who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Labour to overhaul spy agency
controls in response to
2. Let's point a satellite at GCHQ and the NSA, and see how
robots are 'collecting' your data, too, and they're
getting away with it
4. Suffering? Well, You Deserve It
This is the crisis file of March 3. It's a bit long
because I got caught in typing fast, in order to explain things, but it
is an ordinary crisis file.
1. Labour to overhaul spy agency controls
in response to
The first article is
by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian:
Actually, I do not think
this is very important, but here it is. It starts as follows:
There is considerably
more in the article. Instead of quoting any of that, I will briefly
explain why I do not think this is very important.
Labour will on Monday
propose substantial changes to the oversight of the British
intelligence agencies, including the legal framework under which they
operate, in response to the revelations emerging from files leaked by Edward Snowden.
The shadow home
secretary, Yvette Cooper, is
preparing to argue that the current arrangements are unsustainable for
the government, and that it is damaging to trust in the agencies if
ministers continue to hide their heads in the sand.
In a speech that
represents Labour's most serious intervention since the controversy
about the scale of state surveillance broke last summer, she will say:
"The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. In particular
that means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of
the legal framework to keep up with changing technology."
This has in part to do with the length of time it took for Labour to
articulate any clear point of view; in part with the fact that they are
co-responsible for the GCHQ; in part with my very great dislike for
anything that has to do with Labour, since Labour was completely
falsified and mostly destroyed by the liar Tony Blair; and in part
because this seems to me politics-as-usual, that is as reliable as are
politicians, and is only meant to win votes.
I think the first two of my reasons are simply facts, and the third,
although it has much to do with my great dislike of Blair, can be
supported quite well by reading - if you can: very much of it is pure bullshit, and
all of it meant to deceive - the new "thinking" that Blair stands for.
For this check out these Wikipedia articles:
As William K. Black
noted, and is quoted at the end of the Third Way article:
"Third Way is this
group that pretends sometimes to be center-left but is actually
completely a creation of Wall Street--it's run by Wall Street for Wall
Street with this false flag operation as if it were a center-left
group. It's nothing of the sort."
Indeed: that seems a lot
more just (and holds for the Clintons as it does for Blair).
2. Let's point a satellite at GCHQ and the
NSA, and see
next article is by Marina Hyde and is in the Guardian:
I think Ms Hyde is one
of the columnists of the Guardian whose topics never interested me, and
in fact she starts as follows:
Psssst! Wanna come
in on a private satellite with me? They're available, and they cost
about $2m a year to run, so it would need an awful lot of us to
club together via Kickstarter or some such. George Clooney's got one. He
trains it between Sudan and South Sudan, keeping a particular eye on the Hague-wanted president Omar al-Bashir,
and uses the footage to draw attention to human rights violations. But
in the wake of news that the Optic Nerve programme targeted and retained the webcam
images of 1.8m UK internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, I'd like
you to consider pointing ours somewhere pointed, such as the NSA or
GCHQ. Just their car parks would do.
What can one
say to a proposal like that? It is clearly sound and solid common sense
("George Clooney's got one") and also a very sensible plan
(addressing the "car parks" of the NSA or GCHQ), once you have the
Anyway - I suppose Ms Hyde's level is sufficiently indicated by her
first paragraph. Why is she here? Because she was, after 9 months,
woken up by possibilities she herself describes ("in her own prose", I
think I must interject, which I learned at school) as follows:
But it's one thing
for a bunch of people to go public about the personal details whipped
off their voicemails, and quite another to reveal that footage of
oneself masturbating into chopped liver or apple pie or whatever may
have found its way into Allied hands.
I do not myself know
anything about Ms Hyde's masturbatory techniques, but the translation
is somewhat as follows: The GCHQ has hundreds of thousands of nude
pictures that they can very well use to blackmail those pictured, at
any time in the future, for any future government. And that indeed is
true, to the best of my knowledge.
It so happens that I read all of her article, which is mostly filled
with - what I suppose she supposes are truly tantalizing - bits about
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock ("Sandy's always seemed a good egg", Ms Hyde informs you and me, for example), for which
reason I also can quote the last paragraph:
As I say, I'm
still feeling around on this one. The first things to do are to raise
the cash and find the lawyers. But do just re-read the Optic Nerve
passage that frets about the sensitivity of spies exposed to explicit
material, as opposed to that of the innocents being unwittingly
monitored in this way, and say you'll at least have a think about it.
Anyway... she has a
point, namely that GCHQ was much more concerned about alerting all of
their spies to look at the latest nude bits, which they do by
pretending explicitly that those who do not want to see this do not
have to, and did not have a single thought about the feelings of those
they illicitly photographed in naughty positions, without their
knowledge or permission.
And the reason Ms Hyde's enticing prose has been reviewed here is that
the latest of Snowden's revelations - rightly - seem to have shocked
quite a few.
3. NSA robots are 'collecting' your data, too,
and they're getting away with it
article is by Bruce Scheier, who is described as "a security
technologist", in the Guardian:
He starts as follows:
are watched not by people but by algorithms. Amazon and Netflix track
the books we buy and the movies we stream, and suggest other books and
movies based on our habits. Google and Facebook watch what we do and
what we say, and show us advertisements based on our behavior. Google
even modifies our web search results based on our previous behavior.
Smartphone navigation apps watch us as we drive, and update suggested
route information based on traffic congestion. And the National
Security Agency, of course, monitors our phone calls, emails and
locations, then uses that information to try to identify terrorists.
Actually, and while
Mr Scheier is no Ms Hyde, I disagree with two points. Firstly,
algorithms do not "watch": at best they scan. But OK - I know it is
difficult to write clearly about programs. Secondly, and more
importantly, I think the jump in the last sentence is quite misleading.
Here is that sentence
And the National Security
Agency, of course, monitors our phone calls, emails and locations, then
uses that information to try to identify terrorists.
I do agree that the
NSA monitors "our phone
calls, emails and locations"
but I have neither seen any real evidence nor do I really think that it
"then uses that
information to try to identify terrorists": that is merely the pretext, and as William
Binney has explained quite a few times now, if you want to identify
terrorists there are much better (and cheaper)
ways to find them than by scanning all information anyone
puts on the internet: By far the most people are not terrorists, and
are not in any sense.
But OK, again,
although I do believe what Mr Schreier writes is too trustful of the
NSA. Then again, he is on to something, namely the extremely false and
tricky ways that the NSA uses to describe the very few things it does
allow it does, such as that it "collects data":
If the NSA collects - I’m
using the everyday definition of the word here – all of the contents of
everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms
until someone reads it. And if it collects – I’m sorry, but that’s
really the correct word - everyone’s phone records or location
information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count
as being collected – NSA definition – until someone looks at it. If the
agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or
correlates that location information for relationships between people,
it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit
out a particular person has the data – in NSA terms – actually been
If you believe that
the NSA means this, you need urgently to see a psychologist: Obviously
they collect data, and obviously it does not matter one bit
whether they can and do share all the millions of naughty bits they
caught from web cameras with all their staff.
Indeed, if you take
this serious, you may as well believe Keith Alexander's possible claim
that nothing the NSA collects is collected until he and John
Brennan and the president have seen it, on the same day also,
and only when the wind is westerly.
In fact, Mr Schreier
is worried about the same thing that made Ms Hyde worry:
I think he and she are
right to worry, although I am myself much more worried by the whole
idea that a couple of thousand completely anonymous spooks and spies of
various governments, or indeed of private agencies paid by these
governments, are collecting all of the data of anyone,
clearly to be used for their own purposes, and under any
future government, and all without telling anyone anything about it, or
hardly anymore than the false and tricky ways they themselves use to
redefine all they do, as illustrated above.
But now that we have an
example of a spy agency seeing people naked – there are a surprising
number of sexually explicit images in
the newly revealed Yahoo image collection – we can more viscerally
understand the difference.
Suffering? Well, You Deserve It
Finally for today, an
article by Chris Hedges
on Truth Dig:
In fact, this is three pages
that are mosty quotes, that were gathered by Chris Hedges from Avner
Offer, who is professor emeritus of the Chichele Professorship in
Economic History at the University of Oxford. The article starts as
The morning after
20 debate at the Oxford Union, I walked from my hotel along
Oxford’s narrow cobblestone streets, past its storied colleges with
resplendent lawns and Gothic stone spires, to meet Avner Offer,
an economic historian and Chichele Professor Emeritus of Economic
My main problem with the
article is that it seems to me that Offer has been caught up a bit too
much in his own branch of economic theorizing, and he also doesn't seem
to see that most economics is not science but ideology. And he
doesn't define his terms.
Offer, the author of “The
Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United
States and Britain Since 1950,” for 25 years has explored the
cavernous gap between our economic and social reality and our ruling
economic ideology. Neoclassical economics, he says, is a “just-world
theory,” one that posits that not only do good people get what they
deserve but those who suffer deserve to suffer. He says this model is
“a warrant for inflicting pain.” If we continue down a path of mounting
scarcities, along with economic stagnation or decline, this
neoclassical model is ominous. It could be used to justify repression
in an effort to sustain a vision that does not correspond to the real
For example, I have been wondering about what is "neoclassical
economics". The last link is to the Wikipedia article about it,
which also did not really answer my question, but which does state
three assumptions that are taken to be fundamental for it:
It was expressed
by E. Roy Weintraub that neoclassical
economics rests on three assumptions, although certain branches of
neoclassical theory may have different approaches:
To which I say: if that is
what defines it, it is based on three ideological falsehoods:
- People have rational preferences between
outcomes that can be identified and associated with values.
- Individuals maximize utility
and firms maximize profits.
- People act
independently on the basis of full and relevant information.
First, to say that people have "rational preferences" is neither exact
nor precise, whereas the model of rationality that is used is very
far from how actual people reason , and totally
forgets that most men do not have "rational ideas" about most
things. Second, to say that people "maximize utility" is to treat
people as if they are firms, which they definitely are not - and in
fact what is "the maximal utility" of something is nearly
always an unsettled problem (when one pricks through invalid
assumptions). Third, people very rarely have full and relevant
information about anything.
So judged by these three assumptions "neoclassical economy" is mostly
ideology rather than science.
Hence, what I will do is select a number quotations and indicate what I
think about them. Here goes:
Offer cited a
concept from social psychology called the just-world
theory. “A just-world theory posits that the world is just. People
get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair you
explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.
He may be right - but anyone
who believes in such a just-world theory (which does not apply to all
Offer says it applies to) is pretty blind or crazy: There never
was a just human society, nowhere, and one basic reason is that there
are very many different men with quite different ideas what about what
is just and/or how best obtain it.
Offer quoted the
Friedman: “The ethical principle that would directly justify the
distribution of income in a free market society is, ‘To each according
to what he and the instruments he owns produces.’ ”
That is: more to the rich,
less to the poor. Also, Friedman abuses the concept of "a free market society" that never existed in
the way he uses it.
Economics tells us
that everything anyone says should be motivated by strategic
self-interest. And when economists use the word ‘strategic’ they mean
I have read plenty of
economists, but it is only lately that these have - quite falsely
- claimed that "everything should be motivated by strategic
It is not, and as people are, it cannot be, first because many of the
actual choices people make are motivated by many more things, and
second because it very often is totally unclear what would be
one's "strategic self-interest".
“The standard in
modern society is that government allocates between 40 to 50 percent of
output,” he said. “This anomaly is not explained by economic theory. If
people are making democratic choices in their self-interest, why have
these large government structures been built up?”
Here Offer has a very sound
point, that also is a valid criticism of much of academic economics
(that is: the stories academically employed economists write, to
convince others they are rightfully employed) viz. that there are
enormous structures that are not profit-oriented and that
regulate much of the economy, and do so by taxing and by imposing and
maintaining legal rules.
Then again, the notion that "people
are making democratic choices in their self-interest" is a wildly ideological notion, that only
seems to rationalize or justify the actual choices people make during
elections, that are not at all dictated by rational choices
or full information or by "utilities".
political science and even philosophy, ever since rational choice swept
through the American social sciences, have embraced the idea that an
individual has no responsibility towards anyone except himself or
herself,” he said. “A responsibility to anyone else is optional. The
public discourse, for this reason, has become a hall of mirrors.
Nothing anymore is what it seems to be.”
This again is a sound point -
that also shows how very much in the Western society I live in
is determined foremost by ideology rather than real science:
it means that the people who say so or think so have totally abandoned
the concept of responsibility, for this is about what one owes to other
people, rather than oneself.
And in fact everyone owes almost everything he knows or owes to
very many of his contemporaries, and to all of the
people who have died, for they each and all contributed
to the making or the understanding of the one world we all live in -
perhaps often not as we would have liked them to do,
but they all made some contribution, and indeed most of
these contributions were not at all based on any of the thinking
of "neoclassical" economists or indeed on any economists'
prose (but instead on political or religious ideals of very many
But yes: I agree that this complete lack of responsibility and this
complete lack of accountability have become quite popular and
are completely false and completely ideological.
Yes and no, but mostly yes: We
do not live in any situation which is in the least like "a free
market", because everything we do is regulated by all sorts of rules,
laws and conventions, of many kinds, that very much limit any "market"
of being anything like very "free" (for else many more people would try
to get rich by using violence on the wealthy, much rather than deception of large classes of the
population by propaganda).
“One of the unresolved
issues in social science is how does the system hold together,” he
said. “We have the economic model of the invisible hand, the miracle of
the market, but we know it is not true, since government allocates up
to 50 percent of output and income. We don’t actually rely on the
‘free’ market for our prosperity. Even the market sector is mostly
dominated by entities with large market power.”
Also, no economic model I know - and I know of plenty - is realistic in
any real sense, and it is also true that "markets" tend to be dominated
by a few of the large corporations, who can more or less do as they
please, provided they remain profitable, and who also may destroy many
good ideas because they are not profitable for them.
“The free market
norm assumes a frictionless exchange which maximizes everyone’s
well-being,” he said. “The existence of ... coercive instruments, such
as the prisons and the enormous military, makes you think that the
theory is not all it is purported to be. There is a gap between what it
pretends to be and what it is.”
Offer is right in complaining
about the lack of economical explanations for almost anything that is
real but is not covered by their convenient but false assumptions, such
as the existence of the state, its prisons, and the military: Neither
of these is well explained by any economic theory that I am
aware of, although indeed most implicitly deny these facts exist "in a
free market situation in which we live and prosper".
Indeed, one possible suggestion is that this economical anomaly - of
theorizing as if there is no state, no prisons, no military, no
religion, no politics, no responsibility, no accountability whatsoever,
and we all are individual players who only answer to our own needs and
desires, living happily in a free market - at least in part is
due to the rather crazy ways in which the sciences are cut up in
universities: these things that economists disregard, are - they might
say - disregarded because they belong to sociology, or to politics, or
even to philosophy.
Offer said that
universities, which should be incubators of new and radical ideas, are
being stripped of their ability to independently critique the widening
gap between reality and the false models of reality that are
disseminated by the elites.
In Holland, at least, this has
happened, in the last 45 years, and has been done, very proudly also,
in the name of democracy: Anything anyone with an IQ of 115 (maximally: it probably is
now closer to 105) cannot understand or finds difficult to read (such
as foreign languages, or formulas) has been carefully stripped away,
which made many more students fit for "a university degree", because
all had to learn less and less, but then also they only needed to study
half the time the earlier students had to study, and
so it happened.
Also very few cared, and hardly anyone protested. If you want to know
more about it, my
published columns - twentyfive years old now - will inform you, but
you need to take care not to repeat them in any Dutch
university: You will be thrown out off them, as I was.
Finally, Offer says:
“The idea of the
autonomous scholar is disappearing,” he said. “I am not sure many
people even remember it.”
Yes, in Holland I am about the
only one, and the reason is as sketched above:
The universities have turned into mere schools or colleges for the
slightly more able; the education they give is all on the level that IQs of maximally 115 find
easy to read; those who did have to learn 3 or 5 foreign
languages and mathematics, and physics, and chemistry, and history, and
geography, and at least four more examined subjects, are nearly all
dead, and were born in 1950 at the latest; and stupidity and egoism
proudly rule everywhere, in the name of the average man, and with his
Again I have to say I did not
do much on the ME-section, and indeed also ran again into difficulties
with the awful editor I have to use, that transforms an index of 29 Kb
in text to one of over 750 Kb of html. I will try to sort this out, but
this may take some time.
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
 In fact, it also involves a redefinition
of "rationality", namely along the lines of: what the profit-oriented
individual would prefer to do in a market situation, especially if he
or she tries to get the maximal amount of money. (But: Most individuals
are not profit-oriented in many ways; most of their actual
choices are only in part market-oriented; and "the maximal amount of money" tends to be preferred - by these scientists
who do these experiments - because one can calculate with it,
rather than that one knows that this is what the individual
wants most - e.g. rather than having fun, serving the Lord, or whatever
else that is less easily calculable than are market prices expressed in
pounds and pences.) O, and I know this because I have read a whole lot
of books about "rationality", and indeed also studied it for philosophy
(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: