July 10, 201
Crisis: Economy, Merkel, Big Oil, Spying, Capitalism, Hedges, Holder, Privacy, Comments
  "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. An Economic Hit Man Speaks Out: John Perkins on How
     Greece Has Fallen Victim to "Economic Hit Men"
NSA Surrounded Merkel in 'Web of Surveillance':

3. Big Oil Knew. Big Oil Lied. And Planet Earth Got Fried.
Spying on the Internet is Orders of Magnitude More
     Invasive Than Phone Metadata

5. Unbridled capitalism is the 'dung of the devil', says Pope

VIDEO: Chris Hedges: In Extreme Times, ‘Liberals Are a
     Dead Force’ (Part 1 of 3)

7. Matt Taibbi on Eric Holder's Insulting New Job
8. Info About the Sex Lives and Medical Histories of Millions
     of Federal Workers Is in Hackers' Hands

Naked Capitalism: Announcing Site Policy Change

This is a Nederlog of Friday July 10, 2015.

In fact, this is a crisis blog. It is fairly long, and contains brief reviews of 9 articles: item 1 is about a quite interesting interview with a former economic hit man; item 2 is about how the German government has been spied upon by the NSA: a lot more than previously thought; item 3 is about an article that shows the big oil corporations knew about climate change since the early 1980ies; item 4 is about the extent of internet spying: far wider and far more serious than "metadata"; item 5 is about pope Francis and unbridled capitalism; item 6 is about part 1 of an interview with Chris Hedges by The Real News Network; item 7 is about the - well-considered - amazing career of the crook Holder; item 8 is about how the private histories and sex lives of over 20 million federal workers have been stolen by the Chinese; and item 9 is about commenting, now mostly terminated, at a site I like.

Also, this is the first more or less normal Nederlog since June 29, which also suffers from two (unavoidable) problems: the reviews are short and the titles
are too long to be fairly given in Nederlog's title. (Indeed, in case you want to
have a better idea of what is in the Nederlogs, try the summaries: For 2015, these have somewhat fair summaries, like the previous paragraph).

1. An Economic Hit Man Speaks Out: John Perkins on How Greece Has Fallen Victim to "Economic Hit Men"

The first article today is by Michael Nevradakis on Truthout:
This starts as follows:

John Perkins is no stranger to making confessions. His well-known book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, revealed how international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, while publicly professing to "save" suffering countries and economies, instead pull a bait-and-switch on their governments: promising startling growth, gleaming new infrastructure projects and a future of economic prosperity - all of which would occur if those countries borrow huge loans from those organizations. Far from achieving runaway economic growth and success, however, these countries instead fall victim to a crippling and unsustainable debt burden.

That's where the "economic hit men" come in: seemingly ordinary men, with ordinary backgrounds, who travel to these countries and impose the harsh austerity policies prescribed by the IMF and World Bank as "solutions" to the economic hardship they are now experiencing. Men like Perkins were trained to squeeze every last drop of wealth and resources from these sputtering economies, and continue to do so to this day.
The rest of the article is a - quite good - interview. I'll leave that to your interests, and only quote the ending, which is about Greece:
I would encourage the people of Greece to stand up: Don't pay off those debts; have your own referendums; refuse to pay them off; go to the streets and strike.

And so, I would encourage the Greek people to continue to do this. Don't accept this criticism that it's your fault, you're to blame, you've got to suffer austerity, austerity, austerity. That only works for the rich people; it does not work for the average person or the middle class. Build up that middle class; bring employment back; bring disposable income back to the average citizen of Greece. Fight for that; make it happen; stand up for your rights; respect your history as fighters and leaders in democracy, and show the world!

2. NSA Surrounded Merkel in 'Web of Surveillance': WikiLeaks

The next article today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This has the following summary:
Spy target list includes not only confidential numbers for Merkel, but also for her top officials, her aides, her chief of staff, and even her fax machine
It starts as follows:

New documents published Wednesday by WikiLeaks show that the U.S. National Security Agency "explicitly targeted for long-term surveillance 125 phone numbers for top German officials and did so for political and economic reasons."

The publication comes on the heels of similar leaks regarding NSA targets within the governments of France and Brazil. Previous revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging U.S. espionage in Germany—specifically, eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone—caused outrage when they surfaced.

According to WikiLeaks, the target list includes almost two dozen telephone numbers at the federal agency that serves the executive office of the Chancellor, in effect "surrounding the Chancellor in a web of surveillance." It includes not only confidential numbers for Merkel, but also for her top officials, her aides, her chief of staff, her political office, and even her fax machine.

Two cell numbers for Géza Andreas von Geyr, former department head of Foreign and Security Policy at the Chancellery (responsible for bilateral U.S. relations), were targeted, as was the T-Mobile number for Bernard Kotch, current deputy head of the Federal Chancellery Office.

"The intensive nature of US targeting around the Chancellor explains why the White House could easily commit to not targeting Angela Merkel personally in the future, but continues to refuse to make such a commitment for other members of the German government," the WikiLeaks statement continues. After all, it notes, "the Chancellor cannot run the government by talking to herself."

I say. Well... I guess it's the same in the rest of Europe. Also, by now it is my guess most of the characters who lead Europe don't so much mind that each of their words and all of their acts are documented in an NSA file, but that this gets
widely known. (But as I said: This a guess.)

3. Big Oil Knew. Big Oil Lied. And Planet Earth Got Fried.

The next article today is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

They knew. They lied. And the planet and its people are now paying the ultimate price.

It's no secret that the fossil fuel industry—the set of companies and corporate interests which profit most from the burning of coal, oil, and gas—have been the largest purveyors and funders of climate change denialism in the world.

Now, a new set of documents and a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) answers the age-old question always asked when it comes to crimes of corruption, cover-up, and moral defiance: What did they know and when did they know it?

As it turns out, "The Climate Deception Dossiers" shows that leading oil giants such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell—just like tobacco companies who buried and denied the threat of cancer for smokers—knew about the dangers of global warming and the role of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions long before the public received warning from the broader scientific community. And what's worse, of course, is not only that they knew—but how they have spent the last nearly thirty years actively denying the damage they were causing to the planet and its inhabitants.

There is considerably more in the article. The brief summary is: The leaders of the big oil corporations have known (and have deceived) about climate change since the early 1980ies. 

Spying on the Internet is Orders of Magnitude More Invasive Than Phone Metadata

The next article today is by Micah Lee on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

When you pick up the phone, who you’re calling is none of the government’s business. The NSA’s domestic surveillance of phone metadata was the first program to be disclosed based on documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Americans have been furious about it ever since. The courts ruled it illegal, and Congress let the section of the Patriot Act that justified it expire (though the program lives on in a different form as part of the USA Freedom Act).

Yet XKEYSCORE, the secret program that converts all the data it can see into searchable events like web pages loaded, files downloaded, forms submitted, emails and attachments sent, porn videos watched, TV shows streamed, and advertisements loaded, demonstrates how Internet traffic can be even more sensitive than phone calls. And unlike the Patriot Act’s phone metadata program, Congress has failed to limit the scope of programs like XKEYSCORE, which is presumably still operating at full speed.
What is the explanation? Part of it is this:
But Americans don’t understand the Internet yet. Bulk collection of phonemetadata is, without a doubt, a violation of your privacy, but bulk surveillance of Internet traffic is orders of magnitude more invasive. People also use the Internet in all the ways they use phones — often inadvertently sharing even more intimate details through online searches. In fact, the phone network itself is starting to go over the Internet, without customers even noticing.
Yes - and nearly everyone of that enormous crowd also is wholly anonymous for every normal user (though not for the NSA, but most don't know and fewer care).

There is considerably more in the article, that will not make you happier, and it ends like this:

Facebook feeds everywhere are decorated with baby pictures. When those babies are grown up and getting elected to Congress, maybe then Americans will understand how the Internet works, and that bulk surveillance of phone metadata is just a tiny sliver of the enormous “collect it all” bulk surveillance pie.
5. Unbridled capitalism is the 'dung of the devil', says Pope Francis

The next article today is by Reuters on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Pope Francis has urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land.

In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America”.

He also said this:

Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money “the dung of the devil”, and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.

Repeating some of the themes of his landmark encyclical Laudato Si on the environment last month, Francis said time was running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem.

And he said this:

Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money “the dung of the devil”, and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.

Repeating some of the themes of his landmark encyclical Laudato Si on the environment last month, Francis said time was running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem.

What is my own view on this? I think it can be summed up thus:

I am a livelong atheist whose mother's family have been atheists for over 150 years, and while I think it is nice to see a pope who talks sensibly about the greed of the rich and the exploitation of the poor and the dangers of climate change, I also know he is an old man, and will soon die, and very probably there will return a much more conservative pope.

VIDEO: Chris Hedges: In Extreme Times, ‘Liberals Are a Dead Force’ (Part 1 of 3)

The next article today is by Jenna Berbeo on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
PAUL JAY: In his new book, Wages of Rebellion, Chris Hedges writes the following: Rebels share much in common with religious mystics. They hold fast to a vision often they alone can see. They view rebellion as a moral imperative even as they concede that the hope of success is slim, at times impossible.

Further down, he writes: Revolutions take time. They are often begun by one generation and completed by the next.

Towards the end of the book—I should say, at the conclusion of the book, Chris writes: We must grasp the harshness of reality at the same time as we refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. People of all creeds and people of no creeds must make an absurd leap of faith to believe, despite all the empirical evidence around us, that the good draws to it the good.

There is a fair amount about Thomas Paine (<- Wikipedia: He was a very interesting man, who wrote very well) and about revolutions that I am going to leave to your interests.

But I will comment on the above quotation, and start by saying that I am the third generation of revolututionaries of my family (and the last one), which also makes me look upon this rather differently (and no, unlike most I have seen, my
parents were real revolutionaries, and were so for some 40 years, unlike Chris Hedges' family).

First then, about rebels and mystics. I agree there is - to an extent - an overlap, but it seems a lot less prominent in the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries than it was before: The revolutionaries of the last quarter of the 19th Century, and ever since, have been mostly atheistic marxists, anarchists and socialists (and
differed in that from earlier revolutionaries).

Second, about the duration of a revolution. Mostly, this is semantics: the term "revolution" is a vague one. Then again, I prefer to think of - what I call - revolutions as short periods of radical change (another government with radically
different laws, and a new approach to economy, say) that may or may not be
successful (and generally only last a relatively short time: only those that last -
a small percentage - will make major changes, but these I would not call revolutionary, but the effects of a (somewhat) successful revolution). But as I said, mostly this is merely semantics (but I prefer to use it for short times, because no one is capable of foreseeing long times).

Third, about an absurd leap of faith. I deny this exists or is necessary. In the end, it is about fairness and justice and honesty, and these also do not require a leap of faith. (It seems to me that all you need to see is that some men "earn" 300 or more times as much as other men, who are not really different from them, and that this unfairness is systematic and intentional, and will continue until it is stopped.)

Here is Chris Hedges on another feature of revolutions, that is very common: Most revolutions fail:

HEDGES: Because he holds fast to the moral imperative of revolt and he’s willing to pay the price. I mean, I think that we have to look back at history and realize that most rebels don’t succeed. We remember the ones that do, but they’re the exception. Most people who rise up and rebel against monolithic systems of power get crushed. And that doesn’t mitigate the magnificence of their lives and their resistance. That’s just a reality. You know, if you take that path, the odds are against you. And yet I think it’s the path that we have to take, because rebellion, especially when we face this monolith of corporate power we call radical evil, there is a moral imperative to stand up to that power with the realization that in all likelihood, especially in a prolonged act of resistance, that power will crush us.
Yes, indeed - but not because "the power" is right, but because it is rich and strong; because the majority of the people are not intelligent and not informed, and for these reasons, plus egoism, collaborate with the powerful rather than the revolutionaries; and because the revolutionaries themselves did not have good plans, good information, or sufficient power, or indeed rapidly got corrupted themselves when they found they had power.

7. Matt Taibbi on Eric Holder's Insulting New Job

The next article today is by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on AlterNet (but originally on Democracy Now!):
This starts as follows:
In a new interview with Democracy Now!, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi talked about former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rejoining his old law firm whose clients include many of the banks linked to the finanicial crisis. Taibbi described the move as probably the biggest single example of the revolving door. "He spent six years essentially guiding all of these Wall Street firms," he said, "which many of them are clients of this company that he’s now working for—he guided them all back to profitability. He allowed bankers to escape prosecution. And now he’s going right back to that firm, where he’s going to enjoy a very lucrative partnership, whether he ever works again, you know, for the rest of his life."
Which means that a major crook is now going to be rewarded with a whole lot of money for being a major crook.

This is a fairly long interview from which I will quote only one more bit, that indicated why Eric Holder is a major crook who is now getting rich for giving illegal protection to other major crooks, as minister of justice:
(...) Holder just started striking deals and not submitting them for judicial review. So he did a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase where no judge signed off on the deal. The whole thing was done in secret. He essentially institutionalized the back room. This was just a deal where a bunch of bankers got together with a bunch of Justice Department officials, money changed hands, and that was it. The whole—all of their criminal problems went away. This is a very different way of doing business than what we’ve ever seen before, and it’s very dangerous, I think.
Yes. Essentially, it went like this:

The bankers had to pay a part of their illegal profits to the Department of Justice, who then granted to the bankers a completely clean bill of legal health, that also freed them from having done any crime - after which they could do it again (and again, and again).

8. Info About the Sex Lives and Medical Histories of Millions of Federal Workers Is in Hackers' Hands

The next article today is by Max J. Rosenthal on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:

The federal government announced on Thursday that—yet again—the huge hacks of sensitive government personnel records revealed last month are even bigger than previously thought.

Officials now say that information on 21.5 million people was stolen—more than 19 million security clearance applications, plus other sensitive data such as fingerprint records from another 2 million people who know or are related to the applicants. They told the Washington Postit's now "highly likely" that the hackers, likely working for China, stole every such application submitted since 2000 to the Office of Personnel Management, which conducts security clearance investigations for almost all government agencies. Intelligence agencies like the CIA and National Security Agency do their own checks into potential clearance holders.

I say. How is this possible?

One major reason this could happen has to do with size: The USA and China are leading nations especially because they have large populations (resp. over 300 million and over 1 billion persons) which allows them (1) to have more money from taxes, and - especially - (2) also more highly gifted people than smaller nations (of 60 million, or even of 16 million).

Indeed, judging in terms of size and giftedness, the Chinese are better placed than the USA, that is better placed than England and France, etc.

Hence, it is likely there will be more thefts of secret materials in the USA.

9.  Naked Capitalism: Announcing Site Policy Change

The last article today is by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows:

We regret to inform readers that we will be shutting down comment on most posts. We are far from the only site to be forced to make this change.

The purpose of Naked Capitalism above all is to foster critical thinking. For the overwhelming majority of this site’s history, we have been fortunate to have an articulate and engaged readership that gave high value added commentary and provided us and other readers with new ideas, informed critiques, and (sadly) corrections of our too-numerous typos.

That is no longer the case. The comments section has now become negative value added, to the point that Lambert and I are devoting disproportionate time to the moderation queue. The result is that I am ruining my health as well as neglecting original reporting.
This is here because I like Naked Capitalism and I also strongly sympathize with this decision.

Indeed, my own mind on "comments" and "commenters" was made up already in 1996, when I first got internet and was given a mailing list program (I think it was called) that allowed one to see and take part in discussions with many people on any topic. When I first opened that - in November or December of 1996 - I saw hundreds or thousands of aliases, without any information on age, sex, education, or nationality damning everyone in the grossest terms, almost always without any reason I could see.

I found it then totally ridiculous to have to read contributions from totally anonymous users who also, generally with very little or no provocation, insulted others in the grossest terms, and I removed the software.

Since then I have read extremely few anonymous comments (apart from Phoenix Rising, which was a mistake of me), and have benefitted a lot, for I don't get upset, and did gain - over 18 years now! - a great lot of time.

For I really believe that I have nothing to share with someone I cannot judge as a person, not as regards his or her age, sex, education, honesty, or anything else,
and I also cannot take them serious: they are playing games; they are not being serious.

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