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. Putin considers plan to unplug
Russia from the internet
'in an emergency'
Acts Like Privatized NSA: WikiLeaks' Julian
3. Top News Editors Slam White
House for Secrecy,
4. Deep Inside the Wild
World of China's Fracking Boom
10 Fascinating Articles From the CIA's Secret Employee
6. Why Facebook, Google, and
the NSA Want Computers
That Learn Like Humans
7. European Union Court of
Justice: Sanctions Cannot Be
Imposed by Reason of
Fabrication, Lies, Disimulation
This is a Nederlog of Saturday,
September 20. It is a crisis log.
There are 7 items with 7 dotted links. This contains some interesting
materials (Putin, Google, Journalism, at least) and a long report on fracking in China that looks good but was too long to
read, for me, today.
considers plan to unplug Russia from the internet 'in an emergency'
item is an article Luke
Harding on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I say. It is not very
surprising, but it sounds a bit odd and I doubt it is practical, that
is, apart from a major emergency. I'll concentrate for the moment on
the practical bit: How would Russia then be doing business
with the rest of the world? Return to typewriters and paper mail?
(Well, probably not typewriters.
The Kremlin is
considering radical plans to unplug Russia from the global internet in the event
of a serious military confrontation or big anti-government protests at
home, Russian officials hinted on Friday.
President Vladimir Putin
will convene a meeting of his security council on Monday. It will
discuss what steps Moscow might take to disconnect Russian citizens
from the web "in an emergency", the Vedomosti newspaper reported. The goal would be to
strengthen Russia's sovereignty in cyberspace. The proposals could also
bring the domain .ru under state control, it suggested.
Russian TV and most of
the country's newspapers are under the Kremlin's thumb. But unlike in
China, the Russian internet has so far remained a comparatively open
place for discussion, albeit one contested by state-sponsored bloggers
and Putin fans.
But it has to be send somehow.)
Here is some more:
This means that it is as
I thought: What they want to lock down, or want to be able to
lock down, is international access, and not the internet inside
Russia (which I guess would be very problematic: much will be run by
computers, that need some access to the net).
Andrei Soldatov, an
expert on Russia's spy agencies, described the plans as big news. In an
email from Moscow he said he "didn't actually believe" Russian
officials would disconnect the internet. But he said the moves were a
"real step forward in the development of a besieged fortress mentality".
He wrote: "Before, such
ideas were mostly to do with so-called government communications (how
to make them independent from western technologies). Now they want to
expand this crazy idea to the entire internet of the country."
Soldatov said it would be
technically possible for Moscow to shut off the internet because Russia
has "surprisingly few" international exchange points. All of them are under the
control of national long-distance operations, like Rostelecom, which
are close to the authorities, he said.
Also, while the names "NSA" and "Snowden" do not occur in the whole
article, that may be one way not to have Russian computers
mined by the NSA (who want everything from anywhere).
In any case, this seems interesting news.
Acts Like Privatized NSA: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange
item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Google's practices are
"almost identical" to those of the U.S. National Security Agency and
its British counterpart, the GCHQ, Julian Assange has said.
The WikiLeaks founder made the charge
Thursday in interviews with the BBC and Sky News. He spoke from the
Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he has lived for over two years
under political asylum.
"Google's business model
is to spy," Assange told the BBC.
"It makes more than 80
percent of its money collecting information about people, pooling it
together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to
predict their interests and behaviors and then selling those profiles
principally to advertisers, but also to others."
"The result is, in terms
of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the
National Security Agency or GCHQ," he said.
In similar comments to
Sky News, Assange said, "Google has become, in its behavior, a
privatized version of the NSA. It's not that it's doing things that are
illegal. It's not," he said (...)
Let's first consider the (il)legality: I have never believed
that the law coincides with what is good: First, the law may make
mistakes, and/or overplay or underplay things in various ways; second,
quite a few of the norms that are considered good are not subject to
the law, or are so only in extreme cases.
Third, much of the laws that currently regulate the internet are mistaken,
in my opinion, simply because they allow the stealing of private
data that must be protected, and are protected, by the Fourth Amendment, in the U.S. at
least, and by privacy laws elsewhere (in Europe).
So I will not be concerned with (il)legality in this review:
Many recent laws are mistaken, and anyway the law is a crude instrument.
Next, the similarities between Google and the NSA: I agree
there must be considerable similarities because both Google and the NSA
depend on spying using computers, and to that extent, at least, both
will be similar.
Then again, the differences seem to me also important: First,
the NSA is state-owned, and strongly secret, and heavily protected,
while Google is not state-owned, and has to take care of its own
secrecy and protection, and also has to play by the law, which the NSA
not really does. Second, the NSA's interests and Google's interests
differ: the NSA is strongly involved in national security, and Google
is not: it wants commercially useful data. Third, as far as I know the
NSA, the GCHQ and the other Five Eyes secret services do much
more to break in on computers than does Google.
So in general my own conclusion tends to be that while Google and the
NSA are similar because they both seek and use data they should not
get, in my eyes the NSA is far more dangerous: It is one of the secret services of
the most powerful state, that has done very great amounts of - state
sponsored - terrorism, although they generally called it quite
News Editors Slam White House for Secrecy, Intimidation
item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Some of the nation's top
journalists are criticizing the White House for undermining journalism
through lack of transparency and intimidation of sources, which they
say has only gotten worse under President Barack Obama—the
self-proclaimed "most transparent" president in history.
Criticism of Obama's
administration on the issue arose during a joint convention this week
of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media
Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers in Chicago. Brian
Carovillano, Associated Press managing editor for U.S. news, said
during a panel discussion that the government's increasingly tightening
standards on access to information are setting a trend for secrecy for
other organizations around the country.
"The White House push to
limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the
secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations—from local and state
governments to universities and even sporting events," Carovillano said.
This is not the first
time this year that reporters have accused Obama of secrecy and
suppression of information, charges which seem more significant against
an administration that has described itself as the "most transparent"
in history. In July, more than 40 news organizations sent the President
a letter urging him and other federal agencies to "stop the spin and
let the sunshine in."
I am a bit relieved,
and not by the White House's attempts to do most things in secret
(classifying at least 90 million documents), but by the fact that some
leading journalists criticized this.
Then again, I am not relieved learning that the White House's example "served as the secrecy road map for all kinds
of organizations—from local and state governments to universities and
even sporting events", among
other things because - in my opinion - most men live conformist
lives most of the time, and so I would not be amazed at all if bad
examples by political leaders are followed enthusiastically everywhere,
"because Our Leaders do them also".
Of course, the White House let it be known it knows things far
better than the journalists: According to a White House press
secretary, after taking a deep drought from the sap of the mandrake
"Over the past six
years, federal agencies have gone to great efforts to make government
more transparent and more accessible than ever, to provide people with
information that they can use in their daily lives, and to solicit
public participation in government decision-making and thus tap the
expertise that resides outside of government"
(Free translation: "All
journalists lie and nothing they say should be believed. You better
behave or we let it be known you are terrorists.")
4. Deep Inside the Wild World of China's
item is an article - in fact: a multimedia production - by Jaeah Lee
and James West on Mother Jones:
This is a lot of
reporting, and it gets supported by The Guardian, Huffington Post, and
Mother Jones, among others.
I leave this to you: It looks like good reporting, and it has a whole
lot of information, but there is so much of it that I did not yet read
much of it.
5. 10 Fascinating Articles From the CIA's
next item is an article by Gilson, Mechanic, Park and Vicens on Mother
This starts as
In 2007, Jeffrey Scudder,
a veteran information technology specialist at the Central Intelligence
Agency, came across the archives of the agency's in-house magazine, Studies
in Intelligence. The catch: They were classified. So Scudder filed
a Freedom of Information Act request. And then things got messy. "I
submitted a FOIA and it basically destroyed my entire career," he told
the Washington Post.
As a profile of Scudder
in the Post explains:
He was confronted by
supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while
assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his
family's computers seized. Stripped of his job and his security
clearance, Scudder said he agreed to retire last year after being told
that if he refused, he risked losing much of his pension.
Now, in response to a lawsuit filed by Scudder, the CIA has declassified
and released some of the hundreds of journal articles he's requested.
Nearly 250 of them have been posted on the CIA's website. Published over four decades,
they offer a fascinating peek at the history of US intelligence as well
as the corporate culture of "the Company."
I say. You can check
them out for yourself, but here is what I think was the most
9. "The Evolution of US Government Restrictions on Using
and Exporting Encryption Technologies": During the
Clinton administration, the government was powerless to stop the
development of open-source encryption tools. This Studies in
Intelligence article details the many failed official attempts to
control the development and proliferation of encryption tools. In the
face of opposition from researchers, the business community, and its
own experts, the government eventually eased restrictions on the
technology. But, as the author noted, spooks yearned for the golden age
of electronic eavesdropping: "The US Government, and NSA in particular,
would like to return to the Cold War era of complete government control
over strong cryptography and skillful manipulation of the research and
6. Why Facebook, Google, and the NSA
Want Computers That Learn Like Humans
next item is an article by Dana Liebelson on Mother Jones:
This starts as
In June 2012, a Google
supercomputer made an artificial-intelligence breakthrough: It
learned that the internet loves cats. But here's the remarkable part:
It had never been told what a cat looks like. Researchers working on
the Google Brain project in the company's X lab fed 10 million random, unlabeled images from
YouTube into their massive network and instructed it to recognize the
basic elements of a picture and how they fit together. Left to their
own devices, the Brain's 16,000 central processing units noticed that a
lot of the images shared similar characteristics that it eventually
recognized as a "cat." While the Brain's self-taught knack for kitty
spotting was nowhere as good as a human's, it was nonetheless a major
advance in the exploding field of deep learning.
There is a lot more
in the article, but since I am a philosopher and a psychologist, I can
say with fair confidence that (i) "deep learning", wholly apart from
human learning, is still in its very infancy and (ii) there is nothing
like human learning at the moment, except in living human
heads. Indeed, there is nothing that a computer can do that amounts to
what a spider can do (and that does it in a very small volume as well).
So the article is
mostly speculative, which is OK with me. Having spend a lot of time
since the late 1970ies thinking about and using computers, I can add
that it seems probable to me that nothing like the present-day
computers will ever evolve a human intelligence.
This does not mean
that there are no remarkably "clever" programs that may find out a
whole lot; it does mean that I think one has to wait for quantum computers
(<- Wikipedia) or something else to be able to do the things that
are specifically human.
For more on this, see
Lucas (<-Wikipedia) and Hava Siegelmann
Union Court of Justice: Sanctions Cannot Be Imposed by Reason of
Fabrication, Lies, Disimulation
next and last item today is an article by John Helmer on Naked
This starts as
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
departs in two weeks from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO), where he has been secretary-general since 2009, with a present
from the General Court of the European Union Court of Justice. It’s a
golden tongue depressor.
In a judgement issued in
Luxembourg on Thursday, September 18, the court ruled that the European
Union (EU) cannot lawfully introduce sanctions against states,
corporations, state organizations, or individuals without stating
reasons which can be substantiated in evidence to a standard of proof
tested in court.
Then it goes further
with discussing Rasmussen, which I leave to your interests, but further
on it states:
For the second time, the
EU court has ruled that sanctions are illegal if they are based on
allegations which cannot stand up in court. With an irony yet to be
tested in the US, the EU court has also ruled that state organizations
and companies targeted by sanctions have the same human right to due
process, as human beings, Russian dissidents, and Americans.
The ruling ends two years
of proceedings in Luxembourg. The Iranian central bank’s case was that
EU sanctions were unlawful because they were based on evidence which
was in error; because they violated the EU’s obligation to give
defensible reasons for its action; because the EU had violated
fundamental human rights, including the protection of property, the
right of defence, the right to effective judicial protection, and the
right to proportionality between act and penalty.
Well, I do not
think that "organizations
and companies" of whatever
kind are human beings, and so I would deny them human
rights, while I would agree
that human individuals who work for them have human rights. But it is
not quite clear (to me) what the court meant.
I definitely agree
with the ruling that "sanctions
are illegal if they are based on allegations which cannot stand up in
court", and it would have
been even better if they had said "open court".
Anyway - this is
mostly here to show that "the law" in Europe is not the same as what
the United States regards as "the law" - which is a rather happy
conclusion, not only in view of spying, but in view of many more laws
that leave the U.S. population - if not rich - poorer and with less
rights than the Europeans, e.g. as to income, health, holidays and
 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: