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 truth about torture is
Obama never wants you to
Edward Snowden Changed Journalism
3. Right-Wing Publication Tries
to Claim That Obama Is a
4. Don’t Ask the Pentagon
Where Its Money Goes
5. Glenn Greenwald: hy
I still easily follow spoken Norwegian
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 23. It is a crisis log.
There are six items
with seven dotted links: Item 1 is about torture
and Obama's evident wish to not reveal anything about it; item 2 is about how Edward Snowden changed journalism;
item 3 is a - quite plausible - case that
Obama's policies (unlike his talk) are conservative; item 4 is about the Pentagon and its financial
irresponsibility; item 5 is the text of a talk by
Glenn Greenwald on privacy; and item 6 is a
personal item that will interest few, because it is about Norway and
Norwegian: I still both read and listen to Norwegian and understand
what is said (in spite of the fact that the last Norwegian I heard - till yesterday - is from 1977).
Here goes - and I should say this Nederlog got written and uploaded a
bit earlier than is normal:
The truth about torture is Obama never wants you to find it
item is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I am not amazed. Note
that it is the Senate's duty to control the CIA. But
The cover-up of the CIA’s
secret surveillance on the US Senate Intelligence Committee is only
getting deeper. As
the Huffington Post’s Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim reported on Tuesday
afternoon, a still-classified Inspector General report alleges CIA
officials “impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to
Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee
investigation” while Senate staffers were completing their now infamous
– but still somehow unreleased – report
on the CIA’s Bush-era torture program.
If people knew the
details of what [the CIA] actually did to hack into the Senate
computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It’s
straight out of a movie. —US
nobody in the American government seems to care:
You would think
the White House might be aghast at such revelations, given that it’s
the Senate Intelligence Committee’s job to oversee the CIA.
But instead of worrying about the Constitution or legal violations, all
the Obama administration seems to care about is saving CIA director
John Brennan’s ass. There have already been multiple calls
for Brennan to resign since he lied to the public about spying on
the Senate. And now the White House seems intent on siding with the CIA
director beyond all reason.
committee voted to release of some of its 6,000-page report way back in
April, and we still have no idea when the public will learn the full
truth about Abu
Ghraib, the secret
rendition facilities, and all the rest of the Bush atrocities –
despite repeated assurances that we will. The release date has gone
and now to the
end of October (...)
As Timm says:
At this point,
it’s becoming hard to believe anything Obama says about
New York Times’ Charlie Savage reported Sunday that this
administration is considering reinstating the Bush
administration’s absurd interpretation of the United Nations treaty
against torture, signed by the US decades ago, so that the US can claim
the UN actually meant that any torture happening outside
one’s own country essentially, you know, doesn’t count. Military and
intelligence lawyers “say they need more time to study whether it would
have operational impacts.” Really? I thought we stopped torturing
Edward Snowden Changed Journalism
item is an article by Steve Coll on The New Yorker:
Actually, I do not
know whether you'll be able to read this conveniently (I had to click
away quite a lot with a Firefox Add-On) but I will only need two
First, there is this:
That is, in other words:
Snowden has helped journalists to change their practices, and
to use encryption much more, but this also made life more difficult for
been evident for some time before Snowden surfaced that best practices
in investigative reporting and source protection needed to
change—in large part, because of the migration of journalism (and so
many other aspects of life) into digital channels. The third reporter
Snowden supplied with National Security Agency files, Barton Gellman,
of the Washington Post, was well known in his newsroom as an
early adopter of encryption. But it has been a difficult evolution, for
a number of reasons.
copiously; encryption makes that habit more cumbersome. Most reporters
don’t have the technical skills to make decisions on their own about
what practices are effective and efficient.
Second, as to the U.S. government:
balanced practices for reporters, it is critical to ask how often and
in what ways governments—ours and others—systematically target
journalists’ communications in intelligence collection. For all his
varied revelations about surveillance, this is an area where Snowden’s
files have been less than definitive. It seems safe to assume the
worst, but, as for the American government’s practices, there are large
gaps in our understanding. White House executive orders, the Patriot
Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might all be grounds
for targeting journalists for certain kinds of collection. Yet the
government has never disclosed its policies, or the history of its
actual practices following the September 11th attacks.
Indeed it is
safe to assume the worst if - as is the case the U.S. - "government has never disclosed its policies,
or the history of its actual practices following the September 11th
attacks" - for this means
that the government had maintained unconstititutional secrecy for
13 years now, which in turn can only be explained by supposing it wants
to keep secret "its
policies, or the history of its actual practices".
3. Right-Wing Publication
Tries to Claim That Obama Is a Conservative
item is an article by Luke Brinker on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
President Barack Obama
“has governed as a moderate conservative,” former Reagan administration
domestic policy aide Bruce Bartlett writes
in a new essay for the eclectic American Conservative magazine.
Bartlett, an economic
policy expert who left the Republican Party amid disgust with President
George W. Bush’s fiscal policies and backed Obama in 2008, contends
that a look at Obama’s track record reveals a president who’s basically
a liberal Republican of yore. From the beginning of his administration,
Bartlett argues, Obama has charted a center-right course on both
foreign and domestic policy issues.
administration with hawks like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama has
presided over new military engagements abroad while overseeing a
draconian crackdown on national security leaks at home, Bartlett notes.
There is more there, and
again more in the essay by Bruce Bartlett linked above, and I think
Bartlett is quite right: Obama was consistently center-right in his policies
(not in his talks: his talks are center-left) from the
The reason this piece is here is mainly to clarify that last point.
Ask the Pentagon Where Its Money Goes
item is an article by Medea Benjamin on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Not only that:
President Barack Obama
proudly signed the law that repealed the Pentagon’s Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell policy, freeing lesbian, gay, and bisexual
Americans (although not
trans people) to openly serve in the military four years ago.
But when it comes to
budgeting, the concept lingers on. “Don’t ask us how we spend money,”
the Pentagon basically says. “Because we can’t really tell you.”
Every taxpayer, business,
and government agency in America is supposed to be able to pass a
financial audit by the feds, every year. It’s the law, so we do our
duty. There’s one exception: the Pentagon.
Year after year, the
Accountability Office (GAO) declares the Pentagon budget to be
un-auditable. In 2013, for example, the
GAO found that the Pentagon consistently fails to control its
costs, measure its performance, or prevent and detect fraud, waste, and
Congress thankfully, did
give the Pentagon a deadline to get itself in better financial shape —
25 years ago. Taxpayers are still waiting.
And the Pentagon got $
555 billion for 2015...
The Chief Financial
Officers Act of 1990 requires every federal agency to pass a routine
financial audit not once, not twice, but every year. All the other
agencies do it
What does the Pentagon
deliver instead? Promises. The Defense Department always swears it will
conduct an audit — and then requests five more years to do it.
How has Congress
responded? By doubling
the Pentagon’s budget between 2000 and 2010. Many members are now
railing against “cuts” that will still keep military spending at
stratospheric levels over the next decade.
5. Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters
item is the text of a speech by Glenn Greenwald. This is a TED-talk,
and what I link to is not the talk itself but its verbal record:
This starts as follows,
and is a good talk:
an entire genre of YouTube videos devoted
to an experience which I am certain that everyone in this room
has had. It entails an individual who, thinking
they're alone, engages in some expressive behavior —
wild singing, gyrating dancing, some
mild sexual activity — only to discover that, in fact, they
are not alone, that there is a person watching and
lurking, the discovery of which causes them
to immediately cease what they were doing in
horror. The sense of shame and humiliation
in their face is palpable. It's
the sense of, "This is something I'm willing to do
only if no one else is watching."
For the rest, which is
good, click the last dotted link.
is the crux of the work on which I have been singularly focused
for the last 16 months, the
question of why privacy matters, a
question that has arisen in the context of a global debate,
enabled by the revelations of Edward Snowden that
the United States and its partners, unbeknownst
to the entire world, has converted the Internet, once
heralded as an unprecedented tool of
liberation and democratization, into
an unprecedented zone of mass, indiscriminate surveillance.
6. Personal: I still easily follow spoken Norwegian
personal item that will probably interest few, indeed in part because
it is about Norwegian, which few people know well, and in part because
the writer Jens Bjørneboe, two of whose interviews I saw and
listened to yesterday, that I will link to below, also speaks
Norwegian, as indeed is quite natural because he was a Norwegian: it
turned out - after more than 37 years - that I still can follow spoken
Norwegian quite easily.
As I have said in Nederlog (which now is in its 11th year) I have lived
for over 2 1/2 years in Norway, namely from 1975 till 1977, and I should
have stayed there, which very probably would not have
made me ill and would have provided me with an academic career.
But such is life, and indeed I really could not foresee that I would
fall ill on 1.1.1979 and never get better, which is what happened.
Part of the reason I made the wrong decision in 1977 is that I had
arrived in Norway by accident: I lived in Amsterdam in 1974 with a
Norwegian girlfriend, and we decided we wanted to go on holiday for a
few months in the beginning of 1975, and thought about Italy or Greece.
It became Norway because my girl-
friend could rent a house in Dovre very cheaply, and I said OK because
I did like to see what Norway was like.
That is how I arrived in Norway on 1.1.1975, planning to stay only for
two or three months, without any Norwegian also, because my
girlfriend and I always spoke English, and indeed in the beginning I
was not even capable of marking the beginnings and endings of Norwegian
But it turned out that written Norwegian - Riksmalet 
- was quite easy to follow within - at most - one or two months of
trying to read the paper, and while spoken Norwegian took some more
time, I read and spoke a fair amount of Norwegian by the sommer of
1975, when my girlfriend and I made money by milking cows high up in
In fact, learning Norwegian was quite easy, and I did it even without
consulting most of the book I was supposed to learn it from, because
that was both very boring and quite bad.
When I returned to Holland in 1977 I took with me some Norwegian books,
mostly though not only by Jens Bjørneboe
(1920-1976), who was one of Norway's greatest writers of the 20th
century, and indeed I still read these easily and without any trouble,
just as I also found out in 2009, when I got fast internet,
that I still very easily can read the Norwegian papers.
But I have heard very little Norwegian since 1977 and hardly
talked it, and it therefore was a bit uncertain whether I still could
follow spoken Norwegian, after 37 years of not hearing it.
Well, it turns out I still can. I listened yesterday to two interviews
with Bjørneboe, of
which these are the videos (all together nearly 1 1/2 hours):
and it turns out that I
still can follow almost everything. Since I forgot nearly everything of
the Latin and Greek I learned in the evening school in the 1960ies,
I suppose this shows that I did learn Norwegian quite well,
even though I never really tried hard.
 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
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
from is quite pertinent.)
 There are in fact two Norwegian
languages: Riksmalet and Nynorsk, and both were created as written
languages in the 19th century. Riksmalet is what most Norwegians write,
and it is a quite simple, short - shorter than English - and clear
language, with a simple grammar. Nynorsk is considerably more
complicated, both grammatically and in writing words, but is in several
ways closer to what quite a few Norwegians speak. As it happens, I
learned Riksmalet from the paper, and Nynorsk from talking with farmers.
(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: