This starts as follows:
The story of Edward Snowden’s disclosure
of NSA secrets to the press has been told and retold in books, films,
and countless articles. Left unreported has been the quiet role of two
journalists who literally had Snowden material mailed to them in a
In a new
article in Harper’s Magazine, the duo finally tells their story of
beginners’ encryption, convoluted codewords, and extreme paranoia. They
also reveal that they are not the only people to have received Snowden
files without the public knowing about it.
I had no idea, so this is mildly
interesting. Biddle explains that Dale Maharidge (an award-winning
journalist and a professor of journalism) met Laura Poitras in 2011 and
quickly got befriended.
Then, in the beginning of 2013 Poitras
told Maharidge she knew an anonymous source - in fact: Snowden - who
claimed to have materials that would reveal the scope of American
surveillance (that then was illegally surveilling since 2001). Meanwhile, the two were communicating using code words:
All the while, Poitras and Maharidge
communicated using code words — but not, interestingly, any means of
We would call the unnamed source the
“architect” and refer to the mysterious shipment as “architectural
materials.” The recipient of the package would be called the “sink.”
Should that person prove to be unavailable, I would find a backup
choice, whom we would call the “other sink.” The NSA or FBI would be
called the “co-op board”—a tribute to the truculent nature of such
boards in New York City. And if either of us wrote, “The carpenter quit
the job,” that meant it was time to start over with a new plan.
Maharidge found another journalist who
would act as "sink", and she did receive a box of the "architects"
materials, that then was shifted to Poitras, who decided to share it
with Maharidge. (This was before Greenwald had spoken with Snowden, and in order to
be assured the material would be there for eventual publication.)
In fact, all of that went well (there is more in the article), though there was an oddity
with the package that was received by the "sink":
Then I noticed the return address:
Incredibly, for all Poitras’ efforts to
establish a discreet delivery channel, Snowden had shipped the package
with a return address that nearly matched his actual location in a
small Hawaiian town, altered only by one street number digit. Bruder
writes that she was “amazed” and worried that Snowden, in the midst of
so much extreme caution, had used an an address so close to his own,
along with the name of a famous leaker — Bradley Manning, who had not
yet become Chelsea Manning — while in the very process of leaking via
Bruder’s own real name and address.
94-1054 ELEU ST
WAIPAHU, HI 96797
Yes, indeed. As I said, there is more in the article that is recommended. And it is here not because this was important, after the fact, though it might have been if Snowden's history had been different, but simply because I like the story.
Trudeau Unveils Bill Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in Canada
article is by Ian Austen on The New York Times:
This starts as
Fulfilling a campaign pledge,
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation on Thursday to
legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Canada.
nations have either decriminalized marijuana, allowed it to be
prescribed medically or effectively stopped enforcing laws against it.
But when Mr. Trudeau’s bill passes as expected, Canada will become only
the second nation, after Uruguay, to completely legalize marijuana as a
I say, which I do because I didn't know this. And I have two general remarks on this:
First, I think this is a good idea, and I do because I know that marijuana (and hashish) are the least dangerous drugs I know of. You may ask how I know this, and my reply is
that I started smoking marijuana and hashish 50 years ago this year, and I never stopped.
This is not to say I was stoned all the
time (I wasn't, at all) nor that I smoked all the time (I didn't, again
not at all) but I like the drug, I don't like alcohol and hardly ever
drink and never got drunk, and I can easily get it without any
danger in Amsterdam since 50 years, while it also helps me sleep (which
is quite important for me), so I can say that I have used marijuana
(mostly) and hashish (much less) since 1967.
I have used very little other drugs, have never
used any hard drugs, and indeed do not even smoke tobacco since over
twenty years without marijuana, and as I said I have also hardly drunk
alcohol at all, and never got drunk in my life.
If the stories of policemen and district attorneys I have been told (by them) for 50 years now had any truth in them, I should have been dead 45 or more years ago.
And here I am not appealing to my own experience, but to the fact that nearly all my friends smoked marijuana and hashish 50 years ago; that very many Dutchmen and Amsterdammers do; and that I have seen, in 50 years, hardly
anyone who got into problems because of smoking marijuana - and in 50
years, that I mostly spent in Amsterdam, this means there were literally very many millions of stoned people in Amsterdam without any serious effect, harm, or accidents. 
Second, this is a very much better idea than "the Dutch solution to drugs", that was implemented in Holland in the late 1980ies, that now exists some thirty years, and that would make it appear, all over Holland as well, to very many foreigners including many Americans and Canadians, as if marijuana and hashish are legal in Holland.
They are not. The uses of marijuana and hashish are forbidden in Holland since 1965 (two years before I started smoking them) and has been so ever since.
The reason it looks quite otherwise for most foreigners must be
ascribed to the genius of the social democrat Ed van Thijn, who was
mayor of Amsterdam in the 1980ies, and who saw that - by that time -
there was each and every year an enormous amount of money
turned over in Amsterdam, for over twenty years then, and nearly
all in sales of illegal marijuana and hashish.
In fact, according to another social democrat, who did the only Parliamentary Report on drugs, the turnover in only marijuana and hashish around 1990/1994 (the report was written between 1995 and 1996), in all of Holland but then mostly in Amsterdam was above ten billion (that is: above ten thousand million) euros each year (nearly the same in dollars, and 20 to 25 billions in terms of guilders), and when one also counted hard drugs, like cocaine, heroine and amphetamine, then it is closer to 25 billion euros that were turned over, each year, in Holland, where it must be admitted that a good deal of the sales in Holland are to foreign
partners, mostly in Europe, and where it also must be admitted that for
most large dealers in illegal drugs it doesn't matter by what drugs
they make a profit, as long as they make a profit.
Readers of Dutch can read the Parliamentary Van Traa-report, that is on my site, and should look especially at my note 60.
I think that Mr. Van Thijn knew most of
what I said above by the middle 1980ies, and I think he could have done
one of two things: He could have been for legalizing marijuana and hashish, which probably would have been easy on the basis of the well- known facts about marijuana and hashish (neither dangerous nor habituating, and also not
a portal to habituating and dangerous drugs), all of which were as
well-known in the 1980ies as they are now, and especially in Amsterdam
and Holland where marijuana and hashish had been widely sold - then -
for twenty years to very many without doing any harm.
But Mr. Van Thijn decided otherwise, I believe because he was moved by the thought that some 20 billions in guilders were turned over,
illegally, each year, at that time, and mostly in Amsterdam: I
think he (and possibly other social democrats, and other politicians)
wanted also some part of that - truly enormous - amount of money.
Here I must interpose with three relevant
facts. The first is that what I say about the motives of Mr. Van Thijn
and other Dutch politicians is purely speculative: I have no proofs (and am not the man to produce them either). The second is that I have lived for four years above dealers in both soft and hard drugs who had gotten personal permission, in writing, on the official paper of the City of Amsterdam, signed by Van Thijn, to deal in soft drugs from the bottom floor of the house where I lived (that is: not in Van Thijn's house, not in an alderman's house, nor in the house of any leading Amsterdam politician).
What I learned in these four years is that the softdrugs-dealers were allowed to do absolutely everything by ALL Amsterdam bureaucrats (whose boss is the mayor):
They were allowed to threaten me with murder (five times); they were allowed to try to gas me, which almost succeeded; they were allowed
to deal in heroine and cocaine (for they were arrested, probably by a
very young and ignorant cop, with 2 kiloos of heroine and one of
cocaine, in 1991) - and absolutely no one did anything for me:
District attorney Teeven (who probably earned at least 20 million
guilders with an illegal deal in hashish) wrote me to tell me he would
do "nothing" for me, and indeed did nothing for me; the City police refused to take my complaints, also when I went there
after I learned the dealers had been arrested with a lot of heroine and cocaine; absolutely everybody else - at least a hundred bureaucratic persons, in 3 1/2 years - whom I asked for help
(against illegal soft drugs dealers who were also hard drugs dealers
who repeatedly threatened to murder me and tried to gas me, and almost
succeeded) refused me any help; and mayor Van Thijn, to whose personal doormen I had given my main letters (in Dutch on my site) refused even to acknowledge receipt of my letters: As far as I understood, the sooner I was dead, the better it was for him.
