27, 2013
Crisis: Wyden, costly mistakes, poverty, privileged, senators, Hersh
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

Prev- crisis -Next

1. Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA 'repeatedly deceived the American

2. 8 Most Exceptionally Dumb American Achievements of
     the Twenty-First Century

How Much Money to End Poverty in America?
4. Rage of the Privileged
5. Senators Push 'Real, Not Cosmetic' NSA Reform Bill
6. Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic'
    American media
About ME/CFS


Today there are six items. And I did not yet do anything about uploading the site, except a little in the log sections (that together are some 235 MB, mostly in Dutch until 2010, and then mostly in English).

1. Sen. 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 Washington functions.
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 fundamental importance.

2.  8 Most Exceptionally Dumb American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century

I found the following on AlterNet, but it is originally by Tom Engelhardt on, 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 U.S. did
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 $4-6 trillion but I cited the rest because it is also true that it was remarkably useless.

Now consider the next item:

3.  How Much 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 Iraq. 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 following effect:
Rising inequality 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 incomes.

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 Street? Yay!
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.

5. 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 paragraphs:
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.

The Intelligence 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.

And besides:
The 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

Finally, an 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:

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 outsider.

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 terrorist".

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.

There is a lot more there, and it is good. I quote just two more points, and leave it to you to find the rest.

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 government's policy.
And second, here is the last paragraph:
"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. 



[1] 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 Greenwald:
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.)

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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