"They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
rants and videos
2. The True Patriots in
Congress Trying to End NSA Tyranny
3. Will NSA Reforms Protect
4. David Cameron makes
leaner state a permanent goal
5. Socialize Social Media!
6. It's business that
really rules us now
crisis time again. There are six articles or at least links, and I do
not agree with all, and shall try to explain why.
Eric's rants and videos
To start with, a link to a
new site, on Wordpress, of professor emeritus of mathematics Eric
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
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.
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
But Sensenbrenner indeed is quite right - and here he is on what upset
Also there is this:
“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.”
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
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
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.
Reforms Protect Citizens?
Next, an article by
Andrés Scala on Consortium News:
This is a quite sensible
piece, that starts thus:
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
As to passing on stuff to the NSA "because countries lack the
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
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
Cameron makes leaner state a permanent goal
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!
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
(1) Social media
can either be profitable or it can be social. In the end, it can’t be
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.
(2) But large social media
companies particularly invite socialization—that is, going public in
the sense of public ownership—for the reasons that follow.
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
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
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
Anyway. Here is the beginning of the article, that sounds a bit
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
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.
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".
 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
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.