November 16, 2015
Crisis: Paris and Snowden, Religion, and more Paris * 3
 "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


Exploiting Emotions About Paris to Blame Snowden,
     Distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS

2. Pray With Your Feet
3. After Paris Attacks, Critics Warn Against 'Wars of

4. Paris: You Don’t Want to Read This
5. Let’s listen to Bill Maher: On Paris, religion and race,
     Maher walks a fascinating and tricky line


This is a Nederlog of Monday, November 16, 2015.

There was earlier today an autobiography file, with an English introduction, but otherwise in Dutch. I don't think this interests many, but that file includes the stories how I was removed from the University of Amsterdam
, for speaking the truth in a university where truth did not exist from 1978-1995, and how I was gassed by my drugstrafficking landlord, and how almost no one cared one bit: I should have been normally stupid and agreeable in the university, while Dutch mayors may do as much drugstrafficking as they please. This was so sinds 1988, and is still the case (and the university is worse: much more authoritarian, and much more stupid, and in fact only the remnant of what once was - until 1965 or so - a quite decent university, but now is considerably worse than a college was, circa 1965 [1]).

And this file is a crisis blog. In fact four out of five items are about Paris, which I think is too much, but then I am following the media: Item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald's response to the events in Paris; item 2 is about Chris Hedges' column  on Truthdig that was not about Paris; item 3 is about Deirdre Fulton's article on Common Dreams that warns about "wars of vengeance"; item 4 is about Peter Van Buren, who also warns against radicalization; and item 5 is about Bill Maher (mostly) with a little on Paris.

Exploiting Emotions About Paris to Blame Snowden, Distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Whistleblowers are always accused of helping America’s enemies (top Nixon aides accused Daniel Ellsberg of being a Soviet spy and causing the deaths of Americans with his leak); it’s just the tactical playbook that’s automatically used. So it’s of course unsurprising that ever since Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing enabled newspapers around the world to report on secretly implemented programs of mass surveillance, he has been accused by “officials” and their various media allies of Helping The Terrorists™.

Still, I was a bit surprised just by how quickly and blatantly — how shamelessly — some of them jumped to exploit the emotions prompted by the carnage in France to blame Snowden: doing so literally as the bodies still lay on the streets of Paris.
I don't know. For one thing, since I have followed Snowden's story from the very beginning (see June 10, 2013, and see the crisis indexes) I feel pretty certain that any journalist who at this point still doubts Snowden's integrity or his thesis (that the secret services of the West are trying to track and trace all the private conversations and ideas of anyone) either is an utter idiot or else is in the pay of the rich.

That is, you may rationally disagree (as far as I am concerned, and I have the degrees of a philosopher and a psychologist) about Snowden's merits, but to doubt at this point that he was sincere and that what he provided the evidence for is true makes you no better than a GOP presidential candidate who stands on his rights to claim there is no global warming, because the opinions of 99.9% of climate scientists are "just opinions".

For another thing, I have recently read "Tell Me No Lies", which was first published in 2004, and which is a very fine collection of recent investigative journalism, edited by John Pilger (<- Wikipedia) in which there is the story by Seumas Milne (<-Wikipedia) in which he details how Arthur Scargill (<- Wikipedia) was systematically blackened by lies from Thatcher, Kinnock, Campbell, Blair, Robert Maxwell and their likes. [2]

If you haven't read
"Tell Me No Lies" this will not be of much help, but since I have read it recently, it is true that I am considerably less amazed at seeing "how quickly and blatantly — how shamelessly" much of the regular media operate these days.
So now credible news sites are regurgitating the claim that the Paris Terrorists were enabled by Snowden leaks — based on no evidence or specific proof of any kind, needless to say, but just the unverified, obviously self-serving assertions of government officials.
For me it is fairly simple: Anyone who says this is a plain liar, and the news site (this time it seems to be Yahoo's) that furthers this is corrupt. (In case you disagree: Read "Tell Me No Lies".)

Then there is this, with which I wholly agree:

In light of all this, how can “officials” and their media stenographers persist in trying to convince people of such a blatant, easily disproven falsehood: namely, that Terrorists learned to hide their communications from Snowden’s revelations? They do it because of how many benefits there are from swindling people to believe this.

To begin with, U.S officials are eager here to demonize far more than just Snowden. They want to demonize encryption generally as well as any companies that offer it. Indeed, as these media accounts show, they’ve been trying for two decades to equate the use of encryption — anything that keeps them out of people’s private online communications — with aiding and abetting The Terrorists. It’s not just Snowden but also their own long-time Surveillance State partners — particular Apple and Google — who are now being depicted as Terrorist Lovers for enabling people to have privacy on the internet through encryption products.
Incidentally, Greenwald provides quite a lot of evidence for his claims in the last paragraph. I did not copy that: See the original under the last dotted link.

There is also this:
These agencies receive billions and billions of dollars every year and radical powers, all in the name of surveilling Bad People and stopping attacks.

So when they fail in their ostensible duty, and people die because of that failure, it’s a natural instinct to blame others: Don’t look to us; it’s Snowden’s fault, or the fault of Apple, or the fault of journalists, or the fault of encryption designers, or anyone’s fault other than ours.
Perhaps. But I think that writers for "agencies" that "receive billions and billions of dollars every year" simply are such blatant liars that they lie anyway, simply on the basis of the principle that the majority of those they lie to will not know enough evidence to see through the lies - in which they are unfortunately right.

The article ends as follows:

The clear, overwhelming evidence — compiled above — demonstrates how much deceit their blame-shifting accusations require. But the more important point of inquiry is to ask why they are so eager to ensure that everyone but themselves receives scrutiny for what is happening. The answer to that question is equally clear, and disturbing in the extreme.
Again, for Greenwald's evidence - which is good and varied - you have to read the original, which I also recommend. As to the answer Greenwald has in mind: My guess is that they are liars who sold themselves and their honesty and integrity to the powerful rich.
2. Pray With Your Feet

The second item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
It was 6:30 in the morning and George Packard, dressed in a dark suit, a purple clerical bib and a clerical collar, was at church. Or, rather, at what has become church for the retired Episcopal bishop, activist and highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Packard stood with 20 other protesters on a chilly morning Nov. 9 to block two roads leading to the staging area for Texas-based Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project. After an hour, he and eight other protesters were arrested by New York state police.

Carrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state, says Packard, who over the years has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest and other demonstrations. It will be a long, difficult and costly struggle. But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state.
I don't quite agree. First, I don't believe that "[c]arrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state" - and note the bolding, that is mine. For clearly there are other acts, including trying to be as rationally informed as one can be [3] about politics [4], religion and "the corporate state".

And second, I don't think it is necessary to appeal to "
moral and religious laws" in order to protest the actions of spokespersons for "the corporate state". For one thing, I am completely non-religious, from a completely non-religious family (with atheism in my mother's family going back to the 1850ies). For another thing, much of the morality that is required is fairly minimal: honesty, fairness and rationality are about all I need, and I am definitely not sure (as a philosopher) whether any of these fall under my concept of "moral law". [5]

But OK - George Packard (<-Wikipedia) no doubt did as he thinks is best, and he very probably did an admirable thing (in my scale of values). I am merely being a bit precise about the claims his actions are supposed to justify.

There is more in the article that I leave to your interests. I only quote the end:
Packard does not expect much help from religious institutions in this fight. He says most mainline religious communities wallow in stale liturgies and rituals, what he calls “theatrics,” and have become socially, politically and culturally irrelevant. The dwindling members of these congregations rarely leave their houses of worship—which often are little more than social clubs for the elderly or the elites—to join the struggle in front-line communities or in groups such as Black Lives Matter or Occupy. He calls the outreach by most religious institutions largely meaningless, little more than a “patina of social service.”

It is only the outlaws who will save us. And it is only among outlaws that Packard’s religious faith makes sense. The bishop, in his church in the streets, worships surrounded by many who do not consider themselves religious, but whom he sees as carrying the spirit and passion for justice and commitment to life that embody the essence of his faith and mine. Spirituality, he knows, is found on the barricades.

Again I make two somewhat critical notes.

The first is that while I suppose I agree with Packard on "
most mainline religious communities", I should point out that these constitute the vast majority of the religious believers.

And the second is that I again disagree with an "only", and this time the following (I bolded it): "
It is only the outlaws who will save us." No, for two reasons, at least. First, it is not true now: one can do lots of work that is designed to bring down "the corporate state" without breaking the laws (as yet). And second, it is very probably true that "the outlaws" need the support of at least some who are not outlaws.

3.  After Paris Attacks, Critics Warn Against 'Wars of Vengeance'

The third item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

As details trickled out about Friday's deadly attacks in and around Paris, observers urged world leaders to avoid knee-jerk responses both at home and abroad.

"The true test for France is how they respond to the terror attacks in the long-game—that’s the king in all this," said analyst and former U.S. Foreign Service employee Peter Van Buren in an op-ed Sunday. "America failed this test post-9/11; yet it does not sound like France understands anything more than America. 'We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,' French president [François] Hollande said outside the Bataclan concert hall, scene of the most bloodshed."

Indeed, beating the drum for "all-out war" would not be strategically sound, critics cautioned in the wake of the attacks.

Yes, and for more on Peter Van Buren see the next item. There is also this:

And there's little reason to think France and its Western allies won't take the bait. The Intercept's Murtaza Hussain similarly warned: "I'm pretty much certain whatever is done in response to this attack will end up further exacerbating terrorism. This is the post-9/11 model."

"But," Phyllis Bennis wrote for The Nation, "wars of vengeance won’t work for France anymore than they worked for the United States."

I agree, but I am quite pessimistic, after nearly 15 years of war "against terrorism", that was nearly all based on propaganda and lies.

There is also this:

Immediately in the wake of Friday's attacks, as Hollande declared a state of emergency, re-established external border controls, and mobilized the French military, fears emerged of a backlash against refugees in Europe.

"The recent violence will help justify the policies of those who most fear the influx of refugees," warned Cassie Werber at Quartz.

Yes, I agree: it will be used to stop "the influx of refugees" but then this was happening anyway.

Paris: You Don’t Want to Read This

The fourth item today is by Peter Van Buren on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
You don’t want to read this, and I take no pleasure in writing it, and no one really wants to hear it right now. But I believe it needs to be said.
Peter Van Buren is an intelligent man who worked in Iraq, so I don't see why one shouldn't read him.

He says this:

But it has to be said, especially looking at the sick repetition of the same story, that despite fourteen plus years of a war on terror, terror seems to be with us as much as ever, maybe even more. It is time to rethink what we have done and are doing.

Since that day in 2001, the one with those terrible sparkling blue skies in New York, we have spied on the world, Americans at home and foreigners abroad, yet no one detected anything that stopped the Paris attacks. We gave up much to that spying and got nothing in return.

Since 2001, the United States has led nations like Britain, France, Australia and others into wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, with drone attacks on people from the Philippines to Pakistan to all parts of Africa. We have little to nothing to show for all that.

I am afraid that few will heed his warnings, with which I agree. Besides, there is one thing he does not mention: There are quite a lot of profits that are made from warring.

He also said this:

As one of the most intelligent commentators on all this, Bill Johnson, said, terrorism is about killing pawns to affect the king. The attacks in Paris are not about the murder of 150 innocent people. Hell, that many die nearly every day in Iraq and Syria. The true test for France is how they respond to the terror attacks in the long-game — that’s the king in all this. America failed this test post-9/11; yet it does not sound like France understands anything more than America. “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” French president Hollande said outside the Bataclan concert hall, scene of the most bloodshed.

I am afraid he is right.

5. Let’s listen to Bill Maher: On Paris, religion and race, Maher walks a fascinating and tricky line

The last item today is by Sophia A. McLennen on Salon: This starts as follows - and yes, it is here because I like Bill Maher while not agreeing with everything he says, but this is true of everyone I like (basically, because I have a mind of my own):
Bill Maher has made his mark as the comedian who refuses to toe the party line—any party’s line.  He has come under attack by both the right and the left for his positions. This week’s show exemplifies his unflinching desire to muddy the waters of extremist thinking and get viewers to ask tough questions and refuse pre-packaged scripts.
Yes, but that is one of the reasons I like him - and I don't see any reason why he should always agree with me or I with him.

There is also this, about which I again say this ought to be self-evident for
minimally rational people:
(...) it would be a mistake to dismiss his interventions because they come from a comedian known for being caustic and controversial.   Again and again Maher is willing to ask the questions no one wants to ask.  And one of his key themes is frustration over simple-minded responses to complex issues.
I don't think it is quite true that he asks "questions no one wants to ask", but I am willing to pass this as an exaggeration.

The article ends thus:

It’s tricky terrain for comedy and it’s likely to get misunderstood. But Maher doesn’t care.  If there is one ongoing passion in his work, it is that he won’t back down and he won’t make things easy.

Maher’s trademark comedy refuses to be channeled easily into ideological silos.  And whether we agree with him or not, his desire to ask tough questions and derail fundamentalist positions is a welcome intervention in a media landscape dominated by extremes.

I agree.

[1] You may disagree, but as long as you do not have my degrees (all with  straight As, in spite of my illness and not hearing lectures) nor my IQ, I can't take you seriously. All I say here is that the universities are mostly quite dead, and - apart from a few mathematical subjects - this was done by Tony Blair and his quasi-socialist likes, who insisted half of mankind (from an IQ of 100 upwards) should have the right of a university degree. Well, now they have, and that is the end of any real university. (Too bad for the highly intelligent, but these are a small minority anyway.)

[2] The story - Milne's in "Tell Me No Lies" is quite amazing, but yes: All of those mentioned were involved, and all lied through their teeth.

[3] Here much depends on one's intelligence, one's education, and one's time, and I am quite willing to agree there are considerable differences in the extent to which I think you should be "
rationally informed" about the matters you do hold opinions on.

[4] Incidentally, the list in
politics is quite good - and I do not think I ever met anyone who read most or all of these books. (I did.)

[5] A considerable part of my problem (and I am a philosopher) is that I am quite unclear about the concept of "moral law": There are wide differences in how this is understood, both as to "moral" and as to "law". And while I would agree that being fair is, in some sense, a moral attitude, as is being honest, I do not know in what sense these are "laws".
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