"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."
| "Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. 35 reasons why I hate
2. French soldier wears Nazi
slogan on uniform in Central
3. Israel condemns US
intelligence chief declassifies Bush-era
documents on NSA programs
complacency, secrecy –Britain's great
6. $10m NSA contract with
security firm RSA led to
encryption 'back door'
7. Dave Eggers: US writers
must take a stand on NSA
8. The NSA review panel didn't
answer the real question:
was any of this
is again a fairly normal crisis item, which as it happens has seven
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
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:
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:
the beginning, there were some wedged-shaped marks on a block
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
now, in 2013, we have the list.
Really. This is literally what it has come to.
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:
Yes indeed! Also (the
last time I quote):
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.
Because lists are not stories.
don't have a beginning, a middle and an end.
can't move you the way a work of literature can, or even, I would dare
to suggest, an actual newspaper article.
They're just a way of connecting random things together.
making it appear like there's some logic there.
there isn't necessarily.
Quite so. And that is
then that's the beauty of a list.
really can write any old bollocks.
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
soldier wears Nazi slogan on
uniform in Central
Next, the other item
that belongs to my personal distastes gets presented by Kim Willsher:
This starts as
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
and politicians: It is the ideal under which very many
of these do work.
3. Israel condemns US spying revelations
have arrived at the crisis items. Here is the first, by Associated
Press in the Guardian:
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,
skipped some paragraphs in between, and also skip the rest, and only
remark that it shows you cannot trust spies.
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.
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
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.)
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
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
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.
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:
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).
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 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
Next, an article by Dave Eggers, in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
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.
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!).
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."
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.
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.
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
As I quoted and
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
postmodern democracy, you only need to fool the majority of the
badly educated to run what is effectively a disguised
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.
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
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
 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.