2, 2013
Crisis: students, Snowden, NSA - 16 files I can't cram into the title 
  "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 hard truth: there are very much too many students
  2. What the revelations mean for you
  3. GCHQ and European spy agencies worked together on
       mass surveillance

  4. NSA spying: Germany and Brazil produce draft UN

  5. Snowden document reveals key role of companies in
       NSA data collection

  6. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says US 'treats
       dissent as defection'

  7. White House rejects criticism of Obama over NSA
       surveillance as rift deepens

  8. NSA surveillance may cause breakup of internet, warn

  9. Google, Yahoo et al have the power (and money) to
       fight back against the NSA

10. The NSA Has Pissed Off the Entire World—Will the
       Supreme Court Intervene?

11. $5 Billion Cuts in Food Stamps Effective Friday
12. Why Washington Is Cutting Safety Nets When Most
       Americans Are Still in the Great Recession

13. Snowden: 'Speaking the Truth Is Not a Crime'
14. 'Courage Is Contagious': Additional NSA Employees Said
       to Be Following Snowden's Lead

15. Why the Silence from the Sponsors of the Superior Full
       Medicare for All?

16. [NSA] Management Had Made The Plan To Spy Before
About ME/CFS


There is today again "a normal NL", with no less than 16 crisis-related items, that again are too many to cram into my title. Also, while I will comment on some, it  is fairly late in the day, so I do not know I will comment all.

1. The hard truth: there are very much too many students

To begin with, and because I wrote yesterday that

the levels of education everyone has received in the West - Europe and the U.S. - have dramatically declined over the last 45 years nearly everywhere.

there is a link to a Dutch piece in the Volkskrant by a Dutch student - but I quote the title in English:
In 1998 there were 160,000 Dutch students; in 2012 245,000. And although the writer of this piece, who is a student, does not know: In 1998, the "education" that was supplied was almost all utter bullshit - as it had been in 1988 and in 1978, for about the latter two years I can judge.

Indeed, in 1988, that is 25 years ago, and briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy, I was kicked out of the faculty of philosophy of the University of Amsterdam, by the sick, degenerate, fascist and terrorist members of the staff led by dr. Frans Jacobs and dr. Cornelis Verhoeven, because I had said truth exists and pronounced a number of hard truths, in a speech I had been asked to make, in that faculty.

Meanwhile, a lot more is lousy: The pre-university education is less than half of what it was in 1965, at best; the students have to pay large sums of money, to be allowed to listen in on ever boring and bad teachings; in 1984 the average IQ was 115, now it will probably hardly top 100 - but all of the staff is still a lot richer, for they are all civil servants, and nearly all incompetent parasites (for that is part of the job qualifications), and their interests have been remarkably well served by the Dutch Labour Party, who all, when employed in a Dutch university, take home more than the Dutch prime minister.

the article is in Dutch; it is by a student; it is fairly good; and the student may probably have lost her eventual university position, and indeed may be kicked from the university, if standards are as they were in 1988.

I merely register it here, and also give my recommendation: Let everybody pass an IQ-test when he or she wants a university education, and do not admit those who score less than 125 (that used to be the average IQ of HBS-students in the
1950ies, so it is far from discriminatory) - and yes, do not forget to stress that in sports the same or much stricter norms are kept, except that their the IQ is not measured, but the talent for the sport.

2.  What the revelations mean for you

Next, a long article in the Guardian, by Ewen MacAskill and Gabriel Dance:
It is supposed to be "interactive", which gives me some difficulties, and it is quite long and quite good, so I leave this to you, and just take one very small quote from it:
The debate Snowden wanted is happening. That in itself is a major achievement.
Yes, it is.

GCHQ and European spy agencies worked together on mass surveillance

Next, an article in the Guardian by Julian Borger:
This starts as follows:

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency.

The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies.

The German, French and Spanish governments have reacted angrily to reports based on National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Snowden since June, revealing the interception of communications by tens of millions of their citizens each month. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US.

Indeed: That is, your data are being spied on and copied by some nebulous agency from another country, while "your own" spooks - that you don't know and have no right to know about - spy and copy the data from folks in other countries.

There is a lot more I leave to your perusal, but I take this for Dutchies:

"The Dutch have some legislative issues that they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does. We are providing legal advice on how we have tackled some of these issues to Dutch lawyers."

Rest assured your data have been stolen, Dutchmen! (But probably by the GCHQ, who traded then with the English or Australian mass spying the Dutch did, or some such manoeuvre.)

4. NSA spying: Germany and Brazil produce draft UN resolution

Next, an article in the Guardian by Reuters:
This starts as follows:

Germany and Brazil have presented a draft resolution to a UN general assembly committee that calls for an end to excessive electronic surveillance, data collection and other gross invasions of privacy.

The draft resolution, which both Germany and Brazil made public on Friday, does not name any specific countries, although UN diplomats said it was clearly aimed at the US, which has been embarrassed by revelations of a massive international surveillance programme from a former US contractor.

The German-Brazilian draft would have the 193-nation assembly declare that it is "deeply concerned at human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of any surveillance of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance of communications".

It would also call on UN member states "to take measures to put an end to violations of these rights and to create the conditions to prevent such violations, including by ensuring that relevant national legislation complies with their obligations under international human rights law".

OK. It probably will not make a major difference, if only because
General assembly resolutions are non-binding, (...)
but it is a - small - step.

Snowden document reveals key role of companies in NSA data collection

Next, an article by Ewen MacAskill and Dominic Rushe in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The key role private companies play in National Security Agency surveillance programs is detailed in a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published for the first time on Friday.

One slide in the undated PowerPoint presentation, published as part of the Guardian's NSA Files: Decoded project, illustrates the number of intelligence reports being generated from data collected from the companies.

In the five weeks from June 5 2010, the period covered by the document, data from Yahoo generated by far the most reports, followed by Microsoft and then Google.

Between them, the three companies accounted for more than 2,000 reports in that period – all but a tiny fraction of the total produced under one of the NSA's main foreign intelligence authorities, the Fisa Amendents Act (FAA).

There is rather a lot more I leave to you, except for one final bit, which is from a Microsoft spokesperson:
"But it is clear that much more transparency is needed to help the companies and their customers understand these issues."
Well, yes.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says US 'treats dissent as defection'

Next, an article by Tom McCarthy in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has expressed confidence that international pressure will force the United States to drop its prosecution of his case, in a letter revealed on Friday.

Snowden reflected on his legal status in a letter that was handed in person on Thursday to a member of the German parliament, which is to hold a debate on NSA spying later this month. 

"I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents," Snowden wrote in the letter, which was addressed to the German government.

There is considerably more in the article.

White House rejects criticism of Obama over NSA surveillance as rift deepens

Next, an article by Dan Roberts and Paul Lewis in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The White House sought on Friday to distance itself from the National Security Agency's monitoring of foreign leaders, rejecting criticism that President Barack Obama was understating his knowledge of the agency's activities.

In a further sign of the growing blame game within Washington over the affair, spokesman Jay Carney said Obama paid close attention to terrorism intercepts but had no need to personally bug the phones of allies.

"The president is a very deliberate consumer of the intelligence gathered for him on national security matters," said Carney. "But when the president wants to find out what the heads of state of friendly nations think, he calls them."

The White House comments followed an admission on Thursday from secretary of state John Kerry that some surveillance practices were carried out "on auto-pilot" and had not been known to the president. That was followed on Thursday night by the NSA director, Keith Alexander, blaming Kerry's own department for driving its spying on friendly world leaders.

There is considerably more, from which I cite this, to underscore the truth speaking abilities of Keith Alexander, who blamed not himself but the U.S. ambassadors:

Thomas Pickering, who served as ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, Jordan and the United Nations, said he found it puzzling that intelligence agencies would interpret requests for information as a green light to bug the phones of friendly government leaders.

"To point the finger at ambassadors as being responsible for generating these requests seems, in my experience, to be far fetched," Pickering told the Guardian.

"In my time, intelligence requirements were never based on collection methods, they were based on intelligence interests. That an ambassador may have been interested in the views of a foreign leader is not a reason to say they had any responsibility for how that information was gathered."

Of course, I do not know whether Pickering is lying. But there are some considerable disagreements between several branches of US government.

NSA surveillance may cause breakup of internet, warn experts

Next, an article by Matthew Taylor, Nick Hopkins and Jemima Kiss in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics.

They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth.

"States may have few other options than to follow in Brazil's path," said Ian Brown, from the Oxford Internet Institute. "This would be expensive, and likely to reduce the rapid rate of innovation that has driven the development of the internet to date … But if states cannot trust that their citizens' personal data – as well as sensitive commercial and government information – will not otherwise be swept up in giant surveillance operations, this may be a price they are willing to pay."

Since the Guardian's revelations about the scale of state surveillance, Brazil's government has published ambitious plans to promote Brazilian networking technology, encourage regional internet traffic to be routed locally, and is moving to set up a secure national email service.

In India, it has been reported that government employees are being advised not to use Gmail and last month, Indian diplomatic staff in London were told to use typewriters rather than computers when writing up sensitive documents.

I think this is quite interesting - and indeed I would want another internet, that is, two internets: One for commercial players, and Facebook and such "social" sites that all are data fishers; and one for non-commercial players, like private individuals, libraries, and quite possibly for papers etc. that also is wholly run on completely open software.

For more see my (somewhat outdated but still sound) article from September 2009:

9. Google, Yahoo et al have the power (and money) to fight back against the NSA

Next, an article in the Guardian by Dan Gillmor:
This starts as follows:

It is dawning, at long last, on the major American technology companies that they are under attack – from their own government, not just from foreign powers and criminals. They'd already been co-opted by spies and law enforcement, forced to obey secret orders targeting their customers and users. Or, in some cases, they'd willingly collaborated with the government's mass surveillance schemes.

Now they are realizing that their own government considers them outright adversaries. They understand, especially in the wake of the Washington Post's report about western spy services hacking into the intra-corporate networks of internet giants Google and Yahoo, that no amount of cooperation will ever satisfy the people who wage a relentless campaign to spy on anything and everything that moves. (The NSA, of course, has issued a denial of sorts, but it's more of a non-denial denial of the Washington Post report).

Well, yes.... but personally, I do not expect much from Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft etc.

The NSA Has Pissed Off the Entire World—Will the Supreme Court Intervene?

Next, an article by Bill Blum on Truth Dig:
This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency has pissed off the world, and the world is fighting back.

From the demonstrators who gathered on Capitol Hill on Oct. 26 to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has dispatched a high-level protest delegation to the White House to the bipartisan group of senators and representatives who have introduced the USA Freedom Act to revamp the NSA, a global movement is gathering to stop the spy agency’s abuses.

For better or worse, the Supreme Court is also being asked—yet again—to join the fight. Last term, the court dismissed a lawsuit filed against the NSA by Amnesty International and other organizations over the alleged interception of emails, reasoning that none of the plaintiffs could prove their emails in fact had been seized and, therefore, that none had suffered the actual legal harm needed to satisfy the court’s strained definition of the “standing” required to prosecute a federal case (Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l).

There is rather a lot more, that includes the following - and note this Solicitor General is so sure of his conviction that he swears by secret pronouncements by secret courts:
In a lengthy opposition brief that would make Orwell and Kafka blush, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, argues that the legality of the metadata surveillance program can no longer be questioned because 14 FISA court judges sitting in secret on 34 separate occasions have considered the program and issued orders like the one served on Verizon. In Verrilli’s view, that many judges simply can’t be wrong.
In any case, to answer the question of the title, indeed with Bill Blum: No, this is unlikely to happen with the present extremely conservative Supreme Court. To start with, they also gave the presidency to Bush Jr. in spite of the fact that his opponent had won. So no, probably not.

11. $5 Billion Cuts in Food Stamps Effective Friday

Next, a quite serious piece in Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:
Charities and food activists have warned for months that the expiration of stimulus funds for food stamps Friday will affect every U.S. household that depends on them.
And to illustrate how serious this is:
The cuts will take away the equivalent of 21 meals a month for a family of four. “What we traditionally see is food stamps are never enough to get through an entire month,” says Grimaldi, citing the cost of living in New York. “It will exacerbate what people are already experiencing.”
For more, see the next item - but I give you the last line of the present one first:
“There is a real risk of hunger growing in our city and across the nation and of people going without and that’s a scary, scary thing.”

12. Why Washington Is Cutting Safety Nets When Most Americans Are Still in the Great Recession

Next, an article by Robert Reich, indeed about the food stamps cuts:

This starts as follows:

So how to explain this paradox?

As of November 1 more than 47 million Americans have lost some or all of their food stamp benefits. House Republicans are pushing for further cuts. If the sequester isn’t stopped everything else poor and working-class Americans depend on will be further squeezed.

We’re not talking about a small sliver of America here. Half of all children get food stamps at some point during their childhood. Half of all adults get them sometime between ages 18 and 65. Many employers – including the nation’s largest, Walmart – now pay so little that food stamps are necessary in order to keep food on the family table, and other forms of assistance are required to keep a roof overhead. 

And a bit further on:

Here’s a clue: A new survey of families in the top 10 percent of net worth (done by the American Affluence Research Center) shows they’re feeling better than they’ve felt since 2007, before the Great Recession. 

It’s not just that the top 10 percent have jobs and their wages are rising. The top 10 percent also owns 80 percent of the stock market. And the stock market is up a whopping 24 percent this year. 

And this is his last paragraph:
Get it? The bottom 90 percent of Americans  — most of whom are still suffering from the Great Recession, most of whom have been on a downward escalator for decades — have disappeared from official Washington.

I am afraid that he is right: The mass of the poor are totally out of sight of tje administation they helped elect, and of the Senators and Congressmen they helped elect, because they are poor - and personally I also would not be amazed if there soon is a law that forbids you to vote if you are poor.

We will see, but I suppose the Senators and Congressmen still want to be elected, and that is the way.

13. Snowden: 'Speaking the Truth Is Not a Crime'

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In the short-term, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden appears unlikely to travel to Germany in order to testify about his knowledge of how the U.S. spy agency has used its surveillance capabilities to bulk-collect the communications of the nation's people, including the personal cell phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

However, in an open letter delivered to the German government on Friday, Snowden—still living under temporary asylum in Russia—indicated he is willing to assist the investigation of alleged spying once the "difficulties" of his personal situation are resolved.

This is an interesting article, but since I am pressed for time I will only quote Snowden:

Snowden provided Ströbele with the typed letter, the full content of which follows:

To whom it may concern,

I have been invited to write to you regarding your investigation of mass surveillance.

I am Edward Joseph Snowden, formerly employed through contracts or direct hire as a technical expert for the United States National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency.

In the course of my service to these organizations, I believe I witnessed systemic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act. As a result of reporting these concerns, I have face a severe and sustained campaign of persecution that forced me from my family and home. I am currently living in exile under a grant of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

I am heartened by the response to my act of political expression, in both the United States and beyond. Citizens around the world as well as high officials – including in the United States – have judged the revelation of an unaccountable system of pervasive surveillance to be a public service. These spying revelations have resulted in the proposal of many new laws and policies to address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust. The benefits to society of this growing knowledge are becoming increasingly clear at the same time claimed risks are being shown to have been mitigated.

Though the outcome of my efforts has been demonstrably positive, my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior. I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents, as appropriate and in accordance with the law.

I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved, and thank you for your efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all.

With my best regards,

Edward Snowden

OK: As usual he appears to have all his wits about him - but I do hope he does not trust a German or Dutch parliamentarian to lure him to a country that has extradition agreements with the U.S.: He is likely to be arrested, and extradited, though the last may take a while.

14. 'Courage Is Contagious': Additional NSA Employees Said to Be Following Snowden's Lead

Next, an article by Jacob Chamberlain on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
The "courage" of Edward Snowden is "contagious," according to lawyer and transparency advocate Jesselyn Radack, who says that additional employees at the National Security Agency are now coming forward with what they consider objectionable practices by their employer.

In an interview with ABC News on Thursday, Raddack revealed that an influx of NSA whistleblowers, inspired by Snowden, are now knocking on the doors of her organization.

According to Radack, several more whistleblowers have approached the Government Accountability Project (GAP)—the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization where she is the director of National Security and Human Rights—since Snowden's story broke earlier this year.

That is quite interesting - but I disagree with Ms Radack that "courage is contagious", and do so without wishing to criticize eventual further NSA whistleblowers.

My reason is that I come from a very courageous family, and am quite a lot older than she is, and my own - strong - feeling is that courage may be exemplary, but is not contagious: As with intelligence, it is mostly innate.

15. Why the Silence from the Sponsors of the Superior Full Medicare for All?

Next, a piece by Ralph Nader:

This starts as follows:

With the Tea Partiers relentless attacks on each of the troubles besetting Obamacare since its complicated, computer glitch-ridden startup on October 1, 2013, the compelling question is: Why aren’t the Congressional sponsors of H.R. 676 – full Medicare for all with free choice of physician and hospital – speaking out as strongly on behalf of this far superior universal health care coverage?

There is considerably more, but it ends thus:

Senator Sanders’ office informs me he is finally ready to do so in a couple of weeks. With over 100 Americans dying each day due to lack of insurance, there’s no time to lose.

Quite so.

16. Top NSA Whistleblower: “[NSA] Management Had Made The Plan To Spy On The United States And The People Of The United States Even Before 9/11”

Finally, a piece by Washington's Blog, that has the following title:

This starts as follows:

The government’s spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed herehere. And see this) and

As the former head of the NSA’s operations division, who was in charge of the global digital intelligence gathering program and oversaw 6,000 employees – William Binney – said:

“[NSA] management had made the plan to spy on the United States and the people of the United States even before 9/11.

Then – when 9/11 occurred – that was the pure excuse for them to go in and say now, telecoms, we really need the data now to be able to protect the United States from terrorism.

And that was simply false to begin with. We had no problem at all identifying these people from the beginning. That was absolutely false. But that was the pretext they used to get that process running.”

And that is the beginning of a nearly 1 1/2 hour long speech etc. by William Binney, who also was a whistleblower, and who is a smart man. Here is the rest:


[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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