January 26, 2015
Crisis: Syriza, Wikileaks, American Sniper, Citizens United, Guantánamo
  "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


1. Syriza stood up to the money men – the UK left must do
     the same

2. WikiLeaks demands answers after Google hands staff
     emails to US government

Killing Ragheads for Jesus
The True Cost of Citizens United: The Roberts Court’s
     Darkest Hour Revisited

5. “We murdered some folks” in Guantanamo 


This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 26, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is on Syriza's winning of the Greek elections; item 2 is about Wikileaks and Google; item 3 is Chris Hedges on "American Sniper" (with an extra dotted link to a part of a Bill Maher show); item 4 is a decent article on the U.S. Supreme Court; and item 5 is about a book by a Guantánamo guard, who seems to be honest (and reports some murders in Guantánamo).

1.  Syriza stood up to the money men – the UK left must do the same

The first item today is an article by Zoe Williams on The Guardian:
  • Syriza stood up to the money men – the UK left must do the same
This starts as follows:

‘When you study the successful experiences of transformative movements,” said Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, the new party of the Spanish left, “you realise that the key to success is to achieve a connection between the reality you have diagnosed and what the majority actually feels.”

This statement is more than bleedin’ obvious. It is crying out for a response that includes an expletive and Sherlock Holmes. Yet that’s what Iglesias has built: a successful, transformative movement. And in Greece, that’s what Syriza has built too, as demonstrated on Sunday, when a country that only a few years ago saw the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn party, went to the polls with a majority supporting the radical left. That, to a degree, is also what the yes campaign built in Scotland. So we know it is possible, to diagnose a reality that so many people actually feel. It should be possible, also, to decipher how these movements did it.

Well... yes and no.

First of all, I like it that Zoe Williams takes a stance for real leftist politics - and I like it not because I am a leftist (I suppose I am in some respects, and certainly more than that I am a rightist, but also I have seen extremely many "leftist" liars and posturers the last 45 years or so, who only pretended to be leftists because that was dominant for the first 25 years or so of these 45 years, and I also do not agree with some typically leftist nonsense) or because I am a believer in "leftist" parties (I am not, and especially not of the quasi-left, which is what most of the "leftist" parties, including British and Dutch Labour have been reduced to, indeed by their own leaders, for their own private political benefits), but simply because the real rightists, who are in power, need a real leftist movement to keep them in check. And that there has not been, not in the U.S., not in Great Britain and not in Holland, an in each case since around 1995 at the latest.

But second, there is a rather large difference between reality and politics, very often, and I do not agree that "
the key to success is to achieve a connection between the reality you have diagnosed and what the majority actually feels", and I disagree simply because "the reality" that some party has diagnosed may be mostly non-existent, while their agreement with "what the majority actually feels" must be due in any case to the papers and the press - which is, at the very least, neither reliable nor constant nor objective. [1]

Third, while I am glad Syriza won the elections and while I hope they succeed I do not know they will, and certainly the opposition to them will be very strong.

But let's see what Zoe Williams "deciphered":
  • first of all, is that they reject the prevailing economic verities, and
  • we do now know (..) the most important thing about building a successful transformative movement: that it is possible
I must first say that these are all I found - but OK, it is a newspaper article.

Then again, while I agree with the former, in fact because I very strongly disbelieve any supposed "economic verity" that favors the few rich systematically at the costs of billions of the poor - which is what most economists seem to have recommended the last 35 years, like all bank managers, albeit in somewhat more muffled quasi-academic voices - and indeed I also think this is quite important (for all economy I know - rather a lot, and left, right and center - is much more ideology and much less science than it pretends to be), I also believe that the second point either, when it is about Syritza and Podemos, has not been proven in their case (as yet), or else needs no stressing: for clearly all of human history is full of "transformative movements" (of many kinds, with many ends, often quite irrealistic, but nonetheless successful for electing politicians of almost all stripes).

But OK...I agree there is a strong need (among the very many poor) for strong real leftist parties in Europe - while I hardly see them.

2. WikiLeaks demands answers after Google hands staff emails to US government

The next item is an article by Ed Pilkington and Dominic Rushe on The Guardian:
  • WikiLeaks demands answers after Google hands staff emails to US government
This starts as follows:

Google took almost three years to disclose to the open information group WikiLeaks that it had handed over emails and other digital data belonging to three of its staffers to the US government, under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge.

WikiLeaks has written to Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, to protest that the search giant only revealed the warrants last month, having been served them in March 2012. In the letter, WikiLeaks says it is “astonished and disturbed” that Google waited more than two and a half years to notify its subscribers, potentially depriving them of their ability to protect their rights to “privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches”.

The letter, written by WikiLeaks’ New York-based lawyer, Michael Ratner of the Center For Constitutional Rights, asks Google to list all the materials it provided to the FBI. Ratner also asks whether the California-based company did anything to challenge the warrants and whether it has received any further data demands it has yet to divulge.
The subjects of the warrants were the investigations editor of WikiLeaks, the British citizen Sarah Harrison; the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and Joseph Farrell, one of its senior editors.

Not only that:

The court orders cast a data net so wide as to ensnare virtually all digital communications originating from or sent to the three. Google was told to hand over the contents of all their emails, including those sent and received, all draft correspondence and deleted emails. The source and destination addresses of each email, its date and time, and size and length were also included in the dragnet.

The FBI also demanded all records relating to the internet accounts used by the three, including telephone numbers and IP addresses, details of the time and duration of their online activities, and alternative email addresses. Even the credit card or bank account numbers associated with the accounts had to be revealed.

And - of course, I should add - there is also this, I suppose by Google's very own Sir Malcolm Rifkind:
Google told the Guardian it does not talk about individual cases, to “help protect all our users”. A spokesperson for the company said: “We follow the law like any other company." 
First of all, each of your users is an individual case, and the only way to "help protect" each of them is to talk about each and any of them if their rights get abused. Second, none of these three people is a criminal (unlike quite a few of the "users of Google"). Third, I observe that none of Google abides by the law when it comes to tax-evasions, tax loopholes, and the stealing of millions or billions of money that should have been paid in taxes to the U.S. government.

That indeed is part of the reason why I avoid Google and almost never use it intentionally, though it tries to keep tracking me.

But this is a good article, that you should read all of in case you need to make up your mind about the honesty of Google. (I have: I don't want it, and I avoid it whenever I can, which is, alas, impossible for films/videos.)

3. Killing Ragheads for Jesus

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

  • Killing Ragheads for Jesus

This starts as follows:
“American Sniper” lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.
That seems to have been rather like Bill Maher's point of view (though he may  not agree to all Chris Hedges says), and seems to be fair, though not according to one of Maher's guests, who pretended, in a very serious voice also, we all really need to see this film, that simply gives an honest picture of a fighting man, and is very inspiring.

Here is - to start with - a video clip (of a little over 4 m):
  • Real Time with Bill Maher: American Sniper Controversy (HBO)
Next, here is the supposed father Kyle (in the film), who explains to his son there are three kinds of people: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs [2]:

The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country.
Yes, indeed - and please mind this is fairly factual. There is rather a lot more, also with quite a few quotations from Kyle's book. Here is one:
“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.”
The article ends thus:
Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.
Yes, indeed.
4. The True Cost of Citizens United: The Roberts Court’s Darkest Hour Revisited

The next item is an article by Sean McElwee and Liz Kennedy. This seems to have first appeared on Salon, but I found it on Alternet:
  • The True Cost of Citizens United: The Roberts Court’s Darkest Hour Revisited
This starts as follows:

It’s been five years since the Supreme Court decided Citizens United, which allowed unlimited corporate money into the political system and increased the domination of democracy by the wealthy elite. Money has indeed overwhelmed the system since 2008. This rise of big money in politics has endangered democracy and emboldened those who want to put democracy up for sale to aggressively attack the modest campaign spending regulations that still remain.

A recent Demos report explores how, since Citizens United, the following have occurred:

  • In the 2012 election .01 percent of all Americans contributed more than 28 percent of all individual contributions.
  • In the 2012 election, Sheldon Adelson spent an estimated $150 million, $98 million through dark money channels. In 1980, by contrast, the largest donor gave $1.72 million (inflation-adjusted).
  • A 2013 study finds, “millionaires receive about twice as much representation when they comprise just 5 percent of the district’s population than the poorest wealth group does when it makes up 50 percent of the district.”
  • Another 2013 study finds that the richest 1 percent of Americans are “extremely active politically and that they are much more conservative than the American public as a whole with respect to important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs.”
  • In the 2014 midterms, in the most competitive races, candidates got 86 percent of individual contributions from donors giving more than $200.
There is rather a lot more in the article, including some useful ideas. It ends like this, after pointing out that at least 62% of the Republicans and over 75% of the Democrats and Independents are in favor of - at least - disclosing money in politics:
The American citizens are united in opposing money in politics. Now, we need a mass movement from ordinary Americans to take back our democracy.
5.  “We murdered some folks” in Guantanamo

The next and last item today is an article by David Swanson on Washington's Blog:

  • “We murdered some folks” in Guantanamo

This starts as follows:

Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It’s neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says “We tortured some folks,” Hickman provides at least three cases — in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world — in which the statement needs to be modified to “We murdered some folks.” Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?

There is considerably more in the article, and two interesting things about Joseph Hickman are that he indeed was a guard at Guantánamo, and indeed still is also "a partriotic American", presumably of the kind that loves "American Sniper".

[1] All you need is a little historical knowledge: On the right, Hitler's party was quite successful the first 6 years or so and did have a "connection between the reality" they had "diagnosed and what the majority" of the German people "actually" felt; on the left, Lenin's party was quite successful the first 6 years or so after the October Revolution and also did have a "connection between the reality" they had "diagnosed and what the majority" of the Russian people "actually" felt. (So no: I cannot believe this - and note these were two examples of "transformative movements". And there are many more such examples.)

[2] This is a quotation, but this means that I have already had it: If you reduce people to animals, and most people to sheep, you have lost me. (As a matter of fact, I do think most people are unintelligent - and I have extremely good university degrees and a very high IQ - but I refuse to consider them sheep, for several reasons, one of which is that each and all that deserve to be free must be individually accountable forn their moral choices. And no: I do think this was meant seriously and - mostly - non-metaphorically.)
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