March 4, 2015
Crisis: Censorship, Rational Debate, Chomsky, Obama's Wars, Private Police
  "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. UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This
    Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”

2. Is Isis the ultimate evil? They would love you to think so
3. Noam Chomsky: Edward Snowden a True Patriot Who
     Should be Honored

Senior Official Confirms Obama's AUMF Intentionally
     Ambiguous to Allow Broad War Powers

Private Police: Mercenaries for the American Police State


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

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the rise of state censorship - o yes! - in Great Britain; item 2 is about Isis and the current impossibility to have a rational debate (!!) in Great Britain about it; item 3 is about Chomsky's praising Snowden, and about Chomsky's saying that the primary aim of the NSA is "to control the population (as I have been saying since 2005, and I give a translation of the last bit of my 2005 article); item 4 is about Obama's opening the way for his doing all manner of warlike things without any Congress interference; and item 5 is on a frightening development in the U.S.: there are now twice as many "private policemen" who have the powers but lack the accountability (such as it is) of the public policemen.

1. UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
  • UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”
This starts as follows:

In 2001, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II used the occasion of the annual “Queen’s Speech” to unveil a new statutory proposal to regulate all media operating in her realm, one provision of which was the creation of the “Office of Communications” (Ofcom) to monitor and punish television outlets which exhibit “bias.” In 2008, the BBC heralded the Queen’s Speech as “one of the high points of the parliamentary calendar, unrivalled in its spectacle and tradition,” as the monarch “delivers the speech from the grand throne in the House of Lords.” The press monitor’s Twitter account boasts: “We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us.”

I would say it ought to be very clear that the “Office of Communications” (Ofcom) was intended to do censorship. For clearly (1) no public media are
free from "bias", indeed of many kinds (to be sure: in a real democracy, where
freedom of opinion and publication are maintained), and (2) this is also as it ought to be (in a real democracy), simply because everyone should have the right to hear or read all opinions, and to make up his or her own mind, for his or her own reasons.

But not according to Queen Elizabeth II: She wants "
to monitor and punish television outlets" that do not properly enough reflect her bias. Besides, she seems to insist that the people of Ofcom can think, but ordinary British citizens cannot think, and should only get those materials that steer them in the direction of the Queen's bias.

And as Glenn Greenwald states:
Ofcom has rarely punished establishment British media outlets for “bias” even though the British media is notoriously and slavishly loyal to the state and other British political and financial elites. Just last week, Guardian editor Seumus Milne noted: “as one academic study after another has demonstrated . . . . from the coverage of wars to economics, [the BBC] has a pro-government, elite and corporate anchor. The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world.”
Quite so. But there is a contrast, that I present to you in three quotations, pulled from considerably more (and you can check the original article under the last dotted link):
By rather stark contrast, Ofcom has repeatedly threatened the Russian-state television outlet RT with revocation of its license.
Today, Ofcom announced a new “bias” investigation into RT. The offense this time, according to the Guardian, is the broadcasting of “anti-western comments in a late-night discussion on Ukraine.”
Unfortunately, RT told the Intercept this morning that it was barred by Ofcom regulations even from commenting on this new investigation. Not only are they being threatened for the crime of airing “anti-western views,” but they are prohibited by law from publicly discussing these threats.
I am sorry, and Glenn Greenwald does not say so, but to me the last point - "they are prohibited by law from publicly discussing these threats" - seems to
me a fascist law. To attack RT because it is "biased", while pretending the BBC is not, is plain bullshit, that should be discussed - but to legally forbid that this bullshit is being discussed in public is the beginning of fascism.

And as Glenn Greenwald does state:

Purporting to compel media “objectivity” is always about imposing a very specific and subjective agenda masquerading as impartiality.
That is the classic hallmark of how a government propagandizes its citizens: ensuring that they hear only those views of which the government approves and which serve its interests and agenda.
Which is totalitarian. There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

2. Is Isis the ultimate evil? They would love you to think so

The next item is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:
  • Is Isis the ultimate evil? They would love you to think so
This seems to confirm what Glenn Greenwald said in item 1, for it is concerned with the following supposed fact (that is - it would seem - part of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's preferred bias):
Islamic State (Isis) is now the iconic demon, the stuff of nightmares – which is exactly what it wants, of course.
The point is this:
Here’s an example from a recent column in a British newspaper: “In Isis we are observing a level of atrocity towards mankind that, post-Nazism, we hoped we would never again witness.” Really? What about Pol Pot and his killing fields? The mass murder of a million communists in Indonesia in the 1960s, which turned rivers red with blood? The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which killed up to 6 million people and featured mass cannibalism? The US carpet bombing of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia?
Yes, indeed: Compared to the many millions cruelly killed in the above mentioned mass horrors, Isis did not do much. That is: they very probably are quite capable of mass murders on a horrific scale, but so far they have not killed millions.

The frightening part is the last paragraph of the article (here quoted minus the last statement):
A rational conversation about causes and possible solutions is all but impossible. We must simply say that Isis is evil in its rawest form, apparently more evil than anything that has gone before, and leave it at that. Bombs and prisons: that’s the only legitimate response, and anyone who says otherwise is an apologist, a traitor or both.
But that is evil to me: To exclude the possiblity of having a "rational conversation", and to insist one can, in the current Great Britain, only repeat
such biased propaganda as the British government deigns to admit is sick,
morally degenerate and evil.

3. Noam Chomsky: Edward Snowden a True Patriot Who Should be Honored  

The next item is an article by Andrea Germanos on CommonDreams:

  • Noam Chomsky: Edward Snowden a True Patriot Who Should be Honored

This starts as follows:

Noam Chomsky said that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a true patriot who revealed vast surveillance programs that have nothing to do with combating terrorism.

The noted intellectual made the comment in an extended interview with Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman which aired Tuesday.

Chomsky said Snowden should be welcomed back to the country from Russia, where he has received asylum, with honors because he "carried out the obligations of a citizen."

Snowden "informed American citizens of what their government is doing to them. That’s exactly what a person who has real patriotism, not the flag-waving type, but real patriotism, would do. So he should be honored, not just allowed back," Chomsky said.

"It’s the people in the government who should be on trial, not him," he continued.

Quite so - and indeed you can watch this interview with Chomsky, with some other interviews with him, on Democracy Now!

But he said more, and that seems quite important to me:

Chomsky added that neither the surveillance system Snowden exposed nor the drone program—despite claims by officials—have combating terrorism as their goals.

NSA programs are "intended to control the population," he said.
Precisely! And as I have been saying since 2005 (in Dutch): Combatting "terrorism" never was the primary aim of the NSA. "Terrorism" was the
pretext under which the secret services started stealing absolutely everything they could lay their hands on, which they did because they want the U.S.government to be the most powerful government in the world - which it can only be if (1) it knows everything its inhabitants (and anyone else) thinks or wants  or desires, and if (2) it can get rid of the limitations that the Constitutional Rights imposed on the U.S. government.

And here is the ending of the article I wrote on October 29, 2005, translated to English (and the bolding is in the original):
The principle that I use is very clear, very understandable, and exists since ages, and can be found in texts that even a [minister of justice] Donner and [prime minister] Balkenende must have read for their university examinations: The best and often the only defense against state terrorism is a maintained state of law without a secret police, with habeas corpus, without imprisonment merely on suspicion, without a special kind of crimes against the state, whether or not these are called "terrorism", without systematic suveillance, espionage and the breaking of the secrecy of letters, with freedom of expression, including those opinions that go against current ideas or laws.

Because by far the greatest and most dangerous terrorist organizations are and always were the police and the secret services of states. Always, during all of known history.
I still think so. And the dangers are far greater than I thought ten years ago, for as Snowden revealed, the NSA, the GCHQ and other secret services are pirating any computer anywhere for any information.

4. Senior Official Confirms Obama's AUMF Intentionally Ambiguous to Allow Broad War Powers     

The next item is an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
  • Senior Official Confirms Obama's AUMF Intentionally Ambiguous to Allow Broad War Powers

This starts as follows:

Another high-ranking Obama administration official confirmed on Tuesday that the White House's proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the war on ISIS was left intentionally vague to allow for expansive—and potentially limitless—presidential war-making powers.

Since the AUMF was submitted to Congress last month, it has been the topic of debate within and beyond Washington, DC. Many have raised concerns about its broad terms, which impose no geographic limitations, broadly define the "enemy," allow for deployment of ground combat forces, and leave the controversial 2001 AUMF intact.

O that great democratic president Obama! Here is some more on him:

The Obama administration has waffled on just how extensive the powers granted in the proposed AUMF are. When he initially submitted the proposal on February 11, Obama claimed it "would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our Nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan."

As I have meanwhile said quite a few times: What the president says and what the president does are far too often in conflict not to infer that he intentionally says one thing, and intentionally does the opposite thing. And indeed:

However, White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest stated the same day that the proposed AUMF's language was left intentionally vague because "we believe it's important that there aren't overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander in chief."

For the White House does not want constraints on the commander in chief, as regards wars, drone killings, locking people up without trial etc. etc. What could possibly be against that? Well.. this, as Sarah Lazare very correctly points out:

Critics have warned that, if the 2001 AUMF is any indication, ill-defined language will be abused to wage potentially global war.

Passed after the September 11th attacks, the 2001 legislation has been invoked by the Bush and Obama administrations to authorize the ongoing war in Afghanistan; covert drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; military intervention in countries from Ethiopia to Iraq; and indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prison.


5. Private Police: Mercenaries for the American Police State

The final item for today is an article by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog:

  • Private Police: Mercenaries for the American Police State

This starts as follows:

Corporate America is using police forces as their mercenaries.”—Ray Lewis, Retired Philadelphia Police Captain

It’s one thing to know and exercise your rights when a police officer pulls you over, but what rights do you have when a private cop—entrusted with all of the powers of a government cop but not held to the same legal standards—pulls you over and subjects you to a stop-and-frisk or, worse, causes you to “disappear” into a Gitmo-esque detention center not unlike the one employed by Chicago police at Homan Square?

For that matter, how do you even begin to know who you’re dealing with, given that these private cops often wear police uniforms, carry police-grade weapons, and perform many of the same duties as public cops, including carrying out SWAT team raids, issuing tickets and firing their weapons.

This is the growing dilemma we now face as private police officers outnumber public officers (more than two to one), and the corporate elite transforms the face of policing in America into a privatized affair that operates beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment.

Part of the problem is that there are more private than public police officers; the private ones are far less constrained; and there is a considerable overlap between the private and the public police.

There's also this:

Second, these private contractors are operating beyond the reach of the law. For example, although private police in Ohio are “authorized by the state to carry handguns, use deadly force and detain, search and arrest people,” they are permitted to keep their arrest and incident reports under wraps. Moreover, the public is not permitted to “check the officers’ background or conduct records, including their use-of-force and discipline histories.” As attorney Fred Gittes remarked, “There is no accountability. They have the greatest power that society can invest in people — the power to use deadly force and make arrests. Yet, the public and public entities have no practical access to information about their behavior, eluding the ability to hold anyone accountable.”

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, including this:

In fact, the Department of Justice has been one of the most vocal advocates for the benefits that private security—which has twice the budget and manpower as their government counterparts—can provide in partnership with public police.

And private policemen are almost completely without rules...


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