18, 2014
Crisis: Snowden *3, The Divide, US Oligarchy, Lavabit, Piketty
   "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. Edward Snowden Quizzes Vladimir Putin About Mass
     Surveillance in Russia

2. The Divide
3. New Study Finds the U.S. Is Not a Democracy, So What Is

4. Lavabit, Company That Defied NSA Surveillance, Loses

5. Capital Man

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of April 18. It is another crisis issue.

The first item contains three dotted links, all about Snowden who had the temerity, according to some, and the great courage according to me, of questioning Putin. The other items are about Taibbi's book; the arrival of the fact that presently the US is an oligarchy (yes, it is); some more on Lavabit; and a long essay on Piketty, that I found good and informative.

1. Edward Snowden Quizzes Vladimir Putin About Mass Surveillance in Russia

The first article today is by Kasia Anderson on Truth Dig:
This starts as follows:

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a Q-and-A session Thursday to field questions from the public, joke about annexing Alaska (nope - it’s “too cold”) and answer Edward Snowden’s query about Russia’s surveillance practices.

In a surprise appearance via video link, Snowden point-blanked the leader of his current host country, asking, “Does Russia intercept or store or analyze the communication of millions of individuals?”

In fact, here it is, from Russia Today:

To my mind, that was once again very bravely done by Edward Snowden, but it seems that is not how quite a few desire to see it.

Here is Ed Pilkington on The Guardian trying to explain it:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden has defended his decision to appear on live Russian television, insisting his question to Vladimir Putin on mass surveillance was designed to hold the Russian president accountable and not, as critics have suggested, an act of compliant propaganda.

Writing for the Guardian, the whistleblower behind the National Security Agency leaks suggests he carefully framed the question to Putin, which he asked via video link in an annual televised call-in with the president on Thursday. Putin, Snowden writes, “denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter”.

In the phone-in, Snowden asked Putin: "Does Russia intercept, store or analyse, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?"

Putin replied: "Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law... We don't have a mass system of such interception and – according with our law –it cannot exist."

That seems fair enough - and see below for Snowden's explanation of why he asked the question he asked - and it is also fair enough to expect that the right hand men of the corrupt Western state security, will use any occassion to throw filth at Snowden. (See the article.)

Also, here is Snowden's reason for posing the question he did:

“The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange between Senator Ron Wyden and DNI James Clapper… and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion” from Putin, Snowden writes.

Which again seems quite reasonable to me - as is this addition:

“I expected that some would object to my participation in an annual forum that is largely comprised of softball questions to a leader unaccustomed to being challenged. But to me, the rare opportunity to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media outweighed that risk.”

Snowden says that before state officials in any country can be held accountable, “we must first give them an opportunity to make those claims”. He said he was motivated by a belief that mass surveillance was a threat to people everywhere, not just in the US.

“Last year, I risked family, life, and freedom to help initiate a global debate that even [Barack] Obama himself conceded 'will make our nation stronger'. I am no more willing to trade my principles for privilege today than I was then.”

Yes, indeed - and here is Edward Snowden himself on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

On Thursday, I questioned Russia's involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: "Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals' communications?"

I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.

The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden's question and mine here.)

Clapper's lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.

In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we'll get to them soon – but it was not the president's suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.

Yes, indeed. And here is his ending:

I blew the whistle on the NSA's surveillance practices not because I believed that the United States was uniquely at fault, but because I believe that mass surveillance of innocents – the construction of enormous, state-run surveillance time machines that can turn back the clock on the most intimate details of our lives – is a threat to all people, everywhere, no matter who runs them.

Last year, I risked family, life, and freedom to help initiate a global debate that even Obama himself conceded "will make our nation stronger". I am no more willing to trade my principles for privilege today than I was then.

I understand the concerns of critics, but there is a more obvious explanation for my question than a secret desire to defend the kind of policies I sacrificed a comfortable life to challenge: if we are to test the truth of officials' claims, we must first give them an opportunity to make those claims.

Again: quite so!

So no: the persons objecting to the question (?!) did not understand his reasons, or indeed are players for the completely corrupt Western security services, who want everybody surveyed and surveillanced, and who do not believe in privacy, and yes, Snowden certainly had the right to pose the question, and by my lights again did so very bravely.

2.  The Divide

The next item is an article by Peter Richardson on Truth Dig:

In fact, this is a review of the recent book by Matt Taibbi, of which the full title is "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap". There is more about this in yesterday's Nederlog: Crisis: FBI, Blank Checks, Open Source, Taibbi, Clinton & Obama.

I have read the whole article, which gives a reasonable amount of background information on Taibbi, but which only arrives at the book it reviews in the last two paragraphs. Well... here is the last paragraph:
Taibbi’s is an important voice, especially in today’s media ecology. Support for investigative reporting has never been a given; when it comes to muckraking, you take it where you can get it. Taibbi has shown that he can deliver the goods, and “The Divide” is his most important book-length contribution to date. One wonders what the future holds for him. In February, he announced he was leaving Rolling Stone to join First Look Media, where his website will feature investigative stories with a satirical edge. In describing his new venture, he linked his Russian experience to his current interests. “There was a certain kind of corruption that I got to see up close in the ’90s,” he said, “and I think that a version of it is being repeated here in the United States.”
To read the rest, use the last dotted link.

3.  New Study Finds the U.S. Is Not a Democracy, So What Is It? 

The next item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truth Dig:

This I have also dealt with before - see e.g Crisis: Pulitzer Prize, Feinstein, Krugman, US Oligarchy, Robinson, Psychiatry - and here is the beginning, that answers the question in the title:
Let me offer a hint: The ruling class is far wealthier than the rest. If you guessed oligarchy, sadly, you’re correct. Princeton University researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page discovered that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Scary isn’t it? The rich have basically all the control in what was meant to be the great democracy of the United States and rulings like the Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon decision will only further perpetuate this disaster.
There is more quoted there, and a link to another article, which you can check out yourself - and yes: I agree "oligarchy" is a correct term for the kind of society the US has become, under its Supreme Court, that handed the US to Bush Jr. though  he had not won the election; Bush Jr. and Obama.

They are all oligarchs pretending to be "democrats", but who cater almost exclusively to the very rich.

4.  Lavabit, Company That Defied NSA Surveillance, Loses Appeal 

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

In case you forgot - and see my: Crisis: Snowden, Lavabit, Obama, jail terms, Perkins, Moyes, Orwell, psychiatry of February 2, 2014, in which I explained that the owner of Lavabit, that was also used by Edward Snowden at one point, had the courage to refuse to hand ALL his customers to the freaks of the NSA, and wrote:

It seems from the article that the case is cooked: Judges Gregory, Niemeyer and Agee speak as if they are personal friends of NSA directors, rather than as objective judges - and indeed the NSA may know very much about them that ordinary men do not and cannot know.

In any case, the judges speak as if it is self-evident to them that anyone who runs an encrypted mail-service should hand over his encryption-keys as a matter of course to the NSA or the FBI, so that they can read anything, as is the duty of every man in a police state.

I really can't make anything else from it, and you can read the article yourself.

It went on, as Jon Queally explains:

The encrypted email service Lavabit, which founder Ladar Levison chose to close down rather than give government agencies access to its customers private data, lost a federal appeal on Wednesday when the Fourth District Court upheld a lower ruling that that the company should be held in contempt for its refusal.

The government was trying to gain access to an account they alleged was being used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but Levison rejected the broad scope of the request.

It's a great pity, but indeed considerable parts of the courts in the US just are willing servants of the government and many of the top of the government again are willing servants of the very rich.

And yes, it is called oligarchy.

5. Capital Man

Finally, an article by Emily Eakin on The Chronicle Review (that I recommend to not use Disqus: it stinks) who reviews Thomas Piketty's book, that also was treated before in Nederlog: See e.g. Crisis: Capitalism, Silicon Valley, Obama, Government, Torture :

This starts as follows:
The French economist Thomas Piketty arrived in Washington, D.C., on Sunday for a week of talks at some of the nation’s leading policy-research centers but which might as well have been billed as a victory lap up the East Coast. The English translation of Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, a formidably rigorous, 700-page history of wealth, out barely five weeks, had just made The New York Times’s best-seller list. But even before it appeared, on the strength of a handful of advance reviews and a surge of Internet buzz, Piketty’s transformation was complete: from respected researcher on income distribution to ranking heavyweight, a scholar who, armed with reams of data and charts—and, unusual for an economist, a gilded tongue—proposed to upend decades of mainstream wisdom on inequality though an unprecedented analysis of the past.
It also is a long article, but it is a good one, and did teach me considerably more about Piketty, such as that he comes from a poor background and started out as a math wizard. Also, I like it that he is reputed to have "a gilded tongue".

I will only quote two paragraphs. Here is Piketty on mathematics, and its abuse:
Apparently bedazzled by the book’s arguments, few reviewers mentioned its assault on the field. Yet Piketty’s disdain is unmistakable, the lament of a scholar long estranged from the mainstream of his profession. "For far too long," he writes, "economists have sought to define themselves in terms of their supposedly scientific methods. In fact, those methods rely on an immoderate use of mathematical models, which are frequently no more than an excuse for occupying the terrain and masking the vacuity of the content. Too much energy has been and still is being wasted on pure theoretical speculation without a clear specification of the economic facts one is trying to explain or the social and political problems one is trying to resolve."
Yes, indeed! And here is Emily Eakin on what Piketty thinks economic scholarship should be like, but usually is not:
Capital in the Twenty-first Century, Piketty makes clear, is his notion of what economics scholarship should look like: combining analyses of macro (growth) and micro (income distribution) issues; grounded in abundant empirical data; larded with references to sociology, history, and literature; and sparing on the math. In its scale and scope, the book evokes the foundational works of classical economics by Ricardo, Malthus, and Marx—to whose treatise on capitalism Piketty’s title alludes.
Again, yes indeed. I do not know how Piketty's book will fare, but it is clear to me it is good and important.
[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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