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  December
9, 2013
Crisis: Greenwald, Big Media, Snowden, Hedges, Reich, Digby, Illusion
  "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.











Sections
Introduction
  1. Saving the Net from the Surveillance State: Glenn
       Greenwald Speaks Up (Q&A)

  2. Apple, Google, Microsoft and more demand sweeping
       changes to US surveillance laws

  3. Edward Snowden to give evidence to EU parliament,
       says MEP

  4. Chris Hedges: Shooting the Messenger
  5.
JP Morgan Chase, the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, and
       the Corruption of America

  6. Why Privacy? 'The Power of Mind Over Mind'
  7. Illusion
About ME/CFS

Introduction

This is another crisis item. It has seven sections and seven dotted links, but the last item is not about the crisis but about an illusion.

1. Saving the Net from the Surveillance State: Glenn Greenwald Speaks Up (Q&A)

To start with, a fine interview with Glenn Greenwald, by Edward Moyer. This originally appeared in CNET. I found it on Common Dreams.

This starts as follows:

Big Brother may be watching you. But Glenn Greenwald is watching Big Brother.

That's not a bad take on how the 46-year-old constitutional-law attorney turned crusading journalist turned thorn in the side of the NSA might describe his mission.
(...)
Through his efforts, he's looking not only to buttress the Bill of Rights and protect the sanctity of privacy -- he also wants nothing less than to stop the Internet from being warped into what he fears would be "probably the most effective means of human control and oppression ever known," a technology that allows "people's every thought and word to be comprehensively chronicled" by the "surveillance state."

Actually, I think the very beginning is the worst. My reasons are that it is (quite boringly) metaphorical and that the differences are enormous: Greenwald is just one man; the NSA consists of tenthousands or hundreds of thousands of mostly very anonymous mostly very well paid and very well fundeed individuals. Also, the NSA is breaking existing laws on an enormous scale; Greenwald is not breaking any laws.

But OK: Beginnings are difficult, and the rest is a lot better, as is the rest of the above quotation.

Now what I will do is select parts of answers Greenwald gave, and quote and comment on these. I will not quote the questions, and I will also quote a small part of the answers Greenwald gave.

Also, as I think the interview is quite good, you should read it all by yourself.

To start with, there is this, that relates to the conformism that hampers most of the press:

And one of the things we tried to do in how we reported the NSA story was to kind of revitalize the idea of an adversarial relationship between government and journalists, tonally but also behaviorally. And I think that one of the principle objectives of our new organization is to not just tolerate but encourage and foster journalists who think that way.

OK - and indeed this worked in the Guardian (that also has the advantages of being independent and financially well of). I hope this will succeed, but so far there isn't much in place, to my - not very well informed - knowledge.

Next, as to the sources or causes of the conformism of much of the media:

One of the things that's happened to media outlets in the United States is that because of the financial struggles they've undergone, there is a fairly risk-averse, fear-driven climate in which these institutions are eager to avoid protracted [legal] battles with the government or with large corporations because they simply can't sustain those kind of battles financially. So one of the benefits of being a well-funded media organization is that you can do the kind of journalism you want to do without being afraid of ending up in those battles.

That is a decent explanation. Then again, 250 million dollars may not be enough to fight off all the prosecuting the US state can do. But we will see.

Next, there is this on the corruption of the internet:

And I think the surveillance state is not only threatening to undermine that promise but to completely reverse it, so that as we do more and more on the Internet, as we live more on the Internet, as we engage in more activity on the Internet -- all of which we're doing -- states are exercising more and more control over the Internet, and especially monitoring over the Internet, and that means this instrument is being degraded from what its promise was, which was an instrument of freedom, into probably the worst means of -- the most effective means of -- human control and oppression ever known in human history, because there never existed a technology before to allow people's every thought and word and conversation and interest and reading and just interest level and fears to be comprehensively chronicled in the way that the surveillance state allows.

Yes, indeed. Here are "my own main worries", described on February 24 of this year, which was before knowing of Snowden and his revelations, but after writing and publishing Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS [2] - and note I prefix "MM: " to indicate these are quotations of myself:

MM: My own main worries are (1) that governments come to control all one does, says, writes, and says, either secretively, or by legal mandate ("from date X all citizens are required to have their personal computers on line and open to electronic inspection from the Ministries of Love and Information, to protect against the forces of evil and terrorism"), that will be effectively state-terrorism of a kind and degree that never has been known, and (2) that commercial companies may poison most of the internet, by forced and unavoidable "personalized" advertisement, tracking and tracing, and (3) that a type of human being gets created that is effectively a tool of the tools they use, and a slave of the organizations that control the tools they use, which will mostly be governments and international corporations.

MM: Also, I do not know how to prevent most of that, since its introduction has happened and is progressing at a very fast pace, without any effective control, legislation, or oversight [3], and will most probably happen with the - carefully manufactured - consent of the vast democratic majority who do not understand the ways of the world, nor were ever taught properly about the depravities of governments and states, and who tend to believe most of the state and corporate propaganda that reaches them, and who like to follow most of the fashions that surround them, usually because they lack the wherewithal to do otherwise [4], and can be abused at will by those who outsmart them and lack a conscience or have a (profit) motive to do so.

Note that I am 17 years older than is Greenwald, and more pessimistic. The last may be a mistake, but it is much supported by much that happened in my life. Back to Greenwald, who in fact formulates one of my reasons for pessimism:

So, if you're somebody who basically just wakes up every day and accepts the government power and the prevailing order and kind of goes about your business, doesn't really threaten anybody in power -- it isn't just in the United States but in every society, including the most extreme tyrannies -- you're basically not going to be bothered by the state, and you're going to be able to tell yourself, "Well, I don't see any state abuse of power."

True - but this is really the majority of any electorate: Most are conformists, and most do not really understand much about either the technologies they use or the world they live in.

Then there is this by Greenwald on power and influence - and the links are to my definitions:

And the more you can know about other people -- what they're saying, what they're doing, what they're thinking, what they're reading, what they're pursuing -- the more power you have over them, especially if they know less and less about what you're doing, as a result of a wall of secrecy. So power operates in a lot of different realms -- there's psychological power, there's financial power, there's political power, there's an infinite array of other kinds of power -- but power itself is the ultimate causation.

I think Greenwald is here a bit too vague, but the general tendency is quite accurate: The more you know about someone, and the less that someone knows about you, the more power (making the other do as you wish) or influence (making the other believe as you wish) you may have, if you so desire, and indeed the NSA is out for nearly infinite power and influence. Also, it should be quite clear that effective tyrannies may be elected by majorities - as indeed Hitler was democratically elected, in a democratic state.

Next, Greenwald on what he has achieved so far:

The extent to which people think differently about a whole variety of topics, as a result of this NSA reporting -- not just surveillance, but journalism, their relationship to the state, the role of secrecy, the role that the United States plays in the world -- there's been radically different opinions around the world about all these topics. I really do think the last six months have been consciousness-shifting.

I don't know. Greenwald has achieved a lot, and it would be strange if he had thought otherwise. But I still think he is one man, and the powers he opposes are enormous, well-funded, secretive, and consist of many tenthousands of men and women.

Here is another thing Greenwald intends to change with his new news organization:

And another, crucial part of press freedoms that's been attacked is the way sources have been deterred from going to journalists out of fear that surveillance will immediately detect who they are and then they'll be prosecuted very aggressively. And source protection, meaning enabling sources to come to us with the confidence that they can do so safely, is a crucial part of our strategy. That too will go a long way to revitalizing press freedoms.

True - but I do not know how this is going to happen.

Then there is this, where my guess is that Greenwald is more optimistic than I am (and as I said before: I am 17 years older, and have had a fairly difficult life, with much discrimination, that in fact came mostly from politicians and bureaucrats, and that could be done because I am ill since 35 years):

But if we know we're being watched all the time, then we're going to engage in behavior that is acceptable to other people, meaning we're going to conform to orthodoxies and norms. And that's the real menace of a ubiquitous surveillance state: It breeds conformity; it breeds a kind of obedient citizenry, on both a societal and an individual level. That's why tyrannies love surveillance, but it's also why surveillance literally erodes a huge part of what it means to be a free individual.

Yes indeed - except that I have learned in my life that most people are not much interested in being free individuals: most people are much more interested in being conformists, at which they are also quite good - and they are also proud of that. (And whoever is not quite normal must be suspicious, strange, mad or bad. Indeed, that is another reason why so many say that they see little problem in being spied upon: They lie, and they have many things to hide, like everyone, but they want to seem normal.)

Finally, something about Greenwald's opinions about the blessings of the internet and about anonymity:

But I think what it does even more than that is it just expands your sense of possibility as a human being, so that you realize just how many options you have in terms of the kind of person you want to create yourself as, the kind of thought systems you think are valid or to which you ultimately even subscribe. And this freedom that the Internet affords is, I think, unprecedentedly valuable.

And a big part of it is anonymity, because that kind of freedom is possible only if you're secure in knowing that the conversations you're exploring, the kind of ideas you're testing out, the identities you're assuming in order to gain entrance to certain places or to see how people are reacting to you in different circumstances is possible only if you're able to do that anonymously.
About the first paragraph, I only observe this is very much related to one's intelligence: Yes, if you are as smart as Greenwald is, but less so if not - and most men are not very smart.

About the second paragraph, I am aware of the advantages of anonymity, but I am also quite certain it is mostly abused: Very many quite stupid individuals go to lengths of "discussing" they would never dare to use if those they scold and offend could know who they are.

And for me that is one of the reasons to avoid patients' lists: Nearly everyone is anonymous, and nearly everyone pretends to be at least as good as anyone else, and that is just baloney, that also creates enormous amounts of crap and nonsense.

2. Apple, Google, Microsoft and more demand sweeping changes to US surveillance laws 

Next, an article by Dan Robins in the Guardian:

This starts as follows, and is quite interesting:

The world's leading technology companies have united to demand sweeping changes to US surveillance laws, urging an international ban on bulk collection of data to help preserve the public's “trust in the internet”.

In their most concerted response yet to disclosures by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL have published an open letter to Barack Obama and Congress on Monday, throwing their weight behind radical reforms already proposed by Washington politicians.

“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual – rights that are enshrined in our constitution,” urges the letter signed by the eight US-based internet giants. “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change.”

I repeat the last link:

There is a lot more in the article.

3. Edward Snowden to give evidence to EU parliament, says MEP

Next, an article by Philip Olterman:

This starts as follows:

The European parliament is lining up Edward Snowden to give evidence by video link this month, in spite of resistance by British Conservatives, a Green MEP has announced.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green MEP, said parliamentarians wanted Snowden to appear before the assembly's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE).

Albrecht said it would represent a great success for the parliament's investigation into mass surveillance of EU citizens.

He said: "Half a year after the first publications from his collection of numerous NSA documents, the truth of which has not so far been refuted, there are still consequences as far as political responsibility is concerned.

The basic political will is there. Now we will need to see if we can get a formal majority for a hearing and hope Snowden can keep his promise to answer questions on the affair."

This seems good news, and there is considerably more in the article.

4. Chris Hedges: Shooting the Messenger

Next, an article by Chris Hedges on Truth Dig:

This starts as follows:

There is a deeply misguided attempt to sacrifice Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond on the altar of the security and surveillance state to justify the leaks made by Edward Snowden. It is argued that Snowden, in exposing the National Security Agency’s global spying operation, judiciously and carefully leaked his information through the media, whereas WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Hammond provided troves of raw material to the public with no editing and little redaction and assessment. Thus, Snowden is somehow legitimate while WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Hammond are not.

Yes, I think that is true. Then again, Hedges also says:

The government propaganda machine, working feverishly to discredit Snowden, as well as Greenwald, the reporter who made public the Snowden documents, considers all leakers and their allies to be traitors. It doesn’t make distinctions among them. And we shouldn’t either.

No, that is an invalid argument: The fact that my opponents make no distinctions doesn't mean that I should not make distinctions. But I agree with Hedges that Snowden, Manning, Assange and Hammond all are opponents of the US state.

Then Hedges has the following paragraph:

If the corporate state were legitimate it would be worthy of more judicious and careful consideration. If the corporate state truly cared about the common good it would have to be treated with more deference. If the war on terror was, in actuality, a war to protect us rather than an excuse to enslave us we could take as serious our leaders’ warnings about loss of secrecy. But our corporate overlords are gangsters in pinstriped suits. They care nothing for the rule of law. They have put into place the most sophisticated system of internal security in human history. They have shredded our most basic constitutional rights and civil liberties. They have turned the three branches of government into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. They have seized control of the systems of information to saturate the airwaves with lies. They distort the law and government regulations to advance their own pillage and exploitation of us, as well as the ecosystem, which now totters toward global collapse. They have arrogated the right to assassinate U.S. citizens and to rain terror and death from the skies across the planet even though we have not declared war on any state that is being attacked by drone aircraft. There is no internal mechanism left, whether the courts, electoral politics, the executive branch of government or the traditional press, by which these corporate elites can be reigned in or held accountable. The corporate state, in theological terms, is about unchecked exploitation and death. And if the corporate state is not vanquished, and vanquished soon, the human species will not survive.
I agree it is well written, and I also agree more than not, but I doubt the situation is as stark as that. Then again, I am not an American and I am not a journalist.

But to explain one of my differences:
But our corporate overlords are gangsters in pinstriped suits. They care nothing for the rule of law.

I'd say that they may be gangsters in pinstriped suits, but they care for the law, as long as it is on their side.

5. JP Morgan Chase, the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, and the Corruption of America

Next, an article by Robert Reich on his blog:

This starts as follows:

The Justice Department has just obtained documents showing that JPMorgan Chase, Wall Street’s biggest bank, has been hiring the children of China’s ruling elite in order to secure “existing and potential business opportunities” from Chinese government-run companies. “You all know I have always been a big believer of the Sons and Daughters program,” says one JP Morgan executive in an email, because “it almost has a linear relationship” to winning assignments to advise Chinese companies. The documents even include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals.

It’s a serious offense. But let’s get real. How different is bribing China’s “princelings,” as they’re called there, from Wall Street’s ongoing program of hiring departing U.S. Treasury officials, presumably in order to grease the wheels of official Washington?

And it ends thus:

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is important, and JP Morgan should be nailed for bribing Chinese officials. But, if you’ll pardon me for asking, why isn’t there a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act?

Never before has so much U.S. corporate and Wall-Street money poured into our nation’s capital, as well as into our state capitals. Never before have so many Washington officials taken jobs in corporations, lobbying firms, trade associations, and on the Street immediately after leaving office. Our democracy is drowning in big money.

Corruption is corruption, and bribery is bribery, in whatever country or language it’s transacted in.

I agree - but I do not see this being done, and I do see a "democracy [that - MM] is drowning in big money".

6. Why Privacy? 'The Power of Mind Over Mind'

Next, an article by Digby on Common Dreams, that in fact is about the first item above:

This starts as follows:
I've noticed over the last few years that it's fairly common to pooh-pooh the concept of privacy.  "It's dead already", who needs it, if you've got nothing to hide, etc. In this Facebook world in which people eagerly share every thought that passes through their minds, it almost seems quaint. But it isn't. Privacy is fundamental to being a human being.

This interview with Glenn Greenwald is fascinating for any number of reasons and you should read the whole thing, but I was especially taken with his philosophical approach to this subject considering how important his reporting and analysis on the NSA revelations have been.
She mostly quotes, and then connects the quotes with quotes about the panopticon (<-Wikipedia). I agree, but since I have quoted a lot already, I just give the links.

7. Illusion

Finally, there is this picture, that comes with the question: Which square is lighter? [5]

Grey Squares Illusion

The right answer is: Neither (for the most part). And you can see this by keeping your finger across the horizon, where both squares meet. (I should add that the white in the lower square needs to be blocked.)

Anyway, this is a nice illusion.
---------------------------------
Note

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay 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 of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2] This was in many ways a very clear article, in which I guessed many things that I found out later.

[3] Apart from integrity, most politicians simply do not understand the technical issues, and can be as easily misled as most of the ordinary users of computers.

[4] In Holland there tends to be a sort of choir that publicly bleats, like the sheep of Animal Farm might do, "If you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear", that implictly agrees that it are the supermen and superwomen who rule them who are to decide what "wrong" means.

[5] This is taken from a psychological article, in which it was presented as a new illusion, but I found the accompanying text so uninteresting - as indeed I often do with psychology - that I have left it out. But it is a new illusion for me, and a very convincing one.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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