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Nederlog

October 18, 2015
Crisis: Democratic Presidential Debates, Whistleblowers' Fates
 "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. 
The Democrats’ Presidential Debates: Underway and
     Underwhelming
2. The Sad Fate of America’s Whistleblowers

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 18, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are only two items today, because it is a sunday; there was not much to find; and also I didn't sleep well: Item 1 is about an article by Ralph Nader about the Democrats' presidential debate; and item 2 is an article by John Kiriakou about whistleblowers.

There will very probably be more tomorrow.

1. The Democrats’ Presidential Debates: Underway and Underwhelming    
The first item is by Ralph Nader (<- Wikipedia). I found it on Common Dreams and it is originally on Ralph Nader's site:
This starts as follows:

Who thought this up – Giving a  private corporation (CNN) control of a presidential debate? In the most recent Democratic presidential debate, CNN controlled which candidates were invited, who asked what questions, and the location, Las Vegas – the glittering, gambling center of America. This is a mirror image of the control Fox News exercised during their Republican candidates’ circus. Corporatism aside, the debate with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee was not a debate. With few exceptions – most notably Hillary Clinton going after Bernie Sanders on gun control, about which she is reborn – the stage was the setting for a series of interview questions to each candidate by Anderson Cooper and his colleagues.

Granted, the quality of the questions was higher than has been the case with other debate spectacles in recent years. Yet CNN’s self-censorship – in part reflected in the content of the questions and the favored positioning given to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – was not obscured.

There is no BBC in the USA but I agree that a private corporation should not control the candidates, the questions and the location.

But this was the introduction. Here is Ralph Nader on some of the - possible -  background for the debate:

For example, our country has been plagued by a corporate crime wave from Wall Street to Houston. These crimes are regular occurrences, often with recidivist corporations such as giant oil, drug, auto, banking, munitions producers, and mining companies corrupting our politics. Such chronic violations are reported more often than they are properly prosecuted.

Yes, indeed. It is also true that this background was not very evident in the debate, but it is there, while the corporate crime waves make - literally -
billions of dollars (and that is one of the major problems of the USA: major
crimes by corporations that are simply accepted by the government, as are
their tax evasions).

Here is some further background on corporate crimes:

Corporate crimes affect American as workers, consumers, taxpayers, and community residents. Unfortunately, corporate criminal law is woefully weak, prosecutions are minor, and enforcement budgets are scandalously tiny. Moreover, corporate lobbyists ensure that corporate privileges and immunities are preserved and expanded in corporate-occupied Washington, D.C.

Yes, and I like the term "corporate-occupied", not because it is itself beautiful (it isn't) but because it seems to be quite true:

Ordinary people and their interests are seldomly heard in Washington, and the people who are heard all work for the corporations somehow, as lawyers, as  lobbyists, as paid for Senators and Congressmen, or as former CEOs or lawyers who are presently doing politics, to return to business again in 4 or 8 years, through "the revolving door".

And that Washington D.C. is corporate-occupied is not discussed by CNN.

Something similar holds for this point:

Another perennial omission is the question of how the candidates plan to give more power to the people, since all of them are saying that Washington isn’t working. I have always thought that this is the crucial question voters should ask every candidate for public office. Imagine asking a candidate:: “How are you specifically going to make ‘we the people’ a political reality, and how are you going to give more voice and power to people like me over elected representatives like you?” Watch politicians squirm over this basic inquiry.

I think this is a fairly good question, but ‘we the people’ has never been "a political reality" in the United States, other than during elections, and that is basically because the founders were not pro-democracy but pro-republic, and
the republic is very large (more than 300 million persons).

Here is Nader's reaction to Hillary's claim that she is "a progressive":

Hillary knows how to impress conventional political reporters, while limiting their follow-up questions. She started with her latest political transformation early on. “I don’t take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive commitment….I’m a progressive.”

And the moon is made of blue cheese. Hillary Clinton, a progressive? She is the arch Wall Street corporatist, who hobnobs with criminal firms like Goldman Sachs for $250,000 a speech, and goes around the country telling closed-door business conventions what they want to hear for $5,000 a minute!

I mostly agree, but (i) "progressive" is a vague term (like "leftist" or "liberal", although both of these are probably already too specific for Clinton) and (ii) in some sense, compared with Trump, Carson, Cruz and other Republican candidates, she probably is - somewhat - progressive, though indeed compared to these three and their Republican mates almost everyone looks progressive.

And there is this, in criticism of Sanders:

Senator Bernie Sanders missed opportunities to highlight Hillary Clinton’s true corporatist and militarist identity. Most unfortunately, she placed him on the defensive with the socialist/capitalist questioning. Next time, Bernie Sanders should tell the millions of voters watching the “debates” that local socialism is as American as apple pie, going back to the 18th Century, by mentioning post offices, public highways, public drinking water systems, public libraries, public schools, public universities, and public electric companies as examples.

He then could add that global corporations are destroying competitive capitalism with their corporate state or crony capitalism, despised by both conservatives and progressives.

Well... but then why not say "public" instead of "socialist"? Or "social"? For clearly, while these public institutions are social, they are hardly socialist (and the USA is firmly capitalist).

Then again, it is true that Bernie Sanders calls himself "a democratic socialist"; and it is also true that "socialist" is a quite difficult term to use in the USA, at least if the end is to make a favorable impression, simply because most Americans have strong negative reactions against "socialists" (indeed generally without having a good idea about what "socialism" may mean).

I think that his description of himself as "a democratic socialist" is mistaken in that he seems much more a social democrat, as I use terms, but then indeed my intuitions about political terms are European.
2.  The Sad Fate of America’s Whistleblowers

The next and last article is by John Kiriakou (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

What is it about whistleblowers that the powers that be can’t stand?

When I blew the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program, I was derided in many quarters as a traitor. My detractors in the government attacked me for violating my secrecy agreement, even as they ignored the oath we’d all taken to protect and defend the Constitution.

To answer the first question: Whistleblowers tell the truth about some actions of some governmental or other institution that those who hold the power in these institutions do not want to become known.

As to the second paragraph: It follows that for anybody who has no (genuine) moral or ethical relation to those in power, but only a personal or financial relation, and who supports the government (or the institution) will tend to look upon governmental whistleblowers as traitors, because they do not judge things principially, legally or intellectually, but only loyalistically: "He did something my boss doesn't like - therefore, he must be bad!"

Here is some on Kiriakou himself, and on another whistleblower, Thomas Drake (<-Wikipedia):

I was charged with three counts of espionage, all of which were eventually dropped when I took a plea to a lesser count. I had to choose between spending up to 30 months in prison and rolling the dice to risk a 45-year sentence. With five kids, and three of them under the age of 10, I took the plea.

Tom Drake — the NSA whistleblower who went through the agency’s chain of command to report its illegal program to spy on American citizens — was thanked for his honesty and hard work by being charged with 10 felonies, including five counts of espionage. The government eventually dropped the charges, but not before Drake had suffered terrible financial, professional, and personal distress.

And Kiritakou notes, quite correctly:

It’s not just government employees either. Whistleblowers first brought attention to wrongdoing at Enron, Lehman Brothers, Stanford International Bank, and elsewhere.

And what’s their reward? Across the board, whistleblowers are investigated, harassed, fired, and in some cases prosecuted.

That’s the conclusion of author Eyal Press, whose book Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times documents the struggles of whistleblowers throughout history. Press’s whistleblowers never recover financially or professionally from their actions. History seems to smile on them, but during their lifetimes they remain outcasts.

A considerable part of the various harassments of whistleblowers are due - I think - to the stupidity and/or the lack of moral and ethical character of most people, and indeed especially in governments.

And while I think that is a major problem, it also is a fact, which indeed does mean that any intelligent whistleblower with a moral and ethical character (as most genuine whistleblowers are) will be in a small minority. [1]

I recently visited Greece to help the government there draft a whistleblower protection law. The Greek word for “whistleblower” translates as “guardian of the public trust.” I wish our own government’s treatment of whistleblowers could reflect that understanding.

Yet even legal guarantees of protection from prosecution and persecution aren’t enough — especially if, as in the case of existing law, national security employees are exempt from these safeguards.

I like the Greek term for "whistleblower", but because I blew the whistle 27 to 25 years ago, and because I have never even been answered since (while billions of illegal drugs are dealt with personal protection by Dutch mayors, and education got worse and worse and worse) I think Kiriakou is a bit naive: Most people are loyal, not ethical (and they confuse the two, generally by defining the good as serving the leaders). And this has always been the case.

---------------------------------------------
Note
[1] The reader should note that my father, mother and grandfather all had the quite rare moral courage to go into the resistance during the Nazi-occupation,
(which cost my grandfather's life, while my father had to survive 3 years 9 months and 16 days as a concentration camp prisoner), while I tried to blow the whistle on the ever decreasing educational standards in Holland and on the illegal drugstrade that is now for 30 years the norm in Holland, that got protected by mayors and other politicians as if they make millions a year from the illegal trade they protect, and also the judges and district attorneys protect the dealers much rather than those harassed by them.

Also, I think the politicians did earn a whole lot of illegal money protecting the illegal drugs trade  - very many millions - but I have no full proof, and it is too dangerous to try to find one: Many people are murdered over drugs in Holland each year. And no, marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroine, LSD and ecstasy all are illegal in Holland. But they are traded in public - especially marijuana and hashish - with personal protection of the mayors, while the total legal staff of Holland pretends nothing is the matter, and looks the other way for 30 years now.

As to my whistleblowing: The Dutch press is such a set of faithful servants of the politicians that I got no useful reaction whatever, and my site and my person do
not publicly exist in Holland (though my site is in Holland, as is my person, alas): they are never ever mentioned.

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