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Nederlog


  December
22, 2013
Crisis: NSA * 7, lists, French soldiers
  "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

















Sections
Introduction
  1. 35 reasons why I hate lists
  2. French soldier wears Nazi slogan on uniform in Central
       African Republic

  3. Israel condemns US spying revelations
  4.
National intelligence chief declassifies Bush-era
       documents on NSA programs
  5. Surveillance: complacency, secrecy –Britain's great
       vices
  6. $10m NSA contract with security firm RSA led to
       encryption 'back door'
  7. Dave Eggers: US writers must take a stand on NSA
      surveillance
  8. The NSA review panel didn't answer the real question:
       was any of this legal?
About ME/CFS

Introduction

This is again a fairly normal crisis item, which as it happens has seven items on the NSA, plus two on my personal distastes, that I start with. And as to my personal distastes: There is no need for you to share these, but I have them, and sometimes I write about them on my own blog (or log).

1. 35 reasons why I hate lists

To start with here is the first item for which I have a fairly strong distaste, which happens to be shared, in an article by Carol Cadwalladr in the Guardian:

In fact, the title is sufficient, but I should like to point to AlterNet, that regularly has three items that start with a number (today there are four: "10 Ways", "10 Companies", "6 Crimes" and "5 of the Most Awful"), which nearly always is quite sufficient for me to skip them.

Anyway... this article starts as follows:

1. In the beginning, there were some wedged-shaped marks on a block of clay.

2. And some time after that, there was epic poetry, Norse sagas, Petrarchan sonnets, the complete works of Shakespeare, the great, sweeping narrative arcs of the 19th-century novel, the playful experiments of the Modernists, the crusading journalism of Orwell, the harrowing gulag memoirs of Solzhenitsyn, and the tender joy of an ee cummings poem.

3. And now, in 2013, we have the list.

4. Yes. Really. This is literally what it has come to.

Quite so. I'll have to skip some - which I leave to you - but there's the 6 Fascinating Most Interesting Truly Enjoyable Most Informative Lists:
11. Or enjoy Time magazine's pick of 2013's Top 10 Miley Moments, and its Top 10 Best Dressed (winner: Miley Cyrus), and Top 10 Worst Dressed (winner: Miley Cyrus). Or its pick of 11 Most Memorable Selfies of 2013, not to be confused with Buzzfeed's 23 Most Important Selfies of 2013. Or, you can cut to the chase, with Rolling Stone's 20 Best Lists of 2013.
And there is this:

18. There is probably a reason that neolithic man didn't sit around a campfire and read off a list of 18 Cool Things You Can Club With a Hand-Axe. Or 33 Ways Ryan Gosling Looks Hot in a Loin Cloth.

19. Because lists are not stories.

20. They don't have a beginning, a middle and an end.

21. They can't move you the way a work of literature can, or even, I would dare to suggest, an actual newspaper article.

22. They're just a way of connecting random things together.

23. And making it appear like there's some logic there.

24. When there isn't necessarily.

Yes indeed! Also (the last time I quote):

31. But then that's the beauty of a list.

32. You really can write any old bollocks.

Quite so. And that is the point:

Almost everyone who writes any article as a list says in effect: I am an idiot, who has nothing real to say, and who cannot really think or write, and certainly not in the form of coherent prose with a beginning, a middle, an end and a true point I will be rationally arguing - but I am - nevertheless - going to bore the shit out of you with a sum-up of bits and pieces for the lowly brained like me, who have an attention span of a second (or two, on a good day) and who only want bullshit. If presented as a list.

Also, there are a few things that bear listing (such as that fascinating literature called the phone book), but once again:

For intelligent well educated people - the number of whom grows less and less, because education has grown less and less now for over 40 years - it generally is a dumb bummer, that immediately shows the writer has no self-respect and wants to treat everybody else as equally dumb as him or herself.

However, I do expect to see many more titles of listicles. For there are many more stupid than intelligent people, and these days more than ever.

2. French soldier wears Nazi slogan on uniform in Central African Republic 

Next, the other item that belongs to my personal distastes gets presented by Kim Willsher:

This starts as follows:

French military chiefs have launched an investigation to after a soldier serving in the Central African Republic was pictured wearing a Nazi slogan on his uniform.

The man, reportedly from an elite parachute regiment, was photographed in fatigues carrying his rifle. On the right sleeve of his uniform was sewn a round patch carrying the number 32 on a French flag and the words "Meine Ehre heisst Treue" ("my honour is loyalty"). The motto was used by Nazi Waffen-SS soldiers during the second world war and is banned in a number of countries including Germany and Austria.

It may have been arranged or tricked, to be sure, but I fear it is not: After printing a lot of evident lies by people trying to pooh-pooh it, the article ends with this:

The controversy follows a similar row in November, when a French soldier in Mali was photographed wearing a scarf printed with a death mask. In 2008, three French soldiers from another parachute regiment, also based in south-west France, were photographed making a Hitler salute while wrapped in a Nazi flag bearing a swastika.

The reason I have a personal distaste for these "pranks" is that my grandfather was murdered in a concentration camp by people wearing the motto, and my father survived 3 years and 9 months of concentration-camps that were run by people wearing this motto - and no: I cannot believe a French soldier does not know this.

However, I also agree that the motto is very widely practised, also these days, by all manner of conformist bureaucrats and politicians: It is the ideal under which very many of these do work.

3.  Israel condemns US spying revelations

Now we have arrived at the crisis items. Here is the first, by Associated Press in the Guardian:

It starts as follows:

Senior Israeli officials have called on the US to stop spying on Israel, following revelations that the National Security Agency intercepted emails from the offices of the country's former leaders.

It was the first time Israeli officials have expressed anger since details of US spying on Israel began to trickle out in documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
(...)
Documents leaked by Snowden – and published last week in the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times – revealed that British intelligence agency GCHQ worked with the NSA from 2008-11 to target email addresses belonging to the offices of then Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak.

I skipped some paragraphs in between, and also skip the rest, and only remark that it shows you cannot trust spies.

4. National intelligence chief declassifies Bush-era documents on NSA programs

Next, another article attributed to Associated Press in the Guardian:

This starts as follows

The director of national intelligence on Saturday declassified more documents that outline how the National Security Agency was first authorised to start collecting bulk phone and internet records in the hunt for al-Qaida terrorists and how a court eventually gained oversight of the program, after the justice department complied with a federal court order to release its previous legal arguments for keeping the programs secret.

James Clapper explained in a statement on Saturday that President George W Bush first authorised the spying in October 2001, as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, just after the 9/11 attacks. Bush disclosed the program in 2005.

The Terrorist Surveillance Program, which had to be extended every 30-60 days by presidential order, was eventually replaced by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that requires a secret court to authorise the bulk collection.

Note that I consider the last part, in which the transition to secret courts is mentioned, as worse than proceeding by presidential oirder: You should not deal with secret courts in a democracy or free and open society, and you should know who is responsible, and for what.

But in this case you also probably got large dosages of sand and little information, for the article ends as follows:

Much of his 27-page response is redacted.

(The reason it is redacted is that this covers up the illegalities committed.)

5. Surveillance: complacency, secrecy –Britain's great vices

Next, an Observer editorial from the Guardian:

I'll quote some, but not much. The editorial is based on the following sort of presumption:

The British assume governments are on their side. They may not hold much personal brief for the politicians or the mandarins who serve them. But they still look to Whitehall and Westminster for help, for action, for everything. And it is this distinction, this canyon of incomprehension, which so shapes the world of the US National Security Agency and its faithful servant, GCHQ Cheltenham.

I believe the article is well intended, but I do not think I share the presumption, for two reasons:

First, I think the British are right in the assumption that the government should be on their side - they elected it, or at least elected their representatives. I think they may be wrong in assuming that the present government, or the previous two governments, are or were on their side, but that means, if I am right, that they were lied to and misled.

Second, I think the main reason that the British seem far less concerned than the Americans has little to do with their governments, and has a lot to do with the very sorry situation in their press (outside the Guardian), which is indeed rather similar to the situation the press is in all around the rest of the Western world: They write for safety, for amusement, and about silly little themes, and they do not wish to investigate large and painful themes, because they want to survive, and they have lost a lot of their advertisments, and thereby lost a great part of their former powers.

Then again, I may be mistaken, though I do not think the present editorial is very helpful to find out what is the true explanation of the differences between the US and Great Britain.

6. $10m NSA contract with security firm RSA led to encryption 'back door'

Next, an article by Reuters in San Francisco, in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the National Security Agency arranged a secret $10m contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned. 

Documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers, to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products. 

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10m in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract.
There you are: The US encryption schemes are broken - and they are broken by corruption, that was funded by the US taxpayers (who can be even better plundered by this schema, that also may be applied by any others, such as the Chinese and the Russians).

There is rather a lot more in the article, and I should also add that mathematicians and physicists find it quite credible that "encryption" can be tampered with, if the pay is 10 million dollars (from the taxmoney). See:
7. Dave Eggers: US writers must take a stand on NSA surveillance

Next, an article by Dave Eggers, in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Most citizens would object to their government searching their homes without a warrant. If you were told that while you were at work, your government was coming into your home and rifling through without cause, you might be unsettled. You might even consider this a violation of your rights specifically and the Bill of Rights generally.

But what if your government, in its defence, said: "First of all, we're searching everyone's home, so you're not being singled out. Second, we don't connect your address to your name, so don't worry about it. All we're doing is searching every home in the United States, every day, without exception, and if we find something noteworthy, we'll let you know. In the meantime, proceed as usual."
Quite so - except that they are doing it everywhere. And they don't say what they consider "noteworthy". And they don't say who is responsible. You just have to await your arrest, when you may disappear forever (and meanwhile, stay calm: Trust President Obama!).

Next, there is this - which should be very worrying:
(...) most polls show about 50% of the population – including a shockingly high percentage of Democrats – find the NSA's domestic spying programme more or less acceptable.

No doubt many moderate Democrats have been caught in a paralysis of cognitive dissonance. That is, on a gut level, this level of spying seems horrific and unconstitutional, but, then again, would President Obama, himself a constitutional scholar, actually endorse – much less expand – a domestic spying programme unless it were morally acceptable and constitutional?
Again: Quite so. If the NSA gets its way (and 500 years of darkness descend, as in the early Middle Ages), the main reason is the average intelligence and lack of education of most of the American electorate.

As I quoted and said repeatedly:

"You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."
-- Lincoln

Then again, in a postmodern democracy, you only need to fool the majority of the badly educated to run what is effectively a disguised dictatorship.
-- Maarten Maartensz

There is this:
Think back to all the messages you have ever sent. All the phone calls and searches you've made. Could any of them be misinterpreted? Could any of them be used to damage you by someone like the next McCarthy, the next Nixon, the next Ashcroft? This is the most pernicious and soul-shattering aspect of where we are right now. No one knows for sure what is being collected, recorded, analysed and stored – or how all this will be used in the future.
And finally there is this (from a bit higher up):
(...) 88% of the writers polled are troubled by the NSA's surveillance programme, and that 24% have avoided certain topics in email and phone conversations. Most disturbingly, 16% of those answering the survey said they had abandoned a project given its sensitivity.
This is after only a half year of information about the scope of the NSA's stealing and spying, and without anyone having disappeared, yet.

Anyway, this is a good article that you should read by yourself.

8. The NSA review panel didn't answer the real question: was any of this legal?

Finally, an article by Marcy Wheeler in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
President Obama's NSA review panel makes it clear that many of the things NSA has been doing are bad from a policy perspective. But the real question we should be asking is: are they legal?
Quite so. And here is my answer, that comes in two parts:

1. I think they are evidently illegal and also very reprehensible, on the basis
    of the American Constitution (the Bill of Rights) and the Declaration of Human
    Rights of the United Nations.
2. I think that if they are made "legal", as may happen, this "legality" has
    nothing to do with me, and will be the result of intentional misleading of
    the half of the public whose IQs are 100 or lower.

But I have no children, mostly because I have been ill and without help for 35 years, and so I cannot be blackmailed that way either, and will gladly step out of this world if it turns into a Nazi-state in the way the NSA and the GCHQ are furthering.

Anyway, Mary Wheeler has read the NSA report, and shows - at least by my lights - it very probably is fraudulent: In their 300 pages they have not even asked if anything the NSA has been doing is illegal, I suppose on the presumption that the president is a legal scholar who should be trusted.

I agree he is a legal scholar. I do not trust him, not at all - and neither did the founders of the Constitution, I.F. Stone, or Lord Acton, not for personal reasons, but for reasons of solid principle.     
 
---------------------------------
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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