September 4, 2015
Crisis: Cluster Bombs, Corbyn Proposal, "Millenials", "Terrorism", Bill Maher

 "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


NYT Claims U.S. Abides by Cluster Bomb Treaty: The
     Exact Opposite of Reality

2. Financial Support for the People: The U.K. Labour
     Front-Runner’s Controversial Proposal

3. Why are the baby boomers desperate to make
     millennials hate ourselves?

4. Dangerous Redefinition of ‘Terrorism’
5. Three Bill Maher videos

This is a Nederlog of Friday September 4, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald about cluster bombs and the veracity of the NYT; item 2 is about a quite interesting proposal by Jeremy Corbyn; item 3 is about an - in my (logically and statistically trained) eyes - very bad article on baby boomers vs millenials on The Guardian; item 4 is about several definitions of "terrorism" (with help from Parry and the Wikipedia); and item 5 consists of three good videos by Bill Maher, which I added to amuse you and because I like their arguments.
1. NYT Claims U.S. Abides by Cluster Bomb Treaty: The Exact Opposite of Reality

The first article today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The New York Times today has a truly bizarre article regarding the U.S. and cluster bombs. The advocacy group Cluster Munition Coalition just issued its annual report finding that cluster bombs had been used in five countries this year: Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and Sudan. This is what The Paper of Record, in its report by Rick Gladstone, said this morning about the international reaction to that report (emphasis added):

The use of these weapons was criticized by all 117 countries that have joined the treaty, which took effect five years ago. Their use was also criticized by a number of others, including the United States, that have not yet joined the treaty but have abided by its provisions.

As Americans, we should feel proud that our government, though refusing to sign the cluster ban treaty, has nonetheless “abided by its provisions” — if not for the fact that this claim is totally false. The U.S. has long been and remains one of the world’s most aggressive suppliers of cluster munitions, and has used those banned weapons itself in devastating ways.

I say. First, about the question what are cluster bombs (<- Wikipedia): You can check this out yourselves, but I will quote one bit of it:
Because cluster bombs release many small bomblets over a wide area, they pose risks to civilians both during attacks and afterwards. During attacks, the weapons are prone to indiscriminate effects, especially in populated areas. Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians and/or unintended targets long after a conflict has ended, and are costly to locate and remove.
Here is what 108 countries decided to do against them:

Countries that ratify the convention will be obliged "never under any circumstances to":

(a) Use cluster munitions;
(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;

(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

And this is part of the reasons 108 countries signed the convention:
The impetus for the treaty, like that of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines, has been concern over the severe damage and risks to civilians from explosive weapons during and long after attacks. A varying proportion of submunitions dispersed by cluster bombs fail to explode on impact and can lie unexploded for years until disturbed. The sometimes brightly colored munitions are not camouflaged, but have been compared to toys or Easter eggs, attracting children at play.
That sounds convincing enough to me (there is a whole lot more in the Wikipedia lemmas) - and no, the USA is not amongst the 108 countries that ratified the convention.

In fact, as Glenn Greenwald writes:
Reporting from Yemen for Rolling Stone in May, Matthieu Aikins described the ample evidence that U.S.-supplied cluster bombs are being used indiscriminately against civilians. Last month, Mother Jones’ Bryan Schatz wrote an excellent summary of all the ways the U.S. has been central to the horrific Saudi slaughter of Yemeni civilians, including the supplying of cluster munitions.

The U.S. has long been supplying cluster bombs to the Saudis. In August 2013, Foreign Policy noted a Defense Department press release proudly announcing that “the U.S. military [is] selling $640 million worth of American-made cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite the near-universal revulsion at such weapons.”
Here is  the conclusion of Glenn Greenwald's article:
The U.S. does not occasionally violate one of those provisions. It continually violates all of them, systematically and as a matter of policy doing exactly that which the treaty expressly bans. For the NYT to tell its readers that the U.S. — one of the leading cluster bomb states on the planet — is actually one of the countries that “have not yet joined the treaty but have abided by its provisions” is nationalistic propaganda of the most extreme kind.
I agree this is propaganda, though I doubt this is "of the most extreme kind".

2. Financial Support for the People: The U.K. Labour Front-Runner’s Controversial Proposal  

The next article is by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig. Originally, the article appeared on Ellen Brown's site Web of Debt:

This starts as follows:

Dark horse candidate Jeremy Corbyn, who is currently leading in the polls for UK Labour Party leadership, has included in his platform “quantitative easing for people.” He said in a July 22nd presentation:

The ‘rebalancing’ I have talked about here today means rebalancing away from finance towards the high-growth, sustainable sectors of the future. How do we do this? One option would be for the Bank of England to be given a new mandate to upgrade our economy to invest in new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects: Quantitative easing for people instead of banks.

That seems a fair idea to me: Quantitative easing (<- Wikipedia), which is essentially money supplied by the government against very low interests, but this time for the 90% instead of for the 1%.

Also, according to the Positive Money group (I am quoting from Ellen Brown's article):
Ideas in a similar vein have been advocated or at least suggested by notable economists including J M Keynes (1), Milton Friedman (2), Ben Bernanke (3), William Buiter (4) and Martin Wolf (5).  Most recently, Lord Adair Turner (6) has proposed similar ideas, highlighting that ‘there are no technical reasons to reject this option’.
Not only that: Here is the last paragraph but one of the lemma on quantitative easing from Wikipedia (minus note numbers):

QE for the people

In response to concerns that QE is failing to create sufficient demand, particularly in the Eurozone, a number of economists have called for "QE for the people". Instead of buying government bonds or other securities by creating bank reserves, as the Federal Reserve and Bank of England have done, some suggest that central banks could make payments directly to households. Economists Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan argue in Foreign Affairs that this is the most effective solution for the Eurozone, particularly given the restrictions on fiscal policy. They argue that based on the evidence from tax rebates in the United States, less than 5% of GDP transferred by the ECB to the household sector in the Eurozone would suffice to generate a recovery, a fraction of what it intends to be done under standard QE. Oxford economist, John Muellbauer, has suggested that this could be legally implemented using the electoral register.
And here is economist Dr. Asad Zaman quoted by Ellen Brown:
Keynesian theory is based on a very simple idea that conduct of the ordinary business of an economy requires a certain amount of money. If the amount of money is less than this amount, then businesses cannot function — they cannot buy inputs, pay labourers or rent shops. This was the fundamental cause of the Great Depression. The solution was simple: increase the supply of money. Keynes suggested that we could print money and bury it in coal mines to have unemployed workers dig it up. If money was available in sufficient quantities, businesses would revive and the unemployed labourers would find work. By now, there is nearly universal consensus on this idea. Even Milton Friedman, the leader of the Monetarist School of Economics and an arch-enemy of Keynesian ideas, agreed that the reduction in money supply was the cause of the Great Depression. Instead of burying it in mines, he suggested that money could be dropped from helicopters to solve the problem of unemployment.
Here is the last statement in the article by Ellen Brown:
Corbyn’s proposal is needed, it will work, and it is an idea whose time has come.
I do hope so, but I'm afraid it needs strong political support, for I live in a world were most politicians see no objection to sluice more and more money to the rich,
while quite a few politicians object to doing the same for the poor.

But yes, it might help.

3. Why are the baby boomers desperate to make millennials hate ourselves?

The next article is by Eleanor Robertson on The Guardian:

I should start by saying that I found this a very strange article - but it may be that there are quite a few (so-called) "millenials" who believe something like this.
They shouldn't, as I will explain.

This starts as follows:

Back in 1999 Chris Sidoti, then-head of the Australian Human Rights Commission, called the baby boomers “the most selfish generation in history”.

“I don’t think there’s been a generation like this that has been so unwilling to pay a fair share of taxation,” he said.

This week the Pew Research Centre released a report showing that just 24% of millennials, defined as those born between 1981 and 1997, considered themselves responsible, compared to 66% of boomers.

This pattern is repeated across a number of self-reported virtues: 27% of millennials consider their generation self-reliant, just 17% consider themselves moral, and 29% think we’re compassionate.

For baby boomers, those figures are much higher: 51%, 46% and 47%.

To start with, I first heard the term "baby boomer" in 2001, from Pim Fortuyn.

Before that, if I had been asked, I would probably have (very roughly) defined myself, e.g. for the purposes of a survey, along lines like these: I am a man who is a post WW II Amsterdammer, and who is an intellectual from a proletarian background - which provides sufficient detail to make me about 1 in 10,000 of similar Dutch males.

There were seventy-six million children born in  the USA between 1945 and 1964, which is about a quarter to a fifth of the present American population. Taking that as a key, there must be nearly 2 billion baby boomers in the world.

But according to Chris Sidoti and Eleanor Robertson these (very roughly) 2 billion persons are "the most selfish generation" there ever was...

I say. All of the 2 billion? Most of the 2 billion? How many of the 2 billion did you talk with in your life (a 1000 at most, is my suggestion)? Or are you perhaps "merely" talking of "Western" baby boomers? (A mere 500 million or so?)

That is to say: Why should I take the opinions derived from averaging the opinions of a small selection (of "self reported virtues", moreover) from a very large arbitrary group as relevant to me? It totally escapes me, but according to Ms Robertson the following is the case:
(...) a clear picture emerges: western millennials believe that we’re failures – immoral and irresponsible. We believe we’re not proper adults. We believe we’re lazy and self-absorbed. Basically, we believe what the baby boomers have told us. We’ve drunk their Kool-Aid.
So I am supposed to believe that the majority of around 1 billion persons regard themselves as "immoral and irresponsible", as "lazy and self-absorbed failures" - and all because they - the majority of the 1 billion - believed what
the majority of two billlion baby boomers have told them?!?! (It doesn't make it much better when restricting oneself to "western" "millenials" or "baby- boomers".)

I don't think so at all, and this seems just fallacious trash to me. But it's easy to trace the steps that created it: (1) believing arbitrary groups are as real as persons ["Polacks are real. You're a Polack."] (2) attributing some statistically derived properties to the individuals in the group ["(Most) Polacks (I've seen) are lazy."] (3) accusing all (or most) individuals in the group of having these attributes ["You are lazy (like most other Polacks)."].

This is Archie Bunker's favorite type of argument, except (perhaps) that it is dressed up as if it were statistics - which is why I am a bit amazed to find it in The Guardian.

Ms Robertson also quotes herself:

No wonder a quarter of young people are struggling with mental illness. Born into a bizarro world controlled by baby boomers who have comprehensively shafted us, it’s a credit to our resilience and adaptability that we’ve managed to get this far at all.

That is: she believes "baby boomers" "control" and "comprehensively shafted" her (not: the rich or the powerful - no, no: "baby boomers"] and she also believes the propagandistic rot she reads in papers which insist that no less than a quarter of her group are mentally ill.

Here is the last quotation from Ms Robertson:

Yet this is what boomers want us to think, and we oblige. Never mind that none of it is true. Never mind that believing these toxic fictions is making young people sick, sad and hopeless. Never mind that this is exactly the same process that causes poor people of all ages to believe they are at fault for their poverty.
Well... I am a baby boomer but I do not want you to think so, and I don't think "millenials" are like that either - though I only speak for myself. (But I would  recommend a good course in logic and a good course in statistics, for the prose Ms Robertson writes is quite fallacious.)
4. Dangerous Redefinition of ‘Terrorism’

The next article is by Robert Parr on Consortium News:

This starts as follows:

The classic definition of terrorism is the intentional killing of civilians to make a political point, as in planting bombs near the finish line of a marathon or crashing commercial jetliners into buildings filled with office workers. Yet, the mainstream U.S. media has broadened the definition to include killing U.S. soldiers or allied troops even those operating in foreign lands.

I don't think "terrorism" - defined by me as: "Attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder" - needs to be restricted to intentional killings
of civilians, but I agree Parry's definition is - broadly speaking - correct, as indeed is his (implied) argument that this is different from the intentional killings (etc.) of soldiers (engaged in a war). The reason for the difference is that civilians are
not out to kill or wound others, themselves, and soldiers (engaged in a war) are
(in both cases: generally speaking).

But let us consider things a bit closer. This is quoted from the lemma Terrorism on Wkipedia (minus note numbers):
One definition describes terrorism as: violent acts (or the threat of violent acts) intended to create fear (terror), perpetrated for an economic, religious, political, or ideological goal, and which deliberately target or disregard the safety of
non-combatants (e.g., neutral military persons or civilians). Another common definition sees terrorism as: political, ideological or religious violence by non-state actors. (...) In the international community, terrorism has no legally binding, criminal-law definition.

The word "terrorism" is politically loaded and emotionally charged,
and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. (...) In some cases, the same group may be described as "freedom fighters" by its supporters and as "terrorists" by its opponents, a phenomenon giving rise to the cliché, "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."
I agree with the first defitinion, but I disagree with the second: People who tell me that the persons working for states are innocent of terrorism are fundament- ally confused [1] or have forgotten the many millions of civilians terrorized or murdered in Nazi or Soviet concentration camps.

Indeed, there also is this pair of definitions:

The Encyclopædia Britannica Online defines terrorism generally as "the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective", and states that "terrorism is not legally defined in all jurisdictions." The encyclopedia adds that "[e]stablishment terrorism, often called state or state-sponsored terrorism, is employed by governments -- or more often by factions within governments -- against that government's citizens, against factions within the government, or against foreign governments or groups."
I agree with these definitions, on the understanding that "population" and "citizens" do refer to persons not engaged actively and on purpose in fighting in a war (as I think is implied). [2]

To get back to Robert Parry:

But attacks aimed at military forces – not civilians – are not “terrorism” in the classic definition. And this is an important distinction because the word carries deservedly negative moral and legal implications that can put those nations accused of “terrorism” in the cross-hairs of economic sanctions and military attacks that can kill hundreds of thousands and even millions of civilians.

In other words, abuse of the word “terrorism” can have similar consequences as terrorism itself, the indiscriminate deaths of innocent people — men, women and children. Much of the case for sanctions and war against Iraq in the 1990s and 2000s was based on dubious and even false claims about Iraq’s alleged support for Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

I mostly agree, although I think that "abuse of the word “terrorism”" is not
the same as "terrorism", however defined, even though I agree words are
used when justifying terrrorism. But a (falsely derived, false) belief is not
the same as an act of terror(ism).

5. Three Bill Maher videos

The last items of today are not articles, but are three videos with Bill Maher.
I like him (without agreeing with him on everything) and here are three videos,
none very recent, that make good points in a funny way:

Incidentally, the last is quite funny in explaining the hypocrisies of Christian rightists who refuse to do anything for poor people, and the first contains the
statement that 60% (!) of Americans believe the story of Noah's Ark.


[1] The arguments I have read that exclude persons working for states as terrorists tend to be based on the idea that states have the monopoly of violence.
That simply confuses "having a monopoly" with "making a correct use".

[2] I would consider the bombing of civilians in a war - Guernica, England, Germany - as terrorism, indeed also if these civilians (as was the case in both England and Germany in, say, 1942) work for or support their armies, and
my reason is that they are civilians, and do not engage themselves as soldiers.

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