July 27, 2013
Crisis: Hedges, Wyden, subversives, health care, Black,  Smith
  "Those who sacrifice liberty for
   security deserve neither."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
    "All governments lie and nothing
    they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

Prev- crisis -Next

1. Chris Hedges: ‘The Horror, the Horror’
Sen. Ron Wyden On NSA Spying: It's As Bad As Snowden

America's real subversives: FBI spying then, NSA
     surveillance now

4. Why Do People Think US Health Care is Corrupt?
5. Bill Black: Is it Legal Malpractice to Fail to Get Holder to
     Promise Not to Torture your Client?

6. A Pox on Optimists!
About ME/CFS


It still is the case that sleeping remains quite difficult for me. This also makes my life rather difficult, at the moment.

Sleeping did improve, some, lately, but I do not know whether it lasts. (It's mostly pains of various kinds that keep me awake or wake me up: eyes, arms, legs. It's not "nerves".)

Presently it is 25.5 degrees Celsius where I am, in my house in Amsterdam, and there was a small thunderstorm, that is supposed to be the beginning of the end of the heatwave, that lasted 7 days. Hmm...

Today there is another issue of the
crisis series, and I start with the last of 7 items produced by the The Real News around Chris Hedges; turn to Senator Ron Wyden who said Snowden was quite right; then turn to Amy Goodman in an article in the Guardian; briefly treat a Health Care article on the corruption of the U.S. health care; and end with two items of Naked Capitalism, one on torturing and one that places a pox on optimists, that I mostly agree with, and that not because I am a pessimist but because the - postmodern - optimism is nearly always false and phony.

1. Chris Hedges: ‘The Horror, the Horror’

This is the last in a 7 part series on The Real News - that I hope lasts: they're good - and it consists of a series of questions:

It was a good series, and these are good questions.

Let me also say why I tend to agree more with Hedges than with others, though I am neither a socialist nor a religious believer, as he seems to be: He is a rational and smart man, who really did the heavy work, as a journalist reporting on wars.

This also is brought out by the very first question:
[PAUL JAY] So the first question is: to what extent are the majority of the people in the United States wittingly or unwittingly complicit in or responsible for the many crimes committed across the globe by their government in their name?

CHRIS HEDGES, JOURNALIST AND WRITER: I would say very few Americans--and the exception would be probably those in the Armed Forces and those who work for contractors or the diplomatic service--actually grasp the dirty work of empire. Having spent 20 years of my life on the fringes of empire and seen how empire works, Conrad was right. It's the horror, the horror. What is it that drones and hellfire missiles due to human bodies? Those images are rigorously censored. We never see them. We don't understand what is done in our name. Instead, we're fed this patriotic myth of glory and service and sacrifice and honor and heroism, terms that when you're actually there on a battlefield become hollow if not obscene.

Incidentally, "Conrad" is Joseph Conrad, the Polish-English writer, and the horror is a quote from him.

I recommend that you read or see all of it.

2.  Sen. Ron Wyden On NSA Spying: It's As Bad As Snowden Says

Next, Senator Ron Wyden, who spoke on July 23:

This starts as follows:

When the Patriot Act was last reauthorized, I stood on the floor of the United States Senate and said, “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon. When the American people find out how their government has interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.”

From my position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I had seen government activities conducted under the umbrella of the Patriot Act that I knew would astonish most Americans. At the time, Senate rules about classified information barred me from giving any specifics of what I’d seen except to describe it as "secret law"—a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, issued by a secret court, that authorizes secret surveillance programs; programs that I and colleagues think go far beyond the intent of the statute.

Note the key word here, next to "classified": "secret", "secret", "secret", and "secret" - and that is one of the reasons these laws and decisions are so extremely bad.

He also said:
So, today I’m going to deliver another warning: If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it. I’ll have more to say about the consequences of the omnipresent surveillance state, but as you listen to this talk, ponder that most of us have a computer in our pocket that potentially can be used to track and monitor us 24/7.
Since I think this is a very important speech, I am going to quote part of it, but you should know you should read all of it, and that what you get here are loose pieces, that are only printed in the order they appear, but without intermediate materials.

