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Nederlog


  February
15, 2014
Crisis: Secrecy, NSA, Snowden Files, Mobsters, "We", Ellsberg
   "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
















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Sections
Introduction
1. The Terrible Toll of Secrecy
2. NSA actions pose 'direct threat to journalism' leading
     watchdog warn

3. The Snowden Files by Luke Harding – review
4. The Mobsters of Wall Street
5. America’s “We” Problem
6. Ellsberg: “I Am Grateful to Snowden for Having Given Us
     a Constitutional Crisis …
 
About ME/CFS

Introduction:

This is the crisis file for February 15, 2014.

It's a Saturday today, and I was wise not to write an additional file on the crisis yesterday (having produced 18 files yesterday: I must be feeling a little better, at least), for I found very little today. But with what I have from yesterday, there are again six crisis items, and indeed most of them make a lot of sense.

Incidentally, I am not certain yet, but since tomorrow is a Sunday, I may write tomorrow another general statement on the crisis. The previous one is this: Crisis: Hypotheses about the causes of the crisis and is from January 31, but that was in fact a restatement from December 25, 2012, and was based on the fact that very, very rarely sociological hypotheses have been so well confirmed as mine, namely by Edward Snowden's revelations (that started a half year later).

My next general statement will be mostly on the several aspects of the crisis, which were previously treated in Crisis + DSM-5: It's deregulation, stupid!, from January 16, 2013, and on the question whether it still is crisis - which may be a relevant question, since the Dutch NRC Handelsblad opened last Friday with a full first page title (translated) "Growth spurt economy gives hope: are the dark years passed?".

Not to give too much away: the crisis may be over for the millionaires, if it ever was a crisis for them, which I deny, but it certainly continues unabated for the poor and the (disappearing) middle class.

Anyway... on to today's items.

1. The Terrible Toll of Secrecy

To start with, an article by Dan Froomkin on First Look Media:
Actually, this seems to be the third publication of First Look Media, and it is good. It starts as follows:
The Intercept’s inaugural exposé, by my colleagues Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, illuminates the deeply flawed interaction between omnipresent electronic surveillance and targeted drone killings –- two of the three new, highly disruptive instruments of national power that President Obama has pursued with unanticipated enthusiasm.

All three (the third being cyberwar) have a lot in common. Despite their staggering implications, Obama has proceeded to establish the rules for them unilaterally, almost entirely in secret, based on dubious legal arguments, largely unchecked by judicial or congressional oversight, and with a seemingly unshakeable yet remarkably unfounded faith in their value.

But one of the many major takeaways from the eight-month-and-counting exploration of the  trove of secret NSA documents Edward Snowden gave journalists is that what may seem like good ideas within the confines of a like-minded military-intelligence establishment look very different when exposed to overdue public scrutiny.

Only then do you find out they don’t work so well. Or that they aren’t really legal, or constitutional. Or that they do more harm than good.  Or that the government relies on them too much, at the expense of things that might actually work.

It's a good article, but I do not quite agree with all, although I do agree with the first two paragraphs, to which I add that these three "instruments of national power", viz. global electronic surveillance, drone killings, and cyberwar, are all very recent applications of quite recent technological advances, although I also add that global electronic surveillance was an aim since the late 1960ies (as witnessed by my Crisis: propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968  of 1 1/2 years ago).

As to the third and fourth paragraphs: No, I have never thought these were good ideas, and have been opposed to them from the very beginning, which for me dates back probably, and at least, to October 29, 2005 (in Dutch), when I said that all these supposed "anti-terrorism" laws and regulations were a mere scam and a pretext to institute state terrorism on the Western populations, which I still think - and yes, unlike most, I read a lot of history and politics (<- a good list).

Then again, the rest of the article is quite good.

2. NSA actions pose 'direct threat to journalism' leading watchdog warn

Next, an article by Ed Pilkington in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency’s dragnet of communications data poses a direct threat to journalism in the digital age by threatening to destroy the confidence between reporter and source on which most investigations depend, one of the world’s leading journalism watchdogs has warned.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based body that promotes press freedom around the world, has devoted the first two chapters of its annual report on global threats to an assessment of the impact of the NSA’s data sweep. Its internet advocacy co-ordinator, Geoffrey King, warns that the NSA’s dragnet threatens to put journalists under a cloud of suspicion and to expose them to routine spying by government agencies.

By storing mass data for long periods, the NSA could develop the capability to recreate a reporter’s research, retrace a source’s movements and listen in on past communications, King warns. “It could soon be possible to uncover sources with such ease as to render meaningless any promise of confidentiality a journalist may attempt to provide – and if an interaction escapes scrutiny in the first instance, it could be reconstructed later.”

Yes, quite so. And this is an important reason to oppose all surveillance that is not based on a judge's personal decision of a personal case for which there is a cause - or else to acknowledge that there are two kinds of people: Superpersons like James Clapper, who are allowed to know all about everyone in principle, and ordinary persons, whom he investigates, without his disclosing anything about it, though they pay for his existence, and they may disappear forever, if he, or the next NSA director, finds them to have the wrong opinions.

Anyway, there is considerably more in the article, which is good.

3. The Snowden Files by Luke Harding – review

Next, an article by David Runciman in the Guardian:
This is in fact the review of a very recent book by Luke Harding, called "The Snowden Files". It starts as follows:
There are two big mysteries at the heart of the Edward Snowden story. First, why did he do it? That is, why did he do it: here was a relatively nondescript, unassuming twentysomething, with no apparent political backing, popping up out of nowhere to take on the world's most powerful security organisation. By incurring the wrath of the US government Snowden knew he was risking a lifetime in jail. Even the journalists who worked closely with him were confounded by his bravado, or naivety, or perhaps both.

Second, how did he do it? Snowden wanted the world to know about the newfound and mindboggling capacity of the NSA and its international partners to hoover up private information, allowing them to snoop on almost anything or anyone. Snowden nicknamed this surveillance operation the "Panopticon", after Jeremy Bentham's all-knowing, all-seeing prison system. Yet that same organisation failed to notice when Snowden, a mid-level contractor, made off with its own darkest secrets, seemingly blind to the most glaring security threats in its midst. What was going on?
These are good questions, and according to David Runciman Luke Harding has written a "breathless page-turner" to answer them. I do not know, for I have only read a pre-publication from it, and I will not buy the book, since it cannot contain much that I do not know.

There are some criticisms as well, such as this one:
Yet by following the conventions of the political thriller – with its heroes and villains, its nods to John le Carré and All the President's Men – Harding perhaps does his tale a disservice. What is so astonishing about the secrets that Snowden revealed is how much in the dark everyone turns out to be. No one really understands what it all means.
As I said, I have not read Harding, and Runciman may be right about Harding's style, but he is wrong that "No one really understands what it all means": Many do, from Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras etc. onwards, including me. We may not know most and certainly do not know everything, but what we know is more than sufficient to be very, very worried about freedom, democracy, and equality in the West, for everything Clapper and his mates do, always covered by Obama, radically and intentionally diminish these.

But overall, the review is quite positive, and you can read it all and order the book as well, if you please, by consulting the last dotted link.


4. The Mobsters of Wall Street

Next, an article by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams:
I like the title, though perhaps "Mafia" would have been better, and the article starts as follows:
Assume that you ran a business that was found guilty of bribery, forgery, perjury, defrauding homeowners, fleecing investors, swindling consumers, cheating credit card holders, violating U.S. trade laws and bilking American soldiers. Can you even imagine the kind of punishment you'd get?

How about zero? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. No jail time. Not even a fine. Plus, you still get to stay on as boss, you get to keep all the loot you gained from the crime spree, and you even get an $8.5 million pay raise!

Of course, you and I would never get such outrageous, absurd, kid-glove pampering by legal authorities. But, then, we're not the capo of JPMorgan Chase, America's biggest bank and a crime syndicate that apparently is too big to jail.
Yes, quite so. And the only reason for this is that the American government backs him just like he backs them: it really is totally corrupt.

There is considerably more in the article.


5.  America’s “We” Problem

Next, an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

America has a serious “We” problem — as in “Why should we pay for them?”

The question is popping up all over the place. It underlies the debate over extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food stamps to the poor. 

It’s found in the resistance of some young and healthy people to being required to buy health insurance in order to help pay for people with preexisting health problems.

Yes, indeed. And I think the problem is basically due to the propagandists that are paid by the rich, who seem to have convinced many ordinary men that they owe allegiance to no one, except to the very rich and those who speak for them, and can rape the rest, all with the end of becoming millionaires themselves.

Unfortunately, the very great mass of these would be millionaires, who now already are as egoistic and greedy as they would be when they were millionaires, will never become millionaires, simply because they have been had, and because there is no place for them at the top of the pyramid, that is the shape of every complicated society:



Robert Reich has various explanations but he seems to miss the fact that nearly all these greedy would be millionaires have been totally deceived about the nature of the society they live in: it really is a pyramid, and there really can't be more than 1 in 20 at most who is fairly to very rich, and therefore at least 19 out of 20 will be middle class or poor, whatever happens, in the type of society we live in.

Then again, he says, quite correctly:
The pronouns “we” and “they” are the most important of all political words. They demarcate who’s within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who’s not. Someone within that sphere who’s needy is one of “us” — an extension of our family, friends, community, tribe – and deserving of help. But needy people outside that sphere are “them,” presumed undeserving unless proved otherwise.
But this again is incomplete, and ought to be completed by Orwell's remark:
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945.)
Of course, Orwell rejected this relativism, but unfortunately the ordinary average these days believe and practice it, taken in as they are by the propaganda they are daily submitted to, and thus they may well destroy all of society, simply because they have been convinced that they, like greedy swine, owe neither allegiance nor solidarity to none, except to the rich and a few they know personally.

It's a sick and egoistic and greedy schema, but it is what many ordinarily stupid people have learned from their advertisements and their political pundits.

6. Ellsberg: “I Am Grateful to Snowden for Having Given Us a Constitutional Crisis …

Finally, a subject that I could get at various places, but for which I use an article at Washington's Blog (with a shortened title): In fact, it comes from a debate between Ellsberg and a (former) NSA counsel, Stewart Baker, on Democracy Now!

Here is Daniel Ellsberg, with the boldings done by Washington's Blog:

[Snowden] came to believe, as I did, having made those oaths
initially and the promises of nondisclosure, which were not oaths, but they are contractual agreements not to do that, which he later violated, as I did—he made those in good faith, by everything known to me, and came to realize, I think, eventually, as he said, that a nondisclosure agreement in this case and the secrecy conflicted with his oath, so help me God, to defend and support the Constitution of the United States, and it was a supervening—a superseding authority there that it was his responsibility really to inform the public, because, as he said, he could see that no one else would do it.

***

Congress knew [that Clapper's statements that the NSA doesn't spy on the American people] hey were false, the people he was talking to, the dozen, even the man who had asked the question, Senator Wyden. What we saw, what Snowden saw and what we all saw, was that we couldn’t rely on the so-called Oversight Committee of Congress to reveal, even when they knew that they were being lied to, and that’s because they were bound by secrecy, NSA secrecy and their own rule. The secrecy system here, in other words, has totally corrupted the checks and balances on which our democracy depends.

And I think the—I am grateful to Snowden for having given us a
constitutional crisis, a crisis instead of a silent coup, as after 9/11 an executive coup, or a creeping usurpation of authority
. He has confronted us. He has revealed documents now that prove that the oversight process, both in the judiciary, in the FISC, the secret court, and the secret committees in Congress who keep their secrets from them, even when
two of them, Wyden and Udall, felt that these were outrageous, were shocking, were probably unconstitutional, and yet did not feel that they could inform even their fellow colleagues or their staff of this
. What Snowden has revealed, in other words, is a broken system of our Constitution, and he’s given us the opportunity to get it back, to retrieve
our civil liberties, but more than that, to retrieve the separation of powers here on which our democracy depends
.

Yes indeed.
---------------------------------
Note
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that 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 one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the 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 Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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