5, 2014
Crisis: Students, NSA*2, Human Rights, Guantánamo, TPP
  "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

Students are rising again, and police crackdowns will only
     embolden them
2. How the NSA Hacks Cellphone Networks Worldwide
3. NSA accused of intercepting emails sent by mobile phone
     firm employees

The case against human rights
5. Gitmo Force Feeding Tapes Show 'Humane' Treatment.
     But Public Absolutely Can't See Them

Obama Ready to Defy Base in Order to Advance
     Trans-Pacific Partnership

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Friday, December 5. It is a crisis log.

There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Owen Jones on students, with some by me on apathy; item 2 is on The Intercept about how the NSA hacks cell phones everywhere, and has mostly succeeded; item 3 is the same theme, but dealt with on The Guardian; item 4 is an article by a Chicago lawyer who wants to get rid of human rights, I think for more profits and less clarity; item 5 is about the inconsistencies in Obama's treatment of Guantánamo
prisoners; and item 6 is
about the inconsistencies in Obama's treatment of the TPP.

And here goes:

1. Students are rising again, and police crackdowns will only embolden them 

The first item today is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Young people are often patronised and dismissed as an apathetic blob, too dazzled by mass consumerism to give a toss about politics. But when powerful figures go through the motions of encouraging youth engagement, it is clear they mean little more than casting a vote every few years. Angry protest – let alone peaceful civil disobedience – is a definite no-no.
Well... firstly, I am definitely not young anymore: While I look fortyish I am 64 (which I do not feel like), and my teens were all in the 1960ies, in which I went to very many demonstrations, in fact mostly because my parents were real and sincere communists, already then for two or three decades also, and I was myself a radical and a sort of neo-marxist of my own invention until 20 (when I gave marxism up). Most demonstrations I attended were not violent, but some - especially in France, of May '68, where I was present - were quite violent.

This article is pro-student and pro-uprising, and I like it, but it poses several questions, that start with the first sentence: Why is there so much less radicalism these days than in the Sixties? This has quite a few different answers that I will not even attempt to sketch here, but surely one factor is that all of the present day young have received far more propaganda-lies and -deceptions than the generation that was young in the Sixties.

Second, the "But" suggests an opposition - which is absent: "And" would have been more logical. Even so, the suggestion is correct, and certainly is in Holland: You must vote to be taken serious in Holland, but - unless you are an elected parliamentarian - you must not even want to do anything else except voting for "your parliamentarians" when asked to: To want to do more suggests you are (or may be) "a radical", which is
(or may be) very close to "a terrorist". (I am not speaking for every Dutchman here, but for the majority.)

Third, another factor that is important: There are now more students than there were in the Sixties, in absolute numbers and in percentages, and - in part - to accomodate them and give most of them degrees as well, the universities have radically simplified most studies. (This is rarely mentioned but a fact.)

But OK - these were three factors that contributed to less radicalism among the present day young, and they are far from exhaustive.

Here is some on police violence in Great Britain:

When protestors were kettled on Westminster Bridge in December 2010, one doctor described it as “the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen – it must have been what Hillsborough was like. The crush was just so great.” In a democracy, police officers are meant to facilitate peaceful protest; instead they treat it as a problem to be contained. Such experiences undoubtedly strip many young people of any illusions about the neutrality of the state.

I note - and agree to - "In a democracy", which strongly suggests that Great Britain, with such government, parliamentarians and police as it has, has ceased being "a democracy", except formally: parliamentarians are still elected. I agree, and refer you to the series of Hedges and Wolin (<- part 1) for an explanation.

Here is the final quotation:

Much of the new generation will struggle to get an affordable home, youth services are being hacked away at, and they face being the first generation to be worse off than their parents in a century. We live in a country where food banks and legal loan sharks have thrived. If they don’t protest now – and angrily, too – then when?

I agree - but I am less sure than Owen Jones seems to be that there will be wide-ranging and extensive student protests. For more, see my Crisis:  Why are so many so apathetic? that is from the beginning of 2013. This considers 10 explanations for the widespread apathy, and ends as follows:
11. Bad education, stupefying media, and especially 50 years of TV, natural languages poisoned by figures of speech, fallacies and rhetoric as practised in public relations and advertisements , and the relativization of all values, of all knowledge, and of all aspirations to what the democratic masses, as manipulated by propaganda in the media, (are supposed to) approve.

That was the summary. Here is a final bit of Burke that is relevant:
Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.
And no - I do not have any cure for apathy or indifference, though I suspect that if the crisis deepens or the economy crashes, this will rapidly change, though not necessarily to good effect, for the same causes as summarized in 11 remain the same.
I still agree, and still lack a full and cogent explanation, except the one summarized in 11.

2. How the NSA Hacks Cellphone Networks Worldwide

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

This is from the beginning of the article:

According to documents contained in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on hundreds of companies and organizations internationally, including in countries closely allied to the United States, in an effort to find security weaknesses in cellphone technology that it can exploit for surveillance.

The documents also reveal how the NSA plans to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems so that they can be tapped into—a controversial tactic that security experts say could be exposing the general population to criminal hackers.

In fact, what the NSA wants, and mostly seems to have gotten, is insight into what any user of any cellphone says or texts:

Karsten Nohl, a leading cellphone security expert and cryptographer who was consulted by The Intercept about details contained in the AURORAGOLD documents, said that the broad scope of information swept up in the operation appears aimed at ensuring virtually every cellphone network in the world is NSA accessible.

Here is some detail on how far the NSA has progressed in knowing everything anyone does with a cellphone:
The NSA documents reveal that, as of May 2012, the agency had collected technical information on about 70 percent of cellphone networks worldwide—701 of an estimated 985—and was maintaining a list of 1,201 email “selectors” used to intercept internal company details from employees.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link. And though it doesn't really matter, I add that I don't have a cellphone and never had one and never will have one as long as I must assume anything I do with it goes to the NSA; I don't have a webcam and never will have one (having noticed that the one I have had for a brief time photographed me every day); and I am also seriously thinking about stopping Firefox and stopping updating Ubuntu (or even switching to Linux Mint).

3. NSA accused of intercepting emails sent by mobile phone firm employees

The next item is an article by Chris Johnston on The Guardian:

In fact, this is The Guardian's report on the previous item. This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency has reportedly intercepted emails sent by employees of mobile operators in an attempt to find security weaknesses in their networks that it could exploit for surveillance purposes.

The US government body has spied on hundreds of companies and organisations, including those in allies such as Britain and Australia, as well as in nations America regards as hostile. It plans to insert flaws into communications systems so that they can be accessed by their operatives.

Note the last statement: For the NSA and the GCHQ anything is admissible that gives them acces, it seems, including inserting flaws in systems.

There is also this:

By May 2012, the NSA had collected technical data on about 700 of the almost 1,000 mobile networks worldwide.

According to the article, the information collected has been shared with other US intelligence agencies as well as those in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

And finally this on the services the NSA gives to each and any hacker:
Mikko Hypponen, a security expert at Finland-based F-Secure, said that hackers could exploit any security vulnerabilities or encryption weaknesses inserted by the NSA into communication systems using data collected by the AURORAGOLD project.
4. The case against human rights

The next item is an article by Eric Posner on The Guardian:
My guess is that this is a - rather well-hidden - neo-conservative attempt to get rid of human rights altogether, for the simple reasons that these formulate an ideal that neo-conservatives and libertarians (American style) do not want to practice, and on the pretext that the ideal is far from being realized, while completely avoiding any discussion that these ideals have been widely adopted, in law also.

Then again, this is only one attempt, and this one will not succeed. Here is an attempt to get some arguments, with a few brief answers:
And yet it is hard to avoid the conclusion that governments continue to violate human rights with impunity. Why, for example, do more than 150 countries (out of 193 countries that belong to the UN) engage in torture? Why has the number of authoritarian countries increased in the last several years? Why do women remain a subordinate class in nearly all countries of the world? Why do children continue to work in mines and factories in so many countries?
Well, clearly many governments - all governments in some respects, at least, in fact - do act inconsistently with regards to the human rights they usually have signed to, simply because the human rights formulate an ideal. But this is no argument against human rights: it should be an argument against these governments (that indeed tend be far more fallible or corrupt than an abstract system of human rights).

Here is some on the genesis of human rights:
Although the modern notion of human rights emerged during the 18th century, it was on December 10, 1948, that the story began in earnest, with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN general assembly. The declaration arose from the ashes of the second world war and aimed to launch a new, brighter era of international relations. It provided a long list of rights, most of which are the familiar “political” rights that are set down in the US constitution, or that have been constructed by American courts over the years.
OK - that is more or less true, though it also should have been noted that international laws are quite different from national laws, because in national laws there are governments, judges, and police forces that maintain the laws (good, bad or indifferent), while in international law there are few tools except (i) attempts to convince others or (ii) attempts to force others, by threats of war or wars.

That is the same for the human rights. Next, there is this, in one collosal jump of over 50 years:

Then came September 11, 2001 and the “war on terror”. America’s recourse to torture was a significant challenge to the international human rights regime. The United States was a traditional leader in human rights and one of the few countries that has used its power to advance human rights in other nations. Moreover, the prohibition on torture is at the core of the human rights regime; if that right is less than absolute, then surely the other rights are as well.
Well... firstly, "America's recourse to torture" clearly broke the human rights laws, and secondly the last statement trades on various ambiguities: what is "the core" of the human rights law, and does it have any; whether there is any article of any law that is "absolute", and if so in what sense; while the inference to the lack of absoluteness of other rights from the breaking of the law by the United States as regards torture is just plain nonsense. (This is like saying: well, you hit your wife and raped her, so therefore you may as well steal her money.)

Here is a main argument of Posner (who is a lawyer):

The central problem with human rights law is that it is hopelessly ambiguous. The ambiguity, which allows governments to rationalise almost anything they do, is not a result of sloppy draftsmanship but of the deliberate choice to overload the treaties with hundreds of poorly defined obligations.
No. In fact, the human rights law is much clearer than most national laws precisely because (i) it is an ideal and (ii) it is international law, that is far less easy to implement or oversee than is national law.

Also, the point is not that there are "
hundreds of poorly defined obligations": the point is that the obligations imposed by the human rights laws need to be translated into national laws, and this may be done in many and in diverse ways, or indeed not at all, while still signing to them.

Here is the last argument of Posner I will treat:
The failure of the international human rights legal regime is, then, rooted in the difficulty of reducing the ideal of “good governance” to a set of clearly defined rules that can be interpreted and applied by trusted institutions.
No. Firstly, "the ideal of “good governance”" is far more local, national and provincial than are human rights laws; second, there are no "clearly defined rules" of any kind for anything without a whole lot of discussion; and what may work in one country need not work in another, even while both have signed to the international human rights laws; while last I have - like most non-legal types - a far less high ideal of "trusted institutions" than does Posner.

But OK - there are lawyers who seem to want to do without human rights, I suppose because this will, they believe, increase the profits of the corporations.

5. Gitmo Force Feeding Tapes Show 'Humane' Treatment.
But Public Absolutely Can't See Them

The next item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The Obama administration is continuing its efforts to block from the public eye video evidence of force feedings of hunger striking men at Guantanamo.

The videotapes in question, currently classified as secret, show forcible cell removals and force feedings of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a 43-year-old Syrian who has been held at the offshore prison since 2002 and cleared for release since 2009.

An attorney for Dhiab has called the hunger strikes he's undertaken to protest his treatment at Guantanamo "a cry of humanity from a person who feels he has no choice left."

Federal Judge Gladys Kessler in October ordered the U.S. government to publicly release redacted versions of the videos, but classified they remain.

Note that Abu Wa'el Dhiab was locked up for seven years until he was cleared, since when he spent another five years at Guantánamo. In Holland, people get a lesser sentence and a far more pleasant jail for committing intentional murder, while Dhiab is guilty of nothing.

There is also this:
As Carol Rosenberg reported Wednesday for the Miami Herald, the Justice Department's new legal effort was accompanied a declaration from a Pentagon official who insists on the one hand the videos show "adherence to standard operating procedures and humane treatment," but at the same time insists they cannot be shown because they would spark anti-American backlash and jeopardize national security.
This means that the Pentagon and the American Justice Department want to insist that forcefeeding someone in a quite painful and degrading way who has done nothing, but nevertheless has been jailed for 14 years in America's concentration camp, is a "humane treatment" - but that the evidence that this treatment is "humane" must remain secret, no doubt because it will show his treatment is in fact the opposite of "humane".

Here is Cori Crider, who works for Reprieve and is an attorney of Dhiab:
"President Obama promised us the most transparent administration in history—at this point is that promise anything other than a joke?" Crider said in a media statement issued Tuesday. "You have to ask who actually watched this footage when making the decision to hide this evidence from the American people. It boggles the mind that the same President who makes speeches asking whether force-feeding is 'who we are' can ask a Court, with a straight face, to hide the reality of force-feeding from the press and public," she continued.
Well... it was no joke: it was a lie. Also, it does not boggle my mind anymore to see that many things Obama says are the opposite of what he does: That is his personal style of running the government, or so it seems to me. Apart from that Crider is quite right: Obama does not run a transparent government; much of what he says is not what he does; and he seems to faithfully serve the corporations - for which also see the next item:

6. Obama Ready to Defy Base in Order to Advance Trans-Pacific Partnership

The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

President Barack Obama is ready to buck his liberal base in order to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the pro-corporate international trade deal currently being negotiated in secret by the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries.

In a speech before the Business Roundtable, an association of conservative CEOs of major U.S. corporations, Obama indicated that he was ready to go head-to-head with Democrats, labor unions, and environmentalists—core groups that oppose the TPP and other so-called "free trade" pacts—in order to move the controversial deal forward.
Here is part of a reaction by Ben Beachy on the Eyes on Trade blog:
A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that were the TPP to be Fast Tracked through Congress, all but the wealthiest among us would lose more to inequality increases than we would gain in cheaper goods, spelling a pay cut for 90 percent of U.S. workers.
Yes, indeed - but this is what Obama wants: More for the rich, less for the poor; secret trade deals that no one may see that take away the powers of states; a government that classifies 90 million documents while insisting it is more transparent than any other country; more inequality; less legality; less protections of any kind for the poor; still lower taxes for the rich - and the reputation of being a Martin Luther King kind of president, because he is black.

Ah well...


P.S. Dec 6, 2014: Added a link to "marxism" in my Philosophical Dictionary, and corrected a few 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.)

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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