7, 2013
Crisis: British Cabinet, Feinstein, American Fascism, Rich, American police
  "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.

1.  Cabinet was told nothing about GCHQ spying
      programmes, says Chris Huhne

2.  Feinstein’s Phony Excuse for NSA Spying
3.  With Rise of American Fascism, Shutdown Politics

4.  Rich People Just Care Less
5.  America's Police Are Looking More and More Like the

6.  Personal
About ME/CFS


This is another crisis post, at least for the first five items. The last item is personal and tells that for the first time in fifteen years (!) I could today cycle for two hours and twenty kilometers. (More about this later.)

1.  Cabinet was told nothing about GCHQ spying programmes, says Chris Huhne  

To start with, an item about the British. It is by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor, and is in the Guardian:

It starts thus:

Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were told nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programmes run by British and American intelligence agencies, a former member of the government has revealed.

Chris Huhne, who was in the cabinet for two years until 2012, said ministers were in "utter ignorance" of the two biggest covert operations, Prism and Tempora. The former Liberal Democrat MP admitted he was shocked and mystified by the surveillance capabilities disclosed by the Guardian from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"The revelations put a giant question mark into the middle of our surveillance state," he said. "The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorise everything that the private citizen communicates. The state is our servant."

Yes, indeed. There is considerably more, but much is quotation - and in fact, here is Chris Huhne's paper, that is also in today's Guardian:
This starts as follows:

I received a letter last week from a very senior civil servant warning me not to reveal in this column any "privileged information" acquired as a minister. But I have a revelation of another kind to make. Readers would be shocked not by what ministers know when they are taking decisions, but by what they do not know, and are not told.

When it comes to the secret world of GCHQ and the US National Security Agency (NSA), the depth of my "privileged information" has been dwarfed by the information provided by Edward Snowden to the Guardian. The cabinet was told nothing about GCHQ's Tempora or the NSA's Prism, or about their extraordinary capability to vacuum up and store personal emails, voice contact, social networking activity and even internet searches.

I was also on the National Security Council, attended by ministers and the heads of the secret and security services, GCHQ and the military. If anyone should have been briefed on Prism and Tempora, it should have been the NSC. I do not know whether the prime minister or the foreign secretary (who has oversight of GCHQ) were briefed, but the NSC was not.

Huhne has one further quotable saying:
Information is power, and the necessary corollary is that privacy is freedom.
Quite so - and again note that the state is supposed to be there "for the people", instead of "the people" being disposable to "the state".

And he ends thus:
Whatever the explanation, the Home Office was happy to allow the NSC and the cabinet – along with parliament – to remain in utter ignorance of Prism/Tempora while deciding on the communications data bill. The Snowden revelations put a giant question mark into the middle of our surveillance state. It is time our elected representatives insisted on some answers before destroying the values we should protect.
OK. I take it as almost certain that GCHQ has been doing what it wanted, which included not informing their government. Whether it can be stopped and tamed is another question, but this is some small step.

2. Feinstein’s Phony Excuse for NSA Spying

Next, to the U.S. and specifically to Consortium News, who has an ex-FBI agent, Coleen Rowley, writing the following article:
This starts as follows:

More than a few bizarre aspects jumped out at me when I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Oct. 2. Instead of providing needed oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in light of shocking whistleblower disclosures about National Security Agency’s secret (and arguably illegal) interpretations that led to military surveillance and massive collection of metadata about innocent American citizens, it seemed much of the hearing went in the direction of overlook instead of oversight.

For starters, the two fact witnesses, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director Keith Alexander, were not even asked to swear to tell the truth before they testified even though both have been discovered to have previously answered similar questions from Congress less than honestly. By weird contrast, the three professors, who testified after Clapper and Alexander and who merely provided their views of the law and technology, were asked to raise their right hands and were sworn in.

This is about parr: Clear and leading liars are not asked to swear; ordinary professors are. There is quite a lot more, and she ends as follows, quite correctly, I think:
Can it be too much to ask for meaningful congressional oversight? Twelve years after 9/11, it’s time to stop using it to justify illegal and counterproductive policies.
3. With Rise of American Fascism, Shutdown Politics 'Predictable'

Next, a fairly long article by Jon Queally in Common Dreams.
This is the article:
One reason to list it is its use of "American Fascism", which comes from Chris Hedges; another is the following bit - and the inital "It" refers to the policies of the Christian right:

It is a mixture of this religious politics, combined with the financial self-interest of billionaires and ideologues—like "the Koch brothers, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation and others" described by Krugman—that fuels the current crisis. And though many step back and call the whole thing "political theater," the final act has yet to begin.

What was "predictable," according to Krugman, was that the GOP would ultimately end up in such a position where their aversion to facts would make them victims of reality. What is not yet clear—though predictions abound—is how the current impasse ends and what impact it will have on U.S politics leading into the 2014 election season and beyond.

With the Democratic Party also guilty in propping up a political system that fails to deliver the transformative change demanded by a world awash in war, economic inequality, and on the precipice of runaway climate change, the prospects for a new progressive era originating in Washington, DC are not only dim, but non-existent.

Yes, I mostly agree, and I also agree with the conclusion:
For the moment, however, how this "impasse" ends—and what rises in its ugly wake—continues to be a guess.
4. Rich People Just Care Less

Next, another item from Common Dreams, that it seems to copy from the New York Times, and is an article by Daniel Goleman, who is a psychologist:
It starts as follows:
Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Actually, being also "a psychologist"... yes and no. Yes, because clearly "Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them" are things the upper classes and the powerful do remarkably well and quite often. No, because I get pretty skeptical as soon as "A growing body of recent research" gets mentioned.

In any case, there is rather a lot more under the last link, in case you need enlightening by the social sciences. But here is the ending:
Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.
That seems to me to be rather a bit over the top: That you cannot reduce "the economic gap" "without also addressing the gap in empathy".

America's Police Are Looking More and More Like the Military

Finally, another item that addresses the changes in society, by Elizabeth Beavers and Michael Shank:
In fact, it addresses a topic that also moved Bill Maher, some months ago, and provides some explanations as well:
America's streets are looking more and more like a war zone. Last week, in a small county in upstate New York with a population of roughly 120,000 people, county legislators approved the receipt of a 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, donated by the US Defense Department to the county sheriff.

Between the Armored Personnel Carriers locking down main streets in major American cities – mimicking our MRAPs in Afghanistan – or Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) and Special Forces units canvassing our country, if we're not careful, this militarization of our domestic policing will make-over America, and fast.

Here's how it all happened. A little-known Pentagon program has been quietly militarizing American police forces for years. A total of $4.2bn worth of equipment has been distributed by the Defense Department to municipal law enforcement agencies, with a record $546m in 2012 alone.

In the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1997, the "1033 program" was born. It allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces.

Aha! Another thing the Americans can thank Clinton for! Also, the article - as seems quite right to me - is quite critical, and lists three points, which I copy, without the intervening texts, that are indicated by bracket ellipses:
First, the program is transforming our police into a military. (...)
Second, the program encourages waste. (...)
Lastly, the program's lack of oversight is irresponsible.
And it ends as follows:
The Pentagon program cannot continue in this manner. Congress should acknowledge the failure of this program and permanently ban military-grade weaponry, armored vehicles and aircraft from transfer to municipal police forces.
But when local police forces carry assault weapons and patrol America's main streets with tanks and drones, the lines blur between the military and law enforcement. The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action. Scaling back the 1033 program is a much-needed start and would cast some light on the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.
I quite agree - though I wonder how much of an accident this is.

6.  Personal

I have been sleeping decently for some five weeks now, after not being able to do so for fifteen months because I had too much pain in my eyes to do so, and I also have been doing fairly well, at least for me, and both are quite nice, after what was in fact a very long down, that as far as ME/CFS is concerned lasted nearly all the years of this century.

So... today I bicycled for two hours and for at least twenty kilometers, which is for me a first in this century and millenium, and the reason was that I just did not have the health for it: definitely not, and not for more than 15 years.

Now I do, and it seems I have survived this fairly well. Also, I will write another item on the protocol I use tomorrow or the day after, for there have been some changes, and it seems some care.



[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay 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 of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of 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 machine) which is a disease that 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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