I’d thank my lucky stars to be livin’ here today,
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away,
And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
– Lee Greenwood
We’re here on a bend in the Rhine. Enjoying the 4th of July.
From our hotel, we see the Rhine water flowing swiftly, from right to left. Let’s see, the Rhine flows from south to north to discharge into the North Sea. Or somewhere. So, if the water is flowing to the left, we must be on the west bank of the river.
We just arrived yesterday and spent the day in business meetings. Switzerland is a good place to do business, especially for French people. But except for a brief walk through the old part of the city, we haven’t had much time to get our bearings.
One thing we notice, however. Like Zurich, Basel is a calm, civilised place. We see no really poor people. Nor are there any slums. Nor are there people who look like they shouldn’t be allowed out in public.
In short, this ain’t Baltimore. But then, what is?
Last night, we went to a restaurant a little bit out of town on the banks of the Rhine.
“There… on the other side of the river… is Germany. During the war, people swam across the river to escape from Germany.”
Back to the news: Poor Edward Snowden. The man performed a valuable public service. He should get a medal on this Independence Day. Instead, he is looking for a river to swim across.
“As Snowden looks for asylum, doors slam around the world,” says the International Herald Tribune.
Tuesday, the Russians closed their doors to him. Ecuador seems to be withdrawing its invitation. Venezuela and Bolivia are still possibilities. But like Julian Assange, he may be forced to hole up in some gloomy embassy. Or worse, he may be handed over to the US for a full programme of torture. Yes, they could force him to watch TV! Or a Senate hearing! Or listen to Lee Greenwood whine on the radio!
He will surely want to slit his wrists after a few hours, saving the feds the cost of killing him.
Yes, if he’s delivered to the Americans, Snowden will face the music. He will be charged with treason, which could be accompanied by a funeral dirge.
We are squarely shoulder to shoulder with Mr Snowden. “He broke the law,” say the news reports. That’s what we admire about him, because sometimes the law needs be broken.
Bill Bonner on markets, economics & the madness of crowds
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In America, circa 2013, history will record that laws grew up like kudzu. One law told people they had to have health insurance, whether they wanted it or not. Another told them what they could say in an airport, another gave them the right to ingest certain things, but not others. The proliferation of laws made more and more things unlawful. You cannot smoke a cigarette where you please. You cannot have a private conversation. You cannot do this, but you must do that.
This trend gave lawmakers – including mid-level bureaucrats and unnamed officials – more and more power. They took power away from ordinary citizens, who were convinced that it made sense to limit their own freedoms as the only way to preserve their freedom.
And every day, during the summer of 2013, the sun shone, the kudzu grew, and wrapped itself around their necks. Did they fail to report a $5 tip, did they forget to separate their garbage or fix a clogged toilet without a permit? Americans were so proud of their freedom, they didn’t notice how fast they were losing it.
They could scarcely remember going through an airport without standing in ‘security’ lines. They had to assume – what else could they do? – public officials really were working to make their lives safer and more prosperous. And they didn’t notice – how could they? – huge growth in ‘secret’ organisations around Washington, with thousands of government employees and private contractors snooping, plotting, conniving against them.
But as more and more things could get you into trouble – more than anyone could possibly keep track of – it became more and more important to keep one’s affairs private. Likewise, the controllers found it ever more convenient to tap phones and record private email conversations. Who knows when you might say something they could use against you!
Is the kind of big data the feds are gathering actually useful? Our friend, Nassim Taleb tells us that it is probably less accurate, or more prone to misconstruction, than most people realise: ”We’re more fooled by noise than ever before, and it’s because of a nasty phenomenon called ‘big data’. With big data, researchers have brought cherry-picking to an industrial level.
“Modernity provides too many variables, but too little data per variable. So the spurious relationships grow much, much faster than real information. In other words: big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.”
But this is just great for the feds. They know perfectly well that the fight against terror is just a pretext. They are zombies. The real goal of zombies is to increase their own power and wealth at someone else’s expense. And for that, false information is better than the real thing. False information helped them launch the War on Terror and the war in Iraq. And now it helps them pry into everyone’s private life. Lies are more valuable, to them, than truth.
And with this huge trove of ‘information’, they can construct almost any fantasy they want. Did your computer happen upon – even by accident – a ‘subversive’ website? Have you ever downloaded pornography or a politically incorrect message? Did you ever talk to someone who may have gone to college with someone who later got himself into trouble for something?
Eventually history will tell the story of how Edward Snowden came out and revealed the extent to which the feds – under the guise of protecting us from terrorism – were laying the foundation for a police state. This was deeply disturbing to thoughtful people, if there were any, who feared the rise of an all-knowing, all-powerful Big Brother, from whom no secrets are kept, from whom no desires are hidden. And it was disturbing too to the Big Brothers themselves. They insisted on knowing everything about everybody else’s business. But they made it a crime to reveal what they were up to!
In short, nobody likes a snitch and a snoop especially dislikes a snitch. Besides, Snowden was paid to snoop, not to snitch. He was paid to break the law and lie about it. And now he may have to face the law and pay the price for telling the truth.
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