20, 2014
Crisis: U.S. Congress *2, living costs and austerity, Ellsberg, 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

Congress Is Irrelevant on Mass Surveillance. Here’s What
     Matters Instead.

The good news about the 'death' of NSA reform:
     surveillance supporters may have dug their own grave

3. The cost of living crisis may not be good news for Labour
4. Austerity has clearly failed. So why don’t they ditch it?
5. Daniel Ellsberg, the original whistleblower, on
     transparency, politics, and civilization's future

6. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 20. It is a
crisis log.

This contains 6 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald's
explanation that Congress is irrelevant for mass surveillance (I don't quite agree); item 2 is Trevor Timms explanation why Congress doesn't much matter for mass surveillance; item 3 is Larry Elliott on the declining incomes in Great Britain (not of the rich, I hasten to assure you); item 4 is an interesting article on what "austerity" is really about (more riches for the rich, more poverty for the poor); item 5 is an interview with Daniel Ellsberg; and item 6 is a brief personal section that outlines a few small plans for Nederlog.

And here goes:

1. Congress Is Irrelevant on Mass Surveillance. Here’s What Matters Instead.

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
The “USA Freedom Act”—the proponents of which were heralding as “NSA reform” despite its suffocatingly narrow scope—died in the august U.S. Senate last night when it attracted only 58 of the 60 votes needed to close debate and move on to an up-or-down vote. All Democratic and independent senators except one (Bill Nelson of Florida) voted in favor of the bill, as did three tea-party GOP Senators (Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Dean Heller). One GOP Senator, Rand Paul, voted against it on the ground that it did not go nearly far enough in reining in the NSA. On Monday, the White House had issued a statement “strongly supporting” the bill.
There is considerably more on the level of ridicule the Senate achieved:
So the pro-NSA Republican senators were actually arguing that if the NSA were no longer allowed to bulk-collect the communication records of Americans inside the U.S., then ISIS would kill you and your kids.
Clearly, that was utter nonsense, but then again I am not sure myself about the percentage of ordinary Americans - who don't know much about computers, or history, or politics, or science - who more or less accepted that. I'd guess that would be about a third to a fourth, but that is just my guess (in part based on the recent U.S. elections).

I turn to a serious question:
There is a real question about whether the defeat of this bill is good, bad, or irrelevant. To begin with, it sought to change only one small sliver of NSA mass surveillance (domestic bulk collection of phone records under section 215 of the Patriot Act) while leaving completely unchanged the primary means of NSA mass surveillance (...)
That is true, as it is also true that the few good things in the “USA Freedom Act” were "larded with ambiguities and fundamental inadequacies", while it is also true that the defeated Act was sort of midway between the original good bill and the horror that the White House's lawyers and the GOP had made of that.

Here is Glenn Greenwald's first conclusion:
All of that illustrates what is, to me, the most important point from all of this: the last place one should look to impose limits on the powers of the U.S. government is . . . the U.S. government. Governments don’t walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power, and that’s particularly true of empires.
Well... yes and no. That is: Yes, this seems to be true, but no, this is not how the U.S. government should govern, indeed not at all. Then again, since it is true that the U.S. government is fundamentally corrupt, and especially as regards the NSA, the banks and the TTIP, the yes indeed is more important.

Here is
Glenn Greenwald's second conclusion:
(..) it has been clear from the start that U.S. legislation is not going to impose meaningful limitations on the NSA’s powers of mass surveillance, at least not fundamentally. Those limitations are going to come from—are now coming from —very different places: (..)
This follows from the first conclusion, though I stress - more than Glenn Greenwald does - that the reason is that the U.S. government is fundamentally
, indeed precisely (though not only) with regards to its handling of
the NSA (which is deeply and quite undemocratically secret and classified,
while secretly surveilling everyone and everything).

What then are the "very different places" Glenn Greenwald expects much more of than from - presently corrupt - legislation? He mentions these four:

- many individuals who refuse internet services that do not protect their privacy
- other countries taking steps against the U.S.
- U.S. court proceedings
- greater individual demand for and use of encryption

I have been mainly copying the headlines: there is considerably more in the article under each of the above points.

And here is the concluding paragraph:
The changes from the Snowden disclosures are found far from the Kabuki theater of the D.C. political class, and they are unquestionably significant. That does not mean the battle is inevitably won: The U.S. remains the most powerful government on earth, has all sorts of ways to continue to induce the complicity of big Silicon Valley firms, and is not going to cede dominion over the internet easily. But the battle is underway and the forces of reform are formidable—not because of anything the U.S. congress is doing, but despite it.
2. The good news about the 'death' of NSA reform: surveillance supporters may have dug their own grave  

The next item is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian, who does a similar thing as Glenn Greenwald did in the first item:

This starts as follows:
Late Tuesday, after a brief debate marked by shameless fearmongering that reeked of some of even George W Bush’s worst moments, the US Congress failed at its most promising chance to pass at least some surveillance reform sparked by Edward Snowden’s revelations. The Senate Republicans, for the month they’re still in the minority, managed to block a vote on the USA Freedom Act, the modest National Security Agency oversight bill that’s been in the works for over a year.
Trevor Timm proceeds to explain that if the “USA Freedom Act” would have
been accepted, there would have been some little gains, but not many, and
he seems to expect most from the U.S. courts:
Now many of those cases, already in the appeals stage, may be decided within the next six months, and if the oral arguments are any indication, the US government may be in trouble. Indeed, the conservative justices may be willing to do more for your privacy than conservative lawmakers, as Judge Richard Leon proved last year when he ruled that the NSA’s phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional.
He concludes as follows:
The failure of the USA Freedom Act, no matter how incomplete the bill was, certainly isn’t something to celebrate. But now we will see multiple courts potentially ruling NSA surveillance unconstitutional. Now we will have a chance to force the government into potentially gutting key provisions of the Bush-era Patriot Act, all while ubiquitous encryption becomes ever more prevalent in the communications devices we use – so maybe soon we don’t have to rely on Congress and the courts to be the masters of our own privacy.
As with Glenn Greenwald: I think both Timm and Greenwald give decent arguments why the refusal of the Senate to further discuss the USA Freedom Act is not very serious, but it also remains true what Timm said above:
The failure of the USA Freedom Act, no matter how incomplete the bill was, certainly isn’t something to celebrate.
But it's true that even if it had passed and been made into a law, it still would
not have stopped the spying on everyone and everything, and it may be true that
some U.S. courts will stick to the Constitution, even though the government and
Congress act as if it doesn't exist where they don't want it.

3. The cost of living crisis may not be good news for Labour

The next item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
This starts as follows - and the subject is Great Britain:

The squeeze goes on and on. The weekly pay packet for the full-time worker smack in the middle of the income scale rose by just 0.1% in the year to April 2014. That was the smallest increase since data was first available in 1997.

But that’s just the gross figure for cash earnings. What matters is how much pay is worth after inflation is taken into account. Adjusted for rising prices, real weekly earnings fell by a chunky 1.6%. This continues the downward trend seen since the economy descended into recession in 2008. The cumulative fall in real earnings now stands at just over 9%, meaning that it is not hyperbole to talk of a lost decade for living standards. Real earnings are now back to their 2001 levels, with all the gains seen in the pre-crash years wiped out.

I say. The rest of the article explains this (in brief: most of the new jobs created are very poorly paying, and are filled by the young or the elderly). I merely congratulate David Cameron: Well done, David! The few rich are still getting richer, at the costs of the many poor! So nice for real Tories!

Indeed, there is considerably more in the next item:

4. Austerity has clearly failed. So why don’t they ditch it?

The next item is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian
This starts as follows:
Now we know for sure George Osborne’s economic plan has failed, even on its own account. For all the self-congratulation about credit-fuelled growth, the recession in wages goes on. Four years into the coalition, most people’s living standards are still falling. Last week it seemed as though pay might have finally overtaken prices. But yesterday’s figures showed that real earnings fell by 1.6% over the past year. That continues the longest drop, of seven consecutive years, since records began in Victorian times.

The fall in living standards is greater still for the poorest, who effectively suffer higher inflation. Add in the fact that business investment as a share of national income and productivity are still declining (..)
Actually, I think myself that the title of the article is a mistake: I'd say that austerity was a great success for Cameron's government from a Tory point of view: The rich got richer,  as the poor got poorer, and that's what the Tories are about, really. I agree not everything looks rosy for Cameron, but by and large he got what he wanted - and Cameron also continues and continues:
If cuts aren’t working, and low pay and insecurity are shrinking tax revenues and boosting benefit costs, you might think that would be cause for a change of direction. Not a bit of it: £50bn more cuts are lined up for the next parliament – and the government is doing everything to drive down wages and job security still further.
Not only that: There is widespread slavery in Great Britain, though of course
"one shouldn't say so". Well, I am sorry, but I do - for consider:
Take compulsory unpaid labour – or workfare as it’s politely known. Under the punitive regime of Iain Duncan Smith at the Department of Work and Pensions, hundreds of thousands are being dragooned to work for free, often for months at a time, for private companies, local authorities and charities. There are now six different schemes under which claimants can be coerced into unpaid work under threat of benefit “sanctions” – imposed on 900,000 jobseeker’s allowance claimants last year, often on bizarre and arbitrary pretexts.
For me "compulsory unpaid labour" = "slavery", and certainly not "workfare". But yes, David Cameron (who is a millionaire) wants that, and he does not want to act according to the following two articles of the Declaration of Human Rights, of 1948, with boldings by me:
23. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
And there is this:
Councils helped themselves to half-a-million hours of unpaid labour in the same period, as did scores of household-name companies. Not only do such “placements” do little to help the unemployed into work, they are clearly replacing and undercutting paid employees. There is now a determined backlash. In Mortherwell in Scotland, a man who refused an instruction from his local jobcentre to work for his previous employer for six months without pay had his dole money stopped as punishment. Last week, the firm pulled out of the scheme after it was the target of “slave labour” protests.
I'm sorry but this really is "half-a-million hours" of unpaid slave labour, without any quotation marks, also. For again: "compulsory unpaid labour" = "slavery", and it doesn't matter that those who force you to work without pay do not - yet? - owe you, quite possibly because that would be really too expensive. But in any case: Forced unpaid labour is slavery, and anyone who denies this doesn't know proper English.

In fact, here is my Shorted Oxford English Dictionary:
Slavery (..) 1551 1. severe toil like that of a slave; heavy labour, hard work, drudgery 2. the condition of being a slave; the fact of being a slave; servitude; bondage 1604 b. the condition of being entirely subject to, or dominated by, some power or infuence 1577 c. A state of subjection or subordination comparable to that of a slave (...)
And there is this, also much wanted by David Cameron: If you can't find work, then you shall not eat:
The combination of savage benefit cuts and sanctions has driven the growth of hunger in Cameron’s Britain – and the rise of food banks, which supported more than 900,000 people in 2013. That has the advantage for the Conservatives of taking the burden of the hungry off the public purse, shrinking the state and preparing the poor for a harsher labour market in the process.
Finally, there is this, in answer to the question how this can be explained:

Part of the answer is that austerity isn’t only – or even mainly – about balancing the books. It’s also about restoring profitability and the whiphand to the corporate world, which six years after the crash is still sitting on a £500bn cash mountain and won’t invest on the scale needed for a real recovery until it’s convinced of secure returns.

So wages and taxes are cut to coax the corporate giants – transferring wealth from the poor to the rich – even though credit-cushioned wage stagnation helped trigger the crisis in the first place.
Yes, indeed: "austerity" has been from the very beginning, as soon as it was clear that Holder and Obama would never prosecute a rich bank manager, the tool to make the rich richer by making the poor poorer.

And that is what has happened, also quite successfully: the rich got a lot richer,
and the poor got a lot poorer, and that was what the governments under which
this happened really wanted - for each and any of them could also have quite
easily prevented it.
5. Daniel Ellsberg, the original whistleblower, on transparency, politics, and civilization's future

The next item is an article by Paul DeMerritt on clatl:

The interview (there is also a brief introduction) starts as follows:

Do you worry about being surveilled?

Oh, I'm sure I’m surveilled in terms of credit card, cell phone, and email, as is everyone. They collect everything but it doesn’t mean they collect it in real-time. They want to record it. I’m sure it includes content as well as meta-data. When they want to find out about somebody, they just dial it in like Google and they'll get someone’s whole life. By the way, they can listen to you via your iPhone when it's turned off. And of course the location is traceable.
This is all known, but it can't harm to repeat it. Also, Daniel Ellsberg is going to Moscow to see Edward Snowden, but for more on this, see the interview, from which I want to quote only one more bit, because it is realistic:
Sometimes [people] learn to be too discreet because in order to keep the goodwill of their colleagues, bosses, agencies and fellow citizens, most people will keep their mouth shut unless they themselves need the info out for their own benefit. But if it’s for other people’s benefit, I’m sorry to say that humans can keep their mouth shut about abuses even when an enormous number of lives are at stake, when wars are at stake and when the climate is at stake. That's actually normal behavior. It’s toxic, murderous, and it’s a kind of obedience.

Yes, indeed - and since I think similarly, I was immediately convinced Edward Snowden is a special person.

6.  Personal

This is just to inform you that I probably will write some more non-crisis files.

Indeed, I definitely plan to put out the year 1984 in my autobiography this month (two more files to go, over one mostly done), and also to start this or the next month on the series "On the crisis", which will not be a crisis file in the sense that I will not search the internet to see what I can find about it, but only my own crisis index, that contains over 680 files now since September 1, 2008.

But the series
"On the crisis" is still uncertain as to shape or form, apart from the beginning, that will be soon published, simply because there is a whole lot to read.

[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)

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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