April 16, 2015
Crisis: Blackwater, EU vs Google, Clinton vs Sanders, Sir James Goldsmith, Amsterdam
  "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. Beyond Blackwater Massacre, Renewed Concern Over
    Rise of Mercenary Armies

2. European Union Targets Google with Antitrust Probe
Clinton vs. Sanders: Follow the Money
Sir James Goldsmith, An Unlikely Defender of the Common
Occupation at University of Amsterdam (now past)


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 16, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Blackwater and mercenary armies; item 2 is about the EU against Google; item 3 is about a radical difference between the financial supporters of Clinton and of Sanders; item 4 is about - a repeat of - an article about the late Sir James Goldsmith; and item 5 is about the recent occupation at the University of Amsterdam (now past).

1. Beyond Blackwater Massacre, Renewed Concern Over Rise of Mercenary Armies

The first item today is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

  • Beyond Blackwater Massacre, Renewed Concern Over Rise of Mercenary Armies

This starts as follows:

Following the sentencing of four private security guards convicted in the notorious 2007 massacre of innocent Iraqi civilians, attention has shifted to the growing role such private mercenaries are having on battlefields throughout the world.

On Monday, three former employees of Blackwater Worldwide were given thirty-year prison sentences while one guard, Nicholas Slatten, who fired the first shot, was sentenced to life in prison for a shooting spree which resulted in the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians in Nissour Square. The accused say they will appeal.

In a statement on Tuesday, human rights expert Elzbieta Karska, chair of the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries, said that while the group welcomed the sentencing, such examples of accountability are the "exception rather than the rule."

"The outsourcing of national security to private firms creates risks for human rights and accountability," Karska said. The UN is calling for an international treaty to "address the increasingly significant role that private military companies play in transnational conflicts."

This is here mostly because of the "outsourcing of national security to private firms". There is more in the article:

On Tuesday, New York Times reporters James Risen and Matthew Rosenberg published a story highlighting what they say is the real legacy of Blackwater.

The private security industry, they write, "has fallen from public view since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the two conflicts sped the maturation of security firms from bit players on the edge of global conflicts to multinational companies that guard oil fields in Libya, analyze intelligence for United States forces in Afghanistan, help fight insurgents in parts of Africa and train American-backed militaries in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere."

Though solid numbers are hard to come by, Risen and Rosenberg note that "estimates of industry revenues range from a few billion dollars to $100 billion."

My guess is that the "revenues" are much closer to $100 billion than to a few billion dollars - but then that is part of the trouble: There are very few solid numbers.

2. European Union Targets Google with Antitrust Probe

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

  • European Union Targets Google with Antitrust Probe
This starts as follows:

If Google executives use their service to perform an online search for "antitrust + European Union" on Wednesday morning, they may not like the results.

The European Union has opened a formal investigation and sent a list of complaints to the U.S.-based internet giant accusing it of behaving in ways that give it "unfair advantage" over its competitors in Europe, opening a legal door that may have far-reaching consequences for one of the world's most lucrative corporations.

In addition to the broader list of charges regarding Google business practices on the continent, the EU Competition Commission, which handles such matters, has also opened a separate antitrust investigation which will look specifically at Google's mobile operating system, known as Android.

"If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe," said Margrethe Vestager, the European Union competition commissioner.

I say. Then again, the next paragraph shows that the way Google "does business in Europe" is a bit - hm... - overstated:
According to a statement, the EU charges Google with "systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission's preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation."
For this is clearly what Google would do, and the complaints of the EU - "it stifles competition and harms consumers" - seems a bit too strong (and also can be easily "answered" by some code changes that really change very little).

I don't like Google, and generally try to avoid it, but I do not expect much from this action of the EU
: Far more is needed to tame Google in Europe (if that is possible, which I don't know).

3. Clinton vs. Sanders: Follow the Money 

The next item is an article by Abby Zimet on Common Dreams:
  • Clinton vs. Sanders: Follow the Money
This starts as follows:
With Hillary Clinton the Democratic frontrunner for President, nobody's ready to cut her any slack, least of all Bernie Sanders. Citing America's "grotesque level of income and wealth inequality," he said Wednesday he seriously questions if Clinton is "prepared to take on the billionaire class,” adding, "It's not what she says, it's what she does." Newly published - and stunningly revealing - records of the top 20 contributors for both Senators bear him out. Clinton's money comes solely from Wall Street and other fat cats, with Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan at the top of the heap; Sanders' money comes solely from unions, except for two teachers' groups and the American Association for Justice.
I said yesterday that I would try to avoid non-news in which journalists reflect on their opinions on the chances of Hillary Clinton on basically zero information.

But this is an example of news that is fit to print, and - in case you are interested - you should take a look at "
published" which is a jpeg file that shows the top 20 contributors to both Clinton and Sanders.

The differences are indeed enormous:

Simply judged by the organizations that give contributions, Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the big banks, and Bernie Sanders the candidate of the unions. Besides, the contributions to Hillary Clinton are around eight times as high as the contributions to Bernie Sanders.

And I think that this is a clear indication what both candidates - if Sanders is going to be a candidate, that has not been decided yet - stand for: the rich few and the non-rich many.

As to Sanders' candidacy:
Sanders says he'll decide by the end of April whether he can mount a credible campaign to run. If not, and Hillary's the candidate, he says our "only hope (is) a very strong grassroots movement that says 'enough is enough'...The country belongs to all of us, and not just the billionaire class.”
I do not know what Sanders will decide, but it seems to me - at present, at least: this may radically change if there is a next crisis, as there very well may be - that the "only hope" on "a very strong grassroots movement" is at present pretty void.

And I much wish it were otherwise, but it isn't.

4. Sir James Goldsmith, An Unlikely Defender of the Common Man

The next item is an article by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit, who repeats an article he first printed in 2012:
  • Sir James Goldsmith, An Unlikely Defender of the Common Man
I did not read it then and did not know of Raging Bull-Shit (it was before Edward Snowden's revelations) but I picked it up in 2014 - and I will also repeat that, with a few additions, such as a link to the interview of 1994.

This starts as follows:

Here’s an oldie but a goodie:

The economy is there to serve the fundamental needs of society, which are prosperity, stability and contentment… If you have a situation whereby the economy grows but you create poverty and unemployment and you destabilise society, you’re in trouble.”

The above quote comes from the least likely of sources: the late Sir James Goldsmith, one of the wealthiest and most influential business magnates of the late 20th century. The year was 1994, the occasion an interview with Charlie Rose on the potential impact of the soon-to-be-signed General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(GATT).

Incidentally, here is a Wikipedia reference: Sir James Goldsmith, who died in 1997, slightly younger than I am now (but looking much older than I look now,
and also in 1994).

The main part of this article is in fact a link to an interview Sir James Goldsmith had twenty years with Charlie Rose, in 1994: This works today - April 16, 2015 -
and from there the other 4 parts of the interview are also easily accessible.

I do strongly recommend you to watch it, although it covers nearly an hour, split into six parts of video, simply because Sir James's warnings - from 1994 - are, as Don Quijones put it, "eerily prescient".

Indeed, here are some of his quotes from the interview that were gathered by Don Quijones:

Tackling issues as broad and diverse as unemployment, agribusiness, and financial innovation, Goldsmith’s warnings are eerily prescient:

On the impact of GATT: “What will happen is that more American products will be sold abroad which have been manufactured in low-cost areas. Therefore they will carry a U.S. name, they will have a U.S. manufacturing company, the corporations that make them will make tremendous profits but workforces will be eliminated.”

On the jobless recovery: “In France the economy has grown by 80 percent. The number of unemployed has gone from 420,000 to 5.1 million… What is the good of having an economy that grows by 80 percent if your unemployed – the people excluded from active economic life – goes from 420,000 to 5.1 million.”

On the liberalization of agriculture: “If GATT succeeds and were able to impose modern methods of agriculture worldwide so as to bring them to the levels, say, of Canada and Australia, 2 billion people out of 3.1 billion people would be uprooted from the land and chased into the towns… It would be a far greater disaster than any war.”

On the financial industry and derivatives: “I think our financial system is extremely fragile. You can see it in the volatility of currencies, you can see all sorts of weaknesses. There’s an incredible amount of danger in things like derivatives. I think we are moving towards the outer limits of acceptable risk taking… I think the world GNP is somewhere in the figure of 30 trillion dollars and I believe the derivates outstanding are at 90, which to a large degree are purely speculative.” (The derivatives market is now estimated to be worth anywhere in the region of 600 trillion to 1 quadrillion dollars).

If you can see those things, in 1994, you indeed are rather special. Also, there are more good points in the interview.

So, this is something you really should not miss, if only because he has been amply shown to have been quite right in the intervening 21 years. [1]

. Occupation at University of Amsterdam (now past)

The last item today is an article by James Anderson on Truth-out from a week ago (April 9, 2015). I abbreviated the title some, and added that the occupation belongs now to the past:
  • Occupation at University of Amsterdam (now past)
This starts under a photo from March 13, 2015, in which students are shown who carry the following slogan in a demonstration:
We are not asking for a free university
We are asking for a free society
Because a free university
            in a capitalist society
is like a lecture hall in a prison
And it starts as follows:

When students kicked in the door of the main administrative building, the Maagdenuis, at the University of Amsterdam on February 25, the "New University" - or "De Nieuwe Universiteit" - movement introduced a new aesthetic dimension of protest.

The Maagdenhuis occupation, a protest against the financialization of higher education and against the concentration of decision-making power at the university, disrupted the everyday flow of doing, changing the normal organization of human sense experience on campus. By taking a building and reorganizing human activity inside, with emphasis on dialogue, deliberation and shared decision-making, occupiers created new aesthetic conditions necessary for a new politics, as philosopher Jacques Rancière, who recently visited the Maagdenhuis to show solidarity with UvA students, suggests.

Politics remains "aesthetic in principle," Rancière, once wrote. By blurring boundaries between the expressible and ineffable, Rancière argues that aesthetics affirms antagonisms that the administrative order would rather see reconciled under its own imposed expectations.

You see? The French maitre-penseur (completely unknown to me) - who is  meanwhile in his mid-seventies -  clearly said  that "Politics remains "aesthetic in principle"" which it does by "blurring boundaries between the expressible and ineffable".... o lord!

The reason this is here is because I am Dutch and do live in Amsterdam. As I've indicated, the occupation now belongs to the past. The article by James Anderson
is quite long, and you can study it by clicking the last dotted link.

In case you have difficulties understanding it - and here is a bit from near the end that conceivably may be just a tiny bit difficult to get:

The occupation, following Rancière, realized an aesthetic universe replete with new pedagogies that imply production of new social relations and even new kinds of people.

Scholz said part of the struggle is never to ignore the "human complexity in everything that we do" and acknowledge the always-present interconnection between "logical thinking and emotions" that makes meaning - or the struggle over it - even possible.

"It brings collective action to a new level of - you could say, even - humanness," she said about evolving Maagdenhuis aesthetics.

I must admit I have - at least - the very same problems, and I live in Amsterdam and I have one of the best M.A. degrees (in psychology) ever awarded there, which I got after having been removed briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy, because I honestly, as an invited speaker, spoke the truth (which did not exist at that time in that university, for then nearly everyone (!!) proudly maintained that "everyone knows truth does not exist"), and therefore I was removed as a student from the faculty of philosophy and denied the right to take an M.A. in philosophy, also while I was gravely ill, to the great sadistic joy of the University's Board of Directors.

But no - I do not feel capable right now to explain in a few words why I could and cannot take anything about this occupation seriously. (I can, but it takes too long.)


[1] Incidentally: Sir James Goldsmith was a capitalist and a billionaire, but he was for regulated capitalism, while those he
opposed were and are for unregulated capitalism.

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