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  September
15, 2013
Crisis: Alexander, NSA, Payments, Market failures, bottom line, Stewart, Colbert
  "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.










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Sections
Introduction
1. Inside the mind of NSA chief Gen Keith Alexander
2. Time to tame the NSA behemoth trampling our rights
3.
'Follow the Money': NSA Spies on International Payments
4. The 4 (or 5) Worst Market Failures in Human History
5.
a bottom line…
6. Jon Stewart
7. Stephen Colbert
About ME/CFS

Introduction

Today there are 7 items, but the last two are videos, by Jon Stewart and by Stephen Colbert. (I am not certain they don't start sounding off from the start. If so, first switch them off.)

But the rest is wholly serious...

1. Inside the mind of NSA chief Gen Keith Alexander

To start with, a Glenn Greenwald item from the Guardian:

It's in fact about Shane Harris's biographic story of the man and starts as follows:

It has been previously reported that the mentality of NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander is captured by his motto "Collect it All". It's a get-everything approach he pioneered first when aimed at an enemy population in the middle of a war zone in Iraq, one he has now imported onto US soil, aimed at the domestic population and everyone else.

But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief's mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his "all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine". The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a "cowboy" willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this - not just Alexander's but much of Washington's - is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS' News Hour in a post entitled: "NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek's Enterprise". The room was christened as part of the "Information Dominance Center":

This is followed by a quotation, and followed by two pictures of what is involved. I'll spare you these, but here is some text:

The glossy display further describes how "this project involved the renovation of standard office space into a highly classified, ultramodern operations center." Its "primary function is to enable 24-hour worldwide visualization, planning, and execution of coordinated information operations for the US Army and other federal agencies." It gushes: "The futuristic, yet distinctly military, setting is further reinforced by the Commander's console, which gives the illusion that one has boarded a star ship":

Etcetera.

Is this important? Well... there are more important things, but it is somewhat interesting to know that what may be said to be the Himmler of the U.S. (Stalin about his Beria, to a foreign diplomat: "He is our Himmler" - and no, I am not saying he is quite like Himmler and Beria, merely that he knows a lot more than they did) in fact gets his motivation from Star Trek, which I always avoided, even in the times - 43 years ago, at least - there was a TV handy: too stupid.

Anyway: those are the dreams of General Keith Alexander. (And that's why his doors go "Woosh!". In an understated way.)

2. Time to tame the NSA behemoth trampling our rights

Here is another Guardian article, this time by Yochal Benkler, who teaches law at Harvard:
This starts as follows:

The spate of new NSA disclosures substantially raises the stakes of this debate. We now know that the intelligence establishment systematically undermines oversight by lying to both Congress and the courts. We know that the NSA infiltrates internet standard-setting processes to security protocols that make surveillance harder. We know that the NSA uses persuasion, subterfuge, and legal coercion to distort software and hardware product design by commercial companies.

We have learned that in pursuit of its bureaucratic mission to obtain signals intelligence in a pervasively networked world, the NSA has mounted a systematic campaign against the foundations of American power: constitutional checks and balances, technological leadership, and market entrepreneurship. The NSA scandal is no longer about privacy, or a particular violation of constitutional or legislative obligations. The American body politic is suffering a severe case of auto-immune disease: our defense system is attacking other critical systems of our body.

Yes, indeed. I'll spare you the middle section, though it is interesting, but quote most of the end:

We need a fundamental organizational reform. The so-called "outside independent experts" committee which the president has appointed, with insiders' insiders like Michael Morell and Richard Clarke, will not come close to doing the trick. Nor is it likely to allay anyone's fears who is not already an Intelligence Church adherent.

Given the persistent lying and strategic errors of judgment that this week's revelations disclosed, the NSA needs to be put into receivership. Insiders, beginning at the very top, need to be removed and excluded from the restructuring process. Their expertise led to this mess, and would be a hindrance, not a help, in cleaning it up. We need a forceful, truly independent outsider, with strong, direct congressional support, who would recruit former insider-dissenters like Thomas Drake or William Binney to reveal where the bodies are buried.

I quite agree. But again, while I much like to see this happen, I'd have to see it happen before believing it.

3. 'Follow the Money': NSA Spies on International Payments

Next, here is an article from Der Spiegel (in English):

It starts thus:
The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL.

The information from the American foreign intelligence agency, acquired by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called "Follow the Money" (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA's own financial databank, called "Tracfin," which in 2011 contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions.
This - there is more - strongly supports the previous two items. (And the ex-colleagues of Edward Snowden may get incredibly rich.)

4. The 4 (or 5) Worst Market Failures in Human History

Next, an article by Stan Sorcher in Common Dreams:

It starts like this - and I agree with the sentiments:

I'm a capitalist for one reason: to raise living standards in my community. A familiar mantra of capitalism guides me: Markets are powerful and efficient.

I'm also a realist, so I temper that mantra: Markets are powerful and efficient. And markets fail.

Next, Stan Sorcher mentions four really big failures of the markets:
  • Climate change: $40 trillion, so far
  • Health care in America: trillions per year, ongoing
  • The housing-financial asset bubble: at least $8 trillion
  • Free trade: $8 trillion, so far
He considers these, which I will spare you. His conclusion? This:

Markets fail. A legitimate purpose of public policy is to intervene in markets to prevent market failure. Public policy has a necessary role in protecting the environment, human rights, labor rights, education and public health, managing growth, regulating markets, and managing global trade.

That's capitalism for realists.

Quite so - or put otherwise: Markets without any breaks or regulation enrich the few and exploit the many. Capitalism works, but it works for the many only with regulation.

5.
a bottom line…
 
Next, I move to medicine, where the situation is a lot worse than nearly anyone who is not ill for quite a while or who is not a medical person knows. The following is by a pensioned psychiatrist:

It starts as follows:
In all of the offers of cooperation about data transparency in Clinical Trials that have been made by the pharmaceutical companies in response to the various campaigns, there is one deal-breaker at the core of every proposal:

The pharmaceutical company itself chooses what is to be released

That is, in fact, the problem in the first place. They’ve already been choosing what is released in multiple subtle ways, and the net result of the process has been, by any account, an absolute disaster:
  • They choose what is released when they don’t publish negative studies.
  • They choose what is released when they don’t register or report their trials as required.
  • They choose what is released when they have guest authors signing on to their articles.
  • They choose what is released when they hire medical writing firms to write papers.
  • They choose what is released when they use the tools of analysis to obscure.
  • They choose what is released when they monitor the publication from start to finish.
That’s the essence of the complaint – that the publications are so heavily filtered and controlled by the sponsor that the scientific truth of the published article[s] is regularly impossible for a reader to determine – even with a close reading.
In case you did not get that, here is a repeat:
... the publications are so heavily filtered and controlled by the sponsor that the scientific truth of the published article[s] is regularly impossible for a reader to determine ...
In psychiatry and in medicine at large. There's more, and a lot more on the blog-site this comes from, but that is the central point.

They're not doing science anymore, in medicine: they're doing advertising, which they call science, and pretend to be science, but it isn't. It's propaganda. (I hope you will not get ill, the coming years.)

6. Jon Stewart

For the last two bits, I have taken one by Jon Stewart, that is about the great mind that is John Kerry's, and is also about Syria:

 

There is a very fast spoken bit around the fourth minute that is quite good.

7. Stephen Colbert

And a bit by Stephen Colbert, on Putin's article in the New York Times:


It's funny. (Or so I think.)
---------------------------------
Note
[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)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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