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 “Snowden is Ready to
Come Home!” Story: a Case
Study in Typical Media Deceit
2. If Miliband is so weak, why
is Cameron so afraid of
debating with him?
3. “I found myself turning
into an idiot!”: David Graeber
life-sapping reality of bureaucratic life
Petraeus: Too Big to Jail
Canadians Face 'Intrusive' Spy Bill That Echoes
US Patriot Act
This is a Nederlog of Friday,
March 6, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links. Item 1 is by Glenn Greenwald and documents one (of
many) cases of widespread media lying; item 2 is on
David Cameron's refusals to conduct an honest debate; item
3 is on bureaucracy, and contains some quotations from me (which I
think are quite interesting); item 4 is on David
Petraeus, who is too big to jail; and item 5 is
about Snowden on the Canadian government's plans to much extend the
powers of their secret services.
Also, this got uploaded a bit earlier than usual, to allow me to go
cycling in the afternoon.
“Snowden is Ready to Come Home!” Story: a Case Study in Typical Media
today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
And it continues thus:
Most sentient people
rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading
stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative
tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly
egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s
take yesterday’s numerous,
the “BREAKING” news that
“Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the
terms of his return!”
Ever since Snowden
revealed himself to the public 20 months ago, he has repeatedly said
the same exact thing when asked about his returning to the
U.S.: I would love to come home, and would do so if I could
get a fair trial, but right now, I can’t.
Yes, indeed (apart from
saying twice "they" in "they
are deceiving the public, since they have made certain that
whistleblowers charged with “espionage” are legally barred from
even raising that defense":
These really refer to different "they"s, I'd say: the second
"they have" should have been "it has been").
His primary rationale for
this argument has long been that under the Espionage Act, the 1917
statute under which he has been charged, he would be barred by
U.S. courts from even raising his key defense: that the information
he revealed to journalists should never have been concealed in the
first place and he was thus justified in disclosing it to journalists.
In other words, when U.S. political and media figures say Snowden
should “man up,” come home and argue to a court that he did nothing
wrong, they are deceiving the public, since they have made certain that
whistleblowers charged with “espionage” are legally barred from
even raising that defense.
Snowden has also pointed out
that legal protections for whistleblowers are explicitly
inapplicable to those, like him, who are employed by private
contractors (rendering President Obama’s argument about why
Snowden should “come home” entirely
In any case: I'd say the above is known to me since July or August of
2013, and indeed to anyone with a decent mind who followed the
The reason for Glenn Greenwald to repeat it (quite rightly, also) is
that many journalists still pretend not to know it - or
if they do not pretend but really believe what they write, like Blake
Snowden's lawyer says he is ready to return to U.S.
then they really are too
stupid to be journalists. For neither Snowden nor Snowden's lawyers
said anything remotely like the quoted headline, though many of the big
media outlets pretended he did or they had.
And that is the subject of Glenn Greenwald's article, who makes this
quite clear in the rest of the article.
I will leave that to your interests, but I want to briefly answer the
question I raised: Are many U.S. journalists who work for the main
media as stupid as they seem or are they simply lying?
I'd say they are mostly lying, but that the motive may vary:
They want to share a story; they don't care for Snowden or his rights;
they'd like to see him locked up; they are being conformists; they ape
others, and more.
But most are simply lying, which I say because I would not want
to offend them by saying they are too stupid to know what is
known to anyone intelligent since August 2013 at the latest.
Miliband is so weak, why is Cameron so afraid of debating with him?
item is an article by Polly Toynbee on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Bullies are always
cowards, they say – so it’s no surprise David Cameron is turning tail
on head-to-head election debates between the only two candidates for
prime minister. First he said the Greens must join – it was agreed.
Then he said there must be seven parties – agreed too. Then it had to
be before the campaign proper begins – agreed again. Ed Miliband
yesterday gave the Martini challenge: he’d debate him “any time, any place, anywhere.”
There is considerably
more, that I leave to you, except for this, that seems to me (who is no
fan of Cameron) a mostly fair summary:
broadcasters, constrained by impartiality laws, are unlikely to dare
raise a hue and cry against Cameron’s obstructionism. If there is no
great public outcry against Cameron’s cowardice, it will show, yet
again, how far the political agenda this election is dominated by
Murdoch, Rothermere and the Barclay brothers, who control 85% of
newspaper readership, moving heaven and earth to keep the Tories in
Yes indeed, although I
do not quite see how a "great
public outcry", if it
happened, could make itself heard in a country where "Murdoch, Rothermere and the Barclay brothers" "control 85% of newspaper readership". For however big
the outcry, it is very unlikely to be fairly reported by 85% of the
present British press.
found myself turning into an idiot!”: David Graeber explains the
life-sapping reality of bureaucratic life
item is an article by Elias Isquith on Salon:
In fact, I am quite
interested in bureaucracies, and also in the sorts of minds that allow
themselves to be bureaucrats, simply because (1) bureaucrats are the
basis of governments - and remain in their places as
politicians come and go, and also (2) bureaucrats are the basis of
corporations, even if these mostly are into making things: You meet the
bureaucrats very much rather than the workers, as the normal
spokespersons for the corporations, while (3) the top management are
nearly always also bureaucrats.
Indeed, here are a few things I wrote about bureaucrats and
And here are three quotations
from the above. First, on bureaucrats:
These men and
women are not an
innocuous, objective group who do the work of a state or government,
but a group of the - usually, normally, on average, in effect, if not
immediately then after some years - morally and intellectually
unqualified who, through their usual lack of all human excellence,
because of their function, find themselves in positions of great
effective power and considerable remuneration, which moreover is mostly
totally uncontrolled and without sanction.
Second, on a government
It also is a group of
people that, in the interest of a well-run state or government, should
be almost wholly removed, and replaced by persons who do a similar job
for some years only, and as a kind of social service, because
they already do similar work in society, and who
get replaced after some years of social service, by others.
Third, on the sort of society
I want (but will never see):
the people: Instead of a bureaucracy and instead of military
service, every adult citizen in society should spend two or three years
of his or her life as a civil servant, in the type of job and
with the sort of payment one receives in ordinary life, organized on
the lines of a governmental Manpower office, also manned by such civil
servants, that takes care that the tasks now done by state bureaucracy
will be done by properly and honestly by ordinary civilians doinbg
their civil service.
This is a system of real
democratic government, that avoids all or most of the dangers of
bureaucracy (careerism, corruption, loyalty to - aspiring - dictators,
parasitism, incompetence, manipulation, lack of control by the
population), and effectively does give the power to the people, for it
in effect delivers the everyday practical government in the hands of
the people, for the few years that they do social service as civil
servant. Besides, it makes every adult participate in actual government
during some period of his or her life, and it gives every citizen a
chance to be a civil servant, and to replace the bureaucratic caste of
state servants that currently have most of the everyday power in
so-called "democratic" states, and which is a type of man that can and
should be wholly done away with. Real power to the people - by civil
A society governed
by its total adult population through some years of civil service, that
replaces nearly all of present state bureaucracies, with its ruling
élite and policies selected by and from the highly educated of the
society, and such that everyone is given the same chance on
the best education, which is made available to all who are capable
Now to the interview -
and I only quote David Graeber, who is the interviewee:
A society dedicated to the
furthering of science and
technology, first and foremost furthered by education, schools
and universities, in the interest of all, where
everyone has the right to be fed, educated, housed, clothed and
provided with work that fits his capacities and inclinations,
and where all have the freedoms of speech, discussion,
publication, movement, opinion, argumentation, production and selling,
all only bound by and regulated by public laws, maintained by
independent public courts, with public judgments.
A society where everyone is
in principle expected to interact by peaceful cooperation, free
discussion, with resort to independent third parties to resolve
conflicts, and by mutual agreement, contracts or promises that are
expected to stand if freely agreed to.
A society whose citizens are
expected to be intelligent, informed, educated, witty, rational,
reasonable, cooperative, fair, honest, and where everyone has a fair
chance of a bearable life, the development of any personal talents, and
is fairly rewarded according to real merit.
I realized that
bureaucracy was sort of a theme that kept popping up in all sorts of
different things that I was working on … Also there wasn’t a very
interesting existing literature on it.
Well... while this
depends on what you call "interesting", it also seems to me false.
Here are three books by authors whom I found quite interesting:
Mills: White Collar (1951)
I have added the years
in which these were first published. (All were reprinted in later
years.) There are quite a few more, but I recall these from the late
Vance Packard: The
Hidden Persuaders (1957)
Vance Packard: The Status Seekers (1959)
Vance Packard: The
Pyramid Climbers (1962)
and/or early 1970ies, when I read them. 
Graeber also says:
The fact that the
discourse of the way we talk about bureaucracy, the political issue of
bureaucracy, used to be a big left-wing issue back in the ’60s, and now
it’s sort of been abandoned to the right — I think the political
consequences of that have been disastrous.
Here he is quite
right. Graeber also says:
left, which is barely left at all at this point in traditional terms …
has really embraced a combination of market and bureaucracy, an equal
synthesis of the worst aspects of capitalism and the worst aspects of
Yes - and part of the
reason is that many of the "mainstream left" are bureaucrats,
who work for the government of for big corporations, and may
do so for 40 years, unlike most politicians.
Graeber - who is an anthropologist - also says this about governments
kept growing and growing with more and more bureaucrats. The more
free-market we get, the more bureaucrats we end up with, too.
So I kind of looked around for a counter-example: Is there an example
of a place where they did market reforms and it didn’t
increase the total number of bureaucrats … I couldn’t find any. It
always goes up. It went up under Reagan.
I didn't know that
number of bureaucrats went up under Reagan, but I am not at all amazed.
And indeed I
agree on "free-markets", or however they are called (and made the
argument repeatedly myself):
were basically created with government intervention. It was a political
project. Certain assumptions of how these things work just aren’t true.
People don’t do wage labor if they have any choice, historically, for
example. So in order to get a docile labor force, you have to create
police and [a] large apparatus to ensure that the people you kick off
the land actually will get the kinds of jobs you want them to … this is
the very beginning of creating a market.
Yes, indeed - and
this also holds internationally: "Free markets" exist because they are regulated
and protected by laws.
Finally, here is Graeber on one of the consequences of being a
Actually, I may be a bit
more radical: I think those who become bureacrats, and especially those
who excel at being bureaucrats, are people with very little
imagination, with very little morals other than conformism to
their own bureaucratic group,
and who excel in groupthinking.
I really think that
bureaucracy is a way of crushing the human imagination. It also makes
people stupid. And that was the thing that really impressed me about my
first major encounter with bureaucracy — I found myself turning into an
They are precisely the people who should not lord over others,
but who are allowed to, again because they can do so obsequiously
towards their bureaucratic and political leaders.
Gen. Petraeus: Too Big to
item is an article by Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews:
This starts with the
Americans face years in jail for leaking secrets –
even to inform fellow citizens of government abuses – retired Gen.
David Petraeus gets a misdemeanor wrist-slap for exposing covert
officers and lying about it, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern,
who was jailed just for trying to ask Petraeus a
Yes, precisely. The
article itself starts as follows:
The leniency shown
former CIA Director (and retired General) David Petraeus by the Justice
Department in sparing him prison time for the serious crimes that he
has committed puts him in the same preferential,
immune-from-incarceration category as those running the financial
institutions of Wall Street, where, incidentally, Petraeus now makes
millions. By contrast, “lesser” folks – and particularly the brave men
and women who disclose government crimes – get to serve time, even
decades, in jail.
There is a lot more
under the last dotted link, and it is a good article.
Canadians Face 'Intrusive' Spy Bill That Echoes US Patriot Act
item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In a teleconference
hosted by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at Ryerson
University on Wednesday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned that
the country's intelligence agencies have the "weakest oversight" in the
Western world, and that new anti-terror legislation championed by Prime
Minister Stephen Harper was "an emulation of the American Patriot Act."
"And when [the agencies
are] trying to expand their powers, it's pretty amazing that we have
the Canadian government trying to block the testimony of former prime
ministers who've had access to classified information, who understand
the value of these programs, and who are warning the public broadly and
saying this is something we really need to talk about, this is
something we really need to debate, this is something we really need to
be careful about," Snowden continued.
As Common Dreams
the new surveillance legislation, known as Bill C-51, "would expand the
Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)'s powers to 'disrupt
terrorism offenses and terrorist activity;' make it easier for law
enforcement agencies to carry out preventive detentions, and allow them
for longer time, make it easier to federal agencies to share
information, and give law enforcement agencies power 'to disrupt
terrorism offenses and terrorist activity.'"
This is another good
article, that I recommend you read all of.
And here is a
"No matter what we do, no
matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all
of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms because we are afraid
of rare instances of criminal activity," he said. "Governments never
had this power in the past where they could pre-emptively investigate
every member of society, place them under quite intrusive surveillance."
During the hour-long
chat, Snowden also said of electronic information, "Everything can be
I agree - more or
less. For while I agree in principle, it also seems to be a fact that
the majority of the U.S. really does not mind to "throw away all of our rights, all of our
liberties, all of our traditional freedoms" - at least as long as they earn enough to be
well-paid consumers, who can exercise their "freedoms" to choose on the
markets from what's on offer there.
It's a great pity, but it seems to be a fact - and if it is not the majority (I am not sure), it still
is far too large a group who consent to be quietly plundered by the
secret services, in order to be free to be consumers (which anyway is a
completely silly human ideal).
 One more thing, because I have read or heard this
complaint many times the last 40 years or so: Both Wright Mills
and Vance Packard could write (which indeed is part of what
makes their books interesting), while (i) not many men are good writers
anyway, and (ii) especially not academic sociologists,
anthropologists and philosophers - who often criticized Mills and
Packard for being readable, and normally suggested their own
kind of generally ill-written pretended science was the real
thing. No, it was not: it was - with a few exceptions - simply bad
science written by second or third rate minds, who also could not write.