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Nederlog


  November
12, 2013
Crisis: Schechter, Patriots (U.S.), NSA, Cameron, Media, Monbiot
  "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.











Sections
Introduction
  1. Eric's rants and videos
  2. The True Patriots in Congress Trying to End NSA Tyranny
  3. Will NSA Reforms Protect Citizens?
  4. David Cameron makes leaner state a permanent goal
  5. Socialize Social Media!
  6. It's business that really rules us now
About ME/CFS

Introduction

It is crisis time again. There are six articles or at least links, and I do not agree with all, and shall try to explain why.

1.  Eric's rants and videos

To start with, a link to a new site, on Wordpress, of professor emeritus of mathematics Eric Schechter:

It so happens that I knew Schechter first because of my interests in mathematical logic and mathematics, in which I also knew he had published two really fine books.

In fact, I just checked and found him mentioned five times in 2009, probably best here, always in Dutch, and mostly concerned with his mathematics, and I did not find him in any other year, but yes, I do recall him, and indeed found the above new site because of my recalling him.

In any case, time went on since 2009, and Schechter meanwhile got pensioned as a professor of mathematics, and gave up mathematics, and became an activist, and indeed one of the really leftist kind.

I have downloaded his whole site, though I haven't read all of it yet, and have only watched one video of his, and while I do have my disagreements with him, he does make some fundamental sense, at least for someone with my mind, which is both leftist, logical, sceptic and scientific, which is a combination that these days is quite rare, except perhaps under mathematicians, logicians or physicists.

He certainly is someone I will soon return to, and meanwhile I recommend him to my readers: He may be "an extremist", but he is informed and rational, and he does have a lot to complain about, regardless of the solutions, and indeed it would also seem that these days one has to be "an extremist" in some ways at least to make proper sense of quite extreme events.

2. The True Patriots in Congress Trying to End NSA Tyranny

Next, an article by Robert Scheer on Truth Dig:
This starts as follows:
Good old George can stop spinning in his grave. Yes, that George, our most heroic general and inspiring president, who warned us in his farewell address “to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. ...” It’s an alert that’s been ignored in the nation’s hysterical reaction to the attacks of 9/11 that culminated in the NSA’s assault on our Constitution’s guarantee of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. ...” 
Actually, it is in a way funny because Scheer, who is an old leftie, is complimenting, quite honestly also, Jim Sensenbrenner, who certainly is not a leftie, and is a Republican.

But Sensenbrenner indeed is quite right - and here he is on what upset him:

“But the NSA abused that trust. It ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority we never imagined,” the Wisconsin congressman said. “Worse, the NSA has cloaked its operations behind such a thick cloud of secrecy that even if the NSA promised reforms, we would lack the ability to verify them.

“The constant stream of disclosures about U.S. surveillance since June has surprised and appalled me as much as it has the American public and our international allies,” Sensenbrenner continued. “I have therefore introduced legislation along with Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that will curtail surveillance abuses and restore trust in the U.S. intelligence community.”

Their bill is titled the “USA FREEDOM Act,” the acronym a shortcut for United and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring. As Sensenbrenner points out, “The title intentionally echoes the Patriot Act because it does what the Patriot Act was meant to do—strike a proper balance between civil liberties and national security.”

Also there is this:
A historic moment of shame was noted by Sensenbrenner in his remarks to the European Parliament committee: “On October 31, in an 11-4 vote, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted for the first time in our country’s history to allow unrestrained spying on the American people. I am committed to a different approach.”
Good! And this:
“The USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s bulk collection of data under the Patriot Act whether it pertains to Americans or foreigners. The U.S. government would still be able to follow leads and obtain data when it has a reasonable suspicion that someone is connected to terrorism, but it would no longer be able to collect data indiscriminately in bulk from innocent people.”
Quite so! So yes, I agree with Scheer whose ending is thus:
How reassuring to have bipartisan unity on protecting civil liberty and resisting jingoism, just as Washington had urged:

“In offering you, my Countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend ... to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign Intrigue, to guard against the Impostures of pretended patriotism. ...”

Go George! A couple of congressmen have heard you.

But while I welcome Sensenbrenner, I do not know he will succeed - and see the next item.

3.  Will NSA Reforms Protect Citizens?

Next, an article by Andrés Scala on Consortium News:
This is a quite sensible piece, that starts thus:

The latest diplomatic tussles triggered by revelations of massive National Security Agency spying, including on U.S. allies and multinational organizations, focus less on intrusions into the privacy of average citizens than on the secrets of the powerful.

Indeed, the debate in Europe illustrates how global leaders are more concerned about the NSA and other intelligence services crossing a red line by intercepting the communications of global leaders, as well as large corporations and powerful institutions, than those of regular citizens.
Yes, precisely: It is as if the vast majority of ordinary citizens have decided that while they are at least as good as any other ordinary citizen, they actually do not care that all they do with a computer or phone is being copied by totally unknown spies, for uses that absolutely no one can predict - but they do get incensed if their leaders are being spied upon.

This sounds rather crazy, but seems close to the truth, although I also should add that the vast majority of computer users these days, which is virtually anybody in Europe and the U.S., does not have much of an informed rational idea of what computers can do, or of what programming is, which may be considered a bit of an excuse.

Next, Scala explains why the government claim that it is all "legal" what they are doing:

Communications are intercepted either from submarine cables crossing the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the reach of domestic laws, or with judges’ approval, these people say. Then part of the data haul is passed on to the NSA because the countries lack the resources to process the millions of exchanges, which in France and Spain yielded 130 million metadata interceptions in just a one-month period.

Of course, domestic laws do apply, and spying is illegal - but then the spooks have meanwhile their own rubber stamping secret courts, that are supposed to overlook them but - possibly because the judges can be blackmailed? - pass virtually anything they meet, or so it seems, for secret courts also are beyond public scrutiny.

As to passing on stuff to the NSA "because countries lack the resources":

Perhaps, but it seems to me more likely the spooks of 5-eyes, 14-eyes and possibly 41-eyes, simply decided to spy on each others' citizens rather than their own, and then exchange the data, because spying directly on their own citizens might legally involve them, but spying on any citizens of other countries is "quite admissible", at least for them, because these spies claim spying is admissible, also on hundreds of millions of totally innocent ordinary citizens, and is especially admissible on people with other passports than they have, which they argue, I suspect, to show how honorable they are.

In any case:
Thus, the debate is moving from the legality of what has been done, to what legal reforms might be needed to prevent gross intrusions on personal privacy. That said, much of the recent media-driven uproar has not been over the privacy of common citizens, but over spying on politicians and companies, in other words, industrial and political espionage.
Yes, indeed - and I dealt above with "the recent media-driven uproar", that is concerned about the privacy of Chancellor Merkel's phone, but does not seem concerned about the privacy of their own phone, or at least that is how the media seem to play it (which may be false or dishonest, and quite often is).

Scala also has seen this, and says:
So, once the public shock has worn off from Snowden’s disclosures, the NSA spying debate is likely to boil down to a diplomatic spat between leaders who don’t like having their privacy violated, while the privacy rights of their citizens can expect less attention.
Yes indeed - that seems, alas, the most likely outcome. It would be a very great pity, especially as it certainly will be massively abused for any kind of governmental purpose, and the enforcing of any law the governments want to see enforced, including, as is already clear in the UK, that one is "a terrorist" for ... disagreeing with one's government, but it seems this is the likeliest outcome.

4. David Cameron makes leaner state a permanent goal

Next, we arrive at an article by Nicholas Watt in the Guardian, on that honest, reliable British PM:  However, I find this man so disgusting a liar and a cheat (as is indeed argued in the article, on good grounds also) that I forebear treating it in more detail.

5.
Socialize Social Media!

Next, an article by Benjamin Kunkel on Common Dreams:  This apparently is based on Twitter's going "public, in the private sense", namely by selling shares. The main message is in the title, but it seems to me to be based on unclarities, such as the following two premises, that I quote from the endings of the first two paragraphs, though I've added the numbers:
(1) Social media can either be profitable or it can be social. In the end, it can’t be both.
(2) But large social media companies particularly invite socialization—that is, going public in the sense of public ownership—for the reasons that follow.
To start with: "social media" are not "social", in any clear sense of that word, that involves actual meetings of physical people in the same physical space, and are quite a-social in several clear senses: They attract people - over 2 billion, it seems, at present, for Facebook alone - who can't (even) write their own sites, and they pretend to help them some, but in fact all they are for is data-mining: Getting a grasp of what their users want, and sell that knowledge to advertisers. The rest is mostly baloney or make-up.

Also, while Facebook attracts 2 billion of the mostly stupid people, who can't write their own sites, but who want to be "on line", it does not help them to socialize: it helps them to isolate themselves with their computers, and write little bits of text, that then may evoke other bits of text, generally from people they don't know, who very well may be anonymous, and whom they generally never will meet, and indeed usually can't meet.

And although it is said, quite blatantly, that "
[s]ocial media can either be profitable or it can be social" not a bit of evidence is given, while it is clear these media do data-mine and do sell their findings to advertisers and indeed also do let these advertisers advertise their users.

Next, although "socialization" is sort of "defined", namely as "
going public in the sense of public ownership", he does not at all say (i) how this is to be done nor (ii) who is going to pay for this, especially in these times of crisis and austerity.

For clearly both Facebook and Twitter have very many users and also have, at least at present, enormous values in shares, so to convert them to "public ownership" - another term that is undefined and unexplained - will take a lot of money.

Besides, their (original) owners may very well claim that they are "publicly owned" at present, namely by their shareholders, and that anyone who wants, and who has a little money, is free to buy shares.

Mr. Kunkel uses the rest of his article to argue five times, in various ways, that "[s]ocial media should be socialized", but I mostly do not get it, for the reasons I have just given.

Then again, you are welcome to it, while I insist once more that we do not so much need to socialize social media (which also at least does sound to me a bit  self-contradictory) as that we need a new public internet, that uses only open software and that does not provide access to commercial entities.

6. It's business that really rules us now

Finally, an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian:
And let me start with quoting what it says directly under the title:
Lobbying is the least of it: corporate interests have captured the entire democratic process. No wonder so many have given up on politics
A qualified yes, for the first sentence; and a qualified no for the second. That is, there are parts left of the "democratic process" (anyway a rather strange entity) that have not been taken over, while in any case this is neither a sufficient nor a  good explanation for the widespread apathy, that indeed does exist, and that I explained in quite a few terms - namely here: Crisis:  Why are so many so apathetic? - that may be summarized as: the lack of intelligence of most, that makes them easy to deceive and manipulate, together with several kinds of manipulation, such as bad education, TV, advertisements and endless litanies of propaganda by the big corporations.

Anyway. Here is the beginning of the article, that sounds a bit defeatist:
It's the reason for the collapse of democratic choice. It's the source of our growing disillusionment with politics. It's the great unmentionable. Corporate power. The media will scarcely whisper its name. It is howlingly absent from parliamentary debates. Until we name it and confront it, politics is a waste of time.
Again I disagree in part, if only because it doesn't hold for me: I gave up on "democratic choice" age 19, in 1969, after I had read considerable parts of the Acts of the Second Chamber (i.e. the lower house of the Dutch parliament, in Dutch), and met nearly only lies, stupidities and bullshit, while I was already firmly convinced that most people hold their religious and their politicial opinions on nearly completely irrational grounds.

And I did not vote from 1971 onwards because from then on I did not have to, and besides I did not want to be played by liars and deceivers, that was then as now the political norm.

But OK - everybody may have his own reasons, and mine go back at least 44 years. However, I do agree that first 9/11 and then Snowden's revelations have brought "politics" a lot closer to me, but I still do not believe in it, at least not as the sick game, from a couple of hundred male and female liars, to get support from what are for the most part people who are not fit to judge, but who have the vote only because they are of adult age, and not in jail, and regardless of anything else.

Also, I will leave the rest of Monbiot's essay to you, except for the last part, where I agree with two out of three paragraphs:

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown purged the party of any residue of opposition to corporations and the people who run them. That's what New Labour was all about. Now opposition MPs stare mutely as their powers are given away to a system of offshore arbitration panels run by corporate lawyers.

Since Blair, parliament operates much as Congress in the United States does: the lefthand glove puppet argues with the righthand glove puppet, but neither side will turn around to face the corporate capital that controls almost all our politics. This is why the assertion that parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a self-important farce has resonated so widely over the past fortnight.

Yes. Blair (and Clinton, and the Dutchman Kok) was a conscious fraud, who was easier to detect than Clinton, because he oozes fraudulence and falseness. But this is indeed what he (and his fellows in other countries) brought and wanted to bring: the destruction of real leftist politics; its replacement by completely empty slogans ("the Third Way": totally fraudulent bullshit); and the personal cult and election of people like Blair (and Clinton and Kok), who then are also free to do as they please, and who please the big corporations, the banks and the military.

Then again, personally I've never thought differently and indeed also never cared much, because I don't believe in politics as ordinary people do, or perhaps did, if Monbiot is right.

But the last paragraph is again odd, and I do not agree with it:

So I don't blame people for giving up on politics. I haven't given up yet, but I find it ever harder to explain why. When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the three main parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?

For one thing: what is it "to give up on politics"? I've given my reasons not to vote, and in this sense I've simply never believed in politics, except - perhaps - for a few years in my teens, but then there is much more. (See my Introduction to political texts.)

And for another thing: Why give up if you learn that truly big, obnoxious and clever bastards are trying to take over things? And have succeeded in taking over most of the standard ways? Why believe in politicians, or in their politics, if you know that at present almost all are is simply frauds? Then again, these are only  several hundreds or at most several thousands of arrived liars, whereas there are millions and millions of ordinary and less ordinary men and women, who are not arrived liars, but who are very often their victims. And why would that keep you from argueing things can be improved, only not in the standard ways the standard ass-holes who rule standard politics have promised?

But again: OK - I agree that the given system, that in fact is a system of a few hundred, or at most a few thousand, clever and manipulative totally dishonest political bastards, is not an inviting one. But I know that for a very long time, namely since my teens.

And I'd rather conclude that this shows the system has to go, rather than give up and only do mathematical logic.

---------------------------------
P.S. Nov 13, 2013: I added a clarification to "the Acts of the Second Chamber" viz that it concerns "the lower house of the Dutch parliament".

Note

[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)

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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