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."
Decries “Shameful and Culpable Silence”
Sales “Drenched in
2. Legislator Says Gift Ban
Violates His Freedom of Speech
3. Mandelson says it’s too
early to force Jeremy Corbyn out
4. Pope Francis: He Told
5. U.S. Special Ops Forces
Deployed in 135 Nations
CEOs Branded Privacy Traitors For Their Quiet Push
to Pass CISA
This is a Nederlog
September 25, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1
is about pope Francis, as is item 4, and in either
case I am struck by the naivity of many journalists; item
2 is about an extension of Citizen United: Now unlimited gifts and
offers and invitations are also supposed to be covered by "freedom of
speech" (and I can't see why not, given the insanity of Citizens
United); item 3 is about a piece of Mandelsonian
advice to the Labour Party; item 5 is about the -
enormous - extent of US secret forces, in 135 countries; and item 6 is about a recent letter
of 16 of the top (American) executives in computers and/or internet who
proposed to the US government that they are quite willing to
steal anyone's private data if only they are guaranteed they will not
be legally prosecuted for doing so...
Pope Decries “Shameful and Culpable Silence” on Arms Sales “Drenched in
article today is by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Pope Francis on Thursday
gently scolded Congress on a variety of issues, from immigration to
foreign policy, but on one unexpected topic — the weapons sales that
fuel armed conflicts around the world — he couldn’t have been much more
He was speaking about his
determination “to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed
conflicts throughout our world,” when he said this:
Here we have to ask
ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to
inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer,
as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood,
often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable
silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms
Those were fighting
words, especially given where he spoke them. The U.S. is by far the
largest arms supplier in the world, with domestic manufacturers selling
more than $23.7
billion in weapons in 2014 to nearly 100
different countries. During the Obama administration, weapons sales
to record levels, in large part due to huge shipments to Gulf
States, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Well... I am glad the
pope is against the sale of weapons, and that he assured Congress it "is simply for money: money that is drenched
in blood, often innocent blood", but given that he is talking about 23.7 billion
dollars yearly, merely in 2014, it is obvious his "fighting words"
will not stop the very profitable sales.
In fact, there is
this, a bit further down, which is correct to the best of my knowledge,
and is about the arms sales:
could have blocked any of this, went along happily — in no small part
because of the approximately $150 million a year the defense industry
spends on lobbying
Incidentally, although $150
million dollars a year, spent by the "defense industry" (a euphemism
for: war industry) merely on lobbying and direct campaign
to members of Congress, it still is less than 6/1000th
of the yearly sales in weapons.
As to Obama's government, there is this:
shows that the volume of major arms deals concluded by Obama in
five years far exceeds the amount approved during the eight years
of the Bush administration.
Then again, I am pretty sure
Obama will defend this by saying he sent out fewer "boots on the
ground" (and the profits were very good, although he won't say that).
For more on pope Francis, see item 4.
2. Legislator Says Gift Ban Violates His Freedom of Speech
article today is
by Lee Fang on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
I say - but given that the
majority of the Supreme Court holds that money = freedom of speech, I
think they (ought to) stand a fair chance.
The Supreme Court, in its
Citizens United decision, ruled that
corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts in
elections. Now politicians in Kentucky are claiming they have a
Constitutional right to receive gifts from lobbyists.
In a lawsuit filed
in U.S. District Court, Republican Kentucky state Sen. John
Schickel, along with two Libertarian political candidates, are
suing to overturn state ethics laws, claiming that the campaign
contribution limit of $1,000 and a ban on gifts from lobbyists and
their employers are a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment
The lawsuit notes that
lobbyists and the employers of lobbyists are prohibited by Kentucky law
from inviting legislators to parties, offering gifts, or paying for
food for legislators. “This infringes on the legislator’s, lobbyist’s,
and employer of lobbyist’s right to freedom of association, and freedom
of speech,” Schickel claims in the suit.
I also think that is utterly insane, but then the majority of the
Supreme Court is in favor of it, or should be, given their earlier
insane decision for Citizens United.
And clearly, since they translated "freedom of speech" as "money,
especially if owned
by billionaires" surely they can extend their interpretation of "freedom of speech" to "freedom to receive
any amount of money or goods for anything or
nothing by any political candidate for any purpose whatsoever".
says it’s too early to force Jeremy Corbyn out
next article today is
by Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Labour critics of Jeremy
Corbyn should consider forcing out their leader only when the majority
of party members realise the public has formed a negative view of him,
according to Peter Mandelson.
The former minister and
adviser to Tony Blair offers his view in a private paper that
circulated to political associates last week in which he urges them to
dig in for the “long haul”.
This is from
mega-millionaire Tony Blair's (worth around 50 million pounds) favorite
professional liar. (I do not know how much Mandelson's net worth is,
but surely he is a millionaire as well, thanks to New Labour.)
Lord Mandelson (he
also was made a lord for his services to New Labour) also opined:
I'd rather see a leftist
Labour that is defeated because it is leftist, than a Blairite New
Labour that wins the election based on Mandelsonian lies, deceptions
and falsehoods and that continues the Tory policies. And I think that
is the real choice Lord Mandelson offers.
He predicts that
Corbyn’s supporters will be a force in the party who will not be
quickly dissuaded from their support of him. “We need to acknowledge
that those who supported him have invested a lot personally in Corbyn,
we are not going to convince them overnight they were wrong and before
then they will provide an army to draw on as they become absorbed into
“We are in for a long
haul during which time the atmosphere in the party will become
increasingly acrimonious at branch and constituency levels.”
He also says something quite typical for him:
The former spin doctor
urges his wing of the party to acknowledge its mistakes, saying: “The
old labels, totems and divisions have no use anymore; they are damaging
“‘New Labour’, Blairites,
Brownites – all these labels are redundant. They prevent us reaching
out in the party and building essential new bridges. If we want people
to listen to us, we must no longer look as if we are continuing past
That is, the Blairite and
Brownite New Labour man Mandelson, who got his riches and his lordship
by servicing Blair and Brown for many years, now pretends that all the
by Blair and Brown, and all of New Labour, and all of the Third Way
lies and deceptions are "damaging
Wouldn't it be much
easier to dismiss Blair, Brown, Mandelson and their ilk from the Labour
Party? Clearly, they are not socialists, not leftists,
and not honest, and clearly they abused the Labour Party as careerists,
quite successfully also.
But OK, maybe I am dreaming
Francis: He Told Them!
next article today is
by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:
This starts as follows - and
yes, this is the second bit on the pope's speech to
Congress, but I am rather severely restricting my readers from very
much more in the papers and on the media, and also I do not
believe much of it.
More precisely, while I am willing to suppose pope Francis is honest,
and am also willing to grant he is refreshing as a pope, I am rather
skeptical about his effectiveness on politicians, who do make
But here is the beginning of Robert Scheer's article:
He told them! Any
religious leader who is considering sainthood for the “Servant of God”
Dorothy Day—the crusading editor of the Catholic Worker and heroine of
my garment-worker parents during the Great Depression—gets my vote.
I know that, sadly, he’s
not running for president, but the pope’s excellent example provides
the essential measure of what’s important for those candidates who are.
It’s simple: Follow the Golden Rule.
Incidentally, here is
also the beginning of the Wikipedia-article on the Golden Rule
(quoted without note numbers):
The Golden Rule
or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim,
ethical code or morality
that essentially states either of the following:
- One should treat
others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive
- One should not
treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
(negative or prohibitive form)
In principle, the Golden
Rule is a directive to regard others as one does oneself, and to act
accordingly. Although often confused with it, the Golden Rule is not
the maxim of reciprocity captured in do ut des - "I give so
that you will give in return" - but rather a unilateral moral
commitment to the well-being of the other without the expectation of
anything in return.
Of the two forms of the rule, the negative is both older and more
According to Greg M. Epstein, " 'do
unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses
Simon Blackburn also states that the
Golden Rule can be "found in some form in almost every ethical
There is a whole lot
more in the Wikipedia lemma, but the main reasons I quoted it are (1)
it is part of all religions and nearly every ethical tradition, for
several thousands of years also, in spite of which (2) sales of
arms, slavery, exploitation, unfair payments, unfair riches, wars for
profits, and all other evils, including mass murders and tortures, have
been continued all those years.
So I do not expect an
appeal to the Golden Rule will prevent more of the latter.
Here is some more:
What is most
startling in the approach of this pope is his refusal to demonize “the
other,” be they of another religious, political or nationalist outlook.
Francis rejects precisely the simplistic war between good and evil that
has dominated U.S. foreign policy for much of the past century.
First, I am not
very startled by a (modern) priest who refuses " to demonize “the other"". And second, I
think the US is (for the most part) "deeply entwined with a militarized economy and an imperial
hubris", and this will continue,
though indeed I strongly hope not "permanently".
But can this country live
without an enemy? Or are we too deeply entwined with a militarized
economy and an imperial hubris that have permanently deformed the
nation’s attempt at representative democracy?
But while I more or less like the present pope, I expect no
miracles from him, and I am a bit disappointed that rather a lot of
journalists write as if they do.
Special Ops Forces Deployed in 135 Nations
next article today is
by Nick Turse on Truthdig (originally on TomDispatch):
This starts as follows (and is a fairly long,
instructive essay that takes 5 pages on Truthdig):
You can find them in
dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray
of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the
rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath
the relentless desert sun, they instruct, yell,
and cajole as skinnier men playact under
eyes. In many places, more than their particular brand of
camouflage, better boots, and designer
gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat
and gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or
These men—and they
men —belong to an exclusive military
fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the
nation. Typically, they’ve spent the better part of a decade as more
conventional soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen before making the
cut. They’ve probably been deployed overseas
four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their
mid-thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more
schooling than most in the military. They’re likely to be married
with a couple of kids. And day after day, they carry out shadowy
missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often
exercises from Chad to Uganda,
Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka,
Belize to Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF),
America’s most elite troops—Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among
others—and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a
spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been
there sometime in 2015.
There is a lot more in the
article, that is well worth reading, though it probably will not make
you more optimistic.
Here is some more on the
type of men. First, there is this:
In one particular
blurring of boundaries, Special Operations liaison officers (SOLOs) are
embedded in at least 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the
special forces of various allied nations. Already operating in
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel,
Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the
SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries
by 2019. The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close
ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among other outfits,
through the use
of liaison officers and Special Operations Support Teams (SOSTs).
Not in Germany (by
the way)? And next there is this:
These forces carry
out operations almost entirely unknown to the American taxpayers who
fund them, operations conducted far from the scrutiny of the media or
meaningful outside oversight of any kind. Everyday, in around 80
or more countries that Special Operations Command will not name, they
undertake missions the command refuses to talk about. They exist
in a secret world of obtuse acronyms and shadowy efforts, of mystery
missions kept secret from the American public, not to mention most of
the citizens of the 135 nations where they’ve been deployed this year.
In merely 135
in the deepest secrecy... well: either the profits of the US arms
manufacturers or else freedom and democracy are very well
CEOs Branded Privacy Traitors For Their Quiet Push to
article today is
by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Internet users are
calling out a dozen tech giants for their sudden turnaround on a
controversial privacy bill, launching an email campaign this week with
the plain message, "You betrayed us."
The chief executive
officers of Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Symantec, and other
companies, along with Salesforce web hosting service, quietly sent a letter
(pdf) to U.S. Congress earlier this month endorsing the Cybersecurity
Information Sharing Act (CISA), a bill that would allow tech
companies to share user information with the government in cases of
"cybersecurity threats"—which privacy advocates say only serves to
broaden government spying powers and reduce consumer protections.
Online activists say the
reason the companies changed their stance on CISA—also known as the
Cyber Threat Information Sharing Legislation, as it is referred to in
the letter—is because the bill would grant them "total immunity" from
prosecution for sharing private user data with the government.
Actually, this is much like
the schema I considered two days ago,
though with a difference:
The chief executive
officers (or their vice presidents or legal counsels) of Apple,
Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Symantec, Siemens, Oracle and more (16 companies
in all) are glad to offer their complete cooperation
with the US government if only they are guaranteed ""total
immunity" from prosecution for sharing private user data with the
government": We steal it for you, and give it to you, and we are
completely happy to do so, if only you guarantee us immunity from legal
prosecution, is the message.
The letter, incidentally, is a good example how the freedoms and rights
of - literally - billions of ordinary users are stolen from
them (certainly of the non-Americans) in the name of preserving
their freedoms and rights.
The article ends like this:
"Any company that
supports a bill like CISA or sits silently and allows it to pass is a
company that can't be trusted," said Fight for the Future campaign
director Evan Greer. "Internet users are fed up, companies that abandon
their commitment to user privacy and security should expect the
Internet to abandon them."
Well... maybe so, but are
all these "internet users" to switch to Linux? I very much doubt they