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. Let me be clear – Edward
Snowden is a hero
Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its
Worst — and Filled with
3. 5 Questions For UK Government
After Sunday Times'
Snowden Take Down
How Bernie Sanders Could Win
5. Why the Trans Pacific
Partnership is Nearly Dead
is a Nederlog of Monday June 15, 2015.
is a crisis blog.
There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1, item 2 and item 3 are all about
Snowden and about an attack on him - without any evidence
whatsoever - in the Sunday Times; item 4 is about
an article of a former collaborator of Bill Clinton that seems to me
mostly mistaken; and item 5 is about an article by
Robert Reich on the TPP and "free trade" that also isn't
very well evidenced (it seems to me).
1. Let me be clear – Edward Snowden is a hero
item is an article by Shami Chakrabarti on The Guardian:
This starts as follows, and is
a good explanation why there are three articles on Edward
Snowden in today's Nederlog:
Who needs the
movies when life is full of such spectacular coincidences? On Thursday,
David Anderson, the government’s reviewer of terrorism legislation, condemned snooping laws as “undemocratic,
unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable”, and called for a
comprehensive new law incorporating judicial warrants – something for
which my organisation, Liberty, has campaigned for many years. This
thoughtful intervention brought new hope to us and others, for the
rebuilding of public trust in surveillance conducted with respect for
privacy, democracy and the law. And it was only possible thanks to Edward Snowden. Rumblings from No 10
immediately betrayed they were less than happy with many of Anderson’s
recommendations – particularly his call for judicial oversight. And
three days later, the empire strikes back! An exclusive story in the
Sunday Times saying that MI6 “is believed” to have pulled out spies because
Russia and China decoded Snowden’s files. The NSA whistleblower is
now a man with “blood on his hands” according to one anonymous “senior
Home Office official”.
And that is indeed what
the article seems to be about. There will be more in the next two
articles below, but here is Shami Chakrabarti's own
judgment (with which I agree):
Low on facts, high on
assertions, this flimsy but impeccably timed story gives us a clear
idea of where government spin will go in the coming weeks. It uses
scare tactics to steer the debate away from Anderson’s considered
recommendations – and starts setting the stage for the home secretary’s
new investigatory powers bill.
Yes, indeed: the
governors are the criminals, the crooks and the states' terrorists, for
they have no right to do what they have done - spying on everyone
to get everything.
So let me be completely
clear: Edward Snowden is a hero. Saying so does not
make me an apologist for terror – it makes me a firm believer in
democracy and the rule of law. Whether you are with or against Liberty
in the debate about proportionate surveillance, Anderson must be right
to say that the people and our representatives should know about
capabilities and practices built and conducted in our name.
For years, UK and US
governments broke the law. For years, they hid the sheer scale of their
spying practices not just from the British public, but from parliament.
Without Snowden – and the legal challenges by Liberty and other
campaigners that followed – we wouldn’t have a clue what they were up
Also, once again: the governors do not try to get everything on
everyone because they are concerned over terrorism; they
try to get everything
on everyone because they want - especially in England - a far
more authoritarian state, that can control everyone, weed out all
dissent, and rule absolutely.
"Terrorism" is merely the pretext to make the very few
that govern get absolute power over everyone by knowing
everything about everyone (and knowledge is
"Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely. Great men
are almost always bad men."
Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its Worst
— and Filled with Falsehoods
item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This is from the beginning (second
Last night, the
Murdoch-owned Sunday Times published their lead
front-page Sunday article, headlined
“British Spies Betrayed to Russians and Chinese.” Just as the
conventional media narrative was shifting to pro-Snowden sentiment in
the wake of a
key court ruling and a new surveillance law, the
article (behind a paywall:
full text here)
claims in the first paragraph that these two adversaries “have
cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US
whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live
operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials
in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.”
This is indeed what it
comes down to:
Murdoch's Sunday Times produced an article without any
checkable evidence about Snowden, that was merely asserted to
be based on statements by anonymous officials, and with palpable
falsehoods about people who were somehow involved, like David
As Glenn Greenwald explains, this technique of anonymous smearing with
falsehoods is quite common, and has happened many times (and he gives
several cases, including Ellsberg's).
I also think there probably is some relation between the publication of
the Anderson report, who was
(...) the government’s
reviewer of terrorism legislation, [and who] condemned snooping laws as “undemocratic,
unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable”, and called for a
comprehensive new law incorporating judicial warrants (...)
This was explained by Shami
Chakrabarti in the previous article. But I agree
this is a guess, albeit a plausible one.
Here is some more by Glenn Greenwald, who shows how grossly
illogical the Sunday Times's article is. This starts with a
Yes, indeed. Here is one
part of Greenwald's argument:
One senior Home
Office official accused Snowden of having “blood on his
hands”, although Downing Street said there was “no evidence of anyone
Aside from the serious
retraction-worthy fabrications on which this article depends –
more on those in a minute – the entire report is a self-negating
joke. It reads like a parody I might quickly whip up in order
to illustrate the core sickness of western journalism.
Unless he cooked an
extra-juicy steak, how does Snowden “have blood on his hands” if there
is “no evidence of anyone being harmed?” As one
observer put it last night in describing the government
instructions these Sunday Times journalists appear to have
obeyed: “There’s no evidence anyone’s been harmed but we’d like
the phrase ‘blood on his hands’ somewhere in the piece.”
article does literally nothing other than quote
anonymous British officials. It gives voice to banal but
inflammatory accusations that are made about every whistleblower
from Daniel Ellsberg to Chelsea Manning. It offers zero evidence or
confirmation for any of its claims. The “journalists” who wrote
it neither questioned any of the official assertions nor even
quoted anyone who denies them. It’s pure stenography of the worst kind:
some government officials whispered these
inflammatory claims in our ears and told us to print them, but not
reveal who they are, and we’re obeying. Breaking!
That seems to be the right
Glenn Greenwald also quotes Stephen Colbert who - already
in 2006 - "mocked American
journalism to the faces of those who practice it:"
But, listen, let’s
review the rules. Here’s how it works.The President makes decisions.
He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and
you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce,
type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your
family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking
around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington
reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know,
And that is how it
There is considerably more about Ellsberg and Manning, that I leave to
your interests, but I quote this general conclusion:
At this point,
it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that journalists want it this way.
It’s impossible that they don’t know better.
Here is Glenn Greenwald's
Times today merely recycled the same evidence-free
smears that have been used by government officials for years – not only
against Snowden, but all whistleblowers – and added a dose of
sensationalism and then baked it with demonstrable lies. That’s just
how western journalism works, and it’s the opposite of surprising. But
what is surprising, and grotesque, is how many people (including other
journalists) continue to be so plagued by some combination of stupidity
and gullibility, so that no matter how many times this trick is
revealed, they keep falling for it. If some anonymous
government officials said it, and journalists repeat it while hiding
who they are, I guess it must be true.
Yes and no. I agree with most,
but I don't think "some
combination of stupidity and
gullibility" play a large role
here, at least with the journalists of the Sunday Times:
They're trying to deceive
the public, know they are, and probably don't care
because they do not care for truthful reporting, and may not
believe in truth
at all, and especially not when this would contradict their own ideological falsehoods.
This is a serious problem - journalists who are merely ideological,
who ceased to believe (or to care) that there is a real truth, and who
function merely as the government's eager propagandists
- but I
will leave that to another day.
Questions For UK Government After Sunday Times' Snowden Take Down
item is an article by Ewen MacAskill
(<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet. It originated on The Guardian:
This starts as
The Sunday Times produced
what at first sight looked like a startling news story: Russia and
China had gained access to the cache of top-secret documents leaked by
former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Not only that, but as a
result, Britain’s overseas intelligence agency, the Secret Intelligence
Service, better known as MI6, had been forced
“to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries”.
These are serious
allegations and, as such, the government has an obligation to respond
The story is based on
sources including “senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office
and the security services”. The BBC said it had also also been briefed
anonymously by a senior government official.
MacAskill then asks
five questions, all quite justified. Here they are, but without explanatory
texts (which you can get by clicking the last dotted link):
1. Is it
true that Russia and China have gained access to
Snowden’s top-secret documents? If so, where
2. Why have the
White House and the US intelligence
agencies not raised this?
Why have these claims emerged now?
Why is the Foreign Office not mentioned as a source?
What about the debatable assertions and at least one
totally inaccurate point in the Sunday Times
My own answers: 1.
Without evidence there's no reason to believe this.
2. Because the allegations are not true. 3. Quite possibly because of the
Anderson case (as Ewen MacAskill also says). 4. I have no idea. 5.
Glenn Greenwald indicated at the end of his article,
the falsehood about
David Miranda has been deleted on the internet, but not
How Bernie Sanders Could Win
item is an article by Bill
Curry (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet:
As you can see from
the Wikipedia link, Bill Curry was White House counselor to president
This is a fairly long
article, that doesn't quite live up to its title, though the main
argument is clear: (1) the main political problem there is now is corruption,
and (2) Bernie Sanders has a chance to win the presidential nomination
if he concentrates on that.
This is from the beginning:
We live amidst a global
pandemic of corruption. It ravages Asia, Latin America and the Middle
East and devours Africa. It was the issue at the heart of every
uprising of the Arab Spring. It has spurred riots in India and Brazil,
struck fear into the hearts of China’s leaders and contributed mightily
to the warping of Russia’s politics as well as its economy. It tops
liberal agendas everywhere in the world — everywhere, that is, but here.
America has not had a
full-throated debate of political corruption since Watergate. In that
scandal’s immediate aftermath Congress enacted sweeping campaign
finance reforms (struck down by the Supreme Court in its vile Buckley
v. Valeo decision). In the mid ’70s, states passed a flurry of reforms,
establishing what were often their first ethics, campaign finance and
freedom-of- information commissions. But politicians have chipped away
at those reforms ever since.
I agree with that -
many politicians and indeed many CEOs are corrupt, and
the U.S. didn't have a real debate about political corruption
but this does not establish corruption is the main political
Indeed, I think it isn't. There are three main reasons: (1) While I
is an enormous amount of corruption, the main problems for the
less about corruption as about income inequalities (which may
have been brought about by corruption, but even so: the electorate is a
lot less corrupt than many politicians, and this is what they
feel: no real increase in their wages for decades,
while the 1% earn obscenely much). (2) The problem with making corruption
a major political theme is that it very easily slides into all
manner of questions about how corrupt are those politicians who
propose/oppose it - and again there are many more problems than
corruption itself. (3)
It requires a moral excellence in politicians hat is probably hard to
find, and even if it exists it seems much better to attack the
unpalatable consequences or conditions of corruption, like "Money Out
rather than insisting on how corrupt politicians are.
This is not to deny that
corruption is important, and Curry has this about it:
This week the Times
released a poll on money in politics. Eighty-five percent of
respondents said the system needs “fundamental change” or even to be
“completely rebuilt.” Eighty-five percent said politicians do their
donors’ bidding some or all of the time. Seventy-eight percent want to
limit spending by independent groups. Seventy-five percent would
require disclosure of donations to any entity engaged in politics. Just
23 percent said all Americans have an equal voice in their democracy.
And here’s an interesting fact: On every question, it seems Democrats
and Republicans felt pretty much the same.
I agree with this -
but then again it would seem to me more practical to campaign for
Money Out Of Politics (for example), rather than against
There is this small
bit that relates to the title:
Neither Clinton has a
clue about the depth of public anger over watching big-money interests
treat government as their personal toy. If Clinton loses the nomination
or the general election, this will be the reason why.
Bernie Sanders does a far
better job on the issue, but even he doesn’t quite nail it. Like
Clinton, he says his Supreme Court appointees must commit to overturn
Citizens United. He said it first, but every Democrat says it now and
it feels like a dodge.
Really now? And
speaking about corruption, which the Citizens United decision very
much helped: Why would the fact - which Bill Curry claims, but I do not
know with what justification - that "every Democrat says it now" makes
saying this an invalid point?
So no: This is hardly about Bernie Sanders, and I also disagree with
basic points: While I am much against corruption, and while I agree
many politicians these days are corrupt, I don't think corruption
should be the main theme, and
I don't think Sanders should concentrate on it.
And it is much better to say what you are for, such as
"Money Out Of
Politics!" than to say what your are against, such as "Down
Why the Trans Pacific
Partnership is Nearly Dead
item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as
I say? It is
indeed quite possible that Robert Reich knows more about the
TPP than I do,
but I would have liked to see his evidence. And now "most Americans no
longer support free trade"?
How can it be
that the largest pending trade deal in history – a deal backed both by
Democratic president and Republican leaders in Congress – is nearly
Pacific Partnership may yet squeak through Congress but its near-death
experience offers an important lesson.
It’s not that
labor unions have regained political power (union membership continues
dwindle and large corporations have more clout in Washington than ever)
that the President is especially weak (no president can pull off a
like this if the public isn’t behind him).
The biggest lesson is
most Americans no
longer support free trade.
Again, I doubt this, firstly because I think that "free trade" is an
out and out ideological
idea (there is no free trade without many agreements, which makes the
trade a lot less free, though indeed not necessarily more honest or
less profitable); and secondly because the evidence that Reich presents
does not support the notion that ordinary Americans are against (or
for) "free trade", but much rather that they are against major
inequalities and in favor of a considerable amount of fair
And I like that, but being a psychologist I also know these properties
are not only human but are shared with many of the apes. 
 Indeed, this in turn suggests that Bill
Gates and Steve Jobs and other billionaires may be considerably
less popular than it would seem, though there is an apish quality that
is also shared by humans that protects them: Fair sharing is fine, but
it does mostly hold for similar others, with similar status,
which protects the strong ones: "Since he is stronger, I better don't
protest". (But I know that I am now rather far from the theme Reich