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Nederlog


  October
1, 2014
Crisis: Extinction, NSA etc., Sanders, Isis, Extremism, Holder, The Guardian, Apple
  "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
















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Sections
Introduction

1.
Planet on the Brink: Human Activity Killing the Planet's
     Life-Supporting Systems

2.
 Failure Is Success: How American Intelligence Works in
     the Twenty-First Century

3. Bernie Sanders: Longterm Democratic strategy is
     “pathetic”

4. Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim
     world?

5. ‘Extremism disruption orders’: it’s the IRA broadcasting
     ban all over again

6.  Eric Holder raises concerns over privacy advances by
      tech companies

7.  The Guardian wins an Emmy for coverage of NSA
      revelations

8.  Apple may have to repay billions from Irish government
      tax deal

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 1. It is a
crisis log.

There are eight items and nine dotted links, and there are quite a few interesting items, especially items 1, 2 and 3.

1.  Planet on the Brink: Human Activity Killing the Planet's Life-Supporting Systems

The first item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Human activity has brought the planet's life-supporting systems to the brink of tipping points, causing an "alarming" loss in biodiversity and critical threats to the services nature has provided humankind.

So finds the newest state of the planet report (pdf) from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which offers a damning look on the health of the Earth.

"We're gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life," stated Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF.

Among the report's findings is a dramatic loss in biodiversity. Its Living Planet Index, managed by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and based on over 10,000 populations of over 3,000 species, shows a 52 percent decline in global wildlife between 1970 and 2010. And that's a trend that "shows no sign of slowing down."

Among the causes of the decline are climate change, habitat loss and degradation, and exploitation.

Breaking these losses down further, the report states that populations of freshwater species have declined 76 percent, compared to losses of 39 percent each for marine species and terrestrial populations.

In fact, here is a graphic (from The Young Turks, who borrowed it from the WWF - and I am sorry for having had to squeeze it a little to fit in):

There is more in the article, but all I want to do here is to note that Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was first published in 1962, while Dennis Meadow's
"The Limits to Growth" was first published in 1972: it is not as if nobody knew,
nor as if nobody warned.

2. Failure Is Success: How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt that I found on Common Dreams but that originated on tomdispatch:

This starts as follows:

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for... well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of "spycraft" gains its own name: LOVEINT. major intelligence outfits. You build them

You listen in on foreign leaders and politicians across the planet.  You bring on board hundreds of thousands of crony corporate employees, creating the sinews of an intelligence-corporate complex of the first order.  You break into the “backdoors” of the data centers of major Internet outfits to collect user accounts.  You create new outfits within outfits, including an ever-expanding secret military and intelligence crew embedded inside the military itself (and not counted among those 17 agencies).  Your leaders lie to Congress and the American people without, as far as we can tell, a flicker of self-doubt.  Your acts are subject to secret courts, which only hear your versions of events and regularly rubberstamp them -- and whose judgments and substantial body of lawmaking are far too secret for Americans to know about.
This continues for quite a while - and you should read the original - and then comes to this conclusion:

Whatever the case, while taxpayer dollars flowed into your coffers, no one considered it a problem that the country lacked 17 overlapping outfits bent on preventing approximately 400,000 deaths by firearms in the same years; nor 17 interlocked agencies dedicated to safety on our roads, where more than 450,000 Americans have died since 9/11.  (An American, it has been calculated, is 1,904 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.)  Almost all the money and effort have instead been focused on the microscopic number of terrorist plots -- some spurred on by FBI plants -- that have occurred on American soil in that period.  On the conviction that Americans must be shielded from them above all else and on the fear that 9/11 bred in this country, you’ve built an intelligence structure unlike any other on the planet when it comes to size, reach, and labyrinthine complexity.

It’s quite an achievement, especially when you consider its one downside: it has a terrible record of getting anything right in a timely way.
Again there is a lot more, which I think you should read: It is a very good overview of what the 17 American intelligence agencies have wrought for their 68 billion in tax dollars each year: Extremely little, in so far as this relates to terrorism, for they tended strongly not to know what is really happening.

The two possible criticisms I have (but the article is very good) are that (1) I have never believed the surveillance state these agencies have created were primarily directed against terrorism (in which they also fail, intentionally or not): they were primarily for surveilling what everyone does and making dossiers of that, and (2) I see these surveilling activities, that continue and continue, as some of the signs of the arrival of a new authoritarian state, that is designed to replace democracy, though indeed more is needed for that than the dossiers that have been compiled by these agencies on anyone who does not conform.

But as I said, you should read all of this article.

3. Bernie Sanders: Longterm Democratic strategy is “pathetic”

The next item is an article by Thomas Frank on Salon:
In fact, this is a long and good interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, who is one of the very few senators that I can take seriously. Again I think you should read all of it, but I give four quotations, all by Sanders. Please note these are small pieces from the interview, that comprises much more.

Here is the first quotation, about wealth and income:

I give a lot of speeches and large crowds come out. People are very, very concerned about the overall impact of income and wealth inequality in terms of morality, in terms of economics, in terms of—with Citizens United—what it means to our political system.

The Koch brothers are not tucking their money under the mattress. They’re spending it very significantly trying to buy elections so that candidates representing the wealthy are going to get elected. So it is a huge issue, which people are keenly concerned about. But you have a Congress significantly dependent on the one percent for their campaign contributions and you have the media that is owned by multinational corporations who are not excited about dealing with this issue.

And this is the next quotation, on what I think is the major American problem: The enormous income inequalities. Also, Senator Sanders considers these enormous inequalities very good evidence that in fact the present U.S. is an oligarchy or also a plutocracy (and I agree):
So if you look at the grotesque distribution of wealth in America, in which the top 1 percent today own 37 percent of the wealth, and the bottom 60 percent own 1.7 percent of the wealth; where one family—the Walton family, of Wal-Mart—own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent; where the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, that smacks to me like oligarchy.

And what it is, is the worst level of wealth inequality that exists among major countries, and worse than any time since 1929, before the Great Depression. That’s wealth. And then if you look at income since the Wall Street crash [of 2008], 95 percent of all new income generated in America goes to the top 1 percent. That smacks to me like oligarchy.

Next, this is about Sanders' appraisal of his own position:

But, at the end of the day, when you talk about where the American people are and what they need, I think what they want and need is a progressive agenda which addresses the needs of a collapsing middle class: Many, many people living in poverty; high unemployment; 40 million people without any health insurance; a campaign finance system rigged for the rich; a climate change situation where if we don’t take aggressive action, the planet is in serious trouble.

I am comfortable in saying that, as a progressive, I think my agenda is — not in all cases, but in most cases — actually what the American people want. And, by the way, not just Democrats.

My final quotation is about something I regularly worry about: The intellectual level and the knowledge of the average person:
I start off, Thomas, from the position that we need a political revolution in this country and that’s not just rhetoric. What I mean by that is that we need—and a president certainly can play a very, very important role in this—we need a massive change in citizen participation and in political consciousness. There was a poll that just came out I think yesterday. Gallup tells us that… I believe it is 63 percent of the American people cannot name which parties control the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. So you have consciousness so low, a significant majority of the American people who are very concerned about what’s going on for themselves and their kids, they don’t know who controls the House and the Senate. They can’t name which party controls both bodies. You have what the political scientists tell us is a situation where in this coming election, 60 percent of the American people will not bother to vote.
I agree, and it is pleasant to see a prominent politician who says this, even though this is also one of the main dangers for his own political program.

4. Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at Islamic State (Isis), when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?

How about blasting the Shia militias in Iraq? One of them selected 40 people from the streets of Baghdad in June and murdered them for being Sunnis. Another massacred 68 people at a mosque in August. They now talk openly of “cleansing” and “erasure” once Isis has been defeated. As a senior Shia politician warns, “we are in the process of creating Shia al-Qaida radical groups equal in their radicalisation to the Sunni Qaida”.

What humanitarian principle instructs you to stop there?

Indeed, also seeing the very humanitarian inspirations of Cameron and the UK parliament:

The humanitarian arguments aired in parliament last week, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East and west Asia. By this means you could end all human suffering, liberating the people of these regions from the vale of tears in which they live.

Perhaps this is the plan: Barack Obama has now bombed seven largely Muslim countries, in each case citing a moral imperative. The result, as you can see in Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan,Yemen, Somalia and Syria, has been the eradication of jihadi groups, of conflict, chaos, murder, oppression and torture. Evil has been driven from the face of the Earth by the destroying angels of the west.

In case you did not know: This is satire, but indeed it is justified by the moral stances of Western governments. There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and it ceases to be satirical at the end.

5. ‘Extremism disruption orders’: it’s the IRA broadcasting ban all over again

The next item is an article by Jean Seaton on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Theresa May, backed by a casually enthusiastic prime minister on the Today programme, has suggested that a ban on some nonviolent extremist groups and speakers appearing on television and social media should be introduced. It seems a shame neither politician seems to have spoken to that wily, principled Conservative former home secretary Douglas Hurd before they proposed something as unworkable, ineffective and dangerous.

Hurd, pushed by Margaret Thatcher but also perhaps by a bomb in Belfast, introduced a “broadcasting ban” in 1988 against the IRA and other “extremist” organisations’ spokespeople. This was put in place because the alternative – proscribing organisations that held seats in the Commons – would have been worse. It would have damaged the constitution and parliament, so the broadcasters were sacrificed instead.

I agree the idea of May and Cameron is pretty crazy - but it may succeed.
Then again, I agree with Jean Seaton it is not the British way as I understand
it - and indeed she has a fine quotation by "one weary legal officer" from 1987:

“Many people want to ban many things. Many people want to ban things they do not like. But there is no evidence that any such ban is effective. It is not the British way. The British way is to hold up vile people to account and scrutiny.”

Quite so. And I am against censorship.

6. Eric Holder raises concerns over privacy advances by tech companies

The next item is an article by Dominic Rushe on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

US attorney general Eric Holder said on Tuesday he was worried that attempts by technology companies to increase privacy protections were thwarting attempts to crack down on child exploitation.

Speaking at the biannual Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online in Washington, Holder warned that encryption and other privacy technologies are being used by sexual predators to create “more opportunities to entice trusting minors to share explicit images of themselves.”

This shows you what manner of man Eric Holder is: He wants to surveil everyone because... this might catch some child pornographers. (And see the opening mottos for the crisis series.)

Happily, there is also this in the article:

His comments come as Apple, Google and others have sought to increase the use of encryption in the wakes of the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosure of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive domestic spying operations.
(...)
All the major tech firms are now working on giving customers’ greater control of their information. Apple’s move came shortly before Google, DropBox and others announced the launch of Simply Secure, a group that aims to make encryption and other privacy tools more readily available in consumer-friendly formats.

O yes, as to child pornography, that indeed I don't like: Holder can try to catch them, but there is the Fourth Amendment, which he always seems to forget:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

That is: You can spy on child pornographers, if you have some evidence. But you cannot spy on everyone in order to catch some sleazy criminals: That is not the democratic way.

7. The Guardian wins an Emmy for coverage of NSA revelations

The next item is an article by Helen Davidson on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The Guardian US has won an Emmy for its groundbreaking coverage of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance by US intelligence agencies.

The Guardian’s multimedia interactive feature NSA Decoded was announced as the winner in the new approaches: current news category at the news and documentary Emmy awards in New York on Tuesday night.

The comprehensive interactive walks the audience through the facts and implications of the NSA’s mass surveillance program, revealed by the Guardian last year in coverage based on leaks by Snowden.

The interactive includes interviews and discussions with key players including the journalist Glenn Greenwald, former NSA employees, senators and members of US congress.

The project was led by interactives editor and reporter Gabrielle Dance, reporter Ewen MacAskill and producers Fielding Cage and Greg Chen.

And very well-deserved it is! Incidentally, the link to
is very well worth looking into, and is therefore repeated here.

8. Apple may have to repay billions from Irish government tax deal

The next and last item if today is an article by Charles Arthur and Samuel Gibbs on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Apple may have to repay tax linked to billions of euros of revenues after Brussels criticised “illegal state aid” that the US group received through deals with the Irish government between 1991 and 2007.

The European commission formally opened an investigation into the deal on Tuesday as the outgoing competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, warned that the recipient of any illegal state aid – in this case Apple – would be liable to repay it.

The investigation, which could take up to 18 months to conclude, comes as European governments become increasingly critical of tax arrangements used by US technology companies to shift revenues to low-tax countries. Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have all come under scrutiny for the methods they use to cut the tax they pay on their non-US revenues, especially for transactions in the EU.

I say. There is rather a lot more in the article, and indeed it seems more likely that they have to pay back between a 100 million and 800 million pounds, for this specific misdemeanor - Irish state aid for Apple - but this seems an advance, though the investigation has just started.
---------------------------------
Notes
[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)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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