19, 2014
Crisis: Spying, Privacy, Chomsky, Senate Report, Bill Black, James Risen
  "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

The state wants to spy on us – but is it up to the job?
Privacy should be a human right
3. Chomsky: Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War
     in America

4. Report: Senate Report on CIA Will Sidestep Look at Bush
    'Torture Team'

5. Bill Black: Krugman Bashes Progressives for Criticizing
     Obama on Grounds that He Criticizes Obama

6.  “I’m not going away”: James Risen unloads to Salon
      about his government foes

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 19. It is a
crisis log.

It is Sunday today, but there were some more crisis materials to be found today than yesterday, for there are six items:

Item 1 is on spying, and was a bit disappointing to me, as I explain; item 2 is basically an interview with an Australian writer, who seems to assume privacy is not a human right, whereas it is; item 3 is a long and good interview with Chomsky; item 4 is about the Senate's Report on Torture (still not published); item 5 is about Bill Black's tearing up Paul Krugman's support for Obama; and item 6 is an interview with James Risen.

In fact,
item 3 - an interview with Chomsky - was the most interesting for me. And I will also later today upload an updated version of the last crisis series.

Here goes:

1. The state wants to spy on us – but is it up to the job?

The first item is an article by John Naughton on The Guardian:

John Naughton (<- Wikipedia) is the man who questioned Snowden recently, but it seems that did not go well, indeed not through his or Snowden faults, but because the internet connection to Russia was via a Skype link (owned by Microsoft) that was "comically dysfunctional".

In this article he tries again to discuss the questions he wanted to discuss with Snowden. They are these:

The important thing now, it seems to me, is to consider a new question: given what we now know, what should we do about it? What could we realistically do? Will we, in fact, do anything? And if the latter, where are we heading as democracies?
In fact, the first question, which is a "should" question is not answered, and indeed the problem I see with all questions is that it poses the question to a very amorphous "we": Some of "us" know a fair amount, but it seems to me most of "us" do not, even if they think they do (How many know how to program fairly well, for example? It seems at most 1 in a 100); what "we" could do ("realistically") depends a lot on the support "we" get from politicians and editors, etc.

But OK: Questions like these are fair and fundamental, and in a brief article one must be vague.

To start with the questions:

First, what could we do to curb comprehensive surveillance of the net? The internet engineering community seems determined to do something about it. In its current form, the network is wide open to snooping, because most of its operations are not encrypted.
There is now, according to Naughton, sufficient interest in techie communities to encrypt a considerable part of the stuff that needs encrypting. But this takes time and trouble, and the NSA may be able to get your encryption key.

Even so, this makes a lot of sense - given that politicians by and large do not seem to want or to be able to forbid the NSA's surveilling of everyone, even though forbidding that is both completely legal and very necessary.

Indeed, the political side of the situation is rather or very sick:

(...) democracies need oversight regimes that are effective, technically competent and enjoy public trust. The fallout from Snowden suggests that the oversight regimes in most democracies currently lack some or all of these properties. Fixing that requires political action, and therein lies our biggest problem.
I'd say that nearly all "democracies" I know, including the Dutch one, completely fail all these properties - which is to say: there are no oversight regimes that are effective, competent and trusted - and they completely fail because most of the politicians want surveillance, because most of the politicians these days are politicians because they are interested in their own careers, much rather than helping others (which anyway is frowned upon). Besides, very few politicians understand much about computers.

Then there is this:

Security is a function of two things: the scale of a possible harm and the probability that it will happen. (...)  In thinking about surveillance and counter-terrorism we need some way of reaching collectively agreed judgments about how the “balance” should be struck.
No. The main problem is that almost no one outside a few government officials, who are very tight lipped, knows much that is useful and is based on real evidence that allows one to give rational scales of possible harm and rational probabilities for their occurence.

Besides, since the problem really is technical and difficult, and also being very secretive and classified, there is no rational way that "we" readers of the Guardian, say (for it is nearly always a problem to say who "we" are), can come to "
reaching collectively agreed judgments".

Of course, if the three "
rational" provisos are dropped, wishful thinking enters and anything is possible, but I do not want to go down that road, and therefore simply say no: presently this requires far too much from "us".

Finally, there is this question, that I suppose is about the effective yield of all the surveilling that is going on:

Why, despite all the snooping, for example, did our intelligence services not pick up the Islamic State threat? And how cost-effective is it? The US currently spends over $100bn a year on counter-terrorism. God alone knows how much the UK spends. Are we getting real value for all this taxpayers’ money? I’d like to know. Wouldn’t you?
Again no, and for at least two distinct reasons.

The first is that absolutely no one in England except the GCHQ and possibly a few governmental officials knows what is really happening in the GCHQ or indeed why it is happening. Almost all that anybody else does know is that the English government tolerates that absolutely anyone in England is being spied upon, but not really what that is for, that is: other than giving enormous powers to the government, which I think it should not have, at least not in anything called "democracy".

Second, the question is far too much like this one: Supposing the British government, in its great Tory millionaires' wisdom, has decided school inspectors and teachers may rape your small children to teach them the necessary hardiness to deal with teenage sexuality. You are not going to ask: "Well, let's first find out whether it is really true that raping my children will give them better chances" - you are going to insist stopping it immediately and totally, and quite rightly so.

It is quite similar with surveilling everyone: it is plain and obvious theft of materials that ought to be private in nearly any case; it is totally undemocratic; and it is for giving goverments powers that no one should have, for no one can be trusted with knowing everything about anyone.

2. Privacy should be a human right 

The next item is an article by Luke Harding on The Guardian:

This is in fact a long interview with the Australian author Peter Carey that I selected because of its title. Here are two bits from it.

"Whether one likes Assange or not, the fact remains that there have been these three individuals who in different ways have changed the history of our time. Edward Snowden is one, Bradley Manning another, and Assange one more," Carey says. He describes Snowden as "an exceptionally courageous man". "I was just thrilled that someone was making the reality of our lives known to us. The only thing that surprised me about Snowden is that I automatically assumed he was of the left." In fact Snowden – or at least the early Snowden of the chatrooms – is a conservative and a fan of Ron Paul's.

Yes - and notice that Manning is for a very long time in prison; Assange is locked up in the Ecudorian embassy; and Snowden is living in Moscow. I agree all three are admirable persons, but these are the sad facts.

As to Snowden's being leftish, supposedly: In fact, I did not make that assumption. My reasons were mostly that I thought that the materials he did give to Glenn Greenwald and others were so serious that anyone with a conscience would be much moved by them (which shows something about the spread of conscience: indeed I do not think it is widespread, especially not in governments, politicians and bureaucrats); that I had no idea who he was; and that "being left" also means rather different things in the U.S. and in Europe.

But this is not very important, it seems.

As to what inspired the title:
"Privacy should be a fundamental human right," he says. "We've been tricked out of it to a great degree by giving up little bits of it along the way, because it's easier to give some information to Amazon or to Walmart or to whatever it is. So the water is getting hotter and hotter. We are used to being in the warm bath. We are putting up with it. But it is sort of evil, I guess." He adds: "We should be able to keep our information, our conversations private."

After the era of "George Bush and those criminals", in Carey's words, we have ended up in a place where the state helps itself to our private data. Things are worse than most of us realise, he believes. "It's more nightmarish than we can normally really allow ourselves to see. It's like amnesia in that sense: that you can't afford to see what you have done or where you are. Because if you did, you would be in deep despair."

Well... I do agree, but also privacy is a human right, even though Obama and his government like to forget it. Here is article 12 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
I'd say that the present status of that article is that the American, the English and many other governments act - very brazenly - as if they read as follows:
Everybody shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home and correspondence. No one has any right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

For that is what is happening, thanks to the elected politicians, indeed of nearly all stripes and colors.

3. Chomsky: Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America 

The next item is an article that is based on an excerpt of Noam Chomsky's "Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity". The interview was by Chris Steele:
I will have to select, but this is an interesting interview (not all interviews with Chomsky are).

First, there is this on the concept of class war:

Well, there’s always a class war going on. The United States, to an unusual extent, is a business-run society, more so than others. The business classes are very class-conscious—they’re constantly fighting a bitter class war to improve their power and diminish opposition. Occasionally this is recognized.

We don’t use the term “working class” here because it’s a taboo term. You’re supposed to say “middle class,” because it helps diminish the understanding that there’s a class war going on.

I have to admit that I do not have much sympathy with the concept of class war.

The reason is probably that although my parents were prominent communists and I believed them the first twenty years of my life for the most part, but I could not see any warring classes even then. I saw poor and rich, and working and non-working people, and demonstrations and (many more) inactive people, but I did not see classes, and I still find it very difficult to think in these concepts.

Then again, this may be mostly private, and I agree there are the rich and the poor, and their interests are generally opposed, mostly because the many poor make most of the riches that the rich in fact appropriate nearly all.

Next, there is this on "America The Exceptional, The Indispensable" (both Obama's terms, if not only his):

The enormous benefits given to the very wealthy, the privileges for the very wealthy here, are way beyond those of other comparable societies and are part of the ongoing class war. Take a look at CEO salaries. CEOs are no more productive or brilliant here than they are in Europe, but the pay, bonuses, and enormous power they get here are out of sight.
This is true - but (1) fashions spread, especially those based on grandiose simplifications that are pushed by propaganda, and (2) it also seems to me as if there is far more mostly hidden GOP propaganda addressed to European politicians than they allow there is, namely because (3) the same American tricks and terms - e.g. appropriating leftists' ideals verbally but selling them as if they can only be realized by rightists' means - have been very speedily copied in Europe, and since the middle 90ies at the latest.

Then there is this on the spreading of power:

The bottom 70 percent or so are virtually disenfranchised; they have almost no influence on policy, and as you move up the scale you get more influence. At the very top, you basically run the show.
Yes. And one basic reason is that people who do not belong to the top of the existing political leaders have no access to the regular press, and especially not with scandalous or dangerous stories, however much these are based on facts. [2]

There are - still - some exceptions to this rule (that is effective in Holland for at least 25 years, and probably all the time there was "a free press"), but these are due to the continued existence of a few decent papers like The Guardian and a few decent sites like Truthdig! and Common Dreams.

There are more, and not only in English, but it certainly is these days not the majority nor even a sizable minority: most modern "journalists" in the West are no longer real journalists, but paid propagandists who mostly write what they are told.

Next, there is this about current social tendencies:

The same is happening across the board. There are major efforts being made to dismantle Social Security, the public schools, the post office—anything that benefits the population has to be dismantled. Efforts against the U.S. Postal Service are particularly surreal. I’m old enough to remember the Great Depression, a time when the country was quite poor but there were still postal deliveries. Today, post offices, Social Security, and public schools all have to be dismantled because they are seen as being based on a principle that is regarded as extremely dangerous.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.

Yes, indeed: In fact the rightwing rich have succeeded in making believe a large segment of ordinary people their own ideology: "Everybody can be rich! Who isn't rich is a looser! Greed is good! Egoism is natural! Get all you can - only monetary profits count! Be a degenerate and greedy egoist, and you'll be a rich success!"

The reasons they have succeeded are largely that half of the people who get born have an IQ not higher than 100, which allows them to believe absolutely anything, provided it is brought to them in really simple terms, while nearly everyone, also those with high IQs and little money, is offered a lousy education, that doesn't teach so much as trying to adapt people to the social norms, which are those of the big corporations who employ most.

Next, Chomsky mentions the Mondragon collective, which is Spanish and something he approves of. I hadn't heard of it, and it does sound interesting, and it also has a Wikipedia link, under another title:

This you have look up yourself, but the Wikipedia-entry is interesting, and does show an alternative to capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face that seems quite workable and effective.

Next, there is this on the power of propaganda/public relations:

In the United States, the advertising and public relations industry is huge. Back in the more honest days, they called it propaganda. Now the term doesn’t sound nice, so it’s not used anymore, but it’s basically a huge propaganda system which is designed very extensively for quite specific purposes.

First of all, it has to undermine markets by trying to create irrational, uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. That’s what advertising is about, the opposite of what a market is supposed to be, and anybody who turns on a television set can see that for themselves. It has to do with monopolization and product differentiation, all sorts of things, but the point is that you have to drive the population to irrational consumption, which does separate them from one another.

Yes, quite so - and again I note that half of the population has an IQ under 100, and has swallowed this complete irrationality - "Brand Awareness!" - as if it came from heaven.

And Chomsky is quite right that while this is furthered in terms of "freedom" and "free markets", it in fact is aimed at constraining both freedom and free markets as much as possible.

Not only that:

The other thing they need to do is undermine democracy the same way, so they run campaigns, political campaigns mostly run by PR agents. It’s very clear what they have to do. They have to create uninformed voters who will make irrational decisions, and that’s what the campaigns are about. Billions of dollars go into it, and the idea is to shred democracy, restrict markets to service the rich, and make sure the power gets concentrated, that capital gets concentrated and the people are driven to irrational and self-destructive behavior.

Yes, indeed. As I said: This is a good interview, and you can read all of it by clicking the first dotted link in this section.

4. Report: Senate Report on CIA Will Sidestep Look at Bush 'Torture Team'

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

According to new reporting by McClatchy, the five-year investigation led by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee into the torture program conducted by the CIA in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 will largely ignore the role played by high-level Bush administration officials, including those on the White House legal team who penned memos that ultimately paved the way for the torture's authorization.

Though President Obama has repeatedly been criticized for not conducting or allowing a full review of the torture that occured during his predecessor's tenure, the Senate report—which has been completed, but not released—has repeatedly been cited by lawmakers and the White House as the definitive examination of those policies and practices. According to those with knowledge of the report who spoke with McClatchy, however, the review has quite definite limitations.

The report, one person who was not authorized to discuss it told McClatchy, "does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.” Instead, the focus is on the actions and inations of the CIA and whether or not they fully informed Congress about those activities. "It’s not about the president," the person said. "It’s not about criminal liability."

I am not amazed. There is considerably more under the last dotted link, but the title sums it up adequately: These folks will all be spared, not harmed, not criticized and will not have to appear in court:
In addition to the president himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, others considered part of what it sometimes referred to as the "Torture Team," include: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney's chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon's general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the specific legal memos authorizing specific forms of abuse.
5. Bill Black: Krugman Bashes Progressives for Criticizing Obama on Grounds that He Criticizes Obama

The next item is an article by Bill Black on Naked Capitalism:
This starts as follows:

Paul Krugman’s admirers would never list modesty as one of his characteristics. He has written a column “In Defense of Obama” that begins by explaining that his criticisms of President Obama were correct, but that unidentified others’ criticisms of Obama constitute “trash talk.”

Specifically, Obama “came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain.” Obama sought to produce a self-inflicted disaster by desperately trying to reach a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans that would have inflicted austerity on our Nation in 2012, “slash[ed] Social Security and [raised] the Medicare [eligibility] age.” As even Krugman admits, we were saved from this catastrophe “only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions” to achieve the Grand Bargain. What Krugman omits in the tale is that it was also a revolt by Democratic progressives against the Grand Bargain that saved Obama and the Nation.

Krugman does not, in this column, explain the consequences and implications of the disaster that Obama tried so hard to inflict on us. First, it would help the reader to inform them that achieving the Grand Bargain became Obama’s top domestic priority.
Readers doubtless would have found it useful to know that that Obama ran for office on the promise of protecting Social Security and Medicare from the cuts he sought to inflict. They also would find it useful to know that once Obama legitimized attacking the safety net programs it would make them fair game for unilateral Republican attacks on the safety net when they took control of the White House.

Krugman blames Obama’s effort to enter into the Grand Betrayal as occurring because Obama was “naïve.” He presents no support for that claim. Contemporaneous press accounts – based on leaks from the White House – revealed that Obama was motivated by a desire for fame. The Grand Bargain was to be his legacy and the fact that the Grand Bargain betrayed his supporters was the factor that demonstrated that he was a statesman. Democratic Presidents establish that they are “serious” by publicly betraying and deriding their progressive base.

There is a lot more there. I think it is quite convincing, but you can compare, for this is the article Bill Black targets:

6. “I’m not going away”: James Risen unloads to Salon about his government foes

The last item today is an article by Elias Isquith on Salon:
This starts as follows:

James Risen, the New York Times reporter responsible in part for the 2005 Times bombshell on the Bush administration’s use of warrantless surveillance — which is widely seen as one of the seminal pieces of journalism of its era — has plenty of experience when it comes to battling the federal government. Not only in his celebrated investigative reports but, perhaps more prominently, in the courts, where for years he’s held his ground in refusing government demands that he reveal a confidential source.

For Risen, in other words, fighting the post-9/11 national security state is a full-time job, albeit one for which he never truly applied. But while he may be at a profound disadvantage when it comes to defending himself (and, some would say, his profession) in our federal courts, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War,” his new exposé of the malfeasance and waste behind the war on terror, offers ample evidence that he’s still a Pulitzer Prize winner when it comes to combat on the page. Salon spoke with Risen this week to discuss his book (...)
The rest - the main part - is an interesting interview that I will leave to your interests (if only because the present Nederlog is longt enough).

[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.)

[2] I have been trying for 20 years to get heard about the facts that I have been gassed (and have been lying unconscious on the floor) by the corrupt drugseploiting owner of the house I lived in, and kept out of sleep for over 4 years, which the mayor of Amsterdam never even acknowledged, all because he and/or his lawyers helped turn over at least 10 billion dollars of illegal drugs each year, God knows for how much profit to themselves - and 5% of 10 billion is a mere measly 500 million dollars a year, that must ne considered too low an amount to corrupt the heroic Dutch politicians - but I have never even been received by a Dutch journalist all these years.

This major Dutch sickness has been going on now for over 30 years now - and no Dutch paper, no Dutch judge, no Dutch politician has ever made any protest.

This explains also how the Dutch could tolerate the killing of 1% of their total population during WW II: Few really cared - and many believed the propaganda that the people who were to be killed were "of an inferior race".

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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