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Nederlog

April 3, 2015
Crisis: British Spying, HSBC, Income Inequalities, Agreement, Bernie Sanders, Hirsi Ali
  "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. Britain Used Spy Team to Shape Latin American Public
     Opinion on Falklands

2. HSBC is 'cast-iron certain' to breach banking rules again,
     executive admits

3. The American people are clueless: Why income inequality
     is so much worse than we realize

4.
'We Agree': Iran and P5+1 Announce Consensus on
     Nuclear Framework
5.
Bernie Sanders Goes Biblical on Income Inequality
6. Ayaan Hirsi Ali : "We Are At War With Islam"


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 3, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about the involvement of secret spy teams by Great Britain "to shape Latin American Public Opinion" by lies, deceptions and frauds; item 2 is about a high executive of the HSBC bank who says it is "cast-iron certain" HSBC will engage in further frauds; item 3 is aboyt income equality with a very good video and a good article (from Scientific American); item 4 is a - quite rare - piece of Good News: There is agreement about Iran and its nuclear framework; item 5 is about a good recent
interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders; and item 6 is about a decent video on The Young Turks about Ayaan Hirsi Ali (about whose fundamental dishonesty and many exaggerations I know a lot more than most, simply because I am Dutch, and she started her career towards big money in Holland).


1. Britain Used Spy Team to Shape Latin American Public Opinion on Falklands

The first item is an article by Andrew Fishman and Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Faced with mounting international pressure over the Falkland Islands territorial dispute, the British government enlisted its spy service, including a highly secretive unit known for using “dirty tricks,” to covertly launch offensive cyberoperations to prevent Argentina from taking the islands.

A shadowy unit of the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had been preparing a bold, covert plan called “Operation QUITO” since at least 2009. Documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, published in partnership with Argentine news site Todo Notícias, refer to the mission as a “long-running, large scale, pioneering effects operation.”

At the heart of this operation was the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group, known by the acronym JTRIG, a secretive unit that has been involved in spreading misinformation.

I start with noting that the Falkland War (<- Wikipedia) was in 1982, and while the present conflict, in which the GCHQ and JTRIG are involved, does go back to that time, it seems mostly related to a quite recent finding, that gets reported in the present article thus:
Tensions between the two nations, which fought a war over the small archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1982, reached a boil in 2010 with the British discovery of large, offshore oil and gas reserves potentially worth billions of dollars.
As to JTRIG, there is this in the article (and a lot more):
While the full extent of JTRIG’s tactics used in the Falklands mission is unclear, the scope of JTRIG’s approved capabilities offers an idea of what may have been done. The group, first revealed last year by NBC News and The Intercepthas developed various techniques — including “false flag” operations, sexual “honey traps,” and implanting computer viruses — to collect intelligence, plant propaganda and diminish or discredit opponents. As reported in The Intercept last year, JTRIG “has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, ‘amplif[y]’ sanctioned messages on YouTube,” and plant false Facebook wall posts for “entire countries.” According to a study of the group by the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), “the language of JTRIG’s operations is characterized by terms such as ‘discredit,’ promote ‘distrust,’ ‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter.’”
There is considerably more in the article.

One of the things it shows is that, especially in conflicts, but also quite generally, you cannot trust what you read anymore to a much larger extent than it used to be (which also means that you should check and doublecheck more):

Your government - and certainly those of "The Five Eyes" - may be deceiving you and lying to you; the government's bureaucrats - especially the anonymous supermen (Übermenschen) who are in the secret services - may be deceiving you and lying to you (for you may be "a terrorist" and they "serve the national security"); much that you read may not be written by those it is said to be written by; and much that you find may be intentionally created dishonest, false, or misleading information. And that is merely if you try to find some information.

I think these are the facts and it is a real problem, indeed not because "you cannot trust anything anymore" (if you believe that you are probably rather paranoid (<- Wikipedia)), but simply because especially in conflicts and threatening conflicts decisions may be forced by intentionally created false information, that has been put on line - if you were to know - by the supermen
(Übermenschen) of some of the secret services that are involved, that all are very much more powerful than they ever were, and that still are almost completely beyond any effective policial and judicial control.

For more see the last dotted article, that is good.

2. HSBC is 'cast-iron certain' to breach banking rules again, executive admits

The next item is an article by Harry Davies and James Ball on The Guardian:

This starts as follows

A senior HSBC executive has privately admitted that the bank is “cast-iron certain” to have another major regulatory breach in the future, and is struggling on multiple fronts to clean up its worldwide operations.

Global head of sanctions Lee Hale – whose recorded comments appear to contrast with public statements from HSBC’s chief executive that the bank has fundamentally transformed itself after recent scandals – said gaps remained in the bank’s compliance with sanctions policies and the screening of certain financial transactions.

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC’s chief executive since 2011, and Rona Fairhead, chair of HSBC North America as well as the BBC Trust, have repeatedly assured the UK parliament that the bank today is markedly different from when its Swiss branch facilitated large-scale tax evasion, or when its Mexican branch was found by US authorities to be complicit in multimillion-dollar money-laundering for drug cartels.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link.

I merely observe that Gulliver and Fairhead said what they may be expected to say; that the profits of deals the HSBC made, e.g. working for the Mexican drugs cartels, quite illegally also, were enormous; that there is no really effective way of regulating a multi-national bank that makes billions by fraud except to prosecute and jail the major bankers; but that Eric Holder has - since 1999 also - claimed again and again that he will not do that, and indeed he has not.

So yes: I agree with the "
senior HSBC executive":

It is
“cast-iron certain” that it will happen again (and again, and again, and not only at the HSBC) for the simple reason that the profits are enormous and there are no legal consequences whatsoever, as long as a - relatively small - part of the profits gets returned to the U.S. government, that will respond by washing the bank's managers clean of any legal responsibility.

3. The American people are clueless: Why income inequality is so much worse than we realize
The next item is an article by Nicholas Fitz, that I found on Salon, but that first appeared in the Scientific American (and that addresses a worrisome theme):

This starts as follows:
In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become.

In their 2011 paperMichael Norton and Dan Ariely analyzed beliefs about wealth inequality. They asked more than 5,000 Americans to
guess the percentage of wealth (i.e., savings, property, stocks, etc., minus debts) owned by each fifth of the population. Next, they asked people to construct their ideal distributions. Imagine a pizza of all the wealth in the United States. What percentage of that pizza belongs to the top 20% of Americans? How big of a slice does the bottom 40% have? In an ideal world, how much should they have?

The average American believes that the richest fifth own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%. The reality is strikingly different. The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%. The Walton family, for example, has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.

We don’t want to live like this. In our ideal distribution, the top quintile owns 32% and the bottom two quintiles own 25%. As the journalist Chrystia Freeland put it,  “Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden. And they would like to live on a kibbutz.” Norton and Ariely found a surprising level of consensus: everyone — even Republicans and the wealthy—wants a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

This all might ring a bell. An infographic video of the study went viral and has been watched more than 16 million times.

The first thing you should now do - if you did not see or do not recall the infographic video - is to watch it, for it is quite good and quite convincing:
Here is a picture from the video that shows, from the bottom up: The ideal distribution of wealth in the U.S. according to the American people (!); what the American people believe is the distribution; and the actual distribution:
     
[Note for people watching this on the Danish site: I have tried to upload the image 10 times but it doesn't display because I can transport only 18106 of 18171 bytes.
Whatever I try. It works unproblematically on the Dutch site: link. I'm sorry. And see bottom note.]

The second thing to consider is this:
The median American estimated that the CEO-to-worker pay-ratio was 30-to-1, and that ideally, it’d be 7-to-1. The reality? 354-to-1. Fifty years ago, it was 20-to-1. Again, the patterns were the same for all subgroups, regardless of age, education, political affiliation, or opinion on inequality and pay. “In sum,” the researchers concluded, “respondents underestimate actual pay gaps, and their ideal pay gaps are even further from reality than those underestimates.”
And the third thing is to ask yourself: Why don't far more Americans know these facts?! It is true Nocholas Fitz's article does have an explanation, which is this:
At the core of the American Dream is the belief that anyone who works hard can move up economically regardless of his or her social circumstances.
I do not doubt that is true, I meean that most Americans believe in the American Dream - but again that is utter baloney if you know the facts: The whole of the above video shows this belief is completely false.

So in the end I am driven again to the sad fact that most Americans are stupid - and I am very sorry, but it is a fact, and it is also the one fact that makes it so
easy for the many highly paid liars for the 1% to get their gross lies accepted
.

4. 'We Agree': Iran and P5+1 Announce Consensus on Nuclear Framework

The next item is an article by Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams - and this is a quite rare bit of good news:
This starts as follows:

After days of marathon negotiations in Switzerland, foreign ministers from the U.S., the U.K., Russia, China, France, plus Germany (known as the P5 + 1 nations) and Iran emerged from closed-door talks on Thursday to announce they have reached an 'historic' framework agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program and the lifting of international sanctions.

Reading out a joint statement, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hailed the framework agreement as a "decisive step" which sets the stage for an ultimate deal which the parties hope to finalize in June. As summarized by the Guardian, Mogherini said:

  • “Today we have taken a decisive step. We have reached solutions on key parameters for a comprehensive future nuclear deal.”
  • She said the solutions agreed at Lausanne create the basis of a future comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and the six powers - to be concluded by 30 June.
  • She said the EU and US will terminate the implementation of all nuclear-related economic sanctions.
  • She said the deal could not have gone forward without the political determination and goodwill of all parties.
  • There will be limited enrichment capacity at the Fordow uranium enrichment site. It will be converted into a nuclear physics site, with no fissile material present on premises and international cooperation for R&D is encouraged.
  • The international monitoring agency will have enhanced access to technologies to clarify past and present issues.
  • A future deal between Iran and P5+1 powers will include UN security council endorsement.
  • Another important area of cooperation will be in the field of nuclear safety and security.
  • “We will now work to write the text of a joint comprehensive plan of action.”
I say. That sounds good, and one reason it sounds good is that many in the American Senate and Congress seem intent on war.

There is considerably more in the article.

5. Bernie Sanders Goes Biblical on Income Inequality

The next item is an article by Josh Harkinson on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the longest-serving independent in Congress and its only self-described democratic socialist, is best known for his stands against wealthy special interests and in favor of government programs that help the poor and the middle class. Now 73, Sanders announced last year that he may run for president in 2016. During a swing through San Francisco this week, he stopped by Mother Jones HQ to talk to us about America's greed problem, the fecklessness of Democrats, and how to catalyze the progressive movement.
So the rest is an interview, that is good. I'll quote two pieces. First the beginning:

Bernie Sanders: I'm going around the country talking about what I believe is the most important issue facing the American people: the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality. The Koch brothers and a few others are attempting to buy the United States government, and that should be of concern to everybody.

MJ: How bad is inequality now, in your view?

BS: Between 2013 and 2015, the wealthiest 14 people saw their wealth increase by $157 billion. This is their wealth increase, got it? Not what they are worth. Increase. That $157 billion is more wealth than is owned by the bottom 40 percent of the American people. One family, the Walton family, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent.

And I think Bernie Sanders is quite right: THE problem with the U.S.A. is "the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality".

The second quotation is whether Sanders will be running for president:

MJ: Are you running for president?

BS: I am thinking about running for president. I want to make sure that if I do it, I do it well. Not just for my own ego, but if we run a poor campaign then what I believe in becomes discredited. I am trying to ascertain if I can do it well.
OK - that is a sensible answer as well. There is considerably more in the interview, that is good.

6. Ayaan Hirsi Ali : "We Are At War With Islam"

The last item today is not an article but a video by The Young Turks:

This is here mostly because I am Dutch and know a lot more about Ayaan Hirsi Ali than I would have otherwise. The video is adequate and correctly notes several of her wild exaggerations, and also correctly notes she is a neoconservative supporter of Dick Cheney and a member of his "thinktank" AEI - which I think should give
anyone pause who is not himself (or herself) a member of the AEI.

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P.S. Apr 5, 2015: Today I succeeded in uploading the correct number of bytes of the image to the Danish site, so it works again (and did not work there two days ago).

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