is a crisis log. There are 6 items and 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about an Intercept article on McConnell and
Snowden; item 2 is about how the USA might have
been Sweden (but I disliked the article); item 3 is
a fine article + video by Reich, who insists correctly that corporate
welfare must be stopped; item 4 is another fine
article about Sen. Bernie Sanders (who does have the only presidential
candidacy I can take seriously, so far at least); item 5
is a fine article + video on the interview Hedges had with Scheer; and item 6 is an article by Albert Einstein from 1949
about socialism, that I reproduce because I recently found it
while I like it.
Mitch McConnell Will Do Just About Anything Not to Vindicate Edward
item today is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
Senate Republican leaders
managed to scrape up enough votes just past midnight Saturday morning
to put off decisive action on the NSA’s bulk collection of American
phone records until next Sunday, May 31.
But the hardliners — and
make no mistake, they are taking an even harder and more absurd line
than the NSA itself — have no endgame.
Only two outcomes are
possible at this point:
provisions of the Patriot Act — one of which has provided the legal
cover for bulk collection — expire on June 1. (Indeed, the Obama
administration has already begun the process of winding
Or second, the Senate
passes the USA
Freedom Act, which extends those provisions but requires the NSA to
request specific records from telecom companies, instead of getting
And it seems - but
yes, it isn't June 1, yet - that the first alternative, which also is
the best, will be in place by June 1. This still doesn't mean
battle has been won, but I grant that, if this is the outcome, it is a better
outcome than I have been counting on for a long time. 
Also, I see I may have a - not very important - difference of opinion
with Dan Froomkin, who writes:
The reasons McConnell and
others cite for wanting to extend the program as is — despite the fact
that it’s flatly illegal, essentially useless, and spectacularly
invasive — are laughable. In fact, the compromise they’re willing to
fight to the death to oppose was actually proposed
by the NSA.
The issue is they just
don’t want Snowden officially vindicated, by an act of Congress.
I don't think so. To
be sure, I agree that the reactions against Snowden were a lot stronger
and a lot more tasteless than I expected, which may be made into an
argument that does support Dan Froomkin's view. And I agree this also
have colored the views and the votes of quite a few senators.
But I think McConnell
was and still is motivated less by hatred of Snowden than by his love
of getting full control of the American population, including
the chance - a few years in the future, probably under a Republican
president - of weeding out all the radicals that the GOP
disagrees with, by hook or by crook, and mostly in secret, through
I grant that I may be mistaken, but what the NSA promised MvConnell was
a degree of power over the complete American
population that no one ever had, and that no one ever came close to, and I think he really
wants it, for the 1%:
"Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely. Great men
are almost always bad men."
2.America Could Have Been One Giant Sweden -- Instead It Looks
a Lot Like the Soviet Union
item today is an article by John Feffer on Alternet, but originally on
Imagine an alternative
universe in which the two major Cold War superpowers evolved into the
United Soviet Socialist States. The conjoined entity, linked perhaps by
a new Bering Straits land bridge, combines the optimal features of
capitalism and collectivism. From Siberia to Sioux City, we’d all be
living in one giant Sweden.
It sounds like either the
paranoid nightmare of a John Bircher or the wildly optimistic dream of
Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s,
however, this was a rather conventional view, at least among
influential thinkers like economist John Kenneth Galbraith who
predicted that the United States and the Soviet Union would converge at
some point in the future with the market tempered by planning and
planning invigorated by the market. Like many an academic notion, it
didn’t come to pass.
I don't agree with the
first two paragraphs, and I was there, at the time, and
followed the news quite well and read a great lot. I don't
think anyone who lived and thought in the nineteensixties or
nineteenseventies in a somewhat responsible way would have thought,
then or now, what the first paragraph suggests.
Also, I don't think either Birchers' or Sanders' fans would have agreed
then with what here gets imputed to them, and I don't see them agreeing
Again, I disagree with the beginning of the third paragraph, for it
simply is not true that "this" - the picture sketched in the
first two paragraphs - "was
a rather conventional view".
What is true is that a few economists, such as
Tinbergen and Galbraith, proposed the possibility that the ideas
that were at the basis of socialism and capitalism might "converge at some point in the future", but they certaintly did not
predict "the United Soviet
There is also a little later on this, that I might agree to with some
reservations on the terminology:
The United States
is not exactly immune from such trends. The state has also become quite
illiberal here as its reach and power have been expanded in striking
ways. As it happens, however, America’s Gosplan, our state
planning committee, comes with a different name: the
military-industrial-homeland-security complex. Washington presides over
a planet-spanning surveillance system that would have been the envy of
the Communist apparatchiks of the previous century, even as it has
imposed a global economic template on other countries that enables
enormous corporate entities to elbow aside local competition. If the
American tradition of liberalism and democracy was once all about “the
little guy” -- the rights of the individual, the success of small
business -- the United States has gone big in the worst possible way.
Instead of the best of all
possible worlds, the international community now faces an unholy
trinity of authoritarian politics, cutthroat economics, and Big Brother
But having read through
all of the article, it does seem to me most like a potted history of
the last 55 years or so, with quite a few big names, plans and
proposals thrown in, but nearly all done in such a way that for me,
who can recall all of the last 55 years, the history
more like a fairytale than what I remember.
In brief, this is an article I simply didn't like. (You can check it
with the last dotted link. There is a whole lot more.)
3.Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #6: End Corporate Welfare
item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
people, despite what the Supreme Court says,
and they don’t need or deserve handouts.
When corporations get
special handouts from the government –
subsidies and tax breaks – it costs you. It means you have to pay more
to make up for these hidden expenses. And government has less money for
schools and roads, Medicare and national defense, and everything else
You might call these
special corporate handouts “corporate
welfare,” but at least welfare goes to real people in need. In the big
corporate handouts are costing tens of billions of dollars a year. Some
estimates put it over $100 billion – which means it’s costing you money
would otherwise go to better schools or roads, or lower taxes.
Conservatives have made a
game of obscuring where federal
spending actually goes. In reality, only about 12 percent of federal
goes to individuals and families, most in dire need. An increasing
to corporate welfare.
Other examples: The oil,
gas, and coal industries get billions
in their own special tax breaks. Big Agribusiness gets farm subsides.
Pharma gets their own subsidy in the form of a ban on government using
bargaining power under Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. And
and private-equity managers get a special tax loophole that treats
as capital gains, at a lower tax rate than ordinary income.
Quite so. There is more there,
and there is also a fine video in which he explains this in 2 m 45 s:
This is a really good
'Today We Begin
a Political Revolution': Bernie Sanders Launches Presidential Bid in
The next item
is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
Speaking at a rally at
Waterfront Park in Burlington, the socialist-Democrat kicked off his
campaign like any Vermonter would: with free Ben & Jerry's ice
cream and live Zydeco music.
prepared for delivery, Sanders said: "Today, with your support and the
support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a
political revolution to transform our country economically,
politically, socially and environmentally. Today, we stand here and say
loudly and clearly that: ‘Enough is enough. This great nation and its
government belong to all of the people and not to a handful of
billionaires, their Super PACs and their lobbyists."
"Let me be very clear,"
he added. "There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth
of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and
when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. There is
something profoundly wrong when, in recent years, we have seen a
proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as
millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the
highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. There
is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the
bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is
immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged
economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to
change and, as your president, together we will change it."
Quite so - that is: I
don't know whether Sanders will succeed (and there are 1 1/2 years to
go), but so far he is the only candidate I would vote for. There is considerably more in the
article, and it is good.
5.VIDEO: Scheer and
Hedges: For the Corporatist State, Information Is Control (Part 4/7)
The next item
is an article posted by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
is part 4 from 7, and I am quite glad that Kasia Anderson - I
took the trouble to link in the videos and to prepare the texts: it is
quite important, at least for people who want to know what happened and
who want to react rationally. 
So, to start with, here is the video (from the Real News) of part 4:
And here is a selection from the text, after telling you that part
three is here, and you can also find there links to earlier parts:
present part 4 starts as follows (by Kasia Anderson):
In this installment of
their seven-part interview series posted on The Real News Network,
Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer and columnist Chris Hedges drill
into the motivations for the collusion between big tech companies and
the U.S. government.
The end result: Control
of Americans’ data leads to control of citizens themselves. Or, as
Hedges succinctly puts it, “When they have everything on you, they
control you. And they have everything on us.”
I agree, although I might
have put the last thus: “When
they have everything on you, they may control everything about you. And
they have everything on us.”
But OK - Part 4 starts as
follows (and I added the link):
Let’s get into this issue
that we discussed at the end of part three about the reaction on the
part of private corporations Google, Apple, and others, because the
exposure of their complicity with the security and surveillance state
(which, as you point out, is global) hurts their business model (they
are beginning to create systems of encryption), and whether you think
that that will be an effective check on this intrusion of the security
and surveillance apparatus into our personal lives.
Here is the beginning of
Robert Scheer's answer:
PROF. ROBERT SCHEER,
JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: I think it’s a real eye-opener for them. And I
think that there’d been this incredibly naive notion in Silicon Valley.
A lot of the research for this book was done talking to these people.
And somehow they were the libertarians unleashed, and the government
was made up of fuddy-duddy people, and they didn’t really understand
modern technology. And they were creating a new culture, a new world,
in which people get to see all kinds of ideas and think all sorts of
thoughts and everything.
And, you know, the price
of that is you still had to be nice to these government folks—for a
number of reasons. You wanted tax breaks. You wanted them to intervene
with foreign governments. You wanted military contracts. You know,
after all, Amazon, Jeff Bezos, who bought the The Washington Post, he
is now building the big cloud that is going to contain our information
for NSA and the CIA.
So they are complicit.
There is a profit sector in government. They are using, basically, a
military creation, which was the internet, to begin with. So there was
a weird relationship. And in the book I document how, you know, Sergey
Brin and others at Google went off to big meetings and had highest
clearance and, you know, were complicit in all this.
The brief of it:
Amazon, Google, Facebook and others were quite complicit, and
played a similar game: They secretly took data from the very
using their software, and used the data to advertise them specifically,
and also sold the data to others.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that the company Scheer and Hedges agree
on that did not play wasn't Quest (as both agree it was) but was Lavabit (<-
Wikipedia) that was run by Ladar Levinson.
Indeed, here is a bit (from
2014) by Ladar Levinson on The Guardian:
is also quite interesting, because it shows how authoritarian
United States has gotten (and Levinson says a lot less than he could
say, and the reason is that saying more would lead to prison, which is
prettty ridiculous in a case like his).
Back to Scheer and Hedges. This is Robert Scheer:
The feds can go
after your taxes. The feds can intimidate you. They can blackmail you.
I mean, this information can also be mined to do in the head of Apple,
indeed - and coupled to secret courts and legal statements such as
Levinson received that forbade him to talk with anyone but a lawyer,
these - very authoritarian, completely anti-democratic
- ways will shut
Here is the part on total control:
HEDGES: (..) Well, what that said is that they have
everything on me, they have everything on my staff. And when you
have—and we saw it in a kind of cruder form with Hoover. When they have
everything on you, they control you.
HEDGES: And they have
everything on us.
there is also this, relating to Sen. Feinstein:
HEDGES: Right. They think
HEDGES: But as soon as
they buck the system, they’re treated like everyone else.
SCHEER: Yeah, and they were
going to frame the staff. And it’s really quite ominous.
also because the programs and methods the NSA used were illegal,
because the legal status of the CIA's and the NSA's doings were
all settled then.
I skip some and turn to Scheer:
SCHEER: But the
abandonment, say, by this constitutional law professor Barack Obama, he
should be—he knows this stuff better than I do. First of all, he knows
the extent of surveillance ’cause he’s ordering it up. But as a
constitutional law professor, he knows why we have a Fourth Amendment,
he knows why we have to have individual sovereignty, he knows why we
have to observe the government. Why is he not using his presidency as a
bully pulpit to educate us about our Constitution?
This is in the context of
Scheer's praising the U.S. Constitution, to which I come in a moment.
First about the above quotation: I think Obama got to be a
constitutional law professor as a step in his career, and not because
he in any way agrees to it. Indeed, this seems to hold for most lawyers
(certainly for those I saw) and the law: They believe much less
law, and much more in personal lawyering. And therefore the answer to
last question is (in my opinion): Because he doesn't care for the
he cares for power.
Next, there is this, by Hedges, who replies to Scheer's touting of the
HEDGES: Bob, it’s
been—our Constitution has been absolutely rewritten by judicial fiat.
None of—whether it’s privacy, whether it’s First Amendment rights,
whether it is the decision by the Supreme Court to interpret unlimited
campaign contributions by corporations as petitioning the government,
whether it is drawing up kill lists, whether it is the misuse of the
Espionage Act to shut down whistleblowers, whether it is the
misinterpretation of the Authorization to Use Military Force act to
assassinate, to serve as judge, jury, I mean, it’s gone.
I think I am midway
between Scheer and Hedges here. That is, I agree with Hedges that much
of the Constitution has been legally rewritten. But I agree with Scheer
on the following, that I have quoted before, which is in fact Aristotle:
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.
I believe this is a
statement most reasonable men will agree to, and the reason I think
this pleads for Scheer's position is that the laws may be
changed, but the
Constitution itself cannot be withdrawn, as long as there
United States founded upon it.
There is also - in the context of a reasonably long discussion that I
skip - this bit of Scheer that I more or less halfly agree with:
SCHEER: (...) You
know, I say, you know, there’ll be people in the audience who say, oh,
unless we get Citizens United overturned, unless we get money out of
politics, unless we do the—it’s all over. Well, I won’t accept that. If
people can fight back in Stalin’s Russia, fight back against the Stasi,
who are dissidents, or people who fought back against Hitler—there were
plenty of people that tried to fight back, okay? And at least they
alerted people outside of their countries.
I agree with this - BUT:
soon as you run the real risk to be lifted from your bed and
end up in
a concentration camp for thirty years, where you will be starved and
worked to death, there still will be a few
willing to take these enormous risks, but most will not. Indeed, I know
this fairly well from Holland's history: My father and his father did
have the courage to go into the resistance (and ended both up in a Nazi
concentration camp) - but six times more Dutchmen went into the
SS than went into the resistance, at the same time. (And the Dutch,
in considerable part thanks to the cooperation of Cohen and Asscher
with the Nazis, managed in the end to send more than 1% of their
population to the concentration camps, for being "of the wrong race",
where nearly all were gassed or otherwise murdered.)
There is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link. And
this whole series is highly recommended by me.
The final item
today is by Albert
Einstein (<- Wikipedia: yes indeed, the one) that was originally
published in the first issue of the Monthly Review, in May of 1949:
is here for three reasons: I recently found it; it is a quite
competent article by one of the few real geniuses of the 20th Century;
and he also was quite aware of the difficulties socialism posed with
regard to power.
 Incidentally, this is mostly about optimism vs pessimism,
which seems more a matter of mood and character
rather than objective
evidence. And I willingly grant that if I err, I err on the pessimist
side, and that for two reasons, mostly: First, I think in this
case - the controlling of the population by the NSA, or by information
gathered by the NSA - pessimism ("Damn! They may get their desires!")
was wiser than optimism ("Who cares? Spying on the whole
unconstitutional!"). Second, and in general: I have seen very
few of my own political, legal, or economic desires seen
the 1970ies, and those that were tended to be less important, and
were practised in a half-assed way.
 I am one of these,
though I realize that being rational and being political are not easily
unified consistently. (If given the choice, mine is for rationality.)
Maybe I will write about this later.