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."
Likens Ending Bulk Surveillance to Opening
2. Top European Court Rules
That NSA Spying Makes U.S.
Unsafe For Data
3. Right-wing 'new reactionaries'
stir up trouble among
4. Large U.S. Firms Hold $2.1
Trillion Overseas to Dodge
5. After Years of Backroom
Secrecy, Public Will Finally Get
to See Full TPP Text
This is a Nederlog
of Friday, October 9, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1
is about the effective refusal of the American government to stop doing
bulk surveillance; item 2 is about the decision of
the European Court of Justice (I have treated this before, but this is
a good article); item 3 is about France and French
"public intellectuals" (in whom I happen to disbelieve since the
1960ies: they are careerists much more than honest, forthright or -
rationally - intellectual); item 4 is about the
very many billions of dollars that 3 out of 4 of the biggest US
firms keep from the American taxes; and item 5 is
about the TTP text: it willl be published (but no emendations by the
Senate are possible!) "real soon now".
Likens Ending Bulk Surveillance to Opening Prison Gates
item today is an article by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as
I am a bit amazed that
the US government's spokesperson didn't say "terrorist(s)" instead of
or before "criminals". For clearly Ms Berman believes there are two or
possibly three kinds of persons in the current USA:
A Justice Department
prosecutor said Thursday that ordering the immediate end of bulk
surveillance of millions of Americans’ phone records would be as hasty
as suddenly letting criminals out of prison.
“Public safety should be
taken into consideration,” argued DOJ attorney Julia Berman, noting
that in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling on prison overcrowding, the state
of California was given two years to find a solution and relocate
By comparison, she
suggested, the six months Congress granted to the National Security
Agency to stop indiscriminately collecting data on American phone calls
Ending the bulk
collection program even a few weeks before the current November 29
deadline would be an imminent risk to national security because it
would create a dangerous “intelligence gap” during a period rife with
fears of homegrown terrorism, she said.
Her own kind of supermen and superwomen, who work for the government
and are and should be able to collect and see all private information
of anyone; the kind of dumb Republican assholes who applauds this; and
the near terrorists who say this is not democracy, nor
democratic law, nor moral, but is in fact an extremely
massive power grab by the first kind of supermen and superwomen
(German: "Übermensche") to provide the government with all the
information they can steal on anybody American.
Then again, I am only a bit amazed, for I have learned there is
hardly anything different to be expected from Obama's government.
And incidentally: When Berman said “Public safety should be taken into consideration" she was
both right and lying:
She was lying because there is no evidence that the safety of
the public was in any way helped by the collection of
everyone's e-mails, but she is right public safety was very
much endangered by the collection of everybody's private mails and
phone conversations, although undoubtedly she did not mean the
last interpretation of her words.
Here is some more on the court case (that is still going on):
The bulk telephony
metadata program, which the NSA said was authorized under section 215
of the USA Patriot Act, was closed down by Congress in June with the
passage of new legislation—the USA Freedom Act. However, the new bill
allowed for a grace period of six months in which the government could
set up a less all-inclusive alternative..
idiosyncratic plaintiff with a history of accusing the government
of lying, seemed a bit unsure about specifically what relief he sought
at the Thursday hearing.
But he argued that the
transition period granted to the NSA was too long. “One day of
constitutional violation is one day too much,” he said in his opening
I do not know anything
about Klayman, but I think he is right when he accuses the government
of lying, and he also is right that each "day of constitutional violation is one day too much", for each day this continues the NSA can
grab of the private e-mails and phone conversations of over 300
million Americans is a very major breach of trust and
There is also this, which
shows that Judge Leon saw things right, and that I was right in saying
Berman's claims are wholly without any evidence:
When Berman made her
analogy to releasing prisoners en masse, Leon responded: “That’s
really a very different kind of situation, don’t you think?”.
And Berman was unable to
cite any evidence that the bulk collection prevented any sort of
terrorist attack, or that ending it now would be a serious threat.
“That’s a problem I had
before—wonderful high lofty expressions, general vague terms…but [the
government] did not share a single example,” Leon said.
European Court Rules That NSA Spying
Makes U.S. Unsafe For Data
article today is also
by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept, and a few days old, but I review
it here because it is a good article:
starts as follows:
Incidentally: That "[t]he NSA is not required to demonstrate
probable cause of a crime before a court or judge before examining the
data" is in flat and total contradiction with the
The European Union no
longer considers the United States a “safe harbor” for data because the
National Security Agency surveillance exposed by whistleblower Edward
Snowden “enables interference, by United States public authorities,
with the fundamental rights of persons.”
The EU’s highest court,
the Court of Justice, declared
on Tuesday that an international commercial data-sharing agreement
allowing U.S. companies free-flowing access to large amounts of
European citizens’ data was no longer valid.
As Snowden revealed in
2013, the NSA has been interpreting section 702 of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act as giving it license to intercept
Internet and telephone communications in and out of the U.S. on a
massive scale. That is known as “Upstream” collection. The NSA is not
required to demonstrate probable cause of a crime before a court or
judge before examining the data. Another 702 program, called PRISM,
explicitly collects communications of “targeted individuals” from
providers such as Facebook, Yahoo and Skype.
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
For clearly (1)
according to the Fourth Amendment any gathering of data is illegal
("shall not be violated") without a prior "probable
cause", while also (2)
Amendment to the US Constitution
"before examining the data" seems a false trick that insists the data
are examined only if read by human eyes, whereas these human
eyes only read what their software - which has read the data,
and searched for specific strings - presents to them.
There is also this clarification of the European Court of Justice's
On September 23,
the Court of Justice’s top legal adviser, Yves Bot, concluded
that the safe harbor agreement was invalid because of
U.S. surveillance. “It is apparent from the findings of the High Court
of Ireland and of the Commission itself that the law and practice of
the United States allow the large-scale collection of the personal data
of citizens of the EU which is transferred, without those citizens
benefiting from effective judicial protection,” Bot wrote.
“Interference with fundamental rights is contrary to the principle of
proportionality, in particular because the surveillance carried out by
the United States intelligence services is mass, indiscriminate
I agree, but I add that I am
not merely not "benefiting": I am, in principle at least, harmed by the
theft of my private mails. 
Finally, there is this on the implications of the European decision:
suggestion is very sensible (but I don't think it will be heeded).
“The European decision is
one of the best ones we’ve seen come out of Snowden revelations,” says
Tiffiny Cheng, co-founder of the online advocacy group, Fight for the
Future. “It is an actual conversation on the responsibility of
companies and government to protect data they hold.”
The ruling was seen as
posing a major obstacle for U.S.-based technology companies like
Facebook, Google and Yahoo, whose business models require moving
massive amounts of data back and forth between the U.S. and Europe.
What’s not yet clear is
what they can do about it.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.,
had a suggestion: reform U.S. surveillance law.
'new reactionaries' stir up trouble among French intellectuals
next article today is
by Angelique Chrisafis on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
From Emile Zola’s J’accuse to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Left Bank politics, France
is credited with inventing the figure of the public intellectual: the writer as a spiritual
guide for society.
But the nation whose vast
scope of thinkers has ranged from Enlightenment heroes to Bernard-Henri Lévy, in his white shirt
unbuttoned to the navel, has been plunged into a moral crisis over the
dominance of a controversial new type of talking head: the reactionary,
right-wing TV intellectual.
A group of media-savvy
French intellectuals, deemed the “new reactionaries” for their
political views and cultural conservatism, are at the centre of a
furious row, accused of being a dangerous threat to France by stoking racism, intolerance and a fear of
I should first admit that,
while I do not know enough of Zola (who did behave quite
honorably in the case Dreyfus) to pronounce confidently on him, also
because I do not know much about France of ca. 1900, I know enough about
Sartre and De Beauvoir - see e.g. my "The exemplary Sartre and De Beauvoir"
of December 2012  - and about quite a few
other French "leftist public intellectuals" to say that I do not
believe in them since the late 1960ies.
There are two basic reasons
for this (next to the fact that I did read Sartre, De Beauvoir
and others, and also was twice in France in 1968, to witness the failed
revolt or revolution of May-June):
The first is mostly
personal: I had from the beginning very little in common with
the French leftist public intellectuals that were popular in the late
1960ies, because while most of them said they were philosophers, there
was hardly anything in their philosophies that I agreed to. I never
saw much in French (or German) existentialism, and "the marxists"
struck me immediately as poseurs
compared to my - revolutionary, communist, proletarian - father, rather
genuine revolutionaries like my father undoubtedly
was, from 1935 till his death in 1980. 
The second is also in part
personal and is mostly related to the fact that I had genuine
revolutionary parents (which very few have), and had a father
and grandfather who were convicted to
German concentration camp imprisonment, as "political terrorists"
by the Nazis (which again very few have), and this made me
realize very rapidly that I found it quite difficult to treat
the French academically employed philosophers seriously. They seemed
far too careerist
and far too much
interested in their own personal standing and status to take
them seriously. 
To return to the article:
Therefore, I am not at all amazed to see the present generation
of French public intellectuals pursue their careers by this
for the right rather than the left:
Dominating the covers of
magazines and newspapers this month, winning large ratings on
prime-time TV and topping bestseller lists, the diverse band of
thinkers and pundits argue that they are the only ones brave enough to
challenge political correctness and defend the ideas of national
identity by highlighting the dangers of immigration and the fears of
“ethnic French” people, who no longer feel at home with so many
foreigners. Their detractors warn they are fuelling a dangerous
atmosphere harking back to the extreme rightwing ideas of France in the
There is more in the
article, which I will leave to your interests. I will quote the ending
though, because this gives an opinion by Régis Debray, whom I also do not
admire, but who said something sensible:
The philosopher, Régis
Debray, when asked this week about the row over rightwing
thinkers, said: “Politics has been emptied of all intellectual and
moral content so it’s normal that intellectuals fill that gap.”
But he warned people not
to lash out so harshly, quoting the French writer George Bernanos: “The
intellectual is so often an imbecile that we should always take him for
one until he proves the contrary.”
Quite so, though it is in
fact a great pity that so many of the modern intellectuals are
hardly better than imbeciles.
4. Large U.S. Firms Hold $2.1 Trillion
Overseas to Dodge Taxes
next article today is
by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The 500 largest U.S. companies would owe an estimated
$620 billion in U.S. taxes were it not for the more than $2.1 trillion
in offshore cash that most of the firms hold in foreign tax havens,
according to a report released this week.
The study, by Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S.
Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, found that almost
three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American
companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries
such as Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
To obtain these figures, the study used the companies’
own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I say: 3 out of 4 of the largest 500 U.S.
companies engage in what in many
other countries is regarded, both legally and morally, as tax fraud.
Indeed, the legal and moral argument is the same: If your company has
its head quarters in
a nation, it ought to pay tax to that nation. But not anymore in the
you don't pay tax, and save the extra profits outside the US.
And it is not miraculous that the late but not so great
Steve Jobs's firm (I am sorry, but the real genius of Apple was
not its salesman but its engineer, Steve Wozniak)
outdoes all the other US companies:
firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other
U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if
it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three
overseas tax havens, the study said.
To me it shows that 75%
of the biggest US firms behave as criminals and also quite
And it's not that they can't pay it: They don't want to.
The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119
billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft is holding
$108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries and drug company Pfizer
is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries, the study said.
“At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the
Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the
end of 2014,” the study said. “All told these 358 companies maintain at
least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.”
Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in
accumulated profits offshore to avoid taxes, with just 30 of the firms
accounting for $1.4 trillion of that amount, or 65 percent, the study
Fifty-seven of the companies disclosed that they would
expect to pay a combined $184.4 billion in additional U.S. taxes if
their profits were not held offshore. Their filings indicated they were
paying about 6 percent in taxes overseas, compared to a 35 percent U.S.
corporate tax rate, it said.
5. After Years of Backroom Secrecy, Public Will
Finally Get to See Full TPP Text
The final article today is
by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I say. Note the - rationally
speaking quite incredible - fact that "lawmakers will not be able to amend or filibuster
the pro-corporate "trade" deal",
which is to say that the lawmakers ceased to be lawmakers, in effect.
After being shrouded
in secrecy for years, the full contents of the 12-nation Trans Pacific
will soon be brought into the sunlight.
to Kevin Collier at Daily Dot, U.S. Trade
Froman has said the text will be made available to the public at
large in approximately 30 days—on or around November 7.
"[We] look forward to
having it released as soon as possible," Froman said in a press call Wednesday that was embargoed
until Thursday morning. "We're shooting to do it within the 30 days
following the completion of the negotiations."
Under the terms of the
Fast Track legislation passed
earlier this year, lawmakers will not be able to amend or filibuster
the pro-corporate "trade" deal that was completed
President Barack Obama
must wait at least 90 days after formally notifying Congress of the
deal before he can sign it and send it to Capitol Hill, and the full
text of the agreement must be made public for at least 60 of those
days. Congress gets to spend the first 30 days of that time privately
reviewing the documents and consulting with the administration.
Also, it seems quite likely to me that the TPP will be much too bulky
and much too legalistic to be read by most Congressmen within 30 days.
(But we will see.)
Lori Wallach has pointed
out (pdf) that 2016 election politics may imperil the deal. "The
intense national battle over trade authority was just a preview of the
massive opposition the TPP will face given that Democratic and GOP
members of Congress and the public soon will be able to see the
specific TPP terms that threaten their interests," she said
(pdf) on Monday.
Well... yes and no. Yes, I agree in priniple, but I doubt
that the main media will pay much attention to it, which means that
most Americans will miss it.
 Not because I am a terrorist (I am not,
also not in my private mails) but because (i) I am an
intellectual and moral radical, and always was, with (ii) communist
parents and (iii) communist and anarchist grandparents. I do not know
what the American secret services make of this, except that it probably
will be little good, and will be mostly based on misunderstanding of me
and also of my parents and grandparents. (Then again, I am meanwhile
65, although I neither look like it nor feel like it, and I certainly
lived most of my life, so I don't worry. But it would be at least a bit
different if I were 35 now. I don't know what 2045 will bring, and I
very probably won't make it, but I am not optimistic.)
 Incidentally, this whole essay is
rather good and rather clear, and part
1 gives a rather good account of my communist youth, when I did
read a decent amount of Sartre, and wasn't impressed at all by his
 This really is personal, simply
because I do have rather extra-ordinary parents (though both
died in the previous century). But indeed one of the things that I did
learn in Paris, in May 1968, is how much more genuine my - also
very courageous - father was than all the "public
intellectuals" and "student leaders" I saw, even though my father was
not an intellectual, and I also disagreed with him about communism.
(Also, very few were in a position to learn such a thing, but I
was, and I did.)
 I think the facts since then bear me
out quite well. And besides, I did not know this in the
1960ies, since I read it only in the 1980ies or 1990ies, but Raymond Aron's "L'opium
des intellectuels" (I read it in French) was a really well
done rational attack on Marxism.