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. Congress Is Irrelevant on Mass
Surveillance. Here’s What
good news about the 'death' of NSA reform:
surveillance supporters may have
dug their own grave
3. The cost of living
crisis may not be good news for Labour
4. Austerity has clearly
failed. So why don’t they ditch it?
5. Daniel Ellsberg, the
original whistleblower, on
transparency, politics, and
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 20. It is a crisis log.
This contains 6 items
with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about
explanation that Congress is irrelevant for mass surveillance (I don't
quite agree); item 2 is Trevor Timms
explanation why Congress doesn't much matter for mass surveillance; item 3 is Larry Elliott on the declining
incomes in Great Britain (not of the rich, I hasten to assure you); item 4 is an interesting article on what
"austerity" is really about (more riches for the rich, more
poverty for the poor); item 5 is an
interview with Daniel Ellsberg; and item 6
is a brief personal section that outlines a few small plans for
And here goes:
Congress Is Irrelevant
on Mass Surveillance.
Here’s What Matters Instead.
item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The “USA Freedom
Act”—the proponents of which were heralding as “NSA reform”
despite its suffocatingly narrow scope—died
in the august U.S. Senate last night when it attracted only 58 of
the 60 votes needed to close debate and move on to an up-or-down
vote. All Democratic and independent senators except one (Bill Nelson
of Florida) voted in favor of the bill, as did three tea-party GOP
Senators (Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Dean Heller). One GOP Senator, Rand
Paul, voted against it on the ground that it did not go nearly far
enough in reining in the NSA. On Monday, the White House had
statement “strongly supporting” the bill.
There is considerably more on the level of ridicule the
So the pro-NSA
Republican senators were actually arguing that if the NSA
were no longer allowed to bulk-collect the communication records of
Americans inside the U.S., then ISIS would kill you and your kids.
Clearly, that was utter nonsense, but then again I am
not sure myself about the percentage of ordinary Americans - who don't
know much about computers, or history, or politics, or science - who
more or less accepted that. I'd guess that would be about a third to a
fourth, but that is just my guess (in part based on the recent U.S.
I turn to a serious question:
There is a real
question about whether the defeat of this bill is good, bad, or
irrelevant. To begin with, it sought to change only one
small sliver of NSA mass surveillance (domestic bulk collection of
phone records under section 215 of the Patriot Act) while leaving
completely unchanged the primary means of NSA mass surveillance (...)
That is true, as it is
also true that the few good things in the “USA Freedom Act” were "larded with ambiguities and fundamental
inadequacies", while it is also true that the defeated Act was sort of
midway between the original good bill and the horror that the White
House's lawyers and the GOP had made of that.
Here is Glenn Greenwald's first conclusion:
All of that
illustrates what is, to me, the most important point from all of this:
the last place one should look to impose limits on the powers of the
U.S. government is . . . the U.S. government. Governments don’t walk
around trying to figure out how to limit their own power, and that’s
particularly true of empires.
Well... yes and no. That
is: Yes, this seems to be true, but no, this is not how the U.S.
government should govern, indeed not at all. Then again, since
it is true that the U.S. government is fundamentally corrupt,
and especially as regards the NSA, the banks and the TTIP,
indeed is more important.
Here is Glenn Greenwald's
(..) it has been
clear from the start that U.S. legislation is not going to impose
meaningful limitations on the NSA’s powers of mass surveillance, at
least not fundamentally. Those limitations are going to come from—are
now coming from —very different places: (..)
This follows from the
first conclusion, though I stress - more than Glenn Greenwald does -
that the reason is that the U.S. government is fundamentally
corrupt, indeed precisely (though not only) with regards to its
the NSA (which is deeply and quite undemocratically secret and
while secretly surveilling everyone and everything).
What then are the "very different places" Glenn Greenwald expects much
more of than from - presently corrupt - legislation? He mentions these
- many individuals who refuse internet services that do not protect
- other countries taking steps against the U.S.
- U.S. court proceedings
- greater individual demand for and use of encryption
I have been mainly copying the headlines: there is considerably more in
the article under each of the above points.
And here is the concluding paragraph:
The changes from
the Snowden disclosures are found far from the Kabuki theater of
the D.C. political class, and they are unquestionably significant. That
does not mean the battle is inevitably won: The U.S. remains the most
powerful government on earth, has all sorts of ways to continue to
induce the complicity of big Silicon Valley firms, and is not going to
cede dominion over the internet easily. But the battle is underway and
the forces of reform are formidable—not because of anything the
U.S. congress is doing, but despite it.
2. The good news about the 'death' of NSA
reform: surveillance supporters may have dug their own grave
item is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian, who does a similar
thing as Glenn Greenwald did in the first item:
This starts as follows:
after a brief debate marked by shameless fearmongering that reeked of
some of even George W Bush’s worst moments, the US Congress failed at
its most promising chance to pass at least some surveillance reform
sparked by Edward Snowden’s revelations. The Senate Republicans, for
the month they’re still in the minority, managed to block
a vote on the USA Freedom Act, the modest National Security Agency
oversight bill that’s been in the works for over a year.
Trevor Timm proceeds to
explain that if the “USA Freedom
Act” would have
been accepted, there would have been some little gains, but not many,
he seems to expect most from the U.S. courts:
Now many of those
cases, already in the appeals stage, may be decided within the next six
months, and if the oral arguments are
any indication, the US government may be in trouble. Indeed, the
conservative justices may be willing to do more for your privacy than
conservative lawmakers, as Judge Richard Leon proved last year when
he ruled that the NSA’s phone surveillance program is likely
He concludes as follows:
The failure of the
USA Freedom Act, no matter how incomplete the bill was, certainly isn’t
something to celebrate. But now we will see multiple courts potentially
ruling NSA surveillance unconstitutional. Now we will have a chance to
force the government into potentially gutting key provisions of the
Bush-era Patriot Act, all while ubiquitous encryption becomes ever
more prevalent in the communications devices we use – so maybe soon
we don’t have to rely on Congress and the courts to be the masters of
our own privacy.
As with Glenn Greenwald:
I think both Timm and Greenwald give decent arguments why the refusal
of the Senate to further discuss the USA Freedom Act is not very
serious, but it also remains true what Timm said above:
The failure of the
USA Freedom Act, no matter how incomplete the bill was, certainly isn’t
something to celebrate.
But it's true that even
if it had passed and been made into a law, it still would
not have stopped the spying on everyone and
everything, and it may be
some U.S. courts will stick to the Constitution, even though the
Congress act as if it doesn't exist where they don't want it.
3. The cost of living crisis may not be good
news for Labour
item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
This starts as follows - and
the subject is Great Britain:
The squeeze goes on and
on. The weekly pay packet for the full-time worker smack in the middle
of the income scale rose by just 0.1% in the year to April 2014. That
was the smallest increase since data was first available in 1997.
But that’s just the gross
figure for cash earnings. What matters is how much pay is worth after
inflation is taken into account. Adjusted for rising prices, real
weekly earnings fell by a chunky 1.6%. This continues the downward
trend seen since the economy descended into recession in 2008. The
cumulative fall in real earnings now stands at just over 9%, meaning
that it is not hyperbole to talk of a lost decade for living standards.
Real earnings are now back to their 2001 levels, with all the gains
seen in the pre-crash years wiped out.
I say. The rest of the
article explains this (in brief: most of the new jobs created are very
poorly paying, and are filled by the young or the elderly). I merely
congratulate David Cameron: Well done, David! The few rich are still
getting richer, at the costs of the many poor! So nice for real Tories!
Indeed, there is
considerably more in the next item:
4. Austerity has clearly failed. So why don’t they ditch it?
item is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian
This starts as follows:
Now we know for
sure George Osborne’s economic plan has failed, even on its own
account. For all the self-congratulation about credit-fuelled growth,
the recession in wages goes on. Four years into the coalition, most
people’s living standards are still falling. Last week it seemed as
though pay might have finally overtaken prices. But yesterday’s figures
showed that real earnings fell by 1.6% over the past year. That
continues the longest drop, of seven consecutive years, since records
began in Victorian times.
Actually, I think myself
that the title of the article is a mistake:
I'd say that austerity was a great success for Cameron's
government from a Tory point of view:
The rich got richer, as the poor got poorer, and that's what the
Tories are about, really. I agree not everything looks rosy for
but by and large he got what he wanted - and Cameron also continues and
The fall in living standards
is greater still for the poorest, who effectively suffer higher
inflation. Add in the fact that business investment as a share of
national income and productivity are still declining (..)
If cuts aren’t
working, and low pay and insecurity are shrinking tax revenues and
boosting benefit costs, you might think that would be cause for a
change of direction. Not a bit of it: £50bn more cuts are lined up for
the next parliament – and the government is doing everything to drive
down wages and job security still further.
Not only that: There is
widespread slavery in Great Britain, though of course
"one shouldn't say so". Well, I am sorry, but I do - for consider:
unpaid labour – or workfare as it’s politely known. Under the punitive
regime of Iain Duncan Smith at the Department of Work and Pensions,
hundreds of thousands are being dragooned to work for free, often for
months at a time, for private companies, local authorities and
charities. There are now six different schemes under which claimants
can be coerced into unpaid work under threat of benefit “sanctions” –
imposed on 900,000 jobseeker’s allowance claimants last year, often on
bizarre and arbitrary pretexts.
For me "compulsory unpaid labour" = "slavery", and certainly not "workfare". But
yes, David Cameron (who is a millionaire) wants that, and he
want to act according to the following two articles of the Declaration
of Human Rights, of 1948, with boldings by me:
23. (3) Everyone
who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration
ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human
dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social
And there is this:
25. (1) Everyone
has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing,
housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the
right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness,
disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in
circumstances beyond his control.
themselves to half-a-million hours of unpaid labour in the same period,
as did scores
of household-name companies. Not only do such “placements” do little to help the unemployed into work, they are
and undercutting paid employees. There is now a determined
backlash. In Mortherwell in Scotland, a man who refused an instruction
from his local jobcentre to work for his previous employer for six months without pay
had his dole money stopped as punishment. Last week, the firm pulled out of the scheme after it was the target of
“slave labour” protests.
I'm sorry but this
really is "half-a-million
hours" of unpaid slave labour, without any quotation marks,
also. For again: "compulsory unpaid labour" = "slavery", and it doesn't matter that those
who force you to work without pay do not - yet? - owe you,
possibly because that would be really too expensive. But in any case:
Forced unpaid labour is slavery, and anyone who denies this doesn't
know proper English.
In fact, here is my Shorted Oxford English Dictionary:
(..) 1551 1. severe toil like that of a slave; heavy labour,
hard work, drudgery 2. the condition of being a slave; the fact
of being a slave; servitude; bondage 1604 b. the condition of
being entirely subject to, or dominated by, some power or infuence 1577
c. A state of subjection or subordination comparable
to that of a slave (...)
And there is this, also
much wanted by David Cameron: If you can't find
work, then you shall not eat:
The combination of
savage benefit cuts and sanctions has driven the growth of hunger in
Cameron’s Britain – and the rise of food banks, which supported more
than 900,000 people in 2013. That has the advantage for the
Conservatives of taking the burden of the hungry off the public purse,
shrinking the state and preparing the poor for a harsher labour market
in the process.
Finally, there is this,
in answer to the question how this can be explained:
Yes, indeed: "austerity"
has been from the very beginning, as soon as it was clear that Holder
and Obama would never prosecute a rich bank manager, the tool to make
the rich richer by making the poor poorer.
Part of the answer is
that austerity isn’t only – or even mainly – about balancing the books.
It’s also about restoring profitability and the whiphand to the
corporate world, which six years after the crash is still sitting on a
£500bn cash mountain and won’t invest on the scale needed for a real
recovery until it’s convinced of secure returns.
So wages and taxes are cut
to coax the corporate giants – transferring wealth from the poor to the rich – even
though credit-cushioned wage stagnation helped trigger the crisis in
the first place.
And that is what has happened, also quite successfully:
the rich got a lot richer,
and the poor got a lot poorer, and that was what the governments under
this happened really wanted - for each and any of them could
also have quite
easily prevented it.
5. Daniel Ellsberg, the original
whistleblower, on transparency, politics, and civilization's future
item is an article by Paul DeMerritt on clatl:
The interview (there
is also a brief introduction) starts as follows:
This is all known, but
it can't harm to repeat it. Also, Daniel Ellsberg is going to Moscow to
see Edward Snowden, but for more on this, see the interview, from which
I want to quote only one more bit, because it is realistic:
Do you worry
about being surveilled?
Oh, I'm sure I’m surveilled
in terms of credit card, cell phone, and email, as is everyone. They
collect everything but it doesn’t mean they collect it in real-time.
They want to record it. I’m sure it includes content as well as
meta-data. When they want to find out about somebody, they just dial it
in like Google and they'll get someone’s whole life. By the way, they
can listen to you via your iPhone when it's turned off. And of course
the location is traceable.
learn to be too discreet because in order to keep the goodwill of their
colleagues, bosses, agencies and fellow citizens, most people will keep
their mouth shut unless they themselves need the info out for their own
benefit. But if it’s for other people’s benefit, I’m sorry to say that
humans can keep their mouth shut about abuses even when an enormous
number of lives are at stake, when wars are at stake and when the
climate is at stake. That's actually normal behavior. It’s toxic,
murderous, and it’s a kind of obedience.
Yes, indeed - and
since I think similarly, I was
immediately convinced Edward Snowden is
a special person.
just to inform you that I probably will write some more non-crisis
I definitely plan to put out the year 1984 in my autobiography this
month (two more files to go, over one mostly done), and also to start
this or the next month on the series "On the crisis", which will
not be a crisis file in the sense that I will not search the internet
see what I can find about it, but only my own crisis index, that contains over 680 files now
since September 1, 2008.
But the series "On the crisis" is still uncertain as to shape
or form, apart from the beginning, that will be soon published, simply
because there is a whole lot to read.
 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: