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Nederlog

November 4, 2015
Crisis: Europese Spying, CISA Success, Corporate Power, MSF, Mussolini-style Corporatism
"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.
Europe, Still Angry at U.S. Spying, Prepares to Increase
     Its Own

2. The Lesson of CISA’s Success, or How To Fight a Zombie
3. The gathering financial storm is just one effect of
     corporate power unbound
   
4.
As US Dodges Hospital Bombing Probe, Aid Group Calls
     Global Silence 'Embarrassing'

5. Mussolini-Style Corporatism, aka Fascism, on the Rise in
     the US


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 4, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is on the radical decline of political Europe, which also is wanted by European politicians; item 2 is about the success of the horrible CISA; item 3 is about an article by George Monbiot on "corporate power"; item 4 is about how 76 countries refused to support MSF (Doctors Without Borders); and item 5 is about an introduction to
an article I reviewed yesterday, about fascism, sorry: Mussolini-style corporatism.

1. Europe, Still Angry at U.S. Spying, Prepares to Increase Its Own

The first item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Just as the United States is taking a first step toward placating European privacy concerns about U.S. surveillance, several European countries are passing laws dramatically expanding their own spy programs.

The House last month passed the Judicial Redress Act, intended to extend some privacy protections to foreign citizens. Meanwhile, the French Senate just passed one of the broadest international surveillance bills in the world and several other European countries are moving in a similar direction.

Yes, indeed - and I don't think this is an accident. Also, as people who read considerably more of my site know, I lost my faith in Dutch politicians in 1969 (based on reading what Dutch parliamentarians had said in parliament) and I haven't voted since 1971 (when voting was left free - before it was not).

I also think these days that you cannot trust any politician (with a few quite rare exceptions): They usually are the least honest, the most greedy, and the most egoistic persons there are in the country, but yes, they can all lie quite convincingly and charmingly before TV-camers, while trying to extend their personal power and incomes. (Also, there are far fewer politicians than there
were nobles under a monarchy, by the way.)

So this thorough, eager, willing corruption of the European politicians does not surprise me.

There is also this on Snowden and Obama:

Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of the U.S. National Security Agency’s sweeping dragnet of surveillance overseas in 2013, the Obama administration has been working to reassure friendly nations that we trust them, and aren’t indiscriminately spying on them.

It’s been an uphill battle. When European diplomatic leaders first learned the extent of NSA spying, they threatened to renegotiate major trade deals and said they felt betrayed. President Obama gave a speech stressing the importance of protecting privacy for people outside the U.S. in January 2014, saying, “Our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy, too.” He told European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he’ll “call them” rather than resort to surveillance in the future.

Anybody who trusts Obama needs his head examined. Also, as far as I remember what Obama did tell Merkel, who had been spied upon by Obama's secret service, was that he would tell her nothing about US spying, but that she would be called if her phone would be tapped again. 

Here is more on the European politicians (whom you cannot trust, if you are not
a rich European politician yourself, and then you can only trust - to an extent -
your own rich European political friends):

But instead of reining in their own spy agencies as they would have the U.S. do with the NSA, European countries are doing the opposite.

Privacy activists across the EU see a “race to the bottom” going on. “While the U.S. has been a bad example, EU countries have been adopting similar or worse measures in the past years,” writes Estelle Masse, a policy analyst for digital rights organization Access Now.

Governments in 14 countries around the world have passed new laws giving domestic intelligence agencies increased surveillance powers since June 2014, according to a new study released last week by Freedom House.

“In response to Snowden’s revelation, instead of strengthening safeguards against unlawful surveillance, many European states are weakening privacy protections,” Tomaso Falchetta, a legal officer for Privacy International, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “They have enacted laws that give more powers to intelligence and security agencies to intrude into our lives.”

Precisely: They all want more power; they all want even higher incomes; they know "knowledge is power"; and they know their secret services can tell them everything about anyone.

Being mostly the worst, the most corrupt, the most power-hungry and the most lying people there are (professional politicians are not better but worse than the
average of their population), what else could one expect, realistically? Also seeing that most persons are not informed enough to know what they loose?

Here is more about the French:

While United States foreign intelligence gathering is supposedly specifically directed toward “targets” suspected of involvement in terrorism or transnational crime, the new French law allows for carte blanche spying on any person, group, or region outside France that might be of foreign policy, economic, or scientific interest — with very little oversight, warrants, or judicial review.

“The justification of the measures is so broad as to be meaningless,” says Kirsten Fiedler, managing director of European Digital Rights, one of 30 civil rights groups who sent a letter to French parliamentarians on September 30 asking them to reject the law — though many suspected it would easily pass.

This is how the French prime minister plus a few selected French politicians,
will be able to control everyone in France:

Under the new bill, France’s prime minister would be the sole authority over the spying program, which would allow the government to hold onto data for years. Meanwhile, the legislation leaves room for future spying technology to quietly proceed without any debate.

And in the U.K., the government on Wednesday will introduce a new investigatory powers bill to give police and intelligence agents more leeway to track people online.

Yes, indeed: The English also handed nearly everything to the ordinary police.

If you are a European these days, then you are, with very few exceptions, at best a third rate citizen:

The first rate citizens are the government and prominent politicians, who may know what their secret services know; the second rate are the anonymous secret service men and women who do the spying on everyone else; and the third rate are the 98% of the rest - powerless, defenseless, and with fewer and fewer legal  rights.

2. The Lesson of CISA’s Success, or How To Fight a Zombie

The next item is by Natasha Lennard on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

IF THE ZOMBIE HORROR GENRE teaches us anything, it is never to celebrate too soon. Beware the hubris of a character who walks from the graveyard victorious, failing to anticipate an undead hand pushing up through the soil. And so it was with defeat of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA — a surveillance bill introduced under the pretext of cybersecurity, which died in the Senate in 2012. “Victory over cyber spying,” announced the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Too soon. The bill now stomps through Congress with unswerving resilience toward the president’s desk, in the form of CISA, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.

Yes, indeed - and here is what I said about CISA on October 23:

And by the CISA (<-Wikipedia) every foreign national who does anything that touches the profits or the self-perceived rights of American corporations may get arrested and condemned under American law, also if there are no such laws in his or her own country, and risks imprisonment in an American jail, possibly for a very long time.

These are two examples of the spreading of the absolute powers of the American multi-national corporations: No more effective national governments or national parliaments - everything is subjected to the quasi-"courts" manned by the lawyers of multi-national corporations; no more effective national laws - all national laws that oppose the dominance of American multi-nationals are punishable by American "laws" in American courts, as if the foreigners are Americans, subject to American "laws".

Here is how the CISA was made into "law":

Last week the Republican-controlled Senate passed CISA by a vote of 74-21. CISPA had failed in a Democratic Senate. The bills are near-identical, a disconcerting reminder that if powerful lobbies want legislation passed, opponents face a Sisyphean task in keeping the laws — with cosmetic changes and slightly altered names — off the books. When it comes to cybersecurity legislation, where populist paranoia about non-specific “cyber threats” is high and technical expertise among lawmakers is low, corporate lobbyists and government data-mongers have a persuasive upper hand.

Here is criticism by Edward Snowden (quite in line with my - Dutch - exposition of October 29, 2005, which reacted against the incredible increase of powers of the Dutch government):

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, among others, unequivocally calls it a “surveillance bill” — provisions that would have ensured the removal of personal identifying data from the information companies and the government could share were struck down. Under the dangerously vague rubric of a potential “cyber threat,” the bill could allow immediate sharing of our data — including names, search histories, addresses — between firms and the government. It is the very meaning of a surveillance state: a corporate-government nexus under which no personal data is shielded.

Precisely - and "the corporate state" is simply another name for fascism (in case you disagree, as you may, see item 5 below): The government + the corporations
know everything and have all the powers; the "citizens" (who are bettter called "residents") have to applaud their dictates or risk arrest for being "terrorists".

There is also this deep and very corrupt and corrupting side to the CISA:

There’s nothing mysterious about a bill that’s both weak with regard to cybersecurity, and dangerous with regard to privacy, making congressional headway. To say it’s bad legislation misses that, for some parties, it’s very good indeed. CISA offers a great gift to corporations. Companies who agree to share user data with government agencies would be granted legal immunity from a whole range of laws, including antitrust and FOIA. So not only does the bill serve the data-devouring government surveillance beast, it offers a protective quid pro quo for corporations who cooperate. This limited liability with regard to user data could also dangerously de-incentivize companies to improve their own security systems.

That is: The companies who steal your private data, generally without telling you anything, are "granted legal immunity from a whole range of laws".

And there is also this:

CISA defenders insist that this data sharing is voluntary, but Amie Stepanovich at Wired rightly pointed out that, in practice, data sharing would become de facto compulsory for businesses. She noted that “the ‘cyber threat information’ that the government would be allowed to share with participating companies under the bill may, and foreseeably will, provide so much of a competitive advantage — the advantage of being ‘in the know’ — that companies will be forced to participate simply to keep up with their participating competitors.”

Yes, indeed. This is a good article, that is recommended reading.

3.  The gathering financial storm is just one effect of corporate power unbound

The next article is by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

What have governments learned from the financial crisis? I could write a column spelling it out. Or I could do the same job with one word: nothing.

Actually, that’s too generous. The lessons learned are counter-lessons, anti-knowledge, new policies that could scarcely be better designed to ensure the crisis recurs, this time with added momentum and fewer remedies. And the financial crisis is just one of the multiple crises – in tax collection, public spending, public health and, above all, ecology – that the same counter-lessons accelerate.

No, it is definitely false that governments learned "nothing" from the crisis:

Step back a pace and you see that all these crises arise from the same cause. Players with huge power and global reach are released from democratic restraint. This happens because of a fundamental corruption at the core of politics. In almost every nation the interests of economic elites tend to weigh more heavily with governments than do those of the electorate. Banks, corporations and landowners wield an unaccountable power, which works with a nod and a wink within the political class. Global governance is beginning to look like a never-ending Bilderberg meeting.

That is true: There is "a fundamental corruption at the core of politics", and it seems a safe assumption that anyone who worked as a politician and who may
be suspected of earning more than 100,000 euros is corrupt or being corrupted, and cannot be trusted, simply because they have, knowingly also, delivered incredible amounts of "
unaccountable power" to their extremely rich friends, and especially the bank managers, who can do as they please since 2008, and indeed stole trillions from the tax-money that the politicians in fact simply gave to them.

There is also this, that is also true (to the best of my rather extensive knowledge):

On one hand governments have been removing laws that restrict banks and corporations, arguing that globalisation makes states weak and effective legislation impossible. Instead, they say, we should trust those who wield economic power to regulate themselves.

This was a sodden stinking very conscious lie: You cannot trust anyone with great power, and especially not anyone with millions or billions to corrupt others, nor anyone commanding big chunks of the economy. But the extremely rich have learned that it pays them a lot if they pay the politicians, and that is what they
do and have done. (Reminder: All a politician needs to do to get money is to
lie. You may believe they are honest. I don't.)

And there is this:

On the other hand, the same governments devise draconian new laws to reinforce elite power. Corporations are given the rights of legal persons. Their property rights are enhanced. Those who protest against them are subject to policing and surveillance – the kind that’s more appropriate to dictatorships than democracies.

That is also all true, and will only get much worse until the system collapses, which it may do for two reasons: Either one of the few politicians that is not very
corrupt succeeds in unwinding much of the policies and deregulations that were
effected the last 35 years, and that kept and keep the 90% as poor or poorer than they were in 1980, or else the whole economic system completely collapses.

There is also this on the tiny flow of real information that reaches the more intelligent minority of the public these days:

Only through WikiLeaks do we have any idea of what is being planned. It could be used to force nations to accept new financial products and services, to approve the privatisation of public services and to reduce the standards of care and provision. It looks like the greatest international assault on democracy devised in the past two decades. Which is saying quite a lot.

Yes, indeed - and in Europe "the standards of care and provision" will be remade to be as inferior as the American standards are (for else the multi-national corporations will not get their full estimated profits, and profits rule everything,
including "democracy" and "law", given the TTIP), and also nearly everything will be privatized, as have the "health-insurances", that currently cost more than 6 times as much as they did 15 years ago (in Holland), and give a lot less service.

Here is Monbiot's conclusion:

Restraining the electorate, releasing the powerful: this is a perfectly designed formula for a multidimensional crisis. And boy, are we reaping it.

Yes - but one of the very sad things is that the majority of the voters still don't see it, still trust the politicians who consented that the bankmanagers stole trillions, and also don't understand enough about computers to see properly how
their total privacy has been and is being plundered by their corrupt governments (which are corrupt because they work for the banks much rather than the people, in part because the banks pay more).

4. As US Dodges Hospital Bombing Probe, Aid Group Calls Global Silence 'Embarrassing'

The next article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

One month after the U.S. bombing of a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens more, the Obama administration refuses to submit to an independent inquiry while the aid group charges that the lack of global outcry over the incident has become deafening.

"The silence is embarrassing," MSF executive director Joanne Liu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview on Monday. "We have seen an erosion over the years of international humanitarian law. Enough is enough. We cannot keep going like this."

The medical charity has appealed to 76 governments asking for backing for an impartial investigation to clarify what went wrong at the facility in Kunduz—one of the few emergency trauma centers in northeastern Afghanistan—and to prevent any future such tragedy.

"Yet today, as we mourn the killing of our staff and patients, none of the 76 countries have stepped forward to show their support for an independent investigation by the Humanitarian Commission," said MSF-USA executive director Jason Cone at a commemoration in New York City's Union Square on Tuesday. "No state has been willing to stand up for the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war."

I can only explain the two - in Afghanistan and in Yemen - attacks by the US on hospitals of MSF as done on purpose, quite probably because they treat people the US military does not want to see treated, and the fact that all of 76 govern- ments refused to lift finger for a completely legal and humanitarian investigation shows that 76 governments have been corrupted: Clearly each and any of them should have supported MSF and indeed would have supported MSF if only they had been honest and democratic.

And here is the end of the article:

Noting that recent attacks in Kunduz, as well as in Yemen, "are not isolated cases," MSF-UK executive director Vickie Hawkins on Tuesday declared that "the protection of health facilities in conflict zones has been eroded."

She continued:

This tragic and wanton destruction not only affects MSF. It affects the millions of people who are caught up in conflict and all too often, it is patients, doctors, paramedics and support staff who pay the highest price.

Since 1949, the Geneva Conventions have obliged warring parties to protect the wounded and sick, without discrimination and in respect of the rules of medical ethics. They bring some humanity to an otherwise inhumane situation. Is there a concerted effort to rewrite these rules of war?

"For me the key message is about the safeguarding of the humanitarian medical space in war zones," Liu reiterated. "No one expects to be bombed when they are in a hospital. Every human being can understand that."

This is all too bitterly true - and yes, when no less than 76 countries have betrayed the Geneva Conventions that are or should be part of their own laws, I think it is very fair to conclude that there is "a concerted effort to rewrite these rules of war".

5. Mussolini-Style Corporatism, aka Fascism, on the Rise in the US

The final article today is by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This needs a bit of an introduction, if only because the article I review is only the introduction to another article, namely one I reviewed yesterday, "The Sad Truth of Politics" (the last link is to my review, where you can find a link to the article).

The main reasons to review this introduction as well (that I only read today) are that I think fascism is a real possibility, not only in the USA but also in England, France and Europe (I said so already in 2012, and repeated it here, in 2014, which is linked here because it looks a bit better); that I think I heard far too few who discuss this possibility in an intelligent way; and that I like Yves Smith and Naked Capitalism.

The brief article starts as follows:

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. Confucius

One of the distressing things about politics in the US is the way words have either been stripped of their meaning or become so contested as to undermine the ability to communicate and analyze. It’s hard to get to a conversation when you and your interlocutors don’t have the same understanding of basic terms.

And that is no accident. The muddying of meaning is a neo-Orwellian device to influence perceptions by redefining core concepts.
Yes, though it might have been added that these redefinitions are seldom honest and seldom up front: often these are "legal opinions" by some lawyer, who totally twists the sense of ordinary words - as was done e.g. in the Citizens United decision, where the Supreme Court supported in majority a totally false reading of the First Amendment - and gives them an utterly new meaning that is also often not mentioned until some other lawyer says he or she has problems with the text. (And then it becomes clearer that the text is supposed to mean something quite different from what it says if one understands what it says with
the help of an ordinary good dictionary.)

Next, there is this:
Allowing the Overton Window to be framed around pet interests, as opposed to a view of what societal norms are, has allowed for the media to depict the center of the political spectrum as being well to the right of where it actually is as measured by decades of polling, particularly on economic issues.
Yes and no: Yes, if one considers these "decades of polling", but no if one considers what the media does, which is what is being read by most, for which reason they tend to believe it. But this is an aside.

Next, there is this (minus a note):
Similarly, even as authoritarianism is rapidly rising in the US and citizens are losing their rights (see a reminder from last weekend, a major New York Times story on how widespread use of arbitration clauses is stripping citizens of access to the court system), one runs the risk of having one’s hair on fire if one dares suggest that America is moving in a fascist, or perhaps more accurately, a Mussolini-style corporatist direction. Yet we used that very expression, “Mussolini-style corporatism,” to describe the the post-crisis bank bailouts. Former chief economist of the IMF, Simon Johnson, was more stark in his choice of terms, famously calling the rescues a “quiet coup” by financial oligarchs.
Yes, indeed: "Am-er-ic-a Is Ex-Cep-Tio-Nal! How dare you suggest our Exceptional Great Nation has anything to do with fascism! That's for Spics and Krauts!". (I know the reaction.)

But the USA has grown much more authoritarian; the taxes have been plundered by mega-rich bankers; every American is, in secret, plundered for any and all information of any kind on his computers or cell-phones, without any decent legal reason; and the big multi-national corporations (that may pay no taxes, and anyway pay now little taxes), and especially the banks, have a revolving door between their managers and positions in government where they serve their banks as well as they can.

If that is not
“Mussolini-style corporatism”, the whole senses of "similar", "analogy" and "logic" must have been redefinied by some corrupt governmental lawyer - or so it seems to me (and I know their definitions really well).

And indeed another name for
“Mussolini-style corporatism” is "fascism", as defined since the Twenties and Thirties of the previous cjentury: the state (i.e.
the government) and the big corporations have merged, and the state mostly
does what's in the interest of the big corporations, indeed also if these interests
are illegal.

There is also, as the end of this brief article, this:
Now admittedly, the new neoliberal economic order is not a replay of fascism, so there is reason not to apply the “f” word wholesale. Nevertheless, there is a remarkable amount of inhibition in calling out the similarities where they exist. For instance, the article by Thom Hartmann below, which we’ve reposted from Alternet, is bold enough to use the “fascist” word in the opening paragrah (but not the headline!). But it then retreats from making a hard-headed analysis by focusing on warnings about the risks of fascism in America from the 1940s.
I agree. I have seen the parallel - the similarities, the analogies - I just exposed (here), all by myself, in 2012 (and here), and I agree it is not "a replay", but it does agree in its defining features.

And I also agree with the criticism of Thom Hartmann - but then I have so far not seen any intelligent and informed analysis of the quite fargoing parallelisms between Mussolini's system and the system of governmental espionage on absolutely everyone, the very much increased authoritarianism, joined with the bank's free access to any (or almost any) governmental position that helps them help themselves, which allowed them to steal trillions, that has arisen in the United States, indeed as the fruit - it seems - of 35 years of efforts by the very rich.

Finally, I am quite willing to call it by another name - except that "fascism" simply seems more accurate than any name I know for the correlation of facts
just mentioned, and that we also may not be quite there yet. (And see Sheldon Wolin's inverted totalitarianism.)

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