"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."
1. Feeding the Flame of
2. Threat from NSA leaks may have
been overstated by
UK, says Lord
cache reveals diplomats' hotel bookings being
tracked by GCHQ
4. Would Holder Prosecute
Greenwald? A Blurry Answer
5. The Snowden Leaks and
6. Bernie Sanders May Run
for President in 2016
7. Reding in Washington: EU
Sends Tough Commissioner
for NSA Talks
is yet another crisis item, and since (?) it
is Monday today, there are more items than yesterday.
note that the "since" gets a question-mark, because I do not know
this to be true, though I have some evidence that (i) there is less on
Sundays while also (ii) most papers do not publish on Sundays.
by the way, although it is quite important: This is like most of our
judgments - the most one usually gets allows one to set up a
sort of qualitative probabilities, about which one can say no
more than that they are greater or smaller than 1/2, and perhaps also
greater or smaller than some other qualitative probability, but which
do not really admit of being stated as a number.
write more about this, because it is quite important, although not
popular, and meanwhile only stress this is not true for all
cases: there are perfectly certain probabilistic judgments, that are
also quite true, and there also are quite true judgments of
probabilities that are between 0 and 1 that are numerically precise and
based on the facts, though I also add that not very many of the
numerically precise probabilities that one sees are really
based on a sound knowledge of all relevant facts. (The
last is one of the lessons about statistics that I learned in
some more in case you are interested, see note . Here I switch to today's crisis items
and only say that today there are 9 articles spread over 7 sections
Feeding the Flame of Revolt
To start with, an article by Chris Hedges on
Truth Dig, that is mostly about Jeremy Hammond,
who just got convicted to ten years of imprisonment, at age 28:
This starts as follows (and
runs over three pages):
I was in federal
court here Friday for the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond
to 10 years in prison for hacking into the computers of a private
security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the
Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical.
In 2011 Hammond, now 28, released to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling
Stone and other publications some 3 million emails from the Texas-based
company Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor.
I agree the punishment was draconian, and also agree the
judge had personal involvement in the case, that are both points Hedges
deals well with.
The sentence was one of the
longest in U.S. history for hacking and the maximum the judge could
impose under a plea agreement in the case. It was wildly
disproportionate to the crime (...)
But I do not agree with Hammond, and also not with Hedges when he asks,
also without answering:
Why should we
respect a court system, or a governmental system, that shows no respect
to us? Why should we abide by laws that serve only to protect criminals
such as Wall Street thieves while leaving the rest of us exposed to
abuse? Why should we continue to have faith in structures of power that
deny us our most basic rights and civil liberties? Why should we be
impoverished so the profits of big banks, corporations and hedge funds
These are mostly tendentious
questions. I agree the United States seems to be moving towards a
police state, but it isn't there yet, and even if it were there is much
more to civil and penitential law than is suggested by these questions.
For example: A court system is not there to respect people - all one
demand of it is that it is fair and humane (and I agree neither
the judge nor the verdict were fair). And the system of law does not
"only" "serve to protect criminals": it does protect anyone against
violence, though indeed the white rich are much more protected than
other groups. Then again, other "structures of power" are far more
effective in denying the "most basic rights and civil liberties" than
is a court of law. As to the last question: Thus it has been - far more
often than not, at the very least - for 2500 years, to the best of my
knowledge, and one of the best systems to mitigate those tendencies are
fair and humane systems of public law that are honestly applied - which
I agree is not the case here.
Next, on page 2 there is this about Jeremy Hammond's convictions (and I
add that he is 28, which is a somewhat relevant consideration, as I
shall also argue below):
himself as “an anarchist communist.” He seeks to destroy capitalism and
the centralized power of the corporate state. His revolutionary vision
is “leaderless collectives based on free association, consensus, mutual
aid, self-sufficiency and harmony with the environment.” He embraces
the classic tools of revolt, including mass protests, general strikes
and boycotts. And he sees hacking and leaking as part of this
resistance, tools not only to reveal the truths about these systems of
corporate power but to “disrupt/destroy these systems entirely.”
To me, who has a communist and
anarchist family (though all these are now dead), none of this is
sympathetic, and most sounds as a young man's pipe dream.
First, I doubt he is either an (European) anarchist or a communist like
my grandparents and parents were, who were quite revolutionary, and who
did go into the resistance against the Nazis, for five years. That is,
more precisely: I do not doubt he is what he says in some sense, but I
doubt it amounts to much theoretically, at least in my opinion, and I
have seen lots of honest leftists I could at best and at most agree
with morally, but not factually or philosophically.
Second, as to destroying capitalism: I'm afraid I know of no
satisfactory social system, at least not for average humankind as I
know it, while it seems to me that well-regulated
capitalism (which indeed is now mostly in the past) is one of the
least bad systems, which I say with the more confidence since I have
lived for about fifty years under it (say from 1950-2000).
Third, as to destroying capitalism: All human social
revolutions fail, which is one of the strongest arguments against
being a revolutionary.
Fourth, as to "leaderless collectives" etc.: That is all wishful
thinking. Really! When I was 28 I had an IQ well above 150, and
while I had eight years before, in 1970, given up all of Marx, Marxism and communism, my
main reasons to do so, apart from the theoretical
insufficiencies, and also at least partially apart from my
decision that the only good way for a man of great intelligence to try
to emancipate mankind was the scientific and philosophical way, rather
than the political way, was precisely that I saw how stupid, how conformist,
how collaborative, and how conventional the mass of mankind is, and
that not out of their own free will, but mostly out of sheer
incapacity to be anything else. Indeed, this also holds for the great
majority of the intelligentsia, although these proud fellow men
generally like to publicly pretend that they see this quite differently
(while collaborating in private, as in the University of Amsterdam,
where almost the whole university collaborated for 24 years, with
totally insane notions and values, such as that there is no truth, and
all men - from Einstein to Eichmann - are completely equivalent,
and all without any socialist dictatorship, but simply because it
served their private excellent incomes). 
Fifth, as to “disrupt/destroy
these systems entirely”: It is
most unlikely this will get done; extremely unlikely this will end well
(think of Stalin and Mao); and in any case, you do risk being dealt
with quite harshly, as indeed happened to Jeremy Hammond.
Then again, I said he is 28, which is quite young, in my estimate, and
which should have been another reason that his punishment should have
been very much lighter.
Also, he is right in some things, such as the following:
When we speak
truth to power we are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst.
We are confronting a power structure that does not respect its own
system of checks and balances, never mind the rights of its own
citizens or the international community.
But as is, he seems like
a naive young idealist whose life probably has been destroyed by the
forces he opposed. Which is a great pity.
Threat from NSA
leaks may have been overstated by UK, says Lord Falconer
Next, an article by Nicholas
Watt in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I am not a lord chancellor,
not even a former one, and I'd say that the British intelligence chiefs
grossly overplayed their concern, but otherwise I
agree with him (and I can understand a former lord chancellor is more
careful or more restrained than I am).
chiefs may have exaggerated the threat posed to national security by
the leaking of the NSA files, according to a former lord chancellor who
has questioned whether the legal oversight of MI6, MI5 and GCHQ is "fit
Lord Falconer of Thoroton
said he was sceptical of the claim by the heads of GCHQ, MI6 and MI5
that the leaks represent the most serious blow to their work in a
generation, and warned that the NSA files highlighted "bulk
surveillance" by the state.
Falconer, who also said
he deprecated attempts to portray the Guardian as an "enemy of the
state", pointed out that 850,000 people had access to the files leaked
by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Also, he said something else that is true and important:
"I think it is
thoroughly wrong that, in the light of the disclosures that have been
made, the Guardian is being treated in a similar way to an enemy of the
state. Far from being an enemy of the state an organ like the Guardian,
or indeed the New York Times, is part of the functioning of our
democracy that makes the state as strong as it is."
I do not agree with him on
everything, and he said quite a bit more that you can find in the
article, but this is a decent response of a formerly high ranking
British civil servant.
reveals diplomats' hotel bookings being tracked by GCHQ
Next, in fact two articles, of which the
first is in the Guardian, by Nick Hopkins:
This starts as follows:
It is so nice to be diplomatic
friends with the US and Great Britain! You know that everything your
diplomats say, and mail, and phone is going directly to the GCHQ or the
NSA! So reliable! So honest!
A programme devised by
British intelligence allowed analysts to monitor the bookings of
foreign diplomats at 350 top hotels across the world, according to
documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The German news magazine
Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the automated system alerted the
UK's eavesdropping centre, GCHQ, to the timings and
locations of diplomats' travel arrangements.
The papers make clear
that these details allowed the "technical operations community" to make
necessary preparations before the visits, the magazine said, suggesting
that the diplomats' rooms would be monitored or bugged.
The GCHQ programme,
called Royal Concierge, was first trialled in 2010 and has been in
operation since then, the papers reveal.
Also, I've got to add this is less reprehensible in my eyes than the
stealing of everybody's data, but then again, this does seem to me
another fallacious judgment of Keith Alexander or James Clapper.
Here is an article by Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark
in Der Spiegel (on line) on the same subject:
This starts as follows
There is considerably more in
When diplomats travel to
international summits, consultations and negotiations on behalf of
governments, they generally tend to spend the night at high-end hotels.
When they check-in, in addition to a comfortable room, they sometimes
get a very unique form of room service that they did not order: a
thorough monitoring by the British Government Communications
Headquarters, or GCHQ in short.
documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show
that, for more than three years, GCHQ has had a system to automatically
monitor hotel bookings of at least 350 upscale hotels around the world
in order to target, search and analyze reservations to detect diplomats
and government officials.
The top secret program
carries the codename "Royal Concierge," and has a logo showing a
penguin wearing a crown, a purple cape and holding a wand. The penguin
is apparently meant to symbolize the black and white uniform worn by
staff at luxury hotels.
Holder Prosecute Greenwald? A Blurry Answer
retake of Holder's quotation that I dealt with yesterday,
in an article by Alexander Reed Kelly in Truth Dig:
This gives some more
details, that I leave to you. I merely quote Glenn Greenwald's response:
Greenwald said he
welcomed the statement but remains cautious. “That this question is
even on people’s minds is a rather grim reflection of the Obama
administration’s record on press freedoms,” he said in an e-mail. “It
is a positive step that the Attorney General expressly recognizes that
journalism is not and should not be a crime in the United States, but
given this administration’s poor record on press freedoms, I’ll consult
with my counsel on whether one can or should rely on such
caveat-riddled oral assertions about the government’s intentions.”
5. The Snowden Leaks and the Public
Then there is a good
piece by Alan Rusbridger in the New York Times that I have mentioned before, but do again:
Actually, I intended to
quote and comment some, but as it is this NL is approximating 50 Kb,
and I merely list it for your perusal. (But I will say I have meanwhile
two personal reasons to like Rusbridger: He read the four volumes of
Orwell's Letters and Essays, and sooner than I did, and he also is a
fan of William Hazlitt.)
And here is an article
by Scott Martelle in Truth Dig on the above article:
I will give the first
paragraph of this, because it is quite true:
the editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, has an essay in the new issue of The New York Review of Books that
stands out as a reasoned explanation of the role The Guardian has
played in bringing Edward Snowden’s revelations to light, and why the
full-throttle pursuit of data by governmental security apparatuses is
an affront to individual freedoms.
And he also quotes the
bits I would have quoted and commented, if there were space and time
for that, here and now, which there aren't.
6. Bernie Sanders May Run for President in 2016
extension of a piece of news I dealt with on November 14, in the form of an article
by the Common Dreams staff:
This opens as follows
Then it quotes the Burlington
(VT) Free Press i.a. as follows:
US Senator Bernie Sanders
(I-Vt) told his hometown paper Friday that he is considering making a
run for President in 2016.
Quite so. There is more in the
article, that includes Sanders' reflections on the fact that getting
money will be difficult.
essential, he said, to have someone in the 2016 presidential campaign
who is willing to take on Wall Street, address the “collapse” of the
middle class, tackle the spread of poverty and fiercely oppose cuts to
Social Security and Medicare.
addressing global warming needs to be a top priority, not an
afterthought, Sanders said.
normal times, it’s fine, you have a moderate Democrat running, a
moderate Republican running,” Sanders said. “These are not normal
times. The United States right now is in the middle of a severe crisis
and you have to call it what it is.”
in Washington: EU Sends Tough Commissioner for NSA
Finally, an article by Sebastian Fischer and Georg Peter Schmitz:
This starts as follows:
What difference this will make
is an open question, about which the rest of the article has several
things to say, but I will see.
When the European Union
wants to signal that it's serious about an issue, it dispatches Viviane
Reding. And that's exactly the plan for Monday, when the tough EU
justice commissioner is set to meet with her counterpart, Attorney
General Eric Holder, in Washington to discuss the consequences of the
National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal.
Reding, who is from
Luxembourg, has a reputation in the US capital for being a formidable
opponent. Her decisive attempts to ensure that Europeans enjoy the same
rights to data protection as
US citizens have not necessarily been welcome, though. "If Reding wants
to continue keeping big US companies away from Europe, then she
shouldn't be surprised if Europe is soon as isolated as North Korea,"
one high-level person working on trans-Atlantic issues said.
But ahead of the meeting
with Holder, Reding's resolve remained unbroken. "Data protection is a
fundamental right in Europe," she told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Fundamental
rights are non-negotiable. Period."
Meanwhile I merely remark that "one high-level person" spoke like an
utter idiot - which is not hopeful, as is Obama's still not
having apologized for ten years of Chancellor Merkel's phone tapping.
P.S. Nov 19, 2013: Weeded out a few
small typing mistakes.
 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.)
 I do not want to go too far in this
here and now, but I'll clarify my meaning, that depends mostly on the great
difficulties involved in getting numerically precise probabilities that are really
based on a sound knowledge of all relevant factors.
But first two instances of numerically precise probabilities that are
very likely true. The first is the Galton board
- and check out the last link if you don't know what I mean - and the
second are mortality
rates, such as are used in life insurance.
The reasons these are reliable are that in the first case there are no
relevant factors (supposing the experiment is not done in a magnetic
field, and the apparatus is correct (!)) and in the second case that
there are usually very many records that are mostly correct and concern
a simple fact.
However, most of the numerically quite precise probabilities as are
used in psychology are based on huge abstractions that amount to claims
- that are only rarely explicitly stated - that one does have a
sound knowledge of all relevant facts, which is rarely true, and
besides, the number of cases actually dealt with are often very
small (some tens, usually just enough to make statistics formally
applicable), quite artificial (most psychological experiments I know of
were done with first year students of psychology), and certainly
without much knowledge of all relevant factors.
Note this does not invalidate the use of statistics in psychology and
other social sciences, but it does mean that one has to be very
careful, also because those using statistics often do not really
understand them while also very often not all the data are
given. (Thus, that most psychological experiments I know about were on
first year psychology students was almost never clearly
stated, although it certainly limits generalizability in quite a few
cases: they are a specific age group (young adults) that also are more
intelligent than the average, for example, and more likely to have
richer backgrounds rather than poor ones.)
Everything I say here I think since 1971, and it is also this that
marks one of my major differences with many: I think the greatest
problems for mankind are the average stupidity and ignorance of the
great majority. (You may disagree, but chances are that your are less
intelligent and less learned. And I am not saying this because
I like to say this, but because I think it is a sad and
difficult and rarely admitted major human problem. Also, I do not
think the majority is bad: I think it is easily had, easily duped,
easily misled, by clever bastards, and that is the problem.
Finally, as to my IQ: I do not even think it is a good measure of
intelligence, but I am very intelligent, and that is the score, and
that also is the major difference between myself and nearly everybody
else, although indeed it rarely gets problematic.)
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.