9, 2013
Crisis: NSA * 2, Data Collection, Surveillance State, Economic Limbo, Reich
  "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. The NSA files
2. Fact: the NSA gets negligible intel from Americans'
     metadata. So end collection
3. How Private Tech Companies Are Collecting Data on You
     and Selling Them to the Feds for Huge Profits
4. Surveillance State Takes Offense
5. Five Years in Economic Limbo
6. Robert Reich on Shutdown: 'You Can't Negotiate with
7. Personal
About ME/CFS


We´re back at the crisis again, with seven items, although the last is a brief personal item.

1.  The NSA files

To start with, here is a link to what is probably the best list of NSA related files, which is at the Guardian: 

There is no author and no quotation: It's a list of files, that covers at present at least 370 entries. (To see all of them, you have to go to the bottom of the page, where there are four more pages, above the heading "1-5 of 370 for The NSA files".)

2. Fact: the NSA gets negligible intel from Americans' metadata. So end collection

Next, one of the files mentioned in the previous item, by Yochal Benkler, who teaches law at Harvard:
This starts as follows:

Congress may be on the verge of prohibiting the NSA from continuing its bulk telephony metadata collection program. Two weeks ago, the Senate national security dissenters: Wyden, Udall, Paul, and Blumenthal proposed prohibition. Last week, the move received a major boost from a bipartisan proposal by core establishment figures: Senator Patrick Leahy, and Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner and John Conyers.

It's a prohibition whose time has come. Dragnet surveillance, or bulk collection, goes to the heart of what is wrong with the turn the NSA has taken since 2001. It implements a perpetual "state of emergency" mentality that inverts the basic model outlined by the fourth amendment: that there are vast domains of private action about which the state should remain ignorant unless it provides clear prior justification. And all public evidence suggests that, from its inception in 2001 to this day, bulk collection has never made more than a marginal contribution to securing Americans from terrorism, despite its costs.

I do not know how likely this "may be" is, but suppose so. In any case, I mostly agree with the next paragraph - except that I may disagree on the argument as given in the title, namely that the reason not to do it is ... that it isn't effective.

And that for two reasons: first, effectiveness or its lack is not material, in my eyes, if only because if there were more effectiveness, then still almost all the NSA research that has been done is done on innocent people, and without specific justification, as outlinedby the Fourth Amendment. Second, I much doubt it ever was meant to be "effective" against "terrorism".

However, I agree with the ending, mostly because of the "If":
If the NSA cannot show real, measurable evidence of its effectiveness, evidence that doesn't collapse as soon as it is examined and isn't a vague appeal to amorphous, measurement-free "peace of mind", its bulk collection program has to go.
But my supplement is that the NSA's bulk collection program also has to go if not.

3. How Private Tech Companies Are Collecting Data on You and Selling Them to the Feds for Huge Profits

Next, something I found on Alternet by Pratap Chatterjee:
This starts as follows:

Big Bro is watching you. Inside your mobile phone and hidden behind your web browser are little known software products marketed by contractors to the government that can follow you around anywhere. No longer the wide-eyed fantasies of conspiracy theorists, these technologies are routinely installed in all of our data devices by companies that sell them to Washington for a profit.

That’s not how they’re marketing them to us, of course. No, the message is much more seductive: Data, Silicon Valley is fond of saying, is the new oil. And the Valley’s message is clear enough: we can turn your digital information into fuel for pleasure and profits -- if you just give us access to your location, your correspondence, your history, and the entertainment that you like.

There is quite a lot more, in which Pratap Chatterjee outlines how your data are collected, almost completely without your knowing it. He ends thus:

Ever tried yelling back at a security camera? You know that it is on.  You know someone is watching the footage, but it doesn’t respond to complaint, threats, or insults. Instead, it just watches you in a forbidding manner. Today, the surveillance state is so deeply enmeshed in our data devices that we don’t even scream back because technology companies have convinced us that we need to be connected to them to be happy.

With a lot of help from the surveillance industry, Big Bro has already won the fight to watch all of us all the time -- unless we decide to do something about it.

Yes, that mostly seems correct.

4. Surveillance State Takes Offense

Next, an article by William Blum on Consortium News:
This starts as follows:

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.” So say many Americans. And many Germans as well.

But one German, Ilija Trojanow, would disagree. He has lent his name to published documents denouncing the National Security Agency (NSA), and was one of several prominent German authors who signed a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her to take a firm stance against the mass online surveillance conducted by the NSA.

Trojanow and the other authors had nothing to hide, which is why the letter was published for the public to read. What happened after that, however, was that Trojanow was refused permission to board a flight from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to Miami on Monday, Sept. 30. Without any explanation.

And that is a problem: It seems Trojanow had something to fear, namely that his ideas about the NSA do not please the directors of the NSA. If that is indeed the explanation - I do not know - there will be many more such cases Real Soon Now, just as it may happen soon - I do not know - that American journalists may get arrested and disappear, basically for trying to do a real job, at least as long as the NSA is not tamed, and tamed quite decisively.

Incidentally, as Blum himself stresses in his article, this piece of news was only carried by 1 out of 1400 newspapers, which also shows how disappearances of American journalists may soon happen and be not reported. As Blum says:
The story is a poignant caveat on how fragile is Americans’ freedom to criticize their Security State. If a foreigner can be barred from boarding a flight merely for peaceful, intellectual criticism of America’s Big Brother (nay, Giant Brother), who amongst us does not need to pay careful attention to anything they say or write.
5. Five Years in Economic Limbo

Next, I have an article by Joseph Stiglitz that I found on Common Dreams - and Stiglitz is one of "the leading economists":
This starts as follows:
When the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, triggering the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression, a broad consensus about what caused the crisis seemed to emerge.

A bloated and dysfunctional financial system had misallocated capital and, rather than managing risk, had actually created it. Financial deregulation – together with easy money – had contributed to excessive risk-taking. Monetary policy would be relatively ineffective in reviving the economy, even if still-easier money might prevent the financial system's total collapse. Thus, greater reliance on fiscal policy – increased government spending – would be necessary.

Five years later, while some are congratulating themselves on avoiding another depression, no one in Europe or the United States can claim that prosperity has returned. The European Union is just emerging from a double-dip (and in some countries a triple-dip) recession, and some member states are in depression. In many EU countries, GDP remains lower, or insignificantly above, pre-recession levels. Almost 27 million Europeans are unemployed.

After which Stiglitz explains that little has changed in those five years. He ends as follows:
The financial system may be more stable than it was five years ago, but that is a low bar – back then, it was teetering on the edge of a precipice. Those in government and the financial sector who congratulate themselves on banks' return to profitability and mild – though hard-won – regulatory improvements should focus on what still needs to be done. The glass is, at most, only one-quarter full; for most people, it is three-quarters empty.
One reason to have this article is that Stiglitz was contradicted by the Dutch head of the National Bank, Klaas Knot, who got big articles in the Dutch papers,a few days ago, because he had said that within three months (!) the crisis (in Holland) is finished - but without offering any evidence or numbers.

My guess is that Stiglitz is a better economist, and he certainly is more experienced.

6.  Robert Reich on Shutdown: 'You Can't Negotiate with Extortionists'

Finally, an interview with Robert Reich in the English version of Der Spiegel:
It is a good interview. Here is one piece:

SPIEGEL: That is the main theme of your documentary "Inequality for All," which is already being touted as an Oscar contender. In it, you paint a grim picture of the US as a country torn apart, and your warn about dramatic consequences for the economy. Are things really that bad?

Reich: The economic divide has rarely been as pronounced. The typical male worker in the US was making $48,078 (€35,400) a year in 1978; now this average annual salary is down to $39,000. At the same, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans is higher than that of 150 million Americans combined.

And here is another bit:

SPIEGEL: (...) Directly after the financial crisis erupted, there was an enormous amount of rage at the complex of Wall Street, corporations and Congress. Obama had a unique opportunity to tackle that complex …

Reich: … and he squandered it. Obama should have put far more conditions on the banks that received the bailouts. He should have told them: "You've got to agree to some severe regulations like resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act" -- which separated investment from commercial banking -- "and you've got to refrain from providing big bonuses for your executives."

SPIEGEL: Why wasn't Obama able to get his way?

Reich: His administration has been too close to Wall Street. Too many Obama administration officials have worked on Wall Street; too many are leaving to go to Wall Street. And Wall Street is simply not attuned to the needs of average working Americans.

The rest is as good.


This is just to tell the few who may care that according to my brother I did not cycle 20 but 30 kilometers the day before yesterday, and he is probably right (having spend a lot more time on the same track than I did); that I was yesterday a bit tired but had no PEM; and that I did not mention Phoenix Rising - which is a website for people with M.E. - yesterday because I rarely visit it, these days.



[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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