is also a regular crisis item, mostly because
there were quite a few
crisis items, and because of my energy. There are six crisis items, and
a brief seventh on my own appreciation of the year. I guess the Rakoff piece
is the most interesting.
1. Pierre Omidyar plunges first $50m
into media venture with Glenn Greenwald
To start with, an article by Ed Pilkington in the Guardian:
Pierre Omidyar, the
founder of eBay, is injecting his
first $50m into the new journalism venture he is setting up with former
Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald.
The investment represents
the first tranche of a total pot
of $250m that the billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist has
promised for the new operation. A
statement released from Honolulu on Thursday said that the money
was being used to set up offices in New York, San Francisco and
The holding company,
which has changed its name from NewCo
to First Look Media, seeks to build on Greenwald’s growing following in
the wake of his work on the Edward Snowden leaks of National Security
Agency documents to generate what it calls “robust coverage of
politics, government, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, arts and
culture, business, technology, and investigative news”.
more in the article, and also in the next item: 2.A First Look at NewCo’s structure
Next, an article by Jay Rosen (who teaches journalism)
on what seems to be his own site:
Jay Rosen supports Glenn Greenwald, and also is an
adviser to Omidhyar's new company. In the article he explains a little
about the new company:
new company will consist of several legal entities. One is a technology
company, a business run for profit, that will develop new media tools
for First Look properties and other markets. Another is a 501(c)(3), a
non-profit under U.S. law. Its mission will be to publish and support
independent, public interest journalism.
also explains that the idea to have several companies, of which the
for-profit one supports the non-profit one, is not new. Then again, the
present set-up is at least a bit different from other, existing,
way to say it is: public service, mission-driven journalism, including
investigative work, has always been subsidized by something:
advertising, other kinds of news, donors to a non-profit (as with
ProPublica) or a related and profitable business like the Bloomberg
terminals that subsidize Bloomberg News. First Look Media is adding to
the picture another possible source of support: profits from a company
specifically focused on technology for producing, distributing and
consuming news, views and information.
more, see the article.
Internet Giants Oppose Federal Surveillance
Next, an article by ZoŽ
Carpenter, that I found on AlterNet:
Eight prominent Internet
technology companies unveiled an open letter last week calling for
reforms to the government surveillance programs revealed by Edward
Snowden. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of
the state and away from the rights of the individual—rights that are
enshrined in our constitution,” reads the letter, published on a website that
lays out five principles for reform, including greater oversight and
transparency, as well as an end to bulk data collection.
Executives from seven of
the firms will meet with President Obama on Tuesday, in the shadow of a
federal judge’s ruling that the collection of domestic phone records is
"almost certainly" unconstitutional. The opinion from US District
Judge Richard Leon reinforces the impression that NSA overreach
constitutes a primary threat to privacy and civil liberty. But some
privacy advocates caution that even if the NSA’s programs are scaled
back, surveillance infrastructure will persist in the private
sector—thanks to the same companies now calling for reform, whose
business models depend on the collection and sale of vast quantities of
Indeed. In case you were
inclined to believe that the internet technology companies exist to
help you, the answer is no:
When it comes to its own
practices, however, the IT industry has a record of fighting consumer
protections. Silicon Valley has lobbied aggressively against legislation in
Europe that would help users evade online tracking and targeted
advertising. Google has paid more than one multi-million dollar settlement
for evading privacy protections built into the Internet browser Safari,
and a related lawsuit is pending in the United Kingdom. It appears
that, as Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU tweeted last week, Google and other companies
“just want to be the exclusive spying source for their customers’ data.”
Quite so. The article also
explains "Google and other companies" are far less dangerous than the
states' secret services (the NSA, the GCHQ etc.) are, but the general
point is that "Google and other
companies" exist to exploit rather than help you, though indeed the one
happens through the other.
I know how to prevent all
of this in principle, but not in fact. The principle is very simple:
The internet should be
organized so as to keep private what people want(ed) to keep private
and could keep private before computing, notably their e-mails, their
phone conversations, who they call with, where they are themselves, and
political and ethical opinions (that occur in their e-mails and phone
conversations) and also their financial information (what they buy, how
much they earn etc.)
It is fairly easy, in
principle, to organize the net this way, namely by encrypting all this
information (and this encryption is to be undone only by a judicial
process, quite as indicated in the Fourth Amendment).
The main factual problems
are two: First, it seems that none of the big players, that covers both
the internet technology companies and the states, want this sort of
encryption, even though it would be perfectly in line with the
agreements that have been in place for many decades for the paper post.
Second, it seems that there is no legal way to enforce this, simply
because any law is maintained by states, and the internet is
Then again, if the US or
the EU could be brought so far as to enforce this, it is likely to be
maintained, mostly - if the encryption of private data is really in
place, and is effective.
4. Greenwald Responds to 'Ludicrous'
Accusations Over Snowden
This is the best word to
describe accusations that former Guardian journalist Glenn
Greenwald is merely a "spokesman for Edward Snowden," so says the
embattled journalist who has taken heat from corporate media and
political commentators around the world for working with the NSA
whistleblower to expose the vast dragnet surveillance practices of the
In an interview
on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, Greenwald was forced to
defend himself once again when anchor Kristen Welker accused him of
"crossing the line" with his coverage of the ongoing NSA revelations,
which have shocked the world since last June, and asked him to respond
to the 'spokesman' accusations.
There is a link to the
interview below. Here I quote only a brief piece by Ms Welker, who
speaks for MSNBC:
"I think the point
is not so much about MSNBC and what happens here,” Welker
responded, “but more that sometimes when you talk about Edward Snowden
you do defend him, and some people wonder if that crosses a line.”
If you do not get it after
more than half a year of real revelations, you do not get it either
because you are a moron or because you are evil minded.
As to Ms Welker: I do not
think she is that much of a moron; I think Greenwald's earlier point
was quite fair; I think MSNBC is to the Democrats what Fox News is to
the Republicans; I think Greenwald is right to defend Snowden; and I
think "some people" are Hayden, Alexander and others, who are thieves
of the personal data of 300 million American citizens - but I do
understand that Ms Welker does not want to discuss them, because she
supports them, rather than Greenwald, Snowden or her viewers, and this
may not be quite her own intent, but simply a condition of working for
Anyway... here is the
"interview" with Greenwald, at least in part:
5. The Financial Crisis: Why Have No
This starts as follows -
and I recommend you read all of the article:
Five years have passed
since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While
the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans
leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources,
Who was to blame? Was it
simply a result of negligence, of the kind of inordinate risk-taking
commonly called a “bubble,” of an imprudent but innocent failure to
maintain adequate reserves for a rainy day? Or was it the result, at
least in part, of fraudulent practices, of dubious mortgages portrayed
as sound risks and packaged into ever more esoteric financial
instruments, the fundamental weaknesses of which were intentionally
I think by now - having
meanwhile written over 300 pieces on the crisis, since September 1,
2008 - it is evidently the last: The crisis resulted from the
fraudulence that was enabled by the deregulation
(that was started by Clinton).
Judge Rakoff - skipping
some - has this:
But if, by contrast, the
Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud,
the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the
more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.
Yes indeed. And I
think it is an egregious failure - that was also mostly planned
and implemented by the US governments from Clinton's second
explaining that earlier frauds were prosecuted and convicted, Judge
In striking contrast with
these past prosecutions, not a single high-level executive has been
successfully prosecuted in connection with the recent financial crisis,
and given the fact that most of the relevant criminal provisions are
governed by a five-year statute of limitations, it appears likely that
none will be. It may not be too soon, therefore, to ask why.
Judge Rakoff first deals
with the possibility that no fraud was committed. He himself declares
he has no opinion, but then proceeds:
But the stated opinion of
those government entities asked to examine the financial crisis overall
is not that no fraud was committed. Quite the contrary. For example,
the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in its final report, uses
variants of the word “fraud” no fewer than 157 times in describing what
led to the crisis, concluding that there was a “systemic breakdown,”
not just in accountability, but also in ethical behavior.
As the commission found, the
signs of fraud were everywhere to be seen, with the number of reports
of suspected mortgage fraud rising twenty-fold between 1996 and 2005
and then doubling again in the next four years.
Indeed. Next, he
discusses three grounds for not prosecuting these frauds, each of which
he discusses. I give only the grounds:
First, they have argued
that proving fraudulent intent on the part of the high-level management
of the banks and companies involved has been difficult.
Second, and even weaker, the Department of Justice has sometimes argued
that, because the institutions to whom mortgage-backed securities were
sold were themselves sophisticated investors, it might be difficult to
The third reason the department has sometimes given for not bringing
these prosecutions is that to do so would itself harm the economy.
My own view is that
this is merely a lot of quite intentional baloney, which may not be
Judge Rakoff's opinion, but seems quite close - but he is (and needs to
be) considerably more careful than I am.
I again summarize and
skip a lot, and arrive at this:
So, one asks again, why
haven’t we seen such prosecutions growing out of the financial crisis?
I offer, by way of speculation, three influences that I think, along
with others, have had the effect of limiting such prosecutions.
Here are the three
influences, that are each carefully discussed, but are here merely
First, the prosecutors
had other priorities.
But a second, and less salutary, reason for not bringing such cases is
the government’s own involvement in the underlying circumstances that
led to the financial crisis.
The final factor I would mention is both the most subtle and the most
systemic of the three, and arguably the most important. It is the shift
that has occurred, over the past thirty years or more, from focusing on
prosecuting high-level individuals to focusing on prosecuting companies
and other institutions.
As to the third influence,
that indeed seems the most important, not only as regards banks, but
also in medical cases (pharmaceutical companies), and that is discussed
at considerable length, though not with regard to pharmaceutical
companies, here is judge Rakoff's opinion:
I suggest that this is
not the best way to proceed. Although it is supposedly justified
because it prevents future crimes, I suggest that the future deterrent
value of successfully prosecuting individuals far outweighs the
prophylactic benefits of imposing internal compliance measures that are
often little more than window-dressing.
So indeed this is a very
good article. And while judge Rakoff is quite clear in repeatedly
insisting he has no specific opinion on whether fraud was
committed, here is his last line:
But if it was—as various
governmental authorities have asserted it was—then the failure of the
government to bring to justice those responsible for such colossal
fraud bespeaks weaknesses in our prosecutorial system that need to be
And since I am neither a
judge nor an American, I can say that in my opinion a colossal fraud
committed, and it happened all or at least for the most part on
purpose, not only
by the banks, and other large corporations, but also by the governments.
6. Glenn Greenwald and Sibel Edmonds: Two
I list this mainly to
give my readers a chance to make up their own minds, namely on the
question whether Greenwald (and also Snowden) can be failed in some
major respect, such as being blind to false flag terrorism.
I do not know, but I do have an opinion on false flag terrorism - which
is a technique that is quite popular, and often amounts to organizing
an attack on one's own troops under the flag of the country one wants
to start a war with.
My opinion is that false flag terrorism, which may also have
been involved in 9/11: see the Nederlog of October
21, 2013, almost always is very difficult to prove, and
therefore easily leads to all sorts of problems, unclarities, and
extended discussions that generally do not terminate, simply because
there is no decisive evidence.
So it seems to me Greenwald did very well avoiding the issue of false
flag terrorism, and that not because it doesn't exist, but because it
is difficult to prove.
7. Personal The above is again
an ordinary crisis item. I know I have made some promises I have not
(yet) kept, but it's also true that most of my time and energy go to
maintaining the crisis reports, which i.a. prevented my finishing - so
far - the translation of the Dutch "On
terrorism" piece, and also some other things.
Also, I do not know whether these things will get done this year, and I
suspect most, possibly all, will not be done this year.
In any case, as there are only four more days to the year, I'd like to
say that this year was better - considerably less bad - for me than
The first half of 2012 was quite good, but the second half was very
bad, whereas in 2013 my eyes have consistently, albeit also quite
slowly, improved, which allowed me to sleep properly in the last third
of the year, after not having been able to do so for 15 months, and
also in 2013 my ME has not grown worse, and may even have grown a
(I may use one of the four days that remain to write some about that,
but it is difficult to be sure.)
So by and large 2013 was better for me than 2012, though it also was -
still - mostly unpleasant.
 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
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.)
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.