9, 2014
Crisis: Republicans, Elections, Surveillance, Greece, British spies
  "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

Why the Republicans Won
Tuesday Probably Meant Nothing for 2016
3. Tomgram: Shamsi and Harwood, An Electronic
     Archipelago of Domestic Surveillance

4. Greece: A Grave Situation With Very Real Consequences
5. British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists 

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, November 9. It is a
crisis log.

There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is an explanation of why the Republicans won the midterm elections that doesn't satisfy me; item 2 is another explanation, that is slightly more satisfactory, though no consolation; item 3 is a good article on the developing U.S. police state; item 4 is an interesting piece on
the media situation in Greece, that may be like it will be in the rest of Europe soon; and item 5 is an interesting article on the gigantic freedoms the GCHQ has
to spy on anyone for everything, including lawyers and their clients.

Also, I made the wordings of four links in yesterday's part on Hedges & Wolin clearer today, but otherwise did not change a thing.

Here goes:

1. Why the Republicans Won

The first item is an article by Elizabeth Drew on the New York Review of Books:

This starts as follows:
It’s actually not all that stunning for the party out of power to make sizeable gains in the sixth year of a president’s time in office, even after the president has won a smashing reelection victory two years earlier. As of now, the Republicans will have picked up seven to nine Senate seats in the 2014 midterms. But it happened to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, when the Democrats gained thirteen Senate seats, and it happened to Ronald Reagan in 1986, when the Democrats picked up eight seats. In fact the average mid-term loss of Senate seats for the party of a second-term president is nearly six seats. So what was all the commotion about?
Really now? It happened to Eisenhower and Reagan, so why worry now?

You can read all of the article, as I did - but, having done so, for me that was just another reason, apart from my general lack of money, why I only rarely bought the NYRB since the 1960ies: A completely conventional "analysis", spruced up with some "intellectual" words, that brings no light, other than that it is the dark money that got funneled into American politics thanks to the Supreme Court's decision in "Citizens United".

I even agree, nominally, with that conclusion that gives an answer to the title of the piece. But to point out what Drew did not discuss, here is a list of points I
derived from Gore Vidal on August 12, 2012, that he mostly made in 1999 and also later, to explain what he called the coup d'etat of 2000 that gave Bush Jr. the presidency without having earned it:

  • bad education ("U.S. of Amnesia": most US citizens have no historical knowledge)
  • bad health care
  • bad government (Bush Jr. is a moron, the effective real president was Cheney)
  • the - executives or owners of the rich, large, powerful - corporations rule the US
  • 2000 elections was a coup d'état (with help from the Supreme Court)
  • after that there were many bad appointments
  • "magna charta is gone"
  • habeas corpus is gone
  • Bill of Rights is being throttled
  • there is illegal government: the US military has been used against US citizens - legally forbidden since 1865 (also with drones)
  • there is effectively a dictatorship (Quote from Wikipedia: "In contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.")
  • there is just one party that comes in two flavours that are both right wing: See e.g. The Party-System, and also see Chesterton
  • there is no conspiracy, for there is no need: the members of the ruling elite think alike (and come from the same small group that were educated in the same universities and fraternities)
  • the (members of) elite despises the (members of) people (privately, not publicly, of course)
  • "internet will be taken over by the government - 10, 20, 30 years" (1999)
None of that gets as much as mentioned in Ms Drew's article - and indeed my point is not that she has to agree or disagree: my point is that it isn't mentioned, and that the overall message is that good democrats have nothing to fear.

I'm genuinely sorry but I really don't think so.

2. Tuesday Probably Meant Nothing for 2016 

The next item is an article by David Sirota on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, and is another analysis of the outcomes of the midterm elections:

The dramatic, across-the-board victory engineered by Republicans in Tuesday’s elections would seem to bode well for the party’s chance to capture the White House in 2016. The GOP took full control of Congress, flipped at least four governor’s offices from blue to red, and prompted much talk of a resurgent Republican movement.

Not so fast. A more careful look at the returns significantly complicates the narrative that an American electorate, which recently tilted Democratic, has since shifted back to the Republican fold.

In fact, the 2014 election results appear to say more about who did not vote than who did: Younger voters and minority communities stayed home in large numbers, as is typical during a midterm election. If trends from the last two presidential elections hold, those same groups are likely to be far more energized during the next White House campaign, making Tuesday’s results of limited value in predicting 2016.

This is better than the previous article, and also a lot shorter, which is good, but it seems Sirota's main message is: Midterm elections are not presidential elections.

I do not say no, but it isn't much of a consolation.

3. Tomgram: Shamsi and Harwood, An Electronic Archipelago of Domestic Surveillance 

The next item is an article by Hina Shamsi and Matthew Harwood, with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch:

The introduction starts as follows, and indeed it and the following piece are realistic as compared with the rather dreamy earlier two articles:

Let me tell you my modest post-9/11 dream.  One morning, I'll wake up and see a newspaper article that begins something like this: "The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement in order to curtail the agency's significant powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers." Now, wouldn't that be amazing? Unfortunately, as you've undoubtedly already guessed, that day didn’t come last week. To create that sentence I had to fiddle with the odd word or two in the lead sentence of an article about the FBI’s attempt to gain “significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the U.S. and around the world.”

When it comes to the expansion of our national security-cum-surveillance state, last week was just another humdrum seven days of news.  There were revelations about the widespread monitoring of the snail mail of Americans.  (“[T]he United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.”)  There was the news that a “sneak and peek” provision in the Patriot Act that “allows investigators to conduct searches without informing the target of the search” was now being used remarkably regularly.  Back in 2001, supporters of th Act had sworn that the provision would only be applied in rare cases involving terrorism.  Last week we learned that it is being used thousands of times a year as a common law enforcement tool in drug cases.  Oh, and on our list should go the FBI’s new push to get access to your encrypted iPhones!

Yes, indeed.

This is from the introduction to an article by Hina Shamsi and Michael Harwood that is mostly about the - many and extensive - secret lists that the U.S. government currently has, in order to track and trace those they accuse or suspect of "terrorism". Both authors are of the ACLU, and the article is decent (apart from its beginning, at least for my educated tastes [2]).

I'll just quote the ending - for more, click the last dotted link:

The SARs program and the consolidated terrorism watchlist are just two domestic government databases of suspicion. Many more exist. Taken together, they should be seen as a new form of national ID for a growing group of people accused of no crime, who may have done nothing wrong, but are nevertheless secretly labeled by the government as suspicious or worse. Innocent until proven guilty has been replaced with suspicious until determined otherwise.

Think of it as a new shadow system of national identification for a shadow government that is increasingly averse to operating in the light. It’s an ID its “owners” don’t carry around with them, yet it’s imposed on them whenever they interact with government agents or agencies. It can alter their lives in disastrous ways, often without their knowledge.

And they could be you.

If this sounds dystopian, that’s because it is.

Yes - and note this passage, with bolding added by me: "Taken together, they should be seen as a new form of national ID for a growing group of people accused of no crime, who may have done nothing wrong, but are nevertheless secretly labeled by the government as suspicious or worse. Innocent until proven guilty has been replaced with suspicious until determined otherwise."

These are the modes of behavior of a police state.

4. Greece: A Grave Situation With Very Real Consequences

The next item is an article by Michael Nevradakis on Truthout:
I liked this article, although it is about a relatively poor and small European country, in good part because it shows what can happen in other European countries as well, and indeed is happening there, albeit presently not quite to
the Greek extent (except perhaps for Spain and Hungary).

And I should also say that this is the eighth and last part in a series of which I have not read the rest. The article begins thus:

A fair amount of attention has been paid in the past two years to the decline in press freedom and freedom of speech in crisis-hit Greece. And while there are many real, tangible examples which illustrate this disturbing decline, what should be evident from the preceding sections of this piece is that the decline is merely a continuation of a decades-old situation in Greece, where governments enforced or ignored laws at will, while a small group of media owners and publishers with major interests across several sectors of the economy, have been essentially allowed to operate above the law and to use their power to influence both public opinion and government officials.

The consequences of this ongoing situation are many, and they are quite dire. It is a situation where the victims, ultimately, are ordinary Greek citizens, who for decades have had access to a media system which was pluralistic in name only, but within which the range of opinions and viewpoints was, for the most part, tremendously limited and restricted.
There is a considerable amount more that explains this, that I leave to your interests. But - you might ask - what about the internet, that great freer of everyone? Well... firstly, 36% of the Greek have no internet, very probably because they cannot afford it. Secondly:
For many in Greece, the Internet has become the sole source of news and information, and in many cases, even entertainment, serving as an alternative to the country's highly-concentrated conventional media outlets. But even online, many of Greece's main internet portals are owned by the same individuals who operate the television and radio stations and main publications, while independent journalists and bloggers have repeatedly faced legal troubles.
In fact, since the only decently academic Dutch daily paper the NRC collapsed in 2010 into the adjunct of advertisements for Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton and the like, and lost very much of its style and appeal and good journalists, besides myself, who had read it daily for forty years, while the one other remaining Dutch paper for fairly intelligent folks (De Volkskrant) recently closed most of its internet-activities, this is quite similar to my position, though I must add that this is so in part because I also do not have a TV, and never had one. [3]

In any case, this may be the future of Europe's broadcasting as well, though I admit it is not yet quite as bad in most European countries as it is in Greece:

Far from preserving objectivity, transparency and eliminating "waste," the Greek government seems to have created a public broadcaster in name only, which not only continues corrupt practices of the past, but provides favorable coverage of all of its actions and which does not pose a threat or serve as a credible alternative to the country's established private media outlets.
I will not be amazed if this is the future of European TV, but I agree it is mostly
not as far down the road as the Greeks.

5. British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists 

The next and final item today is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

On Thursday, a series of previously classified policies confirmed for the first time that the U.K.’s top surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (pictured above) has advised its employees: “You may in principle target the communications of lawyers.”

The U.K.’s other major security and intelligence agencies—MI5 and MI6—have adopted similar policies, the documents show. The guidelines also appear to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

The documents were made public as a result of a legal case brought against the British government by Libyan families who allege that they were subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture in a joint British-American operation that took place in 2004. After revelations about mass surveillance from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden last year, the families launched another case alleging that their communications with lawyers at human rights group Reprieve may have been spied on by the government, hindering their ability to receive a fair trial.

And this is Reprieve's Cori Crider:

“It’s now clear the intelligence agencies have been eavesdropping on lawyer-client conversations for years,” Crider said. “Today’s question is not whether, but how much, they have rigged the game in their favor in the ongoing court case over torture.”

And there is also this, that starts with a quotation from GCHQ notes (in

If you wish the target the communications of a lawyer or other legal professional or other communications that are likely to result in the interception of confidential information you must:

Have reasonable grounds to believe that they are participating in or planning activity that is against the interests of national security, the economic well-being of the UK or which in itself constitutes a serious crime.

In practice, this could mean that any lawyer or an investigative journalist working on a case or story involving state secrets could be targeted on the basis that they are perceived to be working against the vaguely defined national security interests of the government. Any journalists or lawyers working on the Snowden leaks, for instance, are a prime example of potential targets under this rationale. The U.K. government has already accused anyone working to publish stories based on the Snowden documents of being engaged in terrorism—and could feasibly use this as justification to spy on their correspondence.

Yes, indeed. Also, I'd like to point out that the GCHQ points that have been quoted are conditional on lawyers' communications "that are likely to result in
the interception of confidential information
" which is to say - it seems to me - that any other lawyers' communications can be stolen without the anonymous
governmental thief having any beliefs about anything, other than that the GCHQ "wants it all".

P.S. Nov 10, 2014: I added a link and corrected some small typos.
[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] This is probably peculiar to me and hence banned to a footnote: I have been reading for over 45 years now pieces of text, especially longer ones, nearly all American ones also (and I read 7 languages, with ease, and I do so quite regularly) which start by a - usually rather incredible, because invariably much simplified - "personal" introduction of someone to whom something odd happens that exemplifies some sort of pattern that is or purports to be the main subject of the article. By now, after 45 years, that is an extremely boring and also rather annoying style, which also is completely artificial. (And no, or yes: There are far worse illustrations than the present article.)

[3] I never had one, since 1970, mainly for two reasons, none of which need apply to most others: Firstly, having seen by then some 7 years of TV, I knew it
taught me extremely little, whereas I wanted to learn as much as I could (and indeed also was mostly not amused by whatever it served to amuse); secondly, even then it had far too much lying degenerates in advertisements, that I just do not want to see or hear or read. (But as I said: Both points are mostly private for
me, and as I don't suffer at all from my lack of a TV - on the contrary! - you shouldn't be bothered by it.)

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)

       home - index - summaries - mail