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. Heartbleed: don't rush to
update passwords, security
2. Does the Heartbleed Bug Mean You Should Stay Off the
3. 'The Snowden Saga': NSA
Whistleblower Opens Up in
4. German Interior Minister:
NSA Spying 'Excessive' and
What the Tamiflu saga tells us about drug trials and big
This is the Nederlog of April
10. It is another crisis
There was again little to be found on the crisis: it seems many papers
think there is no more crisis, mostly - it seems - because it is over
for the 1%, and there
also was little on the NSA and related themes.
I do have five items today, but the first two are about the Heartbleed
Bug. This is not really a crisis item, but it will help to formulate
one of my own opinions about the crisis.
Also, the last item is a bit doubtful as crisis item, but it does
address some aspects of the crisis medicine is in, which is
the crisis and the gates that opened that: deregulation,
that gave enormous powers to the pharmacological corporations
(whose managers again got very rich).
don't rush to update passwords, security
The first article today is by Alex Hern on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I must say that I am not
much concerned, though the name and the logo drawn for it (see the
above dotted link) were very well chosen to give it maximum publicity.
researchers say people should not rush to change their passwords after
the discovery of a widespread "catastrophic" software flaw that could
expose website user details to hackers.
The flaw, dubbed
"Heartbleed", could reveal anything which is currently being processed
by a web server – including usernames, passwords and cryptographic keys
being used inside the site. Those at risk include Deutsche Bank, Yahoo
and its subsidiary sites Flickr and Tumblr, photo-sharing site Imgur,
and the FBI.
About half a million
sites worldwide are reckoned to be insecure. "Catastrophic is the right
Bruce Schneier, an independent security expert. "On the scale of 1 to
10, this is an 11."
Also, one reason I am not much concerned is that I can program (in
have recently learned that a solid majority of the American people -
who are all exceptional, or so many of them believe, sincerely - thinks
that html is an STD. Here is the translation of the last bit, for
whoever needs it: "hypertext marked language is a sexually transmitted
Given that level of "expertise" about computers and computing,
it is difficult not to turn cynical.
Also, Mr Schneier's reaction, who presumably can program, and who knows
about Snowden's revelations and the NSA and the GCHQ's very many spying
activities, sounds pretty over the top, at least to my ears.
There is rather a lot more under the last dotted link, that I will
mostly skip, except for this bit:
The bug's age [it
is over 2 years old - MM], and its presence in software to which anyone
can submit an update, has led to speculation that it could have been
inserted and then exploited by government spy agencies such as the US's
National Security Agency, which is known to have programs aiming to
collect user data. "My guess is accident, but I have no proof,"
2. Does the Heartbleed Bug Mean You Should
Stay Off the Internet?
The next item is an
article by Dana Liebelson on Mother Jones, on the same topic:
This starts as follows:
On Tuesday, news broke that the safeguard many websites use to
protect sensitive information on the internet has had a major security
flaw for about two years. These sites use a security system called OpenSSL to
encrypt data like content, passwords, and Social Security numbers. But
thanks to a small coding error in a popular version of OpenSSL,
hackers can potentially steal sensitive data from vulnerable websites.
Richard Bejtlich, chief security strategist at FireEye, a network
security company, notes that there's no evidence that malicious hackers
have exploited the flaw yet.
This is considerably clearer
than the foregoing Guardian article. There is a rather a lot
more, that I leave to you, except for the last bit of advice, that
Or you know, go
read a book.
Snowden Saga': NSA Whistleblower Opens Up in Exclusive Narrative
The next item is an
article by Lauren McCalley on Common Dreams:
This starts as
“There’s a limit to the
amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual
can tolerate," said
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in a yet-to-be published exclusive
interview with Vanity Fair. "I crossed that line."
In what has been dubbed
the first comprehensive account of the "Snowden saga," Vanity Fair
on Thursday is publishing a 20,000-word narrative—the final result of
three reporters dedicating months to research, travel, and interviews
with scores of people connected to the story, including the
The story "is more than
just a gripping and astonishing tale," writes
VF editor Graydon Carter. "It is a warning shot."
OK - but I have
meanwhile seen that I have to subscribe to Vanity Fair in order
to read it (more than the beginning), which I certainly will not do: I
lack both any interest in the rest of Vanity Fair and the money to fund
But I can quote a few
bits from Common Dreams. First, there is this:
“What we’re seeing today
in America is a new political movement that crosses party lines,"
Snowden told the reporters, speaking of his motivations.
Perhaps. I certainly
think that privacy concerns both Republicans and Democrats, and also
everyone else, so in that sense Snowden is right, but I have not seen
much evidence for "a new
political movement", although I agree again this would be nice. (But
then I am not living in the U.S., though I follow it fairly closely.)
There is also this (of
which I have quoted the first two sentences in another context).
Look at the language
officials use in sworn testimony about these records: ‘could have,’
‘may have,’ ‘potentially.’ They’re prevaricating. Every single one of
those officials knows I don’t have 1.7 million files, but what are they
going to say? What senior official is going to go in front of Congress
and say, ‘We have no idea what he has, because the N.S.A.’s auditing of
systems holding hundreds of millions of Americans’ data is so negligent
that any high-school dropout can walk out the door with it?’
Yes, that sounds plausible,
as does his own insistence that he now has 0 files.
Finally, there is this
interesting bit, also by Snowden:
The N.S.A. at this point
not only knows I raised complaints, but that there is evidence that I
made my concerns known to the N.S.A.’s lawyers, because I did some of
it through e-mail. I directly challenge the N.S.A. to deny that I
contacted N.S.A. oversight and compliance bodies directly via e-mail
and that I specifically expressed concerns about their suspect
interpretation of the law, and I welcome members of Congress to request
a written answer to this question [from the N.S.A.].
This is interesting,
because Snowden insists he has tried to raise complaints, and that the
NSA also knows this.
Anyway - I will not read
the Vanity Fair piece if I have to pay for it. For this I am sorry, but
as I said: I just do not have the money to pay subscriptions, apart
from the monthly sums I have to pay for internet.
Interior Minister: NSA Spying 'Excessive' and 'Boundless'
an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
German Interior Minister
Thomas de Maizière slammed U.S. spying as "excessive" and "boundless"
in an interview
published Wednesday in German magazine Der Spiegel.
"If even two-thirds of
what Edward Snowden has presented or what has been presented with his
name cited as the source is true, then I would conclude that the USA is
operating without any kind of boundaries," charged De Maizière.
Well, it seems clear to me
that at least two thirds of what has been presented with his name cited
as a source is true (for otherwise we would have heard so from
the NSA or the GCHQ).
Nevertheless, De Maizière insists that
cannot be the subject of an interview."
which means that he
assigns himself to a quite different level than the level he assigns to
the ordinary people whose private data are being stolen, by the
millions, and all without them having done anything culpable.
That is, he sounds much
like his Dutch counterpart Plasterk (a professor cum politician, who
specializes in revolving doors, and thus is the kind of person who
lately has become common in high circles) who also verbally rejects
spying on ordinary people while letting it be done by his own Dutch
secret service, who seem more like the Dutch department of the NSA than
like an independent institution.
So I do not expect
anything from De Maizière or
Plasterk, except for the kind and style of propaganda that they believe
will keep their audience believing that they are doing something, while
in fact they are merely riding the tide.
the Tamiflu saga tells us about drug trials and big pharma
Finally, an article
by Ben Goldacre on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Today we found out
that Tamiflu doesn't work so well after all. Roche, the drug company
behind it, withheld vital information on its clinical trials for half a
decade, but the Cochrane
Collaboration, a global not-for-profit organisation of 14,000
academics, finally obtained all the information. Putting the evidence
together, it has found that Tamiflu has little or no impact on
complications of flu infection, such as
That is rather
important, because the British and the Dutch government have spent very
large amounts of money to buy Tamiflu in order to stop the Mexican flu,
which now is taken far less serious - and now also is shown not to
react much to doses of Tamiflu.
The Dutch government was adviced by dr. Ab Osterhaus.
This is from the Wikipedia article on him:
He has been
criticised for exaggerating the consequences of the 2009 flu pandemic and pushing for
extensive measures, even though the Mexican flu is now treated as if it
were a common flu. In September 2009, a controversy arose
when it became known Osterhaus has a 9.8% share in ViroClinics B.V, a
pharmaceutical company that supposedly benefits from the 34 million
minister Ab Klink bought based on his advice as government
consultant. Osterhaus maintains he did nothing against the law and that
he does not personally benefit from the order.
Of course, you must
trust him, not because he is known to be extremely reliable and
honest, but because he cites no evidence whatsoever.
also from the Wikipedia article on him:
Osterhaus has been
criticised for what has been described as a 'fear campaign', calling
for far-reaching measures to combat the Mexican flu. Physician and microbiologist
Miquel Ekkelenkamp called Osterhaus a 'scaremonger' in an opinion piece
in nrc.next and said: "'Expert' Osterhaus
should be banned indefinitely from television. Everything he claimed
turned out to be untrue: we're not all going to die like we did in
1918, not everyone needs a vaccination, we are not going to give Tamiflu to everyone and the virus has not
mutated into something much more dangerous."
And at this point it
also becomes clear that Osterhaus did not even know the evidence for
Tamiflu, for that was kept mostly secret.
This is explained by Goldacre:
That is a scandal
because the UK government spent £0.5bn stockpiling this drug in the
hope that it would help prevent serious side-effects from flu
infection. But the bigger scandal is that Roche broke no law by
withholding vital information on how well its drug works. In fact, the
methods and results of clinical trials on the drugs we use today are
still routinely and legally being withheld from doctors,
researchers and patients. It is simple bad luck for Roche that Tamiflu
became, arbitrarily, the poster child for the missing-data story.
happened in Holland - but it is only now that it is known that
the results of clinical trials, not only on Tamiflu, but mostly on
anything medical that gets tested, are "routinely and legally being
withheld" from precisely those who would very much benefit from knowing
Here is Goldacre again, reporting on the first stage of a five
year long battle:
Roche said it
would hand over some information, but the Cochrane reviewers would need
to sign a confidentiality agreement. This was tricky: Cochrane reviews
are built around showing their working, but Roche's proposed contract
would require them to keep the information behind their reasoning
secret from readers. More than this, the contract said they were not
allowed to discuss the terms of their secrecy agreement, or publicly
acknowledge that it even existed. Roche was demanding a secret
contract, with secret terms, requiring secrecy about the methods and
results of trials, in a discussion about the safety and efficacy of a
drug that has been taken by hundreds of thousands of people around the
world, and on which governments had spent billions. Roche's demand,
worryingly, is not unusual.
Note first that "not
unusual" = "usual".
Next, this is what has led me to mostly give up not only on psychiatry
(which is not even a real science, and indeed not at all) but also on
medicine (which used to be a real science, when the results of tests
were published, instead of being kept secret, also by agreements one also
has to keep secret, as if Roche were the NSA).
There is a great lot more, which I leave to you. Here is my reason to
give up on medicine as a real science - by which I do not mean I do not
trust my GP anymore, but by which I mean that I think I know that her
evidence for the kind of medicines she prescribes is very often in fact
produced by what is fairly described as the propaganda/public
relations departments of the pharmaceutical corporations, which
keep most of the data, secretively, to themselves - which means for me
that they are no longer doing any science, except salesmanship.
Here is Goldacre again:
This is a pivotal
moment in the history of medicine. Trials transparency is finally on
the agenda, and this may be our only opportunity to fix it in a decade.
We cannot make informed decisions about which treatment is best while
information about clinical trials is routinely and legally withheld
from doctors, researchers, and patients. Anyone who stands in the way
of transparency is exposing patients to avoidable harm. We need
regulators, legislators, and professional bodies to demand full
transparency. We need clear audit on what information is missing, and
who is withholding it.
My own problem is that I
do not trust Goldacre either:
He is described as "a doctor" by The Guardian, but in fact he is a
psychiatrist (meaning for me: not a real scientist, and not at
all), who is very narrowly associated with professor sir Simon Wessely,
whom I do not trust at all, since he bears a major part of the
responsibility that the disease I have is hardly properly researched
since he started writing about it in 1988. (And that not because of
Wessely's medical brightness, but because his story works out to be a
lot cheaper for English and other governments: it is much
cheaper to call people
mad - sorry: Somatic Symptom
Disorder victims - and not help nor research them, than to
admit they have an unknown invalidating disease, which indeed are
supposed to be all known by psychiatrists: you are not ill, if
your illness is presently unknown: you are mad - sorry: a Somatic
Symptom Disorder victim.)
these may be matters that are valid for me, but that need not concern most of my readers, and
Goldacre does appear to be here on the good side.
 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.)
(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: