February 12, 2015
Crisis: Obama's wars, British police, NSA, CIA, "capitalism" & Geithner
  "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


1. Obama Asks Congress to Authorize War That’s Already

2. The police need to be reminded of their place in a free

NSA Spy Program So Secret Judge Can't Explain Why It
     Can't Be Challenged

The CIA's Secret Psychological Profiles of Dictators and
     World Leaders Are Amazing

Geithner: “The End of Capitalism as We Know It”

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, February 12, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Obama's tricky way to continue his very many small wars and dronings without asking Congress for permission; item 2 is about the thorough corruption of the British police; item 3 is about yet another dismissal of a court case by an American judge who seems to feel secretly surveilling all is a great good, that ought to be protected, and certainly never should be a matter for a public court; item 4 is about some psychiatric profiling paid for by the CIA (for some 70 years now); and item 5 is about the change of regulated and legal capitalism to an
unregulated and illegal attack of the few and powerful rich on the many and powerless poor, so as to give the rich as much profit as they can, without having to fear any law or any court.

1. Obama Asks Congress to Authorize War That’s Already Started 

The first item today is an article by Cora Currier on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

As the U.S. continues to bomb the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama asked Congress today to approve a new legal framework for the ongoing military campaign.

The administration’s draft law “would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” like Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama wrote in a letter accompanying the proposal. The draft’s actual language is vague, allowing for ground troops in what Obama described as “limited circumstances,” like special operations and rescue missions.

The authorization would have no geographic limitations and allow action against “associated persons or forces” of the Islamic State. It would expire in three years.

To me, this sounds like bullshit.

My reasons are that it seems to me as if Congress should declare wars, and not the president of the United States, whereas all new "laws" dealing with war that were declared since 9/11 seem to me intentionally very vaguely worded permissions for the president and the Pentagon to commit acts of war, like droning, without these acts of war being declared as acts of war.

Then again, I admit that I am not a lawyer, and I also think that with such Congresses as I have seen since 9/11, the "legalities" don't matter much: The majority seems to want war, but without really declaring it, and that is also what
Obama offers to them - so far as I can see.

Here is some more from the article:

Speaking at New York University School of Law this afternoon, Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser until 2013, said that the Obama administration is currently on shaky legal grounds, tying the airstrikes to a law passed days after 9/11.

Koh said that stretching the law like that is inconsistent with Obama’s stated goal of bringing the U.S. off of “perpetual wartime footing.” Acting without a new authorization from Congress “doesn’t promote the end of the ‘Forever War,’” Koh said.

Since August, the U.S. and other nations have carried out more than 2,300 airstrikes, according to data released by the U.S. military and compiled by journalist Chris Woods.

To say that "the Obama administration is currently on shaky legal grounds" seems to be legalese for: "denies most legal principles that are involved, but does so with the help of some lawyers, and 'therefore' is 'legal'".  Also, "2,300 airstrikes" in 5 months is 460 every month, which is about 15 every day.

There is also this:

The administration currently justifies those airstrikes by invoking self-defense and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Passed one week after the September 11th, 2001 and just 60 words long, that law in broad language gave the White House the power to go after anyone connected to the 9/11 attacks.

Thirteen years on, it is still the main legal backing for the war in Afghanistan and for the targeted killings of alleged Al Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (...)
Which is completely ridiculous: First, "Al Qaeda" is mostly a creature made by rhe Western media, and secondly "ISIS" seems to have little to do with whatever there is of "Al Qaeda", and indeed is opposed to it, while thirdly you can't support over 13 years of war and destruction on the basis of an extremely vague 60 words handed out in 2001. (And mind you: I do not deny there are Muslim "terrorists", who are being fought by American "terrorists", sorry: superheroes, who may not be called "terrorists", though they do kill, harm, destroy and bomb. I merely insist that the stories of the American main stream media are mostly propaganda, as indeed are the stories and videos spread by "ISIS".)

Anyway - there is more under the last dotted link, but what it describes is nothing like the proper application of real - and accepted! - legal principles, such as that
Congress should declare war, and not the president.

2. The police need to be reminded of their place in a free society

The next item is an article by Henry Porter on the (horribly looking "renewed") Guardian:
This starts as follows:
One of the few MPs who stand up for freedom in Britain, the Conservative David Davis, suggested that although the police attempt to monitor sales of the special issue of Charlie Hebdo was disquieting, it was more stupid than sinister. On this occasion I find it hard to agree with him. It is clear from a number of recent developments that the police have lost an understanding of what it means to live in a free society, and indeed how the police fit into that society and guard its freedoms.
Let me put this slightly otherwise, without destroying the meaning: In present
day "democratic" Britain, only very few of the people's representatives care about freedom, while the British police ceased to understand what a free society is, and does its very best to end it.

As to the very last bit - the ending - that indeed is not in the above quotation, but it is here, though again a bit understated:
(...) this is the latest in a long line of developments that show a lack of respect for the freedoms we once took for granted, the most recent of which is the revelation that the images of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, not charged or convicted of any crime, were loaded on police databases for use of facial recognition CCTV. And this was despite a court ruling in 2012 that held that it was an unjustified intervention in the private lives of two plaintiffs. The response of the Home Office, truly a department that runs with its own agenda in these matters, was to do nothing.
Which is again to say: The police willingly and massively break the laws that
they are supposed to protect and enforce, while the governments sits by and either does nothing or else applauds these abuses.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and while I broadly speaking agree,
it also seems too late to me "to re-educate the police on their place in a free society and put an end to the pervasive attitudes of suspicion and entitlement" if only because these many breakings of the law seem to be applauded or tolerated by the British government, and have been for a long time.

3. NSA Spy Program So Secret Judge Can't Explain Why It Can't Be Challenged

The next item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

A federal judge ruled in favor of the National Security Agency in a key surveillance case on Tuesday, dismissing a challenge which claimed the government's spying operations were groundless and unconstitutional.

Filed in 2008 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, aimed to end the agency's unwarranted surveillance of U.S. citizens, which the consumer advocacy group said violated the 4th Amendment.

The lawsuit also implicated AT&T in the operations, alleging that the phone company "routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA." That charge was based off of a 2006 document leak by former AT&T technician and whistleblower Mark Klein, who disclosed a collection program between the company and the NSA that sent AT&T user metadata to the intelligence agency.

US District Judge Jeffrey White on Tuesday denied a partial summary judgment motion to the EFF and granted a cross-motion to the government, dismissing the case without a trial. In his order, White said the plaintiff, Carolyn Jewel, an AT&T customer, was unable to prove she was being targeted for surveillance—and that if she could, "any possible defenses would require impermissible disclosure of state secret information."

I say. To start with, here is a Tweet [1] from the EFF, that also is committed to go with the case, since this judge only blocked a part of it:
NSA Internet surveillance is so secret, the court refused to even consider whether it's constitutional.
Yes, indeed. And here is what Judge Jeffrey White might as well have said to Carolyn Jewel:

"Ms Jewel! I understand you are not a billionaire, and also not a member of our great government. It follows that you are hardly more than a sub-human, for you must understand that you have no right to know anything about your surveillance by our fine demi-gods of the NSA, and you also have no right to appear in my court to prosecute the government, for our democratic government will not disclose anything about any surveillance of anyone. Understand? Case dismissed!"

He did not use the words “sub-human" and "demi-gods", though it would seem to me that he might as well have, for these are the factual statuses of, on the one hand, the hundreds of millions being surveilled by the secret services as if that service has the right to know everything about anyone (who is not a billionaire and does not work for the government) and, on the other hand, the totally anonymous and completely secret few tenthousands who may and can access virtually any computer connected to the internet, and any cellphone, and can take anything and everything they find, and store it for future use, for any purpose that the - then - government thinks fit.

4. The CIA's Secret Psychological Profiles of Dictators and World Leaders Are Amazing

The next item is an article by Dave Gilson on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

Last week, Politico and USA Today reported about a secret 2008 Pentagon study which concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin's defining characteristic is…autism. The Office of Net Assessment's Body Leads project asserted that scrutinizing hours of Putin footage revealed "that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality…identified by leading neuroscientists as Asperger's Syndrome, an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions."

Putin's spokesman dismissed the claim as "stupidity not worthy of comment." But it was far from the first time the intelligence community has tried to diagnose foreign leaders from afar on behalf of American politicians and diplomats. The CIA has a long history of crafting psychological and political profiles of international figures, with varying degrees of depth and accuracy.

Yes, indeed. In fact - and this is part of the reason I picked this item - I have at least two books, or perhaps booklets, for both are smallish, were written by psychiatrists, and were bought over 40 years ago, and originated with the CIA: "The mind of Adolf Hitler" and "The Mind of Joseph Stalin".

Both were incredibly bad, prejudiced, sensational (in an understated, quite ill-written, pseudoscientific way, to be sure) and contributed considerably to
my already then quite strong belief that psychiatry is for the most part composed of bullshit and fraudulence, since there simply is not sufficient real scientific knowledge of the brain and of personalities and societies to do this in a really scientific way, and besides is also usually very ill-written (with a few rare exceptions), and consists mostly of ordinary prejudices, but articulated by psychiatrist with very much aplomb and long latinate terms, and without any
real scientific basis.

The article gives some - though not many - details on the CIA's psychiatric findings on Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Khruschev, Castro, Begin, Sadat, Qaddafi, Hussein, and Aristide.

5. Geithner: “The End of Capitalism as We Know It”

The next and item today is an article by Bill Black (<- Wikipedia) on Nakedcapitalism, that originally appeared on New Economic Perspectives:

The start of this centers around this quotation (and if you want to know more about the persons mentioned you have to click the last dotted link):

Axelrod was “livid” when he found out that Geithner and [Larry] Summers “had quietly lobbied” against an amendment to the stimulus that would have restricted the payment of bonuses at firms that received bailout funds. Those bonuses had become a huge political sore point for the administration, but the finance guys argued that retroactive steps to claw back the money would have violated existing contracts.

“This would be the end of capitalism as we know it’”Geithner told Axelrod (...)

In fact, this was not about "clawing back" money at all. But the main point is that Geithner and Summer saved the continued "payment of" often enormous "bonuses at firms that received bailout funds".

Here is Black's opinion on what is involved in this:

Bankers should not get paid in full under normal bankruptcy provisions when they run the bank into insolvency (including a liquidity crisis). The perverse incentives of the compensation systems were a major contributor to the three financial fraud epidemics that bankers led that caused the greatest financial losses of any property crimes in history. It was grotesquely improper and immoral to pay the bonuses. It literally made crime pay. It was (and is today) vital that those perverse compensation incentives (which include the deliberate generation of the “Gresham’s” dynamics that suborn supposed “controls” such as the loan officers and brokers, credit rating agencies, auditors, and appraisers) be ended to make the financial world far less criminogenic. The “sure thing” of “accounting control fraud” (aka “looting”) makes “capitalism” as we know it a disgraceful oxymoron. What “we know” bears no resemblance to “capitalism.” Our largest banks became criminal enterprises virulently opposed to markets, competition, democracy, and customer service.

First about Gresham. Here is the Wikipedia (quoted without one note number):

Gresham's law is an economic principle that states: "When a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation." It is commonly stated as: "Bad money drives out good".

Second, I agree with Bill Black that America's "largest banks became criminal enterprises virulently opposed to markets, competition, democracy, and customer service": They are mostly interested in making all the profit they can make for themselves, by any means, and have towards that end for 30 years helped to deregulate any law that stood in their way.

Third, I also agree with Bill Black that this is not so much (legally regulated) capitalism any more, but is a vast and intentional "criminal enterprise" conducted by the rich few against the many poor, with the end of making the
few rich a lot richer, and to damn the poor: they are exploitative sub-humans who pose as welfare-queens and are out "to get something for nothing" (in the words of British minister McVey).


[1] I am sorry, but I really don't like Tweets because it seems to me - "The Medium Is The Message" - that these are a concession to the billions who can't
write a decent story with a beginning, a middle and an end even if you pay them: By Tweeting they have "the freedom" to publish their heartfelt thoughts - and only these - in bits of maximally 140 characters. I really don't see that can be
very popular, indeed except among those who find it too difficult to write a decent mail. (And no, I don't Tweet and don't follow them either. I do know it is popular.)

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