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. Robert Reich Says Elizabeth
Warren Should Challenge
2. Climate change: why the
Guardian is putting
Earth front and centre
3. Anti-Putin Politician’s
Murder Lays Russian Realities Bare
Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy
Carlin: Brain Droppings
This is a Nederlog of
March 7, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Robert Reich's statement that he would
like to see Elizabeth Warren compete with Hillary Clinton in the
primaries; item 2 is about Alan Rusbridger who
wants The Guardian to write considerably more on climate change; item 3 is - what seems to me - a decent piece on the
present Russia; item 4 is about a recent book about
Anonymous; and item 5 is a video of nearly an hour
which is the record of a very good talk (or lecture) George
Carlin gave in 1999 to the National Press Club in Washington DC: I
think it has various things in it that will teach nearly everyone
something, besides being a really good talk.
1. Robert Reich Says Elizabeth Warren Should
Challenge Hillary Clinton
today is an article by John Nichols on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I say - well, not very
loudly, but OK. Here is some more, that explains some:
Former Secretary of Labor
Reich says Hillary Clinton should face "a tough primary challenger"
and he knows who he would like to see mount a run against the presumed
"I wish that challenger
would be Elizabeth Warren," Reich
explained Friday, in a short statement that has energized
supporters of a burgeoning movement to draft the senator from
Massachusetts as a populist alternative to Clinton.
Note that Hillary
Clinton has not yet said she will run, although few doubt she
will. And here is Reich himself:
Reich has always spoken well
of Warren, with whom he shares many positions. They have worked
together. And he has spoken about the prospect that she might might
challenge Clinton. But this is more than just an expression of
ideological sympathy, and more than punditry. This is a former Bill
Clinton Cabinet member saying, specifically, that he hopes Warren will
I’ve been getting
lots of calls from reporters wanting to know if Democrats should have a
'plan B' if Hillary’s candidacy implodes. I tell them (1) it’s still
way too early (there’s not even a plan A because she hasn’t yet
declared, and it’s more than a year and a half before Election Day
anyway), (2) if she runs the odds of her imploding are very low; she’s
been through all this three times before (once as a candidate and twice
as Bill Clinton’s de facto campaign manager) and will be a strong
candidate, (3) but it would be good for the Democrats and the country
-- and good for her (it will make her an even stronger candidate) – to
have a tough primary challenger, and (4) I wish that challenger would
be Elizabeth Warren.
OK - although I have a
few remarks. I can see why Reich likes Warren. There are two problems,
though: First, Warren has repeatedly said she will not run. And
second, it seems as if Bernie Sanders has declared he will run
- and while I like Warren, I like Sanders better, mostly because he
seems to have better overall plans, and he has a whole lot of
But I agree it is early days.
change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre
item is an article by Alan Rusbridger on The Guardian:
This starts as
Really now? I must say
that (1) I don't see much of the "rear-view mirror" and (2) I also do
not think this is a good introduction to climate change.
Journalism tends to be a
rear-view mirror. We prefer to deal with what has happened, not what
lies ahead. We favour what is exceptional and in full view over what is
ordinary and hidden.
Famously, as a tribe, we
are more interested in the man who bites a dog than the other way
round. But even when a dog does plant its teeth in a man, there is at
least something new to report, even if it is not very remarkable or
There may be other
extraordinary and significant things happening – but they may be
occurring too slowly or invisibly for the impatient tick-tock of the
newsroom or to snatch the attention of a harassed reader on the way to
What is even more
complex: there may be things that have yet to happen – stuff that
cannot even be described as news on the grounds that news is stuff that
has already happened. If it is not yet news – if it is in the realm of
prediction, speculation and uncertainty – it is difficult for a news
editor to cope with. Not her job.
Let me - briefly - explain.
First, the problem for journalism is that they tend to work in
the now - today, not tomorrow, nor yesterday - with an eye on
tomorrow, based on (supposed) facts established in the past, and also
on the ideology
of the paper they write for, and perhaps also on their own ideology.
This is a problem, because it does limit their attentions, but it is
Second, I have been reading about climate change now, and
mostly in the daily press, since the early 1970ies (nearly 45
years (!)), though I agree that in the early days it was less about
"climate change" than about - speaking broadly and generally -
"environmentalism". But this means that "the climate" has been "in the
news" for over 40 years now - sometimes more, sometimes less, but
nearly always there in some form.
Indeed, the second point is - a bit later - also made by Rusbridger,
who then unfolds his program as follows:
The coming debate
is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or
otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of
global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can
prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining
reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it
up. We need to keep them in the ground.
If that is the program
it seems likely to fail:
so far, have not done much to stop climate change, and one
reason is that to do much involves making major economical changes,
that are difficult to plan and to implement, and also are all
against the short-term profit motive that moves much of the
economies; and to "prevent" that the "remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil" are being dug up is both against the dominant mode of
capitalism (if we can make a profit from it, we declare it is good for you),
and also against the recent selling out to capitalism and the profit
motive by most of the politicians.
I will say a little more about
this below. Rusbridger also says:
This summer I am stepping down after 20 years of editing the
Guardian. Over Christmas I tried to anticipate whether I would have
any regrets once I no longer had the leadership of this extraordinary
agent of reporting, argument, investigation, questioning and advocacy.
Well... one regret
Rusbridger should have but doesn't seem to have is the enormous decline in the value - the
usability and clarity - of the Guardian's website, since he turned
it over to Wolfgang Blau and his mates, who turned it back to 1992,
made almost everything text, removed nearly all links,
destroyed most videos by a crazy half see through format from which all
specifics are carefully deleted, and installed gigantic amounts
Very few regrets, I thought,
except this one: that we had not done justice to this huge,
overshadowing, overwhelming issue of how climate change will probably,
within the lifetime of our children, cause untold havoc and stress to
So, in the time left to me
as editor, I thought I would try to harness the Guardian’s best
resources to describe what is happening and what – if we do nothing –
is almost certain to occur, a future that one distinguished scientist has termed as
“incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised,
equitable and civilised global community”.
See On the destruction of The
(formerly) fine website for more, and I regard this as a major change
in the editorial policies of The Guardian, which I deeply
regret, and do not expect anything good to emerge from.
(Incidentally: no other paper made as crazy changes as The
Guardian. And indeed now all other papers have better -
more readable, clearer, more polite, with many more pictures - sites
than The Guardian. It used to be the other way around, though the
differences were far less pronounced than they are now.)
Then there is this, which I suppose played a considerable role in
We begin on Friday
and on Monday with two extracts from the introduction to Naomi Klein’s
recent book, This Changes Everything. This has been chosen
because it combines sweep, science, politics, economics, urgency and
To put it in more general
terms: Rusbridger made the choice Klein also made, which indeed is "the
liberal" choice (and my quotes around "the liberal" indicate that
although this does seem the best term, I am aware it has many
Either you attack or question capitalism (which changed
considerably since 1980, and which is responsible for a large part of
the climate change) or you attack or question climate change -
and the latter is politically more safe.
I think I understand the reasoning, but I disagree with it for two
First, "climate change" will mostly appeal to the relatively small
group of the better educated and well paid in the West, and far less to
those who want to increase the chances and incomes of the Indian
farmers or the Chinese ordinary men and women; and second, the main
motive that moves most men is income, especially income
inequalities which put them backward instead of forward.
And indeed I much prefer to attack or question capitalism, firstly
because it is due to the capitalist mode of production that
climate change happened, secondly because climate change will only
cease or lessen if capitalism gets - at least - tamed, and
thirdly because capitalism and income inequalities touch many
more people than climate change.
Besides, one may question or attack capitalism from many points
of view, and one may hold it is less capitalism itself that is at fault
as unregulated capitalism in
which everything is reduced to short-term profits and the interests of
the richest 1% - or alternatively, one may propose capitalism itself
must be replaced
by different modes of production if mankind is to survive
beyond 2100 or 2050.
But OK - I think I see the thinking behind Rusbridger's plans. And
while he might have made many worse choices, I don't think this is the
best choice, politically speaking, at least, although journalistically
speaking it may be the most profitable for a paper like The Guardian.
Politician’s Murder Lays Russian Realities Bare
item is an article by Ivo Mijnssen and Philip Casula on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
There is considerably more
under the last dotted link. The reason I selected it is that this seems
reasonably informed and not hysterical.
Boris Nemtsov—a former
deputy prime minister of Russia and one of President Vladimir Putin’s
leading critics—was shot dead on Feb. 27 just a few hundred feet from
the walls of the Kremlin. His murder has shocked the nation and on
Sunday prompted one of the largest mass demonstrations in Moscow since
Putin regained the country’s presidency in 2012.
Nemtsov was one of
Russia’s best-known opposition activists. A physicist by training, he
began his political career in 1990, when he was elected to represent
the city of Nizhny Novgorod (then called Gorky) in the Supreme
Soviet of Russia. Later, President Boris Yeltsin appointed him to
be governor of the larger Nizhny Novgorod region, and in 1997 he rose
to become deputy prime minister.
Though he was generally
well-known because of his various government posts, Nemtsov’s standing
in wider public opinion was mixed. He was a respected figure in the
opposition—holding together its various liberal and nationalist
strands; co-founding the economically liberal Union of Right Forces
Party in 1999, which dissolved in 2008; and helping to lead the liberal
Republican Party of Russia/People’s Freedom Party since 2012. But he
was also heavily associated with the 1990s, a period remembered by most
Russians for its chaos, crime and economic decline.
4. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy
item is an article by Peter Richardson on Truthdig:
This starts as
follows - and is a review of the book "Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many
Faces of Anonymous" by the
anthropologist Gabriella Coleman:
I say. Then again, it
seems this is less interesting than I thought it might have been,
judging by the reviewer.
We’ve reached a curious
moment in the digital revolution. The surveillance state has harnessed
the very technologies that were supposed to liberate us. High-tech
corporations have made that surveillance easier and more efficient. A
handful of organizations are fighting to protect civil liberties in
cyberspace, but especially in the aftermath of 9/11, the federal
government has successfully and repeatedly invoked the national
security card to weaken protections against illegal searches.
Meanwhile, hackers are probing weaknesses in websites and databases and
selling their results on the underground market—often to governments,
Against this backdrop,
Gabriella Coleman’s new book, “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The
Many Faces of Anonymous,” considers the shadowy world of Anonymous, a
loosely defined online community that has targeted corporations and
governments guilty of perceived offenses against digital liberty.
Originally driven by the desire for laughs (“lulz,” in the online
argot), its members have specialized in shutting down websites and
revealing embarrassing personal information about their targets.
Trained as an anthropologist, Coleman spent years infiltrating and
studying the group’s inner circles and customs.
First, there is this (that also gets illustrated by a quote, that
basically says nothing for a paragraph, but does so in what may
seem to some "good prose"):
Quite aside from
shifts in tone, Coleman’s story is difficult to follow. Part of the
challenge can be traced to technical complexities, the quirks of online
self-representation, and the anarchic tendency to dissolve and
reassemble in slightly different configurations. But Coleman’s style
also contributes to the mystery. Her first-person narration heightens
the story’s immediacy, but the reader must piece together the group’s
story from scattered episodes separated by personal and methodological
Which is to say - it
seems to me - that the book is basically about anonymous people
Gabriella Coleman has met, and far less about movements, general ideas,
or general values (which I agree is more difficult to write).
Also, there is this
(from the end):
In her conclusion,
Coleman places the Anonymous story alongside the sagas of Julian
Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Yes, indeed: You just cannot
validly compare a very diverse group of mostly quite anonymous 16 to 20
year olds, with very diverse motivations, with the leader of Wikileaks,
with a man who revealed very much about the NSA, and with someone doing
thirty years for releasing a lot of information on the the crimes the
In Laura Poitras’ 2014
documentary, “Citizenfour,” Snowden comes off as principled, purposeful
and sober. In contrast, many of Coleman’s subjects seem callow,
mischievous or both.
In brief, the book may be useful to some, but it will not be read by me.
Carlin: Brain Droppings
item for today is not an article but a video that I had not fully seen
till yesterday, and which is the record of a talk George Carlin gave
in 1999 to the National Press Club in Washington DC. It takes 56 m 29
s, and I will say a bit more after presenting the link:
I had seen one or two
cuts from this (on euphemisms and talking politicians), but I had not
seen the full edition, which the above seems to be, that consists of
three parts: An introduction by the Larry Litman; the talk by George
Carlin; and a fairly long and quite good set of questions + answers by
You can skip the
introduction (it's over after 5 m 35 s) but I really liked the
The talk is a very
good talk on language and its many abuses, that is remarkable for the
speed and the humor, while it is not - other than: by implication -
critical or offensive, and the questions are mostly quite good and also
receive quite good answers by George Carlin (who spoke on a platform
where he was wedged in between Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and John
McCain, in previous and coming weeks).
And it is here
because I guess almost everyone can learn quite a lot from the speech -
which is humorous, clear, engaging, and indeed also a very good speech.