In any case (and there is a lot I could say about this): 1% of 10 billion euros each year = 10,000,000,000 : 100 = 100,000,000 euros (each year) = 100 million euros, each year. 5% = 500 million euros (each year).
Both 1% and 5% are very easily paid by the buyers of drugs. Also, Mr. Van Thijn did
make arrangements with the illegal dealers of soft drugs (that he was
so kind to give his "personal permission" in writing that they were allowed by him - against the law - to deal in soft drugs), namely the following two:
He would not undertake any investigation into the quality of the marijuana and hashish the dealers sold, and he also made extensive regulations that made it impossible to know for the mayor or the bureaucrats how much the - illegal - dealers sold in their shops.
And these arrangements are in place now for nearly thirty years,
first in Amsterdam and soon all through the Netherlands. If I am right,
the mayors who gave their "personal permission" to illegal softdrugs
dealers to deal in illegal soft drugs, need not to have done so
out of the kindness of their hearts, or for political, ethical or legal
reasons: If the Dutch politicians (district attorneys, judges,
policemen...) wanted, they may have been collecting between 100 million
and 500 million a year, for their great kindness to permit illegal dealings of illegal drugs in Holland. 
And I think this is what happened, also because it is virtually impossible for fifty years now to get any decent and provably true information about dealing and dealers in Holland, indeed in part because they turn over - at the very least - between 10 and 30 billion (this said billion, and that is correct) euros each year (with the great help of many Dutch bureaucrats, whom you may suppose act all out idealism and without the least thought of any personal profit).
I do not think Dutch bureaucrats are so noble, so kindhearted or so idealistic, but - to return to Canada and Justin Trudeau - this is the alternative
to Trudeau's way. The dealers don't care (they are only interested in
profits); the clients don't care (1% ior 5% is not a lot of money); but
the politicians and the bureacrats may profit a whole lot, on condition it all is illegal, as in Holland, and within their "personal permission" to allow their friends to do what everybody else is forbidden to do by law (and will get punished for with several years in prison at least).
And I think I prefer Trudeau's choices over Van Thijn's choices (also because I have been now for 25 years FAR
more ill after living above the drugsdealers who threatened me with
murder, tried to gas me, and kept me out of sleep for 3 1/2 years) than
I was before living above the drugsdealers (in soft and hard drugs) who were personally protected by Van Thijn to the hilt (or my death).
There is a lot more I could say but do not, mostly because I am not suicidal. Here is some more about Canada:
While the federal government will license and regulate growers, each of
Canada’s provinces will need to decide exactly how the drug will be
distributed and sold within its boundaries. The government will have to
develop the marijuana equivalents of breathalyzers so that drivers can
be checked for impairment at the roadside and workers can be tested for
safety on the job. Diplomats will have to address conflicts with
international drug treaties. And many in the medical field are
concerned about the long-term health effects of increased use of
marijuana by Canadians under the age of 25.
Yes, but this will mostly be easy once it is legalized. As to "many in the medical field": I am sorry, but I do
know that many in the medical field utter many forms of baloney, lies
and propaganda to keep their own special status and their own high
incomes, and here they are - once again - talking baloney to protect
their own financial interests.
Here is the last bit that I'll discuss from this article:
What is an "open market"? I agree on age limits, but the same is true of alcohol (which is far
more dangerous). As to home growth: They are probably right (if the
prices are more or less fair), for growing marijuana is not easy and
takes rather a lot of care and electricity.
the new legislation will take Canada beyond its medical
marijuana system, it stops far short of creating an open
market. The law will require purchasers to be at least 18 years old —
though provinces can set a higher minimum — and it will limit the
amount they can carry at any one time to 30 grams, about an ounce.
will be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants. But the
legislation seems built on the assumption that most users will be
supplied by commercial growers, who will be licensed and closely
supervised by the federal government.
In any case: This is the correct way to deal with marijuana and hashish, just as the Dutch way is the incorrect and criminal way to deal with marijuana and hashish, and this is a recommended article.
Stephen Cohen: This is Most Dangerous Moment in U.S.-Russian Relations
Since Cuban Missile Crisis
The third article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following introduction:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has wrapped up a visit to Moscow, where
he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov. The meetings come at a time of increased tension
between Washington and Moscow. On Wednesday during a press conference,
President Trump said relations with Russia had reached a new low point.
Trump’s comments came a day after the White House accused Russia of
attempting to cover up the role of the Syrian government in the recent
chemical attack in Syria that killed 87 people. Russia has rejected the
claim, saying the U.S. has been too quick to blame Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad. We speak to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of
Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton
Yes indeed, and here is the Wikipedia link to Stephen Cohen. There is considerably more on Democracy Now! but I will select just two bits. Here is the first:
The Russian leadership knows Mr. Tillerson very, very well. For six or
seven years, they dealt directly with him, including Putin, on one of
the largest energy deals Russia had ever made with a Western energy
giant, in this case, ExxonMobil. They would not have made that deal, for
many billions of dollars, if they did not think—excuse me—that Mr.
Tillerson was a deeply serious, competent and honorable man. Now, we can
have our own views about the power of global oil companies in world
affairs, but this is a bilateral relationship that was very important.
Therefore, when Tillerson came to Moscow yesterday in his new capacity,
they knew they were talking with a man of immense experience, because
ExxonMobil has its own State Department, its own intelligence services,
and a man that they could trust to be candid with them.
I end by saying that Tillerson and President Trump said something
extremely important yesterday—it’s been lost in all this madcap
Kremlingate in Washington—that American-Russian relations, said
President Trump, may be at an all-time low. That’s a very important
statement. It gets our attention back on what’s essential. And Tillerson
said—and this was important—there is no trust between us. And that’s
not acceptable when we’re talking about the two nuclear superpowers.
I did not know what was said in the
first quoted paragraph about Tillerson. I also should add that, while I
think Stephen Cohen is probably correct in insisting that Tillerson is
well known in Russia, and is also probably correct in saying he is
regarded there as "a deeply serious, competent and honorable man", I think the reasons for the Russians to
think so are less due to Tillerson himself, as to the fact that he headed an enormous corporation, with which they also reached legal and monetary agreements.
The second quoted paragraph says that "American-Russian relations, said
President Trump, may be at an all-time low". I agree with Cohen that this is quite important,
and mostly for three reasons:
First, while Russia is - currently - depicted in the American mainstream media rather like the Soviet Union, it ceased to be the Soviet Union in 1991, and has been quite capitalistic ever since. Second, while Trump has been quite positive about Russia until now, he now says that "American-Russian relations" "may be at an all-time low" - which is pretty strange
given the fact that Russia is no longer a communist or a socialist
nation, but a capitalist one. (But then again Trump is new to politics
on this level, and seems to be quite ignorant about most things.) And
third, the main reason why this is so important is that both the USA and Russia can blow up everyone and everything with nuclear arms (which are stronger and more powerful than they ever were).
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Indeed. And I agree with Cohen that there is no evidence "that Trump has somehow been compromised by the Kremlin"
e.g. by winning his elections for him, by twisting the outcomes. Also,
Trump is quite ignorant and - in my psychologist's opinions, that I
share with many other psychologists and psychiatrists - not sane. And indeed the problem is both quite complex and made more problematic by the accusations of Trump.
I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations,
at least since the Cuban missile crisis. And arguably, it’s more
dangerous, because it’s more complex. Therefore, we—and then, meanwhile,
we have in Washington these—and, in my judgment, factless accusations
that Trump has somehow been compromised by the Kremlin. So, at this
worst moment in American-Russian relations, we have an American
president who’s being politically crippled by the worst imaginable—it’s
unprecedented. Let’s stop and think. No American president has ever been
accused, essentially, of treason. This is what we’re talking about
here, or that his associates have committed treason.
So I think this is indeed a very serious state of affairs, mostly
because either side can blow up the earth several times. And this is a
recommended article, in which there is considerably more than I quoted,
plus also a link to another article with more Stephen Cohen.
4. How Land
Disappeared from Economic Theory
and last article today is by Josh Ryan-Collins on Naked Capitalism and originally on Evonomics:
This article is reviewed here mostly for personal reasons that I will start with saying a little about.
I have read quite a lot of economics, but I never
found a good economical theory that explains what I would like to see
explained, and which does this well, and that also is based on good
This is not for lack of evidence:
There is a lot of evidence about economics, simply because it is
practically very important. But I learned two important things during
my readings of economics (that comprise Smith, Marx, Keynes, Samuelson,
Sraffa, Veblen and quite a few more: I was serious):
First, there are quite a few quite distinct schools of economics, namely at least five, and they exist for quite a long time. This is not something that is compatible with economics being a real science with a real scientific foundation. Second, each school is based on different basic abstractions, that are not only important for what they include but also because of what they exclude.
Of these two points I was convinced a long
time before 2008, for in fact they go back to the readings I did
between 1965 and 1995 or so. But in 2008 I added a third conclusion,
which was motivated by the fact that hardly any economist (except for a very few, like Michael Hudson (<-Wikipedia)) foresaw the crisis (indeed, according to the Financial Times, he was one of eight economists who did):
Third, when it turned out that hardly any economist could predict a world crisis in the economy in 2008, this meant that economy is not a real science.
I think that is pretty hard to contradict,
for this is rather like a science of real life on earth, called
"biology", that doesn't believe in sexual reproduction. There also is a
fourth conclusion that is related to the facts that there is a lot of
evidence about economics (unlike many other social sciences) and that
economics itself is fairly mathematical:
Fourth, If economics is not a real science, it is not due to there being insufficient data nor to its being unmathematical , for both are false for economics: It must be due to its being based on false abstractions
(and also to the fact "economy as a science" - which is quite different
from "economy as it really exists" - has rather important conclusions
for the rich and for riches).
The present article is about how land disappeared, not from real economics (the real thing, happening in the real world) but from the "science" of economics, basically for political and moral reasons, and not for factual or mathematical reasons.
This starts as follows:
Anyone who has studied economics will be familiar with the ‘factors
of production’. The best known ‘are ‘capital’ (machinery, tools,
computers) and ‘labour’ (physical effort, knowledge, skills). The
standard neo-classical production function is a combination of these
two, with capital typically substituting for labour as firms maximize
their productivity via technological innovation. The theory of marginal
productivity argues that under certain assumptions, including perfect
competition, market equilibrium will be attained when the marginal cost
of an additional unit of capital or labour is equal to its marginal
revenue. The theory has been the subject of considerable controversy,
with long debates on what is really meant by capital, the role of interest rates and whether it is neatly substitutable with labour.
But there has always been a third ‘factor’: Land. Neglected,
obfuscated but never quite completely forgotten, the story of Land’s
marginalization from mainstream economic theory is little known. But it
has important implications. Putting it back in to economics, we argue in
a new book, ‘Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing’,
could help us better understand many of today’s most pressing social
and economic problems, including excessive property prices, rising
wealth inequality and stagnant productivity. Land was initially a key
part of classical economic theory, so why did it get pushed aside?
As to the first paragraph: This accords
with economical theory, but I agree with the last statement (having
read quite a lot of economists, also of different schools): "The theory" - in fact: about real economics in the real world - "has been the subject of considerable controversy,
with long debates on what is really meant by capital, the role of interest rates and whether it is neatly substitutable with labour."
In fact, as far as I am concerned, you can also add marginal productivity and marginal utility, because both are based on idealized assumptions that rarely if ever hold in fact.
And the second paragraph should come as an enormous surprise to most non- economical readers: Clearly, land
is very much a real fact; clearly, it is rented, built on, used for
agriculture and extremely many other things, and indeed an economy without land would be quite different; clearly, there are a few rich men (e.g. in Great Brittain) who own lots of land for many generations - but the economists theorize about the real economy which they assume is not based on land and also has little to do with land.
This is a fine example of what I meant above by "a false
abstraction". Here is how it came about, for the classical political
economists thought quite otherwise:
The classical political economists – David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill
and Adam Smith – that shaped the birth of modern economics, emphasized
that land had unique qualities, distinct from capital and labour, that
had important influence on the dynamics of production.
They recognized that land was inherently fixed and scarce. Ricardo’s
concept of ‘economic rent’ referred to the gains accruing to landholders
from their exclusive ownership of a scarce resource: desirable
agricultural land. Ricardo argued that the landowner was not free to
choose the economic rent he or she could charge. Rather, it was
determined by the cost to the labourer of farming the next most
desirable but un-owned plot. Rent was thus driven by the marginal
productivity of land, not labour as the population theorist Thomas
Malthus had argued. On the flipside, as Adam Smith (1776: 162) noted,
neither did land rents reflect the efforts of the land-owner:
“The rent of land, therefore, considered as the price paid for the
use of the land, is naturally a monopoly price. It is not at all
proportioned to what the landlord may have laid out upon the improvement
of the land, or to what he can afford to take; but to what the farmer
can afford to give.”
I think all of that is fair to both the
classical political economists and to the real facts: Land is quite
important; it is fixed and scarce (which also would make it "an
economical good", by the way); and the rent of land is "naturally a monopoly price" (for it is owned by one).
Here is the difference between the Marxists and the classical political economists:
Marxist and socialist thinkers proposed to deal with the problem of rent
by nationalizing and socializing land: in other words destroying the
institution of private property. But the classical economists had a
strong attachment to the latter, seeing it as a bulwark of liberal
democracy and encouraging of economic progress. They instead proposed to
tax it. Indeed, they argued that the majority of taxation of the nation
should come from increases in land values that would naturally occur in
a developing economy.
I note first that both groups of
economists held that land is quite important, from an economical point
of view, and second that the writer of the article is not quite correct in saying that "socialist thinkers" were all for "destroying the
institution of private property", but this is an aside. (In fact, it may be more right to say they wanted to add social property to private property, but I agree there are quite a lot of different doctrines here.)
Here is a first outline of the difference between the classical economists - both Marxists and non-Marxists - and the new economics that arose around 1900:
The classical economists were ‘political’ in the sense that they saw a
key role for the state and in particular taxation in preventing the
institution of private property from constraining economic development
But at the turn of the nineteenth century, a group of
economists began to develop a new kind of economics, based upon
universal scientific laws of supply and demand and free of normative
judgements concerning power and state intervention. Land’s uniqueness as
an input to production was lost along the way.
Early 20th Century English and American economists adopted
and developed Clark’s theory in to a comprehensive theory of
distribution of income and economic growth that eventually usurped
political economy approaches. Clark’s work became the basis for the
seminal neoclassical ‘two-factor’ growth models of the 1930s developed
by Roy Harrod and Bob Solow. Land – defined as locational space – is
absent from such macroeconomic models.
The reasons for this may well be political. Mason Gaffney, an
American land economist and scholar of Henry George, has argued that
Bates Clark and his followers received substantial financial support
from corporate and landed interests who were determined to prevent George’s theories gaining credibility
out of concerns that their wealth would be wittled away via a land tax.
In contrast, theories of land rent and taxation never found an academic
And this is how it is now (and -
speaking more widely - why economists with a falsely abstracted
economic theory are unable to predict anything with any confidence):
Today’s economics textbooks – in particular microeconomics – slavishly
follow the tenets of marginal productivity theory. ‘Income’ is
understood narrowly as a reward for one’s contribution to production
whilst wealth is understood as ‘savings’ due to one’s productive
investment effort, not as unearned windfalls from being the owner of
land or other naturally scarce sources of value. In many advanced
economies land values – and capital gains made from increasing property
prices – are not properly measured and tracked over time.
There is considerably more and this is a
recommended article, both because of what it says and also for how it
says it, for this is well written, unlike most economists.