14, 2013
Crisis: Syria 4x, Fisa, Internet S.O.S., Obama, NIST, WW III
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

Prev- crisis -Next

1. Syria crisis: US and Russia agree chemical weapons deal
2. The Threat to Attack Syria Is STILL Illegal
Putin Touches an ‘Exceptional’ Nerve
4. Obama’s Exceptionally Weird Speech on Syria
Fisa judge: Snowden's NSA disclosures triggered important spying debate
6. Internet S.O.S.
7. Obama: Crowding Out America
8. Government Standards Agency “Strongly” Suggests Dropping its Own Encryption Standard
9. WW III is crunchy, sexy and good for ALL Americans. Also saves weight and improves mood!
About ME/CFS


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 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):

Here are the initial two paragraphs:

The United States and Russia have agreed that Syrian chemical weapons will be placed under international control and destroyed in a process that will begin with a week.

International inspectors 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 Illegal

Next, here is Howard Friel making an explanation on Common Dreams:
It starts as follows:
Unless President 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 Council.
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.

3. Putin Touches an ‘Exceptional’ Nerve

Next, an article by "ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar" on Consortium News:

I merely give the introduction:

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 notes.

And a small piece from the middle:

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 policies.

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:

4. Obama’s Exceptionally Weird Speech on Syria

If I 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.

Lambert 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:

Here is the very beginning:

“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 Project; inaugural; presser) 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 security jargon.

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 think.)

Fisa judge: Snowden's NSA disclosures triggered important spying debate
Now we change subject, and go to the NSA's dark secrets. There is this interesting piece by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

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 Americans.

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).

6. Internet S.O.S.

Here is Tim Karr explaining the collapse of internet on Common Dreams:

It starts like this:
Is the Internet on life support?

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.

7. Obama: Crowding Out America

The following is from Ralph Nader, on his site:
It starts as follows

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:

It starts thus:

Following revelations 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 industry.

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 improves mood!

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 is:

(Laughing is allowed but is not mandatory. Yet.)
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
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 quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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