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."
1. The Terrible Toll of
2. NSA actions pose 'direct
threat to journalism' leading
3. The Snowden Files by
Luke Harding – review
4. The Mobsters of Wall
5. America’s “We” Problem
6. Ellsberg: “I Am Grateful to
Snowden for Having Given Us
a Constitutional Crisis …
is the crisis file for February 15, 2014.
a Saturday today, and I was wise not to write an additional file on the
crisis yesterday (having produced 18 files yesterday: I must be feeling
a little better, at least), for I found very little today. But with
what I have from yesterday, there are again six crisis items, and
indeed most of them make a lot of sense.
I am not certain yet, but since tomorrow is a Sunday, I may write
tomorrow another general statement on the crisis. The previous one is
this: Crisis: Hypotheses
about the causes of the crisis and is from January 31, but that was in fact
a restatement from December 25, 2012, and was based on the fact that very,
very rarely sociological hypotheses have been so
well confirmed as mine, namely by Edward Snowden's revelations (that
started a half year later).
next general statement will be mostly on the several aspects of the
crisis, which were previously treated in Crisis +
DSM-5: It's deregulation, stupid!, from January 16,
2013, and on the question whether it still is crisis -
which may be a relevant question, since the Dutch NRC Handelsblad
opened last Friday with a full first page title (translated) "Growth
spurt economy gives hope: are the dark years passed?".
to give too much away: the crisis may be over for the millionaires, if
it ever was a crisis for them, which I deny, but it certainly continues
unabated for the poor and the (disappearing) middle class.
on to today's items.
1. The Terrible Toll of Secrecy
To start with, an article by Dan Froomkin on First Look Media:
Actually, this seems to
be the third publication of First Look Media, and it is good. It starts
The Intercept’s inaugural exposé, by my colleagues Glenn Greenwald
and Jeremy Scahill, illuminates the deeply flawed interaction between
omnipresent electronic surveillance and targeted drone killings –- two
of the three new, highly disruptive instruments of national power that
President Obama has pursued with unanticipated enthusiasm.
It's a good article, but
I do not quite agree with all, although I do agree with the first two
paragraphs, to which I add that these three "instruments of national power", viz. global electronic surveillance,
drone killings, and cyberwar, are all very recent applications
of quite recent technological advances, although I also add that global electronic surveillance was an
aim since the late 1960ies (as witnessed by my Crisis: propaganda
and Control: Brezezinski 1968 of 1 1/2 years ago).
All three (the third
being cyberwar) have a lot in common. Despite their staggering
implications, Obama has proceeded to establish the rules for them
unilaterally, almost entirely in secret, based on dubious legal
arguments, largely unchecked by judicial or congressional oversight,
and with a seemingly unshakeable yet remarkably unfounded faith in
But one of the many major
takeaways from the eight-month-and-counting exploration of the
trove of secret NSA documents Edward Snowden gave journalists is
that what may seem like good ideas within the confines of a like-minded
military-intelligence establishment look very different when exposed to
overdue public scrutiny.
Only then do you find out
they don’t work so well. Or that they aren’t really legal, or
constitutional. Or that they do more harm than good. Or that the
government relies on them too much, at the expense of things that might
As to the third and fourth paragraphs: No, I have never thought
these were good ideas, and have been opposed to them from the very
beginning, which for me dates back probably, and at least, to October 29, 2005 (in Dutch), when I
said that all these supposed "anti-terrorism" laws and regulations were
a mere scam and a pretext to institute state terrorism
on the Western populations, which I still think - and yes,
unlike most, I
read a lot of history and politics (<- a good list).
Then again, the rest of the article is quite good.
NSA actions pose
'direct threat to journalism' leading watchdog warn
Next, an article by Ed
Pilkington in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Yes, quite so. And this
is an important reason to oppose all surveillance that is not based on
a judge's personal decision of a personal case for which there is a
cause - or else to acknowledge that there are two kinds of people: Superpersons
like James Clapper, who are allowed to know all about everyone in
principle, and ordinary persons, whom he investigates, without
his disclosing anything about it, though they pay for his existence,
and they may disappear forever, if he, or the next NSA director, finds
them to have the wrong opinions.
The National Security
Agency’s dragnet of communications data poses a direct threat to
journalism in the digital age by threatening to destroy the confidence
between reporter and source on which most investigations depend, one of
the world’s leading journalism watchdogs has warned.
The Committee to Protect
Journalists, a New York-based body that promotes press freedom around
the world, has devoted the first two chapters of its annual
report on global threats to an assessment of the impact of the
NSA’s data sweep. Its internet advocacy co-ordinator, Geoffrey
King, warns that the NSA’s dragnet threatens to put journalists
under a cloud of suspicion and to expose them to routine spying by
By storing mass data for
long periods, the NSA could develop the capability to recreate a
reporter’s research, retrace a source’s movements and listen in on past
communications, King warns. “It could soon be possible to uncover
sources with such ease as to render meaningless any promise of
confidentiality a journalist may attempt to provide – and if an
interaction escapes scrutiny in the first instance, it could be
Anyway, there is considerably more in the article, which is good.
Files by Luke Harding – review
article by David Runciman in the Guardian:
This is in fact the
review of a very recent book by Luke Harding, called "The Snowden
Files". It starts as follows:
There are two big
mysteries at the heart of the Edward
Snowden story. First, why did he do it? That is, why did he
do it: here was a relatively nondescript, unassuming twentysomething,
with no apparent political backing, popping up out of nowhere
to take on the world's most powerful security organisation. By
incurring the wrath of the US government Snowden knew he was risking a
lifetime in jail. Even the journalists who worked closely with him were
confounded by his bravado, or naivety, or perhaps both.
These are good
questions, and according to David Runciman Luke Harding has written a
"breathless page-turner" to answer them. I do not know, for I have only
read a pre-publication from it, and I will not buy the book, since it
cannot contain much that I do not know.
Second, how did he do it?
Snowden wanted the world to know about the newfound and mindboggling
capacity of the NSA and its international partners to hoover up private
information, allowing them to snoop on almost anything or anyone.
Snowden nicknamed this surveillance operation the "Panopticon", after
Jeremy Bentham's all-knowing, all-seeing prison system. Yet that same
organisation failed to notice when Snowden, a mid-level contractor,
made off with its own darkest secrets, seemingly blind to the most
glaring security threats in its midst. What was going on?
There are some criticisms as well, such as this one:
Yet by following
the conventions of the political thriller – with its heroes and
villains, its nods to John le
Carré and All the President's Men – Harding perhaps does
his tale a disservice. What is so astonishing about the secrets that
Snowden revealed is how much in the dark everyone turns out to be.
No one really understands what it all means.
As I said, I have not
read Harding, and Runciman may be right about Harding's style, but he
is wrong that "No one
really understands what it all means": Many do, from Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras etc.
onwards, including me. We may not know most and certainly do not know
everything, but what we know is more than sufficient to be very, very
worried about freedom, democracy, and equality in the West, for
everything Clapper and his mates do, always covered by Obama, radically
and intentionally diminish these.
But overall, the review is quite positive, and you can read it all and
order the book as well, if you please, by consulting the last dotted
The Mobsters of
article by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams:
I like the title, though
perhaps "Mafia" would have been better, and the article starts as
Assume that you
ran a business that was found guilty of bribery, forgery, perjury,
defrauding homeowners, fleecing investors, swindling consumers,
cheating credit card holders, violating U.S. trade laws and bilking
American soldiers. Can you even imagine the kind of punishment you'd
Yes, quite so. And the only
reason for this is that the American government backs him just like he
backs them: it really is totally corrupt.
How about zero? Nada.
Nothing. Zilch. No jail time. Not even a fine. Plus, you still get to
stay on as boss, you get to keep all the loot you gained from the crime
spree, and you even get an $8.5 million pay raise!
Of course, you and I would
never get such outrageous, absurd, kid-glove pampering by legal
authorities. But, then, we're not the capo of JPMorgan Chase, America's
biggest bank and a crime syndicate that apparently is too big to jail.
There is considerably more in the article.
5. America’s “We” Problem
article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. And I think
the problem is basically due to the propagandists that are paid by the
rich, who seem to have convinced many ordinary men that they owe
allegiance to no one, except to the very rich and those who speak for
them, and can rape the rest, all with the end of becoming millionaires
America has a serious
“We” problem — as in “Why should we pay for them?”
The question is popping
up all over the place. It underlies the debate over extending
unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food
stamps to the poor.
It’s found in the
resistance of some young and healthy people to being required to buy
health insurance in order to help pay for people with preexisting
Unfortunately, the very great mass of these would be millionaires, who
now already are as egoistic and greedy as they would be when they were
millionaires, will never become millionaires, simply because
they have been had, and because there is no place for them at the top
of the pyramid, that is the shape of every complicated society:
Reich has various explanations but he seems to miss the fact that
nearly all these greedy would be millionaires have been totally deceived about the nature of
the society they live in: it really is a pyramid, and there really
can't be more than 1 in 20 at most who is fairly to very rich,
and therefore at least 19 out of 20 will be middle class or poor, whatever
happens, in the type of society we live in.
Then again, he says, quite correctly:
The pronouns “we”
and “they” are the most important of all political words. They
demarcate who’s within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who’s
not. Someone within that sphere who’s needy is one of “us” — an
extension of our family, friends, community, tribe – and deserving of
help. But needy people outside that sphere are “them,” presumed
undeserving unless proved otherwise.
But this again is
incomplete, and ought to be completed by Orwell's remark:
"Actions are held
to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does
them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages,
forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery,
assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its
moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected
Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419,
written in May 1945.)
Of course, Orwell rejected
but unfortunately the ordinary average these days believe and practice
it, taken in as they are by the propaganda they are daily submitted to,
and thus they may well destroy all of society, simply because they have
been convinced that they, like greedy swine, owe neither
allegiance nor solidarity to none, except to the rich and a few
they know personally.
It's a sick and egoistic and greedy schema, but it is what many
ordinarily stupid people have learned from their advertisements and
their political pundits.
Ellsberg: “I Am
Grateful to Snowden for Having Given Us a Constitutional Crisis …
Finally, a subject that
I could get at various places, but for which I use an article at
Washington's Blog (with a shortened title):
In fact, it comes from a
debate between Ellsberg and a (former) NSA counsel, Stewart Baker, on
Here is Daniel Ellsberg, with the boldings done by Washington's Blog:
[Snowden] came to
believe, as I did, having made those oaths
initially and the promises of nondisclosure, which were not
oaths, but they are contractual
agreements not to do that, which he later violated, as I
did—he made those in good faith, by everything known to me, and came to
realize, I think, eventually, as he said, that a nondisclosure
agreement in this case and the secrecy conflicted with his oath, so
help me God, to defend and support the Constitution of the United States,
and it was a supervening—a superseding authority there that it was his
responsibility really to inform the public, because, as he said, he
could see that no one else would do it.
Congress knew [that
Clapper's statements that the NSA doesn't spy on the American people]
hey were false, the people he was talking to, the dozen, even the man
who had asked the question, Senator Wyden. What we saw, what Snowden
saw and what we all saw, was that we couldn’t rely on the
so-called Oversight Committee of Congress to reveal, even when
they knew that they were being lied to, and that’s because they were
bound by secrecy, NSA secrecy and their own rule. The secrecy
system here, in other words, has totally corrupted the
checks and balances on which our democracy depends.
And I think the—I
am grateful to Snowden for having given us a
constitutional crisis, a crisis instead of a silent coup, as after 9/11
an executive coup, or a creeping usurpation of authority. He
has confronted us. He has revealed documents now that prove that the
oversight process, both in the judiciary, in the FISC, the secret
court, and the secret committees in Congress who keep their secrets
from them, even when
two of them, Wyden and Udall, felt that these were outrageous, were
shocking, were probably unconstitutional, and yet did not feel that
they could inform even their fellow colleagues or their staff of this.
What Snowden has revealed, in other words, is a
broken system of our Constitution, and he’s given us the opportunity to
get it back, to retrieve
our civil liberties, but more than that, to retrieve the separation of
powers here on which our democracy depends.
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, that the governors do not
rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the
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 one of the
citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the
supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to
be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I
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: