January 29, 2014

Crisis: GCHQ * 2, Angry Birds, open source, SOTU * 2, Philips, Schechter, personal

   "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  

Huge swath of GCHQ mass surveillance is illegal, says top

GCHQ head Sir Iain Lobban stands down
3. Who Needs the Gestapo When You Have ‘Angry Birds’?
4. UK government plans switch to open source from
     Microsoft office suite

Spying Scandal Taints Obama’s Rosy SOTU Story – and
     His Legacy

6. Philips collaborated for years intensively with NSA spies
7. The Real State of the Union
8. Schechter for Senate 2: Gloves Off
9. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, and it has nine sections, though the last is a brief personal section that tracks my progress with re-uploading the whole site, and section 4 also is not about the crisis (though it helps save a lot of money).

1. Huge swath of GCHQ mass surveillance is illegal, says top lawyer

To start with, an article by Nick Hopkins in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

GCHQ's mass surveillance spying programmes are probably illegal and have been signed off by ministers in breach of human rights and surveillance laws, according to a hard-hitting legal opinion that has been provided to MPs.

The advice warns that Britain's principal surveillance law is too vague and is almost certainly being interpreted to allow the agency to conduct surveillance that flouts privacy safeguards set out in the European convention on human rights (ECHR).

The inadequacies, it says, have created a situation where GCHQ staff are potentially able to rely "on the gaps in the current statutory framework to commit serious crime with impunity".

Quite so! There also this - and this is a long article:

In a 32-page opinion, the leading public law barrister Jemima Stratford QC raises a series of concerns about the legality and proportionality of GCHQ's work, and the lack of safeguards for protecting privacy.

It makes clear the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), the British law used to sanction much of GCHQ's activity, has been left behind by advances in technology. The advice warns:

• Ripa does not allow mass interception of contents of communications between two people in the UK, even if messages are routed via a transatlantic cable.

• The interception of bulk metadata – such as phone numbers and email addresses – is a "disproportionate interference" with article 8 of the ECHR.

• The current framework for the retention, use and destruction of metadata is inadequate and likely to be unlawful.

• If the government knows it is transferring data that may be used for drone strikes against non-combatants in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan, that is probably unlawful.

• The power given to ministers to sanction GCHQ's interception of messages abroad "is very probably unlawful".

Incidentally, in case you want to know what "article 8 of the ECHR" is, here it is:
  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Anyway... there is a lot more under the last dotted link, and it is nice to have a prominent British lawyer's opinion, especially since I agree with it.

2.  GCHQ head Sir Iain Lobban stands down 

Next, an article by Ewen McAskill in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The Foreign Office confirmed that the head of GCHQ, the British spy agency at the centre of the Edward Snowden leaks controversy, is to stand down.

The departure of Sir Iain Lobban, 53, who has been GCHQ director since July 2008, was being presented by the government as a long-planned move rather than being linked to the Snowden row.

The Foreign Office said: "Iain Lobban is doing an outstanding job as director GCHQ. Today is simply about starting the process of ensuring we have a suitable successor in place before he moves on as planned at the end of the year."

Interesting...especially in view of this:

Sir Iain's counterparts at the NSA, its head, General Keith Alexander, and his deputy, John Inglis, are also stepping down this year. There are calls too for America's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to stand down for lying to Congress over the scale of data collection in the US.

He is 53 (though he looks a lot older than I do), and spent most of his life working for the GCHQ, but I do not see any reason why he would leave, at 53, apart from Snowden, that is: it seems that the British and American governments want new heads for spying.

3.  Who Needs the Gestapo When You Have ‘Angry Birds’? 

Next, an article by Robert Scheer on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

Somewhere in the lowest reaches of hell, Adolf Hitler and his coterie of lesser dictators must be tormented by the knowledge they did not live long enough to get their hands on “Angry Birds.” How much diabolical power they would have had, not playing the game, but rather mining the data freely volunteered by its billion unsuspecting customers.

“When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information ...” The New York Times reported, based on the latest of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

No need then for the Gestapo to go crashing through apartment doors to brutally interrogate citizens as to the most guarded moments of their personal lives when a vast amount of private information from gaming, mapping and social networking sites is pirated by the government. No totalitarian leader could ever imagine such surveillance power over his populace.

You may say there is no Gestapo in the US or Great Britain. I agree - but what isn't there yet may be there in a few years, in some form or other, and it will have much more power than the Gestapo ever had, also over many more persons, because it will have all the personal details of all the people that were private 10 years ago (and still are, but they are taken nevertheless).

Anyway, there is a lot more in the article under the last dotted link.

4.  UK government plans switch to open source from Microsoft office suite 

Next, an article by the Press Association in the Guardian - and yes, I know this is not a part of the crisis:

This starts as follows:

Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft.

Some 200m has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant's Office suite alone since 2010.

But the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to software which can produce open-source files in the "open document format" (ODF), such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

Document formats are set to be standardised across Whitehall to help break the "oligopoly" of IT suppliers, and improve communications between civil servants.

I should start by saying this is about the first sensible thing that Cameron's government has done (to my knowledge, and I am not British: he may have done a little more that I think is sensible, though in fact I doubt it - and no: I detest Blair and Brown as much as Cameron).

But yes: Enormous amounts of money could be saved if governments switched to LibreOffice (which I think is better than OpenOffice, and also better than MS Office), and indeed further massive amounts of money would be saved, each year also, if the whole Windows were cast out of government computers, and would be replaced by Ubuntu - which in fact is quite easy: Almost anybody can do it within a few hours, and I have hardly touched Windows since I did, over 1 1/2 years ago.

Anyway, there is considerably more in the article.

5. Spying Scandal Taints Obama’s Rosy SOTU Story – and His Legacy

Next, an article by Bill Boyarsky on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden was not one of the honored guests at the State of the Union speech Tuesday night. But the whistle-blower’s presence was felt, at least to a small degree.

The National Security Agency’s spying, revealed by Snowden, occupied just a small part of President Barack Obama’s speech. Most of it was feel-good stuff. Except for his defense of Obamacare and support of a higher minimum wage, only the most coldhearted Republican could object to what he said. Who could find fault with persuading businesses to hire the long-term unemployed? Or who could not want to “work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home”?

So it was noteworthy, if not remarkable, that Snowden, facing federal charges for giving journalists classified defense and intelligence information about NSA spying, managed to corner the president into considering the spying issue.

If Snowden had not acted, it’s improbable that Obama would have said, “Working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs—because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.”

In fact, I do not think that Obama "will reform our surveillance programs", though I accept that he will try his best to do as little as he can do, while trying to blow this up so that the "public confidence" will be (somehow) restored.

And his empty rhetoric was answered by Snowden, indeed before Obama's SOTU speech:

Snowden, speaking from his Russian exile before the speech, said that actually, the president could accomplish reform by himself. “The NSA operates under the president’s executive authority,” he told a German television interviewer. “He can end or modify or direct a change in the policies at any time.”

Yes. And since he did not end nor modify almost anything, that is a good indication of the president's sincerity and of his wishes.

6.  Philips collaborated for years intensively with NSA spies

Next, a Dutch article from the Dutch Volkskrant, of which I translated the title:

And that is about it: It seems they produced hardware for the use of the government that had been tweaked by the NSA.

7.  The Real State of the Union

Next an article by Hugh on Naked Capitalism, that gives an alternative State Of The Union address:
This starts as follows:

The state of the Union is crap. 20% of the country is doing OK. 1% is doing fantastically. 0.001% is doing so well it’s criminal, literally. They don’t own everything yet but they do own the politicians, judges, regulators, academics, and reporters. So they’re getting there. The other 80%, the rubes, the muppets, the serfs, are mired in an undeclared, ongoing depression.

50 years on I can safely state that the War on Poverty has been won. The poor have been defeated, the middle class conquered. They just don’t know it. Many sense that something is wrong, even drastically wrong, but few realize they have been totally and thoroughly betrayed by those they trusted with the governance of the country and themselves. They cannot admit –they have been admirably taught not to admit — even the possibility of the class war waged against them and which they have definitely and definitively lost. They continue to look to those who did this to them to fix things and make them better. They may grumble but there is no hint of real opposition or organized rebellion. Theirs is a Union of misery, lost hopes, lesser lives. The Union of the rich and elites is triumphant.

Yes, indeed, though I do not like the concept of "class war" - but "the fight between the rich and the rest" is indeed rather a lot longer, though more correct.

Anyway, there is a considerable amount more, and it is a good article, that is far more adequate to the facts than the president's SOTU.

8. Schechter for Senate 2: Gloves Off

The last crisis bit is an article by Eric Schechter, who is an American pensioned professor of mathematics:
He also is a true radical, which I like, though I do not agree with all he says. I have pointed to him before and now see that he will run for the senate, without money, and with a quite radical plan.

Here is a small bit of it, from here (where there is a lot more):
I’m about as far to the left as one can go — I’m a Lennonist. That’s John Lennon, not Vladimir Lenin. “Imagine no possessions … Imagine all the people sharing all the world … I hope someday you’ll join us.” That’s voluntary cultural change, not coercion. But “someday” had better be soon, because both the ecosystem and our social fabric are collapsing — in my opinion, faster and more drastically than even Dr. Doom will tell you, and only a global eco-anarcho-zen-commie revolution can still save us. Best wishes to you and yours in the great changes that are coming soon to all of us.
I agree with the Lennonism (of "Imagine"), but I do not believe in "a global eco-anarcho-zen-commie revolution", if only because few will agree, and also because there are too many oppositions between anarchism, communism and zen (and I am myself something between a classical liberal - John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville - and a peaceful anarchist, but I am not optimistic about the social chances of anarchism).

But as I said last november:
He may be "an extremist", but he is informed and rational, and he does have a lot to complain about, regardless of the solutions, and indeed it would also seem that these days one has to be "an extremist" in some ways at least to make proper sense of quite extreme events.
I do not think he will be elected, but it is good to see him at least try: it is better to try and fail than not to try and be apathetic. And while I disagree with him, I think his outlook is a lot more sensible than is the outlook of nearly all politicians who do get elected.

9. Personal

I decided to track my progress through re-uploading my site here.

So... I re-uploaded today the following directories to my two sites, in the philosophy section:
  • aristotle
    • Categories
    • Ethics
    • Metaphysics
    • Politics
These also now all have Notes directories attached, but only the Notes to the Ethics are mostly done, while those on Politics are limited to the first four chapters.

(I do as I can, not as I please. I am ill.)



[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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