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Nederlog

April 4, 2015
Crisis: Congressmen, Systems Problem, HSBC, Troll, On myself
  "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















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Sections
Introduction

1. Congressman Explains Why His Fellow Lawmakers
     Couldn’t Be Trusted with NSA Oversight

2. 'Dear Humanity, We Have a Systems Problem'
3.  Bill Black: HSBC Violates its Sweetheart Deal and Loretta
      Lynch Praises It

4. 
How to Beat Internet Trolls
5. 
On changing everything


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 4, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. The are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about how some American Congressmen are denied the right to know almost anything about the NSA; item 2 is about "A Systems Problem" (I find it hard to believe in); item 3 is about the ongoing corruption in the HSBC; item 4 is about internet trolls and what can be done about them; and item 5 is a repeat of a bit about myself (that you can skip if you have no interest: it is here because there wasn't much, and because I like it myself).

1. Congressman Explains Why His Fellow Lawmakers Couldn’t Be Trusted with NSA Oversight

The first item is an article by Lee Fang on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Congressmen who asked about oversight of NSA mass surveillance and domestic spying in 2013 could have “compromise[d] security” and were denied the records they sought because of concerns they lacked formal government security clearance, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee says in a newly-released video.

The footage, from an August 29, 2013 town hall meeting, sheds new light on why lawmakers were denied key rulings and reports from the secret courts overseeing the National Security Agency — even as the Obama administration and intelligence officials claimed that all NSA programs were subject to strict congressional oversight and therefore could be held accountable.

In fact, this is "the world upside down" in at least three important ways:

First, it is Congress that should control the NSA, and not the NSA that controls Congress, but it does. Second, the argument is crazy, false and invalid: That Congressmen might "compromise security". This is crazy - Congressman are supposed to oversee the government in a real democracy; it is false and invalid - security concerns should not apply to selected members of Congress; and also the Obama administration was lying: there was no "strict congressional oversight".

There is a video in the article, that is summarized as follows:

In the video, Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., then a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, discusses why Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., should not and did not receive information they sought from the committee. The committee had previously declined to explain why the information was withheld, going so far as to tell Grayson that even its discussion of his request was classified. Because the committee, like its Senate counterpart, tends to be particularly sympathetic to the intelligence community, getting information to non-committee-members like Grayson and Griffith is potentially crucial to reforming U.S. spy agencies. And in late 2013, following revelations of mass surveillance by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, there were any number of reform bills pending.

Quite so - but Grayson and Griffith were denied any knowledge, because they might be security risks, and Grayson was even told, after his requests for information were denied, that "the committee discussion regarding his denial
was classified.
"

As the article correctly says:

Grayson says he was ultimately denied the information about NSA surveillance activity that he sought. “The Republicans on the Intelligence Committee were unhappy that I discussed the Guardian coverage of the Snowden revelations on the floor of the House,” he says in an interview.

Grayson noted that the House Intelligence Committee maintains rules requiring lawmakers not on the committee to obtain permission from them to view classified information. “The committee has no authority to make those kinds of distinctions,” says Grayson. “They’ve created two tiers for members of Congress,” he adds. “I’m not aware of any statutory authority for such a distinction; but it’s just a power grab as members of Intelligence and I have the same constitutional authority.”

Precisely. In brief, there is Congressional oversight of the NSA (and its 16 mates) only by Congressional members who are approved by the NSA. Which is to say that there is no serious oversight of the NSA at all. To this day.

2.  'Dear Humanity, We Have a Systems Problem'

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
"It's time to talk about what's next."

Those are the words of academic and author Gar Alperovitz, founder of the Democracy Collaborative, who—alongside veteran environmentalist Gus Speth—this week launched a new initiative called the "Next Systems Project" which seeks to address the interrelated threats of financial inequality, planetary climate disruption, and money-saturated democracies by advocating for deep, heretofore radical transformations of the current systems that govern the world's economies, energy systems, and political institutions.
I say, but not really. I'll explain myself in a minute. First, here is some more:
According to the project's website, the effort is a response to a tangible and widespread "hunger for a new way forward" capable of addressing various social problems by injecting "the central idea of system change" into the public discourse. The goal of the project—described as an ambitious multi-year initiative—would be to formulate, refine, and publicize "comprehensive alternative political-economic system models" that would, in practice, prove that achieving "superior social, economic and ecological outcomes" is not just desirable, but possible.
There is considerably more in the article, and I even downloaded the pdf "Next Systems Project" on which there are many names, but I must admit I am very skeptical of this.

I have two reasons for this.

First, I didn't see anything that gripped me, and indeed I think the idea of "
injecting "the central idea of system change" into the public discourse" quite useless: Even the most stupid will agree that systems may change (though they also may not want this). And why not simply say "Things may change!". This is
as boringly true as "system change", except for missing a techno-term.

Second, my parents were communists for 45 years or more, were great activists,
and also were quite intelligent persons of good will - but nearly none of the many
plans for change they supported was ever popular or accepted, and not because they were communists (for they were activists for many more things than merely communist projects), but simply because the vast majority of the Dutch were far more conservative than they were.

So when I now read - at almost 65, but at least as radical as I was when 20 (and see below, in case you are interested) - that a group that wants to promote
"comprehensive alternative political-economic system models" in the anyway far
more conservative and far more religious U.S.A. .... well, I am very skeptical.


3. Bill Black: HSBC Violates its Sweetheart Deal and Loretta Lynch Praises It 
The next item is an article by Bill Black (<- Wikipedia) on Naked Capitalism:
This starts as follows

HSBC got a sweetheart deal from the Obama administration. It laundered vast amounts of money for Mexico’s murderous Sinaloa cartel, helped bust sanctions for terrorists and mass murderers, and did not cooperate with the investigation. The U.S. Attorney in charge of the case, Loretta Lynch, refused to prosecute any of the HSBC bankers or even sue them individually. Instead, there was a pathetic non-prosecution agreement limited to HSBC. Lynch is accused of not contacting either of the primary whistleblowers in the case. The failure to contact one of the whistleblowers has already blown up in Lynch’s face as it became public a few months ago that the governments of the U.S. and Europe were provided many years ago with data on HSBC’s Swiss affiliate that show it was helping terrorists, genocidal leaders, the most violent drug gangs, and tens of thousands of wealthy people evade taxes. Lynch failed to bring that case or use any of the invaluable data provided by the whistleblower who copied the files from the Swiss bank.

Now comes word that, like Standard Chartered, HSBC is failing to abide even by the pathetic sweetheart deal Lynch gifted HSBC’s criminal managers with.
I must say I am not amazed: If you are a corrupt, fraudulent banker you get all the assistance of Obama's government you might want, while you may be morally
certain that you may do almost anything without risking prosecution, simply because the Minister of Justice has declared since 1999 that he will not prosecute
managers of banks that he claims are too big to fail.

And indeed there is this in the article:
Holder’s refusal to prosecute the bankers has led to “repeat offenses on Wall Street.” Ponder that which DealBook religiously refuses to ponder – if fraudulent bankers find they grow wealthy from the “sure thing” of fraud with no risk of prosecution or even being sued, why wouldn’t they respond with “repeat offenses” that would create a “pattern of corporate recidivism?”
Precisely. Here is the end of the article, that seems to me to be plainly factually correct:
The administration has managed to turn into reality all those bad novels they sell in airport book stores that describe networks of criminal elite bankers financing terrorists, drug gangs, and venal and brutal kleptocrats with impunity from the laws.

Indeed.

4. How to Beat Internet Trolls

The next item is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This is here because of the title and the contents, that consist of 17 methods to deal with internet trolls. I have been trolled - I am firmly convinced, but as nearly always the perpetrators were anonymous - on Phoenix Rising (which I left in May
of 2010), and indeed one of the means was the following, that was not only used against me, but also against most others who were clearly intelligent and capable of writing clear prose (as most members of Phoenix Rising can not, not even if they were paid a lot):

9. Coordinate with a couple of others to “shout down” reasonable comments. This is especially effective when the posters launch an avalanche of comments in quick succession … the original, reasonable comment gets lost or attacked so much that it is largely lost.  Use “forum sliding” and “topic dilution” to so dilute and distract the conversation that people forget the original point.
But as I've said: I left Phoenix Rising nearly 5 years ago, and should never have joined it - and indeed since then I have not been trolled either.

Even so, the present article is good and useful, for a reason it states at the end:

Postscript: Over a number of years, we’ve found that the most effective way to fight disruption and disinformation is to link to a post such as this one which rounds up disruption techniques, and then to cite the disinfo technique you think is being used.

Specifically, we’ve found the following format to be highly effective in educating people in a non-confrontational manner about which game the troll is playing:

Good Number 1!

Or simply:

#7

(include the link so people can see what you’re referring to.)

I also note that Washington's Blog does get trolled a lot, probably because it is a leftist and progressive American blog, and while I do not like all contributors and do not always agree with Washington himself, he clearly is intelligent and informed.

5. On changing everything (personal statement):

The next item is an article written by myself on September 27, 2014 (and no, the title is borrowed):
The reasons it is here are that there wasn't much today on the crisis in the media check daily, and indeed some think that the crisis is over (which is bullshit, but you
may think what you please).

Anyway - here is a bit about my personal background that I wrote half a year ago.
I did make a few changes, but most is as was.
And you can skip this section if you are not interested in my ideas, honesty and background.
First then, I wasn't young in 2000: I got 50 that year. But while I've read that Klein was a "red diaper baby", as indeed I was, she also came from a - compared with me - rather wealthy middleclass background (father: a physician, mother: a film-maker), while my parents were very poor during all of my youth, and also did not have much of an education.

Second, my family background was a lot more red than even Klein's: My father and his father had spent years in German concentration-camps because they were in the communist resistance against the Nazis (my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days as a "political terrorist" in German concentration camps, where my grandfather was murdered); when I was born, my father was a member of the highest rank in the Dutch Communist Party; and my mother's parents were anarchists, as had been their parents, while my mother also was a communist who had been in the resistance, but who was not arrested.

In fact, I do not know anybody who lives in Holland with as red a background as I have, nor do I know anybody who lives in Holland whose father and grandfather spent years in concentration camps because they were in the (communist) resistance. (The only one I do know with such a background is my brother, but he now lives almost 30 years outside Holland.)

Third. My background did not help me in any socially useful way, although this is in part due to my own choices: I got very much interested in philosophy and logic in my teens, and this, together with the totalitarianism that was so pronounced in the Dutch CP, led to my giving up Marxism and the CP at age 20, in 1970, which was socially speaking stupid, since from 1970 till the early 1980ies this was the dominant philosophy in the Dutch universities, that also were handed to the students in 1971, which lasted till 1995, and during all that time there were yearly elections in the universities, with one man one vote, for students, professors, doormen and secretaries in the universities.

In fact, the Dutch university-situation really was all quite different from any other non-Dutch university, which also makes this difficult to explain, in part also since neither the University of Amsterdam, nor any of the many quasi-leftists who made - very well paid! - careers there, wish even to speak about the years 1971-1995, when all Dutch universities were formally in the students' hands, and were in fact run as Soviets are, generally by a combination of the communist and later postmodernistic students who always had the absolute majority in the yearly elections, with Boards from the Dutch Labour Party, which again ascertained that these quasi-revolutionary careerists remained in power all these years. (This was all undone by a new law in 1995. But by then the universities had been effectively destroyed for the most part, even though they are in name the same.)


Because I had left school at 17 because I found it very stupid, I could not enter university till I was 26, when in fact I lived in Norway, with a Norwegian girl friend, and did not know much about the enormous declines in the education offered by the Dutch universities, so I - very stupidly - returned to Holland to study, only to be called almost directly "a fascist" by my fellow students of philosophy, who all had joined the conformists in the university, and the conformists were quasi-marxists and quasi-communists, and this was the accepted and much-loved insult to anyone who was perceived to differ from the average.

The reasons I was called "a fascist" had nothing to do with my background, that I also did not reveal: Firstly, to call people "fascists" that one disagreed with was a habit since almost ten years amongst the quasi-left majority in Holland anyway; secondly, it was attached to me merely because I'd said that I thought Peirce a more interesting philosopher than Marx (!!), and that was anathema amongst the quasi-communists who studied philosophy, while also I could not be beaten in verbal discussions. (I am a very good speaker anyhow, and also I did know Marx, and the quasi-communists did not: they merely pretended.)

Fourth, I fell ill on 1.1.1979 (when 28) and never got better, and I also got involved in four years of terrorism by illegal drugsdealers, from 1988-1991, who had been given - illegal - permission to deal drugs by Amsterdam's mayor from the bottom floor of the house where I lived, and who turned out to be able to do anything they pleased, including threatening me with murder and violence, dealing in hard drugs, and gassing me: The mayor answered none of my letters; the Amsterdam police refused to lift a finger for me, and that produced 20 years of even more ruined health for me.

Fifth, while I did get an M.A. in psychology, with only A's, I was briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy removed as as student of philosophy from the University of Amsterdam because I had dared to question the level and content of the "education" it gave to me and my fellow students (see: questions), and I was removed under much screaming of academically deployed degenerates who screamed - 16 fold, at least - that I was "a fascist" and "a terrorist" because I attacked their utter incompetence.

So...what shall I say? I am as radical as I was at 20, and have been so for 44 years, but I also know that almost everyone I have known as "a leftist" in Holland was in fact a conformist and a careerist, who only pretended to be "leftists" for precisely the same reasons as the same folks, who had been quasi-communists for at least 10 and sometimes 20 years between 1970 and 1990, became "neo-conservatives" in the 1990ies: They were conformists who were first, second and third interested in their own careers and riches. (And no: it is just the same with the rightists, except that I have known far fewer, in part because there were far fewer.)

And they made careers, because they were healthy, because they were conformists, and because they were for the most part sincere in only one thing: their conformist careerism. Everything else led to that, including ten or more years as quasi-communists, quasi-marxists, quasi-leftists and quasi-revolutionaries. (And I am truly sorry: Nearly all of them were quasi.)

Anyway. That is my background. It is unique in Holland, and while it has not done anything for me socially, it has taught me why this is so:

Because the great majority of the "leftists" I have known (like the fast majorities of rightists and centrists, indeed) were not really interested in philosopy, not really interested in politics, and not really interested in science, and not really gifted either, nor did they have a background that disposed them to moral behavior:

They were only interested in being fashionable careerist conformists so as to serve their own personal financial interests, indeed quite as the currently
fashionable careerist conformists who are now "neo-liberals" (and who will change if that changes popularity).

You may disagree, but I have never made more in my life than the legally most minimal income, and quite often less; I have been terrorized for four years by illegal drugsdealers given permission by Amsterdam's mayor, I do not know for what percentage, to deal illegal drugs, which worsened my ill health considerably since the 1990ies; and I have been ill for 36 years without any help with my disease, other than dole, while my disease still is not even recognized by the Dutch bureaucracy, I take it because I attacked Amsterdam's mayors for helping the drugsmafia, although indeed I do not know for what percentage (of the at least 25 billion euros
that is yearly illegally turned over in illegal drugs on Dutch soil).


Also, for me the problems with politics of any kind are mostly moral and intellectual: Most men and women I have known, of whatever political inclination, regardless from the honesty with which these inclination were kept, were neither intelligent nor moral, and that is the basic problem of mankind.
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P.S. Apr 6, 2015: I supplied the Wikipedia link for Bill Black that I forgot.

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