18, 2013
Crisis: Hedges, Falconer, Snowden * 2, Greenwald, Sanders, Reding
  "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. Feeding the Flame of Revolt
  2. Threat from NSA leaks may have been overstated by
       UK, says Lord Falconer

Snowden cache reveals diplomats' hotel bookings being
       tracked by GCHQ

  4. Would Holder Prosecute Greenwald? A Blurry Answer
  5. The Snowden Leaks and the Public
  6. Bernie Sanders May Run for President in 2016
  7. Reding in Washington: EU Sends Tough Commissioner
       for NSA Talks

About ME/CFS


This is yet another crisis item, and since (?) it is Monday today, there are more items than yesterday.

Incidentally, 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do not know this to be true, though I have some evidence that (i) there is less on Sundays while also (ii) most papers do not publish on Sundays.

Also 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.

I will 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 psychology. [2])

For some more in case you are interested, see note [2]. Here I switch to today's crisis items and only say that today there are 9 articles spread over 7 sections

1.  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.

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 (...)
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.

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 can swell?
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):
Hammond defines 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). [3]

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.

2. 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:

Britain's intelligence 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 for purpose".

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.

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).

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.

3. Snowden cache 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:

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.

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!

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

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.

Intelligence service 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.

There is considerably more in the articles.

4. Would Holder Prosecute Greenwald? A Blurry Answer

Next, a 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:
Alan Rusbridger, 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.

Bernie Sanders May Run for President in 2016

Next, an 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

US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) told his hometown paper Friday that he is considering making a run for President in 2016.

Then it quotes the Burlington (VT) Free Press i.a. as follows:

It is 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.

Also, addressing global warming needs to be a top priority, not an afterthought, Sanders said.

“Under 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.”

Quite so. There is more in the article, that includes Sanders' reflections on the fact that getting money will be difficult.

Reding in Washington: EU Sends Tough Commissioner for NSA Talks

Finally, an article by Sebastian Fischer and Georg Peter Schmitz:
This starts as follows:

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."

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.

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.

[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.)

[2] 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.)

[3] 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. 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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