who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Republicans win majority in
control of Congress
2. The British government is leading a gunpowder plot
3. 300,000 more people live in
poverty than previously
thought, study finds
4. Before We Promote
Verrilli to Attorney General...
5. The GCHQ boss is wrong. We can
have both security and
6. Midterms 2014: GOP Gains
Control of the Senate
7. The Big Winner in 2014
Elections: Corporate Television
8. Privacy Tools: The Best
Encrypted Messaging Programs
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 5. It is a crisis log.
There are 8 items with 8 dotted links: Items 1, 6 and 7
are about yesterday's American midterm elections, which went very bad
for the Democrats and very good for the Koch brothers; item 2 is an article by George Monbiot
on TTIP that
is good; item 3 shows there are
considerably more poor people in the UK than governmental statistics
say there are; item 4 is about the
lies of a candidate for the American attorney general; item 5 is an article by Julian Huppert
about the new GCHQ boss; and item 8
is a good article on programs that can be used for encrypting mail and
Republicans win majority in US Senate, giving party control of Congress
item is an article by six authors (too many to mention) on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Republicans swept to
power in the US Senate after a rout for Democrats in midterm elections
that were dominated by criticism of Barack Obama’s presidency and are
likely to hobble his last two years in Washington.
Republican performance, including wins in states
such as Colorado and Iowa that Obama carried in 2012, allows
Republicans to take full control of Congress. The GOP also expanded its
majority in the House of Representatives.
By midnight ET
Republicans already had 52 Senate seats confirmed. Results were still
outstanding in Alaska and Louisiana – the latter of which will hold a
run-off election in December after neither candidate reached 50% of the
vote. Two more Republican victories would leave the party with as much
as an eight-seat advantage over Democrats.
Despite some initial
Democratic optimism after they held on to New Hampshire and temporarily
appeared to be ahead in North Carolina, the party lost almost all its
key target Senate seats.
That's the result of
yesterday's American midterm elections, in general terms. There is a
lot more in the article, but I will leave that to your interests.
Also, since the
elections are important, there are two more items below -
British government is leading a gunpowder plot against democracy
item 6 and item 7 -
but clearly I had
to choose (and chose some mostly factual reactions).
item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Actually, I did pay attention
to George Monbiot's article - see Nov
6, 2013 -
On this day a year ago, I
was in despair. A dark cloud was rising over the Atlantic, threatening
to blot out some of the freedoms our ancestors lost their lives to
secure. The ability of parliaments on both sides of the ocean to
legislate on behalf of their people was at risk from an astonishing
treaty that would grant corporations special powers to sue governments.
I could not see a way of stopping it.
Almost no one had heard
of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between
the EU and the US, except those who were quietly negotiating it. And I
suspected that almost no one ever would. Even the name seemed perfectly
designed to repel public interest. I
wrote about it for one reason: to be able to tell my children that
I had not done nothing.
To my amazement, the
article went viral. As a result of the public reaction and the
involvement of remarkable campaigners, the European
commission and the
British government responded. The
Stop TTIP petition now carries more than 750,000 signatures; the
Degrees petition has 910,000. Last month there were 450 protest
actions across 24 member states. The commission was forced to hold
a public consultation about the most controversial aspect, and 150,000
people responded. Never let it be said that people cannot engage with
and have given more attention to the TTIP since. Also, George Monbiot
was not the only one to be much frightened by and to fight against the
TTIP, but it is true he has a weekly column on The Guardian
that may have sparked interest in quite a few.
Here are two comments on the quotation. The first paragraph seems still
quite true to me, and indeed worse than in 2013, possibly
except for the despair of George Monbiot (which I can imagine, but I
like Burke's advice: "If in despair, work on" - though I agree that may
be hard to practice).
The last statement is at least a bit misleading: I never
doubted "that people can(..) engage with complex issues" - the problem
is: how many or what percentage of "the people" can.
And it would seem to me that the midterm
elections have shown more than half of the American population can not.
But OK - neither comment was very important, and we go back to the
TTIP. Here is the main problem:
Note that these cases are
supposed to be settled by "an
arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people
have no representation,
The central problem is
what the negotiators call investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The
treaty would allow corporations to sue governments before an
arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people
have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.
Already, thanks to the
insertion of ISDS into much smaller trade treaties, big business is
engaged in an orgy of litigation, whose purpose is to strike down any
law that might impinge on its anticipated future profits. The tobacco
Morris is suing governments in Uruguay and Australia for trying to
discourage people from smoking. The oil firm Occidental
was awarded $2.3bn in compensation from Ecuador, which terminated
the company’s drilling concession in the Amazon after finding that
Occidental had broken Ecuadorean law. The Swedish company Vattenfall
is suing the German government for shutting down nuclear power. An Australian
firm is suing El Salvador’s government for $300m for refusing
permission for a goldmine over concerns it would poison the drinking
The same mechanism, under
TTIP, could be used to prevent UK governments from reversing the
privatisation of the railways and the NHS, or from defending public
health and the natural world against corporate greed. The corporate
lawyers who sit on these panels are beholden only to the companies
whose cases they adjudicate, who at other times are their employers.
and which is not subject to judicial review" and what the bone of contention is: "anticipated future profits".
Here is some more:
I say - and the
Economist is quite right. Plus that the ordinary
people's elected parliaments and governments also are
avoided and circumvented by "an arbitration panel
composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no
representation, and which is not subject to judicial review": Exit democracy, exit
courts, exit state of law, exit rights of - real,
non-corporate - private persons (unless they are billionaires).
As one of these people
commented: “When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it
never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to
investment arbitration at all … Three private individuals are entrusted
with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure,
all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all
laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”
So outrageous is this
arrangement that even the Economist, usually the champion of corporate
power and trade treaties, has
now come out against it. It calls investor-state dispute settlement
“a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of
And here is a final consideration:
[Cameron] and his
ministers have failed to answer the howlingly obvious question: what’s
wrong with the courts? If corporations want to sue governments, they
already have a right to do so, through the courts, like anyone else.
It’s not as if, with their vast budgets, they are disadvantaged in this
arena. Why should they be allowed to use a separate legal system, to
which the rest of us have no access? What happened to the principle of
equality before the law?
Yes, quite so. And this
is an article that deserves full reading.
3. 300,000 more people
live in poverty than previously thought, study finds
item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
This starts as follows (and is
about Great Britain):
Here is some more on the study:
The number of people
living in dire poverty in Britain is 300,000 more than previously
thought due to poorer households facing a higher cost of living than
the well off, according to a study released on Wednesday.
A report produced by the
Institute for Fiscal Studies found that soaring prices for food and
fuel over the past decade have had a bigger impact on struggling
families who spend more of their budgets on staple goods.
By contrast, richer
households had been the beneficiaries of the drop in mortgage rates and
lower motoring costs.
(..) in the six
years from early 2008 to early 2014, the cost of energy had risen by
67% and the cost of food by 32%. Over the same period the retail prices
index – a measure of the cost of a basket of goods and services – had
gone up by 22%.
The IFS report said the
poorest 20% of households spent 8% of their budgets on energy and 20%
on food, while the richest 20% spent 4% on energy and 11% on food.
Peter Levell, a Research
Economist at IFS said “In recent years, lower income households have
tended to see bigger increases in their cost of living than have better
off households. Official poverty measures do not take this into account
and hence have arguably understated recent increases in absolute
poverty by a small but not insignificant margin.”
It seems pretty odd to me
that these changes - which are pretty obvious and easy to check - were not
considered in "official poverty
measures", but then that shows
you can't trust officials at all (which I know to be very true
in Holland: I have waited for nearly four years to be either gassed
again or murdered, all because Amsterdam's mayor Van Thijn had personally
permitted his drugsdealing friends to deal illegal drugs
from the bottom floor of the hous where I lived, and refused to answer
my letters, that were handed to his personal doorman).
We Promote Verrilli to Attorney
item is an article by Dan Novack on The Intercept (with a truncated
title: I do not copy titles that take three lines in small
This has the following
argument - and as the title says, Verilli is a candidate for attorney
The argument seems quite
valid to me, and note what is involved:
Let’s travel back to the
year 1 BS (Before Snowden), or 2012 for those still on the Gregorian
Calendar — before National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden
revealed just how pervasive government spying had become. The American
Civil Liberties Union was challenging the FISA Amendments Act of 2008,
Section 702 of which allows warrantless surveillance of any targets
reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. or of any group
reasonably believed to not be “substantially” composed of Americans.
The government was eager
to have the case dismissed, so Verrilli, addressing the Supreme Court
on its behalf, offered up an alternate plaintiff: terrorists. He assured
the court that since the law mandates criminal defendants receive
notice of surveillance used against them, terrorists should be the ones
to challenge the law rather than the ACLU, which could not prove its
clients had been affected.
The ACLU’s clients, in
this case, were attorneys and human rights, labor, legal, and media
organizations, who could not prove — only speculate — that they had
been surveilled. Under the technical doctrine of standing, a plaintiff
cannot sue based on mere speculation of harm, and Verrilli was
insistent that the ACLU’s case was thusly speculative and should be
dismissed. Justice Sonia Sotomayor brought up the point that this left
many and perhaps all surveillance targets essentially powerless in the
courts — “if there was a constitutional violation in the interception…
no one could ever stop it until they were charged with a crime,” she
To which Verrilli
that government surveillance targets get notice and thus had ample
opportunity to sue:
If an aggrieved person,
someone who is a party to a communication, gets notice that the
government intends to introduce information in a proceeding against
them, they have standing.
He made the same point on
page 8 of his written
If the government
intends to use or disclose any information obtained or derived from its
acquisition of a person’s communication’s under Section 1881a in
judicial or administrative proceedings against that person, it must
provide advanced notice of its intent to the tribunal and the person,
regardless of whether or not that person was targeted for surveillance
under Section 1881a.”
The Court obliged and
dismissed the case. Yet, in the five years the law has been in effect,
no defendant had ever received notice, a fact that Verrilli was either
oblivious or indifferent to. When Edward Snowden exposed PRISM
just a few months later, the government’s story fell apart. No longer
was the ACLU’s case, in the words
of Verrilli, “a cascade of speculation.” On the contrary, mass
surveillance — without notice to the targets — was shown to be very
So indeed Verilli lied.
(But - I take it - this is excellent recommendation to nominate him. We
- The U.S.
government illegally spies on hundreds of millions of innocent
- These people should
have been notified that they are spied upon, but are not.
- The spying the
government does is totally classified (secret).
- Verilli argues
that those who oppose the spying, notably the ACLU, has no case because
they are not spied upon (which is probably also false) and
because those who are spied upon should be notified - except
that they are not.
- The case is
dismissed by the American courts - in spite of the fact that "in the five years the law has been in effect,
no defendant had ever received notice".
GCHQ boss is wrong. We can have both security and privacy
item is an article by Julian Huppert on The Guardian:
This contains the
I have reviewed
Hannigan's arguments yesterday, and
was considerably sharper than Julian Huppert, who is a Lib Dem British
parliamentarian. You can check out Huppert's arguments by clicking the
last dotted link.
The first article written by the new director of GCHQ,
Robert Hannigan, for the FT, is deeply worrying. One might expect
Hannigan to begin his new post on a conciliatory note – recognising the
need for reform and reaching out to the public. But his article does
precisely the opposite. In an extremely controversial piece, he instead
blames digital companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook for the
ills of the world. He has chosen to attack people who are rightly
concerned about people’s civil liberties in this digital age.
No one denies that the
work GCHQ does is extremely important. Our intelligence services
clearly play a fundamental and crucial role in keeping us safe. But
Hannigan’s argument contains a number of serious flaws.
I merely want to consider his second paragraph above:
The first statement is false simply because no one knows what the GCHQ
is doing except the bosses of the GCHQ and possibly part of the
government. I agree that spying is important, but if the gross of the
work the GCHQ does is illegal or ought to be illegal, which seems to be
the case, to say that "the
work GCHQ does is extremely important" is either false or misleading: No one knows, except
the bosses of the GCHQ.
The second statement is false for the same reason: I do not
know - and hardly anyone really does know - whether the "intelligence services clearly play a
fundamental and crucial role in keeping us safe".
In fact, my own take is that they are the vanguard of a new
authoritarian English state, that is less interested in spying on
foreign governments than on getting to know everything there is
to be known about any British citizen so as to control them
better. This may be false as well, but it is quite well documented by
many documents from Edward Snowdon.
The third statement is true, but I like my
analysis better than Huppert's (but yes, I know he is a
6. Midterms 2014: GOP Gains Control of the
item is an article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows
(and I selected this, from many others, because it seems a fair and
And that is about it.
