January 27, 2014

Crisis: Snowden, Obama's failures, US torture, NSA, income inequality

   "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  

Edward Snowden tells German TV that NSA is involved in
     industrial espionage

The 10 Obama Policies and Failures That Make Us

3. Contrary to Obama's Promises, the US Military Still
     Permits Torture

4. 'This overreach is unacceptable': the case against NSA
     bulk collection

Stunning Facts About Income Inequality That Are Almost

6. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, and it has six sections. My guess is that item 2 and item 4 are the most interesting.

1. Edward Snowden tells German TV that NSA is involved in industrial espionage

To start with, an article by Reuters in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will take intelligence regardless of its value to national security, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has told a German television network. 

In a lengthy interview broadcast on the public broadcaster ARD TV on Sunday,  Snowden said the NSA did not limit its espionage to issues of national security and cited the German engineering firm Siemens as one target. 

“If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to US national interests – even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security – then they'll take that information nevertheless,” Snowden said in the interview conducted in Russia, where Snowden has claimed asylum.
I am not amazed. In fact, I think the NSA is less interested in spying than in terrorism, by themselves: They want all the information they can get, and they want it in order to push through their own - conservative - ideology, and they will try to do that by any means, if they think these means may work.

Note that this also rather fairly describes many political parties - except that the NSA is a heavily state-funded deeply secret enterprise, and except for the means the NSA uses: spying on everyone.

And yes: I think Snowden is right. Here is another bit:
Snowden also told the German public broadcasting network he no longer had possession of any documents or information on NSA activities and had turned everything over to select journalists. He said he did not have any control over the publication of the information.
I think that is the correct way to proceed.

2.  The 10 Obama Policies and Failures That Make Us Angriest 

Next, an article by the Editorial Staff on Alternet, even though I do not much like these titles:
Apart from the title, the article is OK. It starts as follows:
President Barack Obama is getting ready for his 5th State of the Union Address tomorrow night. Typically, presidents use the occasion to sketch out their agenda and vision for the next year while subtly putting tons of positive spin on their accomplishments. Here, as a good talker, Obama has been is in his element.  But now, Obama's sweet talk has begun to turn sour—he has a long pattern of soaring rhetoric and empty promises followed by some fundamental failures to deliver.  It is the lack of action, the hypocrisy, the talking the talk without walking the walk, that have made many progressives and liberals frustrated and angry.
Yes - and that is keeping it polite. We're also told:
In fact, Obama's popularity has dropped among liberals and independents. And there are plenty of reasons why, as you'll see below. 
Indeed. And the Editorial Staff of Alternet proceeds with giving their
(..) list of 10 areas where Mr. Obama has made us most mad, frustrated and disgusted.
What I will do is copy the ten points, but without the text in which they are explained:

1. Obama's caver-in-chief leadership style
2. Obama's deportation of nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants
3. Obama's coziness with, and failure to regulate or punish, the big
4. Obama's education "reformers" are corporate privatizers
5. Obama's call to ramp-up and embrace of our now pervasive
     surveillance state
6. Obama's dedication to secrecy and his hypocrisy about drones
7. Obama's attempt to ram through the corporation-loving,
     people-harming Trans-Pacific Partnership in secret
8. Obama's failure to do much about the racist drug war and
     discriminatory sentencing
9. Obama's counter productive energy policy
10. Obama's huge expansion of the number of countries where we are
     fighting secret wars with Special Ops

These titles are also bold in the original, where they also are all commented. It seems to me a good choice. But I do not expect any major change in Obama's policies, while I do think he has misled everyone who voted for him: he never was a progressive or a liberal, and also never meant to be. He only said what would give him the presidency, and then supposedly changed most of his opinions. (And see item 4.)

3.  Contrary to Obama's Promises, the US Military Still Permits Torture 

Next, an article by Jeffrey Kaye, who is a psychologist who "has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants". It is on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The United States Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation (pdf) has been sold to the American public and the world as a replacement for the brutal torture tactics used by the CIA and the Department of Defense during the Bush/Cheney administration.

On 22 January 2009, President Obama released an executive order stating that any individual held by any US government agency "shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3."

But a close reading of Department of Defense documents and investigations by numerous human rights agencies have shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.

Disturbingly, the latest version of the AFM mimicked the Bush administration in separating out "war on terror" prisoners as not subject to the same protections and rights as regular prisoners of war. Military authorities then added an appendix to the AFM that included techniques that could only be used on such "detainees", ie, prisoners without POW status.

Note that the last paragraph seems illegal to me, and also quite immoral.
Next, most of the text that follows is about this:

Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special "technique" called "Separation", human rights and legal group have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.

Jeffrey Kaye makes the case quite well, and ends as follows:

Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International,Physicians for Human Rights, and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and Open Society Foundations have called for the elimination of Appendix M and/or the rewriting of the entire Army Field Manual itself.

What has been lacking is a widespread public discourse that recognizes that swapping waterboarding and the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture with the Army Field Manual as an instrument of humane interrogation only replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture.

I merely add that the US Army can now arrest almost anyone for almost anything, and then keep him or her locked up forever, without any trial, and that also it is not certain what they will do or will be allowed to do with the people they imprisoned.

4. 'This overreach is unacceptable': the case against NSA bulk collection

Next, an article by Tom McCarthy in the Guardian, that I missed (it is from January 23, last) but that is quite good:

This starts as follows:

On Thursday, the executive branch’s privacy watchdog, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, became the latest independent group to have looked into the US government practice of collecting citizens’ phone data in bulk – and to call for it to stop.

The PCLOB found that bulk collection under section 215 of the Patriot Act constituted an invasion of privacy with insufficient oversight and negligible national security benefits.

The list of people and organizations to have reached the same conclusion includes hundreds of members of Congress, a federal judge, a presidential panel, the world’s biggest technology companies, civil liberties organizations and privacy advocates, and Barack Obama himself, before he was president.

And the list of people is next illustrated, quite well also.

I will leave this to you, except that I want to finish with a quote from Obama in 2005, three years before he got to be president, after which he is supposed to have changed most of the opinions that brought him the election (alternatively: he did not change his opinions - he lied from the start):

On the Senate floor in 2005, opposing Patriot Act reauthorization:

Obama quoted from the above speech:

"This is legislation that puts our own Justice Department above the law … If someone wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document, through the library books that you read, through the phone calls that you made, the emails that you sent, this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear your plea. No jury will hear your case. This is just plain wrong … Giving law enforcement the tools that they need to investigate suspicious activities is one thing. And it’s the right thing. But doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes the rights of all Americans, and the ideals America stands for."

That was all quite correct - except for the fact that as soon as Obama got the power to act on this, he changed all these opinions (that is: if he hadn't lied from the start, which seems to me the more probable choice).

5. Stunning Facts About Income Inequality That Are Almost Impossible

Finally, a video from The Young Turks:

This is quite long (12 minutes) but it is also quite good, also - but not only - on Obama.

6. Personal

I am aware that I made a number of promises I did not keep, notably about uploading a new version of ME Resources, and about re-uploading all of the site in January.

All I can say in my defense is that I have been quite miserable the last one and a half year, and the reason is mostly my eyes. These are still improving, but this may also take yet another year, at the rate at which they are progressing, to come in the vicinity of where I was in the Spring of 2012, when my eye problems started. (Thus, I still need a tweaked browser, and will need it at least another half year, if not more.)

As to the promises, I am improving - but:

ME Resources has to wait till my eyes are considerably better.

The re-uploading of all of the site I will start tomorrow, but I do not know how fast this will go. But I will say in this section when I have finished. (In any case, the whole point of the exercise is to assure that my two sites and what is on my hard disk are the same.)


P.S. Jan 28 2014: Corrected a few writing mistakes (that show I don't use a spellchecker) and made the list in item 2 appear neater.


[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)[2]

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
Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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