22, 2013
Crisis: Berners-Lee, NSA * 3, Skunk Party, Nader on health-care
  "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. Tim Berners-Lee: UK and US must do more to protect
       internet users' privacy

  2. The NSA overreach poses a serious threat to our

How did we let the NSA spying get this bad?
  4. Who's Least Critical of NSA Spying? Democrats
The Skunk Party Manifesto
  6. 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better
       than Obamacare
About ME/CFS


This is another crisis item, without any personal section. There is only one thing I want to add here:

I brought down the index of this year, that was nearly 500 Kb, to 143 Kb, namely by deleting thousands of totally useless font specifications, that somehow had been sown by my WYSIWYG-editor, that I am forced to use. (And I could not do this earlier, because of my eyes, but did it now, and it is a relief.)

1. Tim Berners-Lee: UK and US must do more to protect internet users' privacy

To start with, an article by - I quote - "Charles Arthur and agencies" in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The UK and US must do more to protect internet users' privacy, the inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has warned as a survey of online freedoms is released.

Berners-Lee warned that "a growing tide of surveillance and censorship" posed a threat to the future of democracy, even as more and more people were using the internet to expose wrongdoing.

In fact, as the article proceeds to explain, he did it before that "survey of online freedoms" was released. He said also:

Speaking before an event to launch the updated version of the index, the 58-year-old British computer scientist said: "One of the most encouraging findings of this year's Web Index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world.

"But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy.

"Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online."

I have to say I agree, but I am unenlightened about the nature of the "Bold steps".

Also, I would like to know what he thinks of the idea I have published years ago, namely to split the WWW into two parts: (1) a commercial part, where closed source and commercial players are allowed and (2) a non-commercial part, where only open source and non-commercial players are allowed.

To me, that seems a fair distinction, and also a feasible one, since there is Linux.

2. The NSA overreach poses a serious threat to our economy 

Next, an article by Jim Sensenbrenner, in the Guardian:
As you may recall, Sensenbrenner is a Republican who got quite incensed by Snowden's revelations, and quite justifiably so, in my opinion. His article starts as follows:

Technology companies revolutionized the global economy by creating an interconnected, high-speed international marketplace.

Internet and telecommunication companies empower businesses to conduct complex transactions and connect with customers, clients and governments across the globe, placing a premium on privacy, accountability and transparency.  These principles are the currency of their success, because as private citizens, we entrust these companies with very personal information.

The overreach by the National Security Agency (NSA) does more than infringe on American civil liberties. It poses a serious threat to our economic vitality. Reports from the business community are clear: indiscriminate collection of data by the NSA damages American companies' growth, credibility, competitive advantage and bottom line.

Quite so. He also says:

After the revelations of abuse surfaced in June, I knew Congress must act to mitigate the negative effects on our civil liberties and economy. With these concerns in mind, I introduced the USA Freedom Act with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (Democrat from Vermont).

As part of its business provisions, the USA Freedom Act increases transparency by giving internet and telecom companies the ability to publicly disclose the number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) orders and national security letters they received, as well as how many orders they complied with. It will also allow companies to divulge how many users or accounts on whom information was demanded under the Fisa orders and national security letters.

Again, quite so. There is considerably more that I leave to you. I only quote his ending:

Genuine reform is a Constitutional and economic necessity. If the USA Freedom Act is brought to the floors of Congress for an up or down vote, I am confident it will pass with strong bipartisan support.

Yes, and I very strongly hope he is right.

3. How did we let the NSA spying get this bad?

Next, an article by Patrick Toomehy and Brent Max Kaufman in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

After yet another avalanche of documents showing how the NSA has spied on our communications for years, Americans should be asking, how did we get here?

The answer is simple: secrecy poisoned our system of checks and balances. Both our courts and Congress failed to put meaningful limits on the NSA's surveillance, trading away our privacy in the process. The American people never consented to the National Security Agency's (NSA) effort to "collect it all" by tracking and inspecting every digital footprint we leave behind. Instead, the secret opinions of a secret court retroactively blessed a vast NSA surveillance program years after it began.

The more we learn, the clearer it is that our surveillance laws and oversight rules are in dramatic need of reform, like the USA Freedom Act, that provide both transparency and real protections for privacy.
There is quite a lot more, but I quote only one part:
Secrecy ensures there is no vocal constituency on the side of privacy. It means there is no one to object, either at the ballot box or in court. Rather, we're left to the mercy of a secret agency overseen by a secret court and less than transparent congressional intelligence committees.
Yes, indeed. This is also why this secrecy must go.

4. Who's Least Critical of NSA Spying? Democrats

Next, an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday poll reveals that while a growing number of Americans feels that the National Security Agency violates privacy, the party the least critical of the agency's surveillance activities are Democrats.

The poll found that, overall, an increasing number of Americans believes that the NSA's activities intrude on their privacy. Sixty-eight percent said that the agency's activities violate the privacy of some Americans. Forty-eight percent said that those intrusions were unjustifiable; that's up from 40 percent in a July poll.

I should say that I find 48% who find these intrusions "injustifiable" ridiculously low, but indeed I am neither an American nor an average person.

Then again, there is considerably worse:

Only 37 percent of Democrats responded that the surveillance agency "goes too far"; that's compared to 47 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents.

Also, asked if the NSA intrusions on "some Americans' privacy rights" were justifiable or unjustifiable, Democrats were 18 points less likely than Republicans and independents to say they were unjustifiable.

The reason this is so bad is that these are the opinions of irrational followers - those who "think" on the basis of the principle "right or wrong - it's my party".

There can be little doubt about this, because until Obama was elected, the same folks, and Joe Biden, were all against the things Bush did or wanted to do with the internet, but now that Obama does the same things as Bush did, these things are suddenly sacred or at least beyond criticism.

And yes, the fact that the majority of the electorate is not capable of judging politics rationally is not only responsible for my refusing since 1971 to vote, but is also partially responsible for my stopping to write as much as I have done the previous (nearly) six months - though as is I am soldiering on, for the moment.

5. The Skunk Party Manifesto

Next, a fairly long article by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism:
This starts as follows:

The best political system that money can buy is doing a great job for its customers and a lousy job for the rest of us.

Most Americans do not realize that they are on the losing end of a 40-year war against them. On August 23, 1971, former Nixon Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell circulated what came to be known as the Powell memo. It set forth a detailed program for reshaping American institutions and values to favor the interests of corporations over those of ordinary citizens. The success of this initiative has been so complete that it has not only rolled back many of the bulwarks created by the New Deal and the Great Society, but it is also in the process of pauperizing ordinary workers in order to increase record business profits even further. The fact that the campaign has also produced rampant political dysfunction, curtailed civil liberties and helped cement an out-of-control surveillance state is of perilous little concern to powerful elites as long as their plutocratic land-grab continues.

One of the perverse accomplishments of this campaign has been to place all major branches of government in thrall to the capitalist classes rather than the popular will. Both major parties are in broad agreement on policies that are hostile to the public, such as deficit reduction when unemployment is still high, preserving a higher education system that turns increasing numbers of young people into compliant debt slaves, “reforming” as in cutting Social Security and Medicare while preserving a bloated military, and damaging local water supplies via fracking.
Yes, indeed: On Lewis Powell, the fact that most Americans do not know about him or his program, and about his accomplishments Yves Smith is quite right.

She goes on, at considerable length also, to draft the manifesto of the Skunk Party, that I leave to you, except by saying
that (1) I agree with what I read and that (2) this is at present mostly a - sort of - serious joke on her site (that is mostly for economists), but (3) who knows what will come out of it.

6. 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare

Finally, a piece by Ralph Nader, on his site:
This is just what it says, and starts with this proposition:

Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.

After which follow 21 reasons that compare the Canadian system with Obamacare, all quite briefly, all quite convincing.

This really is an excellent argument and text. I do not know what difference it will make, but it does argue a rational alternative in a very convincing way.


[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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