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. Whistleblowers Back “Surveillance State Repeal Act”
2. Encrypting Your Laptop
Like You Mean It
Are About as Religious as ‘Godless’
Europeans, Data Shows
4. More Nails in the Coffin of the American
5. "Fast Track" Flouts the
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, April 28,
is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links:
Item 1 is about an article by Dan Froomkin
that explains why seven prominent whistleblowers support a particular
proposed bill; item 2 is about an article by Micah
is the best introduction to encrypting your hard disk that I have read;
item 3 is about 2 articles that confuse -
European eyes - two senses of "religion";
item 4 is about a decent article that
explains that - very probably - the hard
times for the 90% are not over; and item 5
that Obama's "fast track" (agreed to by Congress) in fact flouts the
American Constitution (which indeed
it does, but Congress decided - in majority - that Congress doesn't
This Nederlog also got uploaded earlier than is normal for me.
1. Whistleblowers Back “Surveillance State
item today is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
starts as follows:
Yes, indeed - and the
process of intentionally eroding Constitutional liberties continued
There is no sign of an
end to the erosion of Constitutional liberties that began under George
W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks and continues under Barack Obama, a
group of seven national security whistleblowers said Monday.
“The government chose in
great secrecy to
unchain itself,” said Thomas Drake, who was working at the National
Security Agency in 2001 and said he saw lawlessness spread under the
name of “exigent conditions” during the Bush presidency.
Given that amount of
support by brave and intelligent persons, I must agree.
Now, Drake said, he is
throwing his weight behind H.R.
1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act.
The bill would completely
repeal the 2001 PATRIOT Act (which the NSA cites as the legal basis for
its bulk phone metadata collection), repeal the FISA Amendments Act
(which ostensibly legitimizes Internet spying) and otherwise protect
It’s a bipartisan but
dark-horse legislative gambit that Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., and
Thomas Massie, R-Ky., have thrown into the mix as Congress debates over
the next few weeks what to do before three key provisions of the
PATRIOT Act expire — including the one used for bulk metadata.
All seven whistleblowers on
the panel sponsored by the pro-accountability group ExposeFacts.org – including
Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, NSA whistleblowers William
Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe, and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley – said
they backed the bill.
Then again, and even though this is a bipartisan bill, I'm afraid it
will not make it in the present Congress.
But no, this is not meant as a criticism of the seven whistleblowers,
who indeed also had little choice, since the other proposed bills are
far worse. And at least one of the whistleblowers gave voice to one of
my own fears:
Yes, indeed - and also
this has been happening for a long time; was brought about mostly by
conscious right-wing propaganda; and has resulted in many bad
Wiebe said he is
increasingly frightened that the country is not “going to be able to
get out of this mess.”
“We’ve become a society
wiling to look the
other way in the face of wrongdoing,” he said.
laws being adopted, and many good laws being deregulated (that is: withdrawn).
And it will be very difficult to undo all or most of the legal
damage that has been done, especially because the deregulation + the
"Citizens United" decision of the SCOTUS has given all power to the
billionairs, who now have the money and the power to use it as
much as they please to further their own interests.
2. Encrypting Your Laptop Like You Mean It
item is an article by Micah Lee on The Intercept:
This starts as
Time and again, people
are told there is one obvious way to mitigate privacy threats of all
sorts, from mass government surveillance to pervasive online tracking
to cybercriminals: Encryption. As President Obama put
it earlier this year, speaking in between his administration’s
attacks on encryption, “There’s no scenario in which we don’t want
really strong encryption.” Even after helping expose all the ways the
government can get its hands on your data, NSA whistleblower Edward
Snowden still maintained, “Encryption works. Properly implemented
strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”
But how can
ordinary people get started using encryption? Encryption comes in
many forms and is used at many different stages in the handling of
digital information (you’re using it right now, perhaps without even
realizing it, because your connection to this website is
encrypted). When you’re trying to protect your privacy, it’s totally
unclear how, exactly, to start using encryption.
Yes, indeed. And this
also holds for me, in spite of the fact that I don't think I am a quite
"ordinary" person, in the probably intended sense: I can program now
(rather well also, if I have the energy) in six languages, and do
computers on a fairly deep level.
The reason I think I am more like an "ordinary" person than I thought I
was are my thoroughly disappointing attempts to install PGP in
Thunderbird on my Linux:
I thought this ought to be a breeze for me, but it wasn't, mainly
because "the help" I got was very bad.
In the end it did
install, but then overrode everything in Thunderbird and condemned me
to writing every mail, including those I did not want
to be encrypted (most, since one needs someone with installed PGP to
one's mails), as pure completely unformatted text.
By the way: Since I
am part - for some 15 years at least - of some programmers' sites I
have learned that most - not: all - people who are decent (or
better) programmers are not good writers, in part because they
tend to assume what is obvious to them ought to be obvious to others as
Anyway - here is more
Full disk encryption not
only provides the type of strong encryption Snowden and Obama
reference, but it’s built-in to all major operating systems, it’s the
only way to protect your data in case your laptop gets lost or stolen,
and it takes minimal effort to get started and use.
If you want to encrypt
your hard disk and have it truly help protect your data, you
shouldn’t just flip it on; you should know the basics of what disk
encryption protects, what it doesn’t protect, and how to avoid common
mistakes that could let an attacker easily bypass your encryption.
If you’re in a hurry, go
ahead and skip to the bottom, where I explain, step-by-step, how to
encrypt your disk for Windows,
OS X, and Linux.
Then, when you have time, come back and read the important caveats
preceding those instructions.
Please note that - as
Micah Lee also explains - encrypting your hard disk will make
your hard disk difficult to read (if done well) but it does not
do anything to what you are doing on line. Then again, encrypting your
hard disk (properly) will make at least that - all the data you stored
on it - difficult to read.
There is a lot more in the article, including step-by-step
quite clear instructions
to encrypt your hard disk.
And this is the clearest
set of instructions to encrypt your hard disk that I have read, so this
article is highly recommended.
3. Americans Are About as Religious as ‘Godless’
Europeans, Data Shows
item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig, who is
reviewing an article by Amanda Marcotte on Alternet:
The problems I have with
this is are that I do not believe it, and not because I disagree about
the data - I am willing to believe that Americans visit churches as
little as Europeans do, these days - but because "being religious" is,
for the most part, an ideology and a
system of social pretense and - socially accepted, socially desired,
socially praised - lying
that seems, still, much stronger in the U.S. than it is in
Here are the second and third paragraph of Amanda Marcotte's article,
that started with a first paragraph about the Christian posturings of
four Republican candidates for the American presidency (none of
which happens in Europe, and not because European politicians
are more honest, for they aren't):
My problems with this
are (1) that countries are governed on the basis of myths and ideologies, and
that it is true that "being religious", even
if it mostly quite false, sells a lot better in politics
in the United States than it does in Europe 
while (2) the data that suggest that the U.S. is "a largely secular nation" (with
Looking over these men’s
statements and histories, it’s clear that they’re plugged into the myth
that defines the religious right. This myth is that America is
fundamentally a religious nation and always has been, but it’s been
hijacked by a minority of back-stabbing secularist elites---and that
the country can be restored to its rightful Christian dominance by
electing a Republican.
It’s a narrative that is
fundamentally wrong. Yes, the majority of Americans identify
technically as Christians, but a deeper look at how our people act,
believe, and think shows that we’re not at all a “Christian nation,”
but a largely secular nation that suffers a small but vocal minority of
theocracy-minded conservatives. And not just that, but that the
secular-minded majority is getting even bigger and more secular all the
at most 1 in 5 describing themselves as "atheists" or "non-religious"?) is mostly
irrelevant, simply because the religious ideology is
still mostly in place in much of American politics.
So - from my European point of view - the article is really mistaken,
because it confuses two meanings of "religious",
namely (1) a system of personal belief, about which the author may be
right (it is declining, both in the U.S. and in Europe) and (2)
a system of ideology,
that is propagandized
that just cannot be properly judged in terms of (1), and that
is far stronger in
the U.S. than it is in Europe.
I strongly wish it were different (I am a lifelong atheist with
atheist parents and grandparents) but it isn't. And indeed that is also
the reason behind the quite extensive religious posturings of
presidential candidates, which simply does not happen in Europe.
4. More Nails in the Coffin of the American
The next item is an article
by Alex Henderson on Alternet:
This starts as follows:
economics were anything other than a cruel deception, the United
States’ embattled working class would have many reasons to join Wall
Street in singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Giant megabanks have
been reporting huge profits for 2015’s first quarter, including $5.91
billion at JPMorgan Chase (the largest bank in the country) and
$5.8 billion at Wells Fargo. But trickle-down economics doesn’t work,
and in working-class America, there isn’t much to celebrate. According
to UNICEF, the United States has one of the highest child
poverty rates in the developed world—and the fact that 46 million
Americans are receiving food stamps (compared to only 17 million in
2000) demonstrates that Wall Street’s profits certainly aren’t
trickling down to Main Street. Even when the news seems good on the
surface, one needs to read the fine print. The Bureau of Labor
unemployment rate fell to 5.5% in February (the lowest since May
2008), but that figure ignores all of the Americans who have been out
of work for so long that the federal government pretends they no longer
exist and the fact that many of the jobs being created are low-wage
Yes indeed - and note
that the number of American persons who receive food stamps almost
tripled since 2000. And I agree with Alex Henderson that it
is very probable that
unless the U.S.
changes course economically, the worst may be yet to come.
The actual title of the article (too long to be reproduced here)
promises "5 things that could make life even worse for most Americans".
Here are their titles, without the explanatory text (for which
you have to click the last dotted link above):
Trans Pacific Partnership, a.k.a. “NAFTA on
These seem to me all
Steroids”: The “Giant Sucking Sound” Could Get
Elimination of Jobs Because of New Digital Technologies
Union-Busting Continues to Accelerate
The Privatization of Medicare and Social Security: A
Recipe for Disaster
Savvy Economic Voices Warn: Another Major Banking
Crash Is a Strong Possibility
5. "Fast Track" Flouts the Constitution
item today is an article by Thom Hartmann on Truth-out:
This starts as follows:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
isn't backing down one inch in her fight with President Obama over the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
On Saturday, just a few
days after the president accused her of spreading "misinformation,"
about the TPP trade deal I like to call SHAFTA, the Massachusetts
senator hit back hard in a letter to the White House.
While the Obama
administration has, she pointed out, given 500 or so corporate
lobbyists inside access to TPP negotiations, it has left the public
completely in the dark.
In fact, as Senator Warren went on to write, "It is currently
illegal for the press, experts, advocates, or the general public to
review the text of this agreement. And while ... Members of Congress
may 'walk over ... and read the text of the agreement' - as we have
done - [we] are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of that
text in public."
That's right - members of
Congress, the elected representatives of "We the People" can't talk to
the public about the biggest trade treaty in US history.
And Senator Warren isn't
making this up, as the Obama administration would have you believe,
just to score political points.
In fact, last week it
was decided that the TPP will get "fast track" treatment. Here
is a brief summary of what the TPP is about (in so far as this could be
gleaned from the very secret TPP files):
We need Congress
to have as much say as possible about what goes into the final version
of the TPP because, as it is right now, the TPP is a stalking horse for
the corporate elite.
What little we know about
it comes from leaks, and those leaks show that it's basically a grab
bag of all the terrible things Big Business has always wanted but is
too scared to ask for in public.
The TPP would give big
pharmaceutical companies virtual monopoly patent power, gut
environmental and financial rules and, according
to Wikileaks, let corporations sue countries in international
courts over regulations that those corporations don't like.
But Congress has decided
that it doesn't matter and that the TPP will be "fast tracked":
No discussion but 8 minutes per member; no
no two-thirds majority; and also with minimal
or no knowledge of the law Congress very probably will
approve with an ordinary majority...
 Actually, more seems
involved, such as the distinction between alphas (literary types) and
betas (mathematical types). Also, it isn't true for all, and
indeed especially not for really good programmers - but these again are
 I am writing this as an European,
to whom it is very obvious that "religion" is
used in politics
in the U.S. to a much larger extent than it is in Europe.