Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

November 3, 2015
Crisis: Secret Services, Deaths, VW Scandal, Failing Tech Companies, Wallace, Merkel
"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.
 The Pathology of Allen Dulles and His Appalling Cabal
2. Rising deaths among white middle-aged Americans could
     exceed Aids toll in US

3. VW emissions scandal widens to include Porsche claims   
4.
World's biggest tech companies get failing grade on
     data-privacy rights

5. The Sad Truth of Our Politics
6. The Lonely Chancellor: Merkel Under Fire as Refugee
     Crisis Worsens


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about the late Allen Dulles, that is more interesting than I thought; item 2 is about a some- what interesting fact that so far was missed: About 500.000 more Americans between 45 and 54, especially poor ones, died early; item 3 is about the develop- ments around the corruptions of Volkswagen, that keep growing; item 4 is about the fact all of the world's tech companies miserably fail when it concerns data-
privacy; item 5 is about the convergence of propaganda aka public relations, fascism, and Reaganomics in the USA; and item 6 is about Merkel's and Germany's problems with hundreds of thousands refugees.

1. The Pathology of Allen Dulles and His Appalling Cabal

The first item today is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:

I'd seen reviews of "The Devil's Chessboard" before, but skipped them on the theory that it was mostly about the 1950ies, and that, while I had heard rather
a lot of my communist father about John Foster Dulles in the 1950ies [1], this
was by now the past.

It turns out that I was more mistaken than correct, as the following review of "The Devil's Chessboard" will make clear.

This starts as follows:

AS I READ The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, a new book by Salon founder David Talbot, I couldn’t help thinking of an obscure corner of 1970s history: the Safari Club.

Dulles — the Princeton man and white shoe corporate lawyer who served as CIA director from 1953 to 1961, still the longest tenure in agency history — died in 1969 before the Safari Club was conceived. And nothing about it appears in The Devil’s ChessboardBut to understand the Safari Club is to understand Allen Dulles and his milieu.

In fact, I had not heard about the Safari Club, which indeed is a sort of private club of intelligence officials and rich men from quite a few different countries, but mostly funded and - it appears - led by Americans. Here are some details:
Because what the Safari Club demonstrates is that Dulles’ entire spooky world is beyond the reach of American democracy. Even the most energetic post-World War II attempt to rein it in was in the end as effective as trying to lasso mist. And today we’ve largely returned to the balance of power Dulles set up in the 1950s. As Jay Rockefeller said in 2007 when he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Don’t you understand the way intelligence works? Do you think that because I’m chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say ‘I want it, give it to me’? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time.”
This is at least somewhat credible, because he is a rich man and because "intelligence" does work in secret.

There is this on Watergate and the Carter administration (and also about Senator Frank Church, but he isn't mentioned [2]):
It’s true the U.S. executive branch was somewhat hamstrung during the period between the post-Watergate investigations of the intelligence world and the end of the Carter administration. But the powerful individual Americans who felt themselves “literally tied up” by Congress — that is, unfairly restrained by the most democratic branch of the U.S. government — certainly did not consider the decisions of Congress to be the final word.
And there is this on Dulles's "worldview", which I find quite interesting for a reason that follows:
Dulles stated his worldview publicly and explicitly in 1938 during his only run for political office: “Democracy only works if the so-called intelligent people make it work. You can’t sit back and let democracy run itself.” Unsurprisingly, homilies like this did not carry him to victory. But so what? He went on to wield far greater power than most elected officials ever have.
The reason I promised you is the following, which is the very beginning of Freud's nephew Edward Bernays' book of 1928, called "Propaganda" (link to the book on my site), which was Bernays' early name for what he later restyled as "Public Relations":
THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the
organized habits and opinions of the masses is an
important element in democratic society. Those who
manipulate this unseen mechanism of society consti-
tute an invisible government which is the true ruling
power of our country.

We are governed, our minds are molded, our
tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men
we have never heard of. This is a logical result of
the way in which our democratic society is organized.
Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in
this manner if they are to live together as a smooth-
ly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, un-
aware of the identity of their fellow members in the
inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leader-
ship, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their
key position in the social structure. Whatever atti-
tude one chooses to take toward this condition, it
remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily
lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business,
in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are
dominated by the relatively small number of per-
sons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty
million—who understand the mental processes and
social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the
wires which control the public mind, who harness old
social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide
the world.

It is not usually realized how necessary these in-
visible governors are to the orderly functioning of
our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote
for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not
envisage political parties as part of the mechanism
of government, and its framers seem not to have
pictured to themselves the existence in our national
politics of anything like the modern political ma-
chine. But the American voters soon found that
without organization and direction their individual
votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens or hundreds of can-
didates, would produce nothing but confusion. In-
visible government, in the shape of rudimentary
political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since
then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and
practicality, that party machines should narrow down
the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three
or four.

This is also why propaganda aka public relations is so important: It sets itself (then and now) the same ends as Allen Dulles did, that also belongs to the ends of spies and intelligence services: To deceive and to mislead the many ("in their own interests") to serve the interests of the few with money and power.

There is rather a lot more in the article, which is quite interesting and recommended, and has this close to its ending:

In the end, whatever the reality of Talbot’s most sensational claims, he unquestionably makes the case that — unless you believe we’re governed by shape-shifting space lizards — your darkest suspicions about how the world operates are likely an underestimate. Yes, there is an amorphous group of unelected corporate lawyers, bankers, and intelligence and military officials who form an American “deep state,” setting real limits on the rare politicians who ever try to get out of line. They do collaborate with and nurture their deep state counterparts in other countries, to whom they feel far more loyalty than their fellow citizens. The minions of the deep state hate and fear even the mildest moves towards democracy, and fight against it by any means available to them. They’re not all-powerful and don’t get exactly what they want, but on the issues that matter most they almost always win in the end. And while all this is mostly right there in the open, discernible by anyone who’s curious and has a library card, if you don’t go looking you will never hear a single word about it.

I say.

2. Rising deaths among white middle-aged Americans could exceed Aids toll in US

The next item is by Ian Sample on The Guardian:

This is mainly here because I found the data interesting:

A sharp rise in death rates among white middle-aged Americans has claimed nearly as many lives in the past 15 years as the spread of Aids in the US, researchers have said.

The alarming trend, overlooked until now, has hit less-educated 45- to 54-year-olds the hardest, with no other groups in the US as affected and no similar declines seen in other rich countries.

Though not fully understood, the increased deaths are largely thought to be a result of more suicides and the misuse of drugs and alcohol, driven by easier access to powerful prescription painkillers, cheaper high quality heroin and greater financial stresses.

The turnaround reverses decades of falling mortality rates achieved through better medical care and lifestyle choices that continue to improve public health in other groups in the US and in other nations around the world.

I say.

And I also like to remark that I do not find this trend very amazing, in view of the facts that I have been reporting here, off and on, for quite a long time:

There are very many poor in the USA; they have it worse than the poor in Europe (to which I belong, after 37 years of illness) and they also have been severely stressed financially, especially since 2008, but also before, because the poor's income hardly was raised (in real terms) ever since Reagan became president of the USA in 1980.

Here is the summary of how the rise in death rates relates to the death rates of the Aids epidemy:
The rise in death rates among middle-aged white Americans means half a million more people have died in the US since 1998 than if the previous trend had continued. The death toll is comparable to the 650,000 Americans who lost their lives during the Aids epidemic from 1981 to the middle of this year, the researchers said.

I grant 500,000 more deaths than were expected is about 1/6th of 1 percent of the total population of the United States (over 300 million persons), but it is a
considerable rise for 45-54 years-old poor.

3.  VW emissions scandal widens to include Porsche claims

The next article is by Graham Ruddick on The Guardian:
This starts as follows (and seems to take the course I predicted):
The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has deepened after US authorities accused the carmaker of installing defeat devices into luxury sports cars including Porsches.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which uncovered the initial emissions rigging at VW, claims the carmaker installed defeat devices in VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles with three-litre engines in models with dates ranging from 2014 to 2016

This marks the first time that Porsche, which is owned by VW, has been dragged into the scandal. It is troubling for the new chief executive of VW, Matthias Müller, because he ran Porsche before becoming boss of the group.

For as I said on September 27 last, when I had read that the Volkswagen top was said to believe this fraud was the work of some minions at Volkswagen:

I say?! What interests did these "engineers and technicians" have for fraud? Did they profit from the sales of Volkswagens? Clearly not, I'd say: Those who did were the very top, and therefore it is far more likely that the very top initiated the major fraud.

I still think so. Here is what Volkswagen risks given the earlier news:

The EPA has issued a second notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act to VW as a result of its findings. VW faces fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle, which means an extra $375m (£243m) could be added to its penalities if it is found guilty. The company already faces a potential $18bn fine for the initial recall by the EPA in September of 482,000 VW and Audi cars.

And that is just in the United States. Here is what Volkswagen put aside:

The carmaker has put aside €6.7bn (£4.4bn) to meet the costs of recalling the 11m vehicles, but also faces the threat of fines and legal action from shareholders and customers.

The company has hired the accountancy firm Deloitte and the law firm Jones Day to investigate who fitted the device into its vehicles. It is understood that the carmaker believes a group of between 10 and 20 employees were at the heart of the scandal.

They're still trying to keep the top clean, but that seems nonsense to me: The "between 10 and 20 employees" had little or nothing to gain from what they
supposedly did; the top of Volkswagen profited from every sale of a Volkswagen.

4. World's biggest tech companies get failing grade on data-privacy rights

The next article is by Sam Thielman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The world’s top tech companies are failing when it comes to privacy and freedom of expression, according to the most comprehensive assessment to date of their user agreement policies.

Tech firms including US giants Facebook, Google and Microsoft, Europe’s top mobile companies Vodafone and Orange, China’s Tencent, and South Korea’s Daum Kakao (which makes the 140 million-user-strong KakaoTalk) were among the public companies surveyed in an ongoing project called Ranking Digital Rights.

All of the firms failed to offer their users basic disclosures about privacy and censorship, according to the survey, which was conducted by the New America Foundation thinktank. One didn’t even provide user agreements in the proper language.

“There are no ‘winners’,” said the group in its executive summary. “Even companies in the lead are falling short.”
I cannot say I am amazed. But yes, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Vodafone are among those who seriously misled their customers:
“On the one hand, it’s not like nobody’s trying at all, but the best-scoring company got a D,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, who runs the ranking project.
Which is to say ALL failed. In some more detail:
Only six companies of the 16 surveyed scored at least 50% in the poll.

Seven companies – nearly half – scored less than 22%, demonstrating “a serious deficit of respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy,” the report found.

Tech firms universally failed to disclose internal censorship. If Google decides to edit or remove someone’s content, the report found, it does not feel the need to publicly disclose either that it has done so or why.
And there is this:
Staff attorney Nate Cardozo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said that despite the trend toward better privacy standards in the wake of revelations about domestic spying, tech companies liked to keep things unclear, even at companies that pride themselves on free speech and privacy.
Again I am not amazed at all. And the private data of hundreds of millions or more are still being plundered daily by the same (and also many other) companies, that basically lie and lie, and all failed on security.

5. The Sad Truth of Our Politics

The next article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet:

This is here mostly because I like Henry Wallace (a vice-president of F.D. Roosevelt) and because I had rather similar ideas in 2012 (which are not
original: Sheldon Wolin was there much earlier):

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice-President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice-President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.

“With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist”—the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is, “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

I have made the same point several times before (e.g. here and here), and indeed used the same definition of the American Heritage Dictionary. But I was not aware that Henry Wallace wrote about fascism in the middle 40ies of the 20th Century.

There is also this, which I find a bit less clear, except for its end:

Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary (www.thefreedictionary.com) notes, fascism/corporatism is “an attempt to create a 'modern' version of feudalism by merging the 'corporate' interests with those of the state.”

