"Those who sacrifice liberty for
security deserve neither."
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
1. Chris Hedges: ‘The
Horror, the Horror’
2. Sen. Ron Wyden On NSA Spying:
It's As Bad As Snowden
3. America's real subversives: FBI spying then,
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
6. A Pox on Optimists!
It still is the case
that sleeping remains quite
difficult for me. This also makes my life rather difficult, at
Sleeping did improve, some, lately, but I do not know whether it lasts.
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:
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?
Incidentally, "Conrad" is
Joseph Conrad, the Polish-English writer, and the horror is a quote
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.
I recommend that you read or see all of it.
2. Sen. Ron Wyden On NSA Spying: It's As Bad As
Next, Senator Ron Wyden, who spoke on July 23:
This starts as follows:
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.
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.
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
So here goes - and I quote by indentation:
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:
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
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:
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
This starts with the following
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.
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.
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
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
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
ME/CFS (that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: