17, 2014
Crisis: FBI, Blank Checks, Open Source, Taibbi, Clinton & Obama
   "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. 9/11 defence teams request testimonies from FBI
     officials amid spying claims

2. "We Can’t Just Give a Blank Check": Lawmakers Call for
     Ending Secrecy of U.S. Intel’s Black Budget

3. The U.S. Government Is Paying to Undermine Internet
     Security, Not to Fix It

4. Matt Taibbi: The SuperRich in America Have Become
     'Untouchables' Who Don't Go to Prison

5. Hillary Clinton and the Future Failure of Progressive Hope
     and Change

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of April 17. It is another crisis issue.

I have five crisis items, of which I think at least items 2 and 4 are quite interesting, as is item 5.

Also I am lately looking at more Chomsky - and as you may not realize, I tend to look at a lot, and do it in bunches: All in the Family, WW I and II, David Attenborough, and now Noam Chomsky - and I had prepared two brief pieces with him, but I will leave them for another time, since the present file is 41 Kb and I am a bit pressed for time. (But maybe tomorrow.)

1. 9/11 defence teams request testimonies from FBI officials amid spying claims

The first article today is by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The defence teams for the accused 9/11 perpetrators have formally requested testimony from four officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one of whom is a senior official, deepening a conflict that began with revelations that the FBI attempted to insert an informant into their ranks.

Defence lawyers said late on Wednesday that they had formally requested testimony from the two agents that approached a classification specialist assigned to the defence team, as well as an FBI special agent assigned to the 9/11 prosecution team.

There is quite a bit more under the last dotted link, but none of it is conclusive.

Also, the reason it is reported here is mainly that the FBI is secretively trying to influence court procedures.

2.  "We Can’t Just Give a Blank Check": Lawmakers Call for Ending Secrecy of U.S. Intel’s Black Budget

The next item is an article by Amy Goodman and Juan GonzŠlez on Democracy Now:

This starts as follows:
We speak with Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont about a bipartisan bill that would force President Obama to include the total dollar amount requested for each of the 16 intelligence agencies in his budget proposal. Using documents leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Washington Post has revealed the nation’s so-called "black budget" to be $53 billion, a 54 percent hike over the past decade. The documents also revealed the NSA is paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to U.S. telephone and Internet companies for clandestine access to their communications networks. Welch has joined Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, a fellow member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, in co-sponsoring the Intelligence Budget Transparency Act. "If you are going to have any oversight whatsoever, you have to know what the budget is," Welch says.
That is interesting: $53 billion dollars are yearly spend on secret services, and also the NSA is paying hundreds of millions to telephone and internet companies, whose spokesmen generally say they are totally innocent.

In fact, this is an interview. Here is part from the start:
AMY GOODMAN: (...) Can you talk about just what this act would make transparent?

REP. PETER WELCH: Well, pretty basic information—how much of taxpayer money is being spent on intelligence-gathering activities, the top line number. You know, there’s not just the NSA and the CIA; we have like 17 different intelligence-gathering agencies. And those budgets have exploded. They’re up over 50 percent, even as, as pointed out, the National Institute of Health, that budget is down 22 percent. And if you are going to have any oversight whatsoever, you have to know what the budget is. And in fact, the 9/11 Commission advocated this. You know, somebody with solid credentials on national security, Lee Hamilton, is a strong proponent of letting the taxpayers know how much is being spent. You know, think about it. If you had 16 different government agencies administering the food stamp program on a secret budget, how would you know where they were stumbling into each other, where they were coordinating or not coordinating, where they were duplicating? So this is basic information that’s the beginning of congressional oversight and accountability in the intelligence community.

AARON MAT…: And, Congressmember, you’ve also called for ending the gag order on private companies in terms of their role in disclosing private information. Can you detail that for us?

REP. PETER WELCH: Well, sure. You know, these telephone companies, through the FISA court, have been being required to turn over information that their customers think was private. And they’re under a gag order, so they can’t disclose what the government is seeking. So what you have, essentially, with the expansion of the FISA court definition of what is acceptable for the intelligence agencies to do, is private companies with private information on you and me being required to turn that over in secret. So, what we want to do is end the gag order. If AT&T or Verizon is requested to turn over information, they should be able to disclose that, so then there’s an open and public debate about the limits on intelligence gathering.

In brief, this is just basic information that Welch and Lummis are after, which they need to be able to do any meaningful control of the US government and secret services. So far, they do not have it.

This is a fairly good interview, that you find all of under the last dotted link.

3. The U.S. Government Is Paying to Undermine Internet Security, Not to Fix It 

The next item is an article by Julia Angwin, that I found on Truth Dig but originates on ProPublica:

This starts as follows:

The Heartbleed computer security bug is many things: a catastrophic tech failure, an open invitation to criminal hackers and yet another reason to upgrade our passwords on dozens of websites. But more than anything else, Heartbleed reveals our neglect of Internet security.

The United States spends more than $50 billion a year on spying and intelligence, while the folks who build important defense software — in this case a program called OpenSSL that ensures that your connection to a website is encrypted — are four core programmers, only one of whom calls it a full-time job.
There is rather a lot more in the article. I want to make three points about open and closed source:

First, while open source is the only safe way to program a computer, because only open source guarantees anybody can inspect the code, most source is closed, and the main reason for that is that there is little money for open source.

Second, this problem could be lessened if more governments supported open source more. Thus, I do not see why so many governments pay enormous amounts of tax money to Microsoft, whereas they can have the same computer facilities, or better, with open source, for free, from Linux:

Third, I am now nearly two years running Linux, which is open source, and I find it overall a lot better than Windows, while it is easily installable. And I have hardly used Windows at all the past two years: A few hours at most, in nearly two years, and that almost all without internet connection.

Good riddance!

4. Matt Taibbi: The SuperRich in America Have Become 'Untouchables' Who Don't Go to Prison 

Next, an article by Amy Goodman and Matt Taibbi that I found on AlterNet but originates on Democracy Now:

This starts as follows:

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, attorney James Kidney, who was retiring from the Securities and Exchange Commission, gave a widely reported speech at his retirement party. He said that his bosses were too, quote, "tentative and fearful" to hold Wall Street accountable for the 2008 economic meltdown. Kidney, who joined the SEC in 1986, had tried and failed to bring charges against more executives in the agency’s 2010 case against Goldman Sachs. He said the SEC has become, quote, "an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors. ... Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening," he said.

Well, for more, we turn to our guest, Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist, formerly with Rolling Stone magazine, now with First Look Media. His new book is called  The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

What this is about is essentially the following:

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about the other side. And I want to go to Attorney General Eric Holder, his remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee last May in which he suggests that some banks are just too big to jail.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to—to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large. Again, I’m not talking about HSBC; this is just a more general comment. I think it has an inhibiting influence, impact, on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before Congress. His remarks were widely criticized. This is Federal Judge Jed Rakoff speaking last November at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

JUDGE JED RAKOFF: To a federal judge, who takes an oath to apply the law equally to rich and poor, this excuse, sometimes labeled the too-big-to-jail excuse, is, frankly, disturbing for what it says about the department’s apparent disregard for equality under the law.

That is: If you are poor and are arrested with a marijuana joint, you may have to go to jail for ten or more years, especially if you're black; if you are rich and white you can defraud - literally! - hundreds of millions of dollars, and you will not have to spend a single day in jail.

Here is Matt Taibbi on one such case:

MATT TAIBBI: So, HSBC, again, this is one of the world’s largest banks. It’s Europe’s largest bank. And a few years ago, they got caught, swept up for a variety of offenses, money-laundering offenses. But one of them involved admitting that they had laundered $850 million for a pair—for two drug cartels, one in Mexico and one in South America, and including the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico that is suspected in thousands of murders.

And in that case, they paid a fine; they paid a $1.9 billion fine. And some of the executives had to defer their bonuses for a period of five years—not give them up, defer them. But there were no individual consequences for any of the executives. Nobody had to pull money out of their own pockets for permanently. And nobody did a single day in jail in that case.

And that, to me, was an incredibly striking case.
Here is more on how the rich fare, these days, protected by Holder and Obama:

AARON MAT…: And Jamie Dimon, of course, gets a 74 percent raise.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s the punchline to this whole thing, right? I mean, if you were, you know, the head of any other business—Alex Pareene of made this point, that if he were running a restaurant and he got the biggest fine in the history of restaurants, there is no way that he would be kept in, kept on the job as the head of the company. But he was not only not fired, not only not prosecuted, but he was kept in the job, and he got a 74 percent raise. And they essentially paid for $20 billion fines by laying off 7,500 lower-level workers that year, and so that’s where the pain came from.

There is a lot more in the interview, which is well done: See the last dotted link.

5. Hillary Clinton and the Future Failure of Progressive Hope and Change

Next, an article by John Atcheson on Common Dreams:

This is indeed what the article is about, but is not what I want to quote. Atcheson's thesis is basically that Hillary Clinton is another Obama, and both are "Republican lite", and I agree (though I don't agree with his proposal to "occupy the Democratic Party").

What I do want to quote is the following summary of achievements by Obama:

Here’s what Obama promised:

  • Shutting down Gitmo;
  • Ending warrantless wiretapping;
  • Ending foreign wars;
  • An end to trickle down economics;
  • Greater regulation of Wall Street and the financial sector;
  • A public option for health care;
  • Protecting social security, Medicaid and Medicare;
  • Serious action on climate change;
  • Greater equality in opportunity and more broadly shared prosperity …

Here’s what we got: An administration that set up Goldman Sachs south in the Treasury, doubled down on domestic spying; expanded a drone policy that creates between 40 to 60 new terrorists for every one it kills; health care reform that is better than the status quo, but which rewards corporate insurers as much or more than it does citizens; international trade agreements that favor corporate interests, while eviscerating domestic wages, scuttling environmental performance, and crippling US industrial infrastructure. It’s so bad, they’re trying to negotiate it in secret  …

The list goes on and on, and so do the betrayals.

Yes, indeed. You can see the whole article under the last dotted link.
[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)

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)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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