26, 2014
Crisis: Obama & NSA * 6, Reich, Washington's Blog
   "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

1. Obama’s New NSA Proposal and Democratic Partisan

2. Obama: US must 'win back the trust of ordinary citizens'
     over data collection

Significant NSA Change Proposed By Obama
4. The Snowden Effect: Obama, Lawmakers Propose End to
     NSA Bulk Spying

5. The House's NSA Bill Could Allow More Spying Than Ever.
     You Call This Reform?

6. Simply 'Stop Spying': Critics Slam NSA Reform Proposals
7. The New Billionaire Political Bosses
8. Public Service Announcement: Mass Surveillance Is
     ALWAYS About Crushing Dissent

 About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of March 26. It is another crisis issue.

Actually, the first six items are all concerned with Obama's most recent plans for the NSA. I have both (mostly) pro and skeptical articles, and am myself of the skeptical variety, which I am anyway (I hold about many more things that they are not fully known), and in this particular case because Obama has been five years pro NSA, and I see no reason he changed his mind.

But again, most of the relevant facts are unknown to me, and indeed to almost anyone judging them.

The last two items are an article by Robert Reich, on the rise of the billionaires, now that money has crept into politics, and a background article that explains what mass surveillance is for: crushing or controlling dissent.

1. Obama’s New NSA Proposal and Democratic Partisan Hackery

The first article today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
In fact, this article is more about the democratic partisan hackery than it is about the new NSA proposal. This is the first sentence:
I vividly recall the first time I realized just how mindlessly and uncritically supportive of President Obama many Democrats were willing to be.
That was in April 2009: Obama was then for the publication of graphic photos, and was much praised by Democrats; then the Republicans moved in and said it was dangerous; then Obama changed tack totally ("a 180 degree turn", it was said in the press - and the Democrats again much praised him.

Meanwhile, until 2014 no one saw the pictures. Greenwald writes about these 2009 events:
At least for me, back then, that was astonishing to watch. It’s one thing to strongly suspect that people are simply adopting whatever views their party’s leader takes. But this was like the perfect laboratory experiment to prove that: Obama literally took exact opposition positions in a heated debate within a three week period and many Democrats defended him when he was on one side of the debate and then again when he switched to the other side.
I've checked it and didn't write anything about it, and indeed much doubt that I registered this series of events in Holland. Then also, if I had registered it, I would probably not at all have been amazed, since I know from a young age that most men simply are like this: they follow leaders, they support leaders, they believe leaders, they trust leaders, and they do all this not from any principle, though they may quote many, but in the end simply because he is their leader.

Indeed, the last link, and the next one, are to the lemma Leaders in my Philosophical Dictionary, that dates back to 2004, while my opinions there go back to the early 1970ies at the latest (for I come from a political leftist family). [4]

Then Greenwald shifts course, and notes:
We’re now about to have a similar lab experiment, this time in the context of the NSA.
He rightly notes that a previous statement by Obama, in January 2014, was cosmetic only, and then says:
But under Obama’s latest proposal, the telecoms “would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would” (the law currently requires 18 month retention) and “the NSA could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.”

As always with Obama, it remains to be seen whether his words will be followed by any real corresponding actions. That he claims to support a bill does not mean he will actually try to have Congress enact it. The details, still unknown, matter a great deal. And even if this did end the domestic bulk collection spying program, it would leave undisturbed the vast bulk of the NSA’s collect-it-all system of suspicionless spying.

That is, for me this is again mostly cosmetics on the part of Obama.

Greenwald sees this as another "laboratory experiment", and predicts - quite safely, I think - that the Democrats will do another twist of 180 degrees that enables them to support their dear
leaders with more wild adulation:
When he secretly bulk collects the calling data on all Americans, it shows he’s a pragmatic and strong leader who Keeps Us Safe; when he tries to end the very same program, it shows he’s flexible and devoted to our civil liberties — just as he was right to release the torture photos and also right to suppress them. The Leader is right when he does X, and he’s equally right when he does Not X. That’s the defining attribute of the mindset of a partisan hack, an authoritarian, and the standard MSNBC host.
As I wrote in my lemma Leaders it seems to me political types - people who love politics, of which I am not one - are far nore often of that type ("mindset") than people who do not love politics. So again I am not amazed.

Greenwald does correctly defend Snowden at the end of his piece, but in fact gives little clarification of Obama's new NSA proposal, other than I have quoted.

My own choice is not to trust Obama, for he is Republican Light; he wants people spied upon; and he has defended that for five years now. But I agree I do not know the precise text of his "new proposal".

More below (and I have not read the 399 comments there were when I read the piece: I don't have the time of life for that [2]).

2.  Obama: US must 'win back the trust of ordinary citizens' over data collection

The next item is an article by Spencer Ackerman on [3] The Guardian:

This starts - a bit proudly, it seems to me, and that is quite justified - as follows:

Barack Obama confirmed on Tuesday that the US plans to end the National Security Agency's systematic collection of Americans’ telephone records, as leaders of a key committee in Congress insisted they were close to a deal with the White House to revamp the surveillance program.

Under plans to be put forward by the Obama administration in the next few days, the NSA would end the so-called bulk collection of telephone records, and instead would be required to seek a new kind of court order to search data held by telecommunications companies.

The proposals come nine months after the practice was first disclosed by the Guardian, based on leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama conceded that the revelations had caused trust in the US to plunge around the world.

In fact, there is a link to the right of this article, to one on Snowden, also be Spencer Ackerman, also on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has welcomed plans by Barack Obama to end the practice of systematically storing Americans’ telephone data.

In a statement through the American Civil Liberties Union, Snowden said the plans outlined by Obama were a “turning point”.

There is also this in this last article:

Snowden said none of these reforms would have happened without the disclosures he precipitated. “I believed that if the NSA's unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans was known, it would not survive the scrutiny of the courts, the Congress, and the people,” Snowden said.

"The very first open and adversarial court to ever judge these programs has now declared them 'Orwellian' and 'likely unconstitutional.' In the USA Freedom Act, Congress is considering historic, albeit incomplete reforms. And President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.

"This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public's seat at the table of government."

To which I say: Perhaps - but I don't know, and am certainly less impressed by Obama's words than Snowden is.

There is a lot more in the first dotted article in this section, but again much of it is vague.

3.  Significant NSA Change Proposed By Obama

Next, a video by The Young Turks:

This is a good video that explains what happened in a clear way, and selects the optimistic explanation, that indeed also is selected by Snowden and Ackerman, both of whom know a lot about the whole NSA-history.

As indicated, I am less optimistic (and also considerably older).

4.  The Snowden Effect: Obama, Lawmakers Propose End to NSA Bulk Spying

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Privacy advocates and NSA critics are in no way jumping for joy, but news that both the Obama administration and lawmakers in Congress are circulating new proposals for ending the bulk collection of U.S. phone data has some nodding cautious approval as others point out that the proposals are an acknowledgement that the NSA has gone too far and that no consideration of revamping the current programs would be happening without the public outrage that followed the disclosure of the program by a former NSA employee.

The existence of the bulk spying effort by the NSA, under what critics call a "stretched" interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, was a well-guarded secret until leaks provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden to journalists last year put the program in the public spotlight.

There is considerably more in the article, including quotations of Spencer Ackerman.

5. The House's NSA Bill Could Allow More Spying Than Ever. You Call This Reform?

Next, an article by Trevor Timm that I found on Common Dreams but originates on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The White House and the House Intelligence Committee leaked dueling proposals last night that are supposedly aimed at ending the mass collection of all Americans’ phone records. But the devil is in the details, and when it comes to the National Security Agency’s unique ability to twist and distort the English language, the devil tends to wrap his horns around every word.

The House proposal, to be unveiled this morning by Reps Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, is the more worrying of the two. Rogers has been the NSA’s most ardent defender in Congress and has a long history of distorting the truth and practicing in outright fabrication, whether in touting his committee’s alleged “oversight” or by way of his attempts to impugn the motives of the once again vindicated whistleblower who started this whole reform debate, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

As a general rule, whenever Mike Rogers (not to be confused with incoming NSA director Michael Rogers) claims a bill does something particular – like, say, protect your privacy – it's actually a fairly safe assumption that the opposite will end up true.

Yes, indeed - and president Obama has the same reputation, in my eyes, who has seen very many political leaders.

So this is the first article, of those I've quoted so far, that is fairly skeptical of the White House. There is a lot more, all well argued, and it ends like this:

Rep James Sensenbrenner’s bill, the USA Freedom Act, would make a much stronger and more comprehensive bill than either new proposal – at least for those interested in real NSA reform. Sensenbrenner, who originally wrote the Patriot Act provision that the NSA re-interpreted in secret, called the House Intelligence proposal "a convoluted bill that accepts the administration's deliberate misinterpretations of the law". Although, even his bill could be strengthened to ensure bulk collection of Americans' records is no longer an option for the NSA, or any other government agency.

In the end, there's a simple way to stop all forms of bulk collection and mass surveillance: write a law expressly prohibiting it.

Yes - I am with the Sensenbrenner-Leahy proposal, very much more than with the House Intelligence proposal, and also more than with Obama's proposal.

Also, I think there is a law that expressly prohibits bulk collection and mass surveillance: The Fourth Amendment.

6.  Simply 'Stop Spying': Critics Slam NSA Reform Proposals

Next, an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Both the Obama administration and the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday revealed dueling reform proposals both supposedly intended to reign in the National Security Agency's mass surveillance through limiting the bulk collection of Americans' phone records. However, following the much-heralded announcements, reform advocates slammed the proposals saying "the devil is in the details."
Yes, quite so - and the details I have not seen, and few have. There's also this:

"The administration doesn't seem to be contemplating new limits on the agency's authority to retain, analyze or disseminate the records it collects," writes Jameel Jaffer, director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "And it isn't proposing to end bulk collection of all records – just the bulk collection of phone records."

"Given all the various ways that the NSA has overreached, piecemeal change is not enough," writes Cindy Cohn and Mark M. Jaycox of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I quite agree. And there is also this:

Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, adds that the House committee proposal "uses reform momentum as a pretext for expanding government power."

"The bill’s modest improvements to the phone records program are not worth demolishing the important judicial role in overseeing these programs," Richardson adds.

Again I quite agree. For more, see the last dotted link.

7.  The New Billionaire Political Bosses

Next, an article by Robert Reich from his site, that has another subject than the NSA or Obama:
This starts as follows:

Charles and David Koch should not be blamed for having more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans put together. Nor should they be condemned for their petrochemical empire. As far as I know, they’ve played by the rules and obeyed the laws.

They’re also entitled to their own right-wing political views. It’s a free country.  

But in using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That’s a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share.

Actually, I disagree: If you owe more wealth than the bottom 40 percent (around 140 million persons in the USA) of those who live in your own society, there is something quite unfair going on in your society, and the fact that this is legal shows that some things are legal that should not be, such as owning tenthousand times or a hundredthousand times more than others, who are mostly very poor. (For example, the taxes on the rich could be a lot higher - and were a lot higher, for decades.)

What Reich is worried about is this:
America is not yet an oligarchy, but that’s where the Koch’s and a few other billionaires are taking us.
And that I agree with (though it is: Kochs) as I do with most of the rest of the article.

8. Public Service Announcement: Mass Surveillance Is ALWAYS About Crushing Dissent

Finally, an article by Washington's Blog, on that site:

Since I have been saying so since 2005 (in Dutch), at the latest, here is the whole article, which does give good backgrounds. Also, the colors and boldings are in the original: 

500 Years of History – and 40 Years of Warnings by Top U.S. Officials – Confirms that Government Spying On One’s Own People Is Always About Grabbing Power and Stifling Criticism

Given all of the hooey coming from the spymasters and their shills in the mainstream press, here’s a very brief reminder of what mass spying is really about:

Quite so.

Anyway - this is the end for today, and while I have some more clarity on Obama's "New Proposal", and while it is less atrocious than what he has fronted and defended, I still do not trust it, and am mostly with Timm and McCauley, of all of the above.

[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.)

[2] I am also against comments, by anonymous persons, without any website or any personal credit. It really is a total waste of my time, and I will not read them. (And no, you do not need to agree with me. I'm merely explaining that I will not read comments.)

[3] Actually, I'll try from now on to use "on" if I refer to a site, and "in" if I refer to a paper (that's made of paper).

[4] In fact, I think leaders are often treated and regarded as a very special class of men, not because they really are (nearly all leaders were bad men), but because that is the way social mammals regard their leaders, as long as they are the leaders. Also, some are more prone to this wild adulation of Our Leader than are others, but all have some of it.

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)

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[2]
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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