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. Surveillance diehards in the
Senate will do anything to
stop NSA reform
2. Hillary and Bill Clinton earn more than $25m for giving
Liberal Apologies for Obama’s Ugly Reign
4. Losing the American Republic
5. Some personal remarks
This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 17,
This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a good article by Trevor Timm that
outlines that the NSA is far from defeated; item 2
is about an article that notes that the Clintons "earned" $ 25 million
the last 1 1/2 years with speeches, while Bill "earned" $ 50 million,
again by speeches, during the four years that his wife was secretary of
state; item 3 is an interesting article
that helps explain Obama; item 4 is about how the
American Republic is going down; and item 5 is not
a crisis item but consists of a few personal remarks.
In fact, the present Nederlog is a bit hasty and a bit brief (and also
I couldn't find much), but I am doing my best and, as long as I
am writing about the crisis, I am dependent on what I can find in the
1. Surveillance diehards in the Senate will do
anything to stop NSA reform
item today is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The NSA and its
surveillance state supporters in the Senate are making a last ditch
effort to prevent Congress from taking away any of the spy agency’s
authority to snoop on innocent Americans, despite the fact that there
is now broad support for NSA reform in Congress.
Earlier this week, the
House overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act, a
bill designed – at least so its authors hope – to end the surveillance
program of every American’s phone records that Edward Snowden first
exposed in June 2013. The bill passed by a huge margin, partially
buoyed by the fact that a recent court opinion makes it virtually
impossible for the NSA to continue as is. As Glenn Greenwald, the
journalist who first broke the Edward Snowden story, noted after the bill passed, the vote is a
significant moment. It’s the “first time since 9/11 that powers
justified in the name of terrorism will be reduced rather than
But unfortunately it also
passed because the bill is so weak, it was hard for many to object to
it. Intelligence officials told the Daily Beast’s Shane Harris that they
can more than live with USA Freedom Act, calling it a “a big win”
compared to what it could have been. Another unidentified former
official said: “The NSA is coming out of this unscathed.”
This is as I expected:
The "Freedom Act" (an utterly bullshit name)
was bad, but the
alternative was worse. The article explains it all fairly well,
and is worth reading in full.
There is the ending:
I agree, but this last
option will probably not be taken, alas.
The American public
should not accept even a one day extension of the appalling law that
allowed the NSA to invade millions of innocent people’s privacy in
secret for all these years. Mitch McConnell’s plan seems to be to pass
a “temporary” extension of the law to allow for more debate and
“compromise” (like two years wasn’t enough time to come to a solution
to this problem). Of course, he just wants to use that time to neuter
the USA Freedom Act even more.
Letting the Patriot Act
expire would be a bipartisan rebuke of the NSA’s powers, it would be a
vindication for Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, but more importantly,
it would be a win for the rights of the American people.
and Bill Clinton earn more than $25m for giving 100 speeches
item today is an article by Associated Press on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
To be sure: 25m = 25 million
dollars, which means these American
aristocrats make $500,000
per speech. To the best of my knowledge this is not because the
speeches are interesting or the audiences are extremely large, but
because this is
Hillary Clinton and her husband and former
president Bill Clinton reported on Friday they had earned more than
$25m in speaking fees since January 2014.
presidential campaign reported the income in a personal financial
disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission. The
report, required of every candidate for the White House, also shows she
earned more than $5m from her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices.
in fact money mostly supplied by bankmanagers who buy
Note this is only for the last 1 1/2 years. Thus, while his
Secretary of State, Bill Clinton did the talking:
Associated Press review of the Clintons’ disclosures and State
Department records found that Bill Clinton had been paid at least $50m for
his appearances between 2009 and 2012, the four years that Hillary
Clinton served as the nation’s top diplomat.
To my mind - $ 500,000
is more than I earned in my whole life, which the Clintons get
for talking half an hour to an hour - this is completely ludicrous,
it also seems quite normal - at least for people with the
power the Clintons had and may have - in the present U.S.
But no, this is not a democracy: This is an aristocratic
plutocracy, with the Clintons as leading members since 25 years.
3. The Liberal Apologies for Obama’s Ugly
item is an article by Paul
Street (<- Wikipedia) on Counterpunch:
This starts as
So this is how Barack Obama is moving into the final 20
months of his dismal neoliberal presidency, which he once (proudly)
described as ideologically akin to the Eisenhower White House. He is
nauseating much of his own Wall Street-captive party’s electoral base
by trying to push through the absurdly regressive, secretive,
eco-cidal, and global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership treaty – a
massive investor rights measure that promises to reduce wages, deepen
inequality, undermine popular sovereignty, and assault already
endangered livable ecology in the name of (what else?) “free trade” and
The treaty is so toxically capitalist and transparently
authoritarian that even the leading right-wing corporate Democrats Bill
and Hillary Clinton – champions of the arch-neoliberal North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – have to keep their distance from it in
accord with Mrs. Clinton’s presidential ambitions.
This is an interesting
piece by someone who got Obama right in 2008, and published two
books about it, namely "Barack
Obama and the Future of American Politics" in 2008, and "The
Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power" in 2010. (I did not read them.)
There is also this:
There are a number
of understandable and respectable responses (horror and disgust come to
mind) to these latest corporatist White House policies, but surprise is
not one of them. This is precisely the capitalist Obama that a good
cadre of Left activists and writers tried (none more voluminously than
this writer) to warn liberals and progressives about from the beginning
of the Obama phenomenon and then presidency.
Yes, indeed. And no,
he tricked me as well, in the beginning, for the greatest
part because at that time I knew a whole lot less about American
politics than I do now, and also I didn't have fast internet until the
summer of 2009, which really cramped my access to the internet.
again, by the end of 2009 I'd
seen mostly through him: Just another liar for the big corporations,
he is half black. I grant he is a good liar and deceiver. 
And there is this:
As the onetime
Obama enthusiast Frank had the decency to admit, the financial crisis
“worked out the way it did”—with Wall Street unpunished, richer, and
more powerful than ever—“in large part because Obama and his team
wanted it to work out that way…"
Yes indeed: Obama
chose from the very beginning for the banks and their managers
Clinton), and the article contains a good story about this.
He never faught with Wall Street: he cooperated as much as he
will be rewarded when he has ended his presidency).
Here is a sum-up:
serious investigation of the real Obama and his career (what I
undertook in my 2008 volume) would have revealed someone very
different: a “deeply conservative” agent and servant of American Empire
and Inequality, Inc. masquerading (like fellow arch-neoliberal Bill
Clinton in 1992) as a man of the people – an old and deadly character
(with a tantalizing racial twist fit for the post-Civil Rights era in
Obama’s case) at the long duplicitous heart of U.S. political culture.
Yes, indeed. And this
is a good article, well worth reading in full, in which case
the American Republic
you may also savour the story about the relation between Obama and the
The next item
is an article by William R. Polk
(<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews:
This comes with a summary, which I quote
because it clarifies what this article is about:
Decades of letting
neocons dictate a hawkish foreign policy have put the American Republic
in profound danger, just as presidents from George Washington to Dwight
Eisenhower predicted, warnings that Americans must finally take to
heart, says ex-U.S. diplomat William R. Polk.
I agree that the American Republic is "in
profound danger", but I don't think the main reason is that
"neocons" have "dictate[d] a hawkish foreign policy". To be sure, that "hawkish foreign policy" cost an enormous amount of money that could
and should have been much better spend (on infrastructure and
education, for example), but I feel pretty sure now that the main
reason the American Republic is in very great danger are that
the neocons and neolibs have for 35 years now
anything they could deregulate, and especially the banks, in which they
were much helped by Clinton and Obama (formally "Democratic
presidents", but see item 3), while the main media,
both TV and press, do rarely write honestly about the major themes, as
was the case at least from the 1930s
to the 1990s. 
This starts as follows:
This also is a long article
(and the first of two) from which I will quote just two more bits.
In The Financial
Times of April 23, Philip Stephens begins a perceptive article
with the obvious statement that “It is easier to say that Obama never
gets it right than to come up with an alternative strategy.”
Of course it is. It was
never easy to construct a coherent policy, but it was never impossible.
The problem we face today is different. It is that for a long time we
have not been presented by our leaders with any strategy. So
the obvious question a citizen (and a taxpayer) should demand be
answered is why, despite all the effort, all the proclamations and all
the lives and money we are spending, does almost every observer believe
that we do not have a policy that we can afford and that accomplishes
our minimal national objectives? In this first part of a two-part
essay, I will address that problem.
The first is about the American people:
fundamentally, could it be that we, the citizenry, the voters and the
taxpayers, simply do not care enough or keep ourselves well
enough informed to make our leaders perform the tasks they avidly seek
and we pay them to do?
Tocqueville - a very interesting man, with a very fine mind - was
certainly right, and the American people are, on average, stupid and
ignorant (and no, this doesn't amuse me, though it does frighten me).
Then again, there are very many Americans and there are also
quite a few intelligent and learned ones, though proportionally
they form a small
minority (that is also not at all agreed on most things, and has many
As Alex de Tocqueville
observed of us, “the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of
ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved
from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.”
And in any case, "democracy"
(so called) will probably remain in
America, so even if it is the underlying problem, nothing much will be
done about it, indeed also because it is a lot easier
deceive a majority of the stupid or ignorant folks that form the
majority in the state,
and pretend one has "the democratic majority".
The second is a quotation from Eisenhower
(<- Wikipedia) - which may amaze you, coming from a Republican
president who still can be recalled by nearly half
of the American population:
There is a lot more in
Against the power of “the
military-industrial complex, ” Eisenhower memorably warned that “Every
gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies,
in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the
genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in
more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a
town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It
is some 50 miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter
plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single
destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
“This is not a way of
life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it
is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
5. Some personal remarks
item today is not a crisis item (there were not many) but consists of
various personal remarks.
First, today it is Norway's
National Day (<- Wikipedia). I know few are interested, but I
lived there for more than two years; I really liked the
country; I should never have left it, but alas I did; and in
the end the happiest years I had were from 1975-1977, living in Norway,
farming, driving, reading, thinking, skiing and generally doing what I
pleased to do in a beautiful environment.
This estimate of mine has a lot to do with the fact that I fell ill on
1.I.1979 and have been ill ever since, but even so: These were the
years of my life, again especially because of the environment and the
Second, I thought I had some more remarks, but since this also is a
Sunday and I am already rather late, I break this item here off.
 As to Obama's being half black: I made the point
because the naive would have thought that a (half) black man would have
been more progressive.
I think that still may be true on lower levels, but not anymore on a
presidential or Senate level.
 I don't want to exaggerate, for I don't
think "the printed press"
was all that good in the times it was dominant and had money, but it
surely was a whole lot better than it got in the present
century, and that not so much because
I agreed with what they printed, but because they printed the
things that mattered,
and were mostly serious, whatever their political direction (I
am speaking about the better papers, to be sure), whereas nowadays, if
I buy a paper, then it seems mostly bent on amusing me, and on
keeping silent about the things that
interest or concern me. This is definitely not as it used to be, but I
fear that too is difficult to get for anyone who has not read
the NRC-Handelsblad (or a similar
once good paper) from 1970-2010. These were really different times,
that were much better for the intelligent reader.