20, 2014
Crisis: Russia, Google, Journalism, China, CIA, Learning, European Justice
  "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

Putin considers plan to unplug Russia from the internet
     'in an emergency'

2. Google 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
5. 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

About ME/CFS


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.

1. Putin considers plan to unplug Russia from the internet 'in an emergency'

The first item is an article Luke Harding on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

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.

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.
But it has to be send somehow.)

Here is some more:

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.

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).

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.

2. Google Acts Like Privatized NSA: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

The next 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 (...)

I say.

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 differently.

3. Top News Editors Slam White House for Secrecy, Intimidation

The next 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 (aka public relations):
"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 Fracking Boom

The next 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 Secret Employee Magazine 

The next item is an article by Gilson, Mechanic, Park and Vicens on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

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 interesting one:

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 corporate communities."

6. Why Facebook, Google, and the NSA Want Computers That Learn Like Humans

The next item is an article by Dana Liebelson on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

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 John Lucas (<-Wikipedia) and Hava Siegelmann (<- Wikipedia).

7. European Union Court of Justice: Sanctions Cannot Be Imposed by Reason of Fabrication, Lies, Disimulation

The next and last item today is an article by John Helmer on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows:

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 education.


[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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