Happy 40th birthday to the heroic whistleblower Edward Snowden, a man who chose to live a life of permanent prosecution by his home government, rather than hold a great and powerful lie in his heart. His revelations of the world’s largest data collection, surveillance, and storage apparatus deep in the bowels of the National Security Agency shocked the world, which among other things ushered in the age of republican democracy’s attempting to provide for privacy. READ everything his leaks revealed… (1983)
The great and powerful lie was just that, not a truth revealed to the enemy as Snowden’s detractors in the federal government would have the American people believe. Director of National Intelligence (the highest intel. position in the nation) at the time of Snowden’s revelations, James Clapper, had gone before Congressional testimony and said outrightly to the elected representatives of the people that there was no mass data collection and storage going on.
Not only was this a bald-faced lie, but the surveillance was so much greater than the mere monitoring of phone calls. Snowden revealed that major telecom companies and device manufacturers were openly in cooperation with the intelligence agencies, providing backdoors for government spying programs to monitor and collect data from email, text messages, phone calls, and even web cameras. Furthermore, the NSA had been allotted a total of $52 billion in taxpayer dollars for the program, included in which was essentially bribe money for companies like Apple and Verizon.
This spying extended into the highest echelons of the governments of our closest allies like Germany, whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, had to discover that the NSA essentially followed her every move, hoovering up whatever communications she made with anyone—the same treatment showed to leaders in 35 other countries including Brazil, Mexico, France, and Britain.
“I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded,” Snowden, who had sought political asylum in Russia. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
Despite countless attempts to smear Snowden’s blowing of the whistle as irresponsible and dangerous, or that he was somehow a traitor to the country, the US did, in fact, lose a federal court case—United States vs Moalin where it was ruled that mass surveillance was illegal and unconstitutional.
MORE Good News on this Day:
- Halifax, Nova Scotia was founded (1749)
- The first Constitution of its kind in human history was established as the supreme law of the United States when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify it, after it was drafted one year earlier in Philadelphia (1788)
- Columbia Records introduced the LP (long-playing record album) in a public demonstration at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City (1948)
- The Supreme Court ruled that Americans are free to burn the country’s flag under the protection of the First Amendment (1989)
- Jean Michel Jarre played a charity concert in Katowice, Poland for deaf and hearing-impaired children as part of his Oxygene Tour, with proceeds going toward build a healing center for deaf children near Warsaw where a plaque now bears the French musician’s name (1997)
- The United Kingdom’s law against homosexuality – Section 28 – was repealed in Scotland with a 99 to 17 vote (2000)
- SpaceShipOne became the first privately funded spacecraft to achieve spaceflight (2004)
- The first International Yoga Day was celebrated, led by the yoga-loving Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2015)
155 years ago today, the longest commonly-performed opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, “The Master-Singers of Nuremberg,” debuted at the Bavarian State Opera. At four-and-a-half hours, (5h50m with breaks) this comedy written by Richard Wagner is an endurance test for all those involved, singers, musicians, and audience members. For those who make it through to the end, they will no doubt leave with extremely fond memories of many of the characters and scenes that dance like wood nymphs through a ridiculous storyline of a singing competition in the Renaissance.
The story revolves around the city’s guild of Meistersinger (Master Singers), an association of amateur poets and musicians who were primarily master craftsmen of various trades. The contest held in the city to choose the Mastersinger, this year, involves winning the hand of Eva Pogner, a beautiful young woman, in marriage.
A young knight named Walther becomes infatuated with Eva and attempts to enter the contest after arriving from Franconia, which through long difficulties he is able to do thanks to the help of the town cobbler, Hans Sachs. Sachs is actually a historical figure, and in the opera becomes more or less the most important and seen character, despite not being the protagonist.
It was the most immediately acclaimed Wagner opera when it was released. It is also his only serious effort at comedy and contained all the elements he tended to detest in opera like aria and ballet. Some have accused the opera of being loaded with all the elements of nationalism that led to the rise of the Nazi party, but other critics have said it’s just another victim of the over-analyzing of everything that preceded the rise of the Third Reich. Certainly if the Nazis had become just another political party, it would be almost impossible to distinguish the German patriotism in the opera, from that of any other form of patriotic art from the period. (1868)
Happy 42nd Birthday to Brandon Flowers, the brilliant singer-songwriter who joined a new band called The Killers after answering a newspaper ad. The band released five consecutive chart-topping studio albums between 2003 and 2017, selling over 22 million records worldwide.
The keyboardist, who is a devout Mormon, said growing up in Las Vegas—Sin City—helped prepare him for the world of rock and roll.
Flowers released two solo LPs, including the 2010 gold album Flamingo. He wrote the lyrics to All These Things That I’ve Done with its popular refrain ‘I Got Soul, But I’m Not A Soldier’, which earned The Killers’ one of 7 Grammy nominations for their 2004 debut LP.
He also wrote the 2017 Killers chart-topping single The Man, as well as Mr. Brightside, which holds the record for most weeks spent on the UK Singles Chart (5 years or 260 weeks and counting). Their second LP Sam’s Town, about youth and family, was compared to Springsteen’s Born to Run—one of Brandon’s musical idols. During the pandemic, the two teamed up remotely to do a cover of Dustland. WATCH their incredible collab…. (1981)
– Photo by Raph_PH, CC license (You can read the lyrics to Dustland Fairytale by clicking show more under the video.)
Happy 56th Birthday to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. The computer geek entrepreneur became a billionaire at age 31 when the company’s stock was offered for sale to the public three years after the first eBay auction in 1995.
Omidyar and his wife Pamela are well-known philanthropists through their Omidyar Network, and the son of Iranian immigrant parents has involved himself in online journalism as the head of investigative reporting and public affairs for his own news service, the Honolulu Civil Beat. (1967)
And, on this day in 1893, the first Ferris wheel premiered. Designed and built by George Ferris Jr. for an exposition in Chicago, the amusement ride measured 264-feet tall (80m) and was intended to rival the Eiffel Tower, centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition. (1893)
A technological advance based on the three wooden wheels at Asbury Park, Atlantic City, and Coney Island, NY (built the prior year by William Somers), the Ferris wheel rotated on a 71-ton axle with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds.
In an open letter to Apple, Swift said she was unhappy with the three-month free trial offered to subscribers, saying “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Apple now pays artists for music streamed during trial periods. (2015)
Happy 79th Birthday to The Kinks co-founder and frontman Ray Davies. Regarded as one of the most influential British songwriters, Davies wrote the 1964 No.1 hit You Really Got Me, along with All Day and All of the Night, and Victoria.
In the next two years, he wrote Set Me Free and Sunny Afternoon—and, later, Lola (“She walked like a woman and talked like a man”), Apeman, Celluloid Heroes, and Come Dancing. With four Gold Albums The Kinks catalogue has sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Davies was knighted in 2017 for services to the arts, has written for plays and musicals, and is the author of X-Ray, his autobiography, as well as a book of short stories entitled Waterloo Sunset. He has also made three films, including a 1991 documentary on Charles Mingus called Weird Nightmare.
Since The Kinks disbanded in 1996, Sir Ray has released six solo albums, his latest in 2017, called Americana, based on his experiences in the US, and his 2013 biographical book Americana. WATCH a recent interview in a short bio… (1944)
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