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. Lobbyists for Spies
Appointed To Oversee Spying
2. Just How ‘Socially
Advanced’ Is the U.S.? You Might Be
3. The Age of Selfishness: What Made Ayn Rand Tick -- And
Why She's a Right-Wing
Worst Things About the Techno-Libertarians Solidifying
Their Grasp on Our Economy and
5. Citing Moral and Legal Void,
Rights Groups Demand
Preemptive Ban on 'Killer
This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 10,
is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links:
Item 1 documents that quite a few former
lobbyists or CIA people got moved thtough the revolving door to further
spying on everyone; item 2 is about how socially
advanced the exceptional state filled with exceptional people that is
the current U.S.A.
(according to some) really is; item 3 is about Ayn
Rand (the mother of
"libertarianism"); item 4 is a good piece on the
bad sides of Silicon Valley; and item 5 is about a
good proposal to ban 'killer robots' because both they and their makers
are (presently) unaccountable.
for Spies Appointed To Oversee Spying
item is an article by Lee Fang on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Who’s keeping watch of
the National Security Agency? In Congress, the answer in more and
more cases is that the job is going to former lobbyists for NSA
contractors and other intelligence community insiders.
A wave of recent
appointments has placed intelligence industry insiders into key
Congressional roles overseeing intelligence gathering. The influx of
insiders is particularly alarming because lawmakers in Washington are
set to take up a series of sensitive surveillance and intelligence
issues this year, from reform
of the Patriot Act
to far-reaching “information
I say, but I am not
amazed: The American government wants to control the American
population very much rather than protect them; it has the best
instrument ever for it; and it has put up and will put up a lot
of money and
power to use that instrument - everyone's computer or cell phone - to
get as much information as it possibly can (while lying and deceiving).
As to the president:
After the first
revelations of domestic surveillance by NSA whistleblower Edward
Snowden, President Obama defended
the spying programs by claiming they were “subject to congressional
oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate.”
But as Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and other members of Congress have
pointed out, there is essentially a “two-tiered”
system for oversight, with lawmakers and staff on specialized
committees, such as the House and Senate committees on Intelligence and
Homeland Security, controlling the flow of information and routinely
excluding other Congress members, even those who have asked for
specific information relating to pending legislation.
That is: the
president's defense of the NSA was based on lies. The NSA is
formally but not factually "subject
to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and
congressional debate": In
fact the NSA (and other secret services) control the flow of
information including the access to it by members
The article continues
reviewed the new gatekeepers in Congress, the leading staffers on the
committees overseeing intelligence and surveillance matters, and found
a large number of lobbyists and consultants passing through the
revolving door between the intelligence community and the watchdogs who
purportedly oversee the intelligence community. We reached out to each
of them earlier this week and have yet to hear back
This is followed by a
list of some five or six individuals who indeed were lobbyists or
consultants who now passed through the revolving doors to continue
as government officials.
Also, while several
are new members of Congress, they also got immediately
nominated as chairmen of important sub-committees.
But I leave these to
your interests, though I agree it is frightening. Here is the end of
But lobbyist control over
the House and Senate intelligence and homeland security committees may
have a profound impact on a range of surveillance issues debated by
Congress this year, including the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act
and the Patriot Act.
“This is an extreme case
of an industry capturing the legislative committees that oversee the
industry,” says Craig Holman, a lobbying and government ethics expert
at Public Citizen, an advocacy group with a strong focus on corporate
accountability. “While the reverse revolving door, in which industry
moves their lobbyists and executives into the government committees and
agencies that regulate the industry, is disturbingly commonplace in
most sectors, this sounds like the cybersecurity industry has a lock on
the relevant congressional committees.”
Quite so, and this
promises no good news for June 1, when the Patriot Act is to be renewed
But this is a good
article that deserves full reading.
2. Just How ‘Socially Advanced’ Is the U.S.?
You Might Be Surprised
item is a brief article by Ear to the Ground on Truthdig:
This is here for two
reasons: I am interested in statistics, and I am usually also a bit
amazed when Americans claim they are "exceptional".
Clearly that last claim is a bit of nationalism, which is also quite
common in very many other nations, even though these nationas tend to
be a bit more careful in straightly asserting their own
And what I am a bit amazed about is how much lacking in real
exceptional rankings the U.S. is:
See? There is a lot more on Social Progress Index 2015.
Although the United
States, in the words of columnist Nicholas Kristof, is “the most
powerful colossus in the history of the world,” it lags significantly
in quality of life for its citizens. In the Social Progress Index 2015 the
U.S. does not make the top 10, or even top 15. The global study
measured “basic human needs,” “foundations of wellbeing” and
Overall, the U.S comes in
at 16th, and some indices are particularly startling.
As Kristof writes in The New York Times: “The
index ranks the United States 30th in life expectancy, 38th in saving
children’s lives, and a humiliating 55th in women surviving childbirth.
O.K., we know that we have a high homicide rate, but we’re at risk in
other ways as well. We have higher traffic fatality rates than 37 other
countries, and higher suicide rates than 80. We also rank 32nd in
preventing early marriage, 38th in the equality of our education
system, 49th in high school enrollment rates and 87th in cellphone use.”
3. The Age of Selfishness: What Made Ayn
Rand Tick -- And Why She's a Right-Wing Favorite Today
item is an article by Elias Isquith on Alternet:
This starts as follows:
Indeed, she was
a pseudo-philosopher, and also a very bad writer. I know
because I read several of her books in my early twenties, around 1972,
when I had American friends - none of whom were philosophers or had
studied philosophy - who recommended her.
(Without them I very probably would not have read her then, for
she was - and is, quite deservedly - relatively unknown in Europe.)
With Kentucky Sen. Rand
Paul having recently announced his intention to be the next U.S.
president (an announcement he delivered, incidentally, from
House Hotel), now seems as good a time as ever to reexamine the
life and legacy of one Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, a woman better
known as Ayn Rand.
This is not the first
time that an avowed fan of the novelist, polemicist and
pseudo-philosopher has reached such heights of American politics, of
course. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012, at
the very least used to
be a big fan; and her views were well-aligned with those of Sen.
Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party’s 1964 presidential nominee (of
was a big fan). Her ideas — especially her uncompromising
opposition to redistribution — permeate throughout the conservative
Also, at that time I wanted to study philosophy, but since I had left
school because I found it too stupid aged 17, I did not yet have a
highschool-diploma (of the kind that would give me access to the
university: I had a lesser one). 
In any case, I had been reading a lot of philosophy since I was
17, notably Marx, Descartes, Plato. Aristotle, Wittgenstein, Russell
(by then some 25 of
his books), Montaigne and Mill, and also a lot of related matters, like
Quite's "Mathematical Logic" (for I cared a great lot about logic),
psychology, physics, sociology and mathematics: I really wanted
to know, and had worked quite hard.
With this background (and a lot more) I was somewhat amazed to find
that Ayn Rand, seen against that background of reading, did not
amount to anything I could take seriously, and especially not because
she simplified and schematized so much, usually also without giving
The present article is mostly an interview with the writer of a recent
book about Ayn Rand:
Yet while there
have been books about Rand before, none of them have been quite like “The
Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality and the Financial Crisis,” a
new graphic novel from artist, photographer and sculptor Darryl
Cunningham. The artist and former mental health care worker combines
mediums to take a long look at Rand’s history, but he goes one step
further, looking at how her influence extends into the present day, and
even played a role in bringing on the Great Recession and financial
I agree that "her influence extends into the present day,
and even played a role in bringing on the Great Recession and financial
crisis" - but it is a pity
that Cunningham does not seem to know a lot about philosophy. At least,
in case he does, it gets not reflected in the interview, that mostly is
concerned with Rand from a psychological point of view.
Here is one quote that attempts to explain why Ayn Rand did get popular
Quite possibly so, but
this is not true of me: I thought objectivism was mostly simplified
nonsense, and I am quite sure anyone who is genuinely
not prejudiced (and also not flawed by education) would think the
same, especially when knowing some of the truly great
I think young
people in particular are attracted to objectivism and toward Rand
because, certainly when you’re a teenager, you feel quite often very
alienated. If you want to raise your self-image, there’s no better way
than to read objectivism because it puts you at the center of the
universe; you can be more important than everyone else. If you want to
feel that everyone else is a fool and a sheep, then objectivism will
give you that power; it will lift your self-esteem.removed
I think most people grow out
of that approach and see a more equal way of looking at things.
Anyway, I leave the interview to your interests. (I found it a bit
disappointing, simply because it is mostly about her person rather than
4. 5 Worst Things About the
Techno-Libertarians Solidifying Their Grasp on Our Economy and Culture
item is an article by Richard Eskow on Alternet:
This starts as follows:
Silicon Valley is either celebrated as a hotbed of creativity or
condemned as a cauldron of greed and wealth inequality.
While there are
certainly some talented and even idealistic people in the Valley,
there's also an excess of shallow libertarianism, from people who have
enriched themselves with government-created technology who then decide
they're being held back by government. That's shortsighted and vain.
And yes, there are serious problems with sexism and age discrimination
– problems which manifest themselves with some ugly behavior.
ethical problems aren't solely, or even primarily, the product of
individual character defects. They're the result of self-reinforcing
cultural norms at work. Anthropologists and sociologists could do worse
than study the tech culture of the Silicon Valley. It would be
important work, in fact, because this insular culture is having a deep
and lasting impact on our economy and society.
Yes, indeed. And this is a
good article that deserves full reading. It does list 5 points, that
follow, each of which gets accompanied with a fair amount of text,
which you can read by clicking on the last dotted link.
Here are "the five worst
things" (bold in the original):
products become the byproducts of a money-making
scheme rather than an
end unto themselves.
2. Even inspired leaders internalize a
worldview which places
profits over humane behavior.
3. The culture encourages a solipsistic
reality, even as its brute economic strength
everything it touches.
4. The Valley gets fixated on lame (and
5. The Silicon Valley's culture is hurting our economy.
The text is good, in
proof of which I quote a part from the fifth point (which also connects
to Ayn Rand):
hurting our economy in another way, too. Somehow, some of the titans of
tech have gotten the misguided idea that they are exemplars of
libertarian self-created success. Nothing could be further from the
truth. The Silicon Valley runs on government-subsidized technology,
from microchips to the Internet itself. Corporations like Amazon used
government-created tax breaks to build near-monopoly leverage and turn
it against their suppliers.
And now, having
enriched themselves through government generosity, some of the Valley's
billionaires are using their publicly-assisted wealth to back political
candidates and organizations under a “libertarian” label that is better
described, at least economically, as a far-right agenda. These
candidates and organizations push our political dialogue in a more
conservative direction – which in turn creates a political climate
which tends to permit more of the things that have already wounded our
economy, like deregulation and lower taxes for the wealthy and
precisely - and I also agree that "libertarian" seems to mean - in
practice - mostly
"far-right": the liberty of the few rich to mercilessly exploit the
5. Citing Moral and Legal Void, Rights Groups Demand
Preemptive Ban on 'Killer Robots
For more, click on the last dotted link.
item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows (and seems a good
and quite important initiative to me):
Fully autonomous weapons,
or "killer robots," present a legal and ethical quagmire and must be
banned before they can be further developed, a new human rights report
published Thursday urges ahead of next week's United Nations meeting on
The report, titled Mind the
Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots, was jointly
published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School's International
Human Rights Clinic and outlines the "serious moral and legal concerns"
presented by the weapons, which would "possess the ability to select
and engage their targets without meaningful human control."
Although fully autonomous
weapons do not yet exist, their "precursors" are already in use, such
as the Iron Dome in Israel and the Phalanx CIWS in the U.S., the report
Under current law, the
makers and users of killer robots could get away with unlawful deaths
and injuries if the weapons are allowed to develop. Allowing weapons
that operate without human control to make decisions about the use of
lethal force could lead to violations of international law and make it
difficult to hold anyone accountable for those crimes. Moreover, civil
liability would be "virtually impossible, at least in the United
States," the report found.
"No accountability means
no deterrence of future crimes, no retribution for victims, no social
condemnation of the responsible party," lead author and HRW Arms
Division researcher Bonnie Docherty said in a press
release on Thursday. "The many obstacles to justice for potential
victims show why we urgently need to ban fully autonomous weapons."
I quite agree. There is
more under the last dotted link.
 And I did study philosophy, and was a very
student - but I was removed as the only Dutch student ever
to be removed since WW II for honestly stating his opinions in a public
lecture in the form of questions, and while I was ill for nearly ten
years then, from the right of doing an M.A. briefly before taking it.
My crimes? I was extremely intelligent; I was not a communist (as most
students then were); my teachers were lazy incompetents; and I said so.
Out I went, indeed quite illegally and against my expectations:
The lazy and incompetent whores of reason who removed me - screaming
16-fold I was "a fascist" (while my father and grandfather were
communists who were convicted by Dutch collaborating nazi-judges to the
concentration-camp, where my grandfather was murdered, and I was none
of the kind at all) - must have hated me very passionately (and more
than I had realized).
None of these whores of reasson ever
published anything since 1988. They are (or were) Dutch
"academic philosophers", and the worst kind of utter
incompetents I ever met, who also were the best paid.