2, 2013
Crisis: Greenwald, Reich, Shutdown * 2, Snowden
  "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. Reddit Q-and-A on NSA reporting
3. Tea Party Forces Government Shutdown
4. After this budget chaos is Uncle Sam ready for assisted

5. The Work of a Generation
About ME/CFS


This also is a bit earlier than otherwise, and again the reason is mostly that I could. (Also, the weather is still good where I am.)

And again the first five items are reports on various aspects of the crisis, that include one by Greenwald and one by Snowden, and besides there is attention for Robert Reich's film, and for the current shutdown of the U.S. government.

1.  Reddit Q-and-A on NSA reporting

The first item today is a Glenn Greenwald piece in the Guardian:

This is Glenn Greenwalds's report on a Reddit Q-and-A, that he did together with Janine Gibson, who works for the Guardian in the US, and that went on for 90 scheduled minutes, and scored the following in that brief time:
And indeed this last link is to Reddit, for anyone who may want to read all or most of it. I am not one of those, but it's nice to have the link and indeed the material is interesting - it just is a lot. So I will here and now concentrate on the first dotted link, which is Greenwald's report in the Guardian.

He deals in his response with two questions, of which the first is about Edward Snowden. Here is part of his reply:

"One of the most darkly hilarious things to watch is how government apologists and media servants are driven by total herd behavior: they all mindlessly adopt the same script and then just keep repeating it because they see others doing so and, like parrots, just mimic what they hear.

"All whistleblowers are immediately demonized - they have to be "crazy" lest people think that there is something valid to their view that they saw injustices so fundamental that it was worth risking their liberty to expose.


"The script used to do this to Snowden was that he was a 'fame-seeking narcissist'. Hordes of people who had no idea what 'narcissism' even means - and who did not know the first thing about Snowden - kept repeating this word over and over because that became the cliche used to demonize him.

"The reason this was darkly hilarious is because there is almost no attack on him more patently invalid than this one. When he came to us, he said: 'after I identify myself as the source and explain why I did this, I intend to disappear from media sight, because I know they will want to personalize the story about me, and I want the focus to remain on the substance of NSA disclosures.'

Quite so - and I would like to repeat that the one to distribute the 'fame-seeking narcissist' was, at least in my experience, mostly Mr David Brooks of the New York Times, who to my knowledge has neither been taken up on this, nor answered. In any case, here is Greenwald on Snowden:

"He could easily have been the most famous person in the world, on TV every day and night. But he chose not to, selflessly, so that he would not distract from the substance of the story.

"How the people who spent months screaming 'fame whore' and 'narcissist' at him don't fall on the ground in shame is mystifying to me. Few smear campaigns have ever proven more baseless than this one."

I think the first paragraph is quite correct. As to the "mystifyingness": The main reason is that such people do not have any independent and personal set of criterions for truth, and indeed probably could not even start to rationally answer the question of what is truth. For such people, truth = what their superiors think, and that quite suffices for them, and indeed also comes natural to them. Also, having dealt with people some decades more than Glenn Greenwald has, my own experience is that this attitude is quite normal (and quite pernicious as well).

In fact, taking up the theme of my last statement: The other theme Greenwald highlights is how extremely relative the values of lots of "
Democrats, progressives, liberal bloggers, etc, were", when seen before and after 2008: Before 2008, Greenwald was a hero in their eyes; after 2008 he was, at best, a fool. The only thing that changed was who was the president, for the president did not change the policies of the previous president, even though he promised, and was elected on these promises.

Anyway - you can check this out for yourself, and also can check out the whole Reddit interview, in which quite a few interesting questions are answered.


Next, here is from Robert Reich's website the news that his film has been released:
And this is the video for the film (that only introduces it):

I do hope it gets seen, and seen a lot: I probably do not agree with Reich on several things, but he is a smart man.

Tea Party Forces Government Shutdown

Next, about the shutdown of the U.S. government. Here is an interview on Democracy Now! with Tim Murphy:
Note that he lists lots of changes, that will grow more and more serious as the shutdown lasts. And there are lots of things that will be shut down, as there are many people who will be sent home without salary. Here are a few:

AMY GOODMAN: Tim, you have a long list of what’s going to go down today, what are some of the government services that won’t be provided. Just share some of those with us.

TIM MURPHY: Sure, and I’ve touched on a few, but, you know, for instance, the National Park Service is closing 401 of its sites, so that obviously applies to things like, you know, sightseeing and hiking. It also applies to the—you know, the retirees and folks like that who essentially live at National Park Service, National Forest Service campsites. They have 48 hours now to relocate. You know, the U.S. Geological Survey is canceling all of its long-term scientific research. The same goes for agencies like NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency, which will no longer be able to regulate things like pesticides, which I think is something a lot of people care about. You know, we’ve touched on the 400,000 Department of Defense civilian employees.

And there are even—you know, there are even things that folks on the left side of the spectrum might be OK with and conservatives would be really upset with. So, for instance, the Bureau of Land Management is no longer going to be giving out permits for oil and gas leases or new oil and gas exploration. The ARPA-E, which is this Department of Energy Advanced Research Project program, they do things like squirtable batteries and deriving energy from algae and stuff like that. They’re shutting down entirely. And as are—you know, and the Bureau of Land Management is not going to be giving out permits for renewable energy, either.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission runs out of its funding stream in one week, so they can continue functioning as normal this week, but then they lay off, I think, all but about 20 people in their agency next week, and that could mean a reduction in inspections. We’re going to see a reduction in inspections of automobiles, a reduction of inspections in beef and grain. So a lot of the stuff we eat is no longer going to have that second look from federal inspectors. The FDA is going to slow down its research on drugs. And then this one, I think, especially as flu season gets going, the Center for Disease Control says it’s no longer going to be able to properly monitor outbreaks, both at home and overseas, and it’s not going to be properly—able to properly implement its flu season vaccination program.

And then it is not yet October 15, for then the debt ceiling may cut in, and create far more havoc:
TIM MURPHY: Yeah, and that’s the thing. As bad as the shutdown is—and it’s pretty bad, and it’s affecting all of these people—a debt ceiling would be far more—a debt ceiling—a failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far more catastrophic. And that comes on October 15th. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said, at that point we will no longer be able to meet our nation’s obligations, and unless Congress can raise the debt ceiling, which has been a fairly routine thing over the last few decades, then we run the risk of default. And if we get into a default, then the U.S. dollar runs the risk of no longer being the global currency, and, you know, we run the risk of plunging into a second recession and triggering kind of a whole new global economic crisis.
Note that as-is, this is a mere prediction. But it looks fairly serious to me, indeed especially because of the Republican Tea Party nutters, who are confronting the one thing Obama cannot trade away, and that he indeed has legally gained, and that also seems to be what by far the most Americans want, namely better health care, as exists in Europe.

After this budget chaos is Uncle Sam ready for assisted suicide?

Next on the same subject, a British voice, namely that of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian:
Here are his first two and a half paragraphs:

I am of the pro-American generation. To us America was the future. Europe was nowhere. We read, saw, heard, visited America. We studied and worked there. Some of us even married Americans. We were affiliates of the tribe. We bought into the exceptionalist legend.

America can sorely test that loyalty. We were taught that the federal constitution must take the rough with the smooth. It was the forge on which American diversity was beaten into unity. It was how a continent which might have fragmented into a myriad states – black, white, Hispanic, oriental, whatever – has remained one. That wise American historian, Arthur Schlesinger, used to say that its constitution waltzes democracy to the cliff-edge of disaster, peers into the abyss, but always pulls back.

This week it has danced to that edge. It beggars belief that somewhere which tediously calls itself the "most powerful nation on Earth" cannot beat a few AK-47s and has now failed the whelk stall test.
I would not have written the above, but that is in part because of my - fairly unique - background. In any case, that was just the opening, and Simon Jenkins is quite capable of seeing the many things that are wrong in the US:

America's 21st-century army lost contact with the Geneva conventions and degenerated into prisoner abuse and torture. Its internet industries collude with secret agencies to intrude on private citizens, guilty or innocent. Moral superiority has been debased by the paranoia of "they who are not with us are against us", and "the law-abiding have nothing to fear". America refuses to defer to supranationalism, to the United Nations or international courts.

Back home, US democracy seems to be malfunctioning, lurching towards corporatist oligarchy. Presidential elections are fought only in a dozen "swing states". The late Ronald Dworkin warned that the supreme court's "Citizens United" case, which refused to curb campaign spending, would enable big money to "buy out" democracy. Meanwhile the House of Representatives, author of this week's chaos, hardly honours its name, more gerrymandered, bribed and corrupted than any chamber in the free world.

The catalogue of woe seems endless, and America's friends find too much truth in the portrayal not to be alarmed by it. But it is time to return to Schlesinger's constitutional optimism.
At this point Jenkins has lost me. First, I don't like Schlesinger. Second, even if I liked him, you can't decide issues like this by appealing to faith-based sayings of historians, who tell you not to worry because "this still is a democracy". Third, especially not as there is not much of a democracy left in the U.S.

Then again, I have no definite prospects myself: It may again get passed. But if it isn't, "the
catalogue of woe seems endless", and not only for the Americans.

The Work of a Generation

Finally, I turn to Edward Snowden, who is in Common Dreams with a brief personal note that has the following title:
Here is its central paragraph:
A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people, but only by the people after full, informed, and fearless debate. Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge, and in my country, the cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile. If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government, but independent representatives of the public outside of government.
I mostly agree, except for the fact that I am more than twice as old as is Snowden, and I tend to have proportionally less trust in the judgment of "the people", mostly because I have seen all kinds of majorities fondly and surely choosing the false alternatives.

Even so, the inital statement is quite correct, as is Snowden's estimate that undoing the enormous amounts of rot that have been smuggled into governments' policies since 2000 will take at least a generation to undo it.



[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 machine) which is a disease that 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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