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Nederlog

March 18, 2015
Crisis: French terrorism, Blair, California, Bad Journalism, Canadian terrorism 
  "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. What’s Scarier: Terrorism, or Governments Blocking
     Websites in its Name?

2. Tony Blair Is Terrible at Promoting Human Rights, Great
     at Enriching Himself

3.
California’s Water Supply Could Dry Up Within a Year
4.
How Bad Journalism Is Driving the Collapse of Our
     Once-Great Public Education System

5. Is Canada Turning into a Police State?


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about France's attempts to block sites that say things the French government doesn't like; item 2 is about Tony Blair's very many lies, that all served to give him at least 20 million pounds; item 3 is about California's drying up; item 4 is about
bad journalism and education; and item 5 is about how Canada is turning into a police state, headed by Big Brother Harper.

1. What’s Scarier: Terrorism, or Governments Blocking Websites in its Name?

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The French Interior Ministry on Monday ordered that five websites be blocked on the grounds that they promote or advocate terrorism. “I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet,” proclaimed Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

When the block functions properly, visitors to those banned sites, rather than accessing the content of the sites they chose to visit, will be automatically redirected to the Interior Ministry website. There, they will be greeted by a graphic of a large red hand, and text informing them that they were attempting to access a site that causes or promotes terrorism: “you are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.”

No judge reviews the Interior Ministry’s decisions. The minister first requests that the website owner voluntarily remove the content he deems transgressive; upon disobedience, the minister unilaterally issues the order to Internet service providers for the sites to be blocked. This censorship power is vested pursuant to a law recently enacted in France empowering the interior minister to block websites.

Forcibly taking down websites deemed to be supportive of terrorism, or criminalizing speech deemed to “advocate” terrorism, is a major trend in both Europe and the West generally.

Yes, indeed. And this is quite sick, because it is quite authoritarian; because it tacitly presumes that ordinary people can trust their government (no, they cannot - see I.F. Stone); and because this kind of authoritarian invasions into what kind of opinions one is supposed to have - as opposed to behavior - is quite new in the West (except for fascism and communism).

Here is a single example from the past:

George Orwell (<- Wikipedia) fought in Spain in 1937, on the side of the elected government, and against Franco's fascists. The English government did not agree with him, but it did nothing to stop him from going there; did nothing when he fought there; did nothing when he returned; and did nothing when he published in favour of the (meanwhile defeated) Spanish government.

These days, if he were a Canadian, he might be in prison for five years:

Exploiting terrorism fears to control speech has been a common practice in the West since 9/11, but it is becoming increasingly popular even in countries that have experienced exceedingly few attacks. A new extremist bill advocated by the right-wing Harper government in Canada (also supported by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau even as he recognizes its dangers) would create new crimes for “advocating terrorism”; specifically: “every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general” would be a guilty and can be sent to prison for five years for each offense.

For that is what George Orwell did: He "communicated statements" that "knowingly advocate[d] or promote[d] the commission of terrorism offences
in general” - and note "
terrorism offences in general” may be anything the present government dislikes - and indeed he also went fighting for the Spanish government (and got shot).

And my point is not at all that I am in favor of terrorism of any kind: my point is that I am also an opponent of state terrorism that is supposed to protect people from terrorism, but in fact tries to coerce them to follow the government's line in politics and morals, while in fact all they did was disagree with the presently leading politicians. [2]

Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald says:

There can be no doubt that such new criminal laws are specifically intended to ban ideas these governments dislike.

Precisely - and that is also the point: The government wants to imprison people for five years, for the supposed offence of "communicating statements" that the government doesn't like.

And indeed also:

As those and countless other examples prove, the concepts of “extremism” and “radicalizing” (like “terrorism” itself) are incredibly vague and elastic, and in the hands of those who wield power, almost always expand far beyond what you think it should mean (plotting to blow up innocent people) to mean: anyone who disseminates ideas that are threatening to the exercise of our power. That’s why powers justified in the name of combating “radicalism” or “extremism” are invariably — not often or usually, but invariably — applied to activists, dissidents, protesters and those who challenge prevailing orthodoxies and power centers.

Precisely. And it is against these people - those who "disseminate ideas that are threatening to the exercise of our power", of which there are a great many diverse kinds, almost none of whom are "plotting to blow up innocent people" - that the "anti-terrorism" of the state's terrorists address, quite precisely in line with Goering:

It also seems to work in modern Canada. And see item 5.

2. Tony Blair Is Terrible at Promoting Human Rights, Great at Enriching Himself

The next item is an article by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:

This starts as follows (and I am willing to agree I selected this article because I strongly dislike Tony Blair ever since I first saw him on TV, which must have been circa 1993, in my mother's house: even then he oozed hypocrisy, and pretended to be a big man (which he isn't, never was, and never will be)):

After serving nearly eight years as special peace envoy for the “Quartet” powers mediating the Israel-Palestine conflict, Tony Blair is resigning, reportedly “over his poor relations with senior Palestinian Authority figures and [his] sprawling business interests.”

After almost a decade as envoy, it’s hard to see anything Blair has done to bring Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace.

Yes, indeed - but I also do not think he ever intended "to bring Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace": he intended to profit for himself.

And indeed:

But although he failed to broker peace, Blair did manage during his time as special envoy to transform himself into a well-paid and outspoken apologist for some of the most brutal autocracies in the world. The former prime minister who once positioned himself as a principled supporter of democracy, even famously waging a war to bring democracy to Iraq, now leads a consulting firm that has reportedly received tens of millions of dollars doing advisory work for dictatorial governments in the Middle East and Central Asia.

How much did Blair earn? No one really knows and he himself is constantly lying about this - as he seems to do about nearly any other thing:

Whatever his other failures, Blair has undeniably succeeded in creating a lucrative career for himself as a globetrotting “consultant” for tyrannical governments across the world. While his financial dealings are opaque, some estimates of his personal wealth have run as high as £100 million (over $148 million USD) — a figure which Blair has denied, saying, un-mathematically,
“I’m not worth 100 million, a half of it, a third of it, a quarter of it or a fifth of it or really a fraction.”

Well... let's say Mr Blair has made at least 20 million pounds for himself. What a moral degenerate!

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, that also makes clear who Blair's role model is. Here is Blair speaking:
"You look at someone like Henry [Kissinger]. He’s 91 and he’s still going strong…..These are my role models.”

3. California’s Water Supply Could Dry Up Within a Year 

The next item is an article by Donald Kaufman on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday expanded emergency regulations regarding the state’s use of water. 

The board announced the updated guidelines as news emerged that the combination of a four-year extreme drought and California’s high water use could hasten the end of the state’s remaining water supplies to within a year.

I say. I admit this - the possibility that "the end of the state’s remaining water supplies" may be "within a year" - is half of the reason I selected this fairly brief article. Before turning to the other half of my reasons, here is some more, that is quoted from the Los Angeles Times:

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing.

Here is the other half of my reasons to select this article: Silicon Valley (<- Wikipedia) is also in California, and I am simply curious how the computer industry will battle a very serious drought.

To be sure: I have no ideas, though indeed Californian politicians also do not seem to have any. I am merely curious, but my curiosity has a fairly well founded economic reason. I quote Wikipedia:

Silicon Valley is a leading hub for high-tech innovation and development, accounting for one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the United States

4. How Bad Journalism Is Driving the Collapse of Our Once-Great Public Education System

The next item is an article by Jeff Bryant on Alternet:

This has the following subtitle, that seems quite correct (though I am willing to agree that news media generally write about things as if they know them, which indeed often is plain false in some respects [1]):

Most of the news media have no idea how schools run, but they write about them as if they do.

Having said that and footnoted it, here is the beginning of the article:

Be afraid, be very afraid, any time you see a reporter in the business media turn his or her attention to education and public schools. What will likely follow is a string of truisms used to prop up a specious argument, steeped in biased notions that were themselves picked up from ill-informed conversations promoted by other clu0eless business news outlets.

Also this is the beginning of a long article, that I will leave mostly to your interests, but the general background is as follows:

One such discovery revealed that whenever cable news outlets such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC feature programming devoted to education, those segments hardly ever feature real educators.

