who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Federal Court Lifts National
Security Letter Gag Order;
First Time in
"A Political Insurrection in Britain"
3. Are We Heading
Into a Debt Supernova?
4. 'We Are
Stubborn': Refugees Still Set on Germany Despite
5. Lehman Day: Making Fun of
the Second Great Depression
This is a Nederlog
September 15, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1
is about an American federal court that, for the first time in
14 years, lifted a gag order
that seems to normally come with a "national security letter" (which
may have been given to more than 1 in a 1000 adult Americans!); item
2 is about an interview with Tariq Ali (forty years befriended with
Jeremy Corbyn) that I found interesting; item 3 is
about the threat of a debt supernova, that is taken seriously by some
serious economists; item 4 is about the refugee
problem the European Union has, and tries to solve by mounting more and
more bureaucratic hurdles for refugees to enter Europe; and item 5 is about the fact that it is today 7 years ago
that Lehman Brothers went down.
Court Lifts National Security Letter Gag Order; First Time in
The first article today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
starts as follows:
say. This is a very good judicial decision, simply because the FBI was
given powers under the "Patriot Act" which it shouldn't have
and cannot have in any real democracy:
A federal district court
judge in New York has fully
lifted an 11-year-old gag order that the FBI imposed on Nicholas
Merrill, the founder of a small Internet service provider, to prevent
him from speaking about a National Security Letter served on him in
It marked the first time
such a gag order has been fully lifted since the USA Patriot Act in
2001 expanded the FBI’s authority to unilaterally demand that certain
businesses turn over records simply by writing a letter saying the
information is needed for national security purposes.
Like other NSL
recipients, Merrill was also instructed that he could not mention the
order to anyone.
Next there is this:
- National Security
letters that force someone to hand over information to the FBI are
undemocratic (and in my eyes illegal)
- The order not to tell
anyone about such a letter from the FBI is only fit
for a very authoritarian and completely undemocratic government.
Yes, indeed. But there still
is this, that shows the enormous authoritarian scope the FBI
has had for many years:
the court ruling allowing him to discuss the details of the sealed
request in full will allow him to ignite a debate among Americans about
the unchecked surveillance powers of the U.S. government.
“For more than a decade,
the FBI has fought tooth and nail in order to prevent me from speaking
freely about the NSL I received,” Merrill said
in a press release published by the Calyx Institute, where he serves as
U.S. District Court Judge
Victor Marrero’s decision “vindicates the public’s right to know how
the FBI uses warrantless surveillance to peer into our digital lives,”
Merrill said. “I hope today’s victory will finally allow Americans to
engage in an informed debate about proper the scope of the government’s
warrantless surveillance powers.”
Merrill is not free to
talk quite yet, however – he will remain under gag order for 90 days,
giving the government time to appeal.
The Electronic Frontier
Foundation estimates that over 300,000 National Security Letters have
been issued since 2001. The Justice Department concluded
in 2008 that the FBI had abused their power, often gathering
information on large numbers of U.S. citizens, infringing on their
First Amendment rights, and leaving hardly any paper trail, until
changes were adopted in 2006.
First, Merrill still is not
free to speak (yet). And second, "300,000
National Security Letters" means
that something like more than 1 in a 1000 of ALL adult Americans have
been served these authoritarian undemocratic letters, possibly all with
an order to shut up telling anyone.
That is not
democratic law: it is pure authoritarianism, and therefore I am glad - if
this happens! - that Nicholas Merrill may tell all.
"A Political Insurrection in Britain"
next article is
by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
Jeremy Corbyn has
been a member of the House of Commons since 1983 and
has a long history of voting against his Labour Party, which had moved
considerably to the right under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Corbyn’s
victory presages the prospect of a return to the party’s socialist
roots, championing the renationalization of public transportation, free
university tuition, rent control, and a national maximum wage to cap
the salaries of high earners. We speak to longtime British editor and
writer Tariq Ali, who has known Corbyn for 40 years. He calls Corbyn
the most left-wing leader in the history of the British Labour Party.
For those who want some
background: Here is the Wikipedia on Tariq Ali.
Here is Ali on Jeremy Corbyn and the importance of Corbyn's victory:
But his victory
marks a huge shift in English politics. And the big
problem here now is the following, that we have the most left-wing
leader in the history of the British Labour Party in power as leader,
and we have a very right-wing parliamentary Labour Party, which has
been effectively created by Blair and Brown, by ending democracy in the
party, by parachuting office boys and office girls to become members of
Parliament, so that they have no one of note in Parliament today.
That’s the contradiction that Jeremy faces. And I think one of the
things he will have to do is to restore democracy in the party, give
party conferences once again real meaning, and move forward. But, you
know, that will happen, and it will take some time
OK. And here is a bit
from the interview on the comparison between Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie
Sanders (which - I take it - was the the theme of Chris Hedges' last column):
I agree with that estimate
(and don't see it as a reason to drop Bernie Sanders as a
For our American audience, Tariq, is Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of
the Labour Party with these 200-to-one odds about three months ago
equivalent to Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination for
president, the socialist senator from Vermont?
Well, it is very similar, Amy, except that Jeremy is very good on
foreign policy issues. I mean, he has been very strong attacking all
the imperial wars. He has been very strong on the right of the
Palestinians to national self-determination. He has denounced wars,
and, as we heard earlier, he has linked the refugee crisis to the wars
that are creating refugees. And Bernie has, of course, been very good
attacking the corporations and the oligarchic aspects of American
political and social life, so in that sense he is similar, but he has
been very reluctant on foreign policy issues. Nonetheless, it would be
the equivalent, you’re right, that if somehow Bernie Sanders became the
official candidate of the Democratic Party to take on the Republicans,
I mean, they would be—people would be squealing with anger, the
traditional elites, but it would be a step forward. And that step has
already been taken now in England.
Finally, here is Tariq Ali on the character of Jeremy Corbyn:
So, Jeremy has
been, you know, all the time I have known him—and I say
this about very few politicians, Amy, as viewers will recall, but he
has been one of the most honest politicians I know. He has got
integrity. He has been consistent. And he has fought for the causes
which large numbers of progressive people all over the world believe
him—believe in. And he’s been like this for 40 years.
I accept that, though it
remains to be seen how effective Jeremy Corbyn will be,
in part also because Blair and Brown - as was said above - filled the
Labour Party with their own kind of insignificant careerists.
This is an interesting interview.
Are We Heading Into a Debt Supernova?
next article is
by Washington's Blog on his blog:
This starts as follows:
Financial luminaries such
as Ray Dalio, Bill Gross, Kyle Bass, BCA Research, Ken
(“Excel”) Rogoff, John Mauldin and Martin
Armstrong think that we’re
at the end of a debt supercycle.
Former director of the
Office of Management and Budget said we’re facing a “debt
Former Fed chief Alan
Greenspan said recently
Debt, deficits and entitlement
programs are all coming to a head in a few months, all over the world.
I don't know how
convincing that is, firstly because I am not a "financial luminary";
secondly, because I distrust Alan Greenspan; and thirdly also because
I do know sufficiently much about economics to know that (i) it
is not a real science, if only because (ii) almost all economists
missed predicting 2008.
But there is a reference in the article that backs it up. This is by
Tyler Durden on Zerohedge:
This starts as
follows (with boldings in the original, but some text suppresed here
(and if you want it, click the last dotted link):
Over the weekend, we
reported that in a dramatic turn of events, the research division of
Japan's second biggest brokerage house, Daiwa, did what nobody else has
done before and released
a report in which it made a global financial "meltdown", one
resulting from nothing short of a Chinese economic cataclysm its base
case scenario, its base case. It added that the impact of this global
meltdown would "be the worst the world has ever seen." To wit:
Of all the
possible risk scenarios the meltdown scenario is, realistically
speaking, the most likely to occur. It is actually a more realistic
outcome than the capital stock adjustment scenario. (...) If
China’s economy, the second largest in the world, twice the size of
Japan’s, were to lapse into a meltdown situation such as this one, the
effect would more than likely send the world economy into a tailspin.
Its impact could be the worst the world has ever seen.
That is Japan's "second biggest brokerage house", which was followed, it seems within 48 hours, by a
similar report by Citigroup, whose chief economist is the Dutch-born
American-British economist Willem Buiter,
also known as Heleen
Mees's former lover :
This is Citi's punchline:
"A global recession starting in 2016, led by China is now our
Global Economics team's main scenario. Uncertainty remains, but the
likelihood of a timely and effective policy response seems to be
There is considerably more
in the article. Do I consider it convincing? No, but it
does show the economy is far from healed, in
spite of the present gains for the rich.
And while I know the rich
make money on the moment, I still insist it is crisis, since
the non-rich hardly advanced, and there are 90 or 99 non-rich against 1
4. 'We Are Stubborn': Refugees Still Set on Germany Despite
next article is
by Ranlah Salloum on Spiegel On Line:
This is from the
beginning of the article:
On Sunday evening,
Germany introduced temporary border controls along its frontier with
Austria in response to the massive
numbers of refugees that have been making their way to Germany in
recent weeks. Officials from Germany's 16 states sounded the alarm back
on Thursday, warning that refugee hostels were full and that they could
no longer process the huge numbers of newcomers.
The temporary border
controls -- which could last as long as two weeks, according to
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, who spoke on public radio
on Monday morning -- are intended to give Germany a chance to catch its
breath while at the same time ratcheting up the pressure on other European Union member states
to accept a quota system for the distribution of asylum recipients
across the bloc. EU interior ministers are meeting on Monday to try to
find a solution.
I say. And I note there
seem to be a million more Syrians (only Syrians!) who
are trying to leave their country. (Incidentally, there are some 17
million Syrians, according to Wikipedia.)
It seems to me that the
European governments are trying to "solve" the problem by making it
more and more difficult for any refugees to come to Europe. Here is a
statement by Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maizière:
Refugees, he added,
"can't simply choose" in which country they want to apply for asylum.
I don't see why not,
though I agree the problem is quite serious.
5. Lehman Day: Making Fun of the Second Great Depression
next article is
by Dean Baker on Truthout:
This starts as follows:
Incidentally, the CEO of
Lehman Brothers was Richard Fuld Jr. who "earned" nearly 500
million dollars, and still seems to have all: See my Corporate
psychopaths from January 7, 2012. He surely profited enormously.
This week marks the
seventh anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the huge
investment bank. This collapse set off the worldwide financial panic
that brought Wall Street to its knees. The anniversary of this
collapse, September 15, is the day set aside to ridicule the people who
warned of a second Great Depression (SGD) if the Treasury Department
and the Federal Reserve Board didn't rescue the Wall Street banks.
But that is by the way. Here is more on the argument of the article:
Just to recount
the basic story, there is no doubt that without a government bailout
most of the big Wall Street banks would have gone under. Citigroup and
Bank of America were both effectively bankrupt and remained on life
support with hundreds of billions of dollars of government subsidized
loans well into 2010. The remaining investment banks, Merrill Lynch,
Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs were all facing bank runs. These
would have been unstoppable without the helping hand of big government.
Many other financial institutions also would have been brought down in
the maelstrom, but these giants were for sure dead ducks at the time of
OK - that seems
definitely true. Then there is this:
There is no doubt
that the initial downturn would have been more severe if the market was
allowed to work its magic and put these banks out of business. But the
question the SGD gang could never answer is how this collapse would
prevent the government from boosting the economy immediately afterward.
After all, then Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke once
ridiculed people who questioned the ability of the government to
boost the economy, commenting the government "has a technology, called
a printing press…"
Incidentally, Bernanke said so in 2002, but it is true that the
government still has the printing press, and uses it, but
mostly to help the
banks rather than the ordinary people.
There is also this:
sitting through a decade of double-digit unemployment, why would
Congress not pass a large stimulus package supported by aggressive
monetary policy from the Fed? There certainly was no economic obstacle
to this path. And the claim that political gridlock somehow would have
prevented any stimulus flies in the face of history. Even Republicans
have supported stimulus to counter economic slumps.
That is true. But it
didn't happen in 2008-2009, because the bank managers convinced the
politicians that austerity for the many but billions of money for
themselves and their corporations - including the continuance of paying
millions a year to corrupt bank managers, because
their banks "were too big to fail" - would "save the economy".
Well, it did not save the economy. It saved the banks, which
should have folded;
it saved the bank's managers; it saved their riches; it didn't solve
the crisis but merely shifted it forward and downward to millions of
ordinary people who are
paying for it; and in fact it changed very little economically, for the
same dangers and most of the same debts still
Incidentally... I checked this out today because I have written (it
turned out) 12 times about Heleen
Mees, between 2006 and 2014,
but one of these articles were written in Dutch, and in most articles
she was only mentioned briefly, and my arguments mostly concerned her
kind of - quite silly - feminism.
The reason for this footnote is that Heleen Mees fell from such fame as
she had by getting into conflict with her former lover, Willem Buiter -
but while the Wikipedia file on Mees is quite explicit about it
(including her demanding 20 million dollars from Buiter, which
is about 40 times as much money as I received in my whole life) the
Wikipedia file on Buiter does not contain either "Mees" nor "Heleen"
and doesn't mention the conflict at all.
So... who cleaned Buiter's file on Wikipedia? (For I don't consider
this fair. I am no party in the conflict, but either both should be
mentioned in both Wikipedia lemmas or - perhaps, but that would be
falsifying history - in neither lemma.)