Today I am back reporting
on the crisis, indeed with 9 items, though the last one is mostly a
piece of serious fun (if your IQ is high enough).
1. Syria crisis: US and Russia agree chemical weapons deal
There seems to be a deal
in on the Syrian chemical weapons, at least in so far as these are
Assad's - and that in spite of all the children president Obama was
going to kill, accidentally, of course, to revenge all the children
Assad (or his enemies, who are Al Qaeda, except in U.S.news) have
killed, and also in spite of what makes the U.S. "exceptional", in
president Obama's humble words (and see items 3 and especially 4).
The following piece is by Conal Urquhart, in the Guardian (which is much
better than any Dutch daily, and seems to be often plundered by these):
from the Organisation of the Prevention of Chemical weapons must be
given "immediate and unfettered" access to Syrian chemical weapons,
said the US secretary of state, John Kerry, while Syria must give a
"comprehensive list" of its chemical weapons within one week.
There is rather a lot more,
which you can check out your self, but I do wish to list this:
However, Kerry said that
the president of the US as the commander in chief retains the right to
defend the US and its interests regardless of what happens in Congress.
Especially note "its
interests" and "regardless of what happens in Congress": The august
Obama still can start a war, or at least a "war", in which you are
bombed but should say that is an accident, for there are "no
boots on the ground", at least according to John Kerry.
But OK - it is a deal and also the U.S. population seems pretty sick of
wars. So this is probably a gain, except for the hawks.
2. The Threat to Attack Syria Is STILL
Next, here is Howard Friel making an explanation on Common Dreams:
Obama would like to risk seeing Syria, at some point in the future,
renounce its signature on the chemical
weapons convention, which it has recently pledged to sign under the
threat of attack by the United States, he should rescind the threat of
force. This is because Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,
“Coercion of a State by Threat or Use of Force,” stipulates: “A treaty
is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of
force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in
the Charter of the United Nations.”
Whether or not this means
that Syria’s signing and ratifying the chemical weapons ban under an
illegal threat of force would be invalid, it is clearly the case that
the president’s threat of force is illegal under international law.
Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits “the
threat or use of force” by states. Thus, both “threat” and “use” are
prohibited. The only exceptions are the resort to force as national
“self-defense” in response to an “armed attack,” or a threat or use of
force pursuant to an authorizing resolution from the UN Security
It would seem as if
these details are unknown to Obama - or indeed he thinks, now that he
is in the position of the mightiest man on earth, he can wipe his ass
clean with them.
I don't know, but what he plan(ned) doing was (is) illegal, even if no
one will arrest him for it.
Touches an ‘Exceptional’ Nerve
Next, an article by "ex-CIA
analyst Paul R. Pillar" on Consortium News:
Official Washington is in
full outrage mode over a New York Times opinion article by Russian
President Vladimir Putin who dared question the idea that the U.S. has
a special – indeed “exceptional” – right to intervene militarily
anywhere it wishes around the world, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar
And a small piece from the
The part of Putin’s piece
that Americans perhaps found more irritating than any other was his
final comment about American exceptionalism. Americans get especially
upset about this sort of comment because it sounds to them like an
affront to the very nature of America and not just particular American
The main points are and
remain that I am not an American, and I find this exceptionalism utter
and dangerous bullshit. There are even some Americans who think so:
Exceptionally Weird Speech on Syria
had been healthy, the chances are that I would teach logic in some
non-Dutch university, for that is what I spent most time on, the last
45 years - and no, it was not misspent, precisely because it
holds water, regardless of your politics, your beliefs or your tastes.
Strether knows a lot less about logic than I do, but he can think, and
he does know some, and he wrote a really fine analysis of Obama's
speech, that happens to represent much of my own thinking on it. I
found it on Naked Capitalism:
“Oh, this will be easy,”
I said to myself. “This speech is short!” Boy, was I wrong. I’ve always
felt that exegesis saves, but now I’m experiencing a crisis of faith.
Can there be bullshit so deeply impacted that it’s proof against color
coding? We’ll see. But first, here’s why I thought the speech was weird:
1. The intricate verbal
patterning that we’ve come to expect from Obama (Hamilton
isn’t present. Even at the presser, speaking extemporaneosly, Obama at
least nailed his talking points.
2. The text contains
several simple and obvious grammatical errors (which must have been in
the text. The errors cannot be caused by improvisation, since Obama
uses a Teleprompter).
3. The speech is not
well-structured. Although I divided the speech into parts
retroactively, transitions between parts were not signalled for
listeners in any way. Some listeners were confused, and no wonder.
4. The language is slack,
flaccid, filled with dead metaphors, unclear referents, and national
Quite so - but this is
just the beginning: You get the whole speech plus 77
points by Strether, that seem all or nearly all justified, and that
also totally finish the speech. Strongly recommended for everyone who
read less logic than I did! (It takes time, but it teaches you to
judge: Snowden's NSA disclosures triggered important
Now we change subject, and go to the NSA's dark secrets. There is this
interesting piece by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian:
The court that oversees
US surveillance has
ordered the government to review for declassification a set of secret
rulings about the National Security Agency's bulk trawls of Americans'
phone records, acknowledging that disclosures by the whistleblower
Edward Snowden had triggered an important public debate.
The Fisa court ordered
the Justice Department to identify the court's own rulings after May
2011 that concern a section of the Patriot Act used by the NSA to justify its mass
database of American phone data. The ruling was a significant step
towards their publication.
It is the second time in
a week that a US court has ordered the disclosure of secret
intelligence rulings. On Tuesday, a federal court in New York compelled
the government to declassify numerous documents that revealed
substantial tension between federal authorities and the surveillance
court over the years.
On Thursday, James
Clapper, the director of national intelligence, conceded that the NSA
is likely to lose at least some of its broad powers to collect data on
There is rather a lot more
under the last dotted link that I leave to you, except for the
observation that, at last, some American institutions still appear to
work, which is a relief (if this is not overtaken by a classified
command from higher court, to be sure).
Here is Tim Karr explaining the collapse of internet on Common Dreams:
Last week we learned that
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have broken the back of digital
encryption — the coded technology hundreds of millions of Internet
users rely on to keep their communications private.
Over the weekend, Der
Spiegel reported that the NSA and its British counterpart are
also hacking into smartphones to monitor our daily lives in ways that
wouldn’t have been possible before the age of the iPhone.
This news, just the
latest revelations from the files of Edward Snowden, only heighten our
sense that we can no longer assume anything
we say or do online is secure.
But that’s not all. In a
case that was heard in a U.S. federal appeals court on Monday,
telecommunications colossus Verizon is
arguing that it has the First Amendment right to block and censor
Internet users. (That’s right. Verizon is claiming that, as a
corporation, it has the free speech right to silence the online
expression of everybody else.)
It's come to this.
Government and corporate forces have joined to chip away at two pillars
of the open Internet: the control of our personal data and our right to
connect and communicate without censorship or interference.
Quite so. There is quite a bit more, and not everything has
been lost, but if you do not want to live controlled by the U.S. Stasi
you have to stand up and do something.
Short of an ongoing hot
war, the imbroglio over the proposed bombing of Syria has occupied the
precious time of President Obama, and therefore the mass media, unlike
anything else on his plate. Moreover, it portends absorbing much more
of his time and political capital in the coming weeks.
Our country’s misguided
foreign policy has caused our president to spend enormous time and
influence enlisting allies, members of Congress, and figuring out the
many risks of another protracted unlawful war-quagmire in the Middle
East. Imagine how much time our president could spend on our country’s
many domestic problems.
There is rather a lot more -
good, telling, strong points - though I have to admit myself I have
given up on Obama. But indeed I am also not an American, and "as long
as there is life there is hope". (Or was that the other way around?)
8. Government Standards Agency “Strongly”
Suggests Dropping its Own Encryption Standard Next, a piece by Larson and Elliott on Pro Publica:
about the NSA’s covert influence on computer security standards, the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, announced earlier
this week it is revisiting some of its encryption standards.
But in a little-noticed
footnote, NIST went a step further, saying it is “strongly”
recommending against even using one of the standards. The institute
sets standards for everything from the time to weights to
computer security that are used by the government and widely adopted by
There is considerably more,
but it is a pity the NIST went further "in a little-noticed footnote".
Anyway... it is something, though it remains to be seen how much.
9. WW III is crunchy, sexy and good for
all Americans. Also saves weight and
Lastly, a seriously funny
brief video I found on
Washington's Blog about WW III - or rather, about the power of
advertising. It clearly is a bit over the top, but I liked it. Here it
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.
(And I note the whole file I
from is quite pertinent.)
ME/CFS (that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: