who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
| "All governments lie and
say should be believed."
tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Mass Surveillance Isn’t
the Answer to Fighting Terrorism
2. NYT Editorial Slams “Disgraceful” CIA
Exploitation of Paris Attacks,
But Submissive Media Role Is Key
3. The Oligarchy vs.
The People: Why We Need a 'Political Revolution'
4. U.S. Economy Increasingly
Dominated by Monopolies as 2015
Corporate Mergers Continue
5. Stopping ISIS: Follow
This is a Nederlog
of Thursday, November 19, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article in the New York Times Glenn
Greenwald enthused about - I think it is not bad, but not as good as
Glenn Greenwald seems to think; item 2 is the
article by Glenn Greenwald from which I got the reference to item 1 -
mainly about the radical decline of free and investigative journalism
agree) and about the thesis that secret services like the NSA and GCHQ
have gotten all they wanted (I don't agree); item 3
is about an article by John Acheson that asserts the need for a
revolution but that I did not find very convincing; item
4 is about monopolies, oligopolies, arbitrations,
riches and power (with some references by me); and item
5 is about how Isis can be stopped: by following the money it
receives, and blocking it.
Surveillance Isn’t the Answer to Fighting Terrorism
The first item today is by The Editorial Board of the New
This starts as follows (and I owe
the link to the next item):
It’s a wretched
yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain
politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the
tragedy for their own ends. The remarks
on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence
Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.
Yes, indeed. And one of the
things Brennan does wrongly is to speak in these out and out propaganda
than three days after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129
and injured hundreds more, Mr. Brennan complained
about “a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort
to try to uncover these terrorists.”
What he calls
“hand-wringing” was the sustained national outrage following the 2013
revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency
contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to
secretly collect information on millions of Americans’ phone records.
He also said this:
In his comments
Monday, Mr. Brennan called the attacks in Paris a “wake-up call,” and
claimed that recent “policy and legal” actions “make our ability
collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more
challenging.” It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says.
I agree with the New York
Time's estimate of Brennan's (and Clapper's) honesty, and also with the
indiscriminate bulk data sweeps have not been useful. In the more than
two years since the N.S.A.’s data collection programs became known to
the public, the intelligence community has failed
to show that the phone program has thwarted a terrorist attack. Yet
for years intelligence officials and members of Congress repeatedly
misled the public by claiming that it was effective.
Yes, I agree to all of
this, but I am not quite as happy with it as Glenn Greenwald appears to
be: See the next item.
The intelligence agencies’
inability to tell the truth about surveillance practices is just one
part of the problem. The bigger issue is their willingness to
circumvent the laws, however they are written. The Snowden revelations
laid bare how easy it is to abuse national-security powers, which are
vaguely defined and generally exercised in secret.
My main reason not to be overly enthusiastic is that all of this is obvious
from 2013 at the latest.
Editorial Slams “Disgraceful” CIA
Exploitation of Paris Attacks, But Submissive Media Role Is Key
The second item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as
follows (in reaction to item 1):
superb New York Times editorial this morning
mercilessly shames the despicable effort by U.S. government
officials to shamelessly exploit the Paris attacks to advance
The New York Times
editorial is item 1, and while it was a decent
article, I am less enthusiastic than Glenn Greenwald (who does know a
lot more about the American media than I do).
The editorial, which you
should really read in its entirety, destroys most of the false,
exploitative, blame-shifting claims uttered by U.S. officials
about these issues. Because intelligence agencies knew of the attackers
and received warnings, the NYT editors explain that
“the problem in [stopping the Paris attacks] was not a lack of
data, but a failure to act on information authorities already had.”
They point out that the NSA’s mass surveillance powers to be mildly
curbed by post-Snowden reforms are ineffective and, in any event, have
not yet stopped. And most importantly, they document that the
leader of this lowly campaign, CIA chief John Brennan, has been proven
to be an inveterate liar
Well... I wouldn't say it
"destroys most of
the false, exploitative, blame- shifting claims uttered by
U.S. officials": It contradicts them, and indeed quite rightly
so. (But "destroying" requires more.)
There is also this, with
which I disagree:
Indeed, what more powers
could agencies like the CIA, NSA, MI6 and GCHQ get? They’ve been given
everything they’ve demanded for years, no questions asked. They have
virtually no limits.
I'd say: Considerably
more powers, such as special courts for terrorists; the
allowance to torture people accused of terrorism; the allowance
for the police to see (in secret) some or most of the files the NSA
and GCHQ etc.
gather; the right (which I think anyway is taken) to store the
NSA/GCHQ information indefinitely; the creation of several more
Guantánamo's in the US and outside the US ....
There are various ways in
which the situation may get worse (a lot worse, also)
than it is now, bad as that is.
Then there is this, that is
But there’s one vital
question the NYT editors do not address: Why do the CIA
and other U.S. government factions believe — accurately — that they can
get away with such blatant misleading and lying? The answer is clear:
because, particularly after a terror attack, large parts of the U.S.
media treat U.S. intelligence and military officials with the reverence
usually reserved for cult leaders, whereby their every utterance
is treated as Gospel, no dissent or contradiction is aired, zero
evidence is required to mindlessly swallow their decrees,
anonymity is often provided to shield them from accountability,
and every official assertion is equated with Truth, no matter how
dubious, speculative, evidence-free, or self-serving.
And this, that also
is quite true (and quite bitter):
are in pure servant-stenography mode, not reporting and definitely not
questioning claims that emanate from the sacred mouths of these
Pentagon and CIA priests. Just look at the reports I cited to see
how extreme this obsequious behavior is. What can excuse “reporting”
This, of course, is how
propaganda is cemented: not by government officials making dubious,
self-serving claims (they’ll always be motivated to do that), but by
people who play the role of “journalist” on TV and in print acting as
their spokespeople, literally suppressing all the reasons why the
officials’ claims are so questionable if not outright false.
Yes, and the
differences between how journalism is done now, by most of the main
media journalists, and how it was done 35 and more years ago, show that
very probably the types of journalists who are favored
have radically changed:
These days most main media journalists are spokespeople for the
politicians and governmental bureaucrats they interview; 35 and more
years ago most main media journalists at least investigated the
truth of most of the claims the same persons make, and seriously
questioned government spokespersons.
Here is Glenn
Kudos to the NYT editors
for pulling no punches this morning in making all this deceit manifest.
But the real culprits aren’t the government officials spewing this
manipulative tripe but the journalists who not only let them get away
with it but, so much worse, eagerly help.
I agree. And I do not
see an easy or a fast cure.
3. The Oligarchy vs. The People: Why We
Need a 'Political
The third item
is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
This is also a summary of the
article. I don't quite agree with all, but I do agree with the main
contention: "civil institutions
we used to rely on to be watchdogs and counterweights to corporate
power have also been taken over".
Clinton is racking up endorsements from large unions and other groups
that used to represent the interests of the people they served.
Now they’ve joined the press, the political parties and government as
tools of the oligarchy.
been apparent for decades that the US is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy.
Political parties, the press, and government are controlled by
plutocrats and a few uber rich families.
the endorsements roll in, it’s becoming apparent that the civil
institutions we used to rely on to be watchdogs and counterweights to
corporate power have also been taken over.
line: Sanders is right. We need a revolution if we want to take the
institutions designed to serve us, both public and private, back from
There is considerably more in the article, which I leave to your
interests. Here is the general thesis restated:
I don't agree with all
of this either, but the last paragraph seems correct. Here is
Atcheson's conclusion (in part):
the watchdogs have been co-opted
to think that the civil institutions functioned as a third arm of
society distinct from government and business, and capable of holding
both accountable. The press, unions, NGO’s, religious
organizations—in theory, at least—worked to hold both business and
to Reagan, we began losing the press thirty years ago.
Today, they are little more than a wholly-owned subsidiary of the
Oligarchy. Our increasingly secular society means that religion
follows politics more than shaping it.
now, it’s clear that NGO’s and Unions are being absorbed into the
Corporate Borg as both Parties become pawns to moneyed interests.
So, not only has our
government and political process been bought, but the senior members of
the NGO and Union community have become enmeshed in the game of money
and power that is destroying our Democracy.
Hm. I agree money must
be taken out of politics, but there are other ways than Bernie
Sanders (e.g.: if two thirds of the states don't want it). Also, while
I like Bernie Sanders, he may fail to win the candidacy or fail to win
the presidency or he may (as happened to two Kennedys and Martin Luther
King) get shot.
will take a revolution to reclaim our country
only chance of snatching our country back from the fatcats and
plutocrats is to conduct a quiet revolution. The key to that is
to get money out of politics, and the only candidate who can do that is
one who is not on the take from the oligarchy. The interests of
labor, environmentalists, and the middle class cannot be served by
people beholden to the institutions they are charged with
Only Bernie Sanders fits
Basiclally, this article is a bit too simpleminded, or so it seems to
4. U.S. Economy
Increasingly Dominated by Monopolies as 2015 Corporate Mergers Continue
The fourth item today
is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
evidence that corporate America is becoming ever more monopolistic and
that’s not good for small businesses or consumers. This year is on
track to see the most corporate mergers and takeovers since the Great
Recession of 2008, according to many business page reports that said
October was the fifth
biggest month ever for mergers.
Yes: Clearly the USA
(and other Western countries) are growing more monopolistic, though
indeed that is not
a very clear concept, in
part because there also are oligopolies
(not one big trader in commodity X, but a few), and in part because the
concept is both political (especially Marxist) and
Here are two references:
First, there is "Monopoly Capital",
by Baran and Sweezy, that I read in the 1960ies. I liked parts of it,
and did not like other parts of it, but the reference is here because I
read on the Wikipedia that there is renewed interest in the book (that
is from 1966) these days.
Second, I know of "monopoly capitalism" since the 1960ies as well,
because that was part of the analysis of the Communist Party:
Capitalism is mostly exercised by a few very large multi-national
corporations, most of which
are monopolies or oligopolies, which in fact make most important
decisions. That at least sounds somewhat interesting, for which reason
it is odd that if you type in "monopoly capitalism" in Wikipedia, you are led to the
capitalism" which is definitely something else (for
that requires the state to rule most capital, rather than the
monopolies or oligopolies). 
Anyway... these are two references for those who want to know more
about monopolies, oligopolies and multi-national corporations.
Here is another tendency that is disquieting:
Meanwhile, the New
York Times reported in a recent series that
corporate America is increasingly forcing its customers to agree to
arbitration in disputes—forgoing the constitutional right to a jury
trial—when signing contracts for basic services, and Robert Reich said
in his new book, Saving Capitalism, the U.S. economy is
increasingly dominated by monopolies.
The point of making
people "agree" to arbitrations is that it bypasses the courts (and I
wrote "agree" rather than agree, because almost no one is able to understand
the legal detail and ramifications of such "agreements"):
“Over the last few
years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card,
use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without
agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job,
renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home,” the Times said.
“By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of
consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express
devised a way to circumvent
the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action
lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or
deceitful business practices.”
In fact, I doubt that is
legal, but then to forbid it requires a law, and such a law will be
fought tooth and nail by the corporations that profit from its absence.
Here is the conclusion of the article:
Well, I don't know
whether that is "half" of it, but I agree that the rich grew richer by
getting a lot more money, and the rich grew more powerful by making it
difficult or impossible for the non-rich to combine against them.
Various economists have
researched and noted America’s
growing gap between its rich and everybody else has been partly fueled
by the outsized financial rewards granted to executives and major
shareholders in firms that dominate their field, achieving virtual
“But the unchecked
combination of mega-firms tells just half the story of the rising
imbalance of wealth and power (both market and political),” Meyerson
writes. “The other half is the legal obstacle course that makes it
effectively impossible for consumers to come together, and for workers
to form unions.”
ISIS: Follow the Money
fifth item today
is by Peter Van Buren on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In fact, the last
question is raised but not answered. Peter Van Buren outlines
in the rest of his article that Isis gets its money especially from
donations (from at least 40 countries) and from oil, and I can give my guess
about the oil: This is not attacked (on a large scale) simply because
American oil companies want to take it over without many
damages - to fields, wells, and equipment - after Isis is beaten.
Wars are expensive. The
recruitment and sustainment of fighters in the field, the ongoing
purchases of weapons and munitions, as well as the myriad other costs
of struggle, add up.
So why isn’t the United
States going after Islamic State’s funding sources as a way of
lessening or eliminating their strength at making war? Follow the money
back, cut it off, and you strike a blow much more devastating than an
airstrike. But that has not happened. Why?
But this is just a guess. Here is Peter Van Buren's ending:
So as is said,
ISIS’ sources of funding grow curious and curiouser the more one knows.
Those seeking to destroy ISIS might well wish to look into where the
money comes from, and ask why, after a year and three months of war, no
one has bothered to follow the money.
I have formulated my
guess about the oil (of which Isis is supposed to sell 2 to 4 millions
of dollars worth each day). And I do not know why the sources of the
money Isis receives are not followed. There are quite a few possible
And cut it off.
 I repeat the information that while I mostly like
Wikipedia, I merely use it and do not communicate with it or contribute