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."
Alexievich: 'Stalin and the Gulag are not history'
2. Wikileaks release of TPP deal text stokes 'freedom of
3. The day I met the other
victims of extremism: boys
brainwashed to kill
4. Go Ahead, Back Hillary
Clinton and Forget All About Her
5. Hillary, Bernie and the
This is a Nederlog
of Saturday, October 10, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 blogs with 6 dotted links: Item 1
is by the latest Nobel Prize winner of literature, who reflects on
Stalinism and how that may return (I mostly agree); item
2 is about Wikileaks on The Guardian, but - it is a Thielman
article - misses the link to Wikileaks; item 3 is
by an Australian journalist, about the boys recruited by the Taliban; item 4 is by Robert Scheer and - deservedly - takes
down Hillary Clinton; and item 5 is by Robert
Reich, who explains why he is for Bernie Sanders on the banks, and not
for Hillary Clinton on the same subject.
There probably will be another Nederlog today, to commemorate the 1000th
article in the crisis series, but I do not yet know how long this
will be, because
I don't know how energetic I will be. In any case, there will be more
on the same subject.
Alexievich: 'Stalin and the Gulag are not history'
item today is an article by Svetlana
Alexievich (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:
starts as follows:
Not long ago we
were Romantics. We sat in our kitchens, sang songs by Okudzhava and the other Soviet “bards” of the
60s and 70s and dreamed of freedom, but no one had any idea what
freedom was. And no one knew what the people wanted. Did they really
want freedom, or did they just want to be better off? With a Schengen
visa, a secondhand foreign car and holidays in Egypt, by the Red Sea.
And 20 different kinds of sausage and cheese. And that’s what they’d
Yes, indeed, though I do have
a qualification. But first, although Svetlana
Alexievich is two
years older than I am, I had to wait until her very recent assignment
of the Nobel Prize, which incidentally was also said to be the first
The last 20 years have
sobered us up. We naive heralds of perestroika now understand that the
road to freedom is a long one, that we all need as much courage as
during the days of communism – or perhaps still more, since those in
power today are more concerned with their wealth than with ideas. And
that ancient predatory instinct is a powerful force.
time this prize goes to a journalist, to learn of her existence.
Second, my qualification is that around 1990 there was a
minority of Russians who did know, in a sense, what real
freedom is, namely those who had read Orwell and Sacharov and who also
knew something about the real history of the West. But I agree
that this was a quite small minority, and also that they did
know freedom in their own personal lives.
Andrei Sannikov is
one of those who has challenged the new authoritarian system. A former
candidate for the presidency of Belarus. For which he was thrown in
jail, where he went through all the circles of hell. Which makes him an
invaluable witness. My Story, an account of his experiences in the 2010 election and then as a
prisoner of conscience, has come at the right time. Page after page
will make you realise, with horror, that Stalin and the Gulag are not
history – or rather, not only history. Nothing has been forgotten.
Stalin’s machine can be started up again at only a moment’s notice: the
same informers, the same denunciations, the same tortures. The same
universal, all-devouring terror.
Yes, I mostly agree. The
reason why I write "mostly" is that, if it happens again, as indeed may
happen, it will take some time. The reasons why I agree are
mostly that I do not see any necessary moral force in human
history (that moves from worse to better, or indeed from better to
worse), while I know that both governments and the few rich anywhere
are generally neither the intellectual best nor the moral best, but are
usually the opposite: the intellectually mediocre and morally not
existing persons, who are great at lying and deceiving, and are willing
to do virtually anything to advance themselves or increase their own
Next, there is this:
We see before us
an entire, easily recognisable gallery of executioners. Each of them,
just as 50 – or rather 70 – years ago, makes his own choice: to remain,
or not to remain, a human being. Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” is
still only too relevant: there is no such thing as chemically pure
evil. Instead, evil is scattered everywhere, dispersed throughout our
lives. The executioner and someone who appears to be a human being live
together in a single body: “You must understand … I have children”;
“Yes, I voted for you, but please sign this statement”; “It’s my job
and I have to do it.” Side by side with the executioners we travel by
metro, sit in cafes, stand in supermarket queues … An ordinary human
being … Ordinary people … And it’s so easy to make that slip, to slide
down and join them.
agree, but I need to make a remark about Arendt's phrase the “banality of evil”.
To start with, the following is quoted from the Wikipedia article on "Eichmann in
Jerusalem" (which is where "banality of evil" links to):
the phrase "banality of evil" means "the ordinariness of evil"
- which indeed is hard to deny for anyone who has seen films of
hundreds of thousands very happy Germans enthusiastically
admiring and greeting Hitler around 1937, when there were
concentration camps, where anyone with known leftist opinions risked
being locked up in, and when the German state also was and had been totalitarian
since 1933, when the public bookburnings - of Jewish and leftist books
- also started.
Arendt suggests that this
[Eichmann's - supposed - normalcy: MM] most strikingly discredits the
idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and different from "normal"
people. From this document, many concluded that situations such as the Holocaust can make even the most ordinary of
people commit horrendous crimes with the proper incentives, but Arendt
adamantly disagreed with this interpretation, as Eichmann was voluntarily
following the Führerprinzip. Arendt insists that moral
choice remains even under totalitarianism, and that this choice has
political consequences even when the chooser is politically powerless:
[U]nder conditions of terror most people will comply but some
people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the
Final Solution was proposed is that "it could happen" in most places
but it did not happen everywhere. Humanly speaking, no more is
required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to
remain a place fit for human habitation.
Second, I strongly disagree with Arendt's disagreement with the
thesis that "the most
ordinary of people commit horrendous crimes with the proper incentives":
That is precisely what did happen, as outlined e.g. by Christopher
Browning in his
Men" , and as is also clear from WW II: Most
Germans of the time were both quite ordinary men and women and
supported Hitler, at least until 1944. The reasons varied: Some were
Nazis, others collaborators, yet others survivors, but most ordinary
German men and women did support Hitler, Goebbels and their
government. Also, they had good reasons to do so: they risked the
concentration camp when they did object to Hitler's totalitarian regime.
Third and last, I know that "under conditions of terror most people will comply but some
people will not" since my parents and grandparents had the great courage to go into the - real,
communist - resistance against the Nazis - but I disagree with the romantic
optimism that "no more can
reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human
Of course more can be reasonably asked
- and with rational courageous men and women being as scarce as they
factually are, at present, it seems an open question whether "this planet" will "remain a place fit for human habitation".
I am very sorry to have to conclude this, but as far as I can see, the
only interested in their own survival, and that of their
families and friends, and also doesn't know much of history, or
science, or philosophy, or indeed what men and women are like,
especially during war or repression.
release of TPP deal text stokes 'freedom of expression' fears
article today is by Sam Thielman on The Guardian:
starts as follows:
Wikileaks has released
what it claims is the full intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the
controversial agreement between 12 countries that was signed off on
TPP was negotiated in
secret and details have yet to be published. But critics including
Democrat presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, unions and privacy activists
have lined up to attack what they have seen of it. Wikileaks’ latest
disclosures are unlikely to reassure them.
I do not see why there is
no link to Wikileaks - but then this article is by Sam Thielman, whom I
don't trust. Here is the link:
Incidentally, if you read
the links, read the pdf links: The html links seem to be fucked up.
Here is the end of the law, as it was once practised - which
classify the TPP and the TTIP as neo-fascist proposals, where
I mean what the American Heritage Dictionary defined to mean:
"A system of government
that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of
state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
I think this is mostly true
present United States, where the government and the business leadership
have effectively merged, and which is driven, in part,
by a belligerent nationalism.
One chapter appears to
give the signatory countries (referred to as “parties”) greater power
to stop embarrassing information going public. The treaty would give
signatories the ability to curtail legal proceedings if the theft of
information is “detrimental to a party’s economic interests,
international relations, or national defense or national security” – in
other words, presumably, if a trial would cause the information to
So the exercise of the
can simply be terminated if the facts are too unpleasant
business: Sorry, but this again sounds like neo-fascism to me.
Then there is this complete
This means - among other
things - that if some site is accused of breaking some
copyright, for that reason alone, without any court
name of the
owner of the
site, and the names of anyone who is a provider, and the names of
anyone else who may be involved in "allegedly infringing goods or services" go to the owner of the copyright:
That is most unreasonable, and again seems to me much like what
neo-fascists would want.
The rules also state that
every country has the authority to immediately give the name and
address of anyone importing detained goods to whoever owns the
That information can be very
broad, too: “Such information may include information regarding any
person involved in any aspect of the infringement or alleged
infringement,” the document continues, “and regarding the means of
production or the channels of distribution of the infringing or
allegedly infringing goods or services, including the identification of
third persons alleged to be involved in the production and distribution
of such goods or services and of their channels of distribution.”
There is more in the
article, but since this is an article by Sam Thielman I rather wait
until I find better comments.
Michael Wessel was one of
the advisers who was asked by the US government to review what he said
were woefully inadequate portions of the document. Wessel said the
thrust of the TPP does nothing for Americans. “This is about increasing
the ability of global corporations to source wherever they can at the
lowest cost,” he said.
“It is not about
enhancing or promoting production in the United States,” Wessel said.
“We aren’t enforcing today’s trade agreements adequately. Look at China
and Korea. Now we’re not only expanding trade to a far larger set of
countries under a new set of rules that have yet to be tested but we’re
preparing to expand that to many more countries. It would be easier to
accept if we were enforcing today’s rules.”
I am afraid, though, that this is what the TTP and the TTIP are: Neo-fascistic
laws, meant to repress almost everyone under the weight, the
money and the legal authority of all-powerful big business, that in
fact also governs.
3. The day I met the other victims of
brainwashed to kill
next article today is
Grant (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
In the mountains of Pakistan I met young men who would have killed
me. They would have slit my throat, put a bullet in my brain, caved in
my skull with a rock. After I was dead they would have severed my head
from my body and displayed it as a warning to all.
These same men would have
strapped explosives to their bodies and walked into crowded market
places to blow everyone – old women, mothers and children – to pieces.
They would have happily died to kill. In fact they would have welcomed
it with praise to God.
These young men – more
accurately boys – were primed for death. They had been programmed for
it. Their heads were full of hate.
They weren’t born for this.
I say. This is an
article of an Australian journalist and it is here because it gives
some background to who the Taliban (or Isis or Al Qaeda) recruits.
This continues as
I do not know
how accurate this is, but Stan Grant was there, and seems to have
spoken with some. Here is one point he makes:
Each of these boys had a
similar tale. They had been kidnapped and abused. The Pakistani Taliban – an extension of the militant Afghan
insurgency but even more vicious – had grabbed them and spirited them
into their camps in the hills.
They had been sexually
abused. They were kept awake for days on end. They were forced to
recite the Qur’an – Islam’s holy text – over and over. Hour after hour
they would rock back and forth chanting the verses until in a trance.
Broken down, the boys
would then be poisoned against the west. Every sin proclaimed in the
Qur’an was ascribed to the Americans. In their eyes this is what we
were, all of us infidels, we were Americans.
This is how the Taliban
created suicide bombers.
The overwhelming number
of victims of terrorism are Muslims.
More than 30,000
Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks since 9/11. Muslims
lose their children, their husbands, mothers and sisters to terrorism.
And still they are told they don’t do enough.
I think that is correct
(though I don't know the evidence for the numbers):
"The overwhelming number
of victims of terrorism are Muslims."
The article ends as
follows (in part):
The first eight words
are not proper English, but are in The Guardian. I take it Grant means
that the terms "suicide bomber" and "terrorist" are not fit for the
boys he met. I don't see why not, although I tend to agree that mere
We use terms like suicide
bomber of terrorist: this is the language we have but it falls short.
The boys I met were not suicide bombers, they were walking bombs. They
were part of the apparatus. They are the pin in the grenade. They are
the trigger on a gun.
By the stage they are
ready to kill they no longer function as free-thinking people. Others
may disagree, but this is what I saw.
considerably less responsible for their acts than adults.
Then again, most of the adults who made them into "walking bombs" - if
that is the better term - probably do not know much more than the boys
do, and are also
seriously misled by a combination of religion and ignorance.
4. Go Ahead, Back Hillary Clinton and Forget
All About Her Record
next article today is
by Robert Scheer
(<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Go ahead and support
Hillary Clinton, those of you for whom having the first female
president is the top priority. She is by far preferable to Carly
Fiorina, though of course no match for likely Green Party candidate
Jill Stein (I know: You want to win). Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a
principled and electable person, is not available, and political
integrity be damned.
Just admit that you will
be voting for someone to be president of the world’s most powerful
nation who has not only been profoundly wrong on the two most pressing
issues of our time—economic injustice and the ravages of unbridled
militarism—but, what is more significant, seems hopelessly incapable of
learning from her dangerous errors in judgment.
Like her husband, she is
certainly smart enough to avoid advocating what President Obama has
aptly termed “stupid stuff.” However, the good intentions of the
Clintons are trumped by opportunism every time.
Well... I agree with
most this says, except that I have never been convinced of "the good intentions of the Clintons".
Here is some more
It is true that Hillary Clinton
started out as a Republican. Then again, I think both Clintons, also
long before Bill won the presidency, had found that what worked best
for them was pleasing the public by saying what the public
desired to hear, and that is what they did, simply because
is what got them the most votes.
For confirmation of the
Margaret Thatcher hawkish side of Clinton, simply refer to her book
“Hard Choices,” which clearly is biased against choosing the more
peaceful course and instead betrays a bellicose posturing that seems to
harken back to the Goldwater Girl days that reflected her earliest
What one finds is a litany
of macho bleating in defense of bombing nations into freedom, leaving
them fatally torn—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria.
They probably do have opinions about the American economy and
American politics, for they are not stupid at all, but I think very
little of their real
opinions gets known, because they do not want to be
bound in speaking as their public - which I grant mostly consists of
Democrats, so in that sense they are bound, but only in that sense - desires
to hear, and quite regardless of the real facts, the real
possibilities, or the Clintons' real opinions.
Here is some information about Bill Clinton:
But the reality is that
Ronald Reagan presided over the savings-and-loan scandal and as a
result was compelled to tighten banking regulations rather than
obliterate them. It remained for President Clinton, in his patented
zeal to obfuscate meaningful political debate with triangulation, to
enshrine into federal law that primitive pro-Wall Street ideology.
One key piece of that
betrayal was the reversal of the New Deal wall between commercial and
consumer banking, codified in the Glass-Steagall Act, which Franklin
Roosevelt had signed into law. When Bill Clinton betrayed the legacy of
FDR by signing the so-called Financial Services Modernization Act of
1999, he handed the pen used in the signing to a beaming Sandy Weill,
whose Citigroup had breached that wall and commingled the savings of
ordinary folks with the assets of private hustlers—a swindle made legal
by Clinton’s approval of the legislation.
Quite so. And finally,
there is this on Bill Clinton:
Yes, indeed. In brief: Do not
vote for Hillary.
Brooksley Born, a head of
the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Clinton’s second term, made
a heroic effort to regulate the nefarious marketing of dubious mortgage
debt securities until Bill Clinton betrayed her by signing off on
legislation that explicitly banned any regulation of those suspect
mortgage derivatives, involving many trillions of dollars.
It was that president’s
parting gift to the banks but also to his wife, whose Senate career
would come to be lavishly supported by Wall Street’s mega-rich leaders.
They are now quite happy to back a woman for president, as long as it’s
not someone like Brooksley Born or Elizabeth Warren who is serious in
her concern for the millions of women whose lives were impoverished by
Hillary Clinton’s banking buddies.
5. Hillary, Bernie and the Banks
The final article today is
by Robert Reich on his site (and elsewhere):
This starts as follows:
Wall Street banks continue to threaten the wellbeing of millions of
but what to do?
Sanders says break them up and resurrect
the Glass-Steagall Act that once separated investment from commercial
Clinton says charge them a bit more and oversee them more carefully.
Republicans say don’t worry.
Clearly, I agree with
Bernie Sanders - but it is interesting that Robert Reich, who knows the
Clintons for at least 25 years and is (or was) friends with them, also
agrees with Bernie Sanders.
First, here is why most
Republicans are wrong:
I agree. Next, here is
Hillary Clinton is wrong:
reason to worry. Back in 2000, before they almost ruined the
economy and had
to be bailed out, the five biggest banks on Wall Street held 25 percent of the
nation’s banking assets. Now they hold more than 45 percent.
huge size fuels further growth because they’ll be bailed out if they
This hidden federal
guarantee against failure is estimated be worth over $80
billion a year to the big banks. In effect, it’s a subsidy from
the rest of us to the
almost certainly get into trouble again if nothing dramatic is done to
you hadn’t noticed, Wall Street’s investment bankers, key traders, top
executives, and hedge-fund and private-equity managers wield
They’re major sources of
campaign contributions to both parties.
addition, a lucrative revolving door connects the Street to Washington.
Treasury secretaries and their staffs move nimbly from and to the
regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.
members of Congress, especially those involved with enacting financial
overseeing financial regulators, have fat paychecks waiting for them on
when they retire.
In brief, the politicians
and the government are both deeply corrupt and extremely powerful. (I
That is: Bernie Sanders is
correct, according to Robert Reich (and I agree).
this, Hillary Clinton’s proposals would only invite more dilution and
The only way
to contain the Street’s excesses is with reforms so big, bold, and
can’t be watered down – busting up the biggest banks and resurrecting
 Incidentally, "Ordinary Men" is
reviewed on Wikipedia, but not very well. For one thing, for some
completely unexplainable reason the title of the book, which was well
considered and is striking, is deleted as if it was wrong:
The whole reference disappears - I think intentionally - into
the sub-title of the book: "Reserve Police Battalion 101". Yet it is clear (from the book) that these
were quite ordinary men, who each also on average
killed 166 persons who hadn't done them anything, but simply
because they were Jews and the ordinary men from the "Reserve Police Battalion 101
" had been ordered to kill them. And so they