February 12, 2014

Crisis: NSA, GCHQ, Protesting Global Surveillance * 2, Economy, The Rich, Playing

   "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  

How To Screw The NSA
Number of data interception requests to GCHQ 'possibly
     too large', says official

3. Remembering Aaron Swartz: icon of the open web
4. Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were

5. Resisting the Surveillance State of Mind
6. The 1% Have Gotten CHUMP CHANGE Compared to the
     .1% …

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, with interesting items (I think): The NSA may get screwed on a state level; the GCHQ is investigated; there is some action against global surveillance; three important economic lessons that were "forgotten" (basically through greed); the very richest got by far the most the last 35 years, illustrated with striking graphics; and there is a really good article on playing.

Also, this file got uploaded considerably sooner than is usual, mainly because I feel somewhat well.

1. How To Screw The NSA

First, a video by The Young Turks that I think is quite interesting and about a good idea:
The basic point is this:

In Maryland, and in Arizona, California,
Tennessee, and Washington the states have introduced bills that deny the NSA, that is: in these states, to have power (electricity), and water (for cooling the servers, and for washing, toileting etc.) and also may deny any contract to any firm who works for or contracts with them, all because they oppose the Fourth Amendment, and indeed they do.

As Cenk Uygur says: it is an original idea; it is supported by both Republicans and Democrats; and it may work.

Also, neither he nor I thought of it. What will come from it still is open, for the bills have only been proposed and not voted on, but I find this quite interesting.

2. Number of data interception requests to GCHQ 'possibly too large', says official

an article by Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Legislation governing the collection of communication data by Britain's eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, is complex, the senior official responsible for its oversight has said .

"It is an extremely difficult act of parliament to get your mind round," said Sir Anthony May, the interception of communications commissioner.

He was giving evidence to a Commons home affairs committee that is nominally investigating counter-terrorism but has broadened its inquiry into the intelligence services, in particular the impact of the Edward Snowden leaks.

A bit later it is remarked that GCHQ has to handle currently some 570,000 requests for interception each year, which means that some 1 in 120 persons living in Great Britain (or more realistically, given that I counted all, including toddlers and 80 year olds: 1 in 80) is requested to be spied on - which I consider a very high number.

Here is one other bit of information that I liked:
The Ipsos Mori poll, published in conjunction with a debate on privacy at King's College London, found that 68% of those polled in Great Britain have concerns about the way in which governments collect information about them when they go online. An even higher number (76%) are concerned about the way in which companies collect information about them.
I like this because this is definitely due to Edward Snowden, and it shows more Brits are on to spying, and are concerned about it, than I thought. Good!

There is more in the article.

3. Remembering Aaron Swartz: icon of the open web  

Next, an article by Alex Hern in the Guardian:
This contains a fairly long introduction to Aaron Swartz, which you can read your self, and then moves to today (or yesterday):
February 11 has become “the Day We Fight Back”.

In the UK, the protest was launched at 11:30 with a thunderclap, a mass call on social media for wider opposition to spying. That opening strike was supported by users including Owen Jones, Graham Linehan, and Tom Watson MP, and was organised in co-operation with a range of civil liberties organisations including Liberty, English PEN, Privacy International, Article 19 and Big Brother Watch.

The groups have together launched the Don’t Spy On Us campaign, calling on internet users across the UK to support a six-point manifesto attempting to mitigate the damage caused by GCHQ’s surveillance. Demands include no surveillance without suspicion, an end to secret laws, a requirement for a right to redress, and judicial rather than political authorisation for spying.

This is a good idea, and because I think so here is once again the web address:
plus a list of the six eminently reasonable points they are campaigning for - and I am quoting from the site:
1. No surveillance without suspicion.
2. Transparent laws, not secret laws.
3. Judicial not political authorization.
4. Effective democratic oversight.
5. The right to redress.
6. A secure web for all.

Note these are all, perhaps apart from the sixth point, eminently classical democratic rights.

Any state which lacks these democratic rights is no longer a real democracy, nor is it anymore a real state governed by laws [1]: it has become a state governed by a few selected politicians, who also mostly are bought by corporations, or so it seems.

4. Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten

Next, an article by Robert Reich, on his site:
Let me first quote "The Three Biggest Economic Lessons" - and they are bold in Reich's text, but have explanations that I skip (and that you may read using the last dotted link):
First, America’s real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate jobs and growth. If average people don’t have decent wages there can be no real recovery and no sustained growth.

Second, the rich do better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing economy than they do with a large share of an economy that’s barely growing at all.

Third, higher taxes on the wealthy to finance public investments — better roads, bridges, public transportation, basic research, world-class K-12 education, and affordable higher education – improve the future productivity of America. All of us gain from these investments, including the wealthy.
I should also add that these were mainly Keynesian points, and they also guaranteed 30 years of growth. Then Reich says:
We learned, in other words, that broadly-shared prosperity isn’t just compatible with a healthy economy that benefits everyone — it’s essential to it.

But then we forgot these lessons. For the last three decades the American economy has continued to grow but most peoples’ earnings have gone nowhere. Since the start of the recovery in 2009, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent.
What happened?
He gives a plausible explanation, that again you can check out yourselves. My own thesis is that it is mostly deregulation, as explained in my
Then again, you may ask: But what caused that? Here I have two answers.

The first answer is that the deregulation explanation simply is the best, because it refers to specific decisions, started under Carter and Clinton, to take down certain laws, which enabled the banks to start their filthy games (that led to CEOs taking home 300 times more than their workers, instead of "merely" 40 times as much, as was the case between 1946 and 1974) - and see item 6 below.

The second is that if you do want an explanation for deregulation, there are several, but the main ones are simply greed and dishonesty.

5. Resisting the Surveillance State of Mind

Next, an article by Norman Solomon on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Eight months after whistle-blower Edward Snowden set off a huge uproar by shedding light on the National Security Agency’s unscrupulous surveillance practices, we are still learning about the vast extent of the snooping. Such revelations are vital to inform the public and enable a democratic process that could hold the government accountable. But they are accompanied by a very real danger: We may come to see privacy as a thing of the past.

The mind-boggling scope of the NSA’s surveillance continues to make front-page news as a political story. But its most pernicious effects are social and psychological. We are getting accustomed to Big Brother. Our daily lives are now accessible to prying eyes and ears no farther away than the nearest computer or cellphone. Unless we directly challenge the system of mass surveillance now, the ruling elites may understand our complacency as consent, with results that extend the reach of surveillance and its damaging consequences. Even as it grows more familiar, this bulk collection of data is corroding civil society.

It basically is a survey article, of which I will quote one point, that concerns the sincerity of Obama:

The mistrust and cynicism due to regular surveillance only gets worse as top officials resort to mendacity to defend it. “We don’t have a domestic spying program,” President Barack Obama declared on “The Tonight Show” in early August, two months after the NSA scandal broke. He insisted, “There is no spying on Americans.”

This lying became part of a whole dissembling repertoire. Five months later, in his much ballyhooed Jan. 17 speech about the NSA, Obama was still in deception mode, proclaiming, “The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

There is a lot more, and I agree with the basic thesis that this is a political and not a technological problem, and it should be solved in an open, transparent, non-secret way.

6. The 1% Have Gotten CHUMP CHANGE Compared to the .1% …

Next, an article by Washington's Blog:
In fact, this can be seen as a continuance of the "trickle down" item on February 10, and it consists of two more graphics.

First, here is a comparison of the average US incomes over the 100 years between 1913 and 2012 - and the red line is the top 1% excluding capital gains, while the blue line is the rest including capital gains:

Note that - as I said earlier, on Feb 10, there is a change point ca. 1978, with two decisions of the Supreme Court.

Next, it gets a lot starker with the following graphic. This charts the following classes of US persons, over the
100 years between 1913 and 2012 - and here capital gains, if any, are included for all:

purple    : Bottom 90%
dark blue: Top 1%
red        : Top 0.5 %
green     : Top 0.1 %
light blue: Top 0.01 %

Again you'll see that for the circa 50 years from 1931-1979 things were rather equal, though then also the 0.01% made a lot more than the rest.

These charts were compiled by four economists for the World Top Incomes Database. I am sorry they are not displayed very well, but you can get the images by clicking on them and enlarge them, or go to Washington's Blog and get larger versions. (But the main tendencies are quite clear anyway, in the above figures.)

In any case, that is The Trickle Upwards US Economy in its full glory: The very rich - the top 0.11 - got very much richer, at the cost of nearly everyone else.

And this is what the
Republican Party's spokesmen and its media represent as "fairness and justice for all".

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

Finally, something other than the crisis, namely playing, which - as it happens - I have been interested in for more than 45 years. This is an article by David Graeber (<-Wikipedia) on The Baffler (<- Wikipedia):
I had not heard of either before, which is why there are Wikipedia links, but I really like this article, no doubt because it conforms to my own (pre-)judgments for over 45 years.

It starts as follows:
My friend June Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all.

“All animals play,” June had once said to me. “Even ants.” She’d spent many years working as a professional gardener and had plenty of incidents like this to observe and ponder. “Look,” she said, with an air of modest triumph. “See what I mean?”

Most of us, hearing this story, would insist on proof.
Now the proof is - at the very least - a bit difficult, but this is especially due to the assumptions that are usually made, which come mostly from economists but which are widely shared:
Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.
But this is - as I already saw clearly in the early Seventies - quite rotten: Firstly, animals emphatically do not do "the same means/end calculations" that "apply to economic transactions". Secondly, although this is not discussed here, "rationality" is emphatically not the same as "maximizing profit", which is how it is defined in economics, and also often outside it.

In any case, I have assumed, since the early Seventies, the following:
  • All higher animals, at least, play, and like to play, because playing is doing what you like for reasons you like.
  • The reasons for playing are that (1) all higher animals have some liberty to make choices and (2) playing helps them to find new ways to do things.
There is a lot more to the article, including a good though brief introduction to Kropotkin's "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution" (which is vastly understudied); to the philosophers Peirce and Whitehead (two favorites of mine); to issues of determinism (which I think are mainly bogus, since there is too little physical knowledge, but let that be); and more.

I advice you to read it yourself, at least if you are interested in playing - which was defined by me as:
"spontaneous explorative activity, that is aimed at satisfaction of some end (like enjoying oneself or others), and when done with others involves cooperation and mutual consent".

It is not all of consciousness, but it is an essential part of higher consciousness, as was stressed by Friedrich Schiller, who indeed gets quoted:
"Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man, and he is only wholly a Man when he is playing."

[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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