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Nederlog

May 5, 2015
Crisis: Israelis, British Tories, TPP secrecy, U.S. Incarcerations, Merkel's Scandal
  "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
















Sections
Introduction
1. Samples of Israeli Horrific Brutality and War Criminality in
     Gaza

2. 
Meet the invisibles – the wealthy and powerful at the
     heart of the Tory party

3.
Secrecy Over TPP Fuels Growing Opposition in Congress
4. Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges
5. America's Willing Helper: Intelligence Scandal Puts Merkel
     in Tight Place


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on the war crimes the Israelis committed in Gaza;
item 2 is about a visit by Polly Toynbee to the wealthy heart of the British Tories;
item 3 is about a chance that the secrecy of the TPP is causing more opposition to it in the American Congress; item 4 is a rather long story by an American judge who reflect on the U.S. mass incarceration, also in view of the fact that there is
considerably less crime; and item 5 is another long article on Spiegel On Line about an intelligence scandal in Germany.

1. Samples of Israeli Horrific Brutality and War Criminality in Gaza

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

This starts as follows - though maybe I should say first that Glenn Greenwald has a Jewish background, while my grandfather was murdered in a German concentration camp (as a resistance fighter a.k.a. - by the Nazis - a "political terrorist", while my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days of German
concentration camps, again as a "political terrorist" because he dared to resist the Nazis) [1]:

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence issued a report this morning containing testimony from Israeli soldiers about the savagery and criminality committed by the Israeli military during the attack on Gaza last summer. The Independent has a good article describing the report’s findings: “The Israeli military deliberately pounded civilian areas in the Gaza Strip with incessant fire of inaccurate ordinance” and “was at best indifferent about casualties among the Palestinian population.” At best.

This should surprise nobody who paid any attention to the brutal Israeli destruction of Gaza or, for that matter, countless Israeli attacks before that. The U.N. has said that 7 out of 10 people killed by the Israelis were civilians, “including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women”; video of Israelis killing four Gazan boys as they played on a beach sickened anyone decent.

Nonetheless, reading the accounts from these Israeli soldiers is revolting and important in equal parts. It shines considerable light on the reality of what Israeli loyalists have long hailed as “the most moral army in the world,” one unfairly held to a difference standard that ignores their great “restraint.”

The rest consists mostly of quotations. Here is the first, that is attributed to a "Staff Sargent, Armored Corps":

[A]fter 48 hours during which no one shoots at you and they’re like ghosts, unseen, their presence unfelt – except once in a while the sound of one shot fired over the course of an entire day – you come to realize the situation is under control. And that’s when my difficulty there started, because the formal rules of engagement – I don’t know if for all soldiers – were, “Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you’re in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill. . . . 

The commander [gave that order]. “Anything you see in the neighborhoods you’re in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters – is dead on the spot. No authorization needed.” We asked him: “I see someone walking in the street, do I shoot him?” He said yes.

Did the commander discuss what happens if you run into civilians or uninvolved people?

There are none. The working assumption states – and I want to stress that this is a quote of sorts: that anyone located in an IDF area, in areas the IDF took over – is not [considered] a civilian. That is the working assumption. We entered Gaza with that in mind, and with an insane amount of firepower.

Now what I would like to know is this: How does this differ, morally, intellectually, and legally from the "Ordinary Men" who did a large amount of the killings of Polish Jews in 1942?

In case you did not read "Ordinary Men", here is a quotation from its ending:

What then is one to conclude? (..) This story of ordinary men is not the story of all men. (..) Human responsibility is ultimately an individual matter. [2] (...)
Everywhere society conditions people to respect and defer to authority, and indeed could scarcely function otherwise. Everywhere people seek career advancement. In every modern society, the complexity of life and resulting bureaucratization and specialization attenuate the sense of personal responsibility of those implementing official policy. Within virtually every social collective, the great group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. If the men of Reserve Police Batallion 101 could become killers under such circumstanes, what group of men cannot?This

I don't say there are no differences. I just would like to know.

And incidentally, here is a question by the Jewish former Auschwitz prisoner Filip Muller:

"How was it possible, I often asked myself, for a young man of average intelligence and normal personality to carry out the unspeakable atrocities demanded of him in the belief that thereby he was doing his patriotic duty, without ever realizing that he was being used as a tool by perverted political dictators? [3]

2. Meet the invisibles – the wealthy and powerful at the heart of the Tory party

The next item is an article by Polly Toynbee on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
It’s a networking event in one of the City’s great glass towers. The room is filled mostly with company directors, hedge funders, bankers and lawyers. Would they vote Labour? “An unmitigated disaster. You can’t be serious? Have you any idea what would happen? Half the clients of people in this room would be off, gone, anyone who can.”
(...)
Their world is the beating heart of the modern Tory party, its financial backers, its influencers who whisper to David Cameron’s people in private gatherings, country suppers and the secret salons of Westminster restaurants; the world where Lord Chadlington, lobbying supremo, chats over the stone wall between his estate and Cameron’s in Witney. Murmuring what? We never know. Cameras pry into benefits street but none invade this private life of the nation.

I had forgotten that frank look of baffled incredulity. No one they meet votes Labour. “You mean just as we are repairing the frightful damage done by Labour, you want to put them back in? Good God!” “What, piss it all up the wall again? Pardon my French – but you want all those people back on welfare?” “I don’t think you realise what this government’s done to get the country back on its feet – and you want to give it back to the people who bankrupted us?”

Polly Toynbee got there by accident. Here is her own sum-up of "the good" that
the Tories brought to Great Britain:

Yet Cameron has run the most radical government of our lifetime – cutting the state, sweeping away support for the weak, denuding local government, gifting millions to their folk to set up free schools, selling the NHS to private firms, privatising Royal Mail, tripling fees to make universities effectively private, replacing a million lost public jobs with pre-unionised lump labour.
(...)
Greed, selfishness, unimpeded inheritance, privilege cemented down the generations, cutting benefits while giving more to the wealthy – those are the Conservative passions.
I agree.

3. Secrecy Over TPP Fuels Growing Opposition in Congress

The next item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The back-room push for the corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact may be backfiring on its supporters, as more and more lawmakers in U.S. Congress drop their interest in the deal over its extreme secrecy.

Only members of the House and Senate are currently allowed to view the text of the deal, and even they are forbidden from discussing what it contains. As a new report from Politico published Monday details, "If you’re a member who wants to read the text, you’ve got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving."

As for the public, a few unauthorized leaks of the text have previewed a deal that would "dramatically expand the power of corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge—and supersede—domestic laws, including environmental, labor, and public health, and other protections."

The lack of transparency over the trade agenda has become a central argument for a growing number of opponents, who see the deal as a corporate power grab and "feel they are being treated with disrespect and condescension," as Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere explains.

I hope Nadia Prupis is right, but I must say I doubt it. Here is some more on Obama:

In March, Obama said TPP opponents were being "dishonest" in calling the agenda a "secret deal." But, as Huffington Post senior political economy reporter Zach Carter wrote last week, the Warren-Brown letter suggests "that Obama's trade transparency record is worse than that of former President George W. Bush. They note that Bush published the full negotiation texts of a major free trade deal with Latin America several months before Congress had to vote on giving the deal fast track benefits. The Obama administration has resisted calls to follow suit with TPP."

Of course it has: As far as I can tell this is a fascist grab of power by the big corporations, and it is so sick that even a Republican dominated Congress would not pass it if these new laws would have been proposed and discussed honestly
and honorably, instead of being declared a "national security" level secret.

4. Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges

The next item is an article by Jed S. Rakoff on the New York Times:
This starts as follows (and is written by an American judge):

For too long, too many judges have been too quiet about an evil of which we are a part: the mass incarceration of people in the United States today. It is time that more of us spoke out.

The basic facts are not in dispute. More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in US jails and prisons, a 500 percent increase over the past forty years. Although the United States accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The per capita incarceration rate in the US is about one and a half times that of second-place Rwanda and third-place Russia, and more than six times the rate of neighboring Canada. Another 4.75 million Americans are subject to the state supervision imposed by probation or parole.

Most of the increase in imprisonment has been for nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession. And even though crime rates in the United States have declined consistently for twenty-four years, the number of incarcerated persons has continued to rise over most of that period, both because more people are being sent to prison for offenses that once were punished with other measures and because the sentences are longer. For example, even though the number of violent crimes has steadily decreased over the past two decades, the number of prisoners serving life sentences has steadily increased, so that one in nine persons in prison is now serving a life sentence.

And whom are we locking up? Mostly young men of color.
There is a lot more in the article, that I found interesting. I have one addition to it, because that wasn't mentioned in the article:

In Holland as well, and I believe also in the rest of Europe, crime rates fell rather spectacularly since 2000, and without mass incarceration. It would seem that crime rates fell especially because the chances of being caught - what with cameras everywhere, and also people with cameras everywhere - considerably increased.

But OK - this is about Europe rather than the U.S. and I don't know this can be generalized.

5. America's Willing Helper: Intelligence Scandal Puts Merkel in Tight Place

The final item today is an article by Spiegel Staff (in fact: no less than 14 journalists) on Spiegel On Line:
This comes with a summary I quote first:
Germany's latest spying scandal has created the biggest crisis yet for the country's foreign intelligence agency. The German government appears to have been aware of widespread US spying, possibly including economic espionage, against European targets and yet it did nothing to stop it.
Should I say "I say!"? Well, perhaps, but I don't because I know secret services are being kept secret, and therefore can generally do as they please, and in fact
also do do as they please. But I agree this is pretty scandalous, also because it seems to imply Angela Merkel betrayed her oath of office, or at least did not live and speak according to it.

The article itself starts as follows:

July 14, 2013 was an overcast day. The German chancellor was reclining in a red armchair across from two television hosts with the country's primary public broadcaster. With Berlin's Spree River flowing behind her, Angela Merkel gave her traditional summer television interview. The discussion focused in part on the unbridled drive of America's NSA intelligence service to collect as much information as possible. Edward Snowden's initial revelations had been published just one month earlier, but by the time of the interview, the chancellor had already dispatched her interior minister to Washington. Having taken action to confront the issue, Merkel was in high spirits.

Merkel's interviewers wanted to know exactly what data had been targeted in Germany. Reports had been making the rounds, they reminded her, of "economic espionage." Merkel sat quietly. "So, on that," she said, "the German interior minister was clearly told that there is no industrial espionage against German companies."

Only a few hundred meters away from the red armchair, though, more was known. In Merkel's Chancellery, staff had long been aware that the information provided by the United States wasn't true.

By 2010 at the latest, the Chancellery had received indications that the NSA had attempted to spy on European firms, including EADS, the European aerospace and defense company that is partly owned by German shareholders. They also knew that the Americans were seeking to join forces with Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), in their spying efforts. It would be astonishing if Merkel herself had not known about these occurrences long before she sat down for the interview. Indeed, she would look even worse had she not known.

There is also this, a little later:

The chancellor now faces questions about how these actions can be reconciled with her oath of office. What is being done to ensure that German law is respected? Are German interests betrayed when American intelligence services are able to spy on German companies -- or at least attempt to -- with impunity? What has gone wrong in a country whose own intelligence services simply look away or even provide their support as this happens? And what about the damage the latest scandal has done to relations between Germany and its neighbors? Is having good relations with the Americans more important than maintaining the trust of European partners?

And considerably later:

But that oath goes much further, and that has now become her problem. Protecting Germans from harm also means preventing German targets from being spied on, no matter who is doing the spying. Allowing a foreign power access to German data and secrets, silently acquiescing to the same, or declaring German companies to be a pawn in a larger game is tantamount to betraying German interests.

There is a lot more in the article.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes
Incidentally, today is the commemoration of the 70th year that Holland was freed from Nazism. I did nothing about it, in part because of the following notes - and those who doubt my background should know that my father was also knighted, as one of only two communists to whom this happened, and that his pwn written testimony is here (in my English translation).
[1] Whereas I was removed from the faculty of philosophy in 1988 as "a fascist terrorist", by the fascist terrorists who ruled the faculty of philosophy, which included the Dutch fascist terrorist the late sadistic professor dr. Cornelis Verhoeven; the Dutch fascist terrorist and sadist the late dr. Roel Poppe; and the the late Dutch fascist terrorist and sadist drs. Jan-Karel Gevers. These were 3 of the "leftist" fascistic sub-humans who ruled the University of Amsterdam, where the only thing I learned that I did not know before were these three articles of Dutch "leftist" fascistic faith, that were taught from 1977-1995 to every student and that were generally welcomed because it gave them - they thought - a status of equal value to the greatest minds and the most courageous men, while washing them clean of any personal fault or shortcoming:
  • "everybody knows that truth does not exist"
  • "everybody knows that all morals are wholly relative"
  • "everybody knows that everybody is the equal in value of everybody else"
[2] Quite so - and since I have the best or at the very least one of the best anti-fascistic backgrounds in Holland I'd like to say that in the 65 years of my life - in which I was gassed and nearly killed, and five times threatened with murder, because I protested the illegal dealers of soft and hard drugs who were personally protected by Amsterdam's mayors, and since I was removed, while seriously ill (which gave much sadistic joy to Poppe and Gevers), from the faculty of philosophy as a "fascist" and  a "terroist" by at least 16 degenerate whores of reason, which decision was sadistically affirmed by the fascistic and sadistic beasts mentioned above (I am sorry, but they were, and I can say so because they are dead and cannot be offended anymore) - I have found among Dutchmen  at most 1 in a 100 with any palpable human responsibility, which also, as WW II teaches, get closer to 1 in 1000 in cases of major trouble and risk. This also explains, up to a point, how and why over 1% of the Dutch population was murdered between 1940 and 1945, because they were claimed to be of an inferior race and were not rich.

[3] My own answer to this question: This was really demanding too much from "
a young man of average intelligence and normal personality". Ordinary men are ordinary for the most part because they lack any talent, and they manifest their ordinariness, in which they tend to glorify, by doing as nearly all ordinary men (who are like them) do, also if this includes killing hundreds of civilians who did not do anything wrong, simply because of their supposed race.
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