So here goes - and I quote by indentation:

When Oregonians hear the words "secret law," they have come up to me and asked, “Ron, how can the law be secret? When you guys pass laws that’s a public deal. I’m going to look them up online.” In response, I tell Oregonians that there are effectively two Patriot Acts ­­the first is the one that they can read on their laptop in Medford or Portland, analyze and understand. Then there’s the real Patriot Act—the secret interpretation of the law that the government is actually relying upon. The secret rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have interpreted the Patriot Act, as well as section 702 of the FISA statute, in some surprising ways, and these rulings are kept entirely secret from the public. These rulings can be astoundingly broad. The one that authorizes the bulk collection of phone records is as broad as any I have ever seen.
Indeed, and the first and main objection to that is that it is done in secret.
He also said:

It is a fundamental principle of American democracy that laws should not be public only when it is convenient for government officials to make them public. They should be public all the time, open to review by adversarial courts, and subject to change by an accountable legislature guided by an informed public. If Americans are not able to learn how their government is interpreting and executing the law then we have effectively eliminated the most important bulwark of our democracy
Quite so! And he said:
Without public laws, and public court rulings interpreting those laws, it is impossible to have informed public debate. And when the American people are in the dark, they can’t make fully informed decisions about who should represent them, or protest policies that they disagree with. These are fundamentals. It’s Civics 101. And secret law violates those basic principles. It has no place in America.
Again: Quite so! But now consider what is the case:
Outside the names of the FISA court judges, virtually everything else is secret about the court. Their rulings are secret, which makes challenging them in an appeals court almost impossible. Their proceedings are secret too, but I can tell you that they are almost always one­sided. The government lawyers walk in and lay out an argument for why the government should be allowed to do something, and the court decides based solely on the judge’s assessment of the government’s arguments. That’s not unusual if a court is considering a routine warrant request, but it’s very unusual if a court is doing major legal or constitutional analysis. I know of absolutely no other court in this country that strays so far from the adversarial process that has been part of our system for centuries.
This means that precisely where it counts most: the right of every American citizen to be treated as a citizen rather than a slave whose all and everything must lie open to his master, these rules have been broken, in secret, no doubt on purpose, because almost no American citizen would have allowed this (if they understood it).

And this Wyden also explains very well:

Now that we know a bit about secret law and the court that created it, let’s talk about how it has diminished the rights of every American man, woman and child. (..)  If you know who someone called, when they called, where they called from, and how long they talked, you lay bare the personal lives of law­abiding Americans to the scrutiny of government bureaucrats and outside contractors. This is particularly true if you’re vacuuming up cell phone location data, essentially turning every American’s cell phone into a tracking device.
Indeed. Wyden rightly concludes:
Authorities this broad give the national security bureaucracy the power to scrutinize the personal lives of every law­-abiding American. Allowing that to continue is a grave error that demonstrates a willful ignorance of human nature. Moreover, it demonstrates a complete disregard for the responsibilities entrusted to us by the founding fathers to maintain robust checks and balances on the power of any arm of the government.
Quite so! He adds:
As we have seen in recent days, the intelligence leadership is determined to hold on to this authority. Merging the ability to conduct surveillance that reveals every aspect of a person’s life with the ability to conjure up the legal authority to execute that surveillance, and finally, removing any accountable judicial oversight, creates the opportunity for unprecedented influence over our system of government.
Yes - and with governments it generally is the case that what can be abused will be abused. And there is enormous potential to be abused:
Without additional protections in the law, every single one of us in this room may be and can be tracked and monitored anywhere we are at any time. The piece of technology we consider vital to the conduct of our everyday personal and professional life happens to be a combination phone bug, listening device, location tracker, and hidden camera.
Incidentally, I seem to be one of the few who does not have such a contraption, but that is - very much - by the way. Mr Wyden also rightly says:
But the fact of the matter is that senior policymakers and federal judges have deferred again and again to the intelligence agencies to decide what surveillance authorities they need. For those who believe executive branch officials will voluntarily interpret their surveillance authorities with restraint, I believe it is more likely that I will achieve my life­long dream of playing in the NBA.
As I said: For governors and governments it is generally true that what can be abused will be abused, not only in the U.S. but anywhere. Wyden says:
We are failing our constituents, we are failing our founders, and we are failing every brave man and woman who fought to protect American democracy if we are willing, today, to just trust any individual or any agency with power greater than the checked and limited authority that serves as a firewall against tyranny.
Quite so! And not only that:
And let’s be clear: the public was not just kept in the dark about the Patriot Act and other secret authorities. The public was actively misled. I’ve pointed out several instances in the past where senior officials have made misleading statements to the public and to Congress (..)
Defenders of this deception have said that members of Congress have the ability to get the full story of what the government is doing on a classified basis, so they shouldn’t complain when officials make misleading public statements, even in congressional hearings. That is an absurd argument. Sure, members of Congress could get the full story in a classified setting, but that does not excuse the practice of half truths and misleading statements being made on the public record.
And there is this - which to me strongly suggests this also never was the point of getting these data:
Meanwhile, I have not seen any indication that the bulk phone records program yielded any unique intelligence that was not also available to the government through less intrusive means. When government officials refer to these programs collectively, and say that “these programs” provided unique intelligence without pointing out that one program is doing all the work and the other is basically just along for the ride, in my judgment that is also a misleading statement.
The reason they want the data is that they want a U.S. cleansed from their opponents, and because the men and women doing it have been corrupted by their power.

Finally, Wyden returns to the fallacy of secrecy:
I don’t take a backseat to anybody when it comes to protecting genuinely sensitive national security information, and I think most Americans expect that government agencies will sometimes conduct secret operations. But those agencies should never rely on secret law or authorities granted by secret courts.
As I said, and as I think you will agree: This was both a very good and a very clear speech, and it definitely deserves to be read in full.

3. America's real subversives: FBI spying then, NSA surveillance now

This is a not very long bit by Amy Goodman, not on her own site "Democracy Now!" but in the Guardian:
It concerns the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's speech "I have a dream" and connects this to who are the real subversives.

4. Why Do People Think US Health Care is Corrupt?

This is a bit different, though I am still concerned with the US. It is from Health Care and asks the question:
The answer is that it is corrupt, indeed to a far higher extent that the health care in Europe. It is also considerably more expensive.

5.  Bill Black: Is it Legal Malpractice to Fail to Get Holder to
              Promise Not to Torture your Client?

Finally, two pieces from Naked Capitalism, although the first is originally from New Economic Perspectives:
This starts with the following question:

One of the things I never expected to read was a promise by any United States official that a potential defendant in a criminal prosecution by our federal courts “will not be tortured.”

The idea that the Attorney General of the United States of America would send such a letter to the representative of a foreign government, particularly Russia under the leadership of a former KGB official, was so preposterous that I thought the first news report I read about Attorney General Holder’s letter concerning Edward Snowden was satire. The joke, however, was on me. The Obama and Bush administrations have so disgraced the reputation of the United States’ criminal justice system that we are forced to promise KGB alums that we will not torture our own citizens if Russia extradites them for prosecution.

Quite. Also, there is another point involved here that I have raised before, that wasn't raised in this piece or in the comments: It is probably not necessary to torture Snowden, since he can be drugged.

6. A Pox on Optimists!

And finally there is this, by Yves Smith, that I like:
There are several reasons - for me - to like it. First, there is the start:
I’ve had it with optimism. Optimism, at least US style, got us into this mess. It gave us 30+ years of indulgent parenting in which self-esteem was considered to be more important than skill acquisition, self-discipline, cooperation, and learning to cope with adversity. It’s led to widespread magical thinking, that if you had the right attitude, you’d surely get ahead. Notice how everyone looking for a job is obligated to fake that they have passion? The Greeks understood that passion was an affliction, something you got when you were on the receiving end of Eros’ arrow and as a result developed an insane, insatiable fixation on whatever you saw next, which in a best case scenario might be an unattainable but fetching female, and if you were unlucky, might be a goat.
Yes, indeed - except that in my experience it is 40+ years, and started in the Sixties.

Next, because Yves Smith also objected to an Ira Charnus article, that might as well have been written 40+ years ago, though it was praised and quoted by TomDispatch.

She ends with an interest in Stoicism, and there are currently 268 comments, but she misses the Cynics and the Epicureans, and especially Lucretius. But it doesn't really matter: the main point is that the naive, magical wishful thinking that is at the bottom of so much modern "optimism" - the "We Are All Leaders! We Are All Winners!" type - was contradicted, for that is a false, dishonest, fundamentally unthinking mode of feeling, that even denies there are bound to be many losers in a world with winners (namely by redefining losers as "the last but one winner" etc.).

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2] .

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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