May 15, 2018

Crisis: More Haspel, On Gaza, On The Pentagon, Legalize All Drugs, Central Banks


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 15, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 15, 2018
1. Ahead of Vote on Gina Haspel, Senate Pulls Access to Damning Classified

2. 55 Die in Gaza Protests as Israel Fetes U.S. Embassy Move
3. The Pentagon Can't Account for $21 Trillion (That's Not a Typo)
4. One of the World's Most Prestigious Medical Journals Just Called for
     Legalizing All Drugs

5. Central Banks: The Great Experiment Has Failed
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Ahead of Vote on Gina Haspel, Senate Pulls Access to Damning Classified Memo

This article is by Ryan Grim on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
As the Senate prepares for a Wednesday vote on whether to confirm Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee has restricted access to a classified memo that Democratic staff put together, detailing Haspel’s role in advocating for torture and later destroying related evidence.

On Monday morning, Elizabeth Falcone, a senior aide for Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top-ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, announced the decision to restrict access in an email to Democratic legislative directors. The memo had previously been available for senators and staff with security clearances to review in a Secure Compartmented Information Facility housed within Congress. Staff will no longer be able to review the document, and senators will only be able to do so upon request. It has been removed from the SCIF.
I say. This means - I think - that (i) the evidence on Bloody Gina´s torturing in Thailand is suppressed, and now also (ii) the evidence on Bloody Gina´s destroying the evidence is also suppressed.

And I am sorry if you dislike the term ¨Bloody Gina¨, but it is not mine and I do not like people who are far more likely to have tortured people than not, precisely because she has been destroying the evidence that she did, which in turn is the reason for my being forced to write ¨far more likely¨.

Here is more from the article:

The classified memo was compiled by the minority staff on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Relying on classified records, it goes into detail on Haspel’s role in torture, the destruction of evidence, and her tenure more broadly, according to people briefed on its contents.
And this is the probable reason why not even Senators can read the evidence:

People briefed on the contents of the memo say that it is not possible to read it and come away without serious doubts about whether Haspel ought to be confirmed.

Yasmine Taeb, senior policy counsel for the Center for Victims of Torture, said that it’s crucial for senators to read the classified memo before announcing their votes.
Yet according to Senate sources, few senators have viewed the memo, and with the vote scheduled for Wednesday, crucial lawmakers have begun announcing their positions.
I say. It seems that some really want a sadist and a torturer as head of the CIA. And this is a recommended article.
2. 55 Die in Gaza Protests as Israel Fetes U.S. Embassy Move

This article is by Fadres Akram and Josef Federman on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip—In a jarring contrast, Israeli forces shot and killed at least 55 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,200 during mass protests Monday along the Gaza border, while just a few miles away Israel and the U.S. held a festive inauguration ceremony for the new American Embassy in contested Jerusalem.

It was by far the deadliest day of cross-border violence since a devastating 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and further dimmed the already bleak prospects for President Donald Trump’s hoped-for peace plan.

I say, for this means over 1200 Palestinians were wounded or killed in one day by Israeli military. And yesterday I pointed out - see ¨On Gaza¨ - that in modern war in the last 50 or 60 years it are mostly civilians who are being killed by the military of the opposing party (which incidentally also happened in WW II).

Here is more from the article:

In a videotaped address, Trump said the embassy move, a key campaign promise, recognizes the “plain reality” that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Yet he added the United States “remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement.”

But Monday’s steadily climbing death toll and wall-to-wall condemnation of the embassy move in the Arab world raised new doubts about Trump’s ambitions to broker what he called the “deal of the century.” More than a year after taking office, Trump’s Mideast team has yet to produce a long-promised peace plan.

Yes, though I doubt Trump wants peace. It seems he is preparing for war against Iran.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

By nightfall, at least 55 Palestinians, including a young girl and four other minors, were killed, the Gaza Health Ministry said. It said 1,204 Palestinians were wounded by gunfire, including 116 who were in serious or critical condition.

Egypt, an important Israeli ally, condemned the killings of Palestinian protesters, while the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, decried the “shocking killing of dozens.”

Yes, I agree with the U.N. human rights chief. And this is a recommended article.
3. The Pentagon Can't Account for $21 Trillion (That's Not a Typo)

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Twenty-one trillion dollars.

The Pentagon’s own numbers show that it can’t account for $21 trillion. Yes, I mean trillion with a “T.”

I say. I´ll quote some evidence in a moment, but l want to start with saying something about Lee Camp, who is a comedian, and not a mathematician nor a physicist, and who continues the above with
There are certain things the human mind is not meant to do. Our complex brains cannot view the world in infrared, cannot spell words backward during orgasm and cannot really grasp numbers over a few thousand.
There is considerably more in that vein, and it is nonsense for two reasons: First, it is simply false for physicists and mathematicians. And second, it is false for the logical reason that if the above were true, this would have been the end of the article.

But it is not, and it is easy to say what a trillion is: A thousand billion, which in turn is a thousand million, which is a thousand thousands. I grant that humans find it a lot easier to imagine tens, hundreds or thousands of things than billions or trillions, indeed in part because lower numbers are much more familiar, but that is about it.

Anyway... back to the article, which does come with evidence:
A couple of years ago, Mark Skidmore, an economics professor, heard Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, say that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General had found $6.5 trillion worth of unaccounted-for spending in 2015. Skidmore, being an economics professor, thought something like, “She means $6.5 billion. Not trillion. Because trillion would mean the Pentagon couldn’t account for more money than the gross domestic product of the whole United Kingdom. But still, $6.5 billion of unaccounted-for money is a crazy amount.”

So he went and looked at the inspector general’s report, and he found something interesting: It was trillion! It was fucking $6.5 trillion in 2015 of unaccounted-for spending! And I’m sorry for the cursing, but the word “trillion” is legally obligated to be prefaced with “fucking.” It is indeed way more than the U.K.’s GDP.

Skidmore did a little more digging. As Forbes reported in December 2017, “[He] and Catherine Austin Fitts … conducted a search of government websites and found similar reports dating back to 1998. While the documents are incomplete, original government sources indicate $21 trillion in unsupported adjustments have been reported for the Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998-2015.”

I take it that is true and I think I should add that part of the reason is that - to the best of my knowledge, for I did write about it in a Nederlog of some years ago - that the Department of Defense has not been properly audited since 1998.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

But the 21 trillion number comes from the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General—the OIG. Although, as Forbes pointed out, “after Mark Skidmore began inquiring about OIG-reported unsubstantiated adjustments, the OIG’s webpage, which documented, albeit in a highly incomplete manner, these unsupported “accounting adjustments,” was mysteriously taken down.”

Luckily, people had already grabbed copies of the report, which—for now—you can view here.

I say. In fact, I did download the last link and skimmed it (but it is a fairly long report in a pdf of 4.2 MB). In any case, I think Camp is correct in saying or implying that the Pentagon has been very badly audited for 20 years. And this is a recommended article (even though Camp is not correct about numbers and ẅhat he calls ¨the human mind¨).

4. One of the World's Most Prestigious Medical Journals Just Called for Legalizing All Drugs

This article is by Phillip Smith on AlterNet and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

Embracing a harm reduction and public health perspective, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals has released a signed editorial calling for the legalization, taxation, and regulation of currently illegal drugs.

In an editorial last Thursday entitled Drugs Should Be Legalized, Regulated, and Taxed, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, notes that under drug prohibition, the global trade "fuels organized crime and human misery," and asks, "Why should it not instead fund public services?"

Citing an opinion piece in the same issue of the BMJ from British members of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Jason Reed and Paul Whitehouse, Godlee notes that in the United Kingdom (as in the United States) "vast sums are spent prosecuting individuals and trying vainly to interrupt the flow of drugs into cities" while that money would be much better "spent on quality control, education, treatment for drug users, and child protection." Under legalization, "revenues could be diverted from criminal gangs into government coffers," she writes.

I say, which I do because I agree. Then again, I immediately add that while the British Medical Journal reaches this conclusion now, in 2018, I reached the same conclusion in 1969, and indeed did so then in part on the basis of the Wootton Report that dates back to 1968 (fifty years ago this year).

That report, which was quite rational, was limited to cannabis and was rejected by the British government. And I extended the recommendations of the Wootton Report to hard drugs (also in 1969) for a simple reason I´ll state below.

First one quote from the Wootton Report, that recommended decriminalizing cannabis, about which the Report stated (in 1968/69):

"The long term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects (…) Cannabis is less dangerous than the opiates, amphetamines and barbiturates, and also less dangerous than alcohol. (…) An increasing number of people, mainly young, in all classes of society are experimenting with this drug, and substantial numbers use it regularly for social pleasure. There is no evidence that this activity is causing violent crime, or is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis requiring medical treatment (…) there are indications that (cannabis) may become a functional equivalent of alcohol."

I agree, and note that the Report said, quite correctly that ¨Cannabis is ... less dangerous than alcohol¨, which is - moreover - quite true on the basis of 50 years more experience in Holland: Far more people are killed or wounded because of alcohol than because of cannabis.

My reasons to extend the recommendations of the Wootton Report to hard drugs (in 1969) were - and still are - that somebody who is hooked on hard drugs is ill and should be treated, which is far more easier to do when hard drugs are not criminalized.

Here are part of Godlee´s reasons (from the article):

Godlee notes that the global drug prohibition consensus is fraying around the edges, and points to the example of Portugal, which decriminalized the possession of all drugs in 2001. There, drug use remains in line with levels in other European countries, but the harms associated with drug use under prohibition have decreased dramatically, particularly in terms of fatal drug overdoses and the spread of injection drug-related infectious disease.

Godlee also points to the Netherlands, the United States, and soon, Canada, where "regulated markets for the sale of cannabis generate substantial tax revenues."

Except that the Netherlands are a bad example, for while you can deal in soft drugs in Holland if you get personal permission from the mayor (of the city where you wish to deal), soft drugs are still quite illegal in Holland, even though they could have been easily legalized in Holland for more than 30 years. I do not know how much the mayors make on these deals, but being Dutch myself I find it impossible to believe this is done honestly.

Anyway... here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Unfortunately for the BMJ and the other public health advocates, as in the United States, the political class in the United Kingdom isn't yet on board with evidence-based best practices on drug policy. But this editorial loosens another brick in the wall—on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps. But since ¨the political class in the United Kingdom¨ has been systematically and voluntarily been blind for over 50 years now for the ¨evidence-based best practices on drug policy¨ I am less optimistic than Philip Smith. But this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Central Banks: The Great Experiment Has Failed

This article is by Nomi Prins on DailyReckoning. It starts as follows:

My latest book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, is about the leading central banks and their incestuous relationships.

The book dives into how central banks rigged the cost of money and the state of the markets, and ultimately created more inequality and instability as a result. They did all of this in order to subsidize private banks at the expense of people everywhere.

The book reveals the people in charge of these strategies, their elite gatherings and public and private communications. It uncovers how their policies rerouted economies, geopolitics, trade wars and elections.

I am a fan of Nomi Prins and this article is a fine set of reasons to buy Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World - which you should do from your local bookshop and not from Amazon.

Here is more:

Central banks have several functions from an official standpoint. The first is to regulate the smooth and orderly operation of private banks or public banks within a particular country or region (the ECB is responsible for many countries in Europe).

The other function they are tasked with is setting interest rates (the cost of borrowing money) so that there’s adequate economic balance between full employment and a select inflation rate.

The idea is that if the cost of money is cheap enough, private banks will lend to the general population and businesses. The ultimate goal is that the money can be used to expand enterprise, hire people and develop a stronger economy.

Yes. And here is more:

Since the financial crisis, the Fed has been unleashed. The U.S. central bank has quite literally fabricated nearly $4.5 trillion in funds to buy bonds (assets) from the major private banks. It should be noted that those private banking institutions are members of the Fed system.

The Fed then provides that money to the banks and the institution can then hold the funds in reserve, or choose to sell their Treasury or mortgage bonds back to the Fed.

The reality is, central banks have provided money as cheaply as possible to banks in order to keep the private banking system operating.

Precisely - and I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (at a time when the Dutch government still insisted there was no crisis, and ¨we should just cycle a bit harder¨). And one important reason to keep writing about the crisis is that the crisis has continued for the majority of the people (who earn less than $100,000 a year, which is the vast majority).

Here is more on the coming crisis, which will result from the non-handling of the crisis of 2008:

Because money was so cheap and interest rates so low, no other investment opportunities could offer the same high returns, so speculators piled into the stock markets, further elevating their levels.

We have built up corporate debt and the markets to such great highs that the potential for a fall would be at an unprecedented level. To further complicate the matter, we have seen record buybacks occurring in the markets, but such landmark moves are not connected to organic growth and are detached from the foundation of any economy.

To visualize this, imagine pulling the rug out from under a table full of dishes. The higher you stack the dishes, the greater the crash when they fall.

Today’s global debt to GDP ratio stands at a record of 224%, according to the IMF’s latest calculations, amidst record debt of $164 trillion. Much of that debt was created because the central banks offered up money at such cheap levels to borrow.

Precisely. Here is the last bit I quote from this excellent article:

Perhaps most alarming, we have seen virtually no real steps to reform the financial system.

Despite some cosmetic regulations to curtail certain risky behaviors, since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, there is still no division between depositors’ funds and those used by banks for speculation.

The big banks continue to make massive trading bets, and corporations are still focused on buying back stock for short-term shareholder gains rather than reinvestment in their businesses.

Since the financial crisis, not a single bank CEO has been seriously punished, despite the frauds and felonies committed by the biggest U.S. banks. If a person steals a car, he gets charged with a felony and likely goes to prison. If a big bank, like Wells Fargo recently, scams millions of dollars of phony fees from its customers, its CEO gets a raise.

Again precisely. And this is a strongly recommended article.


[1]I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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