The introduction - by Tom Engelhardt - starts
Welcome to the
asylum! I’m talking, of course, about this country, or rather the world
Big Oil spent big bucks creating.You know, the one in which the obvious
-- climate change -- is doubted and denied, and in which the new
Republican Congress is actively opposed to doing anything about it.
Just the other day, for instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell wrote a column
in his home state paper, the Lexington Herald-Leader,
adopting the old Nancy Reagan slogan “just say
no” to climate change. The senator from Coalville,
smarting over the Obama administration’s attempts
to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, is urging
state governors to simply ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s
proposed “landmark limits” on those plants -- to hell with the law and
to hell, above all, with climate change. But it’s probably no news to
you that the inmates are now running the asylum.
Yes, or perhaps no: It
is not news "that the
inmates are now running the asylum", but even so, the fact that the Senate Majority Leader is now saying state
governors should "simply ignore
the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “landmark limits"", that
is "to hell with the law and to
hell, above all, with climate change" is simply a form of sick and illegal moral degeneracy.
I call it so because the Senate
Majority Leader should follow the law, and should not
act against it, even if he disagrees with it. Here is Aristotle (also
quoted on June 10, 2013):
It is more proper
that law should govern than any one of the
citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the
supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to
be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
according to Mitch McConnell: The laws are subservient to his
desires and his delusions, and can be broken at will as long as
And here is the start of Michael Klare's article (to which the above -
and quite a lot more - served as an introduction):
Many reasons have
for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel
(nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global
economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United
States; the decision of
the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output
at current levels (presumably to punish
higher-cost producers in the U.S. and elsewhere); and the increased
value of the dollar relative to other currencies. There is, however,
one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most
important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s
production-maximizing business model.
Here is one paragraph
from his article, that generally argues that it is likely that oil
prices will not go above 100 dollars a barrell before 2020,
which means that many of the projects to obtain more 'tough oil' (from
fracking or from deep wells in icy seas) simply are too expensive.
This paragraph describes the scene as it was 10 years ago:
appreciate the nature of the energy industry’s predicament, it’s
necessary to go back a decade to 2005, when the production-maximizing
strategy was first adopted. At that time, Big Oil faced a
critical juncture. On the one hand, many existing oil fields were
being depleted at a torrid pace, leading experts to predict an imminent
“peak” in global
oil production, followed by an irreversible decline; on the other,
rapid economic growth in China, India, and other developing nations was
pushing demand for fossil fuels into the stratosphere. In those
same years, concern over climate change was also beginning to gather
momentum, threatening the future of Big Oil and generating pressures to
invest in alternative forms of energy.
But - Klare argues -
that was then, and these days there is alternative energy.
There is a considerably larger amount of text in the article, and I don't
know how convincing Klare's case is - but he is right that if, say, the
costs of fracking require a price of over $100 a barrel, then it is too
costly to frack at present prices.
For more, see the last dotted link.
3. UK Parliament Committee, Calling
For Reform, Shows Its “Evidence” to Justify Mass Surveillance
item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept (and also see item 6, that I found interesting):
This starts as
The Intelligence and
Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC) issued a
lengthy report today on the surveillance practices of GCHQ.
Invoking the now-standard Orwellian tactic of claiming that
“bulk collection” is not “mass surveillance,” the Committee
predictably cleared GCHQ of illegality, but it did announce that it has
“serious concerns” over the agency’s lack of transparency and
oversight. Citing the Snowden disclosures, it called for a yesterdayyesterdaysignificant overhaul
of the legal framework governing electronic surveillance.
I dealt with an
earlier article on this report yesterday.
The above quotation is followed by a quote from the report, that you
can find under the last dotted link, and then continues thus:
The report follows a
British court decision last month finding that GCHQ did act
illegally in spying without the transparency required by human rights
laws. In light of the numerous official findings in the U.S., U.K.
and the EU of illegality
and the need
for reform when it comes to
electronic surveillance, it is hard to imagine how anyone could say
that we’d have been better off if Edward Snowden had not blown the
whistle on all of this and instead allowed us to remain ignorant of
what these governments were doing in the dark. Given all these findings
even from these governments, is there anyone who still thinks that way?
Well... the last
question is probably best answered by noting that (1) Edward Snowden is
still mostly an avoided topic in the mass media, and
(2) it also seems as if he is still mostly judged as a kind of
moral freak who stole stuff he had no right to steal - and this seems
to be the view of both the GOP and the majority of the Democrats.
I agree with neither
point - I think Snowden's revelations ought to be discussed far
more than they are now, and I also think that they are very
important and that Snowden did the only possible thing he could
rationally do to show they are very important for everyone - but I
think (1) and (2) are still quite true, which is also quite sad.
Here is part of Glenn
GCHQ literally collects
billions of emails and other electronic
communications events every day. But don’t worry: they don’t read every
single one of them. They only read “***%” of what they collect,
or “fewer than *** of *** per cent of the items that transit the
internet in one day.” So what’s the big concern?
The great irony of this
is that the Committee here is marching under the banner of greater
transparency, even as their principal arguments rest on asterisks
of concealment. But this is how the largest western democracies
generally function: they make highly dubious (often disproven) claims
to justify radical powers, and then demand that you accept them on
faith, because allowing you to see the evidence for yourself would
endanger your life. That tactic, as much as anything, is a very
compelling explanation for why Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers
decide to do what they do.
Yes - and I should
note that the “***%” of
what they collect, or “fewer than *** of *** per cent of the items
that transit the internet in one day” is quite correct: Nothing
gets quoted, but you get the news that the PM did read them (and you -
a mere secondrate citizen - should trust the PM).
And yes, Glenn Greenwald is
quite right when he says:
But this is how the
largest western democracies generally function: they make highly
dubious (often disproven) claims to justify radical powers, and then
demand that you accept them on faith, because allowing you to see
the evidence for yourself would endanger your life.
For this indeed is
total trash: First, you cannot trust the government anyway, and second
their demands involve a sickeningly anti-democratic trickery: They make
you into a secondrate citizen who has no right to know
what the anonymous secret services are up to, because .... you have to
trust the government.
No: any government that hides much of its doing in secrecy is anti-democratic,
and may be fairly excpected to be authoritarian in principle.
Cameron to close gap in oversight of mass surveillanc
item is an article by Patrick Wintour on The Guardian:
This starts as follows
(and discusses the same report as Glenn Greenwald did in item
David Cameron has moved to close a hole in the
oversight of Britain’s intelligence agencies after it was revealed for
the first time that they were creating “bulk personal datasets”
containing millions of items of personal information, some of it
gathered covertly without any statutory accountability.
Some of the data appears
to have been gathered from other government departments as well as
The disclosure came in a
long-awaited 149-page report prepared by parliament’s intelligence and
security committee (ISC) examining the oversight and capabilities of
the UK intelligence agencies in the wake of the revelations of Edward Snowden, the former US National
Security Agency (NSA) contractor.
The inquiry found the
laws governing the agencies’ activities – including mass surveillance –
require a total overhaul to make them more transparent, comprehensible
and capable of restoring trust in their work.
The report said the
legal framework is unnecessarily complicated and – crucially – almost
impenetrable. The current laws could be construed as providing the
agencies with a “blank cheque to carry out whatever actives they deem
necessary”, it said.
This is rather from the
other site than Glenn Greenwald, it seems to me.
For example, to report
mock-seriously as if there is
a hole in the oversight
of Britain’s intelligence agencies
whereas in fact
there is no real parliamentary oversight of the British
intelligence activities seems to me misleading the public.
And as to that "hole":
In a heavily censored
section of the report, the committee said the datasets contain personal
information about a wide range of people and vary in size from hundreds
to millions of records.
It added that there is no
legal constraint on storage, restraint, retention, sharing and
destruction. Surveillance agencies do not require
ministerial authorisation in any way to access the information.
Committee members said the information gathered in the bulk personal
datasets is not necessarily gathered by the agencies, implying it may
have been harvested by either commercial organisations or other
government agencies for other purposes, and then handed over.
The datasets vary from
hundreds to millions of records and are acquired through overt and
covert channels, the committee disclosed and are not derived from any
specific legal power.
So the "hole in the oversight of Britain’s
intelligence agencies" gave them
the liberty to amass hundreds of millions of records?! And all
"constraint on storage,
restraint, retention, sharing and destruction"?!
And then there is Hazel
Blears, who is supposed to speak for Labour:
Blears, said: “What
we’ve found is that the way in which the agencies use the capabilities
they have is authorised, lawful, necessary and proportionate.
“But what we’ve also
found is there is a degree of confusion and lack of transparency about
the way in which this is authorised in our legal system. It is that
lack of transparency that leads to people reaching the conclusion that
there is blanket surveillance, indiscriminate surveillance.”
The report confirmed that
GCHQ does have the capability for bulk
interceptions but denied that represents a blanket or indiscriminate
surveillance, saying the security services neither have the resources
nor motive to look at more than a small fraction of the material
available to it.
Well, if she said
that she is - like most of her political colleagues, left, right and
center - a doubletalking bullshitter:
First paragraph: No, you have not found it, or if you've found
it you are keeping it secret: The GCHQ has been abusing
its permissions and has conducted unauthorised, illegal,
and unnecessaty surveillance of - let's say - hundreds of
millions of persons.
Second paragraph: No,
it is not the "lack
of transparency" that has
led "to people reaching
the conclusion that there is blanket surveillance": it were Edward
Snowden's revelations - and these made it quite
transparent. Also, what Ms Blears seems to want is blanket
surveillance, without any questions asked or answered also, for
that is what Great Britain has. She just wants "better laws" to
allow the GCHQ these powers.
Orwellian. On the one hand, the report says the GCHQ is doing bulk
interception, but on the other hand it claims this doesn't matter
because... only a small part is being read by human eyes. But it got collected;
it can stay wherever it is as long as no one knows; it can
be used by anyone in any government for any purpose - but the
committee insists this does not matter, and is not "blanket or indiscriminate surveillance" on the total bullshit ground that -
so far - the records it has gathered and may use may
not have been read by a human, as yet.
And here is about the only
recommendation of the report I agree to without major qualifications:
It also found it
unacceptable that MI6 undertakes intrusive operations abroad but
is under no requirement to keep comprehensive and accurate records of
when it uses these powers.
Yes, of course - and it
seems also to do so inside Great Britain, so fas as my knowledge of
Edward Snowden's revelations and the British press reach.
And OK - this article does
end with a quotation that makes sense:
director of Liberty, said: “The ISC has repeatedly shown itself as a
simple mouthpiece for the spooks – so clueless and ineffective that
it’s only thanks to Edward Snowden that it had the slightest clue of
the agencies’ antics.
“The committee calls
this report a landmark for ‘openness and transparency’ – but how do we
trust agencies who have acted unlawfully, hacked the world’s largest
sim card manufacturer and developed technologies capable of collecting
our login details and passwords, manipulating our mobile devices and
hacking our computers and webcams?
Precisely: You can't
trust Great Britain's secret services - and you also cannot trust the
majority of Britain's politicians, for they are often no more than "a simple mouthpiece for the spooks".
5. Bernie Sanders Blasts “Robin Hood in
Reverse” Subsidies to the Rich, Calls for Full Employment
item is an article by Yves Smith on Nakedcapitalism:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. But the
main point is the video, which is also under the following link:
Bernie Sanders gave a
forceful, if sobering, assessment of the state of the economy from the
perspective of working men and women, as well as retirees, and focused
on the hypocrisy of corporations and the wealthy that poor-mouth as a
way to extract even more subsidies and tax breaks. Sanders called for
an end to socialism for the rich, or what he calls “Robin Hood in
reverse” and demanded the government do more to promote job creation
and better wages.
The fact that a speech
like this is noteworthy is a testament to how the Democratic party has
become a pro-corporate venture which generously allows women, gays,
Hispanics, and people of color to join in the looting.
And I agree with Sanders.
Greenwald "The Finance Industry Has Captured Our
The last item
today is not an
article but a video. This is a record of an interview Glenn Greenwald
gave to C-span's Washington Journal back in 2009, which I decided to
watch because of its title:
This is 22 m 22 s long,
but most of it (in fact, until the last question, that indeed isn't
answered) is quite good and quite perceptive, also six years later.
And indeed I regard these two facts (1) the finance industry
has captured the U.S. government and (2) the secret services
are stealing everybody's data on any computer and any
cellphone, as the two most significant political differences
compared with the hundred foregoing years, when these things had not
happened or weren't possible.
These two facts also make it considerably more difficult to
judge current politics, which again is made much more difficult by the
third fact that makes a major political difference: (3) the mass
media serve the government, the finance industry or the secret
services much rather than the people. This also is a radical difference
from how the situation was, till well into the 1990ies.
In any case: The interview is quite good and quite clear.