Feudalism, of course, is one of the most stable of the three historic tyrannies (kingdoms, theocracies, feudalism) that ruled nations prior to the rise of American republican democracy, and can be roughly defined as “rule by the rich.”

I think feudalism isn't very relevant, for that is from long ago, but the rule by the rich is, for this still continues, and indeed grew very much stronger since Reagan and Thatcher.

There is also this by Wallace, that is rather enlightening about the "deliberate perversion of truth and fact" that is so popular in the present-day GOP, and also about the claims of the GOPs to be super-patriots moved by freedom:

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism, the vice-president of the United States saw rising in America, he added:

“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.” 

This is very much like the present-day GOP, that also pretends to be for "free enterprise" and to be super-patriots, but who in fact are "the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest".

Also, after 35 years of Reaganomics in the US (also mostly independent of whether the Democrats governed, for the Democrats were of the "Third Way",
i.e. also for the rich) I think it makes sense to admit that they have realized
most of their goals.

6. The Lonely Chancellor: Merkel Under Fire as Refugee Crisis Worsens

The final article today is by Spiegel Staff on Spiegel On Line:

This is from near the beginning:

She knows, Merkel said, that there still isn't European agreement on how to share the refugee burden; that there is still no deal with Turkey on slowing the inflow of migrants into Europe; and that along the Balkan Route, used by hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis in recent weeks in their quest to seek asylum in Germany and other northern European countries, there is a lack of "order" and "control." In particular, Merkel said, she is concerned about that "which makes Germany so strong," namely "the societal center." She is constantly asking herself, Merkel related, "if we are losing the center."

One of Merkel's great strengths is an unerring sense for political reality. As such, her comments at the town meeting early last week show that nobody knows better than Germany's chancellor just how precarious the situation in the country has become. The influx of refugees continues unabated and Merkel's public approval ratings continue to fall in lockstep with sinking support for her center-right Christian Democrats (CDU).
I say. I do not know why Chancellor Merkel makes her choices, but I can well  imagine that her East-German background may play an important role in her
disposition to help refugees.

Here is the lesson the Spiegel infers:

The government, in short, has lost control. And Germany is in a state of emergency.

Merkel can still rely on a large number of supporters within her own party. But each day that thousands of refugees cross into Germany, the certainty that such support is sustainable erodes a bit further.
I say. There is also this:
This time, leading German politicians have warned, Merkel's asylum policies could provide a shot in the arm to the country's right-wing populists. One member of her government warns that her stance on migrants is an "aid program for the AfD," a reference to the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany.

And there is this:

Some 500,000 refugees have entered the country since the beginning of September, and there is no end in sight. "Prepare for the eventuality that in the coming weeks, 10,000 to 12,000 refugees will arrive at the border each day," a member of the Coordinating Committee inside of Germany's Interior Ministry said last Wednesday, quoting from a communiqué from the Austrian Interior Ministry.

Note the "500,000 refugees" indeed roughly corresponds to around 10,000 a day, which is over 3,5 million a year, if this continues, which it almost certainly will not.

I do not know how this will end, although it seems fairly certain to me that
the refugees fled mostly because of American policies in the Middle East since
Bush Jr. attacked Iraq. But no, I do not expect much help from the Americans.

---------------------------------------------

[1] Both of my parents were communists, and both had become so mostly because of the Nazis. They were also intelligent people, though they were not highly educated, and they talked a lot, indeed mostly about politics, of which I
have heard a great amount, also before I was 10. And no, it didn't hurt me, and they did provide a good education, although that education was not normal.

[2] Because I like the quotation, and because it was quite prescient, here it is again.
Frank Church (<- Wikipedia) said on August 17, 1975 (40 years ago this year):
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
I think the USA has crossed that bridge, briefly after 9/11, and the capacity is in place "to make tyranny total in America". Also, I think it is likely there will be no return, except if there is elected a successful radical new government that makes the necessary legal changes. Otherwise, the only realistic hope for a return of (mild, partial) democracy and (partial) freedom is a major economic collapse.

       home - index - summaries - mail