May 12, 2015
Crisis: Assange, NSA, Speech-Recognition, British Elections, Hersh, Cellphones, M.E.
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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

1. Assange appeal rejected by Sweden's supreme court
Reid to McConnell on NSA Bulk Surveillance: “You Can’t
     Reauthorize Something That’s Illegal”

Speech Recognition is NSA’s Best-Kept Open Secret
4. Why it’s OK to cry about this election
5. Seymour Hersh Accuses Obama of ‘High-Level Lying’
     About Bin Laden Raid

6. S
cores of Scientists Raise Alarm About the Long-Term
     Health Effects of Cellphones

7. International M.E. day


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 7 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article that explains Assange's appeal has been rejected by Sweden's Supreme Court; item 2 is about Reid vs McConnell on NSA spying; item 3 is about the NSA's speech-to-text abilities; item 4 is about the awful outcomes of the English elections (for some 2/3rds of the population); item 5 is about a long article by Seymour Hersh that accuses Obama of a lot of lying over the death of Bin Laden;
item 6 list some of the dangers of cell phones (they may give you cancer); and item 7 is a brief item on M.E. (since it is May 12): I will not write anymore about
it until there is a good medical explanation for it (which I don't really expect during my life), for I have "met" far too many dogmatic fools without any talents, and it is much better if I write on my site about things that interest me without having to engage with impolite fools.

1. Assange appeal rejected by Sweden's supreme court

The first item today is an article by David Crouch on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Sweden’s highest court has thrown out Julian Assange’s appeal against his arrest warrant, dashing his immediate hopes of an end to his three-year confinement in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

His lawyers were, however, encouraged by a 4-1 decision by the judges, which a senior legal figure said indicated the court could still change its mind.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted for questioning in Sweden following allegations of sex crimes that date from August 2010. But without a guarantee he would not be extradited to the US to face espionage charges, he has refused to travel to Sweden and in 2012 sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Stockholm’s supreme court said in its ruling on Monday: “The public interest in the investigation continues to weigh heavily. In view hereof, and the risk that Julian Assange may evade prosecution if the arrest warrant is lifted, continued detention is currently regarded as compatible with the principle of proportionality.”

Per Samuelson, a lawyer for the 43-year-old Australian, condemned what he called a weak decision by the court, which he said had issued its ruling before the Assange team had made its final submission.

In fact, it seems to me that the majority of Sweden's Supreme Court has an extremely weak or quite false understanding of "the principle of proportionality" since they decided to punish (with: "continued detention") someone (1) who has not been convicted at all, and (2) who has very good, quite special and quite personal, reasons to assume that he will be extradited to the U.S.

But four out of five judges chose not to see these points. There was one judge who dissented from these four:

Justice Svante Johansson issued a dissenting opinion in support of the appeal. The arrest warrant was “in violation of the principle of proportionality”, he said, and the reasons for continued detention did not “outweigh the intrusion and inconvenience” it caused Assange.

That seems the reasonable position. And there is also this:

In January, Sweden’s government agreed to examine whether it could issue a guarantee forbidding rendition of “any person under the control of the Swedish authorities while considered a refugee by a third country”. It is scheduled to issue a decision by 15 June.

I say. Then again, as this is phrased in terms of "any person", whereas the complaints and reasonings of Assange and his lawyers refer to his special position (in which they are right), I don't think this particular bit will succeed for Julian Assange.

2. Reid to McConnell on NSA Bulk Surveillance: “You Can’t Reauthorize Something That’s Illegal”

The next item is an article by Sam Knight on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday used last week’s appellate court ruling that NSA bulk collection of call records is illegal to bash his Republican counterpart for wanting to keep it going through 2020.

“My friend, the Majority Leader, keeps talking about extending the program for five and a half years,” Reid said from the floor of the Senate, referencing Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “How can you reauthorize something that’s illegal?” Reid asked. “You can’t. You shouldn’t.”

“Extending an illegal program for five and a half years? That is not sensible,” he said. “What should happen is that we should move forward and do something that is needed here — and that is, do it all over again.”

On Sunday at a speech in Boston, McConnell called the bulk phone call metadata collection program “an important tool to prevent the next terrorist attack,” and said that the U.S. “is better off with an extension of the Patriot Act than not.” Three provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire on June 1, including one that the NSA has claimed justifies the program.

I agree with Reid, although I do not think his argument is very serious. Also, while the USA Freedom Act, that Reid supports, is a bit less bad than a repeat of the Patriot Act that McConnell favors, it is far from good.

3. Speech Recognition is NSA’s Best-Kept Open Secret 

The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Siri can understand what you say. Google can take dictation. Even your new smart TV is taking verbal orders.

So is there any doubt the National Security Agency has the ability to translate spoken words into text?

But precisely when the NSA does it, with which calls, and how often, is a well-guarded secret.

It’s not surprising that the NSA isn’t talking about it. But oddly enough, neither is anyone else: Over the years, there’s been almost no public discussion of the NSA’s use of automated speech recognition.

One minor exception was in 1999, when a young Australian cryptographer named Julian Assange stumbled across an NSA patent that mentioned “machine transcribed speech.”

Assange, who went on to found WikiLeaks, said at the time: “This patent should worry people. Everyone’s overseas phone calls are or may soon be tapped, transcribed and archived in the bowels of an unaccountable foreign spy agency.”

Assange - and see item 1 - certainly saw very deeply, sixteen years ago (which is what makes him a special person, though not according to 4 out of 5 judges of Sweden's Supreme Court).

And here is some about the intellectual capacities of Robert Litt, who is the chief lawyer for the NSA:

Robert Litt, who as general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence community’s chief lawyer, was asked about the NSA’s speech-to-text capabilities at a forum on transparency on Capitol Hill on Friday.

He took the opportunity to lash out at The Intercept’s reporting: “I think that story is a great example of what is wrong with a lot of media coverage of this,” he said. “That story made absolutely no distinction between technical capabilities and legal authorities. There are all sorts of technical capabilities that NSA has. I’m not commenting on the existence or nonexistence of any such authority. The question is when are they used and what are the legal authorities under which they are used. And I think that that’s something that a lot of the press reporting completely ignores, including that story you wrote.”

I am sorry, but Litt sounds like a complete idiot: How can anybody rationally discuss "[t]he question (..) when are [technical capabilities that NSA has] used and what are the legal authorities under which they are used" if as Litt himself stressed no one outside Litt and the NSA knows whether they have these capabilities?!

Litt also uttered idiocies like this (and he is quoted):
“I’m not saying that the government isn’t using these techniques. I am not acknowledging that these techniques exist even.”
Indeed, while Litt was uttering idiocies (clearly automatic speech-to-text conversion exists, and for a long time; clearly the NSA has huge interests in it; and clearly Litt at least can and should admit as much), they serve a point:
All the secrecy has an obvious advantage for the NSA. If the NSA can keep their speech-recognition capabilities secret, nobody can tell them what to do. And if nobody knows what they are doing, then nobody can tell them to stop.
Indeed - but this is also why the NSA badly needs a major overhaul:

While it is true that "
if nobody knows what they are doing, then nobody can tell them to stop" it is also true that "if nobody knows what they are doing" they may as well be a deeply criminal organization  - which indeed I think they are, since 2001: The NSA is incompatible, both legally and factually, with democratic government, for democratic government is incompatible with spying on every one or on most.

4. Why it’s OK to cry about this election

The next item is an article by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett on The Guardian:
This starts as follows (and no, I don't particularly mind crying):

“Don’t despair,” came the resounding cry from the earnest, energetic left on Friday. Despair is, after all, the enemy of action. They say that we – by which I mean “the left” – must, in the aftermath of defeat, regroup and reassess, find out what went wrong, then prepare, and fight. But despair? Despair breeds inertia, leaves us vulnerable and weak – and so we mustn’t just curl up and cry.

Except many of us did. This weekend has, for me, been like the most savage of hangovers. Waves of despair, punctuated by panic, anxiety, paranoia, and fear. A profound weltschmerz and a curious lack of appetite, not to mention a high-pitched monotone in my left ear that sadly, this time, cannot be put down to our decrepit fridge. I keep remembering and then forgetting; a welcome pleasant thought will be interrupted by the terrifying reminder of what they are going to do to the Human Rights Act. As my father said, “It’s all too awful.”

At least this is realistic (that is: much more so than any statement I've read from - would be - Labour grandees since the elections). I'll say something about despair after having quoted the next bit:

There’s something vaguely embarrassing about crying about the government. It buys into a stereotype of left-leaning people as overly emotional and childlike in their naive idealism and belief that there is a better way to run the country than cutting services to the bone.

But those of us who cried over the election result should not feel embarrassed. Perhaps you have an auntie who is facing the bedroom tax, or a child requiring hospital treatment. Perhaps you have a friend who works for a disability charity, who has posted on Facebook that they are having to direct people towards the Samaritans following the election result, perhaps you have a disability yourself and the creeping fear of abandonment and destitution that you so fiercely hoped would vanish returned, on Friday, in all its potent, mundane horror. You might not even know anyone personally affected by the cuts but simply exhibit that most vital of traits: empathy. It’s an emotion so often derided as a weakness of the left, but it is our strength. We mustn’t abandon it.

Yes, indeed. As to despair:

I have many more reasons
for despair than Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has, for I am ill and very poor for 37 years without even being admitted as ill; I haven't been abled to sleep properly for seven years in all, during that time, and not because of faults I made; I have been thrown out of the university briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy as a "dirty fascist" and a "terrorist", which were all very degenerate dirty lies by totally incompetent moral frauds; and I have absolutely never, in 65 years, earned as much as the legal minimal income in my country during any year.

So I do think I have many more reasons for despair
than Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has, but I don't despair, in part because I attribute the systematic abuse and maltreatments I've received in Amsterdam as signs of my being honest, intelligent, and having a rather extra-ordinary family background, and in part because I have done what Edmund Burke said:
In despair, just work on.
It does work, even if one's situation is hopeless. (Also, one reason is that deep emotional despair simply doesn't last.)

5. Seymour Hersh Accuses Obama of ‘High-Level Lying’ About Bin Laden Raid
The next item is an article by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has put forth a series of explosive allegations about the Obama administration’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. In a long essay in the London Review of Books, Hersh accuses the administration of “high-level lying” in describing the al-Qaida founder’s death and what preceded and followed it. The essay cites a source who claims that bin Laden’s presence in the Abbottabad compound was known to senior Pakistani intelligence officials all along, as they were holding him prisoner there. Hersh also claims that bin Laden’s whereabouts were divulged to the CIA by a former Pakistani intelligence officer in exchange for a large reward.

The White House and the CIA have blasted the allegations, dismissing them as “utter nonsense.” But if Hersh is correct, then almost everything we know about bin Laden’s death is false, especially the events sensationally depicted in the blockbuster movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

I say, though I am not very amazed.

First, about Seymour Hersh (<- Wikipedia):

He is meanwhile 78, and has a long list of publications (and a Pulitzer prize), many of which were denied by the American government (with an interest). I side with Hersh on this matter, were it only because he is much more honest than the U.S. government.

Here is a summary of the case in the first quotation of this item on Wikipedia (minus note numbers), from the file on Seymour Hersh:

In September 2013, during an interview with The Guardian, Hersh commented that the 2011 raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden was "one big lie, not one word of it is true". He made the claim that the Obama administration lies systematically, and that American media outlets are reluctant to challenge the administration, saying "It's pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama]".Hersh later clarified that the lying began in the aftermath of bin Laden's death.

In May of 2015, Hersh published a 10,000 word piece, "The Killing of Osama bin Laden", in the London Review of Books where he outlined with extensive quoting of both named and unnamed sources the background to how Osama bin Laden's presence in Abbotabad came to be known to the US Government and how the Seal raid was in fact known to the Pakistanis and had ISI cooperation. "The killing was the high point of Obama's first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan's army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration's account. The United States got to Osama bin Laden with Pakistan's help but disclosed the operation in a manner that made the country look like a villain."
There is more in the dotted article, including a list of falsities fabricated by Obama's government.

6. Scores of Scientists Raise Alarm About the Long-Term Health Effects of Cellphones

The last normal item today is an article by Josh Harkinson on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows (and is for those who love cell phones):

Are government officials doing enough to protect us from the potential long-term health effects of wearable devices and cellphones? Maybe not. A letter released today, signed by more than 190 scientists from 38 countries, calls on the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), and national governments to develop stricter controls on these and other products that create electromagnetic fields (EMF).

"Based on peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices," reads the letter, whose signatories have collectively published more than 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on the subject. "The various agencies setting safety standards have failed to impose sufficient guidelines to protect the general public, particularly children who are more vulnerable to the effects of EMF."

Indeed, here is some evidence:

Last year, French researchers found an almost three-fold increase in the incidence of brain cancer in people with more than 900 hours of lifetime cellphone use. Then, in March, Swedish researchers reported that the risk of being diagnosed with brain cancer increased by a factor of three in people who'd used cell or cordless phones for at least 25 years. Research on lab animals has caused similar concerns.
Most of the researchers who signed today's appeal letter believe that there's now enough evidence to classify radio-frequency EMF as "probably carcinogenic" or even just plain "carcinogenic," says Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California-Berkeley, who played a central role in gathering the signatures. "All of them are clearly calling for the need for caution." 

Incidentally: I do not have a cell phone, never had one, and never will have one. I don't have one because I really do not like phones (of any kind, though I do have a normal land line phone), and I will never have one because I really like my privacy.

Also incidentally: "900 hours
of lifetime cellphone use" is not much.

7. International M.E. day

The last item today is not an article. Today - you may not know - is International M.E. day. [See May 12, 2013 for more, in case you are interested.]

I know because I have the disease for 37 years now, which I spent almost completely without any help and in the ordinary dole, because the Amsterdam bureaucracy has for 31 years refused to admit that I am ill - even though my illness started in the first full year of my university studies, and even though I got a B.A. in philosophy and an M.A. in psychology, all with straight As (which was very rare then), indeed also while being ill in the dole.

Then again, I should also say that I have totally given up on writing about M.E. (apart from the protocol I use) even though I still have it, and am much handicapped by it.

The reasons are - in the end - mostly that since between 1995 and 2005 something like (at least) a tenthousandfold more "authors and writers" appeared, thanks to the powers of computers, nearly all of whom are totally anonymous, quite stupid, unable to write clearly about anything whatsoever, and most of whom are fanatically concerned with their own (anonymous) standing, while feeling free to contradict or doubt anything anyone may have written who happens to know more or think better than they do. [1]

I am sorry: I was ill and helpless in the thirty years from 1979-2009, but I was not - apart from Amsterdam authorities - discriminated. That started only when I started writing for Phoenix Forums (for people with M.E.), and not only to me, but to anyone whose IQ was clearly higher than 110.

Since both my IQ and my education are a lot better than those of the great majority I do give up, at least until there is a real medical explanation for M.E.
[1] Incidentallly: I am less complaining about the treatment I got (for I know I am arrogant) as about the treatment others got, about which I am quite certain that it was mostly directed against their clearly being more intelligent than most. Well... having seen that, I was, am, and will be out. If being more intelligent than most is a ground for discrimination, and it was, I do not fit in.
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