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."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
To Screw The NSA
of data interception requests to GCHQ 'possibly
too large', says official
3. Remembering Aaron
Swartz: icon of the open web
4. Why The Three Biggest
Economic Lessons Were
5. Resisting the
Surveillance State of Mind
1% Have Gotten CHUMP CHANGE Compared to the
the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?
This is another crisis file, with interesting items (I think): The
NSA may get screwed on a state level; the GCHQ is investigated; there
is some action against global surveillance; three important economic
lessons that were "forgotten" (basically through greed); the very
richest got by far the most the last 35 years, illustrated with
striking graphics; and there is a really good article on playing.
To Screw The NSA
Also, this file got uploaded considerably sooner than is usual, mainly
because I feel somewhat well.
First, a video by The Young Turks that I think is quite interesting and
about a good idea:
The basic point is this:
In Maryland, and in Arizona, California, Tennessee, and Washington the states have introduced
bills that deny the NSA, that is: in these states, to have power
(electricity), and water (for cooling the servers, and for washing,
toileting etc.) and also may deny any contract to any firm who works
for or contracts with them, all because they oppose the Fourth
Amendment, and indeed they do.
As Cenk Uygur says: it is an original idea; it is supported by both
Republicans and Democrats; and it may work.
Also, neither he nor I thought of it. What will come from it still is
open, for the bills have only been proposed and not voted on, but I
find this quite interesting.
2. Number of data interception requests to GCHQ
large', says official
Next, an article by Ewen
MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
A bit later it is
remarked that GCHQ has to handle currently some 570,000 requests for
interception each year, which means that some 1 in 120 persons living
in Great Britain (or more realistically, given that I counted all,
including toddlers and 80 year olds: 1 in 80) is requested to be spied
on - which I consider a very high number.
Legislation governing the
collection of communication data by Britain's eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, is complex, the
senior official responsible for its oversight has said .
"It is an extremely
difficult act of parliament to get your mind round," said Sir Anthony
May, the interception of communications commissioner.
He was giving evidence to
a Commons home affairs committee that is nominally investigating
counter-terrorism but has broadened its inquiry into the intelligence
services, in particular the impact of the Edward Snowden
Here is one other bit of information that I liked:
The Ipsos Mori
poll, published in conjunction with a debate on privacy at King's
College London, found that 68% of those polled in Great Britain have
concerns about the way in which governments collect information about
them when they go online. An even higher number (76%) are concerned
about the way in which companies collect information about them.
I like this because this
is definitely due to Edward Snowden, and it shows more Brits are on to
spying, and are concerned about it, than I thought. Good!
There is more in the article.
3. Remembering Aaron Swartz: icon of the open
Next, an article by Alex Hern in the Guardian:
This contains a fairly long introduction to Aaron Swartz,
which you can read your self, and then moves to today (or yesterday):
February 11 has
become “the Day We Fight Back”.
This is a good idea, and
because I think so here is once again the web address:
In the UK, the protest
was launched at 11:30 with a thunderclap,
a mass call on social media for wider opposition to spying. That
opening strike was supported by users including Owen Jones, Graham
Linehan, and Tom Watson MP, and was organised in co-operation with a
range of civil liberties organisations including Liberty, English PEN,
Privacy International, Article 19 and Big Brother Watch.
The groups have together
launched the Don’t Spy On
Us campaign, calling on internet users across the UK to support a
six-point manifesto attempting to mitigate the damage caused by GCHQ’s
surveillance. Demands include no surveillance without suspicion, an end
to secret laws, a requirement for a right to redress, and judicial
rather than political authorisation for spying.
plus a list of the six eminently
reasonable points they are campaigning for - and I am quoting from
surveillance without suspicion.
Note these are all, perhaps
apart from the sixth point, eminently classical democratic
2. Transparent laws, not
3. Judicial not political
4. Effective democratic
5. The right to redress.
6. A secure web for all.
Any state which lacks these democratic rights is no longer a real
democracy, nor is it anymore a real state governed by laws : it has become a state governed by a few selected
politicians, who also mostly are bought by corporations, or so it seems.
The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten
Next, an article by Robert Reich, on his site:
Let me first
quote "The Three Biggest Economic Lessons" - and they are bold in
Reich's text, but have explanations that I skip (and that you may read
using the last dotted link):
America’s real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate
jobs and growth. If average people don’t have decent
wages there can be no real recovery and no sustained growth.
should also add that these were mainly Keynesian
points, and they also guaranteed 30 years of growth. Then Reich says:
Second, the rich do
better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing economy than they do
with a large share of an economy that’s barely growing at all.
Third, higher taxes
on the wealthy to finance public investments — better roads, bridges,
public transportation, basic research, world-class K-12 education, and
affordable higher education – improve the future productivity of
America. All of us gain from these investments, including the wealthy.
We learned, in
other words, that broadly-shared prosperity isn’t just compatible with
a healthy economy that benefits everyone — it’s essential to it.
gives a plausible explanation, that again you can check out yourselves.
My own thesis is that it is mostly deregulation, as explained
But then we forgot these lessons. For the last three decades the
American economy has continued to grow but most peoples’ earnings have
gone nowhere. Since the start of the recovery in 2009, 95 percent of
the gains have gone to the top 1 percent.
again, you may ask: But what caused that? Here I have two answers.
The first answer is that the deregulation explanation simply is the
best, because it refers to specific decisions, started under Carter and
Clinton, to take down certain laws, which enabled the banks to start
their filthy games (that led to CEOs taking home 300 times more
than their workers, instead of "merely" 40 times as much, as
was the case between 1946 and 1974) - and see item 6
The second is that if you do want an explanation for deregulation,
there are several, but the main ones are simply greed and dishonesty.
the Surveillance State of Mind
Next, an article by Norman Solomon on Common Dreams:
This starts as
Eight months after
whistle-blower Edward Snowden set off a huge uproar by shedding light
on the National Security Agency’s unscrupulous surveillance practices,
we are still learning about the vast extent of the snooping. Such
revelations are vital to inform the public and enable a democratic
process that could hold the government accountable. But they are
accompanied by a very real danger: We may come to see privacy as a
thing of the past.
basically is a survey article, of which I will quote one point, that
concerns the sincerity of Obama:
The mind-boggling scope
of the NSA’s surveillance continues to make front-page news as a
political story. But its most pernicious effects are social and
psychological. We are getting accustomed to Big Brother. Our daily
lives are now accessible to prying eyes and ears no farther away than
the nearest computer or cellphone. Unless we directly challenge
the system of mass surveillance now, the ruling elites may understand
our complacency as consent, with results that extend the reach of
surveillance and its damaging consequences. Even as it grows more
familiar, this bulk collection of data is corroding civil society.
is a lot more, and I agree with the basic thesis that this is a political
and not a technological problem, and it should be solved in an
open, transparent, non-secret way.
The mistrust and cynicism
due to regular surveillance only gets worse as top officials resort to
mendacity to defend it. “We don’t have a domestic spying program,”
President Barack Obama declared on “The Tonight Show” in early
August, two months after the NSA scandal broke. He insisted, “There is
no spying on Americans.”
This lying became part of
a whole dissembling repertoire. Five months later, in his much
ballyhooed Jan. 17 speech about the NSA, Obama was still in deception
mode, proclaiming, “The bottom line is that people around the world,
regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is
not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”
1% Have Gotten CHUMP
CHANGE Compared to the .1% …
Next, an article by Washington's Blog:
In fact, this can be
seen as a continuance of the "trickle
down" item on February 10, and it consists of two more graphics.
First, here is a comparison of the average US incomes over the 100
years between 1913 and 2012 - and the red
line is the top 1% excluding capital gains, while the blue line is the rest including capital
Note that - as I said earlier, on Feb 10, there is a change point ca.
1978, with two decisions of the Supreme Court.
Next, it gets a lot starker with the following graphic. This charts the
following classes of US persons, over the 100 years between 1913 and 2012 - and
here capital gains, if any, are included for all:
dark blue: Top 1%
: Top 0.5 %
: Top 0.1 %
light blue: Top 0.01 %
Again you'll see that for the circa 50 years
from 1931-1979 things were rather equal, though then also the 0.01%
made a lot more than the rest.
These charts were compiled by four economists for the World Top Incomes
Database. I am sorry they are not displayed very well, but you can get
the images by clicking on them and enlarge them, or go to Washington's
Blog and get larger versions. (But the main tendencies are quite clear
anyway, in the above figures.)
In any case, that is The Trickle Upwards US Economy in its full
glory: The very rich - the top 0.11 - got very much richer, at
the cost of nearly everyone else.
And this is what the Republican Party's spokesmen and its media represent as "fairness and justice for all".
7. What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?
Finally, something other than the crisis, namely playing,
which - as it happens - I have been interested in for more than 45
years. This is an article by David Graeber
(<-Wikipedia) on The
Baffler (<- Wikipedia):
I had not heard
of either before, which is why there are Wikipedia links, but I really
like this article, no doubt because it conforms to my own
(pre-)judgments for over 45 years.
It starts as follows:
My friend June
Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a
mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of
grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the
next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast
circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what
seemed like absolutely no reason at all.
the proof is - at the very least - a bit difficult, but this is
especially due to the assumptions that are usually made, which come
mostly from economists but which are widely shared:
animals play,” June had once said to me. “Even ants.” She’d spent many
years working as a professional gardener and had plenty of incidents
like this to observe and ponder. “Look,” she said, with an air of
modest triumph. “See what I mean?”
Most of us, hearing this
story, would insist on proof.
speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific
unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating
according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to
economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy
must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food,
securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive
success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute
proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.
this is - as I already saw clearly in the early Seventies - quite
rotten: Firstly, animals emphatically do not do "the same means/end calculations" that "apply to economic transactions". Secondly,
although this is not discussed here, "rationality" is emphatically not
the same as "maximizing profit", which is how it is defined in
economics, and also often outside it.
In any case, I have assumed, since the early Seventies, the following:
There is a lot
more to the article, including a good though brief introduction to Kropotkin's
"Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution" (which is vastly understudied); to
the philosophers Peirce and Whitehead (two favorites of mine); to
issues of determinism (which I think are mainly bogus, since there is
too little physical knowledge, but let that be); and more.
higher animals, at least, play, and like to play, because playing is
doing what you like for reasons you like.
reasons for playing are that (1) all higher animals have some liberty
to make choices and (2) playing helps them to find new ways to do
I advice you to read it yourself, at least if you are interested in playing - which was
defined by me as: "spontaneous
that is aimed at satisfaction of some end (like enjoying
oneself or others), and when done with others involves cooperation
and mutual consent".
is not all of consciousness,
but it is an essential part of higher consciousness, as was stressed by
Schiller, who indeed gets quoted:
"Man plays only
when he is in the full sense of the word a man, and he is only wholly a
Man when he is playing."
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
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.
note the whole file I
quote from is quite pertinent.)
(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: