May 31, 2015
Crisis: Nazis, Four Fine Quotations, Scheer & Hedges - 5/7
  "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


People with Nazi past collected $20.2m in US retirement
     benefits, says report

2. Four fine quotations to think about
VIDEO: Chris Hedges to Robert Scheer: Why Do You
     Respect America’s Founding Fathers? (Part 5/7)

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 31, 2015.

This is a crisis log. It is a bit special because it is a Sunday on which I did not find many articles, while among those I did find there is the fifth of the exchanges between Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges. So what I did was this:

There are 3 items with 2 dotted links: Item 1 is about the tens of millions of dollars of retirement benefits and pensions that the United States, for the most part quite consciously, paid to German and Austrian Nazis (and I admit this is a bit personal: my family of heroic anti-fascists got almost nothing from the Dutch authorities, and was discriminated always); item 2 consists of four quotes + comments that I all like and recommend to your attention; and item 3 is the fifth part of the seven exchanges between Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges, that I like a lot and comment to the best of my abilities.

Also, the present file (a rather long one) got uploaded a bit later than is normal for me.
1. People with Nazi past collected $20.2m in US retirement benefits, says report

The first item today is an article by Associated Press that I found on The Guardian (and elsewhere):
  • People with Nazi past collected $20.2m in US retirement benefits, says report

I selected this mostly because my father's father was murdered in a German concentration camp, for being in the communist resistance to the Nazis, whereas my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days of German concentration camps for the same reason, while he got "pensioned" in Holland in his late fifties, again because he was a communist, on a minimal pension that was calculated intentionally on the basis of his being without work before the war: He got one of the least paying of all of the "resistance pensions" awarded in Holland, while surviving longer than almost anyone else, and losing his father. [1]

This starts as follows:

More than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards and others who may have participated in atrocities during the second world war collected US$20.2m in retirement benefits, according to the US inspector general of social security.

In a report scheduled for public release next week and obtained by the Associated Press, the inspector general said nearly a quarter of the total, $5.7m, went to individuals who were found to have played a role in the Nazi persecution and had been deported. More than $14m was paid to people who were not deported but were alleged or found to have assisted the Nazis during a period in which millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust.

The report comes seven months after an AP investigation revealed benefits were paid to former Nazis after they were forced out of the United States. The Associated Press found that the justice department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the US in exchange for social security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their benefits.

Note that none of these Nazi criminals had the American nationality, and yet they were paid, and indeed they were also paid after leaving the U.S. (whereas I get currently worth 24/25th of a minimal pension because I lived 2 years outside Holland).

They surely got a lot more money than my father, grandfather or myself got - and none of us did anything else than following our individual consciences (which I admit is in fact rare in Holland, which again is the reason more than 1% of the Dutch population of 1940 were arrested and murdered because they were supposed to be of an inferior race).

2.Four fine quotes to think about

The next item today is not an article in a paper, but consists of four quotes that I like a lot. Some are quite recent, but the last is known to me since the 1980ies.

The first is quoted from the Wikipedia item on William Binney (<- Wikipedia, and I quote minus note numbers):

    Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 the Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney's view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships. Binney stated the goal was also to control people. Meanwhile, he said it is possible in principle to survey the whole population, abroad and in the US, which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution. In October 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the NSA began with its mass surveillance, he said. Therefore, he left the secret service shortly afterwards, after more than 30 years of employment. Binney mentioned that there were about 6000 analysts in the surveillance at NSA already during his tenure. According to him, everything changed after 9/11. The NSA used the attacks as a justification to start indiscriminate data collection. "This was a mistake. But they still do it", he said. The secret service was saving the data as long as possible: "They do not discard anything. If they have anything they keep it." Since then, the NSA has been saving collected data indefinitely. Binney said he deplored the NSA's development of the past few years, to collect data not only on groups who are suspicious for criminal or terrorist activities. "We have moved away from the collection of these data to the collection of data of the 7 billion people on our planet." Binney said he argued even then, to only pull relevant data from the cables. Access to the data was granted to departments of the government or the IRS.

I note the following points:

  • The NSA started collecting everybody's data very soon after 9/11, on commands by Cheney and Bush, but very much welcomed by the then head of the NSA Michael Hayden even though it is plainly contradicted ny the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Binney is right this was and is a totalitarian (and a very authoritarian) measure, that was "previously (..) seen only in dictatorships".
  • Binney is also right that the goal was not - then or ever - to war on terrorism but "to control people".
  • Binney is also right that surveilling the whole population (by the few who govern, or their menials, or their contractors) "contradicts the United States Constitution".
  • He is also right that "everything changed after 9/11", which also can be seen from the enormous amounts of money given to the NSA since then.
  • And I clearly trust his claim that anything the NSA somehow gets, by hook or by crook, is permanently stored (indeed regardless of the claims by liars or lawyers for the NSA).
B. The second quotation is from the item on Glenn Greenwald on Wikipedia:

According to a statement given to the European Parliament by Greenwald:

The ultimate goal of the NSA, along with its most loyal, one might say subservient junior partner the British agency GCHQ – when it comes to the reason why the system of suspicion of surveillance is being built and the objective of this system – is nothing less than the elimination of individual privacy worldwide
—Glenn Greenwald

I agree - but then the obvious next question is:

But why would anyone want to seek to eliminate individual privacy? The obvious answer is: Because of the power this gives to themselves, the governments they work for, and whoever is behind the governments, which these days are very notably the managers of the biggest banks (who go into and out of the American government through plenty of revolving doors).

Next, the above holds for all five nations whose secret services form "the five eyes", i.e. the U.S.A., Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But I think principially, this is an American project, mostly for the simple reason that they are by far the largest nation, with the most men and the most money.

I think the above two paragraphs are virtually certain. The next paragraph is speculative:

There is the serious possibility that the NSA itself seeks supremacy over everything and everyone else, including the Pentagon, the military and the American politicians and the government included, and my reason is again because the NSA knows everything through stealing from everyone, while all the other persons, branches or institutions know mostly only what - in the end - the NSA tells them.

C. The third quotation is by Ray McGovern (<- Wikipedia), who adviced 7 American presidents. This is from the documentary "The American Surveillance State" (<- link to it) at around 2 h 25 - 27 m from the beginning:

Look, money is the driver here. They've got money to do everything they want. If they want to snoop on their own people, they've got money to do that. Congress is happy to appropriate money to places like NSA.
As I have said before, with the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches of our government all kind of complicit in this, well ... and then you have the media and the corporations and all that, it looks very much like the classical definition that Mussolini gave, for fascism.
I quite agree, and indeed Ray McGovern's reasoning is the same as my own reasoning in November - December 2012, which I published on Dec 25, 2012,
and in a slightly simplified form on Jan 31, 2014.

In fact, this reasoning is very simple. Here is the definition of "fascism" in the
American Heritage Dictionary, which also is quite correct for Mussolini's system,
and indeed goes back to the Thirties or the Twenties:
fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
The rest is logical reasoning, and McGovern supplied it:
(...) with the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches of our government all kind of complicit in this, well ... and you have the media and the corporations and all that, it looks very much like the classical definition that Mussolini gave, for fascism.
D. The last quotation is probably not expected, even though it is rather typical for me. Here is an outline by William Hazlitt on the theme of 'the devilish element of human nature', that is quoted from his 'On depth and superficiality', which is in 'The plain speaker'. This was first published in 1826:

            'The plea of ignorance, of folly, of grossness, or selfishness makes nothing either way: it is the downright love of pain and mischief for the interest it excites, and the scope it gives to the abandoned will, that is the root of all evil, and the original sin of human nature. There is a love of power in the mind independent of the love of good, and this love of power, when it comes to be opposed to the spirit of good, and is leagued with the spirit of evil to commit it with greediness, is evil. (..)

A person who does not foresee consequences is a fool; he who cheats others to serve himself is a knave; he who is immersed in sensual pleasure is a brute; but he alone, who has pleasure in injuring another, or in debasing himself, that is, who does a thing with a particular relish because he ought not, is properly wicked.

This character implies the fiend at the bottom of it; and is mixed up plentifully (according to my philosophy) in the untoward composition of human nature. It is this craving after what is prohibited, and the force of contrast adding its zest to the violation of reason and propriety, that accounts for the excesses of pride, of cruelty, and lust; and at the same time frets and vexes the surface of life with petty evils, and plants a canker in the bosom of our daily enjoyments. Take away the enormities dictated by the wanton and pampered pride of human will, glutting itself with the sacrifice of the welfare of others, or with the desecration of its own best feelings, and also the endless bickerings, heart-burnings, and disappointments produced by the spirit of contradiction on a smaller scale, and the life of man would "spin round on its soft axle", unharmed and free, neither appalled by huge crimes nor infested by insect follies.'

This is here because I agree with Hazlitt: Most of the great amounts of harm that is done by people to people is based on "the enormities dictated by the wanton and pampered pride of human will, glutting itself with the sacrifice of the welfare of others", and the only excuse of the great majority who figure in these humanly engineered plagues of people seeking to glut themselves "with the sacrifice of the welfare of others", outside their own groups, is that they are human, they are egoistic, they are greedy, and they are, for the greatest part, stupid, ignorant and misled by ideologies that seem to promise them the best, while actually producing the worst or something not much better.

Incidentally, William Hazlitt lived from 1778-1830, and was agnostic or an atheist,
and also one of the most brilliant writers I ever read.

3. VIDEO: Chris Hedges to Robert Scheer: Why Do You Respect America’s Founding Fathers? (Part 5/7)
The next item is an article posted by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
  • VIDEO: Chris Hedges to Robert Scheer: Why Do You Respect America’s Founding Fathers? (Part 5/7)
This is part 5 from 7, and I am - again - quite glad that someone took the trouble to link in the videos and to prepare the texts: it is quite important, at least for people who want to know what happened and who want to react rationally. [2]

So, to start with, here is the video (from the Real News) of part 5

Crisis: War Crimes, NSA, Surveillance, Financial Crimes, Snowden, Scheer & Hedges - 4
The present part 5 starts as follows (by Alexander Reed Kelly):

In the fifth installment of Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges’ interview with Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer about Scheer’s new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” Hedges challenges him on his reverence for America’s founding fathers—a group of elite, white, property-owning males who amassed great wealth and treated many people terribly.

The interview was produced by The Real News Network. During a long, personal response, Scheer says:

I certainly would not give a blank check to the founders. But I would say there is something in that tradition that is invaluable. Invaluable. …

What I don’t want to lose here is, however this Constitution got written and however it’s been interpreted, it has within it, particularly the issue we’re here to discuss today, this Fourth Amendment and the First Amendment and the protection against self-incrimination and all of those other things, those ideas, just like some ideas you will find in Marx’s writings or you’ll find in Confucius or Aristotle’s writings, for all of the contradiction, right, all the contradictions, when you find those ideas, you want to hold on to them and you want to raise them, you want to address them. You know?

And that idea of limited government, that idea that we have these basic rights that no one can take away, I found as a kid to be the source of my own energy. Otherwise I would have given up.

This is all true, as far as I am concerned - but the present questions are basically two, I think: (1) do these traditions of limited government, and what belongs to it: the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, protection against self- incrimination, individual rights etc. etc. still exist in the American governments of the present 21st Century, and (2) to what extent do these traditions of limited government etc. survive in the American public?

My own answers are mostly empirical: The American governments since 9/11 are no longer limited governments at all, and have strongly tried, and largely succeeded in shifting most of the powers to themselves and to the large corporations, while only a relatively small minority of the American public really understands the notions, practices and principles expressed by the Constitution.

But to the article: Here it is, and to start with Chris Hedges, who objects against Robert Scheer - and his objections are quite strong:
HEDGES: (..) I love the book. It’s brilliant. You’re a great writer. And it’s an important book.

I wouldn’t say they are destroying democracy; I would say they have destroyed democracy. You have held up throughout this conversation the founding fathers. And I want to go back to Thomas Paine, who was the real radical, who called for—he didn’t use the word socialism, but a type of socialism, who was an abolitionist, who was a proponent of direct democracy, which the founding fathers were not, who opposed the genocidal campaigns against Native Americans, which all of the founding fathers embraced with relish, who wanted rights for women. And I think Zinn points out that all of these freedoms that you talk about were reserved for a very small, select group of largely slave-holding white males, our aristocratic class, who replaced the aristocratic class of Britain (...)

Labor is a spent force. You talk about labor, where you have less than 12 percent of the American workforce is unionized. Only 6 percent of the labor force in the private sector is unionized. We have created an oligarchic state, a form of neo-feudalism. You have half this country living in poverty or near poverty. We have a looming climate crisis
They’re ready to go. They know something’s coming, and they’re totally prepared.

And I don’t see in that mechanism that they have put into place—and what they have done in terms of creating both a legal, a judicial, and a security system that is so powerful, so pervasive, and, as you said, far beyond anything the Stasi ever dreamt of—I don’t see how at that point appealing or believing that the system is reformable is anything but futile.

First note that this is not the whole reply: if you want that, click the initial link to this section. Second, I agree with the current facts that Chris Hedges mentions: In fact, the situation looks extremely bleak. Third, I also agree that the hope that the present - factually oligarchic, factually plutocratic - system of government "is reformable" is rather naive.

Then again, I am not much impressed by Zinn's arguments, and that not because they are false, for I think he is mostly factually correct, but because he doesn't quite seem to see how imperfect men are, and how wavering their courses are.

And besides (1) I simply do not think that preaching revolution in the present United States will be successful in any sense, except that it may put quite a few in jail, and (2) anyway I am rather restrained in pleading for a revolution, for the simple reason that almost all revolutions have failed, and usually produced a quite different system than the actual revolutionaries faught and died for.

Here is another exchange between Scheer and Hedges:

SCHEER: (...) I certainly would not give a blank check to the founders. But I would say there is something in that tradition that is invaluable. Invaluable. And the notion of distrust of government, distrust of the powerful—.

HEDGES: The division of power. That’s key.

SCHEER: Yeah. But the idea that it has to be checked, and the belief that ordinary people are capable of understanding their circumstance—. And I agree with you. The definition of ordinary people was limited.
Here one problem that neither Scheer nor Hedges really face is the stupidity and ignorance of most Americans.

For example: I have seen Bill Maher - who is one of the very few who says Americans are, by and large, and with exceptions, stupid and ignorant - several times say that "60% of all Americans believe in the literal truth of the story of Noah's ark". I do not know whether this particular example is true, but I do know that I also did not see any of Bill Maher's guests protest.

In more general terms: I am afraid that a considerable majority of the American people is quite willing to give up most of their rights, and most of their laws, and most of their principles, because they believe (falsely, but they are the - well deceived, well propagandized - majority) that they are threatened by terrorists.

It is silly; it is cowardly; it is not based on genuine information - but it is believed by a majority of the least gifted, most brainwashed, and most ignorant of Americans - who perhaps also wouldn't mind seeing most prominent leftists arrested, simply because they disagree with them and perceive them as nuisances.

Here is a fine bit by Robert Scheer:
SCHEER: I mean, I can tell you—just let me say one little personal thing. I worked in the post office to go through college. Okay? Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, his father worked in the post office, okay? He came out of that experience and said, I’m going to be as rich as anybody can be, ‘cause I don’t want to end up in the post office. Alright? I had the opposite experience. I felt the people working with me in the post office, many who were vets from World War II, Korean War, and so on, I felt, you know, these people are as smart as anyone I ever meet in the university or anywhere else. They’re being deceived. They’re being lied to. They’re not being given the information. If we can give them the information, if we can raise these issues, if we can invoke the best parts of our tradition, then we got a shot, okay, and we can reverse some of these laws.
I like this because I like the motivation, even though I also doubt that there will be an American majority who really insists on rational and reasonable things, and not because I think that is impossible, but especially because I know each and everyone of them has been effectively brainwashed, and most these days believe they are proud consumers without allegiance to anyone, who can do what they want - which is an illusion, but one many believe.

Here is a fine bit by Hedges:
HEDGES: Right. But I would argue that at that point, however flawed the system was—and we both understand it was deeply flawed—the Constitution was a living document. At this point—I mean, Stalin had one of the most enlightened constitutions ever written. And so all of these things remain true on paper, but they’re not a judicial reality. I mean, we now live in a country where the military—and this is another direct violation of the Constitution—can come in and carry out extraordinary rendition on the streets of American cities against American citizens deemed to be terrorists by the government, held in military facilities, and stripped of due process. I mean, that’s just one of many examples.
Yes, indeed - and the government's menials can mostly do what they want because most of the population does not know most of their rights nor most of the duties a government does have under the Constitution.

I grant there are quite a few protests, and I am not talking about the more intelligent of these. I merely say that few know what I think they ought to know -  but OK, I did get a university education and I do have a high IQ, but again I know either fact is true only of a minority.

Here is another exchange between Scheer and Hedges:

SCHEER: Okay. So I think your—you’ve talked about my being—making a real contribution. Your unique contribution is to call out the enablers of a move towards fascism. And without them, there cannot be—

HEDGES: That’s right.

SCHEER: There cannot be. What happened in Germany was that the good Germans went along. That—we know that. That’s really what Hannah Arendt—that’s what is meant by the banality of evil, okay, that people went along because their careerism trumped their integrity, because their fear trumped it. And that of course is what the surveillance state is expecting and has expected.

This makes two important points. First, I like it that Scheer says Hedges' contribution is "to call out the enablers of a move towards fascism", because that is true of Hedges, while I also think that the real danger threatening nearly all Americans is the arisal of fascism - and see above in case you doubt this: it has arrived - it is merely still a bit hidden.

Second, it is a plain matter of fact that most Germans did go along with Hitler, certainly until 1939. This can be explained in various ways, and indeed also excused in some ways, but it is a fact.

Here is another bit of Scheer:

SCHEER: But where we disagree, where we disagree is that I feel inspired by the—. What’s the right word? I want to say non-sellout, but that’s too meek. By the wonderful moments of our history, by the saving grace of a Daniel Ellsberg or Chelsea Manning and so forth.

And what are they doing? They’re doing the same thing that dissidents did in the Soviet Union. The dissidents in the Soviet Union were really appealing, originally, to the promise of socialism that was betrayed. After all, the promise of socialism was not to implement a system more coercive than what the tsar had, right?

This does not much inspire me, and not because I do not admire dissidents, and especially in the Soviet Union: I do. It doesn't much inspire me because I know there were only very few dissidents in the Soviet Union; because their lives were
hard and difficult; and because most were arrrested and silenced.

I know there always will be, so long as there are human beings like there have been now for a 100,000 years, a minority of persons who are brave, intelligent, and more rational than not. The main problem I have is that this is and always
has been a minority.

Here is the last bit I will quote:

SCHEER: What I say in this book is you’re betraying the basic, positive, most thrilling notion of the American experience, which is the notion that we individuals are the ones that are guarding freedom, not you guys who are in power, and we are obligated as citizens to challenge you at every turn, you have all the power. That is the requirement of our Constitution whether the Supreme Court acknowledges his or not.

I agree with that.


P.S. Jun 1, 2015: Michael Hayden is called Hayden, not Hayes.


[1] These are simple facts, and the main reason for these facts is that my father was a communist since 1934 or 1935 (as was my mother, though she started a bit later), and that communists were much discriminated in Holland (where they also were the only ones, next to a few Christians and very few socialists, who did resist the Nazis).

Incidentally, my father was one of only two Dutch communists who was knighted (a few months before his death), which again gave the family no money whatsoever.

I am one of these, though I realize that being rational and being political are not easily unified consistently. (If given the choice, mine is for rationality.) Maybe I will write about this later.

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