30, 2014
Crisis: Drones, Maths, Wall Street + Clinton, Unemployment, Greenwald, Personal
   "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. US senators remove requirement for disclosure over
     drone strike victims

2. Maths spying: The quandary of working for the spooks
3. Wall Street Republicans Prefer Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth
     Warren or Rand Paul

The Real Unemployment Rate: In 20% Of American
     Families, EVERYONE Is Unemployed

5. Glenn Greenwald: "The Future of Journalism"
6. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of April 30. It is a crisis issue.

Actually, there wasn't really much today, although you wouldn't say so from the five crisis items I do have: the number of drone strikes victims (decided by Obama every Tuesday) remains a secret; mathematics is very "socially relevant" these days, with the NSA employing more mathematicians than anybody else in the U.S.; Wall Street loves Hillary Clinton; the real unemployment rate is a lot worse than the U.S. government pretends it is; and there was a good speech by Glenn Greenwald.

Also, in the last section I say something about two items that will be soon on the site.

1. US senators remove requirement for disclosure over drone strike victims

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

At the behest of the director of national intelligence, US senators have removed a provision from a major intelligence bill that would require the president to publicly disclose information about drone strikes and their victims.

The bill authorizing intelligence operations in fiscal 2014 passed out of the Senate intelligence committee in November, and it originally required the president to issue an annual public report clarifying the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by drone strikes in the previous year. It did not require the White House to disclose the total number of strikes worldwide.

But the Guardian has confirmed that Senate leaders have removed the language as they prepare to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, after the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, assured them in a recent letter that the Obama administration was looking for its own ways to disclose more about its highly controversial drone strikes.

There is rather a lot more in the article, that I leave to you, except for the last paragraph:
“How many people have to die for Congress to take even a small step toward transparency? It's stunning that after all these years we still don't know how many people the Obama administration has killed with drones,” said Zeke Johnson, the director of Amnesty International’s security and human rights program.
In any case, Obama goes on with his weekly Tuesday's drone-listings, when he decides which phones he will have blown up, together with the people around them, in the secret program of counter-terrorism that he heads.

2. Maths spying: The quandary of working for the spooks 

The next item is an article by Tom Leinster, who teaches mathematics in the University of Edinburg, on the New Scientist:

This starts as follows:

FOR the past 10 months, a major international scandal has engulfed some of the world's largest employers of mathematicians. These organisations stand accused of law-breaking on an industrial scale and are now the object of widespread outrage. How has the mathematics community responded? Largely by ignoring it.

Those employers – the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – have been systematically monitoring as much of our lives as they can, including our emails, texts, phone and Skype calls, web browsing, bank transactions and location data. They have tapped internet trunk cables, bugged charities and political leaders, conducted economic espionage, hacked cloud servers and disrupted lawful activist groups, all under the banner of national security. The goal, to quote former NSA director Keith Alexander, is to "collect all the signals, all the time".

The standard justification for this mass surveillance is to avert terrorism. US officials repeatedly claimed that mass surveillance had thwarted 54 attacks. But the NSA eventually admitted it was more like one or two; its best example was an alleged $8500 donation to a terrorist group.

Some argue that the information gathered is "only metadata" – phone numbers and call durations rather than what was said, for example. This is not true. GCHQ has harvested webcam images, many sexual, of millions of people. In any case, it is wrong to believe that collecting metadata leaves privacy intact. As ex-NSA legal counsel Stewart Baker said: "Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody's life."

There is rather a lot more, and it is a quite clear article. I quote one more point, and the ending:

Mathematicians seldom face ethical questions. We enjoy the feeling that what we do is separate from the everyday world. As the number theorist G. H. Hardy wrote in 1940: "I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world."

That idea is now untenable. Mathematics clearly has practical applications that are highly relevant to the modern world, not least internet encryption.

Actually, already in the 1940ies, G.H. Hardy was overstating his case: He did do something useful himself (the Hardy-Weinberg law), although this indeed was incidental, and in the 1940ies clearly quite a few mathematicians were working as code-breakers, in England and in the U.S.

But indeed, now that the NSA employs more mathematicians than anybody else in the U.S., clearly the idea that (most) mathematics has no practical applications is completely untenable.

And here is the ending:

Individuals can withdraw their labour. Heads of university departments can refuse staff leave to work for the NSA or GCHQ. National mathematical societies can stop publishing the agencies' job adverts, refuse their money, or even expel members who work for agencies of mass surveillance.

At the very least, we should acknowledge that these choices are ours to make. We are human beings first and mathematicians second, and if we do not like what the secret services are doing, we should not cooperate.

Yes, indeed: Quite so.

3. Wall Street Republicans Prefer Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul

The next item is an article by Peter Scheer on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

For Republican financiers, Hillary Clinton is apparently the next best thing to Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

According to an informal survey of uncommitted donors and lobbyists, the Democrat is a known commodity to Wall Street types—someone with a “track record.”

Politico conducted “Two dozen interviews about the 2016 race with unaligned GOP donors, financial executives and their Washington lobbyists.”

Here’s a taste:

“If it turns out to be Jeb versus Hillary we would love that and either outcome would be fine,” one top Republican-leaning Wall Street lawyer said over lunch in midtown Manhattan last week. “We could live with either one. Jeb versus Joe Biden would also be fine. It’s Rand Paul or Ted Cruz versus someone like Elizabeth Warren that would be everybody’s worst nightmare.”

As the website points out, Clinton has a history of fundraising from the finance sector. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who held fundraisers for Clinton, would reportedly be happy with Christie, Bush or Clinton as president.

The main reason this is here is to make clear that Hillary Clinton is loved by many extremely rich bank-managers.

4. The Real Unemployment Rate: In 20% Of American Families, EVERYONE Is Unemployed

The next item is an article by Michael Snyder on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows:
According to shocking new numbers that were just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of American families do not have a single person that is working.  So when someone tries to tell you that the unemployment rate in the United States is about 7 percent, you should just laugh.  One-fifth of the families in the entire country do not have a single member with a job.  That is absolutely astonishing.  How can a family survive if nobody is making any money?  Well, the answer to that question is actually quite easy.  There is a reason why government dependence has reached epidemic levels in the United States.  Without enough jobs, tens of millions of additional Americans have been forced to reach out to the government for help.  At this point, if you can believe it, the number of Americans getting money or benefits from the federal government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million.
That indeed is quite amazing, and also shows I was totally right in rejecting "the news" that "the crisis is over": It may be so for the 1% or 10% of the richest, but it certainly is not the case for the majority.

There is a lot more in the article, that I cannot all judge.

5. Glenn Greenwald: "The Future of Journalism"

The next item is not an article but a video, namely of a talk Glenn Greenwald gave on April 10 in Berlin:
It takes 21 min 15 sec, but Greenwald is a very good speaker, who also talks rather fast, but does so quite clearly. This is a good speech.

6. Personal

This is just a brief update on two things, that are not quite there yet, but are coming soon:

The Dutch Multatuli-stuff is nearly done, at least as far as the excerpt of the seven volumes of Multatuli's "Ideen" are concerned, and will very probably be put on line this week. There is still more to be done, such as the backgrounds and part of the indexes, but this is the beginning, and it also is the first time I took up again doing something sizable on Multatuli since circa 2007. (But I did put up a good English translation of "Woutertje Pieterse", meanwhile.)

And there also is soon to arrive, probably also this week, the text plus ten of my comments on a song by Frank Zappa, that seems to me to be a good if briefly and poetically stated social philosophy. It is 46 years old, but quite sensible, at least according to me.
[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)

       home - index - summaries - mail