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Nederlog

September 5, 2015
Crisis: Refugee Crisis * 2, BBC WS, American Capitalism, Stingrays

 "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

Sections
Introduction

1.
This refugee crisis is too big for Europe to handle - its
     institutions are broken

2. BBC plans TV and radio services for Russia and North
     Korea

3. What Happened to the Moral Center of American
     Capitalism?

4. In Escape from Brutality, Refugees March on Foot
     Towards Austria

5. Finally! DOJ Reverses Course and Requires Warrants for
     Stingrays!



This is a Nederlog of Saturday, September 5, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article on The Guardian that argues the refugee crisis is too big to handle for
Europeans; item 2 is about an extension of the BBC World Service (that I am
a big fan of since around 1970, but can't get on my radio anymore since 2010); item 3 is about a question by Robert Reich about the disappearance of the moral center of American capitalism; item 4 is about refugees in Hungary, with a reasonable list (in the original) of more articles on the subject (in case you
are interested); and item 5 is about a - rare and rather limited - piece of good news about unlimited data collections by the police from every cell-phone in their reach (that so far went on mostly unpublished and quite unpunished).

1. This refugee crisis is too big for Europe to handle - its institutions are broken

The first article today is by Mark Sweney on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

When you cut through the horror and the hypocrisy, the exodus across the Balkans is not just a refugee crisis. This is the first, mass trans-regional flight of modern times.

The Middle East has exploded across our TV screens for decades, but now it suddenly feels like an adjacent conflict zone. Just as we realised, in the 1990s, that the Bosnian killing fields were just a commuter flight away, today we are confronted by a clear land and ferry route from the war zone on the Euphrates to refugee centres on the Danube and the Rhine. The resulting crisis may prove too big for Europe to handle.
Yes, indeed - and incidentally "the war zone on the Euphrates" has been created by the USA, with tacit consent or active cooperation from European countries (but the USA doesn't border on the lands they bomb, occupy, or have occupied).

Next, there is this, that sketches the regulations that ceased to work:

The Dublin III regulation, which requires all asylum seekers to be fingerprinted and sent back to their first country of arrival in the EU, is effectively suspended. The Schengen agreement, which allows passport-free movement across central and western Europe, is falling apart: countries surrounding both Hungary and Italy have attempted to place ad hoc controls on migrants and refugees. Frontex, the agency that for years coordinated a policy of deterrence and prevention – through sea patrols and border fences – looks powerless.

I agree that (i) the current amounts of refugees looks like an exodus, and (ii) that the regulations and regulators currently have broken down, but I doubt that
the second breakdown will last long (and I don't think that the current European political leaders are willing to welcome large amounts of refugees).

Then there is this:
The disorder we have allowed to assemble at the borders of Europe does not easily divide into “economics” and “war”. The conceit that we can segment those coming here into the “deserving and undeserving” is going to shatter as their claims are processed.
I doubt it. I agree "“economics” and “war”" are both involved for many refugees, and I certainly agree that the divisions attempted by bureaucratic institutions in “deserving and undeserving” are ridiculous and inhumane, but I suppose they will return in some way, and  not more reasonable, but probably less reasonable. [1]

Here is the conclusion of the article:
Even if populist resistance to migration stops short of fascism, and even if anti-migration parties are disempowered by the electoral system, their existence highlights a failing consensus. And that is, in turn, founded on economic failure. The Eurozone has produced an arc of stagnation and discontent along its southern border. There is mass unemployment in the very countries that have become the first port of call for migrants and refugees.

So the challenge for Europe is clear. To absorb the refugees we are going to need a new set of rules about where they’re processed; new arrangements for internal travel in Europe. Plus a new social consensus about who can come, who can’t and where they are going to live and work. And, ultimately, a massive economic stimulus.

If the EU cannot do all this, its constituent nations will begin to do so separately.
Many Europeans don't want to accomodate or help refugees, and certainly not
inside their own countries. I think they are mostly unreasonable, but they have
one point that is very probably correct:

There are far more people from Africa and Asia that would want to move to Europe than there is place for them (without destroying most of the welfare that attracts them).

So basically many have to be kept outside Europe, somehow. My guess is that
is going to happen, and it will not be pretty, nor fair, nor reasonable. (And see note [1] on the many untold excellencies of the democratic Dutch system - where refugees and their children can be locked up for years on end, simply because they have no papers.)

2. BBC plans TV and radio services for Russia and North Korea  

The next article is by Mark Sweney on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The BBC is set to unveil proposals for a significant expansion of the BBC World Service, including potentially a satellite TV service for Russian speakers and a daily radio news programme for North Korea.

The proposals, which will be announced by director general Tony Hall on Monday, include beefing up the BBC Arabic service to offer more regional content, with increased coverage of north Africa and the Middle East.

The BBC argues that the expansion is about “democracy and the free press” at a time which has seen the rise of big state-sponsored rivals, such as al-Jazeera and RT (previously Russia Today), both of which now have UK operations, and China Central Television.

“This is about Britain’s place in the world,” said a BBC source. “It is above the politics of the debates about the BBC’s future. It has to be a national priority. Other news outlets are growing globally and many do not share our traditions and values. We have a strong commitment to uphold global democracy through accurate, impartial and independent news. There should no longer be any no-go countries for the World Service.”

I say. One important reason for me to pick this item is that I have been much pleased to listen to the BBC World Service in Amsterdam from the early 1970ies until around 2010 (around 40 years), when the BBC WS disappeared from my radio (in Amsterdam, Holland), because the BBC had less money, and because they thought I and other Europeans could reach them by way of the internet.

Well, yes... I can, more or less, reach them by way of the internet, but this is considerably more difficult than switching on the radio: I have to find a program I like, then do a considerable download of mp3, and then I can listen, all of which takes time and attention.

Also, I should add that - certainly since 2013 - I get most of the news from reading (I check between 30 and 40 sites every day), which goes a lot faster
than listening to speech.

But meanwhile - never having had a TV since 1970 [2], while having some decent radio between 1970 and 2010, that since has nearly completely disappeared - I would much like it if the BBC WS were available on radio again, so that I could simply switch them on or off through the day, as I did for forty years, and can't do anymore.

I guess my wish is in vain, but I do like the BBC, simply because their programs
are better than most other programs. (And Dutch radio is fit for imbeciles only,
and also mostly not on radio waves, but on cable, which I again lack, because I hate TV.)

3. What Happened to the Moral Center of American Capitalism?

The next article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

An economy depends fundamentally on public morality; some shared standards about what sorts of activities are impermissible because they so fundamentally violate trust that they threaten to undermine the social fabric.

It is ironic that at a time the Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality – what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage – we are experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality.

We’ve witnessed over the last two decades in the United States a steady decline in the willingness of people in leading positions in the private sector – on Wall Street and in large corporations especially – to maintain minimum standards of public morality. They seek the highest profits and highest compensation for themselves regardless of social consequences.

CEOs of large corporations now earn 300 times the wages of average workers. Wall Street moguls take home hundreds of millions, or more. Both groups have rigged the economic game to their benefit while pushing downward the wages of average working people.

Yes, indeed - and in fact the whole schema of deregulation served that purpose: More to the rich, which is to say equivalently: Less to the non-rich.

It's also true that this has been intentionally hidden in various ways, and one was the concentrating (in a totalitarian fashion, indeed) on the private moralities of the 90% (as if politicians should have much to say on how one spends one's private life as long as one lives inside - rational and reasonable - laws: they should not) instead of on the public immoralities of the 1% (who stole and stole and stole, again largely through first deregulating the laws, and next exploiting ordinary people as soon and as much as they could).

Next, there is this on how it was and how it changed:

CEOs did not earn more than 40 times what the typical worker earned. Profitable firms did not lay off large numbers of workers. Consumers, workers, and the community were all considered stakeholders of almost equal entitlement. The marginal income tax on the highest income earners in the 1950s was 91%. Even the effective rate, after all deductions and tax credits, was still well above 50%. 

Around about the late 1970s and early 1980s, all of this changed dramatically. The change began on Wall Street. Wall Street convinced the Reagan administration, and subsequent administrations and congresses, to repeal regulations that were put in place after the crash of 1929 – particularly during the Roosevelt administration – to prevent a repeat of the excesses of the 1920s.

Yes, indeed - but let us also note that the period of welfare-for-most was in fact limited to the 30 years from 1950-1980, and that it was due in large part to Roosevelt and his administration, and to Keynes, and that what we have seen since were 35 years of deregulations [3] (of the laws that protected most between 1950 and 1980, indeed without being less capitalistic (but by being more fair in division of profits and taxes: the rich deregulated that, basically through lies - "Trust Us: We Will Trickle Down!" - and propaganda).

Where has the moral center of American capitalism disappeared? Wall Street is back to its same old tricks. Greg Smith, a vice-president of Goldman Sachs, has accused the firm of putting profits before clients. Almost every other Wall Street firm is doing precisely the same thing and they’ve been doing it for years.

The Dodd-Frank bill was an attempt to rein in Wall Street, but Wall Street lobbyists have almost eviscerated that act and have been mercilessly attacking the regulations issued. Republicans have not even appropriated sufficient money to enforce the shards of the act that remain.

This is all true, though I think another relevant question is "Why has the moral center of American capitalism disappeared?", and my answer is mostly: Through
the corruption of America's politicians and through the corruption of the main media.

The first kind of corruption was simply real corruption: They got paid to do or approve of the
deregulations, and they were paid well. The second kind of corruption in part did arise from the enormous losses of money through loosing
a lot of advertising in the paper media - although it seems to me that this also,
like the first kind, was in part propelled by some secret plan. [4]

Here is a list of things Robert Reich wants:

The Glass-Steagall Act must be resurrected. There has to be a limit on the size of big banks. The current big banks have to be broken up using anti-trust laws, as we broke up the oil cartels in the early years of the 20th century.

We’ve got to put limits on executive pay and have a much more progressive income tax so that people who are earning tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars a year are paying at a rate that they paid before 1981, which is at least 70% at the highest marginal level.  

We also need to get big money out of politics.

I agree - but (1) those who are currently in power do not want any of these
things to happen (2) and they are very powerful, while (3) they have reached
all the things Reich (and I, and quite a few others) wants to see undone through
a systematic, well-orchestrated campaign that lasted over 40 years (taking it as started by the Powell-memorandum of 1971), and also (4) they also succeeded in manipulating a considerable part of the 50% of people with IQs of maximally 100, to support the ends of the rich rather than the ends of the non-rich.

My conclusion is that it will take at least 10 to 20 years to shift things back - if that is possible (which I doubt, at least apart from further rather large changes).

Indeed, Reich also sees this:

These changes can’t come about unless we have campaign finance reform that provides public financing in general elections and a constitutional amendment that reverses the grotesque decision of the Supreme Court at the start of 2010, in a case called “Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission.”

None of this is possible without an upsurge in the public at large – a movement that rescues our democracy and takes back our economy.
I agree - but this (undoing a legal change that very much strengthened the
rich and powerful, and getting a mass movement going to save democracy,
also without destroying most of society, and with the awful mass media there are) seems rather unlikely, at least
to me.

Robert Reich ends like this
:
Massive inequality is incompatible with robust democracy. Today, in the United States, the top 1% is taking home more than 20% of total income and owns at least 38% of total wealth. The richest 400 people in America have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.
(...)
As the great American jurist and Supreme Court associate justice Louis Brandeis once said: “We can have huge wealth in the hands of a relatively few people or we can have a democracy. But we can’t have both.”

I agree, but it seems to me that the USA, with over 150 million people with an IQ of maximally 100, who also are almost continuously propagandized by advertisements spurring them on to consume and by main media who tell them they can trust their leaders and journalists, mostly has given up on real democracy.

That is a very sad conclusion, but it accords with the facts.

4. In Escape from Brutality, Refugees March on Foot Towards Austria

The next article is by Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

No longer willing to wait for passage by train or official approval in Hungary, thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa—but mostly those fleeing war in Syria—undertook a dramatic 150-mile march from Budapest towards the Austrian border on Friday as they sought safety and relief from a treacherous journey that has now captured the attention of the world.

This is quoted from the UK Independent:

Frustrated by the lack of action, [the people] set off for Austria on foot, aiming to reach Germany. Amira’s time in Hungary has shaken her belief in Europeans. "We don’t trust them: they will take us to the camps and beat us," she says. "I hope that when the train comes it will take us away from here; that is all that I want."

Amira crossed four borders to get to Budapest during a harrowing journey that is becoming a rite of passage for thousands seeking a better life in Europe.

Some 200,000 people have crossed the sea between Turkey and Greece, paying hundreds of pounds to smugglers for a space on overcrowded dinghies. “It’s the worst thing I have ever done in my life,” says Mountaha, 23, who fled from Idlib in Syria. She and her husband, Anas, 24, a computer engineer, initially fled to Turkey. But after six months there they decided they wanted a better future for their son Mohamed, who is two months old.

I sympathize with them, but they'll find a Europe that will tend to dislike them (too dark, no fluent European, Muslims, don't look like Europeans) and will try to push them through all kinds of sick bureaucratic loops that in the end will only
give residency to a minority. (And see [1])

These are the rules, and without rather fargoing political changes, these will remain the rules, or the rules will get even more restrictive and inhumane.

Anyway, one reason to review this is that at the end of the article there is a good and fairly long survey, with brief comments, of around 15 articles that were lately published on The Guardian in its attempts to chart the refugee crisis.

5. Finally! DOJ Reverses Course and Requires Warrants for Stingrays!

The last item of today is by Nate Cardozo, who is a staff attorney from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and who has some good news (which is rare in the crisis series):

This starts as follows:
At long last, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced a slew of much-needed policy changes
regarding the use of cell-site simulators. Most importantly, all federal law enforcement agencies—and all state and local agencies working with the federal government—will now be required to obtain a search warrant supported by probable cause before they are allowed to use cell-site simulators. EFF welcomes these policy changes as long overdue.
Yes, indeed - and in fact I'd say "a search warrant supported by probable cause" was required anyway by the U.S. Constitution (Fourth Amendment, indeed),  but I concede this may have been signed away by the "Patriot Act" (somehow, although the Fourth Amendment is part of the Constitution, and can't be withdrawn - probably through the bullshit argument that sending a letter through a computer differs from sending a letter by paper mail).

Here is some more:

Colloquially known as “Stingrays” after Harris Corporation’s brand name for a common model, cell-site simulators masquerade as legitimate cell phone towers, tricking phones nearby into connecting to them. This allows agents to learn the unique identifying number for each phone in the area of the device and to track a phone’s location in real time. But Stingrays can get a lot more than just identifying numbers and location data—by virtue of the way they work, all mobile traffic (voice, data, and text) from every phone in the area could be routed through the Stingray, giving the operator the option to do anything from recording entire calls and texts, to selectively denying service to particular phones.

Until recently, law enforcement’s use of Stingrays has been shrouded in an inexplicable and indefensible level of secrecy. At the behest of the FBI, state law enforcement agencies have been bound by non-disclosure agreements intended to shield from public scrutiny all details about the technical capabilities and even model numbers of the devices.
In fact, the "law enforcement’s use of Stingrays " was illegal on my view of the law, but I grant it may have been somehow "legalized" by the "Patriot Act" (which I much disagree with, but have not thoroughly read, as indeed very few senators who passed it have read it).

And there is also this, that rather limits the good news:

What the changes don’t do:

  • The new policy isn’t law and doesn’t provide any remedy to people whose data is swept up by Stingrays operated without a warrant. Indeed, it won’t even act to keep evidence collected in violation of the policy out of court (this is known as suppression).
  • The policy doesn’t apply to the use of Stingrays outside of the criminal investigation context. For instance, when federal agents use cell-site simulators for “national security” purposes, they won’t be required to obtain a warrant by the terms of this policy.
  • There are two enumerated exceptions to the warrant requirement in today’s guidance. The first is the traditional “exigent circumstances” exception, common to all warrant requirements and not particularly worrisome. But the second exception listed in today’s policy for undefined “exceptional circumstances” is potentially problematic. We have no idea what that means, so we’re waiting to see if and how the exception will be used.
I say. So both for (purported) “national security” purposes nor for whatever may be meant by (purported) “exceptional circumstances" these changes in policy hold.

But OK it is a small change in the right direction, though even these changes are rare these days.
--------------------------------------

Notes

[1] Yes - and I don't agree, and they are inhuman(e). Here is a quotation from something I wrote on August 9, 2012, a little over three years ago, in Stoning human beings the Dutch way - style 2012:

The Dutch have their own goddamned concentration-camp prisons now, where even small children can be locked up for 1 1/2 years, forced to do nothing at all on a space of 2.5 square meters, namely for having committed the crime of having no papers that allows them to escape the neo-nazi state of the Netherlands - and so after 1 1/2 years imprisonment they get stoned, is the official term: Thrown into the street, on the cobbles, without money, and after a month or two - if they still haven't committed suicide, e.g. because of their children, they get arrested again, with their children, for having no papers or no money, and they get imprisoned again, as are their children, and so on, until they are dead. And they can't escape, for having no papers, no other country admits them, either, so the Dutch can have their own sado-fascistic joys with them as long as they haven't committed suicide.

This is what the Dutch Parliament, the Dutch government, and probably the majority of the Dutch want.
This also contains the Dutch text + my translation to English with an interview with the (then) "National Ombudsman".

[2] I have explained this several times. Here is a link to one such explanation: The TV and average intelligence

[3] I published this twice, in January 2013 and in February 2014, and I do think this is a good article.

[4] See my Hypotheses about the causes of the crisis. And I agree this is a guess, that also may be given several forms.


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