiose - prose to follow this up, that I again skip, and then comes with this:
We are witnessing nothing less than a societal transformation that ultimately nobody will be able to avoid. It is the kind of sea change that can only be compared with 19th century industrialization, but it is happening much faster this time.
And briefly afterward, this:
The new global elite are no longer based on Wall Street. Rather, they have their headquarters in Silicon Valley, the 80-kilometer (50-mile) long valley south of San Francisco. It is here that the chip industry got its start and where the computer age began -- and it is now where the leaders of the current digital revolution are located.
There is a lot more, including brief pieces on various leading personalities of Silicon Valley, and I read most of it, but it seems mostly bullshit to me. The main reasons for that are that (1) an economy does not run on information but on real goods, and (2) I haven't seen a whiff of an answer about the energy crisis, the climate change, the income inequality and many other main problems, and (3)
I also think that Wall Street is considerably more powerful than the moguls of Silicon Valley, simply as a matter of fact. (They are everywhere in the U.S. government, and also pay most of the lobbyists who try to manipulate Congress.)

So this article seems to tell the story the Silicon Valley moguls love to hear about their great personalities, and not much else. (And see item 5 for some rather different backgrounds.)

4. Communist Manifesto sales rise up as Penguin releases bargain classics      

The next item is an article by Alison Flood on The Guardian that I couldn't resist because I have been raised a communist, which I gave up at 20, because I decided science was a better way to try to emancipate mankind than politics (and also for other reasons), and I have since then learned a lot from many Penguins,  Pelicans and Penguin Classics, that were invented - at least: as cheap paperbacks - in the 1930ies by Allen Lane (<- Wikipedia):

This starts as follows:

More than 1,700 bargain copies of The Communist Manifesto have sold in the last week, in the form of an 80p edition of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s call to the working classes to revolt.

The book is part of a collection of 80 works re-published on 26 February to mark the 80 years since Allen Lane launched the first Penguin paperbacks for sixpence each, the price of a packet of cigarettes. From Marx’s call to arms to Christina Rossetti’s disturbing poem Goblin Market, and from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist classic The Yellow Wallpaper to Samuel Pepys on the Great Fire of London, each “Little Black Classic” is 64 pages long and costs 80p.

Also, it is at least a bit amazing that the Communist Manifesto is the present top seller of the series. In any case, it seems to me that the days of the book are not over yet.

5. Collapse - The End Of The Age Of Oil

The final item for today is not an article but a film of 1 h 22 m 47 s

This is basically a long interview with Michael C. Ruppert (1951-2014), with the interview made over 5 days in 2009, to which was then added rather a lot of background material.

It is very well worth watching: Even if you disagree, the case that is made is quite strong.

Also, I didn't know who Michael Ruppert was till yesterday. In brief, Ruppert was a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, who had turned into a writer and an investigative journalist; who had published two books, both best sellers; and who had unearthed a whole lot of information about the role of the CIA in smuggling drugs; about 9/11 (he was a conspiracy theorist); and about peak oil.

All of these are mentioned in "Collapse". I liked the film and I liked Ruppert, though I am rather sure that I would not have agreed with him on quite a
few things - but then again he does make considerable sense on peak oil and
on the collapse that Ruppert predicted (who also predicted the 2008 crisis before it happened, unlike most economists).

His basic argument indeed is quite simple:

The real basis of the economic development of the last 150 years or so is oil, that also has allowed the number of people to rise from 2 billion to 7 billion in the last 100 years; oil is past its peak; and human civilization-as-is must soon collapse without such a natural source of cheap energy (and of much else: plastics, rubber and very many more things are made from oil).

I think that argument is correct - and so far there is nothing to replace oil.

The rest of the argument is considerably less certain (when will it collapse? how will it collapse? what should or can one do? etc. etc.) - and there also may be an additional problem, which is that Michael Ruppert (very probably) committed suicide on April 13, 2014. [2]

Here is an item of Abby Martin that I found about his suicide, that seemed to have been due to longer existing depression, and to despair. This takes 5 m 7 s:

He was also 63. Finally, here is another interview with Michael Ruppert by Abby Martin, from October 2013. This takes 10 m 42 s:

This is also a good interview.

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Notes

[1] As a Westerner, you may think what you please about the Western main media, but very probably, and still speaking about Europeans or Americans, you
are as relatively uninformed as I am about Russia and the Ukraine.

[2] Personally, I don't much care, in the sense that Michael Ruppert was 63, must have had a difficult life, and had an earlier history of being depressed. That is, I think it is a pity he died, but that he took his own life at 63 doesn't much change my opinions about him. (Had he been 23 or 33 this might have been different.)

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