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."
Philosophy of Surveillance
Teflon Toxin - DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception
stuns financial markets by devaluing yuan for
second day running
and Ecuador edge closer to end of Julian Assange
5. Where did the principle
of secrecy in correspondence go?
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday August 12, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1
is about the NSA-Socrates that Peter Maass found thanks to Edward
Snowden (and some own research) - and yes: the philosophy of the NSA
seems to be postmodernism;
item 2 is about DuPont and the enormous
amount of chemicals that have been added the last 50-100 years to air,
water, food and utensils, all with very little research and hardly
any responsibility; item 3 is about another
devaluation of the Chinese yuan; item 4 is about
Julian Assange and the Swedes (who may try to extend Assange's misery
till 2020); and item 5 is about
secrecy of correspond- ence, which I think still exists even if
been thoroughly raped by Bush & Cheney and the NSA.
And I should say I uploaded yesterday's
autobiographical file (in Dutch) again, with working links.
Philosophy of Surveillance
article of today
is by Peter Maass on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
ARE YOU THE
SOCRATES of the National Security Agency?
That was the question the
NSA asked its workforce in a memo
soliciting applications for an in-house ethicist who would write a
philosophically minded column about signals intelligence. The column,
which would be posted on a classified network at the NSA, should be
absorbing and original, the memo said, asking applicants to submit a
sample to show they had what it takes to be the “Socrates of SIGINT.”
I say. Well...
I am a philosopher,
who only did not make his - excellent - M.A. in philosophy
because he was briefly before it removed from the right of
doing it and kicked, as a student, from the faculty of philosophy of
the University of Amsterdam , largely because I
asked - as a public speaker, who was asked to speak
publicly - questions
(<- what I said in 1988: only questions!), from which it
emerged that (1) unlike most leading students of philosophy I was not
a communist (2) unlike most leading students of philosophy and most
teachers of philosophy I did (and do) believe in the
existence of truth
(whereas all others agreed that "everybody knows truth does not
exist", also - or especially - not in the University of Amsterdam) and
(3) I did not consider my teachers - none of whom has published
anything ever since 1988 - competent (in which I was completely right).
Also, merely the directory philosophy on
my site currently is 200 MB with 15,780 items, of which I wrote about
half (and the rest are philosophical classics that I comment), and that
was all done while I was ill and among the poorest in
the country, with always less than a minimal income, and never
with any help.
I sketched my background,
because it is relevant. Next, about the quoted first paragraph:
This was found by Edward Snowden, and the whole question the NSA asked
is very much more propaganda/public
relations than a real question,
were it only because there have been extremely few persons like
Socrates  and - even for
wild admirers of the NSA - it should be a no-brainer that the NSA does not
have anyone like Socrates amongst ite employees
(though I grant
many are clever).
But OK, since the NSA
insists, I will call him "the NSA-Socrates" and I will consider a few
of his opinions, like the following one:
These are the opinions of an eager
slave, who loves being a slave.
“I found myself wishing
that my life would be constantly and completely monitored,” he
continued. “It might seem odd that a self-professed libertarian would
wish an Orwellian dystopia on himself, but here was my rationale: If
people knew a few things about me, I might seem suspicious. But if
people knew everything about me, they’d see they had nothing to fear.
This is the attitude I have brought to SIGINT work since then.”
For consider:Who are the "people" who know "everything" about
him? They are certainly not anyone, not everyone, and not most or even
a few: these are all and only his own superhuman
colleagues and superiors of the NSA, for only these superhumans
are allowed to spy on everyone, in secret, and this is also why I call
them superhumans: They and only they are allowed to spy on everyone,
anonymously, in secret, and with special clearances from the government.
It is also for this reason I call the NSA-Socrates an eager slave: He
must totally trust the wisdom, the integrity, the insight, the
knowledge and the moral character of the superhumans he wants to know
"everything" about him, for otherwise he must be a silly fool.
Then again, what I wrote in the last two paragraphs was merely what
follows from a literal understanding of his claims, and that is
probably not correct, for what the NSA-Socrates is really
doing is propagandizing
the NSA view of
how mankind is supposed to feel to his NSA colleagues.
Here is some more:
“We tend to mistrust what
we do not understand well,” he noted. “A target that has no ill will to
the U.S., but which is being monitored, needs better and more
monitoring, not less. So if we’re in for a penny, we need to be in for
this is pure
baloney without any evidence, that seems in fact a somewhat more polite
statement of the NSA's desire to know everything about everybody,
which in turn is what every totalitarian secret police
(like the NSA)
does desire, and not out of interest, but to
Here is a comment by Peter Maass (who is a journalist, but not a
I wanted to know
about Socrates, but one of the asymmetric oddities of the NSA is that
the agency permits itself to know whatever it wants to know about any
of us, yet does everything it can to prevent us from knowing anything
about the men and women who surveil us, aside from a handful of senior
officials who function as the agency’s public face. An NSA spokesperson
refused to confirm that Socrates even worked there. “I don’t have
anything to provide for your research,” the spokesperson wrote in an
Yes, indeed - but
this "assymmetric oddity" is precisely the reason I call them superhumans:
they did arrogate themselves the
powers of God and the
or indeed of Satan and his angels.
I have two more quotes, both for a specific reason. Here is the first:
The blog consists of more
than 20,000 words Socrates wrote about his failed effort, before
joining the NSA, to earn a living as a writer. As he explained in often
bitter and personal detail, he reluctantly went from starving writer to
salaried spy. Instead of creating fictional characters, he spied on
real ones. It dawned on me: coming from the world of books and words
rather than technology and code, Socrates represented a post-modern
version of the literary eavesdropper.
There is considerably more
about the NSA-Socrates, but I selected this because I think Peter Maass
is probably correct in identifying the NSA-Socrates as a postmodernist:
Postmodernists do not believe truth exists. What
they do believe - other than in their own supreme
self-importance - is unclear, but I am willing to believe that the
NSA-Socrates has a strong faith that his own
superhuman colleagues and superhuman superiors mean well, are moral,
and are entitled to know absolutely everything (in secret,
anonymously) about absolutely everyone.
The last quotation I have
If the original Socrates
of ancient Greece were still around, he would probably suggest that it
is morally compromising to conduct surveillance on people who have
done no harm — no matter whether the surveillance is carried out by a
philosopher in a robe, a journalist with a laptop, or an intelligence
agency with a $10 billion budget. Surveillance, as a word, is a
cleaned-up version of voyeurism, and whether state-sponsored or
editor-approved, it’s creepy to carry out, and probably futile in most
Yes and no. I agree
with the beginning, but I think "voyeurism" is too soft, too kind, too
limited a word, because it generally connotes an interest in seeing sexual
things, and that also possibly with the ones viewed knowing they are
It is plain spying,
and it is spying on everything, nearly always without any
legitimate reason: sexual things, financial things, health things,
work-related things, ideas, values, orientations, religions,
friendships, family-relations, plans, illnesses - the superhuman spies
of the NSA want and read it all, anonymously and in
2. The Teflon Toxin - DuPont and the
Chemistry of Deception
But this is an interesting article, which is recommended (though you
will in fact learn no philosophy from it).
The next article is by Sharon Lerner on The Intercept:
This is basically a long read
about a chemical, called C8, and DuPont, a corporation that
FEW PEOPLE had heard much about chemicals like C8. One of tens of
thousands of unregulated industrial chemicals, perfluorooctanoic
acid, or PFOA — also called C8 because of the eight-carbon chain
that makes up its chemical backbone — had gone unnoticed for most of
its eight or so decades on earth, even as it helped cement the success
of one of the world’s largest corporations.
There is also this:
Over the past 15
years, as lawyers have been waging an epic legal battle — culminating
as the first of approximately 3,500 personal injury claims comes to
trial in September — a long trail of documents has emerged that casts
new light on C8, DuPont, and the fitful attempts of the Environmental
Protection Agency to deal with a threat to public health.
And there is a lot more,
which I will leave to your interests.
This story is based on
many of those documents, which until they were entered into evidence
for these trials had been hidden away in DuPont’s files. Among them are
write-ups of experiments on rats, dogs, and rabbits showing that C8 was
associated with a wide range of health problems that sometimes killed
the lab animals. Many thousands of pages of expert testimony and
depositions have been prepared by attorneys for the plaintiffs.
And through the process of legal discovery they have uncovered
hundreds of internal communications revealing that DuPont employees for
many years suspected that C8 was harmful and yet continued to use it,
putting the company’s workers and the people who lived near its
plants at risk.
The two reasons this article is here are these:
(1) it illustrates quite well that no one can trust
corporations like DuPont: They
always let their own financial
interests determine their responses; they introduce a great
amount of chemicals in the air, the water and the food; and
nearly all of the long term effects or the interactions of these
other chemicals are vastly under-researched (so to speak); and
(2) I am ill now since 1.I.1979 with a mysterious disease, that started
infection, that never went away, and that so far has not
explained, but yes: it is quite possible that my disease (and
that of my ex)
may have been (co-)caused by some of the myriads of chemicals
companies like Dupont have put in the air, the water and the
food, and that
were mostly absent 50 or 100 years ago.
China stuns financial markets by devaluing yuan for second day running
The next article is
by Martin Farrar and Fergus Ryan on The Guardian:
This starts as
China stunned the world’s financial markets on
Wednesday by devaluing the yuan for the second consecutive day,
triggering fears the world’s second largest economy is in worse shape
than investors believed.
The move sent fresh
shockwaves through global markets, pushing shares sharply lower and
sending commodity prices further into reverse as traders feared the
move could ignite a currency war that would destabilise the world
There were widespread
losses in Asia, and in Europe stock markets suffered falls of about 1%,
with the FTSE 100 tumbling almost 2% at one stage.
The Chinese currency hit a
four-year low on Wednesday after the People’s Bank of China set the
yuan’s daily midpoint even weaker than in Tuesday’s devaluation.
is considerably more in the article, but the above is a decent summary.
important because China has an enormous economy, and its economic rises
and falls are also followed - to an extent - in European and American
4. Sweden and Ecuador edge closer to end of Julian Assange
The next article is by
David Crouch and Esther Addley on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Sweden has offered to
negotiate an agreement with Ecuador to enable Swedish prosecutors to
interview Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in
London, potentially ending the standoff between the two countries but
almost certainly too late to prevent some allegations against the
WikiLeaks founder from expiring.
Sweden’s government had
agreed to open direct talks with Ecuador to explore the possibility of “a
general agreement” on legal assistance in criminal matters, the Swedish
justice ministry said.
“The coming discussions
will show if this is a way forward,” said Cecilia Riddselius, the
senior justice ministry official responsible for the case.
I say. To start with, here
is some background: On August 1, 2015
I reviewed an article by John Pilger, Kafka-like Persecution of Julian Assange, that you may well read before continueing
with this article. I grant Pilger's article is written by a strong
supporter of Assange, but that does not mean that his facts are biased.
Next to the present article
(on the supposition that either you've read the last mentioned article,
or know at least a bit more about Julian Assange
(<- Wikipedia)): Ms Riddselius still seems to feel that she has all
the time in the world, even though Assange still has no formal
complaint lodged against him:
Assange is wanted for
questioning over allegations of sex crimes in Stockholm in August 2010,
but has resisted extradition to Sweden citing fears that he could be
transferred to the US to face espionage charges. He has repeatedly
requested that he be questioned in London. He has not been charged with any
There is one good thing and
one bad thing I can see. First the good thing:
The statute of
limitations on allegations of unlawful coercion and one count of sexual
molestation, made against Assange by two Swedish women, expires on
Thursday, and on one count of sexual molestation next Tuesday.
Next the bad thing:
allegation against Assange of “rape, less serious crime” remains
current under Swedish law until August 2020.
Note that this is an
allegation that is rejected by Assange.
But from the past
three years - Assange has been locked up in the Ecuadorian Embassy for
more than three years now - in which the Swedes moved like treacle in
high frost, I wouldn't be amazed if they are willing to stretch it for
five more years, of course meanwhile hoping there will be another
Ecuadorian government with other policies and values.
For Assange's real "crime" is that he has published truths that
American government thinks the people should not know.
5. Where did the principle of secrecy in
The last article is by
Shawn Powers on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Privacy as a legal
construct is relatively recent. Until Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis
penned their famous 1890 essay “The Right to Privacy”, private information
was protected from disclosure and surveillance by another name: the
secrecy of correspondence. Perhaps ironically, the right to secrecy has
long been considered sacrosanct – both in domestic and international
communications – a fundamental precondition for the honest and free
flow of ideas and information and the development of a mature
international political system. The right to have secrets, despite centuries of legal lineage and a firm
grounding in democratic theory, remains elusive in an era
of ubiquitous digital communication (and hackers hell-bent on outing Ashley Madison subscribers). But it is central
to the vitality of democratic and international governance.
There is a lot more, but
I will only quote three bits.
The first is about how things were before there was internet:
Mail, on the other
hand, is considered a specific transmission of information between two
or more people, and is afforded robust protections from government intrusions
on the content of the messages. The content of telephone calls, too, is
typically considered private, unless they take place in a public place.
International treaties and organizations continue to ensure the secrecy
of correspondence, as long as that correspondence takes place via
traditional, twentieth-century means of communicating. So why wouldn’t
analogous attempts to communicate, when taking place via the internet,
be afforded similar types of protections?
The answer is, in the
end, mostly this: Because Bush and Cheney thought 9/11, which happened
while the internet was growing rapidly, was a golden opport- unity
to let their spies spy on everything, which they again did by
signing away such rights as Americans had (by means of the Patriot Act
and others, some
also secret) and by pretending new means of communication gave
freedom to declare everything that was done on them as public and open
to inspection by their secret spies.
This was all a lie, but they were helped by several things, and
were Google and Facebook (and others):
Targeted advertising accounts for the vast
majority of internet revenue. It is a technique incompatible with the
principle of secrecy of correspondence. If correspondence (and
browsing) remained secret, internet companies couldn’t promise
advertisers that their ads will be effective. Advertisers would thus
revert to traditional mass-communication platforms to reach their
Personally, I hate
liars, I abhor advertisers and public relations degenerates,
and I think targeted advertising is deeply criminal precisely
because it denies any and all privacy to me in order to give rich
assholes "the right" to address their lies and propaganda
But OK - perhaps that set of values is in a minority position in the
population in which I live.
Even so, I think the situation that existed before the internet was
there, was quite good (though I did see and hear far too many
advertisements), and I think it must be maintained if
only to deny the systematic manipulation of the majority by secret
spies of their own or other governments.
And yes: the only means to maintain it is to encrypt
I think this also may be the conclusion the writer of the
draws, except that she is a bit more coy. Here is the end of the
(...) perhaps it
is time to consider expanding our definition of internet freedom to
include a guarantee of secrecy of correspondence. Such a move may, at a
minimum, provide the historical context for protecting the integrity of
online communications and establish a path forward for a shared,
global, and democratically inclined internet.
I agree, though I add
that another reason is that an internet controlled and manipulated by
secret spies and secret advertisers will be extremely ugly, and
almost certainly will lead to absolute dictatorships like the GDR,
this time the secret spies of the government really will know
 Indeed, to the best of my knowledge I am the only
person since WW II who has been removed from a Dutch university
because of his opinions. Also, the UvA has since not replied so
extremely many times to my letters, mails and site,
just like the City of Amsterdam that I think this is an intentional
policy of both institutions, both of which are still run (since 1948
also) by prominent members of the Dutch "Labour Party" (which is now a
Blairite "New Labour", mostly run by millionaires or billionaires
- from the very rich Cohen and Asscher families - for their own profit,
and to further the legally/illegal selling of - soft - drugs in Holland
(where it is illegal and is - since 1986 - "personally
protected" by mayors, who are mostly from Dutch "New Labour", who
will all reply, with a very sincere face, that they do not
earn anything while contributing to the safe and undisturbed
sales of at least 10 billion dollars in Dutch soft drugs every year,
and it is quite possible several believe them).
 In case you doubt this: I only know
Buddha, Confucius, Aristotle, Aquinas and Marx who had an influence
that was as widespread and as lasting. But sure, the NSA knows
everything, so these spies also must have the equivalent of a
Socrates....(not really, of course, but that is just my point: the
whole question is much more in the realm of propaganda/public
relations than in the realm of facts).