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. As Bills Advance, Will
Grassroots Resistance Finally
Overcome Fast Track Push?
Government Is Planting Malicious Software On Your
Phone So It Can Bypass
3. Gray Matters
Epic Drought: One Year of Water Left
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 15,
is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links:
Item 1 is about the TTP; item
2 is about how cell phones these days do not admit any privacy
anymore (but is misleading about encryption); item 3
is a not so good article about two books about the brain that allow me
to say some things about psychology and anti-depressants that are far
too little known; and item 4 is about an article by
Ellen Brown about the enduring and enduring Californian drought.
It is a bit less than the last two days but I couldn't find much,
didn't sleep much, and have today to do several things. More tomorrow.
Bills Advance, Will Grassroots
Resistance Finally Overcome Fast Track Push?
item today is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Signaling that loud
grassroots resistance may be working, congressional Democrats are
failing to get behind the White House's push for unilateral authority
over the secretive 12-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP), according to news reports on Tuesday.
At issue is whether the
House will approve a pending bill that would grant President Barack
Obama 'Fast Track' trade promotion authority, which would allow the
White House to bypass Congress and seal the deal on the controversial TPP.
to The Hill on Tuesday, as few as 15 House
Democrats appear willing to support Fast Track legislation. That
number, The Hill reports, is "far fewer than the 50 Democrats
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans have asked the
White House to deliver." And with some conservatives wary of backing
the President, "it's possible a vote would fail on the floor."
I say. This is - let me think - somewhat good news.
Here is a brief explanation why:
"Fast Track is, in
essence, congressional pre-approval" of the TPP, notes
Dave Johnson, fellow at the
Campaign for America's Future. "With Fast Track Congress agrees to give
up its much of constitutional duty to define negotiating objectives,
carefully deliberate and debate, and fix problems that might turn up."
And critics say that such
problems are many. The largest trade agreement to be negotiated by the
U.S. in more than a decade, opponents charge that the pact will pave
the way for greater corporate
malfeasance while threatening the environment, food and health
safety standards, workers rights, and access to medicine worldwide.
And there is considerably more: The TPP is a secret
"trade deal"; the TPP is a very anti-democratic "trade deal" (and its laws go far beyond
(de-)regulating trade: it aims at replacing the law of judges
and public courts by special "courts" without appeals, that can award damages
of millions or billions to governments
that have laws - of any
kind - that promise to possibly lower some the profit expectations
corporations); and essentially the trick of the fast track is to have
Congress approve a secret trade bill with very
many anti-democratic principles and laws without its
On Wednesday, AFL-CIO is
kicking off a Week of Action with a rally on Capitol Hill to be
followed by a national day of protest on Saturday with more than 50
be held across the country.
In an interview published
Tuesday, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told
the Guardian that Fast Track is neither transparent nor
democratic. "The only reason to say we need Fast Track is if we can't
pass the deal without an up-or-down vote," he said. "If they can't pass
it the way other pieces of legislation get passed, it’s probably
unworthy of the American people."
And as Margot E.
Kaminski, Ohio State University law professor and fellow of the
Information Society Project at Yale Law School, writes
in a New York Time op-ed on Tuesday, one of the more
troubling aspects of the trade deal is that its details are classified
as national security secrets.
Note that "national
security secrets" these days are abused to further very many
government plans - and what a supposed "trade deal" has to do with
"national security" is a vast riddle (also because the "trade deal" is supposed to be so extremely secretive
that Congressmen who are allowed to read
parts of it are not
even allowed making notes).
Here is the ending of the article, that is good:
The unprecedented secrecy
of the Obama administration in these negotiations "does not just hide
information from the public," Kaminski explains. "It creates a funnel
where powerful interests congregate, absent the checks, balances and
necessary hurdles of the democratic process."
As Congress considers
Fast Track, Kaminski continues, lawmakers "must address the secrecy,
and the views of the privileged advisers, that shaped the agreement.
Otherwise, 'fast' will be little more than a euphemism for 'avoid the
public, and benefit the fortunate few.'"
Yes indeed - and please note that Barack Obama is very
much for both the TPP and its secrecy and also
for its being
fast tracked through Congress. He really is not a democrat (with a
2. The Government Is Planting Malicious Software
On Your Phone So It Can Bypass Encryption
item is an article by Washington's Blog on his blog:
This starts as follows
(bolding and colors as in the original):
Here is how they do it,
at least according to McAfee, who was
one of the first or the first to design commercial anti-virus software (and again bolding and colors as in the
Spy Agencies Are Intentionally Destroying Digital Security
Top computer and internet
experts say that NSA spying breaks
the functionality of our computers and of the Internet. It reduces
functionality and reduces security by – for example – creating
backdoors that malicious hackers can get through.
Remember, American and
British spy agencies have intentionally weakened security for many
decades. And it’s getting worse and worse. For example, they
plan to use automated programs to infect millions of computers.
I say. First a
disclosure: I have no cell phone, never had one and
will never have one (so far as I can see). My reasons are varied, but
have mostly to do with the facts that I am ill, poor and usually at
home; that I dislike phones anyway (and like privacy); and also that I
never trusted cell phones (and I have a personal computer since 1987).
“Encryption Doesn’t Matter In a World Where Anyone Can Plant
Software On Your Phone and See What You’re Seeing”
John McAfee invented
commercial antivirus software. He may be a
controversial and eccentric figure … but the man knows his technology.
Earlier this month,
McAfee told security expert Paul Asadoorian that encryption is
dead. Specifically, he said:
- Every city in the
country has 1 to 3 Stingray spy devices … Bigger cities like New York
probably have 200 or 300
- When you buy a
Stingray, Harris Corporation makes you sign a contract keeping your
Stingray secret (background here and here)
- Stingray pushes
automatic “updates” – really malicious software – onto your phone as
soon as you come into range
- The software – written
by the largest software company in the world – allows people to turn
on your phone, microphone and camera, and read everything you do and
see everything on your screen
doesn’t matter in a world where anyone can plant software on your phone
and see what you’re seeing. Protecting transmission of
information from one device to the other doesn’t matter anymore … they
can see what you see on your device
- There are many
intrusions other than Stingray. For example, everyone has a
mobile phone or mobile device which has at least 10 apps which
have permission to access camera and microphone
- Bank of America’s
online banking app requires you to accept microphones and cameras.
McAfee called Bank of America and asked why they require microphones
and cameras. They replied that – if you emptied all of the money in
your account and said “it wasn’t me”, they could check, and then say:
certainly looks like you. And it certainly sounds
- In order to do that, B
of A’s app keeps your microphone and camera on for a half hour
after you’ve finished your banking
- In addition, people
can call you – and have you call them back – and plant software on your
phone when you call them back
Next a disagreement: I do not think encryption is dead, and
most or all of the above argument applies only to the Stingray
phone tracker (<- Wikipedia), but this is indeed extremely
intrusive, as also explained on Wikipedia.
But otherwise I mostly agree: it seems as if cell phones must be
assumed to admit no privacy of any kind anymore.
item is an article by Temma Ehrenfeld on The Weekly Standard:
This starts as follows (and is
here mostly because I am a psychologist who does not think
psychology is a real
science, that is, apart from some physiology, statistics and
methodology, and what can be found in James 19th Century (!) "The
Principles of Psychology" (<- link to the whole text)):
with the brain seems to come from a longing to make psychology more
like a hard science and hence, we assume, more useful. Physics gave us
electricity, skyscrapers, and the Internet. Chemistry gave us medicine
and more fresh food. Psychology is still taking baby steps, designing
empirical tests of unsurprising observations.
Or else it is making
surprising observations - that often are false, nearly always are
misleading, and may be fraudulent in the
best Diederik Stapel tradition, to be sure.
There is this on anti-depressants:
Yes, indeed: Tens of
millions are taking anti-depressants (usually in some of the very
expensive latest patented forms) each day in the U.S. but no
one knows why they work, or indeed whether they work, apart from
what may be explained by the placebo effect. 
are the most consumed medication in the United States, yet the idea
behind them—that mood disorders are caused by lack of serotonin or some
other chemical imbalance—is unproven, Jarrett and many others say.
One drug that reduces serotonin—a
“selective serotonin reuptake enhancer” (Prozac and other
SSRIs are reuptake inhibitors)—is an effective
antidepressant. Except for the most seriously depressed people, the
SSRIs mostly seem to work because of the placebo effect. When I present
this argument to my medicated friends, they say, “I’m fine with my
placebo effect,” and I’m sympathetic. Advocates for the mentally ill
believe that biological explanations make illness more acceptable. But
as Jarrett points out, that may be another myth. A growing body of
evidence suggests that biological explanations are stigmatizing,
possibly because people tend to see such problems as less treatable.
In truth no
one knows what the “correct” levels for different neurotransmitters
should be. . . . [V]arious studies have struggled to show
consistently that serotonin function is lower in people who are
depressed or anxious—this includes postmortem tests and measures of
chemical levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients and healthy
people. . . . [A]rtificially reducing people’s levels of serotonin
doesn’t have a reliably depressing effect.
Then again it is not just that what seems "to work" is mostly a placebo
effect (that is well documented) and could as well be obtained by a
completely innocuous pill:
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors also partially deaden emotions, and seem
to be a main cause that turn some who take these "medicines"
into extremely violent killers. (See: Gwen
- the site of a former
psychiatric nurse, with many good videos.)
Also, "[a]dvocates for the
mentally ill" do not merely
explanations make illness more acceptable" or are "stigmatizing": They often argue - correctly
in my opinion, though I may not agree with their particular arguments -
that biological explanations are false, misleading or partial.
Anyway - this is not a very good article, but it did allow me to make
several points that are not as well-known as they deserve to be.
4. California’s Epic Drought: One Year of
item is an article by Ellen Brown, which is here because I like Ellen
This starts as follows:
This is a good article.
Here is a sketch of the problems Californa faces:
Wars over California’s limited water supply have been
going on for at least a century. Water wars have been the subject of
some vintage movies, including the 1958 hit The Big Country
starring Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood’s 1985 Pale Rider,
1995’s Waterworld with Kevin Costner, and the 2005 film Batman
Begins. Most acclaimed was the 1975 Academy Award winner Chinatown
with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, involving a plot between a
corrupt Los Angeles politician and land speculators to fabricate the
1937 drought in order to force farmers to sell their land at low
prices. The plot was rooted in historical fact, reflecting battles
between Owens Valley farmers and Los Angeles urbanites over water
Today the water wars continue, on a larger scale with
players. It’s no longer just the farmers against the ranchers or the
urbanites. It’s the people against the
new “water barons” – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Monsanto, the
Bush family, and their ilk – who are buying up water all over the world
at an unprecedented pace.
There is a lot more
under the last dotted link, and the article ends as follows:
Jay Famiglietti, a scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, wrote
in the Los Angeles Times on March 12th:
Right now the state has only about one year of water
supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply,
groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency
plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year
mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and
praying for rain.
Maps indicate that the areas of
hit by the mega-drought are those that grow a large percentage of
America’s food. California supplies 50% of the nation’s food and more
organic food than any other state. Western
Growers estimates that last year 500,000 acres of farmland were
left unplanted, an amount that could increase by 40% this year. The
trade group pegs farm job losses at 17,000 last year and more in 2015
I am less optimistic.
Then again, this also may trigger great social unrest, and then who
knows what may happen.
And so the saga of the water wars continues. The
World Bank recently adopted a policy of water privatization and
full-cost water pricing. One of its former directors, Ismail
Serageldin, stated, “The wars of the 21st century will be fought over
In the movie Chinatown, the corrupt oligarchs
won. The message seemed to be that right is no match against might. But
armed with that powerful 21st century tool the Internet,
which can generate mass awareness and coordinated action, right may yet
 I am a psychologist with one of the best degrees
ever afforded. This doesn't mean I am right, but it does mean I
know a lot about psychology.
In case you want a reasoned exposition why
psychology is - as yet - not much of a real science, try Paul Lutus:
"Is Psychology a