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. How to wrest control of our
data from spies and their
2. NSA Collected Data on Millions
of Americans Just to
Investigate 248 People
3. Greenwald: NSA is Attack
on our Dissent
4. Bracing for an Attack by
This is the Nederlog of June
29. It is an ordinary crisis log.
It also is the Nederlog of a sunday, and crisis items tend to be scarce
in weekends, but I have found four items and they follow. Also, this is
one of the days on which I disagree somewhat with all writers I deal
with, though the nature and extent of my disagreements differ:
wrest control of our data from spies and their networks
item is an article by John Naughton on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Just over a year
ago, after Edward Snowden's revelations first hit the headlines, I
participated in a debate at the Frontline Club with Sir Malcolm
Rifkind, the former foreign secretary who is now MP for Kensington and
Chelsea and chairman of the intelligence and security committee.
Rifkind is a Scottish lawyer straight out of central casting: urbane,
witty, courteous and very smart. He's good on his feet and a master of
repartee. He's the kind of guy you would be happy to have to dinner.
His only drawback is that everything he knows about information
technology could be written on the back of a postage stamp in 96-point
This means - everything
Sir Malcolm Rifkind knows about
information technology "could be written on the back of a postage
stamp in 96-point Helvetica bold" - that the dear Sir Malcolm does not know anything
about the very subject he is the chairman of.
And that in turn means Rifkind must be totally incompetent, except as a
legalese type that defends the doings of the GCHQ anyway. It so happens
that I tend to agree somewhat, though I suppose Sir Malcolm meanwhile
knows at least a few smithereens about bits and bytes.
Also, I mostly reject the view Naughton has of Rifkind, which comes to
this (and I do not quote all):
It was clear that
Rifkind knew little, if anything, about the capabilities of machine
intelligence, data mining, network analysis and all the other stuff
that computers do with big data. So, for him, it made perfect sense to
regulate only the actions of intelligence officers in relation to
surveillance data. And it's why William Hague thinks that the fact that
we're "only" collecting metadata and not "content" means that there are
no grounds for concern about bulk surveillance.
I think that is either
too kind or too naive about Rifkind and Hague: I think they know
considerably more, and in fact I think they are simply lying, being
politicians. Naughton says:
The argument that
although Google's algorithms "read" your emails in order to decide what
ads to place alongside them, they're not really reading them, is part of the same genre. So
is the contention that the decision to refuse you a loan is not
anything personal, just an impersonal decision made by an algorithm.
And so is the claim that just because your clickstream – the log of all
the websites you've visited – is collected by the NSA, it doesn't mean
that the spooks are spying on you.
I agree this is "legalistic cant", but it is complete bullshit for another
reason than Naughton seems to think:
This is legalistic cant and
we could change it at a stroke by updating our legal conceptions of
Precisely the same completely false lies could
have been applied 50 years ago by a fraudulent accountant about the
metal cash registers, without any electricity, that were then in use:
"No, I did not do anything: the cash register did not work - don't sue
me: sue the makers of the register. It's no fault of me, it's the fault
of the tools I used, and therefore my firm profited so very much! It's
got nothing to do with me! I can't even do arithmetic!"
They were not, because they are obvious nonsense. Sir Malcolm Rifkind's
nonsense is of the same kind (and he knows it): The cash register and
the computer "run algorithms" and are not human, and "therefore" - even
while everybody uses or used them to base their decisions on, and even
while everybody knows that cash registers and programs are made
by humans - the cash
register and the computer are to blame, and not the humans
using or abusing or programming them.
That is utter bullshit, and so is this:
The lesson, says
Chopra, is clear: "If you want to violate internet users' privacy, get
programs – artificial, not human, agents – to do your dirty work, and
then wash your hands of them by using the Google defence: there is no
invasion of privacy because no humans accessed your personal details."
I do not believe anybody
who works at Google who is not completely an idiot believes "the Google defence":
The output of these programs reaches me - "Recommended for
you", on Youtube - and I am a human; it was produced by
humans; it was programmed by humans; I very probably can read
and understand these programs if they were submitted to me; it is used for,
against or on humans; humans profit from these programs;
and so to shift the blame on to the program (rather than the
programmer and his employer) is total and complete
bullshit, that tries in fact to appeal to a kind of magical thinking:
"We are not responsible for the programs we wrote, because programs are
tools: Blame the tools, not the programmers!".
So no: I do not think we need "notions of software agency and
responsibility". We also do not need to consider "notions of a hammer's agency and
responsibility" for being the tool of murder: that is all complete
baloney. The hammer and the programs are tools, and the human beings
using them are responsible for what they do with them and what they do.
Computers do mathematics, and are programmed by humans, and
those who make and owe the programs and run them are responsible
for their doings, precisely as an accountant is responsible that his
sums are correct.
Collected Data on Millions of Americans Just to Investigate 248 People
item is an article by Spencer Ackerman that I found on AlterNet but
that originated on The Guardian:
This starts as
The National Security
Agency was interested in the phone data of fewer than 250 people
believed to be in the United States in 2013, despite collecting the
phone records of nearly every American.
As acknowledged in the NSA's
first-ever disclosure of statistics about how it uses its broad
surveillance authorities, released
Friday, the NSA performed queries of its massive phone records
troves for 248 "known or presumed US persons" in 2013.
The first question I
have is of course: But why should I believe the notorious liars of the
NSA? Indeed, Spencer Ackerman says, on page 2 of his article:
Some privacy advocates
expressed scepticism about how genuine and accurate an account of NSA
surveillance the report actually provides.
"The ODNI report calls
itself into question by saying they're providing numbers, but
immediately saying those numbers are only true to the extent the
intelligence community believes it can release them without
compromising sensitive information," said Amie Stepanovich of the
digital rights group Access.
"The numbers could be much
greater, and made to look smaller because of what the intelligence
community calls preserving intelligence programs.
Yes, indeed. Overall,
my response is that I disbelieve the numbers and I disbelieve the NSA,
and the only way to stop my disbelief is complete honesty - which no
one will get (who does not belong to the top of the NSA) as long as the
NSA is running.
NSA is Attack on our Dissent
item is an article by Diego Ibanez, who is an activist with Occupy Wall
Street, on Common Dreams, though it originated on Waging Nonviolence:
This starts as
people don’t hide; bad people have to hide because they are planning
evil things like trying to bomb this auditorium,” said Glenn Greenwald
during a presentation at Carnegie Hall in
New York City earlier this week.
He explained that he took
that line from former CIA director Michael Hayden, who kept on
repeating that warning during a debate in Toronto a couple months ago.
Well... it certainly
shows "good" does
not mean the same in Hayden's and in Greenwald's mouth - indeed, for
Hayden a person is good by and large to the extent the person does not
think for him- or herself, and accepts the government's lies, while for
Greenwald a person is good by and large to the extent the person does
think for him- or herself, and does not accept the government's lies.
At least, that is the inferences I think are justified, on
Diego Ibanez also
Greenwald explained, Snowden was a 29-year-old
who had a loving girlfriend, a well-paying job and parents and friends
who loved him. The idea that he would throw that all away was
incomprehensible to the media and elites, who Greenwald described as
“soulless.” So, according to Greenwald, they quickly assumed that the
whistleblower must have psychological problems, and went on to diagnose
him as a “fame-seeking narcissist.”
Perhaps. But I think
it is more probable that as soon as it was known that Snowden was the man who revealed the
NSA, it was decided he had to be painted in the darkest possible
lights, not because he was "incomprehensible to the media and elites" (though indeed he probably was), but
because the NSA had to hide so very much, and the human characteristic
to bad news is to try to kill the messenger and to deny or invalidate
the bad news. And that is what happened.
Then Ibanez says:
This, Greenwald says, is
a fundamental problem that goes beyond Snowden. Instead, it speaks to a
too-common view that dissent is a form of mental illness, and that
submission to the status quo is indicative of a healthy state of mind.
Yes, but Ibanez does
not quite seem to understand this. I will briefly explain it here,
because I am a philosopher and a psychologist:
First, there really
are very few real and recognizable mental illnesses - not more
than 10 or 20. It is true that the DSM currenty distinguishes over 400
"mental disorders", but these are mostly selected so as to be able to
sell expensive pills to people (for that is what psychiatry does
and is, financially speaking) and they have no rational
justification, and indeed their "diagnoses" are explicitly not
based on any theory. (For more see e.g. On
Psychiatry 2: On confusions and misunderstandings
concerning the DSM-5)
Second, whoever does
not dissent with a lot he or she faces in the present Western society
must be so awfully dumb as to be close to an idiot. (I do not
say - nor do I think - that all dissent is wise, valid or true, for
clearly that is also false; I am saying that Western societies
are evidently quite bad in quite a few ways, and that it is natural and
laudable to dissent - as the Bible said: "Do not follow a multitude
into evil" - and indeed this was always so in any democratic,
free and open society, and was not seen as a problem but as an
Third, "submission to the status quo" is not "a healthy state of mind" but is a sign that either one is quite stupid or one
is quite rich: One can be perfectly happy, adjusted and
submitted to the status quo in modern Western society, but if one is
not rich, the inevitable conclusion must be that one is quite stupid.
(And yes, there are many stupid people. But even these are probably in
majority not so stupid as to desire to be submitted to the status quo in everything.)
for an Attack by Veterans
item is an article
by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams:
This starts as
From 1776 forward,
Americans have opposed having soldiers do police work on our soil. But
in recent years, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with police chiefs to
circumvent that prohibition.
Actually, there is a
perfectly rational explanation, although I do not think Jim Hightower
How? By militarizing
Through the little-known “military
transfer program,” the Pentagon now ships massive amounts of
surplus war equipment to local cops. This reflects a fundamental
rewiring of the mindset now guiding neighborhood policing.
Police chiefs today
commonly send out squads brandishing heavy arms and garbed in riot gear
for peaceful situations. Recruiting videos now feature clips of
SWAT-team officers dressed in black, hurling flash grenades into a
home, then storming the house, firing automatic weapons. Who wants
anyone enticed by that video working their neighborhood?
As a city councilman in
rural Wisconsin commented when told his police were getting a
nine-foot-tall armored vehicle: “Somebody has to be the first to say,
‘Why are we doing this?’”
The perfectly rational explanation for the militarization of
the US police forces, namely by giving them a lot of heavy military
equipment, and also by changing their gear, is that the US government
is preparing for suppressing major uprisings of the American
Moreover, the reason that they are expecting major uprisings is that they want to
continue with giving more and more people less and less money (always
saving for the rich, who are the few who profit, and profit ever more)
- and indeed there will be uprisings if people do not have
sufficient money to buy food and water and housing.
And I do think that is the explanation.
 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: