Nov 2, 2016

Crisis: Surveillance, Pirate Party, Rich Exploiters, Neofascism for the Rich
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Report: Arab Gulf States Are Surveiling, Imprisoning,
     and Silencing Activists for Social Media Posts

2. Meet Birgitta Jónsdóttir: The Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer
     Who Has Helped the Pirate Party Reshape Iceland

Too Smug to Jail
4. The American Way: Socialism for the Rich, Free
     Enterprise for the Rest

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 2, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is on something I have been expecting since 2005 (Dutch link): In the Gulf States now "hundreds" of people have been arrested because their opinions differ from their rulers. I think the same threatens in Europe and the USA; item 2 is about the Icelandic Pirate Party (but note Iceland has slightly over 300,000 inhabitants); item 3 is about a piece of intentional bullshit by The Economist that favors the rich; and item 4 is a good article on the rich and on how they succeeded in winning most of the things they wanted since the early 1970ies.

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It was OK for two days now, but again didn't work out in Holland yesterday...

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. Report: Arab Gulf States Are Surveiling, Imprisoning, and Silencing Activists for Social Media Posts

The first item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
  • Report: Arab Gulf States Are Surveiling, Imprisoning, and Silencing Activists for Social Media Posts

This starts as follows:

Dissidents, journalists, and activists in the Gulf face retaliation, from censorship to imprisonment, for posting their beliefs on social media, argues Human Rights Watch in a new campaign and report called “140 Characters.”

“Gulf States are intimidating, surveilling, imprisoning, and silencing activists as part of their all-out assault on peaceful criticism, but they are seriously mistaken if they think they can indefinitely block gulf citizens from using social and other media to push for positive reforms,” Sarah Lee Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch wrote.

I say. I have been warning for this since 2005 (in Dutch), and now we have
arrived: In the Gulf States the states' terrorists from the secret services and the police are rounding up people who have stated their beliefs with computers.

And I must say I consider Sarah Lee Whitson's remark - what shall I say? well... - totally irrealistic: Of course the secret services, the police and the military in the Gulf States can do what they want.

And note that the secret services, the police and the military in the Gulf States know everything there is to be known about almost anyone with a computer or cellphone. Thanks to computers and the internet. [2]

Here is some more:

Social media’s popularity is expanding in the Middle East; over 17 million people opened up new Facebook accounts in the first quarter of 2014, according to a study conducted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government. Use of Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, and other platforms is also on the rise.

“Hundreds” have been jailed or worse in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates as a result of their social media use, Human Rights Watch writes.displeases

Yes, precisely. Well: If you live in the Gulf States and want to end up being tortured to death, by all means get a Fuckbook account etc. It will happen soon enough, and as the above says "hundreds" already "have been jailed or worse".

Fuckbook etc. will not help you. It will help the secret services, the police and the military: They have the money, and making money for its owner is what Fuckbook is about.

Not only that: There are enormous amounts of extremely fast search media and socalled "highly advanced surveillance tools" being used to track down everyone who said anything on an internet computer or a cellphone that displeases the rulers of the Gulf States:

In addition to condemning Gulf leaders for cracking down on social media activism since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the human rights group draws attention to their use of often highly advanced surveillance tools to track them down.

I do not think people should use internet computers or cellphones to communicate anything for which they risk being arrested and tortured. [3]

2. Meet Birgitta Jónsdóttir: The Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer Who Has Helped the Pirate Party Reshape Iceland

The second item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

  • Meet Birgitta Jónsdóttir: The Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer Who Has Helped the Pirate Party Reshape Iceland
This starts as follows:
In Iceland, the anarchist Pirate Party made big gains in Sunday’s national elections, raising the prospect it will form a coalition government with other left-wing parties. The Pirates won 10 seats in Iceland’s 63-member Parliament, up from three in the last election. The Pirate Party hopes to pass the world’s first crowdsourced constitution. Its core platform calls for direct democracy, freedom of expression, civil rights, net neutrality and transparency. The Pirates saw their popularity surge in April, after Iceland’s prime minister resigned following revelations he and his wife used an offshore company to conceal millions of dollars’ worth of investments. Women also won big in this weekend’s elections, taking 30 seats in Iceland’s Parliament—more than any single party. With female candidates winning nearly half of the seats, Iceland now reportedly has the "most equal Parliament in the world." For more, we speak with Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic Parliament and co-founder of the country’s Pirate Party. She is also a poet, activist, web developer and a former WikiLeaks activist. And she is the chairperson of the International Modern Media Institution.
I say. This gets reviewed mostly because of "the anarchist Pirate Party" which I am sympathetic to (a bit) because I have had it with ordinary political parties since 1970 (yes indeed: I have never voted in any ordinary election, simply because I consider every Dutch politician I have seen - left, right and center - a liar and cheat), and because I like some (liberal) varieties of anarchism. [4]

Then again, while I am interested, I also know that Iceland is a rather special country, and has just a little bit more than 1/1000th of the population of the USA (for Iceland has 332,529 inhabitants, that is also considerably less than half of the inhabitants of Amsterdam, Holland).

So here is Birgitta Jónsdóttir explaining some Icelandic backgrounds:

BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: (..) So, in Iceland, we have had some very serious crises. We had the fifth-largest financial crisis in the history of humankind in 2008, and it was a rude awakening for most Icelanders that everything they had sort of put their trust in had failed them. And so, ever since then, I have been part of trying to get different types of people to work together on a collective goal. One of the goals that the people were calling for in all the big protests in the wake of the crisis was that we would get to make our own constitution collectively. We have currently a constitution that is a 72-year-old draft, that was given to us by the Danish king when we gained our independence in 1944.

And there is this on some of the things she wants to achieve:
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: (..) Also, another thing that I feel very happy about is that before the elections, when it looked like I could be a prime minister, I could actually say—and I’m not it—but if I would ever be in that position of power, that I could take that office, I wanted to take that idea of power and bring it into the Parliament and seek to be the speaker of the House instead of the prime minister, because the parliaments in this world are so weak. They are governed and ruled by the executive branch. And that is a big problem with how we run our societies.
Yes, that is true. In fact, "ordinary democratic politicians" are parts of the ruling elites, and have mostly sold out - everywhere in Europe - to the rich and to the multi-national corporations, and are now selling out all European values for American ones, and those American ones are the values of the rich and the rich only.

But this is also why I do not think it will help much to get one more or less honest and more or less rational politician to lead parliament - but then I may be mistaken about Iceland.

There is this about Edward Snowden:

AMY GOODMAN: You—the Pirate Party has offered Edward Snowden political asylum in Iceland or wants Iceland to offer that?

BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Not asylum. We have—I actually wrote a letter, an open letter, when he sought asylum in Iceland, and urged him not to do it. I would—I have urged him to apply for citizenship, because you have much more—you have much stronger protections against extradition if you’re a citizen rather than asylum seeker. And the Pirate Party—actually, this was the very first bill the Pirates put in, in 2013, to offer him citizenship. And if he asks for citizenship, we will definitely put that bill forward, because it’s actually a Pirate Party policy.

I like that she tries to help Edward Snowden, and she is right citizenship is better than asylum, but my own advice to Snowden would be not to accept it, at least not now.

My reason is mostly that one of the best defenses Snowden has in Russia against the CIA is that it is Russia and the CIA will find it very difficult to set up a massive secret operation to kidnap Snowden, while this will be very much easier in Iceland.

There is this on the elections in the USA and on Donald Trump:

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Birgitta, your view, having just gone through your elections, of our elections in the United States of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?

BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Oh, my god. We have now a new saying called being "Trumpified," when it comes to bizarre things in the election campaign. But, of course, you know, you have somehow managed to create a system that it’s impossible for ordinary people to run. Thankfully, like, for example, the Pirate Party in Iceland only have normal people that just wants to be part of co-creating their society. I occasionally look at my Twitter stream and hashtag Trump or Clinton, and I just lose my faith in humanity because of the level of this campaign. It’s terrible that there is no possibility for a multitude of choices to, you know, be the most powerful person in the world.
I think she is mostly right (and I am happy I don't have Twitter), although it is not just that "there is no possibility for a multitude of choices": There also are
- at the very least - tens of millions of people in the USA who will vote but have no adequate ideas about democracy, the USA, the US government, the sociological, political or economic reasons for their misery, or about science - and when I wrote "
tens of millions" I was optimistic: Some - e.g. Chris Hedges - put it as 200 millions of Americans (at least).

And while I do not know, I have not much faith in the average capacities of humans to think rationally and to act reasonably.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article, and it is about anarchism:
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: But I just want to say just another last thing. And that is, we’re not really an anarchist party, because anarchism, in the minds of many people, is about black blocs or whatever. We are more about citizens’ engagement, to facilitate ways for the general public to take responsibility in society and to help facilitate change and to draw from the wisdom of the masses what is needed to do in order to prioritize how we run our society.
Hm. Here she is confused or dishonest: Whether or not the Icelandic Pirate Party is anarchistic certainly is not decided by what "many people" who are not members of the Pirate Party think about "anarchism".

I do not know whether they are anarchists (in any of quite a few distinct senses) but whether they are depends on their own thinking, and not on the prejudices of "many people".

But this is an interesting interview and it is recommended.

3. Too Smug to Jail

The third item is by Matt Taibbi on Common Dreams and originally on Roling Stone:

  • Too Smug to Jail
This starts as follows:

As we reach the close of an election season marked by anger toward the unaccountable rich, The Economist has chimed in with a defense of the beleaguered white-collar criminal.

An editorial called "Jail bait" is the latest in a line of salvoes  against what the magazine imagines is a wave of politically driven regulatory actions against corporate executives.

The piece makes many of the usual Wall Street arguments: locking up executives wouldn't do any good, populist passions are ignorant, etc. But this is the crucial passage:

"Most corporate crime is the result of collective action rather than individual wrongdoing—long chains of command that send (often half-understood) instructions, or corporate cultures that encourage individuals to take risky actions. The authorities have rightly adjusted to this reality by increasingly prosecuting companies rather than going after individual miscreants."

Yikes! This extraordinary argument is cousin to the Lieutenant Calley defense, i.e., that soldiers bear no responsibility for crimes they were ordered to execute. The Economist here would have you believe that there's no such thing as an individual crime in a corporate context.

I say, and Matt Taibbi is quite right that this kind of defense "is cousin to the Lieutenant Calley defense, i.e., that soldiers bear no responsibility for crimes they were ordered to execute", except (indeed!) that the real defense goes even further: The rich are too morally perfect to be blamed for anything whatsoever.

Then again, in fact this line is as old as corporations and was first identified in ... 1822 by William Hazlitt, who started his essay "On Corporate Bodies" as follows (nearly 200 years ago!):

On Corporate Bodies

Corporate bodies have no soul.

Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill. The principle of private or natural conscience is extinguished in each individual (we have no moral sense in the breasts of others), and nothing is considered but how the united efforts of the whole (released from idle scruples) may be best directed to the obtaining of political advantages and privileges to be shared as common spoil. Each member reaps the benefit, and lays the blame, if there is any, upon the rest. The esprit de corps becomes the ruling passion of every corporate body, compared with which the motives of delicacy or decorum towards others are looked upon as being both impertinent and improper.
The refinements of private judgment are referred to and negatived in a committee of the whole body, while the projects and interests of the Corporation meet with a secret but powerful support in the self-love of the different members. Remonstrance, opposition, is fruitless, troublesome, invidious; it answers no one end; and a conformity to the sense of the company is found to be no less necessary to a reputation for good-fellowship than to a quiet life. Self-love and social here look like the same; and in consulting the interests of a particular class, which are also your own, there is even a show of public virtue.

The whole essay is on my site, as is a lot more by William Hazlitt, and I strongly recommend you read all of it, for Hazlitt really understood what he was writing about.

Here is more by Matt Taibbi:

This is a line you hear a lot not only in the finance community, but among the lawyers who defend the likes of banks and pharmaceutical companies.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, now back in his comfy old role as a partner in a prominent corporate defense firm, said almost exactly the same thing in a speech in New York two years ago (emphasis mine):

"It remains true that, at some institutions that engaged in inappropriate conduct before, and may yet again, the buck still stops nowhere. Responsibility remains so diffuse, and top executives so insulated, that any misconduct could again be considered more a symptom of the institution's culture than a result of the willful actions of any single individual."

If "the buck stops nowhere" then it is completely incomprehensible why the CEOs etc. of multi-national and other big corporations are rewarded as if they are something very special. If "the buck stops nowhere", they ought to get paid no more than their average employee does. Instead, they often cash in on millions or tens of millions of dollars each year.

Here is more by Taibbi on "The Economist"s sick lies for the rich:

The magazine decries the backlash against banks after 2008 as irrational populism. It also praises prosecutors for not bringing cases against firms for things like selling faulty mortgage-backed securities, which are described as "perfectly legal (if unwise)."

But this just isn't true. Most of the Wall Street scams that triggered what The Economist would decry as "populist" outrage in recent years weren't just morally despicable, but bluntly illegal. Many were just skyscraper-level versions of street crimes.

A Mexican-American racetrack owner launders perhaps tens of millions for Mexican drug gangs and gets 20 years. HSBC does the same thing on a much grander scale and everyone walks.

Yes indeed: "Most of the Wall Street scams"(..)"weren't just morally despicable, but bluntly illegal. Many were just skyscraper-level versions of street crimes."

The last thing that I'll quote from this article is this - which is actually too friendly (in my and Hazlitt's opinions, at least):

It's bad enough that the self-pitying jerks on Wall Street who read magazines like The Economist think that paying taxes or giving employees benefits or adhering to any labor or environmental standards are unconscionable burdens. Now we're supposed to be so grateful for their sociopathic pursuit of profits that we should excuse them from the criminal code, too?

What a bunch of clueless weasels these people are. Always lecturing the poor for wanting a free lunch, when they're the ones begging for a free ride.

My reason is Hazlitt's: These are not "clueless weasels" nor are they (really) "self-pitying jerks": They are very conscious very rich frauds and thieves who have designed the game so that only the very rich very few get enormous loads of money, which they essentially stole from the non-rich by carefully designed tools of fraud, that go back to the whole notion of a corporation.

Corporations are and were tools of fraud from the very start: They are bunches of pirates and thieves who flock together because this gives them more riches, and who use the flocking to insist - very falsely - that none of them has any personal responsibility or personal accountancy.

If they were right, none of the frauds deserve to get a penny from their frauds.

4. The American Way: Socialism for the Rich, Free Enterprise for the Rest

The fourth item today is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams:

  • The American Way: Socialism for the Rich, Free Enterprise for the Rest
This starts as follows:

While it's not entirely clear who coined the phrase "socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the rest," its ability to provoke — and, more importantly, to describe — is beyond question.

There are numerous variations on the saying, but each articulates a reality of which we are all, in some way, aware: The bankers who wrecked the economy, for instance,  understood that they would be subjected to a different set of rules than those they were scamming with subprime mortgages. While the former have enjoyed the fruits of a bailout and an uneven recovery, those deeply harmed by the crash have struggled to regain anything resembling stability.

Matt Taibbi has termed this systemic disparity "the divide" — and as the divide between the rich and the poor, between the influential and the voiceless, expands, the economic order morphs to fit the resulting power dynamic.

Yes, indeed - and there is a good article by Matt Taibbi above. But I do not think "socialism for the rich" is a correct explanation, for it isn't socialism but neofascism [5] and indeed that gets explained as follows (in part):

Thanks to Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions that have vanquished the firewall that previously separated — however tenuously and ineffectively — corporations from the political process, the "winners" have been able to seamlessly convert their tremendous wealth into tremendous political influence. As recent scholarship has demonstrated, they usually get what they want.

To call this socialism for the rich is to say that those at the top of the income distribution accrue all of the benefits and sympathies of the state, including, of course, a robust welfare apparatus. Their relationship with the state, furthermore, is Item 1 is on something I have been expecting since 2005 (Dutch link): In the Gulf States now "hundreds" of people have been arrested because their opinions differ from their rulers. I think the same threatens in Europe and the USA; item 2 is about the Icelandic Pirate Party (but note Iceland has slightly over 300,000 inhabitants); item 3 is about a piece of intentional bullshit by The Economist that favors the rich; and item 4 is a good article on the rich and on how they succeeded in winning most of the things they wanted since the early 1970ies.effectively democratic; the views of the wealthiest are reflected in public policy.

Those outside of this privileged class, meanwhile, are forced to endure the strictures of market discipline; when they face difficult circumstances, they are lectured, not assisted. Their views are not permitted to influence public policy; they suffer what they must.
But again: This wasn't "socialism for the rich" but neofascism of the rich, which was intentionally arranged since the early 1970ies to free the rich from any legal, social or moral limitation or obligation NOT to use their enormous riches to exploit the non-rich as much as they can. That isn't socialism but is a kind of fascism.

And it wasn't "democracy" when "
the views of the wealthiest" - and only the views of the wealthiest! - "are reflected in public policy": Again this was neofascism (the rule of the very few very rich), and it was very consciously surrected as well.

Both are simply misnamed, also in a very confusing way. But the following is correct:

In Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer, as in his other work, Baker doesn't tiptoe, nor does he resort to jargon when plain language will do. He comes right out with it: The rich have rigged the economy, and we're all paying for it.

In the age of Piketty — and, indeed, in the age of Bernie Sanders, whose presidential campaign brought the notion of a rigged economy to the national stage — this is not a particularly radical claim, but it has radical implications. It suggests, in short, what we already know: That far from advocating hands-off government, the rich simply want to have their own hands, and no one else's, on the rule-making apparatus. It appears that they have achieved this goal.

Yes indeed: The very rich have succeeded in giving the rich a rigged economy in which only the rich profit, and everybody who is non-rich pays, and the very rich have succeeded in doing so by systematically destroying all legal rules that protected the non-rich from the grossest depradations and exploitations by the rich.

The following is also correct:

That high-income professionals are protected from competition "has nothing to do with the inherent dynamics of globalization: it is about the differences in the power of these groups."

"Bloated," also, is the pay of CEOs, which is determined not by "market forces" or by performance, but by a board of directors who, Baker notes, have "little incentive to hold down pay."

Precisely. Here is the ending of the article:

In short, it is political decisions, not invisible hands, that dictate the functioning of the market. And from trade policy designed for the benefit of capital and rich nations to the rapid deregulation and growth of the financial sector, these political decisions have disproportionately rewarded economic elites at everyone else's expense.

Baker's analysis provides much reason for pessimism: Wealth and political power are concentrated to such an extent that it will be difficult to force systemic change. It is unsurprising, then, that Baker qualifies his own proposals — from a move toward full employment to taxation of financial transactions — with the refrain, "this is not likely to happen anytime soon," given the power of those who benefit from the maintenance of the status quo.

But implicit is also reason for hope: That such concentration of economic and political power is not a natural state of affairs means that it can be radically altered.

Yes, indeed - and the "political decisions" are in the end ethical decisions (which in the present case make the few rich a lot richer, at the costs of the many non-rich).

I make the point (among other things) because the design of a human society is ethical (that is: it depends on decisions of what are good and bad, and what ends are desirable). It is neither necessary nor natural. And almost all human societies I know of have been arranged in intentionally unfair ways for the majorities by the minorities.

And Jake Johnson is quite right there are very good reasons for pessimism, precisely because the rich few have succeeded in bamboozling the many non-rich, and have arranged it so that they and only they profit, and did so
mostly by deregulating all laws that hindered them from making as much profit as possible.

Finally, as to the hope Johnson offers: I think the laws have been deregulated, and the rich have won. I also think there is some reason for some hope, but it mostly based on the greed of the rich: It is quite probable there will be another and much deeper economical crisis, and then it may be possible to get rid of the rich. [6]
[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] I have said so before: I liked computers and I liked the internet, but since both have turned out to give the keys to anyone's privacy, anyone's thinking, anyone's values, and eveything he or she did to the secret services of the state, I have radically turned around: Computers and the internet are the dominant tools of the neofascists.

If you want to be a real radical, you will have to learn to be so without using an internet computer or a cellphone. (And yes, I know that will be very difficult. It will also not be for me, but the reasons are that I am 66 and have been ill for almost 38 years. But yes, I do advice everyone who has radical opinions - of whatever kind - not to state them on an internet computer or a cell phone, for if you do, you might just as well have mailed them directly to the secret services.)

[3] See note [2]. On the moment there is not much risk you will be arrested and tortured for your opinions IF you live in Europe or the USA, but I do not know how long this state of affairs will last.

[4] I do, but I should admit that beyond some kinds of "liberal anarchism" (the link gets to "individual anarchism" in Wikipedia) I do not have adequate ideas, indeed in part because I like the liberal anarchism of the 19th Century, but have no truck at all with the postmodern, relativistic or nihilistic successors of the 19th Century anarchists. (I am also a realist and a scientist.) And I have no truck at all with the anarcho-capitalists.

Again I repeat a note and a link. The note is this:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or state b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

And the link is this : On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions

[6] And namely - as I more or less explained here - by making it impossible for anyone to amass more than 20 times as much as the poorest get, where the poorest also are guaranteed a decent life.

This is quite possible, but it does need an ethical decision that has to be translated into law. And as things are arranged at present in the world, this re-arrangememt will cost no one any cent, except for the 1% of the rich...

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