| "They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- 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
1. Angela Merkel under pressure to reveal all about US
2. We're citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize
government without fear
3. By Friday we’ll be reduced to bystanders at a revoltingly
macho political stare-off
4. Canada's political landscape undergoes seismic shift with
election in Alberta
5. VIDEO: The Edward Snowden Interview the U.S. Media
Didn’t Want You to Watch
6. The New Corrupt Elite That Is Running Our Economy
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 7, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 7 dotted links, and Germany, England (where there are elections today), Canada and the USA are all represented, as are
Manning and Snowden: Item 1 is about Angela Merkel, whose position got a lot more difficult because of spying (the Germans appear to have helped the NSA);
item 2 is an interesting article by Chelsea Mannning (imprisoned); item 3 is about an article by Suzanne Moore on today's English elections; item 4 is about a quite
radical and surprising change in Canada (good news, for once); item 5 is about
a video with half an hour of interview with Edward Snowden from January 2014,
that was kept from being shown in the USA; and item 6 is a good interview about the corrupt elite that now governs the West.
Also, the present Nederlog got uploaded rather earlier than is normal.
1. Angela Merkel under pressure to reveal all about US spying agreement
The first item today is an article by Kate Connolly on The Guardian:
- Angela Merkel under pressure to reveal all about US spying agreement
This starts as follows:
Angela Merkel’s reputation as an unassailable chancellor is under threat amid mounting pressure for her to reveal how much she knew about a German-supported US spying operation on European companies and officials.
The onus on her government to deliver answers over the spying scandal has only increased with the Austrian government’s announcement that it has filed a legal complaint against an unnamed party over “covert intelligence to the detriment of Austria”.
EADS, now Airbus, one of the companies known to have been spied on by the BND – Germany’s foreign intelligence agency – is also taking legal action, saying it will file a complaint with prosecutors in Germany.
The BND stands accused of spying on behalf of America’s NSA on European companies such as EADS, as well as the French presidency and the EU commission. There are also suspicions that German government workers and journalists were spied on.
The Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel’s government partners, along with Germany’s federal public prosecutor, Harald Range, are demanding the release of a list of “selectors” – 40,000 search terms used in the spying operations – the results of which were passed on to the NSA.
“The list must be published and only then is clarification possible,” said Christine Lambrecht, parliamentary head of the SPD faction. Merkel has so far refused to allow its release. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she would make a decision on whether or not to do so only “once consultations with the American partners are completed”.
I say, although I am not very amazed: See May 5, 2015. As I said then:
I know secret services are being kept secret, and therefore can generally do as they please, and in fact also do do as they please. But I agree this is pretty scandalous, also because it seems to imply Angela Merkel betrayed her oath of office, or at least did not live and speak according to it.There is considerably more in the article. And there is this near the end of it:
This strongly suggests that Merkel, like nearly all heads of government and nearly all leading politicians, has come down on the side of the spying agencies that now control everyone implicitly as if he or she is a terrorist. (It is not yet explicit, but then that may soon happen, even though that may again, and especially in the U.S. and Great Britain, happen nearly completely in secret, and in secret courts.)
Merkel, who appeared to be hugely at odds with the US government when it was revealed in 2013 that the NSA’s mass intelligence operation included tapping her mobile phone, has so far responded in a characteristically vague and flat manner. While acknowledging that allies should not spy on each other, she has stressed that spying’s most important role is to prevent terrorist attacks.
“The government will do everything to guarantee the ability of the intelligence services,” she said on Monday. “Taking terrorist threats into account, that ability is only possible in cooperation with other agencies. That very much includes the NSA, as well as others.”
For Merkel must know that (1) all the spying that has been done since 2001, in an extremely liberated climate for the spies, has given exactly no lead whatsoever on terrorism, while (2) it must have given enormously many leads that will allow governments to sort out almost anyone who might be a threat to their power, and (3) this also was the real end of the spying agencies: getting sufficient information on anyone, so that the government can control them if it thinks that will help the government.
2. We're citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear
The next item is an article by Chelsea Manning (formerly: Bradley) (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
- We're citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear
When freedom of information and transparency are stifled, then bad decisions are often made and heartbreaking tragedies occur – too often on a breathtaking scale that can leave societies wondering: how did this happen? Think about the recent debates on torture, assassination by unmanned aircraft, secret warrants and detentions, intelligence and surveillance courts, military commissions, immigration detention centers and the conduct of modern warfare. These policies affect millions of people around the world every day and can affect anyone – wives, children, fathers, aunts, boyfriends, cousins, friends, employees, bosses, clergy and even career politicians – at any time. It is time that we bring a health dose of sunlight to them.
Yes, I agree (and see the previous item): There are currently three or four levels of being a person - and I am sketching this mostly with reference to the United States:
I believe that when the public lacks even the most fundamental access to what its governments and militaries are doing in their names, then they cease to be involved in the act of citizenship. There is a bright distinction between citizens, who have rights and privileges protected by the state, and subjects, who are under the complete control and authority of the state.
(1) One is a billionaire: one's money = free speech in the U.S.; one's powers are enormous; and one can make or break ordinary governments and/or politicians;
(2) one is a leading politician: one has some or a lot of governmental power and more or less free access to the main media: as long as one does not seriously oppose the billionaires, one is free to make one's career and get rich.
These two groups also are the only groups that currently have access to most of the real information (that tends to be classified these days, especially if it is sensitive).
(3) One is an ordinary citizen with ordinary opinions: one's powers are nil, as is one's access to the main media, but one is tolerated as a voter (as long as one's
opinions are known to be "safe");
(4) one is a known opponent of the government: this depends on one's prior status, but mostly one is considered as filth by the main media, that will either
disregard one or else print attacks on one's integrity while skewering one's real stances.
These two groups - the vast majority - have no effective real rights on the real information. Basically, they are either powerless voters who vote normally or they are (mostly) powerless opponents of the government.
The former of these two groups is tolerated as legitimizers of the status and power of the politicians they elect; the lattter group (which tends to be small) is quite varied, and may be mostly tolerated (albeit falsely represented in the main media) because they are ineffective and show "the democracy of our constitution and institutions".
Finally, while these four groups have been existing for quite a long time, the opposition between the first two kinds of persons and the last two kinds of persons have very much increased from 9/11/2001 onwards, also because the
first two groups have gained enormously in power and in knowledge (the last mostly through the NSA and through classifying very much information that should have been shared democratically).
3. By Friday we’ll be reduced to bystanders at a revoltingly macho political stare-off
The next item is an article by Suzanne Moore on The Guardian:
- By Friday we’ll be reduced to bystanders at a revoltingly macho political stare-off
I selected this mostly because there are general elections in Great Britain today. I also think these are quite important, but I did not have the space, the energy or indeed the British readership to write much about them.
The present article starts as follows:
I know full well the kind of piece I should write today because I keep reading them. It would be rousing and passionate and a rallying cry and it would tell you how to vote and what a good person I am. Vote for decency! Vote for the NHS! Vote to show you care! If you don’t vote, then you have no right to complain. This is how these arguments go and, for the already politically engaged, they are gloriously self-enforcing. Who doesn’t love the stubby little pencils and top secrecy of the polling booth? This argument has been showily bleated and tweeted non-stop. But despite this breeziness and the serious issues at stake, something is not right here. There is an undertow of low-level dread to this election that may shift into full-blown terror by Friday.
Unless all the professional passion killers – the pollsters – are wrong, no one is going to wake up on Friday to a spanking new administration. What happens next will no longer be the business of the voters, the essential insider trading will begin and we are expected to sit patiently until we are told who will be governing us. All the celebrity endorsements in the world have not removed this uncertainty. The distance the electorate feels from this election is not imaginary. It feels as though it is all going on elsewhere. Many are bored and disengaged, uncertain and fearful.In a way, they are right to be. If this is as good as it gets democratically, something is really not working.
For in fact the British elections are a far cry from "democratic elections", for the simple reasons that (1) there is - still - no proportional representation in Great Britain (which the big parties do not want, because this would decrease their powers) and (2) something like 85% (I quote a Guardian article) of the present
English press is pro-conservative.
And I much hope Cameron will be defeated, but I take no bets (and Labour and the Tories were reported to be both on 35% this morning).The next item is an article by John Barber on The Guardian:
4. Canada's political landscape undergoes seismic shift with election in Alberta
This is quite good news, for a change. This is the summary of the article:
- Canada's political landscape undergoes seismic shift with election in Alberta
Once-marginal New Democratic Party sweeps to victory over conservatives in setback for prime minister Stephen Harper’s Keystone XL pipeline effortsThe article starts as follows:
That is quite amazing. Here is one show of how amazing this is:
Canada’s rockbound political landscape has undergone a seismic shift with the election of a leftwing government in oil-rich Alberta, the country’s wealthiest and – until now – most conservative province.
The once-marginal New Democratic Party swept to victory in the western province on Tuesday night, humiliating the Progressive Conservative party that has ruled the province since the first term of US president Richard Nixon.
“We made a little bit of history tonight,” the province’s New Democrat leader, Rachel Notley, told supporters.
The result marks the latest and most surprising setback to prime minister Stephen Harper’s signature diplomatic effort to transport bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to world markets through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
During the campaign, Notley promised to withdraw provincial support for the project, raise corporate taxes and also potentially to raise royalties on a regional oil industry already reeling from the collapse in world prices.Notley led her party from a four-seat toehold in the provincial legislature to a commanding majority of 54 with a buoyant campaign (..)
It seems also true that the reason for the big change is local and Canadian,
Among other effects, Alberta’s unexpected revolution casts a shadow over the federal government’s imminent proclamation of sweeping new anti-terrorism legislation, which has provoked opposition from all corners of the political landscape.
Meanwhile, ordinary Canadians were reeling from the sheer magnitude of the shift in Alberta, which has placed the country’s most notoriously conservative province, taken for granted as an impregnable redneck kingdom, in the hands of its most progressive regional government. To explain the phenomenon, Toronto-based writer Doug Saunders asked his American Twitter followers to imagine socialist presidential candidate Bernie Saunders “becoming Texas governor by a big majority”.
but in any case, this is - in my opinion - a good and an unexpected gain.
5. VIDEO: The Edward Snowden Interview the U.S. Media Didn’t Want You to Watch
The next item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
- VIDEO: The Edward Snowden Interview the U.S. Media Didn’t Want You to Watch
It’s gone largely unnoticed that the first interview Edward Snowden gave a media outlet after he leaked National Security Agency documents—conducted by German broadcaster ARD—was not covered by American media outlets and YouTube. But in light of the recent revelations gleaned from the Snowden documents, we dug up the video and transcript from Sunday, January 26, 2014.In fact, while I did not miss the fact that the interview was made - see January 27, 2014 - I did miss the interview itself, which was quite good, and I also missed the fact that the U.S. mass media refused to show it or mention it. 
This is quoted in the article from DC Clothesline (from 2014):
National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden was interviewed on the German television network ARD. What many Americans may be unaware of is that the Edward Snowden interview was intentionally blocked from the US public with none of the major new outlets covering the interview or its contents. YouTube has even taken steps to remove the post as soon as it is reposted.
The video got a wide viewing in Europe and it is not only an important interview when it comes to the vast surveillance state that is currently constructed, but is also still future.
Snowden explained to German television (oh the irony here is rich) how tyrannical surveillance programs erode human rights and individual liberty and freedom…Snowden continued, “The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public.”
One has to wonder about the complicity of the media in blacking out vital information that exposes the criminal activity of the federal government. While many debate whether or not Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor, Snowden decided to answer for himself.
So here it is, and indeed it is a good interview. I also give it in two forms: You can watch the video, below, or you can read the text:
- Transcript: ARD interview with Edward Snowden
Here is the video that takes 30 m 28 s:
6. The New Corrupt Elite That Is Running Our Economy
The final item today is an article by Lynn Stuart Parrymore on Alternet:
- The New Corrupt Elite That Is Running Our Economy
This starts as follows:
Lynn Parramore: You've discussed a fascinating new kind of power broker on the world stage—a nimble, opportunistic person who floats between private and public institutions. How has this figure operated in the financial arena? Are such players different from lobbyists and other traditional influence peddlers? Can you give some examples?
Janine Wedel: In the financial arena, a well-known duo is Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, both former treasury secretaries. Rubin reached the heights at Goldman Sachs. He then went to Treasury in the 1990s, then on to Citigroup. In the lead-up to the financial crash, both Goldman and Citigroup earned billions on the unregulated derivatives he and Summers (and others) championed while in public office.
Summers has been even more influential: Treasury in the '90s, then back to Harvard, where as president, he invested some of the endowment in derivatives — a disastrous move. He then went to Wall Street hedge fund work, and then back to Washington with a top perch advising the Obama White House.
Both Rubin and Summers have moved among advisory and corporate boards, think tanks and the like. Summers, especially, maintains an active media presence. Their worldview and life experiences are enmeshed with Wall Street. Neither are lobbyists. It's not that they are beholden to Wall Street in the manner of a traditional lobbyist, but that Wall Street and Washington have substantially merged. Goldman had an express policy of placing its alumni in Washington jobs, earning it the nickname of "Government Sachs."This is not the old revolving door, which has only one exit point. Today's revolving door has four or five or more: a player exits to an academic role, a media role, a government role, a business role, a think tank role, and straddles two or more at the same time.
Yes, indeed. And this is a good interview.
 Actually - although I am paying rather a lot of attention to the crisis news - it is likely this has happened before, and it will likely happen again: With mass media that simply do not publish what they ought to publish, which is the case,
it becomes quite impossible to know whether one has been informed even to the minimal extent that ordinary citizens these days are informed. And I really
did not see the interview (from January 2014) until today (May 7, 2015), nor did
I know that the U.S. population did not get to see or know about it ever.