August 16, 2015
Crisis: Great Britain, Obama * 2, NSA & ATT, Videos with Gore Vidal

 "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


Britain Challenges Julian Assange’s Asylum in Ecuadorean
     Embassy as Sweden Vows to Continue Inquiry

2. Beyond Ironic, Obama's Pending Arctic Visit Invites
     Charges of Hypocrisy

3. In Secret Filing, DOJ Opposes Release of Hunger-Striking
     Gitmo Prisoner

4. NSA Spying Relies on AT&T’s ‘Extreme Willingness to

5. Some links to videos with Gore Vidal 

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 16, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 15 dotted links: Item 1 is about the grave injustice committed against Julian Assange by the British government; item 2 is about Obama's policy of saying one thing and doing the opposite (and not only as regards the climate); item 3 is about the gross and sadistic injustice committed by Obama and the US government against a starving prisoner who
should have been released in 2009 at the latest, and who has not committed any crime; item 4 is about a fine article that documents ATT's extremely willing cooperation with the NSA since 30 years; and item 5 continues yesterday's item
on Gore Vidal with my text on good political books plus 10 videos with Gore Vidal, which I thought (and think) quite interesting.

1. Britain Challenges Julian Assange’s Asylum in Ecuadorean Embassy as Sweden Vows to Continue Inquiry

The first article of today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González:
  • Britain Challenges Julian Assange’s Asylum in Ecuadorean Embassy as Sweden Vows to Continue Inquiry
This starts as follows:

Britain has announced plans to challenge Ecuador’s decision to provide asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy, saying the $18 million price tag for policing the Ecuadorean Embassy during Assange’s residency is "unacceptable" to the British taxpayer. In response, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it is saddened Assange’s confinement has lasted so long, adding that its government had offered "31 times" to facilitate an "open judicial process" in Sweden. This comes just a day after Swedish prosecutors dropped part of their sexual assault inquiry against Assange, but the most serious part of the probe remains in place even though he has never been formally charged. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for three years, where he’s received political asylum. He fears he will be extradited to the United States to face prosecution for his role at WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy.

I've written quite a few times about Julian Assange in Nederlog (last: here, here and here), who has now been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassey for over three years, while he has not been charged with a single crime, and while the Swedish prosecuter has, in effect, refused to see him in London for over three years, and also has refused to give him any guarantees he will not be delivered to the USA once he is on Swedish territory.

The real reason for the series of events I just sketched has nothing to do with sexual cases (which now have been dropped because they are outdated), nor with
an allegation of rape, and has everything to do with Wikileaks, which is headed by Julian Assange, that published documents that the US government desired to be secret (even though, or simply because, some imply crimes and war crimes have been committed by the USA, and even though, or simply because, it has not at all been settled Julian Assange committed any crime publishing these documents).

But the above quotation, and especially the first sentence:
Britain has announced plans to challenge Ecuador’s decision to provide asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy, saying the $18 million price tag for policing the Ecuadorean Embassy during Assange’s residency is "unacceptable" to the British taxpayer
shows how utterly sick and morally degenerate the British government and its menials are:

- The right of asylum is many ages old
- Both Great Britain and Sweden recognize diplomatic asylum
- It is the British government that decided to spend $18 million
- and now it hides behind what is asserts "the British public" supposedly feels

In brief: This is not justice but a travesty of justice
, that in fact is meant to lock
up Assange for life in the U.S. and to close Wikileaks.
2. Beyond Ironic, Obama's Pending Arctic Visit Invites Charges of Hypocrisy

The next article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
  • Beyond Ironic, Obama's Pending Arctic Visit Invites Charges of Hypocrisy
This starts as follows:

"Alaskans are on the front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century: climate change," President Barack Obama said in a video posted on the White House website Thursday, in which he announced an upcoming trip to the state to highlight the crisis of global warming. "Climate change once seemed like a problem for future generations. But for most Americans, it’s already a reality."

The words are nice. But some environmentalists have seized on the hypocrisy of Obama's rhetoric, given that he recently gave the final go-ahead for Royal Dutch Shell to drill for Arctic offshore oil in the Chukchi Sea near Alaska.

Climate activists and scientists alike have warned that Shell's spotty safety record, combined with carbon that would be unlocked through drilling and extraction, pose severe danger to the ocean ecosystem, climate, and frontline communities.

Indeed, the prospect of drilling in the Arctic while promoting the need to protect it is "like shooting rhinos to save them," Ben Schreiber, climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth, told the Huffington Post's Kate Sheppard.

Yes, indeed. It also is typical Obama: He says he has progressive ideals, because he knows his audience in majority likes to hear this; he does what his corporate financers (who are the real bosses in the U.S.A.) desire him to do. In a way, it is gross hypocrisy and deception, but for a politician saying one thing to please the majority of one's audience, while normally doing the opposite is probably completely "normal".

Indeed, Naomi Klein agrees:

But for now, the announcement merely seems to underscore what climate activist and anti-capitalist Naomi Klein said of Obama on Democracy Now! last month: "He's doing a very good job of showing us what a climate leader sounds like," she told DN! host Amy Goodman. "But I'm afraid we've got a long way to go before we see what a climate leader acts like."

Yes indeed. (And not only about the climate! It is the same about the bank managers; the pharmaceutical corporations; the TTP, TTIP and CISA; and Guantánamo, to name only some of the important things.)

3. In Secret Filing, DOJ Opposes Release of Hunger-Striking Gitmo Prisoner

The next article is - again - by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

  • In Secret Filing, DOJ Opposes Release of Hunger-Striking Gitmo Prisoner

This starts as follows:

In a maneuver described by constitutional rights experts as "rare and unusual," the Obama administration late on Friday submitted a long-awaited filing urging a federal judge not to order the release of a hunger-striking prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, whose condition has been described by his lawyers as deteriorating rapidly.

The filing was kept under seal, though the Justice Department said a public version will be released later.

According to the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, "U.S. officials said the objection to freeing Tariq Ba Odah, who is undernourished to the point of starvation, and the decision to challenge his legal gambit outside of public view, are indications that the Obama administration will fight tenaciously to stop detainees from seeking freedom in federal courts, despite Barack Obama's oft-repeated pledge to close Guantánamo."

Thirty-six-year-old Ba Odah has been held at Guantánamo since he was 23, and has been on hunger strike for eight years in protest of his indefinite detention. He has never been charged with a crime and he was cleared for release by a multi-agency review board in 2009.  He has been subjected to force-feeding and he reportedly weighs about 75 pounds.

That means he is about as starved and emaciated as my father got to be, as a political prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. The differences are that Ba Odah
has not been charged with any crime (while my father was a member of the communist party, which was a crime); that he has been starving for eight years now (which must be regarded as a very brave act); that some believe that the USA is a democracy; and that some believe Obama likes to close Guantánamo.

Here is the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR):

Because today’s filing is under seal, we cannot comment on its substance. However, we are deeply disappointed by this secret filing.  It is a transparent attempt to hide the fact that the Obama administration’s interagency process for closing Guantánamo is an incoherent mess, and it is plainly intended to conceal the inconsistency between the administration’s stated intention to close Guantánamo and the steps taken to transfer cleared men. The administration simply wants to avoid public criticism and accountability.

It is also unnecessary. There is nothing sensitive about this pivotal moment that needs to be withheld from the public. Mr. Ba Odah’s grave medical condition is not in dispute. Given that he has been cleared since 2009, there is no dispute about whether he should be approved for transfer. All the president has to decide is whether to exercise his discretion not to contest the motion and release Mr. Ba Odah so that he does not die.

To start with: Secret justice is not justice. (It may - in rare cases, and not in this one - be just, but is in any case not justice.) Next, after seven years of Obama, it is clear he never wanted to close Guatánamo (except perhaps in the very first day of his presidency, before Cheney or somebody else had explained
him who are the real bosses in the USA). And third, in the circumstances it
seems more likely that Obama wants Ba Odah - a man who weighs a mere 37 kiloos! - to die.

Here is the last quote I will give:

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Defense Department officials "say that not contesting Mr. Ba Odah’s lawsuit would create an incentive for other detainees to stop eating, too, causing problems at the military-run prison."

Of these alleged concerns, Shah said: "That’s an outrageous reason for depriving anyone of their liberty and it has no basis in international law."

"President Obama has long said that his hands are tied by Congress on Guantanamo," Shah added. "But Ba Odah's release was in his power to ensure. President Obama has effectively decided to continue detaining a desperately ill man that the government has never publicly indicated any intention of charging with a crime."

Of course, Shah is completely right: It is an outrageous - sick, immoral, sadistic - kind of injustice to refuse to release a man who hasn't committed any crime, and
who has been starving himself for many years now simply to obtain a release that
he is entitled to since 2009.

There is more in the article, that is recommended (though it will not make you happier (except - of course - if you are a sadist)).

4.  NSA Spying Relies on AT&T’s ‘Extreme Willingness to Help’

The next item is by Julia Anawin and Jeff Larson on

  • NSA Spying Relies on AT&T’s ‘Extreme Willingness to Help’

This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.

While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed NSA documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.”

AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the NSA access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.
And so on, indeed - but this is a good and quite long article that also is accompanied by (i) a good list of documents that provide background and
(ii) a timeline of "NSA's and ATT's Close Relationship Through The Years",
incidentally a very close partnership that started thirty years ago, in 1985.

This is a recommended article, that you should read all of.

5. Some links to videos with Gore Vidal

This last item is not an article but - mostly - consists of videos introduced by a long item I wrote for my Philosophical Dictionary:

In fact, this item is nearly 72 Kb and consists of a list of 63 books, covering 25 centuries, that relate to politics that are also - nearly all - well written. I think reading this list (brief summaries of the texts are also provided) will teach you a lot more than taking an M.A. in politics or philosophy, so I reproduce it once again, knowing full well few will care to read as much, or to read even a lot less (especially from paper). But for the truly intelligent and curious, here it is.

That was the introduction.

Now the videos (taken from three Nederlogs I wrote in 2012, but all verified that they work today). This is a good introduction to the man:

  • One on one, on Al Jazeera: Vidal interviewed by Kahn (25 min)
Here is a two-part series (if it is 3-part I haven't found the third part):
  • Gore Vidal on 9/11, war etc. - Part 1
  • Gore Vidal on 9/11, war etc. - Part 2
This is a good interview and may also be a good introduction to the man.

And this is a threepart series again, consisting of an interview with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), and a recording of a public speech in part 3:
  • Gore Vidal on Democracy Now! - 1
  • Gore Vidal on Democracy Now! - 2
  • Gore Vidal on Democracy Now! - 3

Finally, here is another three part interview by Amy Goodman, this time with Gore Vidal on Bush Jr, in no flattering but quite just terms. This may be the best series if you don't want to watch all: Sharp, courageous, true:

  • Gore Vidal - George Bush Presidency 1/3   (9.02)
  • Gore Vidal - George Bush Presidency 2 /3   (8.44)
  • Gore Vidal - George Bush Presidency 3/3    (5.34)    

The following is a link to what it says:

  • 1999 Gore Vidal interview about Smithsonian Institution
It is in fact a video of 82 minutes, in three parts: 10 minutes of introduction, and about 35 minutes of talk between Vidal and Wasserman, nearly all by the former, and some quite witty, followed by about 35 minutes of good questions with good and witty answers by Vidal.

Finally, here is a bit of text I wrote, also in August of 2012:

These are my words and phrasings (like the rest of this text) as it also is my summary of points Vidal raised, discussed, touched on, but probably also what Vidal thought. He also mentioned, already in 1999, in the linked interview - though indeed the main concerns, processes, and struggles can be traced much further back - quite a few of the important points of the present:
  • bad education ("U.S. of Amnesia": most US citizens have no historical knowledge)
  • bad health care
  • bad government (Bush Jr. is a moron, the effective real president was Cheney)
  • the - executives or owners of the rich, large, powerful - corporations rule the US
  • 2000 elections was a coup d'état (with help from the Supreme Court)
  • after that there were many bad appointments
  • "magna charta is gone"
  • habeas corpus is gone
  • Bill of Rights is being throttled
  • there is illegal government: the US military has been used against US citizens - legally forbidden since 1865 (also with drones)
  • there is effectively a dictatorship (Quote from Wikipedia: "In contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.")
  • there is just one party that comes in two flavours that are both right wing: See e.g. The Party-System, and also see Chesterton
  • there is no conspiracy, for there is no need: the members of the ruling elite think alike (and come from the same small group that were educated in the same universities and fraternities)
  • the (members of) elite despises the (members of) people (privately, not publicly, of course)
  • "internet will be taken over by the government - 10, 20, 30 years" (1999)
There is more I could list that Vidal mentioned or touched upon (in some of the videos that I saw the last days) but one interesting point about him is this patrician background: He knew JFK, he was Jackie K's cousin, and idem Jimmy Carter and Al Gore; GV is a son of a senator's son who was son of a senator; GV had a rich background; was well educated (but did not go to college: He went soldiering in 1943-45). He knows the rich and the powerful. About the Clintons he remarked: His was "a _____ watch": I forgot the ____ term: an equivalent of not good, careless; the Clintons had not grasped by 1999, according to GV, that in real fact they were and are placemen - lawyers acting for the real holders of power, the rich with large corporations.

Anyway - GV insisted that it are that kind of rich folks who effectively rule the US and also that they cannot be beaten without a major collapse of society. Indeed, like me, he thinks it's too late to turn back to the past: You can't undo what has (been) broken down (list of above points, and more) - "it'll take 25, 50 years to undo what the Bush-years" - 2000-2008 presumably - "have ruined". Which is optimistic. (Compare my argument that you need properly educated folks to produce properly educate folks: The conditio sine qua non is now almost wholly extinct. Interestingly, GV said that until ca. 1940 public education in the U.S. was quite good.)

So the future, socially, economically, politically in the West, is bleak, in all probable variants, and indeed in others: Too many people; too few resources; the apparently derailing (for human beings) climate - and much more specifically and here & now, more or less: Greece, Spain, Italy are going down economically; Syria is in civil war; Egypt, Libyia, Tunisia are in considerable internal trouble. It is a major mess & there are hardly competent governors/leaders/politicians. (If any of the countries of the European Union collapses economically, the rest may collapse, and what happens then is anybody's guess, but it won't be pleasant, and it may be horrific.)

The last bit between the two lines was written in 2012. We now are three years
further down the road, and I think the situation is, once again, a lot bleaker, in
spite of the fact that currently the rich (but not the 90% of the poor) make money buying and selling stocks.


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