"They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
1. Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA
'repeatedly deceived the American
2. 8 Most Exceptionally Dumb American
the Twenty-First Century
Much Money to End Poverty in America?
4. Rage of
5. Senators Push 'Real, Not Cosmetic' NSA Reform
6. Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA
and the 'pathetic'
Today there are six items.
And I did not yet do anything about uploading the site, except
in the log sections (that together are some 235 MB, mostly in Dutch
until 2010, and then mostly in English).
Ron Wyden: NSA 'repeatedly deceived the American people'
First today, a Glenn
Greenwald piece, in the Guardian:
There are two things I want to
quote from it. First, there is this:
But there are two
members of that Committee who actually do take seriously its oversight
mandate: Democrats Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. Those two spent
years publicly winking and hinting that the NSA under President
Obama was engaged in all sorts of radical and abusive domestic
surveillance (although - despite the absolute
immunity protection they enjoy as Senators under the Constitution -
they took no action, and instead waited for Edward Snowden (who had no
such immunity) to bravely step up and reveal to the American people
specifically what these two Senators kept hinting at).
OK... I did not know about
their absolute immunity. It does make a difference. Second:
Indeed, if I had
to pick the single most revealing aspect of this entire NSA scandal -
and there are many revealing ones about many different realms - it
would be that James Clapper lied
to the faces of the Senate Intelligence Committee about core NSA matters,
and not only was he not prosecuted for that felony,
but he did not even lose his job, and continues to be treated with
great reverence by the very Committee which he deliberately deceived.
That one fact tells you all you need to know about how official
I do not know whether this is "the single most revealing aspect of this
entire NSA scandal", but I agree
it is itself a scandal: James Clapper clearly lied, and he
should both loose his job and be prosecuted - and any honest and
self-respecting senate would take care of this, precisely because he
is not allowed to lie to them.
But they allow this, and therefore they cannot be trusted. There are
quite a few more reasons, to be sure, but not lying under oath is of
8 Most Exceptionally Dumb American Achievements of the Twenty-First
I found the following on
AlterNet, but it is originally by Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch.com,
and it comes in tow with the next item:
In fact, this is mostly about
Tom Engelhardt's taking exception to Barack Obama's claim that the U.S.
and its people are exceptional. I leave that mostly to you, and agree
the whole notion is exceptionally silly, but I do take from it that the
spend $4-6 trillion on two “good wars” in
Afghanistan and Iraq against lightly armed minority insurgencies without winning or accomplishing a thing?
The main point, for me, it the
but I cited the rest because it is also true that it was remarkably
Now consider the next item:
Money to End Poverty in America?
Next, here is a piece by
Alexander Reed Kelly on Truth Dig:
This starts as follows:
The Census Bureau’s
annual income and poverty figures for 2012 show the percentage of
Americans living in poverty is essentially unchanged from the year
before, at 15 percent. That’s 46.5 million Americans, more than one in
five kids below age 18 and one in four under age 6.
Matt Bruenig at The
American Prospect did the calculations and determined it would take
$173.5 billion to bring those Americans just above the official poverty
line. For a family of four, that’s $23,555. That’s not a lot to live on, making the
target less than ambitious. So what would it take to vault 46.5 million
people to twice the poverty level? Double the cost—$347 billion?
So that's just utter
peanuts compared to the trillions wasted on Afghanistan and
Not only that (with my bolding):
It might be helpful to
put the $175.3 billion magic number in perspective. In 2012, this
number was just one-fourth of the $700 billion the federal
government spent on the military.
Eradicating or dramatically cutting poverty is not the deeply
complicated intractable problem people make it out to be. The dollars
we are talking about are minuscule up against the size of our economy. We
have poverty because we choose to have it. We choose to design our
distributive institutions in ways that generate poverty when we could
design them in ways that don’t. Its continued existence is totally
indefensible and our nation’s biggest shame.
And that is the point I
wanted to make.
4. Rage of the Privileged
Next, here is Paul
Krugman in the New York Times:
He quotes Thoma to the
and differential exposure to economic risk has caused one group to see
themselves as the “makers” in society who provide for the rest and pay
most of the bills, and the other group as “takers” who get all the
benefits. The upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social
insurance when we get little or none of the benefits?” and this leads
to an attack on these programs.
I agree with Thoma, although
he is misleading when he writes "The
upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social insurance when we
get little or none of the benefits?”": Clearly, they should pay because they are in the same
society, that they do not wish to collapse. One of their many
advantages is that paying a bit of their income in taxes not only helps
"to buy civilization", but also that doing so protects their own
Now to Krugman. He asks and answers as follows:
How, then, are
things even worse than he says? Because many of the rich are selective
in their opposition to government helping the unlucky. They’re against
stuff like food stamps and unemployment benefits; but bailing out Wall
Quite so! And not only that:
It’s much closer
to pure class warfare, a defense of the right of the privileged to keep
and extend their privileges. It’s not Ayn Rand, it’s Ancien Régime.
And while I do not really
believe in class warfare (it is a category
mistake), I do believe in criminal negligence of the privileged,
and also in their fundamental stupidity and their contempt for those
who are considerably or much poorer than themselves.
Senators Push 'Real,
Not Cosmetic' NSA Reform Bill
Next, I switch back to the
NSA. The following is by James Chamberlain on Common Dreams:
Here are the first two
A draft bill
announced by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Wednesday promises
to establish real, "not cosmetic" reform at the National Security
Agency, whose vast surveillance practices have gone largely unchecked.
Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, drafted by Sen. Ron Wyden
(D-Ore.), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), proposes a range of reforms that would
"end bulk collection of Americans' phone records, close a loophole that
allows the NSA to conduct 'backdoor searches' of Americans'
communications without a warrant, and create a 'constitutional
advocate' to argue against the government before the secretive court
that oversees foreign surveillance," as The Huffington Post summarized.
bill would also allow companies such as Yahoo and Google to release
hitherto undisclosed information about what kind of user data the
government has been requesting from them. Such companies have so far
claimed that they are barred from releasing that information.
Incidentally, it would seem as
if it is not certain that they are "barred from releasing that information", though I guess that is probably because
this also is covered by classified commands, which itself is an outrage.
But OK - something is or seems to be happening.
6. Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media
item that I owe to a written tip of Glenn Greenwald (and my recognizing
Seymour Hersh's name). It is by Lisa O'Carroll and in the Guardian:
This is quite interesting,
simply because Seymour Hersh is a real journalist, in his
seventies. Here are the first four paragraphs:
There is a lot more there, and
it is good. I quote just two more points, and leave it to you to find
Seymour Hersh has got
some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news
bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back
to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an
It doesn't take much to
fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US
presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the
Republican party as "the closest thing American journalism has to a
He is angry about the
timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the
White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.
Don't even get him
started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time
carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death
of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big
lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals
raid in 2011.
First, he correctly says:
He is certain that
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
"changed the whole nature of the debate" about surveillance. Hersh says
he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden
was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he
is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US
And second, here is the last
"The republic's in
trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple." And he
implores journalists to do something about it.
Quite so. Clearly, he is a
real journalist, and he is one of the few.
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, thay 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
It is more proper
that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same
principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some
particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and
the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I
quote 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: