June 8, 2015
Crisis: Media Lessons, Bureaucracy, GCHQ, Universities, Anticipatory Bribery
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton


Prev- crisis -Next


Media Lessons from Snowden Reporting: LA Times Editors
     Advocate Prosecution of Sources

David Graeber and the Bureaucratic Utopia of Drone

3. GCHQ continues to use data techniques outlawed in US,
     say campaigners

4. Twilight of the Professors
5. Anticipatory Bribery

This is a Nederlog of Monday June 8, 2015

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on some of the lessons he learned about the - U.S. - media; item 2 is about bureaucracy and drone warfare (but a bit vague about  bureaucracy, in my opinion); item 3 is about the fact that the GCHQ still gathers data that the NSA is supposed to have stopped gathering (but this article believes
that the laws are being kept by the secret NSA, which I don't believe); item 4 is about the radical decrease of leftwing professors, but it seems to me to be some
28 years too late, and to be far too kind about "leftwing" professors; while item 5 is by Robert Reich, and is a good article about anticipatory bribery in the U.S.A.

1. Media Lessons from Snowden Reporting: LA Times Editors Advocate Prosecution of Sources

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
  • Media Lessons from Snowden Reporting: LA Times Editors Advocate Prosecution of Sources
This starts as follows:

Two years ago, the first story based on the Snowden archive was published in the Guardian, revealing a program of domestic mass surveillance which, at least in its original form, ended this week. To commemorate that anniversary, Edward Snowden himself reflected in a New York Times Op-Ed on the “power of an informed public” when it comes to the worldwide debate over surveillance and privacy.

But we realized from the start that the debate provoked by these disclosures would be at least as much about journalism as privacy or state secrecy. And that was a debate we not only anticipated but actively sought, one that would examine the role journalism ought to play in a democracy and the proper relationship of journalists to those who wield the greatest political and economic power.

That debate definitely happened, not just in the U.S. but around the world. And it was revealing in all sorts of ways. In fact, of all the revelations over the last two years, one of the most illuminating and stunning – at least for me – has been the reaction of many in the American media to Edward Snowden as a source.

It was indeed on June 6, 2015 precisely two years after Glenn Greenwald published his first piece based on data that Edward Snowden had revealed (without Snowden's name being in that first piece).

What Glenn Greenwald is concerned with in this article is the following:

Just think about what an amazing feat of propaganda that is, one of which most governments could only dream: let’s try to get journalists themselves to take the lead in demonizing whistleblowers and arguing that sources should be imprisoned! As much of an authoritarian pipe dream as that may seem to be, that is exactly what happened during the Snowden debate.
Yes, indeed. Here is some more:
So many journalists were furious about the revelations, and were demanding prosecution for it, that there should have been a club created called Journalists Against Transparency or Journalists for State Secrecy  and it would have been highly populated. They weren’t even embarrassed about it. There was no pretense, no notion that those who want to be regarded as “journalists” should at least pretend to favor transparency, disclosures, and sources. They were unabashed about their mentality that so identifies with and is subservient to the National Security State that they view controversies exactly the same way as those officials: someone who reveals information that the state has deemed should be secret belongs in prison – at least when those revelations reflect poorly on top U.S. officials.
The very last point - "at least when those revelations reflect poorly on top U.S. officials" - serves to cover the facts that (i) the same journalists who wanted to imprison Snowden, and indeed Greenwald, did get a lot of leaks from government sources, but (ii) indeed many of those leaks supported the government in various ways (and were often published by the journalists).

But I agree with Greenwald. Unfortunately, he gives no explanation. Here is mine, although this probably is not quite adequate and anyway is sketchy and in the form of a list of points:
  • the ordinary papers lost great amounts of money from advertising with the arisal of the internet
  • many ordinary papers folded or else got new owners
  • the papers with new owners very often got new editors, whose politics were far more neoconservative [1] than the previous editors
  • the editors promoted especially journalists who wrote as the editors thought
I think all of this is part of the explanation, but as I said: it is sketchy.

Here are two other remarks by Glenn Greenwald, from considerably more text (and the remarks in the original are not consecutive):
These journalists are literally agents of political power.
What a bizarre notion for a journalist to adopt the view that only the rights of Americans matters.
I agree on the last remark (and am not an American), though I have to admit that this - nationalistic - attitude seems to be fairly widely shared by most other nations ("We and Our Rights come first, and the rest and their rights don't really matter, to the very fine nationals of Our Fine Nation").

As to the first point: Yes and no. That is, they often behave as if they are agents of political power, or at least as if they are eager servants of political power, but - it seems to me - they usually do not see themselves in those terms.

Here is Glenn Greenwald's conclusion:

Snowden’s whistleblowing has led to many extraordinary revelations. None is more significant or more revealing than what it highlighted about the function many American journalists actually perform, and how far away that is – universes away – from the way they market their function.
I would not have put it in these terms, mostly because I think the many revelations about the NSA and the corruptions of the American government
are more important than other revelations, e.g. about the eager journalistic servants of the American government. Then again, I am not a journalist [2]
and not an American.

David Graeber and the Bureaucratic Utopia of Drone Warfare

The next item is an article by Cora Currier on The Intercept:
  • David Graeber and the Bureaucratic Utopia of Drone Warfare
This starts as follows:

It takes a lot of bureaucracy to kill with a drone.

Intelligence on potential targets must pass through layers of offices at the Pentagon or CIA before ultimately making their way to the president. A target must meet a set of criteria, outlined by White House lawyers in classified memos, that rely on opaque and uncommon definitions of words like “imminent,” “continuing” and “threat.” Permission to take the actual shot then proceeds through a military chain of command that involves remote operators manning the controls and officials of various stripes watching via video feed.

In fact, this is a review of a recent book by David Graeber "The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy". I do not know
the book and I also did not get a very clear view of it from this review.

So I will only quote the last paragraph:
Bureaucratic systems aspire to be regarded as “neutral social technologies,” Graeber notes, just a means to an end. But he doesn’t believe bureaucracy is actually neutral: he thinks it stymies creativity and, under the cover of neutrality, preserves the advantages of the powerful by dominating the weak. He’s onto something. As we have seen with drone strikes, spying by the National Security Agency, and detainee torture by the CIA, laws and rules are not always obeyed, and they can be designed or twisted to authorize horrendous things.
I'd say: Of course bureaucracy is almost never neutral, for bureaucrats are the quite well rewarded servants of politicians and the state, and each and all of these have their own political and moral interests.

But I've known this for more than 45 years and indeed I also have met many bureaucrats of which only a handful was decent and more or less objective, while the rest - the very great majority - all reinterpreted the laws to justify their not helping me while I was illegally gassed - quite literally so - and kept from sleeping for nearly 4 years (that ruined my health ever since, that is: now for the 25th year) by illegal drugsdealers who were "permitted to deal" by "personal preference" of the Amsterdam mayor. [5]

For more (from my own point of view) see the items Bureaucracy and Bureaucracy Plan in my Philosophical Dictionary.
3. GCHQ continues to use data techniques outlawed in US, say campaigners The next item is an article by Owen Bowcott on The Guardian:
  • GCHQ continues to use data techniques outlawed in US, say campaigners
This starts as follows:

GCHQ, the Cheltenham-based monitoring agency, is collecting “bulk personal datasets” from millions of people’s phone and internet records using techniques now banned in the US, according to Privacy International.

In a fresh legal claim filed at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the campaign group calls for an end to the harvesting of information about those who have no ties to terrorism and are not suspected of any crime.

In case you didn't know: That covers me, and indeed also nearly everybody else whose data are, nevertheless, gathered with abandon by the secret assistants of the new British authoritarian state.

There is also this:
The passing of the USA Freedom Act last week curtailed so-called “section 215” bulk collection of phone record metadata – information about who called whom, and timings, but not the content of conversations. It was a victory for the libertarian cause and a restriction of state surveillance powers.

By contrast, UK privacy campaigners say, parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has confirmed that GCHQ is still collecting datasets relating to “a wide range of individuals, the majority of whom are unlikely to be of intelligence interest.”
I am quite willing to believe this, but then I also do not believe that the "Freedom Act" has factually restricted the collection of materials of the NSA
(and indeed this was restarted on June 2 "for half a year").

And while the article says:
“Bulk collection of data about millions of people who have no ties to terrorism, nor are suspected of any crime, is plainly wrong. That our government admits most of those in the databases are unlikely to be of intelligence value… shows just how off-course we really are.”
I say that "bulk collection of data about millions of people who have no ties to terrorism, nor are suspected of any crime" was from the beginning - in 2001 - the main end of the spying agencies, for they know that knowing all they can control everyone.

For more, see
NSA Whistleblower William Binney: The Future of FREEDOM.

4. Twilight of the Professors

The next item is an article by Michael Schwalbe, who is a professor of sociology:

  • Twilight of the Professors
This starts as follows, with a subject that is or at least was close to my heart:

Twenty-eight years ago Russell Jacoby argued in The Last Intellectuals that the post-WWII expansion of higher education in the U.S. absorbed a generation of radicals who opted to become professors rather than freelance intellectual troublemakers. The constraints and rewards of academic life, according to Jacoby, effectively depoliticized many professors of leftist inclinations. Instead of writing in the common tongue for the educated public, they were carrot and sticked into writing in jargon for tiny academic audiences. As a result, their political force was largely spent in the pursuit of academic careers.

Jacoby acknowledges that universities gave refuge to dissident thinkers who had few other ways to make a decent living. He also grants that careerism did not make it impossible to publish radical work or to teach students to think critically about capitalist society. The problem is that the demands of academic careers made it harder to reach the heights achieved by public intellectuals of the previous generation. We thus ended up with, to paraphrase Jacoby, a thousand leftist sociologists but no C. Wright Mills.

To start with, I never heard of Jacoby or his book before today. Since "twenty-
eight years ago" it was 1987, when I was one of the very few who agitated about the radical declines in education, and had been doing so for ten years then (for my first piece against it was published in 1977), I would have been strongly inclined to read it, simply because almost all professors I knew of, in my own University of Amsterdam, in Holland, and outside Holland, kept completely silent, while also making rather a lot of money for themselves, while generally having - in so far as I could see them, which was a lot in the University of Amsterdam - extremely easy lives. [3]

In fact, the first book I know of that was roughly on the lines I was thinking of myself was Allan Bloom's "
The Closing of the American Mind - How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students", that in fact was first published in 1987, but that I only found - it was before the days of the internet - in 1989. (I did review it in 1989: See "Truth and value".)

Then there is this:

Since Jacoby’s book was published, things have gotten worse. There are still plenty of left-leaning professors in U.S. colleges and universities. But as an employment sector, higher education has changed. There are now powerful conservatizing trends afoot that will likely lead to the extinction of professors as a left force in U.S. society within a few decades.

One major change is that the expanding academic job market that Jacoby observed is now shrinking. When the market for professors was growing, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, radicals could get jobs in universities, earn tenure, and do critical intellectual work, even if it was often muted by a desire for conventional academic rewards.
There is a lot more, but none of it is very good, and all of it reminds me very much of the many vaguely "leftist", vaguely "marxist", vaguely "ethically motivated" professors I spoke to in the University of Amsterdam, all of whom
decided not to help me, and not to speak out against the radical declines of education they saw as well as I did, while continueing to make their own private careers, which I grant were very well paid bureaucratic jobs with very
few demands. (Every Dutch academic is a bureaucratic servant of the state or a city.)

Besides, in Holland the hiring of "leftists" (between quotation marks because
academic "leftists" generally were first and foremost academic careerists) mostly happened between 1965 and 1975: After that, there was done a lot less hiring, especially because those hired in these 10 years were mostly in their middle or late twenties and had gotten bureaucratic tenure almost immediately, which also made it very difficult to fire them.

Anyway - here is my sum-up of the many "leftist" academics I have known:

They were nearly all liars, who pretended to be leftists because that was the fashion in the Dutch universities from 1971-1995, that during all these years were formally in the hands of the students, but who nearly all were almost only interested in furthering their own careers, while almost none of them had the courage to oppose the government of the university.

I do not think I ever met any professor or any lecturer who was a credible leftist like my Marxist father was: Everyone I met who was a professor or a lecturer was far more interested in himself or herself, in his or her income, and in his or her social status than in the leftist social plans they occasionally supported. [4]

In fact Julien Benda was right, in my experience, and he wrote "The Betrayal of the Intellectuals" in 1927.

5. Anticipatory Bribery

The next and last item for today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
  • Anticipatory Bribery
This starts as follows:

Washington has been rocked by the scandal of J. Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican speaker in the history of the U.S. House, indicted on charges of violating banking laws by paying $1.7 million (as part of a $3.5 million agreement) to conceal prior misconduct, which turns out to have been child molestation.

That scandal contains another one that’s received less attention: Hastert, who never made much money as a teacher or a congressman, could manage such payments because after retiring from Congress he became a high-paid lobbyist.

This second scandal is perfectly legal but it’s a growing menace.

In the 1970s, only 3 percent of retiring members of Congress went on to become Washington lobbyists. Now, half of all retiring senators and 42 percent of retiring representatives become lobbyists.

This isn’t because more recent retirees have had fewer qualms. It’s because the financial rewards from lobbying have mushroomed, as big corporations and giant Wall Street banks have sunk fortunes into rigging the game to their advantage.

Yes, indeed. The rest of the article explains this further and is well worth reading.

P.S. Jun 9,2015: Corrected a typo.


[1] I really think "neoconservative" is a lot better than "neoliberal", and do so basically for three reasons: The main relation so-called "neoliberals" have to liberalism is by way of "libertarianism", which again is a false name for neo- conservatives. Second, while I have been a leftist and a liberal for 45 years now,
I have never been a conservative or a neoconservative. Third, "neoliberals" are in fact pushing a conservative agenda: less taxes for the rich, less regulations for the rich, higher incomes for the rich.

[2] No, I really am not, even though much of what I wrote in Nederlog may be fairly called "journalistic". But I am not paid; I never regarded myself as a journalist; and my site exists originally to defend myself against the onslaught of - especially - the Amsterdam bureaucracy and politicians on my human and civil rights, and to publish some decent philosophy outside the - rarely read - academic philosophical journals

[3] I have done three studies in the University of Amsterdam (while ill all the time - and had I not been ill, I would have left the UvA in 1980 at the latest):

Philosophy, from which I was illegally removed briefly before taking my - excellent - M.A. (and I could get no lawyer because those whom I asked said "it is too political"); psychology, in which I got an M.A. with only A's; and Norwegian, that I stopped within a year because the University of Amsterdam gave Norwegian, but did not even have someone who spoke Norwegian: All spoke Danish, which is rather like teaching Dutch as if it is German, by people who speak only German.

All in all, between 1969 and 2005 I learned to know precisely three professors in the University of Amsterdam that I thought were both intelligent and worked well, and one was a pure mathematician who was early pensioned; one an Englishman who was dismissed; and one a Dutch mathematical statistician who gave up on Dutch "education" and emigrated with his family to the U.S.A.

Nearly all of the rest were unintelligent frauds, whom I mostly despised not because they were not really intelligent (really intelligent Dutchmen tend to move pretty fast to another less provincial country) but because they were very cowardly while pretending to be fine leftists, which they did pretend because it was fashionable much rather than that they believed in it.

[4] The three professors I mentioned in the previous note (of whom I did see a fair amount in two cases) also were not leftists, and indeed were all more interested - like I was - in science than in politics. I also did not mind, if only because I had learned that the professors who were much in favor of leftism all
were intellectually incompetent or dishonest.

[5] Marijuana and hashish are as illegal in Holland as in the rest of Europe but starting in 1987 the Dutch mayor Van Thijn, later followed by other mayors, started to give "personal permissions" to drugsdealing friends of his in which they
could deal in marijuana and hashish from coffeeshops. This resulted in their being
dealt in Holland around 20 billion dollars each year in soft drugs alone, and a manifold of that in hard drugs, and has been going on steadily ever since 1987, with the tacit consent also of all Dutch judges and all Dutch district attorneys.

What wonder that I think Holland is grossly incorrupt on all levels, and has been functioning as the Colombia of Europe since 1987?

And incidentally: The Dutch might have easily legalized drugs
since a long time (as did the Portugese, and as I have been a proponent of ever since 1969, indeed like many Dutchmen). They didn't, I am convinced, because this would have cost them a lot of money. (But I do not know anything about the percentages the Dutch mayors receive, nor how they receive them.)

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