April 25, 2015
Crisis: Propagada, Secret Fees, Surveillance, Obama's Deceptions, Next Crisis
  "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. The Key War on Terror Propaganda Tool: Only Western
     Victims Are Acknowledged

2. Cities and States Pay Massive Secret Fees to Wall Street
Surveillance reform bill returns with concessions to NSA
     on data collection
4. Obama’s ‘Openness’ and Deceit
5. 11 Signs That We Are Entering The Next Phase Of The
     Global Economic Crisis


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 25, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald about the present system of Western propaganda; item 2 is about how the American banks are bleeding the American pensions; item 3 is about the proposed American new surveillance "reform bill", that probably will not reform much, if it is accepted; item 4 is about an article by Robert Parry that explains that Obama's government isn't open and democratic but closed and authoritarian; and item 5 is about an article by Michael Snyder that
outlines grounds to believe there will be another major economic crisis "soon".

Also, there is another Nederlog of today, about me+M.E. This will probably interest few, but it is noteworthy that now there is medical scientific evidence
that the protocol I use does help people with M.E., and sometimes quite a
lot. (This is pleasant, but indeed mostly for me and those who use the protocol: Yes, it does help, and has been tested, for the first time, by medical scientists.)

1. The Key War on Terror Propaganda Tool: Only Western Victims Are Acknowledged   

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

In all the years I’ve been writing about Obama’s drone killings, yesterday featured by far the most widespread critical discussion in U.S. establishment journalism circles. This long-suppressed but crucial fact about drones was actually trumpeted as the lead headline on the front page of The New York Times yesterday: [1]

The New York Times - April 23, 2015
U.S. Is Often Unsure About Who Will Die in Drone Strikes

The reason for the unusually intense, largely critical coverage of drone killings yesterday is obvious: the victims of this strike were Western and non-Muslim, and therefore were seen as actually human.

Yes, indeed - and indeed it probably also was important that one of the victims of this strike (i) had an American passport and (ii) actually was quite white. (In case you think I am laying it on quite thickly: I am, but then these are two very
relevant facts - for today's mainstream "news" editors).

Glenn Greenwald articulates the main difference as follows:

This highlights the ugliest propaganda tactic on which the War on Terror centrally depends, one in which the U.S. media is fully complicit: American and Western victims of violence by Muslims are endlessly mourned, while Muslim victims of American and Western violence are completely disappeared.

When there is an attack by a Muslim on Westerners in Paris, Sydney, Ottawa, Fort Hood or Boston, we are deluged with grief-inducing accounts of the victims. We learn their names and their extinguished life aspirations, see their pictures, hear from their grieving relatives, watch ceremonies honoring their lives and mourning their deaths, launch campaigns to memorialize them. Our side’s victims aren’t just humanized by our media, but are publicly grieved as martyrs.

And somewhat later on:

This is the toxic tribalism that repeats itself over and over throughout the West. Western victims are mourned and humanized, while victims of Western violence are invisible and thus dehumanized. Aside from being repugnant in its own right, this formula, by design, is deeply deceptive as propaganda: It creates the impression among Western populations that we are the victims but not the perpetrators of heinous violence, that terrorism is something done to us but that we never commit ourselves, that “primitive, radical and inhumanely violent” describes the enemy tribe but not our own.

Yes, indeed.

It is also true - I agree - that this is the usual recipe that also corresponds to the usual Western mind set: "We Are Right And They Are Wrong!" and indeed you find it treated in my "
On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"" that I wrote in 2004.

And yes, as soon as the world is somehow divided into Us and Them, this is the pattern that results -
"We Are Right And They Are Wrong!"; "We Are Excellent And They Are Horrible!" etc. etc. - that is played by both sides.

So in that sense there is little that is new - but it seems also true that these days, and especially in the American mainstream media, this propaganda pattern that glorifies Our Side and damns Their Side is being played (quite consciously: the editors are not stupid even if they also are not moral) in a new way: it is far more widely spread; it is mainstream, both in writing and on TV; and part of its effectiveness is precisely that the victims Our Side makes - including many small children and women - are hardly ever even mentioned at all.

Here is Glenn Greenwald's last paragraph:
It shouldn’t take the drone-killing of an American citizen to enable a mainstream discussion of how much deceit and recklessness drives these killings. But it does. And that fact, by itself, should cause a serious examination of the mindset behind all of this.
Yes. But I fear little can be done against it (outside a few progressive magazines and internet publications): the masses are neither learned nor intelligent, and will
support their Our Side, more or less regardless from the evils it does (it doesn't
matter who "Our Side" is), and indeed especially so if Our Side's mainstream media simply disregards the victims Our Side makes (as long as the victims are not white and do not have American passports).

2. Cities and States Pay Massive Secret Fees to Wall Street

The next item is an article by David Sirota on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

California’s report said $440 million. New Jersey’s said $600 million. In Pennsylvania, the tally is $700 million. Those Wall Street fees paid by public workers’ pension systems have kicked off an intensifying debate over whether such expenses are necessary. Now, a report from an industry-friendly source says those huge levies represent only a fraction of the true amounts being raked in by Wall Street firms from state and local governments.

“Less than one-half of the very substantial [private equity] costs incurred by U.S. pension funds are currently being disclosed,” says the report from CEM, whose website says the financial analysis firm “serve(s) over 350 blue-chip corporate and government clients worldwide.”

And there is this:

Currently, about 9 percent—or $270 billion—of America’s $3 trillion public pension fund assets are invested in private equity firms. With the financial industry’s standard 2 percent management fee, that quarter-trillion dollars generates roughly $5.4 billion in annual management fees for the private equity industry—and that’s not including additional “performance” fees paid on investment returns. If CEM’s calculations are applied uniformly, it could mean taxpayers and retirees may actually be paying double — more than $10 billion a year.

Public officials are overseeing this massive payout to Wall Street at the very moment many of those same officials are demanding big cuts to retirees’ promised pension benefits.

There is more in the article, and part of the problem is that the American banks are currently allowed to invest pension funds as they please (which may collapse
them in a crisis).

3. Surveillance reform bill returns with concessions to NSA on data collection

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Modifications made on behalf of the National Security Agency have paved the way for the return of a major piece of surveillance reform legislation, the Guardian has learned.

According to congressional sources, the architects of the USA Freedom Act, a bill that seeks to stop the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, have agreed to grant the surveillance giant temporary abilities to continue monitoring foreign targets who enter the US while agents seek domestic warrants; and to permit the agency to do the same for domestic targets for whom it has a probable-cause warrant who subsequently travel overseas.

Both additions, discussed for weeks but intensified in the past several days, were described as measures to gain support from pro-surveillance legislators on the House intelligence committee.
I say. And I also note - as Ackerman says - that "the Guardian has not seen the final text" (which is relevant, for there is currently a lot of trickery being done with proposed laws, that often are rewritten at the latest moment and/or get attached to other bills that must pass, without having anything to do with these bills).

Here is a brief survey of three different positions (straight expiration, straight continuance of spying on everyone, and the intermediate position):
The bill would trade the end of bulk domestic phone data collection for the retention of the rest of Section 215 through 2019. It is a controversial swap. Several privacy groups prefer a straight expiration, while the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has introduced his own straight reauthorization of the provision, including the retention of the phone records program that was exposed by the Guardian thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Here is the ending of the article:

Yet significant divides remain on surveillance between the administration and the privacy and tech communities, many of whose members consider a cybersecurity bill passed on Wednesday by the House with tentative administration support to be little more than a surveillance bill under another name.

The Mozilla Foundation’s privacy chief, Chris Riley, denounced McConnell’s effort to retain bulk surveillance within his Section 215 reauthorization proposal.

“Our call records are more than just numbers and metadata, they are intimate portraits into our lives, and should be kept private. Mozilla and thousands of internet users urge Congress to pass real surveillance reform,” Riley said in a statement.

Yes. But I fear that the spying will continue until 2019 (at least), were it only because it gives incredible powers to the government (and denues them to the people - the true sovereigns! -  who are spied upon by the government for the goods of the government, and not the people).

4 Obama’s ‘Openness’ and Deceit

The next item is an article by Robert Parry on Consortium News:
This starts as follows:

In disclosing the deaths of two Western hostages in a U.S. drone strike on an Al-Qaeda compound, President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he had ordered the declassification of the secret operation because “the United States is a democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad.”

But the reality of the past six years has been that his administration has enforced wildly excessive secrecy, selectively declassified material to mislead the American people, and failed to correct erroneous information on sensitive international issues.

This failure to trust the people with accurate information has arguably done great harm to U.S. democracy by promoting false narratives on a range of foreign conflicts. With all its talk about “public diplomacy” and “information warfare,” the Obama administration seems intent on using half-truths and falsehoods to herd the people into a misguided consensus rather than treating them like the true sovereigns of the Republic, as the Framers of the Constitution intended with the explicit phrase “We the People of the United States.”

Yes, indeed. And clearly the "arguably" in the third paragraph is rather weak:

If you deceive the people, as Obama's administration does as a matter of course, you are not acting as a democratical state would, but as an authoritarian state does.

But the case is made well in the rest of the article, that ends thus:

This pattern of perverting U.S. intelligence information to bolster some U.S. foreign policy agenda has become a trademark of the Obama administration – along with an unprecedented number of prosecutions of U.S. government whistleblowers who release real information that exposes government wrongdoing or waste. This double standard belies President Obama’s assertion that he values openness in a democracy.

Yes, although the "double standards" go back much further than Obama's administration.

What is radically new, and is due to Obama and his team are  these:
(1) the persecution of whistleblowers and
(2) their portrayal as "spies" and "enemies", together with
(3) unlimited spying on everyone.

5. 11 Signs That We Are Entering The Next Phase Of The Global Economic Crisis

The last item today is an article by Michael Snyder on Washington's Blog (and originally on The Economic Collapse Blog):

This starts as follows:

Well, the Nasdaq finally did it.  It has climbed all the way back to where it was at the peak of the dotcom bubble.  Back in March 2000, the Nasdaq set an all-time record high of 5,048.62.  On Thursday, after all these years, that all-time record was finally eclipsed.  The Nasdaq closed at 5056.06, and Wall Street greatly rejoiced.  So if you invested in the Nasdaq at the peak of the dotcom bubble, you are just finally breaking even 15 years later.  Unfortunately, the truth is that stocks have not been soaring because the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong.  Just like the last two times, what we are witnessing is an irrational financial bubble.  Sometimes these irrational bubbles can last for a surprisingly long time, but in the end they always burst.  And even now there are signs of economic trouble bubbling to the surface all around us.  The following are 11 signs that we are entering the next phase of the global economic crisis…

Here are three of these eleven signs (in my rendering):

  • While coal produces around 40% of the electric energy, the price of coal is lower than it was at any point since 2008.
  • The price of iron ore (for steel) has been crashing 35% down the last nine months.
  • Chinese exports (the biggest economy) fell in March by nearly 15%, while it was expected to rise by more than 8% (a 23% difference).

There is more, such as twice as many bankruptcies in the first three months of 2015, as compared to the the first three months of 2014, and a steep decline in US home sales, and more.

Does this prove the next financial crisis starts tomorrow or in a week? No, but here is Michael Snyder's assessment of the real situation:

I believe that what we are experiencing right now is the proverbial “calm before the storm”.  There is all sorts of turmoil brewing just beneath the surface, but for the moment things seem like they are running along just fine to most people.  Unfortunately, this period of quiet is not going to last much longer.

Yes, that seems correct to me, also because of something Snyder didn't mention:

Ninety percent of the potential market inside the U.S., that is, 90% of the American inhabitants are growing poorer rather than richer, which means that there is far less demand than there was and than there could be in case their incomes would rise instead of fall.

But OK - we shall see.

[1] Actually, the text has a photograph here, which I replaced by text. 

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