24, 2014
Crisis: Surveillance, Totalitarianism, Crisis, Syria*2, British Labour Party
  "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

 How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand?
2. Totalitarianism, American Style
3. The Next Crisis – Part one
4. Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country
     Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate

5. Ian Martin on Labour: ‘I can’t remember a more
     spineless opposition’
6. Why Are We Bombing Syria?

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 24. It is a
crisis log.

crisis log is also a bit more theoretical than most others, which I like, but may not be to everyone's taste.

In any case, the first item is by Richard Stallman, and is quite good and quite long; the second is by Chris Hedges, also good; and the third is by Golem XIV, on the present and the next crisis, with some interesting facts and figures, and all three are a bit more theoretical than is normal (but quite interesting, I think).

The other three articles are less theoretical and are on Syria (twice, once by Glenn Greenwald, once by Denis Kucinich), and on the British Labour party, which for me has finished already since Tony Blair in 1997, and as it seems to have now for Ian Martin.

1. How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand?

The first item is an article by Richard Stallman on Gnu:
I wish I had read this sooner, since the original is from October 2013, but that is just my mistake. Anyway, here goes - and as this is a pretty fundamental article, I will copy a lot of it. I will not copy all, and you are recommended to read it all by clicking the above dotted link.

Thanks to Edward Snowden's disclosures, we know that the current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible with human rights. The repeated harassment and prosecution of dissidents, sources, and journalists in the US and elsewhere provides confirmation. We need to reduce the level of general surveillance, but how far? Where exactly is the maximum tolerable level of surveillance, which we must ensure is not exceeded? It is the level beyond which surveillance starts to interfere with the functioning of democracy, in that whistleblowers (such as Snowden) are likely to be caught.

Faced with government secrecy, we the people depend on whistleblowers to tell us what the state is doing. However, today's surveillance intimidates potential whistleblowers, which means it is too much. To recover our democratic control over the state, we must reduce surveillance to the point where whistleblowers know they are safe.

Quite so. Also, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was delivered in 1863, and ends with this statement (as quoted on Wikipedia):
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
As is, there is no "government of the people, by the people, for the people" in the U.S.: Most senators are mllionaires, and the whole House listens to thousands of lobbyists far more than they listen to "the people", who indeed cannot pay the sums the rich 1% can pay to have their political desires gratified.

And since money is in politics, and since corporations have human rights, that is what the government is of, and by, and for: Of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations.

But then the government must be returned to the people, and the criterion Richard Stallman proposes is a sound one: The people must know what the state is doing, and if they cannot, the state has ceased to be a democracy.

Next, there is this:
If whistleblowers don't dare reveal crimes and lies, we lose the last shred of effective control over our government and institutions. That's why surveillance that enables the state to find out who has talked with a reporter is too much surveillance—too much for democracy to endure.
Yes, indeed - and that is the fundamental importance of whistleblowers, and the reason Obama is so much against them: They tell the truth about his government.

Then there is this (and I am skipping, trying to take only the fundamental points):

Surveillance data will always be used for other purposes, even if this is prohibited. Once the data has been accumulated and the state has the possibility of access to it, it can misuse that data in dreadful ways, as shown by examples from Europe and the US .

Total surveillance plus vague law provides an opening for a massive fishing expedition against any desired target. To make journalism and democracy safe, we must limit the accumulation of data that is easily accessible to the state.

Yes, precisely. Next, there is this:

To have privacy, you must not throw it away: the first one who has to protect your privacy is you. Avoid identifying yourself to web sites, contact them with Tor, and use browsers that block the schemes they use to track visitors. Use the GNU Privacy Guard to encrypt the contents of your email. Pay for things with cash.

Keep your own data; don't store your data in a company's “convenient” server.
Again, quite so, and these indeed are things you can do yourself. And there is this:

For privacy's sake, you must avoid nonfree software since, as a consequence of giving others control of your computing, it is likely to spy on you. Avoid service as a software substitute; as well as giving others control of your computing, it requires you to hand over all the pertinent data to the server.

Protect your friends' and acquaintances' privacy, too. Don't give out their personal information except how to contact them, and never give any web site your list of email or phone contacts.
Indeed. Since I switched to Ubuntu, I have used Windows only two times, and never connected to the internet. It is quite possible (though I know Ubuntu does not satisfy all Stallman's rules) to avoid nonfree (open source) software, and with Ubuntu I also got more possibilities, also all for free, than I had on MS Windows.

Next, there is this principle:
If we don't want a total surveillance society, we must consider surveillance a kind of social pollution, and limit the surveillance impact of each new digital system just as we limit the environmental impact of physical construction.
Yes, I like this: surveillance is social pollution, and must be limited as much as is both possible and reasonable - which is very far less than is allowed now by the governments and many internet corporations.

And there is also this principle:
To restore privacy, we should ban the use of Internet-connected cameras aimed where and when the public is admitted, except when carried by people.
I agree.

Then there is this fundamental principle:
The goal of making journalism and democracy safe therefore requires that we reduce the data collected about people by any organization, not just by the state. We must redesign digital systems so that they do not accumulate data about their users. If they need digital data about our transactions, they should not be allowed to keep them more than a short time beyond what is inherently necessary for their dealings with us.
Yes, indeed - and this is the condition of freedom: A free people does not need any oversight or surveillance, except in special legal situations, as stated by the Fourth Amendment. And a people that tolerates that it is oversighted and surveilled,
is no longer free.

There is this on smart cards:

Many mass transit systems use some kind of smart cards or RFIDs for payment. These systems accumulate personal data: if you once make the mistake of paying with anything but cash, they associate the card permanently with your name. Furthermore, they record all travel associated with each card. Together they amount to massive surveillance. This data collection must be reduced.

I agree. And there is this on internet providers and telephone companies:

Internet service providers and telephone companies keep extensive data on their users' contacts (browsing, phone calls, etc). With mobile phones, they also record the user's physical location. They keep these dossiers for a long time: over 30 years, in the case of AT&T. Soon they will even record the user's body activities. It appears that the NSA collects cell phone location data in bulk.

Unmonitored communication is impossible where systems create such dossiers. So it should be illegal to create or keep them. ISPs and phone companies must not be allowed to keep this information for very long, in the absence of a court order to surveil a certain party.

Quite so - and indeed that is again a matter of principle: A free people has the right not to be monitored; a people that is monitored is not free.

There is this, in application:
For the state to find criminals, it needs to be able to investigate specific crimes, or specific suspected planned crimes, under a court order. With the Internet, the power to tap phone conversations would naturally extend to the power to tap Internet connections. This power is easy to abuse for political reasons, but it is also necessary. Fortunately, this won't make it possible to find whistleblowers after the fact, if (as I recommend) we prevent digital systems from accumulating massive dossiers before the fact.
Quite so: In fact, the only personal dossiers that should be allowed are those overseen by a public judge, for reasons as given in the Fourth Amendment. That is democratic; what is more than this is not democratic, but is - at least - authoritarian.

Next, there is this, that again is quite fundamental:

Corporations are not people, and not entitled to human rights. It is legitimate to require businesses to publish the details of processes that might cause chemical, biological, nuclear, fiscal, computational (e.g., DRM) or political (e.g., lobbying) hazards to society, to whatever level is needed for public well-being. The danger of these operations (consider the BP oil spill, the Fukushima meltdowns, and the 2008 fiscal crisis) dwarfs that of terrorism.

However, journalism must be protected from surveillance even when it is carried out as part of a business.

Finally, there is this:

Digital technology has brought about a tremendous increase in the level of surveillance of our movements, actions, and communications. It is far more than we experienced in the 1990s, and far more than people behind the Iron Curtain experienced in the 1980s, and would still be far more even with additional legal limits on state use of the accumulated data.

Unless we believe that our free countries previously suffered from a grave surveillance deficit, and ought to be surveilled more than the Soviet Union and East Germany were, we must reverse this increase. That requires stopping the accumulation of big data about people.

Quite so - and as long as people are surveilled as they are now, what they will get, probably a lot sooner than they realize, is a country that is much more like the Soviet Union and East Germany than it is like the U.S. until 2001.

As I said, this is a really good article, and I recommend you read all of it, by clicking the first dotted link.
2. Totalitarianism, American Style 

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on AlterNet:

It turned out that this is mostly the rough text for Hedges' "The Coming Climate Revolt" that I reviewed yesterday. But since I liked most of it and my one major disagreement may be due to my not living in the U.S., and also since there is not much in journalism that I like, here are three quotes.

First, on the present political situation in the U.S.:

We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.

The old liberal class, the safety valve that addressed grievances and injustices in times of economic or political distress, has been neutered. There are self-identified liberals, including Barack Obama, who continue to speak in the old language of liberalism but serve corporate power. This has been true since the Clinton administration.
Second, on Bill Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama:
By the time Clinton was done the rhetoric of self-professed liberals was a public relations game. This is why there is continuity from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Obama’s election did nothing to halt the expanding assault on civil liberties—in fact Obama’s assault has been worse—the Bush bailouts of big banks, the endless imperial wars, the failure to regulate Wall Street, the hiring of corporate lobbyists to write legislation and serve in top government positions, the explosion of drilling and fracking, the security and surveillance state as well as the persecution of government whistle-blowers.
Incidentally, as to how Clinton (and Blair, and Wim Kok and others) operated: See the Third Way (<- Wikipedia), and indeed "the third way" is one of the great examples of intentional bullshit - and here is Bill Black on it, also from the Third Way:
William K. Black said that "Third Way is this group that pretends sometimes to be center-left but is actually completely a creation of Wall Street--it's run by Wall Street for Wall Street with this false flag operation as if it were a center-left group. It's nothing of the sort."
Quite so. Finally, on the Democratic Party:
The Democratic Party speaks to us “rationally.” The party says it seeks to protect civil liberties, regulate Wall Street, is concerned about the plight of the working class and wants to institute reforms to address climate change. But in all these areas, and many more, it has, like its Republican counterpart, repeatedly sold out the citizenry for corporate power and corporate profits (...)
Yes, indeed - or more precisely: The "plight of the working class and (..)
reforms to address climate chang" like their stated desires "to protect civil liberties" and "regulate Wall Street" are - it may be said after six years which saw the continued exploitation of the working class, no action about climate change, many destroyed civil liberties, and a totally deregulated Wall Street that can do as it pleases - just the leftist sounding propaganda by which the rightist Democratic political leaders flimflam their audiences.

3. The Next Crisis – Part one

The next item is an article by Golem XIV on his site:
This starts as follows:
The present global financial ‘crisis’ began in 2007-8. It is not nearly over. And that simple fact is a problem. Not because of the life-choking misery it inflicts on the lives of millions who had no part in its creation, but because the chances of another crisis beginning before this one ends, is increasing.
Yes - both parts are correct: The crisis continues, and indeed it very well may be followed by another crisis. (Indeed it will: the only question is when.)

Then a number of crises are listed, which leads to this conclusion:
America has had a major home-brewed financial crisis every ten years. If you consider that none of these events happened in isolation nor limited their effects to the country of origin then we have to conclude that the global financial system is prone to crises. You can, if you see the world through resolutely libertarian glasses, blame everything on interfering governments – it matters little. The fact remains that the system as is, is unstable and run by the myopic, the greedy and the corrupt.
Well...yes and no: Since Roosevelt the crises that have occurred did not have enormous consequences or a world wide extent; but since Clinton deregulated the banks, the crisis of 2008 was world wide and had enormous consequences.

To see the consequences of bailing out the banks, all with tax money from the ordinary people, here are the official figures of the European Union, where the green bars are debts as percentages of the GDP before the banks were bailed out, and the blue bars the percentages of the GDP after the banks were bailed out:

This is a very interesting statistic - but the matters it charts are often lied about:
Britain’s debt almost doubled and again the ONLY thing that happened was bailing out the banks. The government claims that UK public debt was out of control due to spending on public services is just WRONG. UK government debt against GDP had not gone up in 7 years. Then when we bailed out the banks it nearly doubled. That is the fact as opposed to the propaganda of what happened and why.
And this is on the moral integrity and honesty of nearly all European politicians, left, right and center:
The sudden explosion of European sovereign debt is the direct and indisputable result of all our political parties deciding they would safeguard their mates’ and their own personal wealth (it is the top 10% who hold the bulk of their wealth in the financial products which would be destroyed in a bank collapse. NOT the rest of us!) by bailing out the private banks and piling their unpaid debts on to the public purse.
There is considerably more - and I recommend you read the original - but there also is a part two, that I will deal with tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

4. Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The U.S. today began bombing targets inside Syria, in concert with its lovely and inspiring group of five allied regimes: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan.

That means that Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama—after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq.

The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling indeed: Empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason (indeed, recall that Obama bombed Libya even after Congress explicitly voted against authorization to use force, and very few people seemed to mind that abject act of lawlessness; constitutional constraints are not for warriors and emperors).

Yes, indeed - and Obama's reasons do not matter: what matters is the Constitution, and Greenwald is quite right that (1) the Constitution got betrayed while (2) very few seem to have minded that, in their hysteria - I quote a Fox anchor, on ISIS - to "Bomb them! Bomb them! Bomb them!"

Then there is this, which I think is also correct:

Six weeks of bombing hasn’t budged ISIS in Iraq, but it has caused ISIS recruitment to soar. That’s all predictable: the U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it’s more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.

Yes, for on every bomb made and every bomb thrown a profit is made. Now that may not matter much if the U.S. is directly attacked, but it matters a lot if the countries that are bombed do not attack the U.S. - and they don't.

And then it is quite reasonable to ask: If it is not to protect the U.S., who profits from all the bombing? (The answer is, in general terms: The military-industrial complex, and you should read that Wikipedia lemma if you haven't done so already.)

5. Ian Martin on Labour: ‘I can’t remember a more spineless opposition’ 

The next item is an article by Ian Martin on The Guardian:

This is British, and I will leave it to you, although I have two remarks.

First, I've never pined for a political party, basically because I only was a member for two years of the Dutch Communist Party, from 1968-1970, which I became a member of not because I liked it (I did not), but because of a girl I very much loved, who also was the daughter of a party leader (but she did not want me, and I decided communism was totalitarian and mistaken - and yes: the two events were quite unrelated).

Since then, I stopped voting as soon as I legally could, in 1971, and the main reason for that, and its continuance to this day, is the appalling level of the politicians of all parties (and yes, I have a very high IQ and an excellent M.A. and B.A.: it is not because I am stupid or ignorant).

Second, as to the appalling level of politicians:

I think the Labour Party these days can be honestly described as a top level of deceivers, who all dream of being Tony Blairs, and getting 60 million pounds like him, and who standardly lie and deceive; a middle level of activists, who hope to join the ranks of the deceivers, although here and there there may be a - fairly to very stupid - mostly honest one among them; and a lower level of voters, who believe the bullshit, lies, deceptions, evasions, and the incredible amounts of double talk they are served by the first level, and who get deceived and used.

Also, in case you consider me "a cynic": My judgement on the Labour Party would have been different before Tony Blair gutted it, and made it an instrument for his own career. When he said, in May 1997, after winning the elections "It's a new dawn!" what he meant was: In 10 years I am going to have 60 million pounds - and he did, and nearly everyone who voted for him got poorer.

6. Why Are We Bombing Syria?

The final item today is an article by Denis Kucinich (<- Wikipedia) that I found on Truthdig, but that originated on the Huffington Post:

This starts as follows:

The administration’s response to the conjunction of this weekend’s People’s Climate March and the International Day of Peace?

1) Bomb Syria the following day, to wrest control of the oil from ISIS which gained its foothold directly in the region through the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan funding and arming ISIS’ predecessors in Syria.

2) Send the president to UN General Assembly, where he will inevitably give a rousing speech about climate and peace, while the destruction of the environment and the shattering of world peace is on full display 5,000 miles away.

Indeed - the acts contrasted with the phony rhetorics of power. There is also this:

Last week Congress acted prematurely in funding a war without following the proscriptions of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. (The day of the vote, I urged Congress to resist this dangerous and misguided legislation.) But even while the funding was given, the explicit authorization to go to war was not. To authorize a war, Congress must vote for war. It has not done that yet.

To sell its case, the administration is borrowing from the fear mongering tactics of the Bush administration. ISIS poses no direct, immediate threat to the United States—The White House even said so yesterday, just hours before bombing commenced - yet we are being sold make-believe about ISIS sleeper cells.

This attack on Syria, under the guise of striking ISIS, is by definition, a war of aggression. It is a violation of international law. It could lead to crimes against humanity and the deaths of untold numbers of innocent civilians. No amount of public relations or smooth talking can change that.

And yes, members of this Democratic administration, including the president who executed this policy, must be held accountable by the International Criminal Court and by the American people, who he serves.

Yes - although I believe that the chances that Obama appears before the International Criminal Court are even less than that Kissinger does. But indeed he did break the Constitution that he pledged to uphold, and he started wars he had no right to start.

Here is the last paragraph of Kucinich:

The American people, who in 2008 searched for something redemptive after years of George W. Bush’s war, realize in 2014 that hope and change was but a clever slogan. It was used to gain power and to keep it through promoting fear, war, the growth of the National Security state, and an autumnal bonfire of countless billions of tax dollars which fall like leaves from money trees on the banks of the Potomac.

Yes, indeed. Incidentally, Kucinich was a presidential candidate in 2008. It may be interesting to look at what he proposed, but indeed he was defeated by Obama.


[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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