1. Sen. Ron Wyden Talks
Trump-Russia, “Warrantless Backdoor
Queries” and Hacking of U.S.
2. Update for
3. As French Election Nears, a Bernie
Rises in the Polls
4. Capitalism’s Invisible Hand Doesn’t Generate Public
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Summary: This is an
ordinary crisis log with four items and
four links: Item 1 is about an interview with Ron Wyden, whom I agree is a decent politician (one of the few) but
whom I cannot regard as inspiring; item 2 is about a brief article by Robert Reich who
outlines 13 important Trumpian deceptions of his voters; item 3 is an article about the
French elections that I liked, because it is quite clear; and item 4 is an article about the
evils of capitalism that seems to me to be composed of jargon only.
April 12: As to the
The Danish site was again
on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and is
still stuck - again and again - on Saturday, April 8. These horrors happen now for
the 16th month in
1. Sen. Ron Wyden Talks Trump-Russia, “Warrantless
Backdoor Queries” and Hacking of U.S. Phone System
And I have to
add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others
I have NO idea AT ALL: It
2015. (Xs4all wants immediate
payment if you are a
week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying
my site now for over
a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not
know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
The first article today is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Senator Ron Wyden rarely asks a
rhetorical question. In a March 2013 hearing, the Oregon Democrat asked the
Director of National Intelligence whether the National Security Agency
collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions
of Americans.” The director, James Clapper, replied, “No, sir,” but
within weeks came the first
in a series of news articles, based on documents from NSA whistleblower
Edward Snowden, showing the agency had conducted surveillance on a
breathtaking scale, with millions of Americans swept up.
Since then, Americans have looked to
Wyden to defend privacy rights — often by asking pointed questions
about secret issues known only within the intelligence community.
Yes. In case you want to know more about Ron Wyden
(<-Wikipedia) that was the Wikipedia lemma. I know about him since
2012 or 2013 and I suppose he is one of
the few decent senators.
The Wikipedia lemma about him shows he has
been a member of Congress from 1980 till 1996 and a member of the
Senate since 1996 till now (re-elected in 2016), which means that he
has been a politician for 37 years now.
Perhaps this explains why I do not think
him inspiring, although I suppose he is decent (which I do not
suppose about most Senators or Members of Congress). And this interview
with him shows the same, at least for me. Here are a few bits.
but Wyden himself (later in the interview, not documented here) makes
precisely the same argument, while the real point is not about what Obama released
or what Comey said, but the fact that there has been an enormous amount
of material in the media that asserts that the Russians hacked the
American elections, but without giving any proof or any evidence.
copy of the Russian hacking report was criticized for failing
to provide any evidence or arguments for Russian governmental
attribution that wasn’t previously public. Do you agree with that
Yeah, I’ve been calling
for more transparency and more declassification and more information
for months and months now. Obama released [the declassified report],
then I asked
[FBI Director James] Comey in January at the open hearing about
open source new information, what could he tell us about it,
whether he was looking at it. He went, oh my
goodness I can’t possibly talk about investigations.
My own view is - by now - that there probably is no good evidence, for otherwise
it would have been put forward since November 9, 2016 - which is meanwhile over 5
months ago. But at the rate at which very small bits of information are given, now
and then, by people speaking for the secret services, this may take a few more
decades. At least.
There is also this:
Well... yes again, but while many people have
been insisting now for for 5 months how extremely important the Russian
hacking of the American elections is, no one has given any good,
credible and reliable evidence.
Should we expect more? Is there
anything to be done to get that stuff declassified?
I have been urging
the chairman and the vice chairman regularly to accelerate the pace of
this effort. Right now people are getting their information from leaks,
they’re getting their information from false tweets from the president,
daily news stories, and we need to have more open hearings, we need to
do more to get information declassified.
Since the speed of release of evidence by the secret services is
snail-like anyway, I say in the circumstances it is far more likely
there is no evidence.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this interview:
In other words, Ron Wyden criticized the Bush
administration for overreach (but did not achieve much, indeed because
he is one of the few decent Senators); Ron
Wyden criticized the Obama administration for
overreach (but did not achieve much, indeed because he is one of the
few decent Senators); and now Ron Wyden
criticizes the Trump administration for
overreach (but did not achieve much, indeed because he is one of the
few decent Senators).
Do you think there’s a better
chance than in years past of getting these reforms through?
Yes, I think there is, just on the basis of
the additional awareness, people want to examine this as an issue, they
start with some political judgment, as i[s] often the case, and I tell
them, hey, I took on overreach in the George W Bush administration, I
took on overreach in the Barack Obama administration, I’m
clearly tackling overreach in the Trump administration, and I think if
you put it that way, you have an opportunity now to build a bipartisan
coalition for reforms of FISA 702 that you wouldn’t have had six
We are 16 years in the future since 2001, but Senator Wyden is still
busy criticizing the overreach of governments and presidents. I suppose
he does the necessary and the decent thing, but I cannot say I feel
much inspired, though indeed this is probably not
This is a recommended article (but you will not learn much if you have
been following the news).
for Trump Voters
article is by Robert Reich on his site:
starts as follows (from 13 points) and is indeed addressed to Trump
1. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You
bought it. Then he bombed Syria.
2. He said he’d build a wall along the
border with Mexico. You bought it. Now his secretary of homeland
security says “It’s unlikely that we will build a wall.”
3. He said he’d clean the Washington
swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more
billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration
in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.
4. He said he’d repeal Obamacare and
replace it with something “wonderful.” You bought it. Then he didn’t.
8. He said Clinton was in the pockets of
Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he
put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his
are altogether 13 numbered points and they are all good and they all
show how the Trump voters have been deceived and lied to by Trump.
am sorry, but the one comprehensive explanation I can provide for the vast majority of the Trump
voters is that they are stupid and ignorant, and I am sorry, but
I think that explanation is both correct and fair.
As French Election Nears, a Bernie Sanders-Style Candidate Rises in the
The third article is by Alan Minsky on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
say, which I do because this is a fairly clear statement that seems
also correct. And here is Minsky's own preference, which I agree with:
The major Western countries are
undergoing their first significant political realignment since the end
of the Cold War. France is currently taking center stage in this drama,
and its rising star is the “French Bernie Sanders,” Jean-Luc
Melenchon—another socialist from Sanders’ generation.
Last summer, after the spectacular
challenge of Sen. Sanders came within striking distance of winning the
Democratic nomination, I wrote that there are now three ideologies vying
for control in Western politics: 1) The old order, seemingly in
decline, represented by establishment center-left and center-right
politicians; 2) the proto-fascist, ethnocentric nationalists of the far
right; and 3) a reinvigorated, radical social-democratic challenge from
The current situation in France reflects this analysis, a point
slightly confused by the fact that there are five main candidates. That
said, independent politician Emmanuel Macron and the conservative
nominee Francois Fillon clearly belong to Team 1, and Marine Le Pen to
Team 2. Meanwhile, the insurgent Socialist Party nominee Benoit Hamon
and longtime leftist Melenchon stand firmly in Team 3.
The promise of this moment comes from
the fact that the only candidate surging in the polls is Melenchon
(just 4 percent or 5 percent behind co-leaders Macron and Le Pen in the
latest surveys), who is speaking to overflow crowds across the country.
His followers hang onto his every word as he outlines detailed plans to
redistribute wealth, commit France to the strongest environmental
program in the world and use the power inherent in Europe’s
second-largest economy to rewrite the European social contract such
that working people and the average citizen are no longer at the mercy
of Berlin, finance capital and the 1 percent. Like Sanders, Melenchon
is animating a vision of a world in which most of us want to live. That
vision stands in marked contrast to Team 1’s program, which maintains
an imbalanced, oligarchic social order, and Team 2’s reactionary fever
dream of reversing history.
Yes. Here is a link to the Wikipedia lemma on Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He is about my age and ten years younger than Bernie Sanders, which makes me hesitate to say they are "from the same generation", but this may just be my personal way of dividing up time. (I think people who are 5 years within my age to be "of my age", which does correspond with my experience, but there are indeed no norms I know of.)
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
I’m not saying that simply winning an
election will conjure up utopian outcomes. Tremendously powerful forces
will align against any socialist government in a major country. Success
won’t come easily, but that doesn’t change the fact that in contrast to
Teams 1 and 2, the policy proposals of Team 3 have a proven track
record, having built the greatest middle-class societies in human
history from the 1930s to the ’70s. What’s more, both Melenchon’s
and Sanders’ proposed resetting of policies, programs and regulations
directly address the social and economic woes of our time, just as the
Great Depression was overcome by New Deal social policies, which were
then built upon from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s tenure through the
Nixon era. So, only Team 3’s program is a serious attempt to improve
society; in contrast, Team 1 delivers spectacular gains for Davos
attendees (aka, the 1% of the 1%), while Team 2 promises short-term
catharsis for the resentful.
I agree. For the moment I do not suppose Mélenchon will win, but he may, and I agree with Minsky that he seems the best candidate.
And this is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more, and that also
Invisible Hand Doesn’t Generate Public Good
was clearer than most articles I read, which was pleasant.
and last article today is by Jeremy Sherman on AlterNet:
I must admit, I think, that I selected this article in part for its title (which may not have been known to Adam Smith, but certainly was known in the 1820ies and since
the 1840s by Karl Marx - for example) and in part for the weird
qualifications he has (in my eyes, which are those of a nearly 67 years
old intellectual with degrees):
Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.
This sounds odd to me: I studied
philosophy and know what epistemology is (theory of knowledge) but how
this got linked to evolution is a bit of a terminological riddle to me,
while "the natural history and practical realities" of - no less - than "decision making" (and not: "of human lives" or "of politicians") also seems mostly jargon.
Here is the result. First, this starts as follows:
If you came into a windfall,
would you be more enthusiastic about buying yourself something big or
giving to charity? If honest, most of us would admit that buying
ourselves something big would be the more motivating prospect. Direct
benefit to ourselves is generally more motivating than distributed
benefit to others.
suppose this translates as: For-profit firms may make profits, which
non-firms which do not work for profit do not make. I say! That was very deep!
Apply this to large institutions and you’re
confronted with a fundamental feature of capitalism. In a competition
between for-profit and non-profit campaigns, the for-profits have a
motivational advantage. They’re buying themselves something big. Their
campaigns reward directly. Wealthy individuals and corporations serving
self-interest will generally prevail against non-profit campaigns in
the public interest.
Then there is this:
first statement of the above quotation is arbitrary: "efficiency" means
many different things to many different people, and varies with their
Capitalism’s invisible hand just
produces market efficiency, everyone buying and selling at the most
efficient price. According to idealized capitalist market theory, the
rich can buy luxury goods at fair market price and the poor can buy
what little they can at fair market value..
And that’s just market theory. In practice,
the rich can campaign profitably to promote laws that advantage
themselves, while the poor can have bake-sales. In practice, capitalism
undermines general welfare as we see in all kleptocracies, including
the one coming soon to a government near you.
and knowledge, whereas "market efficiency" presupposes rather quaint economical
theories and definitions.
And indeed, what is "efficient" about a few rich men selling goods to the highest bidders
an open question. The two quoted paragraphs seem to amount to this, for
the most part: Under capitalism, the rich are better off than the poor.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
Libertarians extol unfettered
free speech too, capitalism as applied to propaganda, another
technology exclusive to humans, the symbolic species. Consider a
competition between someone who will say or do anything for personal
profit, and someone who serves both self-interest and social welfare.
In a contest between the two fisted self-interest with no pulled
punches, and someone who ties one hand behind their back, fighting to
maintain civility, honesty and realism so as not to destroy the game
board of civil discourse. Unfettered self-interests prevail in such a
contest. We see it in sensationalist populism, the likes of which has
come to a government near you.
It seems to me that we are back at where we started: For-profit firms may make profits, which non-firms which do not work for profit do not make.
I am sorry, but this is what I learned. What shall I say about the miracles wrought by a modern university education? Ah well, I did so nearly thirty years ago, and you are welcome to it.