"Those who sacrifice liberty for
security deserve neither."
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
1. David Miranda, schedule 7
and the danger
reporters now face
2. Snowden Wars Episode V: The
Liberals, Moderates Agree: Arrest James Clapper
4. The Books We’ve Lost
5. A Country Without Libraries
Today there is a series of links with quotations and comments by me -
and I say so, because yesterday there wasn't, for briefly before
finishing my piece that disappeared.
It is in part about the crisis, and in part also about important
consequences of the crisis that few people see, mostly because they
lack the education to see them, which they lack in part because of the
crisis and also because anyway higher education has been
vastly simplified since the 1970ies.
1. David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger
reporters now face
The following piece is by the editor of the Guardian,
Alan Rusbridger, and it is pretty absurd - and I am not talking
about the piece itself, but about the absurdities the English
government has permitted itself against the property and the rights of
At the beginning,
Rusbridger summarizes who are Greenwald and Miranda (and I wrote
about this yesterday, but my text disappeared when I had written it):
Next, he summarized
Miranda's arrest and detainment for 9 hours:
On Sunday morning David Miranda, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn
Greenwald, was detained as he was passing through Heathrow airport on
his way back to Rio de Janeiro, where the couple live. Greenwald is
the reporter who has broken most of the stories about state surveillance based on the leaks from the
former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald's work has
undoubtedly been troublesome and embarrassing for western governments.
But, as the debate in America and Europe has shown, there is
considerable public interest in what his stories have revealed about
the right balance between security, civil liberties, freedom of speech
and privacy. He has raised acutely disturbing questions about the
oversight of intelligence; about the use of closed courts; about
the cosy and secret relationship between government and vast
corporations; and about the extent to which millions of citizens now
routinely have their communications intercepted, collected, analysed
In this work he is regularly
helped by David Miranda. Miranda is not a journalist, but he still
plays a valuable role in helping his partner do his journalistic work.
Greenwald has his plate full reading and analysing the Snowden
material, writing, and handling media and social media requests from
around the world. He can certainly use this back-up.
Miranda was held
for nine hours under schedule 7 of the UK's terror laws, which give enormous
discretion to stop, search and question people who have no connection
with "terror", as ordinarily understood. Suspects have no right to
legal representation and may have their property confiscated for up to
seven days. Under this measure – uniquely crafted for ports and airport
transit areas – there are none of the checks and balances that apply
once someone is in Britain proper. There is no need to arrest or charge
anyone and there is no protection for journalists or their material. A
transit lounge in Heathrow is a dangerous place to be.
As I yesterday said, to
me both schedule 7 and the seizure of Miranda's properties appear criminal
to me, and indeed are so in terms of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights,
that do not speak of "transit lounges" or other places where
can pretend the laws do not apply.
Indeed, it seems to me that all of the first 11 articles apply, and so
does specifically article 12 - and I quote:
anymore in the present Britain ruled by David Cameron: There one can be
arrested and detained because one is a friend of someone who published
about the transgressions of the existing laws by the
American and British governments.
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference
with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon
his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of
the law against such interference or attacks.
Next, Rusbridger summarizes two months of his contacts with the British
A little over two
months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official
claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed
two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the
material we were working on.
This ended as follows -
which again, also because it did not happen in a transit
lounge, seems quite criminal to me:
And so one of the
more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two
GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the
Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled
bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing
Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as
we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.
Rusbridge assures his
readers that this will make no difference to the Guardian's reporting,
and his penultimate paragraph is this:
The state that is
building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best
to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see
that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat
to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it
comes – and, increasingly, it looks like "when".
Yes, indeed. Also, it
seems fair to add that many journalists these days are no better than
"journalists" in name only, for they serve as willing mouth pieces for
the doctrines of their states' governors, that are quite incompatible
with the existing laws and with the Declaration
of Human Rights.
Snowden Wars Episode V: The Surveillance State Strikes Back
Next, here is Kevin Drum writing for Mother Jones on the
You'll find he also quotes
Rusbridger extensively, in part overlapping
with my quotes. I only cite Drum's conclusion:
Yes, quite so. And I am not
I don't know how this
turns out any more than you do. In the end, maybe the centrifugal
forces of the internet really will win the day. After all, as
Rusbridger pointed out to the GCHQ folks, destroying a few hard drives
in London didn't make the slightest difference to the Guardian's
ability to report the Snowden story.
On the other hand,
Snowden himself is bottled up in Russia. Julian Assange is trapped like
a rat in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Wikileaks has been crippled
by concerted international sanctions. Bradley Manning will spend the
rest of his life in jail. And even the thickest-skinned journalists
will think twice before tackling sensitive subjects now that they know
their spouses, family, and friends are considered fair game for
harassment by any sufficiently annoyed security agency. If even the
president of Bolivia can't escape harassment, what chance do you have?
Moderates Agree: Arrest James Clapper
Next, an aside from The Young Turks, in the form of a
This is mostly an aside, and
is so mainly because it is very unlikely anything will be done
against James Clapper, even though he lied to Congress, and therefore
should be prosecuted - for men like James Clapper are quite as free to
lie to Congress under Obama's government as under Bush Jr.'s government.
But the point is well made, and indeed seems to be supported by the
majority of the American people (whose opinions are immaterial to the
American government, except if they are key-voters during an election -
and then they will be extensively and professionally lied to).
The final two pieces, of which this is the first, are by
Charles Simic, appeared in the New York Review of Books, and may seem
to be rather irrelevant to the crisis, and also may seem to be
mostly relevant only to lovers of books like myself.
In fact, they are an important symptom and sign of the crisis,
and also contribute to it:
This starts as follows, and
supports my own experience and those of friends of mine who exploit one
of the last decent second hand book shops in Amsterdam:
are disappearing in our day at an even greater rate than regular book
stores. Until ten years ago or so, there used to be a good number of
them in every city and even in some smaller towns, catering to a
clientele of book lovers who paid them a visit in search of some rare
or out-of-print book, or merely to pass the time poking around. Even in
their heyday, how their owners made a living was always a puzzle to me,
since typically their infrequent customers bought nothing, or very
little, and when they did, their purchase didn’t amount to more than a
There is rather a lot more,
but what I mainly want to quote is a quotation from Elijah Jordan that
Mr Simic gives. Jordan was a professor of philosophy at Butler
University, who lived from 1875-1953, who can not be found on
the internet in Wikipedia or by Yahoo.
Mr Simic quotes him from an article published in 1952, that also seems
to have disappeared, and is to the following effect:
There have always
been businessmen and business in the world. But never in history till
today was business accepted as a morally honorable activity for men;
never before was the businessman permitted to dominate the affairs of
men. Today the rule of the businessman, accepted, justified and
glorified, has become undisputed and absolute.
however, the activity of the businessman has always been questioned as
to its moral rightness. The formulation of this doubt has been the
negative or critical premise upon which every developed moral system
and every cultured religious system has been founded. The new fact,
therefore, in what is called modern civilization, is the acceptance of
business activity as morally honorable, the approval of the capacities
and the characteristics of the businessman, and the assumption that
these capacities are appropriate for rule and control of human affairs.
And as Mr Simic says, quite
extraordinary, I said to myself. Jordan (1875-1953), who was a
professor of philosophy at Butler University for many years, saw the
writing on the wall, pointing out already back then that business had
become the dominant force in our lives with all other human interests
in this country subservient to it. Religion, politics, government,
morality, art were all being asked to acknowledge its absolute right
and absolute power to be the final arbiter.
He says more I quite agree
with, which you should read yourself, and concludes
No wonder their
books are doomed to perish in the coming years. The fate of these
forgotten writers is a sad reminder that this will also happen to many
serious works of philosophy, history, fiction, poetry, and all the
other books collecting dust on their shelves.
Yes, indeed: I fear that is
going to happen - the effective disappearance of the printed book,
to be replaced by some superficial selection of these that is
maintained in pdf by Google, that is presently free, but that soon may
need payment, also for volumes that are ages old (if not for the books
than for the reading tool).
I fear Mr Simic, who is twelve years older than me, and persons like
myself, are the last of quite a few generations of genuine
book lovers, and also the last who had a decent
education: Those younger than us got a much worse
education, much of which may have taken place under the aegis that
that truth does not exist",
as was claimed by Dutch
professor M. Brandt, at the opening of the academic year 1978-1979,
in a public lecture, and as maintained by virtually
everybody working or studying in the Dutch universities - which
clearly makes it quite unnecessary to read almost any books, to
appreciate any higher civilization, or indeed to think rationally.
Indeed, in Holland hardly anybody reads a foreign language anymore,
other than English,
though between 1865 and 1965 many read three or five, since these were
taught at the Dutch high schools; the students who enter universities,
including engineering, do not know algebra anymore, and many
cannot add 1/3+1/4 without a computer of some kind (I have asked many:
most simply cannot), and anyway all get half of the
years for studying that were common the previous hundred years, and
attend universities where the IQ is much lower, that indeed almost
anyone can attend, if he or she has money, and has an IQ of 105
or so, in most "academic studies".
And in fact people younger than I am (I am 63), so my friends who still
run a second hand bookshop told
me - an excellent shop that
probably will close this year for lack of interest - hardly
read books anymore, that is: books other than Facebook.
Here is more by Charles Simic, also from the New York
Review of Books, from 2011:
This starts as follows:
It contains statements like
Outside of a
dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to
All across the United
States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or
curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago,
may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions
that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work.
Like many other
Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of
books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the
sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among
the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at
one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home.
Not just some thriller or serious novel, but also big art books and
recordings of everything from jazz to operas and symphonies.
Note that you simply cannot
do that on the internet: You need a title or an author's name, and
usually both, and you cannot browse as you could browse in a
library of real books, namely simply by selecting any volume,
from hundreds, thousands or tenthousands available ones, that
surrounded one physically and visually, and open it to see what it
It ends like this:
How many book
lovers among the young has the Internet produced? Far fewer, I suspect,
than the millions libraries have turned out over the last hundred
years. Their slow disappearance is a tragedy, not just for those
impoverished towns and cities, but for everyone everywhere terrified at
the thought of a country without libraries.
Indeed. Also, it is
not just that there are far fewer "book lovers": it is that
there are far fewer real readers and real independent minds.
And mind you: I am not "against internet". It also gives vast
opportunities, and does so especially to those who did get an
education, and know already what to look for (!!). I am against
and if one of the prices one has to pay for internet is the
disappearance of libraries and the scarcity of real books, this means
the effective triumph of the superficial, the stupid, and the
Which is what happened. And not because people are born more
stupid, but because they have been kept much more stupid,
namely by levelling
nearly all manner of education and by insisting, as happens and
happened the last 30 or more years in Holland, that "you do not need to
know anything because the computer will find it for you".
P.S. 21 aug 2013:
Corrected two "were"s to "where"s. And inserted an "only".
 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: