January 9, 2014

Crisis: Great Britain, Obama and NSA, whistleblower, Norway

   "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

Prev- crisis -Next  

Lords reject government's anti-social, crime and policing

2. Obama nears decision on NSA reforms as spy leaders
     meet at White House

3. NSA's Harshest Critics Meeting With White House Officials

4. 500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always
     Aimed at Crushing Dissent

5. No Warrant, No Problem: How the Government Can Get
     Your Digital Data

6. Democracy Needs Whistleblowers. That's Why I Broke
     into the FBI in 1971

7. 25 Reasons Norway Is The Greatest Place On Earth

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, with seven items. The first shows that a bi-cameral parliament is better than one with just one house: The British lords have rejected the - indeed quite insane - bill that would allow prosecutions of anyone for "being a nuisance, or an annoyance". The next four items are all on Obama or the NSA's doings, with the fourth of these items making a point I also repeatedly have made, viz. that mass surveillance is a typically tyrannical tool. Item 6 is by one of the whistleblowers of 1971 I briefly dealt with yesterday. The last item is purely private, though I agree with the title, and the reader can also see why, since there are 26 big photographs. (But there are some difficulties, also, notably the sun's marked absense during most of the year, and its marked presence during high summer.)

I should also say that yesterday
I have updated the index file of the crisis series, until yesterday. And I have adjusted the indexes of Nederlog, so that each index of each year can be reached from any year. (These things are pretty awful to do using KompoZer, which is the only WYSIWYG html-editor on Linux, but also is pretty bugged, even to the extent that the cursor positions in several open files are normally not maintained. Yes, that is pretty crazy! This makes my efforts on indexes fairly rare: it is very frustrating. But OK - it's done, once again.)

1. Lords reject government's anti-social, crime and policing bill

To start with, an article by Press Association - that is what it says - in the Guardian:
This starts as follows, and relates to this item in Nederlog:

The government suffered a big defeat in the House of Lords on Wednesday evening over its planned new injunctions to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Peers voted by 306 to 178, majority 128, against the plans amid fears that noisy children, carol singers and nudists could fall victim to the new injunctions.

The government wants to replace antisocial behaviour orders (asbos) with a new type of measure, an ipna (injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance).

But peers, led by crossbencher Lord Dear, a former chief constable of West Midlands, and supported by several prominent Tories, said the injunctions cast the net too wide and put at risk "fundamental freedoms" and free speech.

That is a very good result, and shows - once again - the need of a bi-cameral house of parliament. (This does not need to be filled with lords, but it needs to be there because the lower house will generally follow the government, and you want to prevent the current government, of whatever color, to push through all the changes it desires. And there really is a second house of parliament necessary to prevent that, and to maintain democracy.)

There is a considerable amount more, but I only quote one more point, from the end of the article, with a proponent of the bill speaking:

Lord Faulks, a Conservative who is soon to become a justice minister, defended the legislation, questioning whether the fears expressed by his fellow peers were realistic. He said the applications for an ipna could only be made by an agency such as a local authority, adding: "That is in fact a defence against inappropriate use. It means that somebody who is the victim of antisocial behaviour has to go through the filter of a hard-working agency in order to establish there is sufficient basis to seek antisocial behaviour, or ipna in this case… the use of an agency provides an important filter."

Faulks said the fact a judge also had to decide on the injunction provided another safeguard. "I simply cannot see a judge ordering an injunction for any of the sort of trivial matters which have been referred to in the course of the argument," he added.

First, there is every reason to distrust the local authorities, if only because they are rarely there "for the people", but tend to be there for themselves or their parties, as is also quite human.

Second, it should not be the bureaucrats or leading politicians who should have the right to decide on what is "anti-social": Very likely they will call everything they dislike "anti-social".

Third, Lord Faulks may not be able to see a judge ordering an unreasonable injunction, but then he is a lord, while I myself, who is not as myopic as some lords, have no reason to believe that most judges are as impartial and objective as I think they should be. On the contrary, most judges function as supporters of the status quo.

2.  Obama nears decision on NSA reforms as spy leaders meet at White House

Next, an article in the Guardian by Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts:
This starts as follows:

The leaders of the US intelligence agencies were holding talks at the White House on Wednesday as US president Barack Obama neared a decision on curbing the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk surveillance powers.

Obama was meeting the leadership of the US spy agencies and his privacy and civil liberties oversight board, to be followed on Thursday by additional meetings with key congressional leaders. 

Legislators critical of the NSA’s bulk domestic phone records collection, such as senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall and congressman James Sensenbrenner, were expected to attend. The White House will also welcome surveillance skeptics from the private sector, including ACLU President Susan Herman.

According to the White House, Obama has yet to decide which NSA and FBI authorities to restrict and which to ratify. An announcement could come as early as next week, and the White House has said it will occur before the state of the union address on 28 January.

There is considerably more in the article, but this is enough for the moment.

3. NSA's Harshest Critics Meeting With White House Officials Tomorrow 

Next, an article by Dana Liebelson on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:

On Thursday, a number of civil liberties groups that have harshly criticized the NSA surveillance practices disclosed by Edward Snowden, are meeting with President Obama's top lawyer, Kathy Ruemmler. This White House session is one of several this week with lawmakers, tech groups, and members of the intelligence community that will help the President soon decide whether to keep the controversial surveillance programs intact. 

Among groups that are reportedly attending the meeting are the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the Federation of American Scientists. According to Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House, the purpose of the meeting with Ruemmler "is to have a broad discussion regarding privacy and civil liberties protections and transparency initiatives." According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the meeting is likely the "next phase" of the Obama Administration's attempt to decide "exactly how much of the Surveillance Review Group’s fairly radical recommendations they’re going to get behind."

One problem with this is that "the Surveillance Review Group" did not make any "fairly radical recommendations": In fact, the group consisted of Obama loyalists.

So this does not make me feel better, but I will await Obama's decision.

4. 500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent

Next, an article on Washington's Blog, that supports a point I repeatedly made:
Actually, this sketches a fair amount of background, that I leave to my readers, except for one brief bit, that I reproduce as it is given:

Senator Church – the head of a congressional committee investigating Cointelpro – warned in 1975:

[NSA's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.  [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

This is, in fact, what’s happened …

Yes, indeed - and note that the quote is from 1975, and did not count with the enormous powers the internet gives to those who have the money to abuse it.

5. No Warrant, No Problem: How the Government Can Get Your Digital Data

Next, an article by Theodoric Meyer and Peter Maass in Propublica:
This starts as follows:
The government isn't allowed to wiretap American citizens without a warrant from a judge. But there are plenty of legal ways for law enforcement, from the local sheriff to the FBI to the Internal Revenue Service, to snoop on the digital trails you create every day. Authorities can often obtain your emails and texts by going to Google or AT&T with a simple subpoena that doesn’t require showing probable cause of a crime. And recent revelations about classified National Security Agency surveillance programs show that the government is regularly sweeping up data on Americans’ telephone calls and has the capability to access emails, files, online chats and other data — all under secret oversight by a special federal court.
Well... this doesn't show "No Warrant, No Problem", in part because the "legal ways" may only be " "legal" ways" (namely, from stretching the meanings of terms, which nowadays is very common); I doubt whether "a simple subpoena that doesn’t require showing probable cause of a crime" in a really good legal system (such as is not in force in the US) would be legal; while the "secret oversight by a special federal court" is not a democratic but a fascistic law, that should not take place at all in a real democracy.

The rest is dealt with under three colums: "What they can get" (Phone records, Location data, IP addresses, Emails, Email drafts, Text messages, Cloud data, Social media), "How they get it", and "What the law says".

I've read it all through, and it seems a fair summary, except for the facts that (1) the law as it pertains to the internet is both fairly undefined, often unclear, and often not worked out, except - perhaps - in secret courts, and (2) so far, the law has not formed much of a hindrance on the capacities of the NSA (and the GCHQ etc.): they grab anything they can get, and are allowed to lie about it, and basically may wipe their asses clean with the law, all "because of terrorism".

6. Democracy Needs Whistleblowers. That's Why I Broke into the FBI in 1971

Next, an article by Bonnie Raines in Common Dreams - and she is one of the persons who committed the FBI break-in in 1971, briefly reported yesterday:
This starts with a photograph of Nixon and Hoover, which is quite good, in its utter awfulness, and the article also is good. Here is a bit from towards the end:

Democracy needs whistleblowers. Snowden was in a position to reveal things that nobody could dispute. He has performed a legitimate, necessary service. Unlike us, he revealed his own identity, and as a result, he's sacrificed a lot.

On our part, you could accuse us of being criminals – and Hoover did just that: he was apoplectic and sent 200 agents to try and find us in Philadelphia. "Find me that woman!" he screamed at them.

But to us there didn't seem to be an alternative at that point. No one was going to be hurt. We hoped for the outcomes that we wanted. We knew, of course, that we were breaking law, but I think that sometimes you have to break laws in order to reveal something dangerous, and to put a stop to it.

Indeed, they acted as they did because no one else seemed able to reign in J. Edgar Hoover. And this is the ending:

Dissent and accountability are the lifeblood of democracy, yet people now think they just have to roll over in the name of "anti-terrorism". Members of government thinks it can lie to us about it, and that they can lie to Congress. That concerns me for the future of my children and grandchildren, and that too makes me feel I can talk about, at my age, doing something as drastic as breaking-in to an FBI office in the search for truth.

Yes, quite so. And again, you cannot trust the government, if only because they hold by far the most power. (This does not mean you always should distrust them. It only means you need independent evidence for their main assertions. And the main trouble of the present time is that most of the press is bought or in deep financial trouble.)

7. 25 Reasons Norway Is The Greatest Place On Earth

Finally, an article by Lisa Miller in the Huffington Post, that has the benefit of mostly argueing by 26 photographs:

This is not a part of my crisis reporting. I agree with the article, but need to make two points, which I make on the basis of the fact that I lived in Norway for more than two years and seven months:

, nearly all of the pictures are taken in the summer or the spring: In fact, Norway is covered by snow and ice most of the time, and it then also is usually quite cold, and also mostly dark, in most places.

It so happens that I like cold more than warmth, and that I was
also not much bothered by there being little sun most of the year, which does bother quite a few, including my Norwegian girlfriend, but I was bothered by there being an enormous amount of sun in the summer: I find it very difficult to sleep when it is light (also in Holland and England, which are the other two countries I've lived in).

Second, it was THE mistake of my life to return from Norway to Holland: I could have studied in Norway, and I very probably would not have fallen ill, and my whole life would have been very different, and almost certainly a great lot better, more rewarding, and richer, in terms of publications and money and renown.

Why did I make the wrong decision? Mostly because I was very healthy when I made it; it was according to the plan I had when I left for Norway in 1975; and I have absolutely never counted with the possibility of being sick forever, since my 28th year, which is what happened to me, when I fell ill on 1.1.1979, as did the Dutch girlfriend I then lived with, who also never got better, and also got a fine M.A. in psychology she never could properly use.

And I never seriously counted with the incredible corruptions and the criminal politicians that ruled Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam, while I did not take my own opinions on the lack of intelligence of most and the tendency of almost anyone to collaborate with almost anything, serious enough - again because I never seriously counted with the probability of being sick from 1.1.1979 onwards, without it ever ceasing, and of being seriously sick from 1991 onwards, nor did I ever count with being classified as someone who is not ill, now for the 36th year, while I evidently am ill.

Anyway... the pictures are really nice, and I am very sorry that I ever left Norway, once I could live there, from 1975 onwards - and that also because Norway has the benefit of being one of the few places where people may survive if a major crisis hits the world.

It really is a far, far better country than is Holland, and is so for many reasons.


[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 machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

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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