"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."
war on terror is more than just a 'neat'
2. John McCain on Merkelgate:
Obama 'Should Have
3. Hazlitt: On
religious hypocrisy (in part)
It is today a Sunday,
and I found only two crisis items. I do not think the crisis is over,
and I also doubt there will be fewer crisis items, at least the coming
months, though the interest of the papers may shift to something more
popular - but yes: it is a Sunday.
The two items
I found follow below, and they are followed by the first quarter or so
of Hazlitt's "On religious hypocrisy", because I like it and the
warning seems to me to be quite correct.
NSA's war on terror is more than just a 'neat' hacking game
To start with, an article
by John Naughton in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
soldier, spy. And then there's Edward Snowden, who was a spy and then
became something else. Nobody's neutral about him. The other day I
heard a senior military officer describe him unambiguously as "a
thief". In Washington he seems to be universally regarded as a
traitor. Many people in Europe regard him as, at worst, a principled
whistleblower and, at best, a hero in the Daniel
That is not very interesting,
but it is the start of an attempt to get the big picture:
This is an interesting
question, and Naughton has little doubt:
We're now getting to the
point where we can begin to assess the bigger picture. What do the
Snowden revelations tell us about what's wrong with the NSA – and its
leading overseas franchise, our own dear GCHQ?
The first, and
most glaring, realisation is that the so-called democratic "oversight"
of these intelligence agencies is so inadequate as to be effectively
Naughton is also explicit
about not blaming Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and although I disagree, I agree
he also is a very minor player. Also Naughton gives a reason for the
inadequacy that is hardly material, namely that the computing power is
doubling every two years, and storage capacity is quadrupling every
This is not material because, while it explains why the spying agencies
now can spy on everyone, it doesn't start answering why they do,
or are allowed to: In the end this is due to policy,
very much rather than technology, indeed even if the policy
was, for something like ten years, looking the other way, classifying
documents, and relying on secret courts.
In fact, this makes the situation considerably more serious, for there
now are hackers and spies that steal everyone's personal data,
at least in the U.S., and who do so against the Constitution, but who
are covered by their governments and by many parliamentarians, and who
also get billions a year for doing so.
The second thing
that emerges from the Snowden revelations is how catastrophic the
concept of the "war on terror" has been.
Well...yes and no, but mostly
no, I'd say. The general point is that the "war on terror" was
fraudulent and false from the very start, since the security people -
NSA, GCHQ and others - wanted to monitor everyone from the
start and also from before 9/11 (as has been made clear i.a. by William
Binney who said, quite rightly in my opinion, that the NSA was and
indeed is "purposefully violating
Bush's (and Blair's) "war"
on terror was not a war in that sense. It was, and remains, a purely
rhetorical device, and it has no constitutional standing compared with
what happens in real wars.
What happened at 9/11 merely gave them an excuse to do it, but
indeed it is true that this was merely a "rhetorical device", and
besides a very sleazy and very dishonest one: To found the basis of
controlling the public on false assertions this is to battle
"terrorism", that almost none of the public has anything to do with.
Unfortunately, although there is more, this is about the limit of
Naughton's analysis. But OK: At least it was an attempt to reflect on
the bigger picture.
McCain on Merkelgate: Obama 'Should Have Apologized'
Next, an interview with John McCain in Der
Spiegel, by Mark Hujer and Holger Stark:
This is rather
interesting, also seeing McCain's position as a prominent Republican
and as a former presidential candidate. I'll select and comment some:
Well... yes and no: As I
have pointed out in the previous section, the NSA are not merely
private hackers, but are a heavily funded governmental agency, and the
fact that they can do it, is not a sufficient reason to
do it, especially as they are breaking the
Constitution, and are doing so in major ways, against hundreds of
millions of persons, and are protected by the government to do so.
McCain: I think we
could find that out in many other ways, especially amongst friends. You
don't have to invade someone's privacy in that fashion in order to
obtain that information.
SPIEGEL: Why did
the NSA do it then?
McCain: The reason
I think they did it is because they could do it. In other words, there
were people with enhanced capabilities that have been developed over
the last decade or so, and they were sitting around and said we can do
this, and so they did it.
Again mostly a slick answer, though I agree that "[t]here has not been sufficient congressional
oversight". But this lack
of oversight has been carefully engineered, and that was mostly done by
the government rather than by the NSA - and this would also not
have been known without Snowden's revelations.
SPIEGEL: Are the
intelligence services out of control?
McCain: There has not
been sufficient congressional oversight, and there has been an
absolutely disgraceful sharing of information that never should have
This I mostly agree
with, although it is obvious that you must trust people, and also
obvious that this is bound to fail sometimes. Next, there is also this:
McCain: (...) Why
did Edward Snowden have that information? And what are we doing as far
as screening people who have access to this information? It's
outrageous, and someone ought to be held accountable.
SPIEGEL: Who must
be held accountable?
McCain: The head
of the NSA, the president of the United States, the Congressional
Intelligence Committees, all of these contractors we pay that were
responsible for performing the background checks. There should be a
Again I agree, though I
add that Obama's administration has gone very far in protecting
Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, resign?
McCain: Of course, he
should resign, or be fired. We no longer hold anybody accountable in
Also, there is this about the tapping of Angela Merkel's phone:
Yes, although it seems
"conceivable" only in a slick and not very honest sense: It seems quite
inconceivable to me that the NSA can tap Merkel's
phone for 11 years while the presidents under whose
responsibility this happens did not know of this. That is: for 1 month
it is conceivable, though very odd, but not for 11 years. That is
SPIEGEL: Do you
think it's conceivable that President Barack Obama didn't know anything
about the monitoring of Chancellor Merkel's cell phone?
conceivable that he didn't know it, but the fact remains that he should
have known it. Responsibility always stops at the president's desk.
Finally - and there is more that I leave to you - there is this by
McCain on Snowden:
I don't believe pigs can
fly and don't believe Snowden has given the Russians anything, but the
last is a complicated assessment. But it seems McCain might be right
that Snowden will be able to stay in Russia indefinitely.
President Vladimir Putin will grant him asylum indefinitely. The
Russians know if they send him back that that's a lesson to other
people who might defect. I'm sure that Mr. Snowden has told them
everything that he possibly knows.
SPIEGEL: He denies
that and says that he did not take the NSA documents to Russia.
McCain: If you
believe that Mr. Snowden didn't give the Russians information that he
has, then you believe that pigs can fly.
In any case, this was an interesting interview, although it is a pity
McCain seems not to have been asked how he feels about the fact that
the whole interview would not have taken place without Snowden, whose
revelations also informed the world, including McCain, how out of hand
the NSA (and the GCHQ and others) are and have been, the last eleven
years, and how many data they stole "because they can" and
because they were heavily protected and no one was supposed to
know what they were doing, and indeed whose activities were mostly
unknown, until outed by whistleblowers, from Binney
Hazlitt: On religious hypocrisy (in part)
I have little material, I end today with a quote of one of my favorite
writers, William Hazlitt, who lived from 1778-1830, and who was the
greatest, or at least one of the greatest, English essayists.
Here is the beginning of his "On religious hypocrisy", first published
in 1817, in "The Round Table". I am quoting from my edition in
Everyman's Library, in which it is bundled with "Characters of
either makes men wise and virtuous, or it makes them set up false
pretences to both. In the latter case, it makes them hypocrites to
themselves as well as others. Religion is, in grosser minds, an enemy
of self-knowledge. The consciousness of the presence of an all-powerful
Being, who is both the witness and judge of every thought, word, and
action, where it does not produce its proper effect, forces the
religious man to practise every mode of deceit upon himself with
respect to his real character and motives; for it is only by
being wilfully blind to his own faults, that he can suppose they will
escape the eyes of Omniscience. Consequently, the whole business of a
religious man's life, if it does not conform to the strict sense of
duty, may be said to gloss over his errors to himself, and to invent a
thousand shifts and palliations, in order to hoodwink the Almighty.
While he is sensible of his own delinquence, he knows it cannot escape
the penetration of his invisible Judge; and the distant penalty annexed
to every offence, though not sufficient to make him desist from the
commission of it, will not suffer him to rest easily, till he has made
some compromise with his own conscience as to his motives for
committing it. As far as relates to this world, a cunning knave may
take a pride in the imposition he practises upon others; and,
instead of striving to conceal his true character from himself, may
chuckle with inward satisfaction at the folly of those who are not wise
enough to detect it. 'But 'this is not so above.' This shallow
skin-deep hypocrisy will not serve the turn of the religious devotee,
who is 'compelled to give in evidence against himself,' and who must
first become the dupe of his own imposture, before he can flatter
himself with the hope of concealment, as children hide their eyes in
their hands, and fancy no one can see them. (p. 128-9)
This is about the first
quarter of the essay. My reasons to have it here are my fondness of
Hazlitt's prose; to serve as a reminder of the character of especially
American religious politicians; and as a warning that, as a rule,
religious rule-giving is based on, at least, a double
both to others and to themselves. Also, religion has not made most men
wise and virtuous. 
 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.)
 In case you wonder: I had a completely
non-religious education, while my mother's family seems to have been
unbelievers since 1855 or so, when my grandmother's grandmother was
tricked out of her inheritance - a farm near Amsterdam - by Catholic
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.