And so it happened:
Thanks to a heady combination of freed-up cash, amped-up campaigning,
publicity-stoked fear and Obama fatigue, among other potent
ingredients, Republicans took over the Senate on Tuesday evening.
This means Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid hands over his title to Sen. Mitch
McConnell, and it also means President Obama can get ready to face a
human wall in Congress for the last two years in the White House.
Here’s how the BBC summed it up that night:
The Republican Party
has won control of the Senate in the US mid-term elections, increasing
its power in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The party took
Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and
leader Mitch McConnell will lead the chamber.
The party is also set
to strengthen its majority in the lower House of Representatives.
As the early results
came in late on Tuesday, it became clear the Republicans had made
convincing gains in the roughly one-third of the 100 Senate seats up
The party retained
seats in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska,
Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
7. The Big Winner
in 2014 Elections: Corporate Television
item is an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This is not so much a
report on the elections as an analysis, and it starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. And note
that these were $2.4 billion dollars spend on propaganda,
which leads me to two related questions: 1. Why is this admitted in
general, and 2. specifically up to quite immediately before the
In an election marked by
record outside spending, including
"dark money" sources, a clear winner has already emerged: the
corporate television stations making windfall profits from political
Cable news stations have
nearly doubled their sales in political ads since the last midterm
elections in 2010, according to figures from Kanta Media ad tracking
firm, which were provided
to Reuters. TV stations across the U.S. will bring in
approximately $2.4 billion from local, state, and federal elections
ads, they report. These numbers are just slightly behind the 2012
presidential election, which saw $2.9 billion spent on TV ads.
The reason to pose these questions is that these things are regulated
quite differently in many other - nominally - democratic
countries: Either there simply is no advertising for political
parties (which seems fair to me: advertising strongly favors the rich)
or, if there is, it is not admitted immediately before elections.
I am in fact merely asking and pointing out that the rules may be quite
different than they are in the United States. Personally, I am
completely against all lying, all deceiving and all
propagandizing, and I do not want to see or hear any
advertisement because these are all lies, deceptions and propaganda,
but - except for the BBC - that seems to be so "extreme" a position
that I merely mention it.
Here is the ending of the article:
Yes, indeed. But OK, the
main lesson to be learned from these "democratic"
elections American style is that one can deceive 50% + 1 of the
Ahead of the 2014
elections, media companies bought up local stations, anticipating these
windfall profits. This resulted in "massive" media consolidation,
contributing to the national trend of growing conglomerates and a
"narrowing" news perspective, argues
Reed Richardson in the Nation.
"To elect our nation’s
leaders, wealthy 1-percenters and mega-corporations have been given
carte blanche to secretly fund organizations that spend obscene amounts
of money advertising on TV stations owned by other mega-corporations
and wealthy 1-percenters," writes Richardson. "In short, our political
finance system has become little more than an income redistribution
model for the ultra-rich and a no-lose proposition for big media
8. Privacy Tools: The Best Encrypted Messaging Programs
and final item for today is an article by Julia Angwin on Pro Publica:
This is a useful and
interesting article that you should read if you are interested in
encrypting your mails, as I think you should be - but I agree that
sending encrypted mails still is difficult.
This article may help some, and it starts as follows:
Ever since former
National Security Agency consultant Edward Snowden revealed mass
governmental surveillance, my inbox has been barraged with
announcements about new encryption tools to keep people's
communications safe from snooping.
That is the way to do
it, and the results
of our review is quite
interesting since it tabulates and scores no less than 39
different programs, that are awarded summary scores of 0 till 7 (the
highest is the best). Also, no more than 6 of the programs get a
But it's not easy to sort
out which secret messaging tools offer true security and which ones
might be snake oil. So I turned to two experts — Joseph Bonneau at Princeton and Peter Eckersley
at the Electronic Frontier Foundation — for advice about what to look
for in encryption tools. Working together, we chose seven technical
criteria on which to rank encryption tools.
The criteria aim to
assess whether the tool is designed to combat threats such as backdoors
secretly built into the software, Internet eavesdroppers, or tricksters
who steal the secret "keys" that users must safeguard to keep their
Check out the results
of our review.
This is a good article that you should read all of if you are
interested in encryption, also because it does not make strong
and irrealistic promises.
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: