March 26, 2015
Crisis: British police * 2, FBI, Obama's TPP, Bankers 
  "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. Police continued spying on Labour activists after their
     election as MPs

2. The Guardian view on surveillance of MPs: don’t confuse
     dissent with crime

3. FBI told its cyber surveillance programs have actually
     not gone far enough

Obama's Terrible Trade Pact Is a Scam That Must Be

5. Bankers Hate Peace


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 26, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 and item 2 both are about the British police spying on British politicians, and also a little about The Guardian; item 3 is about anothe Guardian article (good, this time) about the FBI; item 4 is about a good article - except for the silly first sentence - about the TPP; and item 5 is about banking, and has two dotted links (the last quite interesting).

1. Police continued spying on Labour activists after their election as MPs

The first item is an article by Rob Evans and Rowena Mason on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Police conducted spying operations on a string of Labour politicians during the 1990s, covertly monitoring them even after they had been elected to the House of Commons, a whistleblower has revealed.

Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer, said he read secret files on 10 MPs during his 11 years working for the Metropolitan police’s special branch. They include Labour’s current deputy leader, Harriet Harman, the former cabinet minister Peter Hain and the former home secretary Jack Straw.

Francis said he personally collected information on three MPs – Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and the late Bernie Grant – while he was deployed undercover infiltrating anti-racist groups. He also named Ken Livingstone, the late Tony Benn, Joan Ruddock and Dennis Skinner as having been subjected to special branch intelligence-gathering. The files on all 10 were held by Scotland Yard.

The whistleblower said special branch files were often “very extensive” and typically described the subject’s political beliefs, personal background such as parents, school and finances, and demonstrations they attended. Some contained “some personal and private matters”, Francis added.
Do I say "I say"? No I don't, for similar things happened in Holland, in so far as these are known, and it seems elsewhere as well. Besides, I don't like the title of this article, that seems to suggest that spying on non-MPs, especially of such radicals as belong to the Blairified New Labour (by a Blarified New Labour government), is quite OK, which I think is plainly ridiculous and contemptible.

For I think people in general, MPs and non-MPs, should not be spied upon at all, except on plausible evidence that would entail they committed a crime if the evidence were given in court and also except if overseen by a public judge.

Anything else gives far too great powers to the government (that you never can trust), to the police (always pro-government), and/or the secret services
(always pro-government).

Also, although my opinion is not radical at all, and was widely accepted, the Blauified Guardian seems to disagree:

2. The Guardian view on surveillance of MPs: don’t confuse dissent with crime

The next item is an article by "Editorial" on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
We reveal tonight that at least 10 Labour MPs were covertly monitored in the early years of Tony Blair’s first government, apparently on suspicion that they posed a threat to public order. Some, like Diane Abbott, were involved in anti-racist activities, others in anti-nuclear campaigns. Astonishingly, the names include Jack Straw, possibly at the time when he was actually home secretary, as well as his cabinet colleague Harriet Harman. None of them has ever faced any criminal charge. This is both a grotesque breach of police power and a grave intrusion on the privilege of elected MPs, a privilege that exists to allow them to be guardians of their constituents’ freedoms. That does not mean that they are above the law. But nor are the security services or the police. They all need the protection provided by a transparent legal framework. At the moment, it is not clear that MPs have it.
I have a simple question or two: What is "the privilege of elected MPs, a privilege that exists to allow them to be guardians of their constituents’ freedoms"?! And why should "MPs have it" - but ordinary British people be denied it?!

Besides, I'd say that it is clear that MPs do not have it - whatever the principle  precisely is - since "
at least 10 Labour MPs were covertly monitored", by their own Labour government.

And yes, I have heard about Harold Wilson's promise (that the phones of MPs would not be listened to). But that was ca. 1961 and it was a mere comment.
Also, I have read Tony Blair reaffirmed Harold Wilson's comment, but that was Tony Blair, who clearly was lying.

So this really is unclear to me:
What is "the privilege of elected MPs, a privilege that exists to allow them to be guardians of their constituents’ freedoms"? (I am asking, and could not find it on Wikipedia.)

3. FBI told its cyber surveillance programs have actually not gone far enough  

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman and Alan Yuhas on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

An in-house review of the FBI has found the agency failing to go far enough in its expansion of physical and cyber surveillance programs, urging the bureau to recruit deeper networks of informants and bring its technological abilities up to pace with other intelligence agencies.

While billed as a damning critique of the FBI, the in-house assessment known as the 9/11 Review Commission primarily attacks the bureau for not moving fast enough to become a domestic intelligence agency, precisely the direction in which the FBI has pivoted since the 2001 terror attacks.

Incidentally, the phrase "While billed as a damning critique of the FBI" is another sign of the inversions of all terminology that these days - and since the early 2000s - are so very popular among politicians or their think tanks:

"Citizens United" = "Billionaires United", "Progressive Coalition" = "Conservative Coalition", "Transparent" = "Secret" etc. etc. (I merely observe it, but this is a very strong tendency: wrap your extreme conservative plans in a terminological progressive wrapper, and pretend you mean well.)

The "in-house review of the FBI" has lots of praise for itself:

“With the new and almost entirely unclassified AG Guidelines, special agents working on national security issues could now at the assessment stage ‘recruit and task sources, engage in interviews of members of the public without a requirement to identify themselves as FBI agents and disclose the precise purpose of the interview, and engage in physical surveillance not requiring a court order’ just as special agents working on organized crime investigations could do,” the authors wrote.

That is, now the FBI can legally deceive anyone "without a requirement to identify themselves as FBI agents and disclose the precise purpose of the interview" and track anyone without any court knowing of it: the FBI now
may "
engage in physical surveillance not requiring a court order’".

Note the last quoted statement was mostly quoted from the "in-house review of the FBI". Here is what others found:

Last year, the federal government’s civil liberties watchdog confirmed that FBI agents can search international communications from Americans collected in bulk from the National Security Agency without even a log of their access. Numerous studies, including a 2010 Justice Department report, have confirmed that the FBI abused its powers to issue nonjudicial subpoenas known as “exigent letters” or “national security letters” to improperly access Americans’ phone data.

There is considerably more in this article.

4. Obama's Terrible Trade Pact Is a Scam That Must Be Stopped 

The next item is an article by Jim Hightower on AlterNet:
This is from the beginning, though not the start ([1]):

Once again, the American people are being victimized by a hush-hush blanket of official secrecy, rhetorical dodges and outright lies. This time it's not about wholesale spying on us by our own government, but a wholesale assault on our jobs, environment, health and even our people's sovereignty. The assaulters are a cabal of global corporations and the Obama administration.

Their weapon is a scheme hidden inside a scam. Called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the scam is their claim that TPP is nothing but another free trade deal -- albeit a whopper of a deal -- one that ties our economy to Brunei, Vietnam, and nine other nations around the Pacific Rim. But of the 29 chapters in this deal, only five are about tariffs and other trade matters.

The real deal is in the 24 other chapters that create a supranational scheme of secretive, private tribunals that corporations from any TPP nation can use to challenge and overturn our local, state and national laws. All a corporate power has to do to win in these closed proceedings is to show that a particular law or regulation might reduce its future profits.

This is big stuff, amounting to the enthronement of a global corporate oligarchy over us. Yet it's been negotiated among trade officials of the 12 countries in strict secrecy. Even members of Congress have been shut out -- but some 500 corporate executives have been allowed inside to shape the "partnership."

Now that President Obama and his corporate team intend to spring it on us and start ramming TPP through Congress. He recently arranged a briefing to woo House Democrats to support it -- but he even classified the briefing as a secret session, meaning the lawmakers are not allowed to tell you, me or anyone else anything about what they were told.

Yes, indeed. There is more in the article, and it is good (but I do not understand its two opening sentences [1].)

5. Bankers Hate Peace 

The next item is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This is from the beginning:

Former managing director of Goldman Sachs – and head of the international analytics group at Bear Stearns in London (Nomi Prins) – notes:

Throughout the century that I examined, which began with the Panic of 1907 … what I found by accessing the archives of each president is that through many events and periods, particular bankers were in constant communication [with the White House] — not just about financial and economic policy, and by extension trade policy, but also about aspects of World War I, or World War II, or the Cold War, in terms of the expansion that America was undergoing as a superpower in the world, politically, buoyed by the financial expansion of the banking community.

In fact, the article is quite good, but the article quoted above seems even better, and I would have reviewed it if I had found it in 2014. It is better because it is an interview with Goldman Sach's former managing director Nomi Prins:
This starts as follows, and is very well worth reading in full:

“It no longer matters who sits in the White House,” former Goldman Sachs managing director Nomi Prins writes in her new book “All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power.” “Presidents no longer even try to garner banker support for population-friendly policies, and bankers operate oblivious to the needs of national economies. There is no counterbalance to their power.”

Prins, who also worked for Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan Bank, is now a fellow at the think tank Demos and a member of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Federal Reserve Advisory Council.
An interesting woman. I'll quote two bits. First, about deregulation:

What we see in history is that whenever there are periods where bankers have lost money, they want to regroup and find ways in which they can make new money. And if regulations are in the way, then regulations must be dismantled.

And so through George Bush I’s administration, there was tremendous pressure to dismantle aspects of Glass-Steagall, and that culminated in the full repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act under Clinton. And the aftermath of that was — absent barriers to global activity, speculation mingled with the increase in derivatives activity, and the complexity of financial security and deals — we found ourselves in the crisis of 2008.

Precisely - and I say "precisely", because I deduced the same, but did so since 2008, while Nomi Prins was the managing director of Goldman Sachs while the above happened.

And second about the noble, changing, progressive, transparent Obama:

Obama’s economic and financial policy, Cabinet and advisers are largely retreads of the Clinton administration. So from the standpoint of the banking community, and connections to the banking community, there was very much an overlap, if not a complete overlap, of individuals who were all key to the deregulation of the banking industry, and who either came from, or now speak for, large sums of money through the banking industry …

The policies of not just lax regulation of banks, but subsidizing their failures — which the Clinton administration did after the 1994 Mexican Peso Crisis, and which the Bush administration even before that, did with the third-world debt crisis — was magnified many times under the Obama administration. His favorite banker was said to be — by the New York Times — Jamie Dimon. The number of visits, which I document in the book, between the White House and the key leaders of the big six Wall Street banks, increased five- to tenfold under Obama versus under George W. Bush.
So the way I look at Obama is that his policies were a continuation of Clinton’s policies with respect to banking and finance, which were a continuation of George Bush’s policies, and Reagan’s policies, as they were actually shaped by Bush’s banking friends of the time.

So this is an article to read all of.


[1] The article starts with these two statements:
Ed, please call home! Edward Snowden, that is: Come quickly; your country needs you.
which - I am sorry to say - I find totally pointless and quite silly.

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