Over all cable news channels, only 9 percent of guests in education segments were educators. This would be like CNBC reporting on the stock market and hardly ever consulting with experts on finance and investing or the CEOs of publically traded companies.

Print and online news outlets aren't much better. Tone recently came across a study that found "education experts" often cited in print and online news stories "may have little expertise in education policy." The study found that the "experts" who are cited the most often are neither career educators nor scholars who've published and achieved advanced degrees; rather, they tend to be individuals from influential right-wing think tanks, with little to no scholarly work or graduate-level degree work in education.

In fact, I can explain that: the journalists generally also have "little to no scholarly work or graduate-level degree work in education" so they cannot judge rationally, while they are far more exposed to purported "experts" from think tanks (whose job it is to know many journalists) than to real experts, who generally are not out to hunt journalists.

Anyway - there is a lot more in the article, and it ends like this:

Over and over, we are delivered delirious pronouncements about "innovations" like vouchers and "choice," rather than keen insights from experts who can explain the strong evidence base for real improvements -- like class size reduction, early childhood education, and rich learning environments that include the arts and music and well stocked libraries.

What we're left with is a grand echo chamber of garbage, spewing out myth and misinformation that misdirects us from what would really be best for children and families.

And that really is scary.

Yes, indeed.

5. Is Canada Turning into a Police State?

The last item today is an article by Joyce Nelson on Alternet (and originally on Counterpunch):
This starts as follows (and is a long and thorough article you should read all of):
Back in 2006, the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada, right-wing Conservative Stephen Harper warned that “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it.” After nine grueling years, that’s already true in many ways. But now, Harper is going even further in his re-make of the country. Under new and pending legislation, Canada is moving rapidly towards the creation of a police state, with major curtailments of civil liberties. In recent weeks, the Harper Conservatives have introduced and/or passed several pieces of legislation that run roughshod over Canadians’ Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Constitutional rights, giving draconian powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
Here are first a few of the billls Harper's government wants to introduce in Canada:
There’s Bill C-13, the highly unpopular online spying legislation, which received Royal Assent on Dec. 9, 2014. The Bill allows warrantless internet surveillance through the collection by CSIS of Canadians’ everyday internet use.
(....)
There’s Bill C-44, which expands the surveillance powers of CSIS globally, while granting anonymity protection to CSIS informants and allowing for new conditions under which Canadian citizenship can be revoked.
(...)
There’s Bill C-639, introduced on Dec. 3, which impinges on the Constitutional right of assembly and would criminalize people exercising their democratic right to public protest. And there’s Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, introduced on Jan. 30, containing draconian measures that verge on the creation of a police state.
Next, the article - which is long and good - is going to concentrate on Bill C-639 and Bill C-51. As to Bill C-639 (quoted minus note numbers):

The Bill creates a new criminal office for anyone who “destroys or damages any part of a critical infrastructure; renders any part of a critical infrastructure dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective; or obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operations of any part of a critical infrastructure.” This amendment would criminalize peaceful and (currently) lawful protests if they interfere even temporarily with broadly defined “critical infrastructure.” The Bill imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of two to 10 years and fines of $500 to $3,000.

Bill C-639 defines “critical infrastructure” as “services relating to energy, telecommunications, finance, health care, food, water transportation, public safety, government and manufacturing, the disruption of which could produce serious adverse economic effects or endanger the health or safety of Canadians.” The bill received backing from Minister of Justice/Attorney General Peter MacKay, who said it would “help secure all facets of critical infrastructure.”
(...)
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) considers Bill C-639 a direct attack on the Canadian Constitution and Charter rights, and says the Harper government is “borrowing tactics from dictatorial governments.”
My own opinion is that the concept of “critical infrastructure” is a typical concept of an authoritarian anti-democratic state and that those who support it are sick (with lust for absolute power) - and yes: these are "tactics from dictatorial governments.”

As to Bill C-51, there is this (quoted minus note numbers)

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says this bill “broadens CSIS’s powers significantly” and “may criminalize legitimate speech.” The bill authorizes CSIS to block Canadian websites, and it defines “terrorist propaganda” as “any writing, sign, visible representation or audio recording that advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general.” Because of the vagueness of the phrasing, the CCLA notes it could have a “potential chilling effect on academics and journalists and bloggers,” who could face up to five years in prison if their writing is judged to have somehow encouraged “terrorism.”

Bill C-51 vaguely defines “terrorism” as any “activity that undermines the security of Canada,” including “interference with critical infrastructure,” but also “interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to…the economic or financial stability of Canada.”

This is another thoroughly sick and degenerate bill: On its completely insane "definition" of "terrorism" anybody is a "terrorist" who is said by the government to do or say, or to want to do or want to say (!!), anything that "undermines the security of Canada" (as seen by the present Canadian  government) or who commits “interference with critical infrastructure” (?!?!?!) or who does, says, intends to do, intends to say, or is being deemed by the present government as possibly intending to say (!!!!) anything that the present Canadian government may explain as neing somehow harmful to its conception of "the economic or financial stability of Canada".

All this is "terrorism" according to the present lying Canadian government!!!

Here is what "terror" and 'terrorism" do mean, according to my Oxford Shorter English Dictionary:
Terror: (...) 1. The state of being terrified or greatly frightened; intense fear, fright or dread (..) 2. The action or quality of causing dread; terrific quality, terribleness

Terrorism: (...) 1. Government by intimidation (..) 2. A policy untended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized.
So there is no reference of any kind to "security", "interference", "critical infrastructure" or "economic or financial stability": All of these are mentioned by the present Canadian government to strike terror (SOED) in the hearts of its electorate and politicians, so that the Canadian government can continue its own state terrorism [2] in its own interests (and those of its rich backers).

There is also this:

The bill also lowers the threshold for “preventive arrests;” makes it easier to place people on no-fly lists; gives authorities the power to hold suspected “terrorists” without charge for seven days (instead of three); allows a judge to impose up to a year of house arrest on someone who has not been charged or convicted of any crime; and it allows CSIS agents to “disrupt” threats to Canadian security – a blatant extension of CSIS powers beyond intelligence-gathering and into policing.

Bill C-51 also allows people to be detained if they “may” have terrorist plans. As the BCCLA’s policy director Michael Vonn warned in a news release, “Criminalizing people’s words and thoughts is misguided and won’t make Canadians any safer.”
Please note that the present Canadian government can soon arrest all Canadians - except for the government and the secret services, of course - simply because
all Canadians "
“may” have terrorist plans".

Anyway, this is a good article that you are recommended to read all of. (It will very probably not make you happier, but it will inform you.)

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Note

[1] I think I've said it before (I don't know and wrote more than 3000 articles just in Nederlog over the last 11 years) but if so, here it is again:

I have noticed quite a few times that reports in the press about things that I knew about through being there, having friends who were there, or because of having some background knowledge, were usually mistaken about some things that one also would not suspect if one did not know more than anyone else.

Also, having lived with a journalist for some years (and she was quite good) it seems to me that this is quite unavoidable and typical: Journalists usually do not know much more than average people about the things they have to write about - and that also cannot be helped.

And my points are especially that (1) one simply cannot trust much of the news that the press relays, not because it is written by people who lie intentionally, but simply because journalists cannot know much more than average people about most of the subjects they write about, and indeed often are lied to, and (2) the only known way to avoid being misled (mostly unintentionally) is - when it matters - to try to find several distinct sources for the same news.

(And in fact I fairly often try to do so.)

[2] I have said it before, and say it again: There are at least two distinct kinds of terrorists, which is here defined sensibly as: a terrorist is anyone who tries to further his political or religious plans and ideals by murder and violence or by threats with murder or violence.

The two kinds are these: Non-state terrorists, who are terrorists, but who do not commit their terrorism for a state, and state terrorists, who are terrorists who do commit their terrorism for a state (and usually work for it, often in the police, the military or the secret services).

It should be obvious that state terrorism is far more dangerous and also in general far more successful than non-state terrorism.

Finally, I note also that even good definitions of "terrorism" have the setback that what gets identified as "terrorism" generally and all too often depends on one's religious or political allegiance:
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945.)
And I note that Orwell himself belonged to the minority that judges actions "on their own merits" rather than "according to who does them".

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