23, 2014
Crisis: Torture, Snowden, Obama, Pentagon, Greenwald on Privacy, Personal
  "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 truth about torture is Obama never wants you to
     find it

How Edward Snowden Changed Journalism
3. Right-Wing Publication Tries to Claim That Obama Is a

4. Don’t Ask the Pentagon Where Its Money Goes
5. Glenn Greenwald: hy privacy matters
6. Personal: I still easily follow spoken Norwegian

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 23. It is a
crisis log.

There are six items with seven dotted links: Item 1 is about torture and Obama's evident wish to not reveal anything about it; item 2 is about how Edward Snowden changed journalism; item 3 is a - quite plausible - case that Obama's policies (unlike his talk) are conservative; item 4 is about the Pentagon and its financial irresponsibility; item 5 is the text of a talk by Glenn Greenwald on privacy; and item 6 is a personal item that will interest few, because it is about Norway and Norwegian: I still both read and listen to Norwegian and understand what is said (in spite of the fact that the last Norwegian I heard - till yesterday - is from 1977).

Here goes - and I should say this Nederlog got written and uploaded a bit earlier than is normal:

1. The truth about torture is Obama never wants you to find it

The first item is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

If people knew the details of what [the CIA] actually did to hack into the Senate computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It’s straight out of a movie. —US Senate ‘source’

The cover-up of the CIA’s secret surveillance on the US Senate Intelligence Committee is only getting deeper. As the Huffington Post’s Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim reported on Tuesday afternoon, a still-classified Inspector General report alleges CIA officials “impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation” while Senate staffers were completing their now infamous – but still somehow unreleased – report on the CIA’s Bush-era torture program.
I am not amazed. Note that it is the Senate's duty to control the CIA. But
nobody in the American government seems to care:
You would think the White House might be aghast at such revelations, given that it’s the Senate Intelligence Committee’s job to oversee the CIA. But instead of worrying about the Constitution or legal violations, all the Obama administration seems to care about is saving CIA director John Brennan’s ass. There have already been multiple calls for Brennan to resign since he lied to the public about spying on the Senate. And now the White House seems intent on siding with the CIA director beyond all reason.
And therefore:
The intel committee voted to release of some of its 6,000-page report way back in April, and we still have no idea when the public will learn the full truth about Abu Ghraib, the secret rendition facilities, and all the rest of the Bush atrocities – despite repeated assurances that we will. The release date has gone from July, to August, to September, and now to the end of October (...)
As Timm says:
At this point, it’s becoming hard to believe anything Obama says about torture. The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reported Sunday that this administration is considering reinstating the Bush administration’s absurd interpretation of the United Nations treaty against torture, signed by the US decades ago, so that the US can claim the UN actually meant that any torture happening outside one’s own country essentially, you know, doesn’t count. Military and intelligence lawyers “say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts.” Really? I thought we stopped torturing people five years ago.
2. How Edward Snowden Changed Journalism 

The next item is an article by Steve Coll on The New Yorker:

Actually, I do not know whether you'll be able to read this conveniently (I had to click away quite a lot with a Firefox Add-On) but I will only need two points.

First, there is this:

It had been evident for some time before Snowden surfaced that best practices in investigative reporting and source protection needed to change—in large part, because of the migration of journalism (and so many other aspects of life) into digital channels. The third reporter Snowden supplied with National Security Agency files, Barton Gellman, of the Washington Post, was well known in his newsroom as an early adopter of encryption. But it has been a difficult evolution, for a number of reasons.

Reporters communicate copiously; encryption makes that habit more cumbersome. Most reporters don’t have the technical skills to make decisions on their own about what practices are effective and efficient.
That is, in other words: Snowden has helped journalists to change their practices, and to use encryption much more, but this also made life more difficult for journalists.

Second, as to the U.S. government:
In fashioning balanced practices for reporters, it is critical to ask how often and in what ways governments—ours and others—systematically target journalists’ communications in intelligence collection. For all his varied revelations about surveillance, this is an area where Snowden’s files have been less than definitive. It seems safe to assume the worst, but, as for the American government’s practices, there are large gaps in our understanding. White House executive orders, the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might all be grounds for targeting journalists for certain kinds of collection. Yet the government has never disclosed its policies, or the history of its actual practices following the September 11th attacks.
Indeed it is safe to assume the worst if - as is the case the U.S. - "government has never disclosed its policies, or the history of its actual practices following the September 11th attacks" - for this means that the government had maintained unconstititutional secrecy for 13 years now, which in turn can only be explained by supposing it wants to keep secret "its policies, or the history of its actual practices".

3. Right-Wing Publication Tries to Claim That Obama Is a Conservative 

The next item is an article by Luke Brinker on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:

President Barack Obama “has governed as a moderate conservative,” former Reagan administration domestic policy aide Bruce Bartlett writes in a new essay for the eclectic American Conservative magazine.

Bartlett, an economic policy expert who left the Republican Party amid disgust with President George W. Bush’s fiscal policies and backed Obama in 2008, contends that a look at Obama’s track record reveals a president who’s basically a liberal Republican of yore. From the beginning of his administration, Bartlett argues, Obama has charted a center-right course on both foreign and domestic policy issues.

Populating his administration with hawks like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama has presided over new military engagements abroad while overseeing a draconian crackdown on national security leaks at home, Bartlett notes.

There is more there, and again more in the essay by Bruce Bartlett linked above, and I think Bartlett is quite right: Obama was consistently center-right in his policies (not in his talks: his talks are center-left) from the start.

The reason this piece is here is mainly to clarify that last point.

4. Don’t Ask the Pentagon Where Its Money Goes 

The next item is an article by Medea Benjamin on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

President Barack Obama proudly signed the law that repealed the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, freeing lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans (although not trans people) to openly serve in the military four years ago.

But when it comes to budgeting, the concept lingers on. “Don’t ask us how we spend money,” the Pentagon basically says. “Because we can’t really tell you.”

Every taxpayer, business, and government agency in America is supposed to be able to pass a financial audit by the feds, every year. It’s the law, so we do our duty. There’s one exception: the Pentagon.

Year after year, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) declares the Pentagon budget to be un-auditable. In 2013, for example, the GAO found that the Pentagon consistently fails to control its costs, measure its performance, or prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse.

Congress thankfully, did give the Pentagon a deadline to get itself in better financial shape — 25 years ago. Taxpayers are still waiting.

Not only that:

The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 requires every federal agency to pass a routine financial audit not once, not twice, but every year. All the other agencies do it

What does the Pentagon deliver instead? Promises. The Defense Department always swears it will conduct an audit — and then requests five more years to do it.

How has Congress responded? By doubling the Pentagon’s budget between 2000 and 2010. Many members are now railing against “cuts” that will still keep military spending at stratospheric levels over the next decade.

And the Pentagon got $ 555 billion for 2015...

5. Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters

The next item is the text of a speech by Glenn Greenwald. This is a TED-talk, and what I link to is not the talk itself but its verbal record:

This starts as follows, and is a good talk:
There is an entire genre of YouTube videos devoted to an experience which I am certain that everyone in this room has had. It entails an individual who, thinking they're alone, engages in some expressive behavior — wild singing, gyrating dancing, some mild sexual activity — only to discover that, in fact, they are not alone, that there is a person watching and lurking, the discovery of which causes them to immediately cease what they were doing in horror. The sense of shame and humiliation in their face is palpable. It's the sense of, "This is something I'm willing to do only if no one else is watching."

This is the crux of the work on which I have been singularly focused for the last 16 months, the question of why privacy matters, a question that has arisen in the context of a global debate, enabled by the revelations of Edward Snowden that the United States and its partners, unbeknownst to the entire world, has converted the Internet, once heralded as an unprecedented tool of liberation and democratization, into an unprecedented zone of mass, indiscriminate surveillance.

For the rest, which is good, click the last dotted link.

Personal: I still easily follow spoken Norwegian

Finally, a personal item that will probably interest few, indeed in part because it is about Norwegian, which few people know well, and in part because the writer Jens Bjørneboe, two of whose interviews I saw and listened to yesterday, that I will link to below, also speaks Norwegian, as indeed is quite natural because he was a Norwegian: it turned out - after more than 37 years - that I still can follow spoken Norwegian quite easily.

As I have said in Nederlog (which now is in its 11th year) I have lived for over 2 1/2 years in Norway, namely from 1975 till 1977, and I should have stayed there, which very probably would not have made me ill and would have provided me with an academic career.

But such is life, and indeed I really could not foresee that I would fall ill on 1.1.1979 and never get better, which is what happened.

Part of the reason I made the wrong decision in 1977 is that I had arrived in Norway by accident: I lived in Amsterdam in 1974 with a Norwegian girlfriend, and we decided we wanted to go on holiday for a few months in the beginning of 1975, and thought about Italy or Greece. It became Norway because my girl-
friend could rent a house in Dovre very cheaply, and I said OK because I did like to see what Norway was like.

That is how I arrived in Norway on 1.1.1975, planning to stay only for two or three months, without any Norwegian also, because my girlfriend and I always spoke English, and indeed in the beginning I was not even capable of marking the beginnings and endings of Norwegian words.

But it turned out that written Norwegian - Riksmalet [2] - was quite easy to follow within - at most - one or two months of trying to read the paper, and while spoken Norwegian took some more time, I read and spoke a fair amount of Norwegian by the sommer of 1975, when my girlfriend and I made money by milking cows high up in the mountains.

In fact, learning Norwegian was quite easy, and I did it even without consulting most of the book I was supposed to learn it from, because that was both very boring and quite bad.

When I returned to Holland in 1977 I took with me some Norwegian books, mostly though not only by
Jens Bjørneboe (1920-1976), who was one of Norway's greatest writers of the 20th century, and indeed I still read these easily and without any trouble, just as I also found out in 2009, when I got fast internet,
that I still very easily can read the Norwegian papers.

But I have heard very little Norwegian since 1977 and hardly talked it, and it therefore was a bit uncertain whether I still could follow spoken Norwegian, after 37 years of not hearing it.

Well, it turns out I still can. I listened yesterday to two interviews with
Bjørneboe, of which these are the videos (all together nearly 1 1/2 hours):
and it turns out that I still can follow almost everything. Since I forgot nearly everything of the Latin and Greek I learned in the evening school in the 1960ies,
I suppose this shows that I did learn Norwegian quite well, even though I never really tried hard.

[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] There are in fact two Norwegian languages: Riksmalet and Nynorsk, and both were created as written languages in the 19th century. Riksmalet is what most Norwegians write, and it is a quite simple, short - shorter than English - and clear language, with a simple grammar. Nynorsk is considerably more complicated, both grammatically and in writing words, but is in several ways closer to what quite a few Norwegians speak. As it happens, I learned Riksmalet from the paper, and Nynorsk from talking with farmers.

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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