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 EU needs to crack down on
the real scroungers – tax
than a third of natural world heritage sites face
3. Why Wall Street Loves
4. Hightower: Why Corporations
Can to Destroy Net Neutrality
5. Snowden: "I Did What I Did
Because I Believe It Is the
Right Thing to Do"
6. Plumbing the Depths of
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 13. It is a crisis log.
Well, to start with I should say the present text arose after the first
text I had was totally disappeared by KompoZer, which is the only
thing I can use to write tolerable html on Linux/Ubuntu. It is more or
less OK, but it is also quite bugged and quirky, and yes... I
know the rule "save often" from the late eighties when I first got a
computer - but I sometimes forget this in 2014, and one should not,
with KompoZer, and I did. O well...
Anyway. This is a crisis item with 6 items and 6 dotted links, and you
really should read the two last items, in full also, simply because
they are quite long, quite good interviews with interesting men (Edward
Snowden and William Binney): Item 1 is on tax
avoiders, who indeed are the real scroungers, much rather than poor
people in the dole; item 2 is on
what's left from
the natural world heritage (not much, and a third is disappearing); item 3 is on why Wall Street loves
Hillary Clinton; item 4 is a piece on
net neutrality, that I found a
bit too conventional leftish; item 5
is a fine long
interview with Edward Snowden; and item 6
same with William Binney.
Also, this is uploaded a bit
later than is normal for me, given that I
had to write it 1 1/2 times.
And here goes:
1. The EU needs to crack down on the real
scroungers – tax avoiders
item is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed - though I
should stress here that "legal" is a very, very vague term (there are
all sorts of - so-called - laws in all sorts of countries) and that
Juncker may be right (I do not know) in saying that he did not do
anything that is not "legal", in Luxembourg.
Tax avoidance is robbery,
regardless of what any silver-tongued outrider of the corporate world
tells you. Companies depend on the labour of their wealth-creating
workers: a workforce expensively trained up by a state education
system, kept healthy by state healthcare, and whose low pay is
subsidised by the state.
The private sector
depends on a bailed-out financial system, state-funded infrastructure,
state support for research and development, and a law and order system
to protect them and their property.
Companies that depend on
state largesse and yet refuse to contribute are, well, scroungers. They
deprive the state of revenue as politicians justify the biggest cuts
for generations on the basis that there isn’t enough money. They gain a
competitive disadvantage over mainly smaller businesses who cannot
afford armies of accountants to exploit loopholes. They ensure the rest
of us pay more taxes. As I say: robbery.
That’s why the allegations against Jean-Claude Juncker are so serious.
He stands accused of being up to his neck in one of the great scandals
of our time
The problem is that Luxembourg has for many decades now surrected a tax
haven for very many large corporations that usually are not at
all active in Luxembourg, except that their main owners' main office is
located there (and that "office" may be very small or even a mere
postbox), and some taxes are paid to the state of Luxembourg, that are not
paid at all or at least not as much in the countries in which the
corporations are active.
And that is the game Juncker has been playing for a long time:
tax evasion, in a very major way also, whether it is "legal" in
Luxembourg or not.
Owen Jones also says:
This whole episode
underlines why any criticism of the EU cannot be surrendered to the
xenophobic, isolationist right. In its current form, the EU is too
rigged in favour of wealthy corporate interests, as the menace of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
underlines. Its treaties help to promote policies of privatisation and
Yes indeed, though I will have
a remark on "the right". But Owen Jones is quite correct that "privatisation" and "laissez-faire" are mere pretexts to promote the
and the riches of corporations.
As to "the political right" and "the political left" - and I do
distinguish between political parties and their leaders, and the much
more ordinary rightness or leftness of ordinary people: It seems to me
that as far as politics
the real left has been mostly murdered by Bill Clinton and Tony
Blair, on the pretext of the Third Way, and
because no real left party would
have accepted such people as their leaders.
And indeed Owen Jones has this:
Guardian reveals that Labour has received more than £600,000 of
research help from PricewaterhouseCoopers to draw up tax policy. But
PwC and the other big four accountancy firms not only facilitate legal
tax avoidance – they help advise politicians on tax legislation,
potentially assisting the firms to then advise their clients on how to
exploit those laws.
While PricewaterhouseCoopers is precisely the party
that is up to its neck in the Luxembourg tax evasions, as
outlined on November 6...
than a third of natural world heritage
sites face 'significant threats'
item is an article by Oliver Milman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
There is a considerable
amount more under the last dotted link, but this is the essence, as
indeed the title says: More than a third of the - rather small -
natural world heritage that is left is threatened. (And no, it is unlikely this will grow
less. than a third.)
More than a third of the
planet’s natural world heritage sites face significant threats such as
invasive species, logging and poaching, and climate change is a looming
menace to prized ecosystems, according to a major new assessment.
The first ever analysis
of all 228 natural world heritage sites found that 21% have a good
conservation outlook, with 42% deemed to be “good with some concerns”.
However, 29% have
“significant concerns” and a further 8% are listed as “critical”, which
means they are deemed to be “severely threatened” and require urgent
attention to avoid their natural value being lost.
The IUCN World Heritage
Outlook, released at the World
Parks Congress in
Sydney, found that 54% of world heritage sites are well managed, but
13% are seriously deficient in protecting species and landscapes.
3. Why Wall Street Loves Hillary
item is an article by William D. Cohan on Politico:
This starts as follows:
An odd thing
happened last month when, stumping just before the midterms, Hillary
Clinton came in close proximity to the woman who has sometimes been
described as the conscience of the Democratic Party. Speaking at the
Park Plaza Hotel in Boston as she did her part to try to rescue the
failing gubernatorial campaign of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts,
Clinton paid deference to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the anti-Wall
Street firebrand who has accused Clinton of pandering to the big banks,
and who was sitting right there listening. “I love watching Elizabeth
give it to those who deserve it,” Clinton said to cheers. But then, awkwardly, she appeared
to try to out-Warren Warren—and perhaps build a bridge too far to the
left—by uttering words she clearly did not believe: “Don’t let anyone
tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,”
Clinton said, erroneously echoing a meme Warren made famous during an
August 2011 speech at a home in Andover, Massachusetts. “You know that
old theory, trickle-down economics? That has been tried, that has
failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”
Actually, as William
Cowan explains, Hillary Clinton is well loved by the bank managers:
While the finance
industry does genuinely hate Warren, the big bankers love Clinton, and
by and large they badly want her to be president. Many of the rich and
powerful in the financial industry—among them, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd
Blankfein, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, Tom Nides, a powerful vice
chairman at Morgan Stanley, and the heads of JPMorganChase and Bank of
America—consider Clinton a pragmatic problem-solver not prone to
populist rhetoric. To them, she’s someone who gets the idea that we all
benefit if Wall Street and American business thrive.
This gets explained
in considerable detail and in four pages, that I leave to your
Hightower: Why Corporations Are Doing Everything They Can to Destroy
item is an article by Jim Hightower on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
There is considerably
more under the last dotted link, but it is a - to my mind rather
conventional - leftist view.
When it comes to Internet
Service Providers and high-speed Internet, the consumer marketplace has
hardly been a model of competitiveness. Some of us are lucky enough to
be able to choose from two providers, and some of us only have access
These digital conduits
are essential parts of America's utility infrastructure, nearly as
basic as electricity and water pipes. They connect us (and our
children) to worldwide knowledge, news, diverse viewpoints and other
fundamental tools of citizenship. And, of course, we can buy and sell
through them, be entertained, run our businesses, connect with friends,
get up-to-the-minute scores, follow the weather and—yes indeedy—pay our
Yet while this digital
highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not
offered as a public service, i.e., an investment in the common good.
Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few
Snowden: "I Did What I
Did Because I Believe It Is the Right Thing to Do"
item is an article by Katherina vanden Heuvel and Stephen D. Cohen that
I found on Alternet but that originated on The Nation:
This starts as follows:
On October 6,
Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and contributing
editor Stephen F. Cohen (professor emeritus of Russian studies at New
York University and Princeton) sat down in Moscow for a wide-ranging
discussion with Edward Snowden. Throughout their nearly four-hour
conversation, which lasted considerably longer than planned, the
youthful-appearing Snowden was affable, forthcoming, thoughtful and
occasionally humorous. Among other issues, he discussed the price he
has paid for speaking truth to power, his definition of patriotism and
accountability, and his frustration with America’s media and political
Incidentally, this is a good
long interview that you should read all of. I select onky the bits that
are - more or less - new to me. And there is rather a lot about Snowden
in the crisis series since June 10, 2013,
when I first read his name. (You can find these items by looking for
"Snowden" in the crisis index.)
To start with, there is this small exchange:
The Nation: Do
you watch television?
Snowden: I do everything on
Yes, the same holds
for me - and I do not even own a TV, for over 44 years now, and indeed
also rarely watch it, also not on the computer: Too little interest;
too much propaganda; too many lies and falsities.
In the rest of my quotations, it is always Snowden talking: I did not
copy any of the questions.
First, there is this
clarification on surveillanve and secrecy and Obama:
Snowden: The surveillance
revelations are critically important because they revealed that our
rights are being redefined in secret, by secret courts that were never
intended to have that role—without the consent of the public, without
even the awareness of the majority of our political representatives.
However, as important as that is, I don’t think it is the most
important thing. I think it is the fact that the director of national
intelligence gave a false statement to Congress under oath, which is a
felony. If we allow our officials to knowingly break the law publicly
and face no consequences, we’re instituting a culture of immunity, and
this is what I think historically will actually be considered the
biggest disappointment of the Obama administration. I don’t think it’s
going to be related to social or economic policies; it’s going to be
the fact that he said let’s go forward, not backward, in regard to the
violations of law that occurred under the Bush administration. There
was a real choice when he became president. It was a very difficult
choice—to say, “We’re not going to hold senior officials to account
with the same laws that every other citizen in the country is held to,”
or “This is a nation that believes in the rule of law.” And the rule of law doesn’t mean the police
are in charge, but that we all answer to the same laws.
Yes, indeed -
although I am pessimistic enough to doubt that there will be anything
much like real freedom or real democracy in the United States for
quite a long time. I much hope I am mistaken, but that is the trend,
that trend has big money behind it, and also has the NSA to safeguard
Next, here is Snowden on the internet as it developed:
Snowden: I would say the
first key concept is that, in terms of technological and communication
progress in human history, the Internet is basically the equivalent of
electronic telepathy. We can now communicate all the time through our
little magic smartphones with people who are anywhere, all the time,
constantly learning what they’re thinking, talking about, exchanging
messages. And this is a new capability even within the context of the
Internet. When people talk about Web 2.0, they mean that when the
Internet, the World Wide Web, first became popular, it was one way
only. People would publish their websites; other people would read
them. But there was no real back and forth other than through e-mail.
Web 2.0 was what they called the collaborative web—Facebook, Twitter,
the social media. What we’re seeing now, or starting to see, is an
atomization of the Internet community.
I suppose that is
correct, though I must say I am not much interested to "communicate all the time" with "people
who are anywhere": There
are three times as many persons as there are seconds in
my life, for
example, and I also
need to think and read and write for myself (which I also like
As to Web 2.0: I don't do Facebook or Twitter, and my own site is
"social media" for me. Also, I'd say this was the democratization of
rather than anything else (and I am not much of a democrat, indeed,
though I guess this was bound to happen).
Next, there is this
on surveillance and the law - which is rather different in the U.S. and
in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, because only the U.S. has a real
explicitly written constitution with inalienable rights (or that is at
least how it is
supposed to work):
In the United States,
we’ve got this big debate, but we’ve got official paralysis—because
they’re the ones who had their hand caught most deeply in the cookie
jar. And there are unquestionable violations of our Constitution. Many
of our ally states don’t have these constitutional protections—in the
UK, in New Zealand, in Australia. They’ve lost the right to be free
from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause. All of
those countries, in the wake of these surveillance revelations, rushed
through laws that were basically ghostwritten by the National Security
Agency to enable mass surveillance without court oversight, without all
of the standard checks and balances that one would expect. Which leads
us inevitably to the question: Where are we going to reject that easy
but flawed process of letting the intelligence services do whatever
Well... the laws
written "to enable mass
surveillance without court oversight, without all of the standard
checks and balances that one would expect" were written, I think,
because "our democratically elected governors" just could not resist
the itch and lure of absolute power over everyone,
which is what secret
surveillance of everyone by a few hundredthousands of former colleagues
Edward Snowden will amount to, if it is not radically
Then there is this on the
differences between Nixon and Bush Jr. and Obama:
In part, that is also related
to the decline of the free press that was again triggered by the arisal
of the personal computer. But in any case, the difference
Richard Nixon got kicked
out of Washington for tapping one hotel suite. Today we’re tapping
every American citizen in the country, and no one has been put on trial
for it or even investigated. We don’t even have an inquiry into it.
is enormous - and shows again that few in government want
to give up on
absolute power idea of surveilling everyone.
As to rights, there is this:
We only have the
rights that we protect. It doesn’t matter what we say or think we have.
It’s not enough to believe in something; it matters what we actually
defend. So when we think in the context of the last decade’s
infringements upon personal liberty and the last year’s revelations,
it’s not about surveillance. It’s about liberty. When people say, “I
have nothing to hide,” what they’re saying is, “My rights don’t
matter.” Because you don’t need to justify your rights as a
citizen—that inverts the model of responsibility. The government must
justify its intrusion into your rights. If you stop defending your
rights by saying, “I don’t need them in this context” or “I can’t
understand this,” they are no longer rights. You have ceded the concept
of your own rights. You’ve converted them into something you get as a
revocable privilege from the government, something that can be
abrogated at its convenience. And that has diminished the measure of
liberty within a society.
Well... yes. But in
that sense there are few rights, simply because there are -
comparatively, to be sure - few people who stand up to defend their
these are attacked.
Indeed, that is one of the big problems: When you are talking
about rights, creativity, freedom, you are in fact talking mostly about
a minority of people
who are actively for these rights, who can be creative in some
major way, amd who have sensible ideas
about using their freedoms etc.
I do not know how
large the minority is, but I do know it is a minority. And that is
deeply problematic, in that the majority does not even see the
there being secret dossiers about anyone that may
contain everything a person has done with a computer or
I'll return to that below. First there is this on Snowden's motives:
I did what I did because
I believe it is the right thing to do, and I will continue to do that.
However, when it comes to political engagement, I’m not a
politician—I’m an engineer. I read these polls because civil-liberties
organizations tell me I need to be aware of public opinion. The only
reason I do these interviews—I hate talking about myself, I hate doing
this stuff—is because incredibly well-meaning people, whom I respect
and trust, tell me that this will help bring about positive changes.
It’s not going to cause a sea change, but it will benefit the public.
Yes, indeed - I'd say
Snowden is a wobbly. What is a wobbly? It is a term of C. Wright Mills,
that is explained in the Wikipedia article on him as follows, in Mills'
own words, in a book that he was writing to a supposed Soviet Russian
intellectual called Tovarich:
You've asked me, 'What
might you be?' Now I answer you: 'I am a Wobbly.' I mean this spiritually and
politically. In saying this I refer less to political orientation than
to political ethos, and I take Wobbly to mean one thing: the opposite
of bureaucrat. […] I am a Wobbly, personally, down deep, and for good.
I am outside the whale, and I got that way
through social isolation and self-help. But do you know what a Wobbly
is? It's a kind of spiritual condition. Don't be afraid of the word,
Tovarich. A Wobbly is not only a man who takes orders from himself.
He's also a man who's often in the situation where there are no
regulations to fall back upon that he hasn't made up himself. He
doesn't like bosses –capitalistic or communistic – they are all the
same to him. He wants to be, and he wants everyone else to be, his own
boss at all times under all conditions and for any purposes they may
want to follow up. This kind of spiritual condition, and only this, is
Again, this is a
small minority of people, at least in my - rather extensive -
Now back to the majority and the minority:
The issue is too abstract
for average people, who have too many things going on in their lives.
And we do not live in a revolutionary time. People are not prepared to
contest power. We have a system of education that is really a sort of
euphemism for indoctrination. It’s not designed to create critical
thinkers. We have a media that goes along with the government by
parroting phrases intended to provoke a certain emotional response—for
example, “national security.” Everyone says “national security” to the
point that we now must use the term “national security.” But it is not
national security that they’re concerned with; it is state security.
And that’s a key distinction. We don’t like to use the phrase “state
security” in the United States because it reminds us of all the bad
regimes. But it’s a key concept, because when these officials are out
on TV, they’re not talking about what’s good for you. They’re not
talking about what’s good for business. They’re not talking about
what’s good for society. They’re talking about the protection and
perpetuation of a national state system.
Yes, indeed - but
this does not say much about the big problem that a lot of
the internet freedoms and rights are only creatively useful for a
relatively small group of people (that may still be tens or hundreds of
millions), while the majority of the current users of the internet
or cell phones (over 3 billion) just is not interested, doesn't
understand or doesn't care.
Next, there is this on two kinds of surveillance:
The issue I brought
forward most clearly was that of mass surveillance, not of surveillance
in general. It’s OK if we wiretap Osama bin Laden. I want to know what
he’s planning—obviously not him nowadays, but that kind of thing. I
don’t care if it’s a pope or a bin Laden. As long as investigators must
go to a judge—an independent judge, a real judge, not a secret
judge—and make a showing that there’s probable cause to issue a
warrant, then they can do that. And that’s how it should be done. The
problem is when they monitor all of us, en masse, all of the time,
without any specific justification for intercepting in the first place,
without any specific judicial showing that there’s a probable cause for
that infringement of our rights.
Yes indeed. And
the reason for mass surveillance is quite different
one given: it is control of everyone by secretively
knowing what they are doing and thinking, and using that knowledge to
upset them wherever their goals are not what the government desires.
Then there is this on mass movements and revolutions:
Snowden: In case you
haven’t noticed, I have a somewhat sneaky way of effecting political
change. I don’t want to directly confront great powers, which we cannot
defeat on their terms. They have more money, more clout, more airtime.
We cannot be effective without a mass movement, and the American people
today are too comfortable to adapt to a mass movement. But as
inequality grows, the basic bonds of social fraternity are fraying—as
we discussed in regard to Occupy Wall Street. As tensions increase,
people will become more willing to engage in protest. But that moment
is not now.
Yes, and I certainly
agree that, at present, there is no basis for a mass movement
a revolution in the U.S.
Yes indeed - there is no
real accountability for political leaders, for high bureaucrats, for
bank managers, and also not, at least in the United States,
Snowden: There’s a real
danger in the way our representative government functions today. It
functions properly only when paired with accountability. Candidates run
for election on campaign promises, but once they’re elected they renege
on those promises, which happened with President Obama on Guantánamo,
the surveillance programs and investigating the crimes of the Bush
administration. These were very serious campaign promises that were not
for very rich people.
And that is a major shortcoming, that exists largely by design,
and that strongly undermines any real democracy.
Finally, here is a brief political statement by Snowden:
I’m not a
communist, a socialist or a radical.
Well... I'm not a
communist nor a socialist as well, and indeed my main reason not to be
(unlike my parents, who were sincere and intelligent communists) is
that both seem inherently totalitarian
to me, and I am a strong
opponent of that
- and yes, I know in theory there is no need for this, but then
socialists have rarely thought well about power.
As to (not) being a radical: I would guess Snowden is a radical by most
men's standards. I suppose his meaning is that he does not speak for
to social problems, but then that is a different meaning of the term.
In any case, I think
you should read all of this interview: it is good and it is quite long,
but also quite interesting.
6. Plumbing the Depths of NSA’s Spying
and last item for today is an article by Lars Schall on Consortium
News, that is in fact a rather long and quite good interview with William
This starts as
William Binney, who spent
36 years in the National Security Agency rising to become the NSA’s
technical director for intelligence, has emerged as one of the most
knowledgeable critics of excesses in the NSA’s spying programs, some of
which he says managed to both violate the U.S. Constitution and provesince the late 1960ies
inefficient in tracking terrorists.
Binney has been described as
one of the best analysts in NSA’s history combining expertise in
intelligence analysis, traffic analysis, systems analysis, knowledge
management and mathematics (including set theory, number theory and
probability). He resigned in October 2001 and has since criticized the
NSA’s massive monitoring programs.
I do think - if you
are interested in the NSA - that you should read all of this.
Here are a few
selections. First, here is Binney on his statements to the German
Anyway, it was quite
lengthy and very thorough, and my whole point was to try to get across
to them that what NSA and the intelligence community in the Five Eyes,
at least, and probably in some of the other countries (I don’t know
exactly which ones and I’ve made this clear, but I think they’re not
doing it alone) is the idea of collecting massive amounts of data is
just like the STASI – except this time I kind of tried to get across to
them that it’s like the STASI on super steroids.
As Wolfgang Schmidt, the
former lieutenant colonel of East German STASI, commented about NSA’s
surveillance program: For us, this would have been a dream come true.
Well, that’s the whole point of it, it’s so invasive, it’s digital
surveillance on a massive scale, and I tried to get that across to
them. Because this is basically a fundamental threat to our democracy
and every democracy around the world. You know, I call it over here in
the United States the greatest threat to our democracy since our Civil
Yes indeed: The NSA is
the STASI on super steroids, and that also is and always was their main
end, if not since the late 1960ies
then since 9/11: To spy on everyone.
And here is the
technique they use:
And of course they are
all doing it on the basis of fear-mongering of terrorism. They try to
get everybody afraid so they will do whatever they want, that’s the
kind of leverage that they are trying to use not just against the
public, but also against Congress. It’s just all based on
fear-mongering. The whole point is to get more money and build a bigger
empire, which they have done. Over here, we’ve spent, for all the 16
agencies, close to a trillion dollars since 9/11. That’s really been a
money-making proposition for them, this fear-mongering. Now they are
doing it with cyber security. It’s how you control your population, how
you manipulate them, and how you let them pay for things you want done.
Precisely, as indeed Hermann Goering knew as well.
Next, Lars Schall gives a good quotation on Senator Frank Church and
his work (I refer you to the last link) and William Binney answers this
Frank Church captured it
right away. The point is that they are in the process of perfecting
this whole operation, and the point is that now that everybody has a
greater capacity to communicate the invasion of privacy or the
intrusion into what people’s lives is all about is even worse then what
Frank Church could have known. Back then he was only thinking about and
looking at the landline telephone calls, where now it’s not only that
but also mobile phones, satellite phones, the internet, the computers,
the tablets, and so on. All the networks people are carrying around.
There are at least over 3
½ billion phones in the world, and something very similar in terms of
computers. The explosion has been tremendous both in terms of volume
and in terms of numbers. Frank Church couldn’t have dreamt about that
in his time; he was just talking about a smaller segment of what was
available that time. And now the intrusion is even greater.
Which means that the
dangers have multiplied many powers of ten times - it is a million
time worse, at least, than Frank Church could foresee in the
Finally, here is
Binney on the U.S. Department of Justice and others:
I mean, that’s our
Department of Justice; that’s not justice, that’s criminal. So, what
they’re doing, the House and Senate intelligence committees, the FISA
court, the Department of Justice and the White House, they are trying
to cover up any exposure of this, and that’s why they were really after
Snowden, and that’s why they wanted to stop all those leaks. It’s
exposing them for the crimes they were committing against the people of
United States and against the people of the world.
Yes, indeed. And as I
said: You really want to read all of the interview if you are
interested in the NSA.
 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.)
(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: