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Nederlog

August 15, 2015
Crisis: Jeb Bush, Facebook, Greek Bail-Out, Greek Cooperation, Gore Vidal

"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.
Bland Monster Jeb Bush “Proud” of His Brother’s
     Torturing People

2. Facebook Is Diving Into the Presidential Race. Yes, You
     Should Be Worried.

3. After Contentious All-Nighter, Greece Bailout Approval
     Spurs Rebellion

4. Greeks Flock to Grassroots Alternative Currencies in
     Affront to Euro Debt Slavery

5. A life in feuds: how Gore Vidal gripped a nation


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, August 15, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Jeb Bush's feeling "proud" that his brother - illegally, immorally - tortured people; item 2 is about Facebook's trying to dive into the presidential campaigns with
targeted advertisements (though it seems as yet this is not quite possible, for lack of sufficient data or sufficient money); item 3 is about the Greek bailout, that was approved by the Greek parliament; item 4 is about a cooperative technique the Greeks are using to survive, namely alternative currencies (but as yet only on a small scale); and item 5 is a long read, that I liked, about a new book about the late Gore Vidal, who was a smart, sensible and informed man.

1. Bland Monster Jeb Bush “Proud” of His Brother’s Torturing People

The first article of today is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Maybe you’ve seen that Jeb Bush has refused to rule out more torture if he’s elected president. But what’s gone unnoticed — perhaps because Bush is so dreary it’s hard to listen to him without losing consciousness — is he actually said he’s “proud” of his brother’s torture policies.

BUSH: I do think, in general, that torture is not appropriate. It’s not as effective, uh, and the change of policy that my brother did and was then put into executive order form by the president was the proper thing to do. I also would say that right after 9/11, I mean, we were attacked, and, uh, my presid — my brother — and I’m not saying this because I’m a Bush, I’m saying this because I love this country just like everybody in this room — I’m proud of what he did to create a secure environment for our country.

I say. This is morally and intellectually quite wrong in quite a few ways:

Bush2 Jr. - as I shall call him - should not personally think, as if it were a personal preference ("I like torturing more than merely asking, but less than bombing") but he should know torture is legally forbidden.

The attack of 9/11 was in no way a good reason to start torturing people: Torturing people was and is a crime, indeed also if you call it differently ("extended interrogation technique").

Clearly, it's a lie that you don't say this because you are not the brother of a criminal presidential torturer: You are his brother, and you now have announced
you will behave as he did, and torture people illegally, if you think that may work, regardless of all law, all procedures, all morality, and all postures.

And you are proud that your brother behaved illegally, as a criminal, and all knowingly so, and ordered people to be tortured, and you say will be another criminal president if you are elected, if you think this will help you realize your goals, for then you will order that people will be tortured, regardless of all law,
all procedures, all morality, and all postures
.

There follow quite a few illustrations of extremely cruel and illegal tortures Bush2 Jr feels proud of, which I leave to your interests.

But I like the ending of this very deservedly sardonic article:

Despite all this, it should not go unnoticed that during Bush’s pro-torture remarks he was wearing a very nice, understated tie.

2. Facebook Is Diving Into the Presidential Race. Yes, You Should Be Worried.

The next article is by Thor Benson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

It isn’t news that presidential candidates are logging on to Facebook to rustle up followers and spread their messages. What is new, as The New York Times recently reported, is how involved Facebook is getting in providing social media services to those candidates.

In the past three years, the company has doubled its political team, according to the Times. New video capabilities on the site and the ability to upload voter files are said to be two of the most important features that the social media giant is providing to the campaigns. What will likely have the biggest impact is how these candidates advertise on the popular platform. Facebook has already made news with its breakdown of data concerning how many people are talking about certain candidates in specific geographical areas, and that’s likely just the beginning.

“They provide something that political campaigns have wanted for, really, as long as there [have] been political campaigns, which is a really precise way to target the people they’re interested in talking to,” Chris Calabrese, the vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Truthdig.

I only have deep contempt for Facebook and its many clients, but I know the vast majority has an IQ that is maximally 115 (which was the average IQ of the students of the University of Amsterdam in 1984, that now is probably around 105), which prevents them from making their own sites, learning much about science and rationality, behaving as a responsible citizen, having a fair and consistent morality, and from not giving up all their privacy to Suckerbug and his spies, in exchange for a few ads that might save them a few cents, so I am worried about this. (For more see my article from 2011: On the sham called "Facebook" - and indeed since then I have almost completely avoided it.) 

Then again, it seems as if the specific knowledge that allows anonymous assholes to bombard you with ads that suit your tastes (while subtly misleading you in many ways about presidential candidates) is not quite there yet.

So I will leave the rest to your interests, and only quote the ending:

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that this is a growing industry, and business models like the one Facebook is pioneering will likely shape the future of political advertising. For better or worse, political campaigns are about to become more streamlined and effective than ever before.

That being said, we will at least be able to Google any claims made in those ads to try to figure out if they are accurate or not.

Facebook and several presidential candidates contacted by Truthdig did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Incidentally: I do think you must be extremely stupid if you are a part of an asocial media network that steals your privacy in exchange for targeting you with personalized ads and you are trying "to Google any claims made in those ads to try to figure out if they are accurate or not".

3. After Contentious All-Nighter, Greece Bailout Approval Spurs Rebellion

The next article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This has a subtitle that I first quote:

'Ask anyone who knows anything about Greece's finances and they will tell you this deal is not going to work,' former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said

I will come to this opinion after quoting the start of the article:

In a development spurring calls for a new "anti-bailout movement," the Greek Parliament early Friday approved a controversial €85 billion financial rescue package—the country's third such bailout from foreign creditors in five years, and one that will require the Greek people to endure further cuts and austerity.

"After more than seven hours of often passionate, bad-tempered debate, all through the night, the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, has got his way," the BBC reported.

"I do not regret my decision to compromise," Tsipras said as he defended the deal in parliament. "We undertook the responsibility to stay alive over choosing suicide." He admitted to lawmakers the deal was no triumph, "but we are also not mourning over this difficult agreement. I have my conscience clear that it is the best we could achieve under the current balance of power in Europe, under conditions of economic and financial asphyxiation imposed upon us."

In fact, "a comfortable majority" in the Greek parliament agreed with Tsipras.

As to Varoufakis, who opposed the deal: Possibly so - but from my point of view (which I agree is partial and not fully informed) it seems that at least now the
Greeks are better off making the deal and then trying to avoid the worst consequences and to reflect on what is possible, than now refusing and see their
whole economy destroyed.

But there is considerably more in the article, that I will leave to your interests.

Then again, the next article is about one way the Greeks might use to avoid the worst consequences:

4.  Greeks Flock to Grassroots Alternative Currencies in Affront to Euro Debt Slavery

The next item is by Michael Krieger, from libertyblitzkrieg, that I found on Washington's Blog:

This starts with a bold qiotation from the Wall Street Journal Alternative Currencies Flourish in Greece as Euros Are Harder to Come by article:

When Christos Papaioannou noticed his car needed new tires, the Greek computer engineer bought them with euros—but used an alternative currency, called TEM, to pay his mechanic for the labor. 

His country has avoided a catastrophic exit from the common currency, at least for now. But a small but growing number of cash-strapped Greeks, who are still grappling with strict money-withdrawal limits, have found another route in TEM and other unconventional payment systems like it. 

Before then, Ms. Sotiropoulou said she was only aware of two such programs. No official record of the number of alternative currencies and local bartering systems appears to exist in Greece. But according to an Athens-based grass roots organization called Omikron Project, there are now more than 80 such programs, double the number in 2013. They vary in size, from dozens of members to thousands.

This is interesting, I think, though I should also immediately admit that a bit over 80 programs with " dozens of members to thousands" isn't much. Yet.

This is by Michael Krieger:

Democracy is dead. Your vote and your voice doesn’t matter. Not at all.

No group of people understand this as intimately as the Greeks. They voted for one thing, got something else, and in the process were unceremoniously reminded of their political irrelevance. The Greeks are now in a position to show the rest of us how it’s done. Communities need to take matters into their own hands and tackle challenges at the grassroots level. Nowhere is this more impactful and necessary than in the monetary realm, and some Greeks are already leading the charge.

I think that is correct (some other bits are more wishful thinking), as is the following quote (from a Greek who participates in TEM):

“Money is sparse right now, but people still have the same skills and knowledge they had before the crisis.”

I agree - but this also takes time, and for the moment is a mere beginning.

But yes, cooperative movements that know how to survive outside the ordinary
monetary economy are one useful idea that may be tried out.

5. A life in feuds: how Gore Vidal gripped a nation

The last article is by Jay Parini on The Guardian:

This starts as follows - and in case you think this is not part of the crisis series: it is, as I will explain:

I came to know Gore Vidal in the mid 1980s, when I was living in southern Italy, virtually a neighbour, and our friendship lasted until his death in 2012. Needless to say he was a complicated and often combative man. It took an effort, strenuous at times, to remain a close friend; but it seemed to me worth putting in the time, allowing him to relax into his deeper self, which was actually quite shy, even solitary. The public mask didn’t fit the private man very well, and I was always much relieved when he took it off.

Vidal would dwell at length on his feuds and fixed on the idea, which he took from Goethe, that talent is formed in stillness but character “in the stream of the world”. He entered that stream and swam vigorously, often against the current.

In fact, Jay Parini now has written a book about Gore Vidal - Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal - and this article, which is fairly long and quite good, seems to be part of the campaign to get it sold widely.

Now to explain why this is a part of the crisis series:

I did know who Gore Vidal was in 2012, when he died, and indeed had known a few superficial bits about him since the late 1960ies, but - probably in part because I am an European, not an American - I had not paid more attention,
which was a mistake.

It was a mistake because he had an excellent background, that made him family with Jacqueline Kennedy, and friends with John Kennedy, and he also had a fine
mind and a talent for written and spoken prose, and therefore I probably would have known a bit more about the USA if I had paid more attention to Vidal's political opinions, especially since the 1990ies.

Then again, it is also true that I could learn about him and his opinions mostly from videos, which I could not properly see until the middle of 2009 (when I got fast internet - and no, I never had a TV), and true that I did - broadly speaking, with considerable latitude for various disagreements - mostly agree with what he said, in part because I do know a lot about politics, but it certainly would have helped me to hear - for one example - Vidal's analyses of how Bush & Cheney got "elected" by a majoirty of the Supreme Court while not winning the elections, and what was behind this, if I could have heard them in 2001 and 2002.

Here is some more by Jay Parini:

His essays, as gathered in United States: Essays 1952-1992, make up more than 1,000 pages of vivid writing about books and ideas – perhaps his main contribution to the republic of letters. His perspective is always that of the lofty intellectual. As John Lahr once said, Vidal “pisses from an enormous height”.

A brilliant writer and public intellectual who could take on the world when he felt it necessary, Vidal was a brave figure on the political scene who would stand up for things that meant a lot to him, and he made his case eloquently before a wide audience. He was that nearly extinct variety of human being: a famous writer whose fame extended far beyond the realms of literature: a wit, a political pundit, a sought-after TV guest, a scold and much more. As he put it himself: “I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”

There is a lot more, all well worth reading (and it did enlighten me somewhat on the feuds Vidal had with Buckley and Mailer).

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