February 5, 2014

Crisis: Social Justice, NSA * 2, Global Recession, Digital Independence, Beatles

   "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

crisis -Next  

A Radical Fix for the Justice System: Socialism
Pete Seeger and the NSA
3. Revealed: NSA Receiving Data of Tens of Thousands of
     Internet Users

4. Danger of Global Recession After 30 Years of Neoliberal

Digital Independence: NSA Scandal Boosts German Tech
6. It was 45 years ago...

About ME/CFS


This is today's crisis issue, after a Dutch autobiographical part earlier today. I do not think that the crisis is very relevant today, at least judged by what I found on the internet, but that is just my impression, and in any case there is a video in item 5, with a prominent German economist, that shows the crisis is far from over, and may easily grow worse.

In any case, if you are bored, there also is another video, in item 6, that shows the last performance of the Beatles, now over 45 years ago. I was 18 at the time, and learned since then that time flies...

1. A Radical Fix for the Justice System: Socialism

First, an article by Peter Scheer on Truth Dig:
In fact, this is a reaction to a considerably longer article, that does not contain the term "socialism", though its title has the word "socialized", but in any case it does make a fair point, which is this - and I quote a quotation:
But when Bill Gates spends hundreds or thousands of times more than I could to defend himself against a criminal indictment, the very act of doing so actually diminishes my status as a citizen. In a democracy, what makes people equal before the state isn’t that everyone has adequate procedural rights. It’s that everyone has the exact same procedural rights. It must be that, in the eyes of the law, there is no difference between rich and poor. If the rich have more rights—if they have fuller status as citizens—then by definition everyone else has fewer rights and lesser status.
Yes, that seems to be a reasonable argument, though I do not know about "procedural rights" (<-Wikipedia).

In any case, the reason I do not much believe that a poor man has the same rights in a court of law as a rich man, is that it turned out, repeatedly also, that I did not have them, when I wanted to prosecute the City and the University of Amsterdam: I could only get a certain class of lawyer, who generally did not do what I wanted (and that very slowly, and with considerable arrogance), and who also did not explain things clearly or at all, and who also were nearly all lacking in intelligence and knowledge.

And the main reason that I won my case against the University is that I kicked out two incompetent and quite disinterested lawyers, and did it myself.

This is probably due to the peculiarities of the Dutch system of law, where at the time poor people could and did get a free lawyer, but then that often was not a good lawyer, and rich people could get a good lawyer by paying him. It seems to me that this is the case everywhere, in some specific set-up that may vary: The rich get the good lawyers, and the poor get the rest, somehow. (And these days the Dutch poor have to pay too, and still usually get a second-rate lawyer at best.)

2. Pete Seeger and the NSA

Next, an article by Cindy Cohn, who is the legal director of the Electronic Frontier  Foundations, on Common Dreams:
Actually, it is mostly about the NSA, but Pete Seeger (who, as you probably know, recently died aged 94) comes in as follows:

In 1955, Seeger was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he defiantly refused to answer questions about others who he associated with and who shared his political beliefs and associations, believing Congress was violating his First Amendment rights. He was especially concerned about revealing his associations:

I will be glad to tell what songs I have ever sung, because singing is my business. . . .  But I decline to say who has ever listened to them, who has written them, or other people who have sung them.

But if the same thing were to happen today, a Congressional subpoena and a public hearing wouldn’t be necessary for the government to learn all of our associations and other "private affairs." Since the NSA has been collecting and keeping them, they could just get that same information from their own storehouses of our records.

That is all quite right. I will say more about it below, but I first want to say a few things about Pete Seeger, whom I have known about a long time, because my parents were communists, and he was a communist, for which reason I certainly knew of him in the 1950ies.

I didn't like him much, although that didn't have much to do with his qualities: I didn't like banjos; he didn't have a great voice; and I, who didn't know any English then, didn't understand what he was singing about either - and by the time I could understand his texts, there were many more like him, some with better voices and better texts, and with guitars, and a lot younger, so again I did not pay much attention to him.

This also explains why I did not pay any attention to his death. But Cindy Cohn did not want to write about Pete Seeger: she wanted to write about the NSA, and she continues thus:

According to the Constitution, the government is supposed to meet a high standard before collecting this private information about our associations, especially the political ones that the Congressmen were demanding of Seeger. For instance, under the First Amendment, it must “serve compelling state interests, unrelated to the suppression of ideas, that cannot be achieved through means significantly less restrictive of associational freedoms.”

It doesn't matter whether the government wants associations to look for possibly "illegal" activities of civil rights activists, Communist sympathizers, anarchists, trade unionists, war resisters, gun rights activists, environmental activists, drug legalization advocates, or wants to go after legitimate criminals and potential terrorists, if the government can't justify the collection of this "metadata" on this "strict scrutiny" standard, they’re not allowed to collect any of it. Yet right now, they collect all of it.

Yes, quite so: this is also as I understand the American law and the Constitution (and I have read both, though not much of the law). Cindy Cohn also says:
Each of these programs effectively allows the government to do to you what Pete Seeger refused to let them do to him—track your associations, beliefs and other private affairs without proper legal protections.  And they can do this at scale that was unimaginable in 1955, thanks to the digital nature of our communications, the digital tools that allow them to search automatically rather than by hand and the fact that so much more about these private affairs is in the hands of third parties like our phone and internet companies.
Indeed - though I should add that the "third parties" argument seems worthless to me ("since you gave them to someone else, you gave them to everyone", is roughly how this runs,  which is as mad as it sounds): It is the same with non-electronic paper mail. Anyone who has a letter in an envelop can steam the envelop open and read the letter with very little trouble: the point is not and never was what one can do, but what one is or should be allowed to do.

That is: In a free state, many things are forbidden that people can do, in order to protect the people, while in an unfree state, the government is allowed to do anything it pleases, if it can do them. The USA now is not a free state anymore.

Also, I never gave the NSA any permission to read my mails, although I know now that they probably do, because they can, and because so far no one who should stop them has done so.

3. Revealed: NSA Receiving Data of Tens of Thousands of Internet Users 

Next, an article by Sarah Lazare, on Common Dreams:
This is mostly about the following bit, that came to light after a tip of the veil was lifted:

Information from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Facebook reveals that in the first six months of 2013 alone, the NSA requested private data from at least 59,000 user accounts, the Washington Post summarizes.

According to a Yahoo announcement, the company was asked by the the NSA to turn over content from at least 30,000 users during the first six months of 2013. During this same period, Facebook was asked to turn over data from at least 5,000 users, according to a post from the corporation. Microsoft was asked to hand over info from at least 15,000 users during this period.

Note this is in half a year. What these nearly 60,000 people - 10,000 a month, on average - are supposed to have done is not revealed.

4.  Danger of Global Recession After 30 Years of Neoliberal Counterrevolution

an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:
In fact, this is a brief introduction to ten minutes of video interview, with a prominent German economist (professor, vice minister, director at the UN), who explains (and I quote)
why the danger of a global recession is acute and what remedies would be viable.
This is from The Real News:

More at The Real News

5. Digital Independence: NSA Scandal Boosts German Tech Industry

Next, an article by Hilmar Schmundt and Gerald Traufetter on the international edition of Der Spiegel:

This is concerned with the following (skipping a bit from the start):

The revelations made public in recent months by Snowden have shown just how easy it is to spy on Germany, how poorly prepared the country's officials are and how clueless the population is.

They have also led the government to promise a large digital offensive. No matter what areas of life are affected by the web, it is to become safer, more people-friendly and more powerful. People in Germany are to regain their digital sovereignty and be able to surf the net with confidence. And the country itself is to achieve digital independence by establishing an independent infrastructure that is free of reliance on the US.

Such are the goals of the "digital agenda" that the government hopes to assemble in the first quarter of this year. And though the starting point is poor, the Snowden affair could nonetheless become something of a turning point.

Then again, the article also makes clear that for the moment the Germans are more involved with politics and power than with saving the internet. So do not hold your breath...

6. It was 45 years ago...

Finally, merely as an amusement, a reminder of when the Beatles last played together, which was 45 years ago last week, for it was on January 30, 1969, that they last played a brief gig, that was stopped by the police, who were sent "to turn that noise off":



[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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