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Nederlog

April 1, 2015
Crisis: Geopolitics, TPP, "Intelligence Community", France, SSRIs
  "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. Geopolitical Tremors: America, Nuclear Talks and the
     New Middle East

2. Trans-Pacific Partnership Proves Rules Are Rigged in
     Favor of the 1 Percent

3. Why Doesn't the Intelligence Community Care Whether
     Its Security Programs Work?

4.
France’s Censorship and Surveillance Initiatives Lack
     Judicial Review

5. a clinical impression…


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a Spiegel article that considerably disappointed me; item 2 is a fine article on Common Dreams about the horrors of the TPP and its very dishonest anti-democratic secrecy; item 3 is about the NSA etc. but has a very wrong and mistaken title; item 4 is about how France is moving in the direction of an anti-democratic
authoritarian state; and item 5 is about the huge dangers that may be involved
in taking a psychiatric anti-depressant (which may have brought down the German plane that was crashed by its co-pilot). 

1. Geopolitical Tremors: America, Nuclear Talks and the New Middle East

The first item is an article by
Nicola Abé, Dieter Bednarz, Erich Follath and Holger Stark on the SpiegelOnline International: This has the following subtitle (bold in the original):
The US is rethinking its approach to the Middle East and has even found commonalities with erstwhile archenemy Iran. Meanwhile, relations with traditional American allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, are cooling. A nuclear deal could further the shift.
To me that sounds mostly like speculation dressed in clichés ("erstwhile archenemy Iran").

It starts as follows:

Barack Obama wanted to do everything differently than his predecessor, also in the realm of foreign policy. He wanted to bring an end to America's role as global police officer and to lead from the background rather than pursue one-sided dominance. His vision was that of becoming a moderator of international politics and finding allies for new coalitions.

Really now?! How come these four Spiegel journalists know what Obama wants?

It seems to me that they do not know him much better than I do, who has followed him rather closely since 2009, when I lost what little faith I had in him, and made a discovery that the journalists of Spiegel seem to have missed:

What Obama says to the public is very much dictated by what he or his propaganda staff thinks the public likes to hear (which is completely as the political game is played: please the electorate; say what they want to hear; so you can do as you please); what Obama does is to do most (not all: merely most) things as his predecessors - Clinton and Bush Jr - did them:

Banks and their managers can do as they please, and are not prosecuted at all; whistleblowers are fanatically prosecuted as if they are spies; the wars started by Bush have all continued; the American poor are still getting poorer and the rich are still getting richer - in short: Obama is an ordinary U.S. president who got the power by pretending he was different and by doing so quite successfully and charmingly, but who failed to keep most of his pretenses (and indeed never seems to have any intentions to keep them: they were merely the things he had to say to become elected, and he was, and since then he keeps "looking forward").

Also, I am not a radical in saying what I said in the two previous paragraph.

So while I have read the whole article this seems to have been written by four journalists who still believe in what Obama says rather than in what he does, and who indulge in some very facile speculations.

I found little of real interest in it, but leave this to you, and turn to the next article.

2. Trans-Pacific Partnership Proves Rules Are Rigged in Favor of the 1 Percent

The next item is an article by Katrina vanden Heuvel on Common Dreams (and originally on the Washington Post):

This starts as follows:
“China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region … We should write those rules,” President Obama declared in his State of the Union address. To sell Congress on giving him authority to “fast track” consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade and investment treaty with 12 nations that has been under negotiation for five years, the president argues it is vital that “we” write the rules. The real question, of course, is what does he mean by “we”?
Yes indeed - and it cannot be "we, the American people", for Obama wants to keep the rules of the TPP secret until four years have passed after they are introduced or voted down. That is not as this ought to be done in a real democracy; this is how authoritarian regimes and presidents operate: They decide, and what they decide you may not even know (though you pay for the consequences) until at least four years have passed.

And indeed:
Our global trade and tax policies have been and still are controlled by corporate and financial interests. They, not workers or consumers, write the rules. In the early post-World War II years, trade treaties were focused on lowering tariffs. In theory at least, workers in both nations might benefit from larger markets and increased trade. But now a significant portion of our trade is intra-corporate trade, an exchange between one branch of a multinational and another. Multinationals have different interests than national companies. They profit even if U.S. workers suffer.
There is also this:
The TPP is a classic expression of the way the rules are fixed to benefit the few and not the many. It has been negotiated in secret, but 500 corporations and banks sit on advisory committees with access to various chapters. The lead negotiator, Michael Froman, was a protege of former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin, and followed him from Treasury to Citibank, the bank whose excesses helped blow up the economy before it had to be bailed out. Although corporations are wired in, the American people are locked out of the TPP negotiations. And, as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, “Members of Congress and their staff have an easier time accessing national security documents than proposed trade deals, but if I were negotiating this deal I suppose I wouldn’t want people to see it either.”
And this:
The brutal negotiations of the TPP haven’t been about tariffs but about protections and regulations. Last week, the draft chapter concerning the “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” mechanism was leaked to Wikileaks and the New York Times. Essentially, the chapter allows a company to sue for taxpayer damages if a government (federal, state or local) passes laws or take actions that the company alleges will impinge on future expected profits. The “tribunal” is a panel of lawyers, drawn from a small group of accredited international lawyers who serve both as judges and advocates. If successful the companies can collect millions in damages from governments. The provisions are so shocking that the TPP mandates that the chapter not be declassified until four years after the TPP goes into force or fails to pass.
In brief: This is a very good piece you should read all of if you want to know about the TPP or Obama's real politics.

3. Why Doesn't the Intelligence Community Care Whether Its Security Programs Work?  

The next item is an article by Michael Brennan that I found on Truth-out, but that appeared originally on The Brennan Center for Justice:
This starts as follows:

The House and Senate Intelligence Committee just passed a cybersecurity bill that critics argue isn't likely to improve cybersecurity. In fact, because it undermines the privacy of electronic communications by encouraging companies to broadly share private data with the government and each other, it may actually damage cybersecurity.

For anyone who follows intelligence policy, this shouldn't be a surprise. The intelligence community all too often launches grand new programs without conducting the appropriate research and evaluations to determine whether they will work, or simply create new harms.

And not only that: There is hardly any decent oversight of the doings of what is here described as the "intelligence community", for their programs are all deep secrets, that are kept deep secrets by classifying them as "national security", even though this so-called "intelligence community" tries to lap up, by hook or by crook, everything anyone puts on line or says on a phone, thereby totally destroying almost any privacy of - it seems - all American inhabitants.

Besides, it seems to me pretty sick and wildly inappropriate to ask the so-called "intelligence community" to conduct "the appropriate research and evaluations to determine whether" their own programs work or create new harms: That should be done by other people, and notably by Congress (but Congress is denied the right to know most of what the so-called "intelligence community" is up to).

Indeed, there are rather crazy outcomes like these:
The FBI and National Security Agency had long told Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the bulk collection of all domestic telephony metadata was "vital" to its counterterrorism efforts. But once Edward Snowden leaked the program to journalists, these claims crumbled under public scrutiny. The government now admits it didn't help interdict any terrorist attacks, a conclusion backed by a group of experts the President charged with reviewing it. Yet a bill that would not even have ended the program, but merely narrowed the government's use of the data, failed last year.
This strongly supports my own contention (of 2005!) that what the FBI and the NSA are really doing is setting up a total surveillance program of the whole American population, that will allow them to know everything anyone thinks or said; to secretly manipulate any organization; and to arrest people before they commit whatever is deemed "a crime" by the government.

It is a sick, degenerate, anti-democratic, authoritarian schema of control and secret knowledge that only fits an
anti-democratic and authoritarian government.

There is a lot more in the article, including three videos, and while the article is interesting, at least the title seems completely misguided:

One should not ask the
so-called "intelligence community" to find out themselves whether their programs work. This should be done by a completely independent entity, that does get all the data, and is overseen by Congress.

4. France’s Censorship and Surveillance Initiatives Lack Judicial Review

The next item is an article by Sophia Cope and Jilian York that I found on Raging Bull-Shit but that first appeared on the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
This starts as follows:

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January, including the murder of several journalists at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, we anticipated that the French government would  overreact. Sure enough, recent reporting has revealed that France is censoring websites and pushing for broader surveillance powers.

According to the reporting, France has invoked a recently enacted law and censored five websites that the government deems incite or glorify terrorism, and the government plans to censor dozens more. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was quoted as saying, “I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet.” He added, “I make a distinction between freedom of expression and the spread of messages that serve to glorify terrorism. These hate messages are a crime.”

Note that this depends on what "the government deems" - and since when
can one trust any government?!

As I.F. Stone said:
"All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed."
- which incidentally does not say that all governments always lie, but merely warns that the most powerful few in any country are rarely the intellectually or morally best (but often second or third rate professional politicians) and even if they are intellectually and morally first rate (as they rarely are), they are prone to lying, while also, as Lord Acton said:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
And there is this in the article:

On the surveillance front, the French government is trying to make it easier to hack into citizens’ computers and mobile devices, and to conduct mass surveillance with the help of ISPs and telecommunications companies.

Both of France’s censorship and surveillance initiatives lack any judicial oversight. French judges apparently cannot authorize blocking, takedown, or surveillance orders, or review government requests to ensure that they are legal and otherwise appropriate.

If true, this means France is developing into an authoritarian non-democratic state: In a democratic state everything important is subject to judicial review and to law.

5. a clinical impression…

The last item for today is an article by 1 boring old man (in fact: an intelligent mostly pensioned American psychiatrist) on his site:

Actually, this time the article is related to the news and to what may seem like terrorism, for the subject is the plane crash of the German airplane that killed over a hundred persons, that seems to have been engineered intentionally by its
co-pilot, who did have a history of depression, and who may have been using SSRIs, which are known to lead in some cases to extremely violent suicides -
of which this may have been one.

I do note that the previous paragraph contains "
may seem", "seems" and "may have been" (twice) for the simple reason that these supposed facts are, at present, not yet fully known (and some may never be).

Here is the beginning of the article:
David Healy has [put - MM] up a post about the Pilot Suicide/Murder last week [Winging it: Antidepressants and Plane Crashes]. There’s also one on his Rxisk site by Julie Wood [Pilots and Antidepressants]. Meanwhile, the Psych Listserves and Twitter feeds have been abuzz with speculations that this was an SSRI [or other Psych Med] reaction. David, who has done more than anyone to bring these reactions to our attention, does a yeoman’s job of laying out how this is likely to play out.
Dr. Healy is one of the few other psychiatrists I can take intellectually and morally serious (and I am a psychologist who wrote a considerable amount
about the present pseudoscience of psychiatry, and probably best (and longest)
here:
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis") and the above two links are interesting.

In brief, I will not be amazed if this turns out to be a case of a suicide mediated by some SSRI (a psychiatric anti-depressant that is taken by tens or hundreds of millions), although I will also not be amazed if - even if this is the case - it will
be kept a secret.

For the moment, no one knows. But there is another interesting bit in the above dotted article. This consists of a quote by (prof.dr.) David Healy, that gets repeated here by the mostly pensioned psychiatrist 1 boring old man:
I’ve never actually read those bolded parts said that way – their primary effect is to emotionally numb – but that’s exactly what I have also concluded on my own that the SSRIs do – emotionally numb. It’s just confirming to read it in print. And I sure agree that We know almost nothing about what antidepressants actually do
Precisely - and these are facts, and especially the last bolded part.

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