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Nederlog

January 21, 2015
Crisis: Rusbridger, Monbiot, Froomkin, Kiriakou, Whitehead
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1. Alan Rusbridger: Home Office must not remove right to
     protect sources

2. Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces
     of the elite

3.
Obama’s Cyber Proposals Sound Good, But Erode
     Information Security

4.
Prison Dispatches from the War on Terror: Ex-CIA Officer
     John Kiriakou Speaks

5. The Dire State of Our Nation (What You Won’t Hear from
     the Politicians)
 


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 21, 2015.

This is a crisis log. It has 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the dangers to real - investigative, free, uncontrolled - journalism, as stated by Alan Rusbridger; item 2 is about an article by George Monbiot that shows there is hardly any impartial broadcasting left in England; item 3 is Dan Froomkin on Obama's latest proposals to effectively spy on everyone; item 4 is about an interview with John Kiriakou (the only CIA agent who got imprisoned - mostly because he protested torture); and item 5 is a fine article by John Whitehead, that I copied all because I think this ought to be better known (and no: Whitehead's opinions you will not read or hear about in America's main media).

There also probably will be a crisis log tomorrow, though that may be dedicated to my own opinions, for I realized I have been part of two enormous social experiments, each of which lasted 35 years, and I do want to compare these.
(I don't know yet: I am doing fairly well at the moment, but I do need to sleep well to write out the idea that I just mentioned.)

1. Alan Rusbridger: Home Office must not remove right to protect sources

The first item today is an article by Ewen MacAskill on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Journalism will be changed forever if the Home Office goes ahead with a proposal to remove the right to protect anonymous sources, the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, warned in a speech on Monday.

He also expressed concern that the right to confidentiality that lawyers, doctors, MPs, priests and others in the church are supposed to enjoy is also under threat. His comments came the day before the deadline for responses to the Home Office consultation paper on extending police powers.

“Journalism, which relies on unauthorised sources for much that is good and valuable, would be changed forever in this country,” Rusbridger said. “That’s not something to sneak in in a few paragraphs of an obscure Home Office consultation document.

He added: “These are things that are core to how we live and work in a free country. It cannot be for a few security officials in the Home Office to overthrow them.”

Yes, indeed, though perhaps too soft and friendly, for while Alan Rusbridger is saying that
“These are things that are core to how we live and work in a free country. It cannot be for a few security officials in the Home Office to overthrow them.”
it are precisely a few - unelected - security officials who have overthrown the "core" of "how we live and work in a free country".

Also, while Alan Rusbridger is saying that
“Journalism, which relies on unauthorised sources for much that is good and valuable, would be changed forever in this country”
he might as well have said that The Guardian's journalism will be killed, and will be replaced by a paper that has no choice but to offer constant applause for anything the government does, or wants, or says, all sauced by articles that are meant to amuse the readers, written by "journalists" who deserve to be called whorenalists, but without any serious crticism of anything English, and also without any serious investigative journalism. [1]

It will be the end of the free state, but that fact also will be lost under "no criticism" and "lots of amusements for the readers' enjoyment", together with the continued insistence of the governors that they "have been democratically elected" (in England?!) so everything must be fine and dandy, and no one should complain one bit that all of his computers and all of his cellphones are under continuous surveillance of the secrer members of the secret servives, unless of course "they have to hide something" from the very benevolent and quite anonymous secret services, who are to defend the country from "terrorism" (which is anything thus called by Our Beloved Political Leaders Who Mean Very Well).

Am I exaggerating? Well... we aren't there yet, quite, but if it is up to David Cameron or Sir Malcolm Rifkind, this is the press they wanted always:

Well behaved; always mirroring the government's opinions; quite thankful also that they have been given "that freedom" to agree; no investigative journalism whatsoever (that is not fully controlled by and known to, and also possibly secretly manipulated by the secret services); and even full of articles that praise  "The Freedom Of Our Proud West", that are being threatened by evil terrorists, but are always saved by Our Heroes from Our Secret Services (who alas have to remain anonymous, but know everything about anyone, and Praise The Lord).

As to Sir Malcolm Rifkind, there is this:
Rusbridger was especially scathing about the role of the parliamentary intelligence committee, headed by former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, which keeps tabs on the MI6, MI5 and GCHQ. Rifkind “occasionally pops up on radio when there are terror outrages or demands for greater powers. It is not always clear from his tone whether he regards himself as a regulator or an advocate on behalf of the agencies he oversees”.
He clearly is an advocate for MI6, MI5 and GCHQ and never was anything else.
It is conceivably possible Rifkind knows the meaning of "civil liberties", but then the reason for that must be that he has consistently helped the secret services to undermine these.

But Rifkind is not important. What is important is Rusbridger's warning that
Journalism will be changed forever if the Home Office goes ahead with a proposal to remove the right to protect anonymous sources (..)
Free journalism will be killed, as will be any free state with protected civil liberties: There is no real democracy without a really free press.

2. Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

This starts with a story about gross corruption in the CBC, which is Canada's counterpart to the BBC. If you want to check this out, use the above dotted link.

This is summed up by Monbiot as follows:

This is grotesque. But it’s symptomatic of a much wider problem in journalism: those who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.

I agree the story about the CBC is "symptomatic of a much wider problem in journalism", which is very worrisome (and see item 1), and I also agree that the root of the problem among journalists is that "those who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it", but I disagree they do this "often unwittingly" - come on!

These are not stupid people, these are not uneducated people - all that is the matter with them is that they are corrupt, and have been corrupted by money, which is a very easy motive to understand, and works on nearly everyone. [2]

But here is a list of points that George Monbiot makes, generally with a lot more text, that is here left out and replaced by "(...)":
  • A study by academics at the Cardiff School of Journalism examined the BBC Today programme’s reporting of the bank bailouts in 2008. It discovered that the contributors it chose were “almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. (...)
  • The same goes for discussions about the deficit and the perceived need for austerity. The debate has been dominated by political and economic elites, while alternative voices – arguing that the crisis has been exaggerated, or that instead of cuts, the government should respond with Keynesian spending programmes or taxes on financial transactions, wealth or land – have scarcely been heard. (...)
  • The BBC’s business reporting breaks its editorial guidelines every day by failing to provide alternative viewpoints (...)
  • On BBC News at Six, the Cardiff researchers found, business representatives outnumbered trade union representatives by 19 to one. (...)
  • Another study reveals a near total collapse of environmental coverage on ITV and BBC news (...)

I agree - except for the fact that I really cannot believe that the people who do the above, do so "often unwittingly" (but then I suppose I may have a very bad character, that does not easily trust such noble journalists and such noble members of the elites, who also have so much to gain by their own corruptions) - while I do not doubt there are very many more such examples.

Here is the last line of George Monbiot's article:

If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?

None whatsoever, I agree. And if it is up to David Cameron and Malcolm Rifkind, either The Guardian will be closed soon, or it will have to fundamentally change all its principles to be allowed by the British government (!) to serve The Cause of Freedom And To Fight Terrorism (as by that time may be The Duty Of Anyone English).

Meanwhile, this is an interesting article that I recommend you read all of.

3. Obama’s Cyber Proposals Sound Good, But Erode Information Security

The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The State of the Union address President Obama delivers tonight will include a slate of cyber proposals crafted to sound like timely government protections in an era beset by villainous hackers.

They would in theory help the government and private sector share hack data more effectively; increase penalties for the most troubling forms of hacking; and require better notification of people when their personal data has been stolen.

But if you cut through the spin, it turns out that the steps Obama is proposing would likely erode, rather than strengthen, information security for citizens and computer experts trying to protect them.
The problem is "if you cut through the spin": Very few do. Here is a small part of Dan Froomkin's sum-up:

The explanation for the mismatch between Obama administration goals and policy is, unfortunately, a familiar one: The pull of moneyed corporate interests.

“The reason why we don’t have any serious proposals on the table that would improve cybersecurity,” says Soghoian, “is because big companies don’t actually want to be held accountable.” And Obama “doesn’t want to take on big business.”

The Chamber of Commerce and National Retail Federation are among the biggest fans of the proposals. And that’s a feature, not a bug.

By offering liability protection in return for something companies are doing already, Obama is not only protecting them from consequences, he’s even encouraging companies to spy on users more than they do already, knowing they couldn’t get in trouble anymore.

In brief, Obama's "solution" for the gigantic problems with spying on everyone, which is done both by his NSA (etc.) and by very many American firms (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Verizon etc. etc.) though indeed not for quite the same reasons as the NSA, is to propose ... more spying and fewer punishments (for spies, you must understand).

Again, this is a good article that I recommend you read all of.
 
4. Prison Dispatches from the War on Terror: Ex-CIA Officer John Kiriakou Speaks

The next item is an article by Andrew Jerrel Jones on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee to go to prison in connection with the agency’s torture program. Not because he tortured anyone, but because he revealed information on torture to a reporter.

Kiriakou is the Central Intelligence Agency officer who told ABC News in 2007 that the CIA waterboarded suspected al-Qaeda prisoners after the September 11 attacks, namely Abu Zubaydah, thought to be a key al Qaeda official. Although he felt at the time that waterboarding probably saved lives, Kiriakou nevertheless came to view the practice as torture and later claimed he unwittingly understated how many times Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding.

In January 2012, Kiriakou was charged by the Justice Department for allegedly and repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists.

There is also this on Kiriakou's background and future:

Kiriakou is not without support from former colleagues. His friend and former boss, Bruce Riedel, sent a letter to President Obama, signed by other CIA officers, urging him to commute Kiriakou’s prison sentence. That did not happen.

A father of five children, Kiriakou says the CIA asked his wife to resign from her job at the agency immediately following his arrest, and he is in major debt from his legal fees.

Kiriakou is is scheduled for early transfer out of federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania on February 3.

The rest of this is mostly the text of a telephone interview with Kiriakou, that is quite good. I quote only one point, about responsibility, notably of Bush Jr.:

They knew about it all the way up to the top. I remember sitting at a meeting with one of the top three officials at the CIA when the program was approved. And throughout the conversation, he kept on saying, “I can’t believe the president signed off on that program. I can’t believe it.” He kept saying it. Because it was so radical and violent that even internally we didn’t think there would be permission forthcoming. And there was. And it got out of hand, and it was a slippery slope and the ball kept rolling down the hill. And the next thing you know, we’re killing people.

For more, use the last dotted link.

5. The Dire State of Our Nation (What You Won’t Hear from the Politicians)

The last item today is an article by John Whitehead, on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows:

By John Whitehead, constitutional and human rights attorney, and founder of the Rutherford Institute.

“As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.” ― Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

No matter what the politicians say about how great America is and how we, as a people, will always triumph, the fact is that the nation seems to be imploding.

Despite the dire state of our nation, however, you can rest assured that none of the problems that continue to plague our lives and undermine our freedoms will be addressed by our so-called elected representatives in any credible, helpful way, and certainly not during a State of the Union address.

Here is the rest of this fine article, that I give in full because it seems mostly quite adequate, though indeed it is not optimistic (but neither am I):

Consider the following facts:

Our government is massively in debt. Currently, the national debt is somewhere in the vicinity of $18 trillion. More than a third of our debt is owned by foreign countries, namely China and Japan.

Our education system is abysmal. Despite the fact that we spend more than most of the world on education ($115,000 per student), we rank 36th in the world when it comes to math, reading and science, far below most of our Asian counterparts. Even so, we continue to insist on standardized programs such as Common Core, which teach students to be test-takers rather than thinkers.

Our homes provide little protection against government intrusions. Police agencies, already empowered to crash through your door if they suspect you’re up to no good, now have radars that allow them to “see” through the walls of your home.

Our prisons, housing the largest number of inmates in the world and still growing, have become money-making enterprises for private corporations that rely on the inmates for cheap labor.

We are no longer a representative republic. The U.S. has become a corporate oligarchy. As a recent survey indicates, our elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital, represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen.

We’ve got the most expensive, least effective health care system in the world compared to other western, industrialized nations.

The air pollution levels are dangerously high for almost half of the U.S. population, putting Americans at greater risk of premature death, aggravated asthma, difficulty breathing and future cardiovascular problems.

Despite outlandish amounts of money being spent on the nation’s “infrastructure,” there are more than 63,000 bridges—one out of every 10 bridges in the country—in urgent need of repair. Some of these bridges are used 250 million times a day by trucks, school buses, passenger cars and other vehicles.

Americans know little to nothing about their rights or how the government is supposed to operate. This includes educators and politicians. For example, 27 percent of elected officials cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, while 54 percent do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war.

Nearly one out of every three American children live in poverty, ranking us among the worst in the developed world. [2]

Patrolled by police, our schools have become little more than quasi-prisons in which kids as young as age 4 are being handcuffed for “acting up,” subjected to body searches and lockdowns, and suspended for childish behavior.

We’re no longer innocent until proven guilty. In our present surveillance state, that burden of proof has now been shifted so that we are all suspects to be spied on, searched, scanned, frisked, monitored, tracked and treated as if we’re potentially guilty of some wrongdoing or other.

Parents, no longer viewed as having an inherent right to raise their children as they see fit, are increasingly being arrested for letting their kids walk to the playground alone, or play outside alone. Similarly, parents who challenge a doctor’s finding or request a second opinion regarding their children’s health care needs are being charged with medical child abuse and, in a growing number of cases, losing custody of their children to the government.

Private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, forcibly take our DNA, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Accounts are on the rise of individuals—men and women alike—being subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops.

Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. The courts were established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet the courts increasingly march in lockstep with the police state, while concerned themselves primarily with advancing the government’s agenda, no matter how unjust or illegal.

Americans have no protection against police abuse. It is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later. What is increasingly common, however, is the news that the officers involved in these incidents get off with little more than a slap on the hands.

If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. This is true, whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Americans are powerless in the face of militarized police. In early America, government agents were not permitted to enter one’s home without permission or in a deceitful manner. And citizens could resist arrest when a police officer tried to restrain them without proper justification or a warrant. Daring to dispute a warrant with a police official today who is armed with high-tech military weapons would be nothing short of suicidal. Moreover, as police forces across the country continue to be transformed into extensions of the military, Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield.

Now these are not problems that you can just throw money at, as most politicians are inclined to do. As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, these are problems that will continue to plague our nation unless and until Americans wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones who can change things.

For starters, we’ll need to actually pay attention to what’s going on around us, and I don’t mean by turning on the TV news, which is little more than government propaganda. Pay attention to what your local city councils are enacting. Pay attention to what your school officials are teaching and not teaching. Pay attention to whom your elected officials are allowing to wine and dine them.

Most of all, stop acting like it really matters whether you vote for a Republican or Democrat, because it doesn’t, and start acting like citizens who expect the government to work for them, rather than the other way around.

While that bloated beast called the federal government may not listen to you, you can have a great impact on your local governing bodies. This will mean gathering together with your friends and neighbors and, for example, forcing your local city council to start opposing state and federal programs that are ripping you off. And if need be, your local city council can refuse to abide by the dictates that continue to flow from Washington, DC.

All of the signs point to something nasty up ahead. The time to act is now.

I quite agree, apart from some minor niggles (and I note the evidence is generally linked in, and I left the links as they were).

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1] Very few Englishmen read Dutch, but if you have read the Dutch NRC Handelsblad for 40 years, as I have, namely from 1970-2010, and read the present horror that goes by the same name, you may know what I mean: At present, that paper mostly amuses its would-be "academic audience" (with an IQ of ca. 105, I am afraid, these days) and does so by means of a couple of totally untalented whorenalists (the term I first read in a piece by the late W.F. Hermans) who excel in just one thing: Making clowns' faces for the NRC's awful website, I suppose again to amuse the readers, and to show how funny they are.

[2] Incidentally: That is also the explanation why the very great majority of all the lecturers and all the professors of the University of Amsterdam I knew between 1977 and 1995 - quite a lot: I did three studies, and was ill all the time - had "great sympathy", "considerable admiration", "a real interest" (etc. etc.) in ... Karl Marx.

The reasons were that (1) from 1971-1995 all Dutch universities were in fact owned by the students (a totally unique situation in the world) who were all that time for the most part "very leftist" and "very much interested" (at least: they claimed to be) in Marx, while (2) the lecturers and professors were all paid very well by the state. This gave great opportinunities to study the behavior of the corrupt - except that very few saw it that way, though the
very great majority of all the lecturers and all the professors of the University of Amsterdam were quite corrupt (as shown by the fact that all ceased to show any interest in anything Marx had said from 1995 onwards, when the state again reclaimed the universities).

Also, I should add that a very small minority of my lecturers and professors were not corrupt - and they tended to be the best, but they also either tended to be removed from the Dutch universities quite soon or to shut up completely (Daudt, Van der Grinten, Rentes de Carvalho, all in the University of Amsterdam).

[3] I have also heard it is not 1/3rd but 1/2, which is 1/6th more. In either case: it is absurd that 2/6th or 3/6th of the American children these days are living in poverty - but they do, whether the proportion is 2 in 6 or 3 in 6.
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