January 19, 2014

Crisis: Greenwald, Obama * 4, Whistleblowers, Snowden, Brooks

   "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

Greenwald and Maher Clash Over Edward Snowden
2. Rating Obama’s NSA Reform Plan
3. NSA Whistleblowers Criticize Obama's Proposed Reforms
4. NSA critics in Congress sense reform momentum after
     Obama speech

5. Scare Tactics Distort NSA Debate
6. Snowden's Actions Overwhelmingly Vindicated by
     Presidential Speech

7. Effort to 'Normalize' NSA Spying, 'Mollify Public' Rebuked
8. Obama Lectures Those Outraged by NSA Surveillance
     Programs in Speech Announcing Reforms

9. David Brooks’ Utter Ignorance About Inequality

About ME/CFS


This is yet another
crisis file, that was written two days after Obama's speech on the NSA. The following is a selection of eight files that deal with the NSA or Obama, and one that deals with the NYT's columnist David Brooks.

I think items 1, 3 and 7 are best, but you are free to disagree. Also, this is uploaded some hours earlier than is usual.

1. Greenwald and Maher Clash Over Edward Snowden

To start with, an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truth Dig:
In fact, there is little in the article, and it mostly introduces this clip, with Greenwald and Maher:

I do want to say something about Bill Maher, that relates to the beginning:
“I agree with what he says,” host Bill Maher said to guest Glenn Greenwald in a conversation about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden on HBO’s “Real Time” on Friday. “And then he says something totally batsh*t.”
This I really do not understand, and my reasons are these: (1) While I am quite certain I do not agree with everything Snowden says, he has not said anything so far that is in any way "totally batsh*t", and (2) also, given Obama's speech Friday, while he may not have said "something totally batsh*t", he certaintly came much closer to it than anything Snowden has said, indeed especially by not mentioning many things he ought to have mentioned, and by hardly doing anything - see below - while he had the chance: Presiident Obama is the president of the NSA much rather than of the American people, and he wants it that way, and is proud of it.

2. Rating Obama’s NSA Reform Plan

Next, an article by Cindy Cohn and Patrick Higgins, who did keep the scores on the scorecard I mentioned two days ago, which is nice:

You can check out the article and the reasoning yourself: Here is just a copy of the scorecard, followed by a small comment by me:

The comment I want to make is that I do not take the reforms as seriously as do Cindy Cohn and Patrick Higgins, and my main reasons for this are that (1) I have learned very well over the last five years that Obama is a very crafty propagandist, and one must check and doublecheck his sayings for the meaning that is often hidden, while (2) I think that anyway most of these changes are cosmetic: He really did not change anything fundamentally, and what he wants is that all of America continues being spied upon by his good friends of the NSA.

In any case, though, a score of 3.5 out of 12 is bad.

3.  NSA Whistleblowers Criticize Obama's Proposed Reforms

Next, an extremely short article on Common Dreams, that only introduces 8 minutes and 16 seconds of excellent video by the Real News:

Here is the video - and please note that the people talking in it are the real experts, who worked for the NSA a very long time, before falling out over privacy matters:

4.  NSA critics in Congress sense reform momentum after Obama speech

Next, an article by Dan Roberts in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Critics of National Security Agency surveillance are hoping President Barack Obama's call to stop government collection of telephone data will give fresh momentum to legislation aimed at banning the practice entirely.

On Friday, three new co-sponsors joined the 120 congressmen who have already backed the so-called USA Freedom Act, but their reform bill faces tough competition from rival lawmakers who claim the president's broad support for the NSA favours separate efforts to protect its powers.

Obama forcefully defended the NSA on Friday, in a speech that outlined a series of surveillance reforms but stopped well short of demanding an end to the bulk collection of American phone data, suggesting instead that efforts should be made to find alternatives which do not involve the government holding a database.

Again I protest the "forcefully": Cleverly, yes; ambiguously, certainly; propagandistic, surely - but not "forcefully", by my lights. But OK - I merely point it out (and would have agreed, if there were good reasons, even though I disagree with the contents).

Here is a little more:

“Some of his proposals I agree with, others I don’t. But the bottom line is real reform cannot be done by presidential fiat,” said the Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, an author of the Patriot Act who is leading bipartisan reform efforts with the Democratic senator Patrick Leahy.

“[Our] bill would make permanent the good intentions of the president and address some of the omissions in his speech where Americans’ liberties need greater protection. I remain confident that if brought to the floor for a vote, the USA Freedom Act will pass with broad bipartisan report.”

OK. Whether his confidence is justified remains to be seen, but there is bi-partisan opposition, and Sensenbrenner is right that "real reform cannot be done by presidential fiat".

Here is a final bit, from quite a lot more:

Republicans in Congress were more blunt in their assessment of the speech. “It's not about who holds it, I don't want them collecting Americans' information,” Senator Rand Paul told CNN.

International campaign groups were also more critical, arguing that there was little substance behind the president’s rhetoric.

“The big-picture takeaway from today's speech is that the right to privacy remains under grave threat both here at home and around the world," said Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “President Obama’s surveillance adjustments will be remembered as music on the Titanic unless his administration adopts deeper reforms.”

5. Scare Tactics Distort NSA Debate

Next, an article by David Sirota on Truthdig:

This is not a long article, and I only quote its concluding paragraph:

Disingenuous as it is, this bait and switch may yet work in a political culture based on manufacturing and spreading panic, regardless of whether that panic has anything to do with reality. If, though, this old trick doesn’t work—if evidence trumps the paranoia—then we will have reason to finally feel a bit optimistic. We will be able to celebrate not only serious legislative reforms of the NSA, but also a more mature political culture that is able to prioritize facts over fear.

Actually, all this depends on an if, that I do not see many reasons to consider satisfied. But Sirota is right that the president, and Feinstein, and Alexander have only scare tactics, propaganda and "Trust Us!" in reply to the criticism that they have been laying and defending a rising American police state.

6. Snowden's Actions Overwhelmingly Vindicated by Presidential Speech

Next, a brief article by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Though President Obama expressed no appreciation for the actions of 30-year-old Edward Snowden during his speech on his NSA reforms on Friday, those who support the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower say the speech itself was all the necessary evidence needed to establish his vindication.

I think that is mostly correct, in the sense that there would have been no presidential speech without many articles, and there would not have been manuy articles without Edward Snowden.

There are also fairly long quotes by McClatchy and Huffington Post in the article.

7. Effort to 'Normalize' NSA Spying, 'Mollify Public' Rebuked

Next, a good and clear article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows, quite rightly:

Appearing on a MSNBC morning news show ahead of President Obama's Friday speech on National Security Agency surveillance reforms, former NSA chief Michael Hayden explained that the president's goal for the day would not be to announce real reforms that would change the behavior of the intelligence community, but suggested a different purpose.

Obama's mission for the public address, said Hayden on Morning Joe, would not be to change what the NSA has been doing, but rather, he said, "to make people more comfortable about what it is that the intelligence agencies are doing."

Quite correct from Hayden's point of vew, and also quite correct as an adequate description of Obama's speech.

And indeed, from Hayes and Greenwald:

According to analyst and MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who has given platform to aggressive critiques of the NSA bulk data collection under Obama, the president seemed to use his speech as a way "to normalize the practice off bulk collection" to a national audience.

And in his response, journalist Glenn Greenwald described the speech and Obama's "reform" proposals "as little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public."

There is also this, from Assange:

These "national security whistleblowers have forced this debate," said Assange. "This president has been dragged—kicking and screaming—to today's address. He's been very reluctant to make any concrete reforms, and unfortunately what we see today is very few concrete reforms. What we see is kicking of the ball into the congressional grass; kicking it off into panels of lawyers who he will appoint and who will report back to him."

"We heard a lot of lies in this speech by Obama," said Assange who challenged the president's repeated assertion that the NSA has not abused its authorities. "Even the FISA court has said again and again, it has done just that."

And this, from Greenwald and Rattner:

In a tweet shortly after the speech, Greenwald, addressed what he thinks is one of the core issues related to bulk surveillance and privacy protections:

The major problem with Obama's announced approach, according to Rattner, is that the president has acknowledged the government shouldn't be allowed to employ the mantra "trust us" and has agreed that privacy protections should be "built in" to the legal framework of NSA surveillance. But, observed Rattner, "when we get to the actual speech, [what Obama is] really saying is: 'Trust us, trust us, trust us.'"

Greenwald's tweet was quite correct, and so is Rattner's observation.

And there is this:

"I want people to think," said [Senator Bernie - MM] Sanders, "If Nixon had the resources and the technology that now exists, think of what he would have done with it."

That was a key question, in fact, that ACLU's executive director Anthony D. Romero had asked ahead of the speech. “Keeping the storage of all Americans’ data in government hands and asking ‘lawmakers to weigh in’ [... ] is passing the buck – when the buck should stop with the president. If Congress fails to act on this matter, as it has on other critical policy issues, President Obama will effectively be handing off a treasure trove of all our private data to succeeding presidents – whether it is Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Hillary Clinton.”

Quite so. There is considerably more, and this is a good article you should read all of.

8. Obama Lectures Those Outraged by NSA Surveillance Programs in Speech Announcing Reforms

Next, an article by Kevin Gosztola on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The president delivered a speech on changes his administration would support to National Security Agency programs and policies, but what most stood out was not the announced reforms. It was how the speech focused on him and what he had done and how it seemed like he was lecturing Americans who have been outraged by what they have learned about massive government surveillance in the past six months.

President Barack Obama seemed deeply offended that anyone would think he had done an inadequate job or had enabled surveillance state policies.

Yes, indeed - though I am sure this was appearance only. But what Gosztola says about Obama's speech is quite correct, and he continues with quoting three brief paragraphs, in which Obama says at least 11 times "I".

There is quite a lot more, and Gosztola also does not use the word "forceful" at all, and he does give a good analysis.

9. David Brooks’ Utter Ignorance About Inequality

Finally, for those interested in David Brooks, who writes in the NYT, and seems an eager lackey of the rich, here is Robert Reich's take of one of his recent columns:
This starts of as follows:
Occasionally David Brooks, who personifies the oxymoron “conservative thinker” better than anyone I know, displays such profound ignorance that a rejoinder is necessary lest his illogic permanently pollute public debate. Such is the case with his New York Times column last Friday, arguing that we should be focusing on the “interrelated social problems of the poor” rather than on inequality, and that the two are fundamentally distinct.
Yes, indeed - and clearly the "problems of the poor" are a result of their being poor, which are problems of inequality. Reich continues with explaining why Brooks just does not face the facts, and ends as follows:
Unequal political power is the endgame of widening inequality — its most noxious and nefarious consequence, and the most fundamental threat to our democracy. Big money has now all but engulfed Washington and many state capitals — drowning out the voices of average Americans, filling the campaign chests of candidates who will do their bidding, financing attacks on organized labor, and bankrolling a vast empire of right-wing think-tanks and publicists that fill the airwaves with half-truths and distortions.
That David Brooks, among the most thoughtful of all conservative pundits, doesn’t see or acknowledge any of this is a sign of how far the right has moved away from the reality most Americans live in every day.
Again, this seems to me all correct, although I am quite convinced that Brooks does not acknowledge this, rather that he doesn't see this: He sees and rejoices, and then starts lying, so that he can keep rejoicing.



[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 Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)[2]

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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