June 25, 2015
Crisis: France, "Terrorism", Bernie Sanders, US Drones, Anatomy of Hell
  "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. If You Can’t Beat ’Em: France, Up In Arms Over NSA
     Spying, Passes New Surveillance Law

2. The Greatest Obstacle to Anti-Muslim Fear-Mongering
     and Bigotry: Reality

3. 'Enough is Enough!' Sanders Declares Corporate Greed
     Must Go

US Drone Program to Remain in Shadows as Obama
     Abandons Key Reform Promise

The Anatomy of Hell

This is a Nederlog of Thursday June 25, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 links: Item 1 is about how the French cope with being spied upon: As long as the president isn't, while all the
rest is, it is fine (that isL according to the French government); item 2 is about how serious terrorism has been, the last 14 years, in the U.S.; item 3 is about Bernie Sanders; item 4 is about a U-turn by Obama: droning will continue to be done mostly in secret; and item 5 is about the hell of Nazi concentration camps, where my father's father was murdered, and that my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days of, and which form part of my motivation to write about the present crisis.

1. If You Can’t Beat ’Em: France, Up In Arms Over NSA Spying, Passes New Surveillance Law

The first item today is an article by Martin Untersinger on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

On Wednesday, France woke up to find that the National Security Agency had been snooping on the phones of its last three presidents.

Top secret documents provided by Wikileaks to two media outlets, Mediapart and Libération, showed that the NSA had access to confidential conversations of France’s highest ranking officials, including the country’s current president, François Hollande; the prime minister in 2012, Jean-Marc Ayrault; and former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

Yet also today, the lower house of France’s legislature, the National Assembly, passed a sweeping surveillance law. The law provides a new framework for the country’s intelligence agencies to expand their surveillance activities. Opponents of the law were quick to mock the government for vigorously protesting being surveilled by one of the country’s closest allies while passing a law that gives its own intelligence services vast powers with what its opponents regard as little oversight. But for those who support the new law, the new revelations of NSA spying showed the urgent need to update the tools available to France’s spies.

I am not amazed: Of course today's politicians want their governments to know everything possible about the populations they control. (In case you disagree: I am sorry, but while I agree there are here and there some political exceptions who may be mostly sincere, I really don't think they are the majority.)

As to "t
he urgent need to update the tools available to France’s spies": This does not seem to be so much about the software tools, but about the fact that, so far,
nearly everything the French spies spied on was done almost completely without
any legal context or justication.

There is this, which is true as far as it goes, but which doesn't verbalize the background:
We’re now aware, thanks to Snowden, that western intelligence agencies know almost no boundaries when it comes to spying on friends and foes. We also know that western intelligence agencies are connected by secret agreements and exchange large amounts of data that they collect for each other.
The background I mean is that (1) without Snowden (<- Wikipedia) we would know very much less, because (2) the spying that is being done by governments and their secret state police has been kept as secret as they could keep it (while it is illegal according to Human Rights [7]), while (3) the "western intelligence agencies" seem to do the spying for each other: Thus, the Americans spy on all the English; the English spy on all the Americans; and then they exchange what they've gathered, while the agencies spokespersons assure journalists, very sincerely, that "Of course we don't spy on Our Own People!"

Then there is this (which I can fairly say I predicted already in 2005):
But other parts of the law have drawn controversy, including the way it defines the purposes the government can invoke to surveil French residents. The categories extend well beyond terrorism. Many opponents of the law think these guidelines are so broad that they could enable political surveillance. But the key point of disagreement is what the government calls “black boxes.” The law allows the use of government equipment inside Internet Service Providers and large web companies to analyze streams of metadata and find “terrorist” patterns and behaviors.
Of course "[t]he categories extend well beyond terrorism": "terrorism" only is the pretext to surveil everyone in everything, and of course the purpose of surveilling everyone in everything is that it is "political surveillance". Then again, the so-called “black boxes” seem to be the present version of the room
that J. Kirk Wiebe discovered ca. 2007, where the ITT's fiber cables were tapped by the NSA.

Well... they're now legal in France, with this general result:

The end result is that most of what France’s intelligence services have been doing in the dark is now authorized by law.

And the spying of the French secret state police on everyone simply goes on - and now is "legal".

2. The Greatest Obstacle to Anti-Muslim Fear-Mongering and Bigotry: Reality

The next item today is by Glenn Greenwald and Josh Begley on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The think tank New America issued a report today documenting “the lethal terrorist incidents in the United States since 9/11.” It found that a total of 26 Americans have been killed by “deadly jihadist attacks” in the last 14 years, while almost double that number – 48 – have been killed by “deadly right wing attacks.”

In fact, here are the numbers (with references to the sources on The Intercept):


Incidentally, as Greenwald and Begley clearly state:

If anything, the chart severely understates how exaggerated the threat is, since it compares the total number of deaths caused by “Muslim extremists” over the past 14 years to the number of deaths caused daily or annually by threats widely regarded as insignificant. This is the “threat” in whose name the U.S. and its western allies have radically reduced basic legal protections; created all sorts of dangerous precedents for invasions, detentions, and targeted killings; and generally driven themselves to a state of collective hysteria and manipulation.

Yes, indeed - and in case you want to compare the deaths by car with the deaths by terrorism in the United States on the same basis, (1) you have to multiply the first number by 365 and (2) multiply that by 14:

total deaths by car accidents in the US the last 14 years = 490560
total deaths by terrorism in the US the last 14 years      = 26
ratio                                                                   = 18867

I grant that if you add the 2977 victims of 9/11 (plus 19 perpetrators) we get this ratio: 490560 : (2977+26) = 163.35.

In either case: Terrorism is a pretext that is used by nearly all "democratically elected Western governments" to justify their spying on everyone, which is done because
nearly all "democratically elected Western governments" want to surveil everyone politically, because then they know what they think and want, and they can control them.

And indeed the next step is to start arresting (or: disappearing without explicit notice) people for having different political convictions from those the government approves.

This happened everywhere where the government surveilled everyone. And I grant it hasn't happened yet in the U.S. or the West.

3. 'Enough is Enough!' Sanders Declares Corporate Greed Must Go

The next item today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

As Congressional Democrats on Wednesday took a sharp U-turn from their previous opposition to President Barack Obama's corporate-friendly trade agenda, presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.) reiterated his disdain for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and demanded that the era of "corporate greed must end."

In an op-ed published at the Huffington Post on Wednesday, the Democratic candidate hit on a litany of items that have become standard fodder for his campaign speeches: tax reform, overturning Citizens United, raising the minimum wage, infrastructure spending, and pay equipty for women workers, among others.

"The reality of the American economy," Sanders says, is that "millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999. Meanwhile, the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well."

This is here mainly because it shows that Senator Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate who speaks the truth (as he said he would).

Here is the beginning of his column (written before fast track was approved):

Corporate Greed Must End

Here is the reality of the American economy. Despite an explosion in technology and a huge increase in worker productivity, the middle class of this country continues its 40-year decline. Today, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. Today, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent, while the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent. In the last two years, the wealthiest 14 people in this country increased their wealth by $157 billion. That increase is more than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans -- combined.

Over the last 40 years, the largest corporations in this country have closed thousands of factories in the United States and outsourced millions of American jobs to low-wage countries overseas. That is why we need a new trade policy and why I am opposed to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership now before Congress.

Large corporations and their lobbyists have created loopholes enabling corporations to avoid an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by shifting profits to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens. That is why we need real tax reform which demands that the very wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.

For more, click the last dotted link.

4. US Drone Program to Remain in Shadows as Obama Abandons Key Reform Promise

The next item today is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

U.S. President Barack Obama has made a sharp U-turn on his two-year-old promise to move the CIA's controversial drone program out of the "legal shadows," according to new reporting by the Huffington Post

In a May 2013 speech at the National Defense University, Obama vowed to move the "out of the covert shadows and into the relative sunlight of the Defense Department," writes HuffPo reporter Ali Watkins, who notes that "[d]rone critics greeted the announcement with cautious optimism, hoping that a Pentagon-run drone program would be more transparent and allow more oversight of targeted killings."

But sources tell Watkins that "[b]ehind closed doors, all of that has changed."

On June 10, the HuffPo reports, administration officials gave a classified briefing to lawmakers laying out a blueprint for a new transition plan that would involve a dual command structure—giving the Defense Department and the CIA joint control of drone strikes. That blueprint, unnamed officials told Watkins, is close to complete. 

You may be surprised at the "sharp U-turn on [Obama's] two-year-old promise" but I am not because I have learned (since 2009) that what Obama says to the public is always the propaganda that serves him best, while he doesn't say anything (or insists that he "is looking forward rather than backward") if anyone
somehow manages to mention the crimes of his government where he can hear it, while what he does do, and very well indeeed, is to serve the corporate interests faithfully.

This is another case:

The same factor that caused Obama to want to take the drone program away from the CIA may be part of the reason the agency is holding onto it: As covert operations, the agency's drone strikes aren't subject to the same international laws and domestic oversight as the Pentagon's. The CIA can more easily operate in countries such as Pakistan, where local governments may not necessarily sign off on U.S. strikes.

That is: the president wants to continue his droning in secret.

5. The Anatomy of Hell

The last item today is an article by Richard J. Evans on The New York Review of Books:
The hell spoken of in this review of six books about the Nazi concentration camps are the Nazi concentration camps.

I suppose this is here for the following reasons:

1. My father and his father were both arrested in July 1941 because they were communists and in the resistance - which in fact was a rather odd thing to do, in Holland, because while there were some 25,000 Dutch members of the SS,
there were at most 3,000 Dutchmen involved in the armed resistance against
Nazism [1], and indeed the Dutch also succeeded in murdering more than 1% of
their total population
simply because they were Jewish (many without having the Jewish faith) and they were poor [2]. My father survived 3 years 9 months
and 15 days of being a political prisoner; my grandfather was murdered in a camp also as a political prisoner.

2. I know therefore rather a lot more about the German concentration camps than the vast majority, in part because my parents (my mother also was a member of the Dutch communist resistance, but she escaped arrest) had books about them which I read; in part because they remained active all their lives both in the communist party and in the former resistance; and in part because my father, together with comrades who also survived the Sachsenhausen concentra- tion camp, made an exhibition about the camps and the dangers of fascism, for
which my father was knighted briefly before his death [3], as one of the only two communists who were knighted in Holland [4].

3. Because I know rather a lot more about concentration camps and totalita- rianism than most I fear that the days of totalitarianism are far from passed,
also in Europe and the U.S. - where now everyone who is not a European president is surveilled as a matter of course, which means that everyone - except presidents, or so the NSA assures us (as always without any evidence) - is thus treated as a potential terrorist who has no right, no privacy and no defense against being secretly surveilled by the states' secret police, and having a secret dossier that may be useful to any future American or European government of any kind.

I outlined this to make clear why I did do two years of crisis reports: The main reason is that I do know a lot more about totalitarianism than most, and because
I am afraid it will happen again, indeed perhaps not in the same form as the Nazis or the Soviet communists, but with similar outcomes: most intellectuals and most non-conformers will be killed or neutralized, simply because they do not agree with the beliefs that rule the governments and the politicians. [5]

Then again, I am also willing to admit that a major cause for my writing
about the present crisis is the crisis of the 1930ies that destroyed so much of
the chances and the lives of my own family, and indeed of many tens or hundreds of millions of their contemporaries, although I also insist that - so far as I can see - the main moving factor is the considerable knowledge I have of
totalitarianism. [6]

Anyway - this is a good review, and it starts as follows:
In the popular imagination, the Nazi concentration camp now features mainly as a place where Jews were taken to be gassed. In a recent German opinion poll, most respondents associated the camps with the persecution and murder of Jews; under 10 percent mentioned other categories of camp prisoners, such as Communists, criminals, or homosexuals. The power of the “Holocaust” as a concept has all but obliterated other aspects of the crimes of the Nazis and the sufferings of their victims and driven the history of the camps from cultural memory. No crime in human history outdoes the genocidal extermination of six million European Jews on the orders of the leader of Germany’s self-styled “Third Reich.” Yet the majority of the Jewish victims of Nazi mass murder were not killed in the camps; they were shot, starved to death, or left to die of diseases that could easily have been prevented or treated but were not. The concentration camp was in no way synonymous with the Holocaust.
Yes, precisely. In fact there were at least two kinds of concentration camps:
Those meant to destroy (mostly) Jews ("Vernichtungslager" (German) i.e. camp of destruction a.k.a. extermination camps) and those meant to punish (mostly) non-Jewish opponents of the Nazis ("KZ" for "Konzentrationslager" (German) i.e. concentration camp).

And there were considerably more concentration camps than there were destruction camps, although the destruction camps tended to be larger.

This is from the review of the first of the six reviewed books, "KL: A History of Geman Concentration Camps" by Nikolaus Wachsmann, that seems best (not only according to Richard J. Evans):

Wachsmann’s gripping, humane, and beautifully written narrative begins with the establishment of the first of the Nazi camps, at a disused munitions factory outside the town of Dachau, near Munich. During the first half of 1933, as Hitler gathered the reins of power to himself, makeshift camps were improvised were all over Germany to incarcerate Communists and Social Democrats, the main political groups who resisted the Nazis’ violent seizure of power. Only gradually were these closed down, with the release of the prisoners, many of whom had been badly beaten and tortured (even the official estimate reckoned that over six hundred were murdered by the Nazis), on promise of refraining from political engagement. By 1934, as Wachsmann showed in his previous book, Hitler’s Prisons (2004), the function of political repression had been taken over by the police, the courts, and the regular state prisons and penitentiaries.
Incidentally, the fact that "the function of political repression had been taken over by the police, the courts, and the regular state prisons and penitentiaries" is in considerable part due to the fact that these institutions were all rapidly Nazified
(and were controlled from the beginning by, first, Goering and then Himmler).

Next, there is this on the proportion of Jews in camps:
How many of the prisoners were actually Jewish? For most of the period of the camps’ existence, up to the final phase of the war, Wachsmann reckons that Jews made up no more than 10 percent of the inmate population.
Incidentally, this means that at least 20 million persons have been imprisoned in some German concentration camp.

There is this about the very beginning of the German concentration camps, that started within days of Hitler's taking power, and with the concentration camp Dachau:
The first four inmates of Dachau to be murdered were all claimed by the Nazis to be Communists, but they were also, not coincidentally, Jews; from every truckload of new prisoners in 1933 the SS selected Jews for beating and torture, and in other camps they were treated with a special, sadistic savagery. From the late 1930s onward, Jewish inmates were made to wear a special badge singling them out as Jewish, in addition to or instead of the colored triangles identifying them as political, criminal, or “asocial.” This made their persecution even easier than before.
Incidentally, while this is all true, there was another group that was "treated with a special, sadistic savagery" (as my father testified): Soviet soldiers (who were locked up in concentration camps).

There is this on the mass extermination of the Jews:
Then from 1941 onward, as the Nazis’ program of mass extermination of Jews began to unfold, Jewish inmates were removed and taken to extermination centers, where they were killed along with Jews brought from every part of Europe over which the Nazis had control. By the time the war ended, the Nazi need for workers who could contribute to the war economy was bringing increasing numbers of Jews into the camp system rather than the gas chambers—overwhelmingly, adult men rather than women, the old, or the very young, whom the SS did not consider capable of work. Even at this stage, however, Wachsmann estimates that only a third of the camp population consisted of Jews.
So far, I've only excerpted half of this. I will leave the rest to your interests (click the last dotted link) but select one more bit, because it fits very well with my father's testimony:
Like Wachsmann, Helm rejects the common view that the inmates all passively accepted their fate.
Yes, indeed: In fact, my father did survive 3 years, 9 months and 15 days of imprisonment as a "political prisoner" (with a red triangle) because he was a part of the communist resistance inside the concentration camps, which also helped him to get medical jobs (at which, being very intelligent, he was quite good).

The last link is to my father's testimony. In any case, this made clear some of my motives to write about the present crisis.


[1] There were also some 10,000-30,000 persons who resisted without arms, by illegally hiding Jews (risking the deaths of themselves and all of their families) or by printing or spreading illegal papers. But that is it - there were about as many Dutch persons resisting in various ways, as there were Dutch volunteers for the SS (who were all in their late teens to early thirties).

Also, the only groups that went into armed resistance was the Dutch Communist Party, to which my father and grandfather belonged, and some Protestant groups. There was little armed resistance outside these two kinds of groups, and also most of the members of these groups were arrested, though not all.

[2] It is rather relevant that many of the over 100,000 Dutch Jews that were murdered were not religious (indeed, many were atheists, socialists, anarchists, or communists) and that they were poor:

One of the main reasons so many of the Dutch Jews were murdered is that the SS collaborated with the Jewish Council and especially with David Cohen and Abraham Asscher, who were two rich Jews, who had a deal with Rauter, who led the SS in Holland, to the effect that if they helped round up the Dutch poor Jews, they themselved would be saved. Rauter kept word until the end of the war, while Cohen and Asscher helped him - among other things - by strongly advocating in 1941 that everyone who was jewish in the racist Nazi sense should register himself or herself as a jew in the official registries of persons, where that was not done until WW II.

Most did, and therefore they could be very easily rounded up, a little later, as racial jews. (And no, Cohen and Asscher were not punished, and did not even have to face a court, rather like the judges of the Dutch Supreme Court, all of whom collaborated, and who simply continued after the liberation. Again, the same is true of nearly all Dutch judges.)

[3] Yes, he was (but he died a little over 2 months later).

And why were Dutch communists not knighted? Because - obviously, most Dutchmen thought - they were "traitors of Our Fatherland". This was sick bullshit (and my parents decided - unlike most Dutch families, who went for Canadian and English names - that all their children would get Dutch names, and they did)
but it worked quite well, and indeed my parents also were insulted that way,
at least until the 1960ies.

[4] Also, my father was knighted for what he did for the National Exhibition about Resistance and Fascism, after WW II. The only Dutch communist who was knighted for what he did in the war was Jan Brasser, who was the head of the resistance in North-Holland, and could not be avoided.

[5] For this happened in Germany, in Austria, in Italy, in Spain, in the Soviet Union, and in China, for example, that is, under both rightist and leftist totalitarian governments.

[6] I have always been much against totalitarianism, and this was a quite
important reason I left the Dutch Communist Party aged 20, in 1970, even though my parents were then 25 to 35 years members of that party. They were disap-
pointed, but then I had not survived a concentration camp thanks to my being a
communist. Also, I saw both that fact and that my parents were morally very sincere and honest, so we did not have strong or long disagreements.

[7] Here I admit that (i) the present "European Human Right Laws" are not that, but much rather are "European Legalized Spying Laws" because to all the classical Human Rights there have been attached long lists of exceptions which allow the the states' secret spies to spy all they can, while (ii) I have so far not tried to investigate this, so all I can do on the moment is refer you to the classical - 1948 - Declaration of Human Rights, while adding that I do not know whether that set of excellent rules now is part of the law in any country. (I would not be amazed if these excellent rules have been everywhere replaced by the "Legalized Spying Laws", but then again I also do not know that.)
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