January 5, 2014

Crisis: NSA * 2, Greenwald * 2, Pauly vs Leon, Born to Buy, Redistribution

   "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

NSA Doesn't Deny It Might Be Spying on Congress
2. NSA Admits to Spying On Congress
3. “Surveillance breeds conformity”: Salon’s Glenn
     Greenwald interview

4. Pauley vs. Leon
5. Born to Buy?
6. The Year of the Great Redistribution

About ME/CFS


This is again another crisis file. It is from the first Sunday of 2014. There are two reactions to the NSA's "reply" to Senator Sanders's letter I treated yesterday; an interview with Greenwald, also with a link to another interview; a consideration of the law in the US; an essay on what advertisements have made of ordinary people; and an essay of Robert Reich on the Great Redistribution of wealth that took place in 2013: Upwards - more money for the rich, less money for the rest.

1.  NSA Doesn't Deny It Might Be Spying on Congress

To start with, the first of two reactions to the NSA's "preliminary response" to Senator Bernie Sanders letter, that I reported on yesterday. This first reaction is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
Actually, I think this is a bit too careful, given that one knows the leaders of the NSA are liars and given that it is now known that their aim is to collect all  the information they can technically collect, and given that this includes tapping the phone of Chancellor Merkel, for which reasons there also is a second reaction in the next item.

But the present item starts as follows:
The National Security Agency on Saturday did not deny that it may be spying on members of Congress, and said they "have the same privacy protections as all US persons."

The NSA issued the statement in response to a letter sent by Senator Bernie Sanders demanding to know if the agency has spied on elected officials.
As usual with the NSA, this is not a reply to the question that Senator Sanders asked, which was as follows:

"I am writing today to ask you one very simple question," the Independent Vermont senator wrote in his letter to NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander sent Friday. "Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?"

"'Spying' would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business," Sanders specified.

Clearly, the question Sanders asked can be answered with a simple yes or a simple no. But much rather than simply replying yes or no, general Alexander or his minions delivered more spin and more lies, for they answered as follows:
“NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June."
Firstly, the NSA has no legal authority to do illegal things. Secondly, the NSA collectioning of "data" is the complete opposite of trying to "protect the privacy of US persons". Thirdly, all the evidence I have seen over the last half year shows that "Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process" is a plain lie: The NSA does everything it can do to steal everyone's data of any electronic kind. However, the fourth statement that "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons" probably is honest, and amounts to this: The data of the members of Congress are stolen just like everyone's data are stolen. Fifthly, the statement that the "NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress" is an obvious total lie, given what I have learned the last half year, as is the last quoted statement.

Note that the fact that the data of the members of Congress are stolen just like everyone's data, means that the members of Congress thereby are open to many kinds of blackmail or pressure, depending on whatever they did that they rather kept private.

Here is the second reaction:

2.  NSA Admits to Spying On Congress

Next, a reaction to the same news by Washington's Blog:

I think that is fair, though the full internet title has "pretty much" before "admits". But in any case, here is Washington's Blog's reaction to the same quotation of the NSA as given in the previous item:

In other words: yes, we spy on members of Congress, just like all other Americans.

Quite so. I skip the answer that Washington's Blog provides in case they had denied it, and instead quote, from the same article, the Washington Post:

The Washington Post writes:

The answer is telling. We already know that the NSA collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States. That program was renewed for the 36th time on Friday. If members of Congress are treated no differently than other Americans, then the NSA likely keeps tabs on every call they make as well.

It’s a relief to know that Congress doesn’t get a special carve-out (they’re just like us!). But the egalitarianism of it all will likely be of little comfort to Sanders.”

Finally, here is the last line of Washington's Blog:

In reality, there is quite a bit of evidence that NSA is using information gained through spying to blackmail Congress.

I agree (and you can follow the last link) - and indeed suggest it would be very strange if the NSA did not. This is also one of my reasons not to be very confident that they will be effectively reined in by Congress.

3.  “Surveillance breeds conformity”: Salon’s Glenn Greenwald interview

Next, an article by Natasha Lenard on Salon, which seems a decent interview with Glenn Greenwald:

This starts as follows:

Longtime Salon readers will have known for some years that Glenn Greenwald is an unapologetically opinionated journalist with an unwavering skepticism about corporate-government power. In 2013, the rest of the world learned the same. It was an intense, banner year for Greenwald, who has played a principal role in releasing startling revelations about the National Security Agency through Edward Snowden’s leaks.

Without Greenwald’s work with Snowden (and fellow journalists like Laura Poitras), it’s safe to say we would be considerably less informed about the sprawling, totalized surveillance state in which we live. For this service, Greenwald now fears returning to the U.S. from his home in Brazil (although he plans to do so in 2014); his partner, David Miranda, was detained for nine hours in a London airport for the crime of carrying journalistic materials; and his source, Snowden, faces Espionage Act charges. Truly, Greenwald stands on the front lines of the U.S. government’s war on information.

I will not copy much, but like to comment on this bit:
Major institutions of power aren’t subverted and undermined radically in less than six months. National security state — power centers that have reigned for many years without challenge — don’t collapse in less than six months.

So I think it’s important not to look for unrealistic metrics in determining whether or not a story has had an impact or is successful. Always the prelude to any kind of meaningful change is people first becoming aware or what is taking place, and then persuading each other that they ought to take it seriously enough to respond.

That is true, but even so, while I think that there have been many reactions to Snowden's revelations, I also believe that the chances to defeat the NSA are at best even.

Next, Glenn Greenwald also answers a question about the importance of privacy, which is good, and which ends like this:

And you lose a huge part of your individual freedom when you lose your private realm. Politically that is why tyranny loves surveillance, because it breeds conformity. It means people will only do that which they want other people to know they’re doing — in other words, nothing that is deviant or dissenting or disruptive. It breeds orthodoxy.

However, he misses another aspect of the loss of privacy: This creates an enormous difference between common people, who are all surveilled, and the extraordinary people who do the surveilling, and who can know almost everything about almost everyone, in secret and completely anonymously.

Given what the NSA knows, and indeed what other secret services know, which is basically everything there is to know, this difference will be much larger than the difference between prisoners and their guards.

Anyway - there is a lot more in the interview, and there also is another interview with Greenwald, from the beginning of December, here:

4.  Pauley vs. Leon 

Next, an article by Christopher Brauchli on Common Dreams, who considers the two opposing judgments:
This has the merit of starting with an Orwell quotation, that well may soon be true:
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever.
— George Orwell, 1984
My reason to think so is that all power gets abused, and the more so, the greater the power, and the fewer the effective counter-powers or opponents. And the information the NSA is collecting on everyone, will make it by far the most powerful institution there ever has been.

But to the article. This is a decent undermining of Judge Pauley's judgment, that ended thus:

Judge Pauley concludes: “No doubt, the bulk telephony metadata collection program vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States. That is by design, as it allows the N.S.A. to detect relationships so attenuated and ephemeral they would otherwise escape notice. As the September 11th attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a thread can be horrific. . . . ”
I do not know whether Pauley knows this, but he functions as a very willing follower of Hermann Goering:

And it works also in the United States, in the minds of some judges and some senators, like Feinstein.

5.  Born to Buy?

Next, an article by Anja Lyngbaek on Common Dreams:

This discusses the following theme - which is in fact one of the most important in Europe and the US:
As in so many other areas of our lives, we have been sold on the idea that satisfaction, even happiness, comes through purchase.

Two generations back, my Norwegian grandmother was overjoyed as a child when receiving one modest gift and tasting an imported orange for Christmas. Today, in a time dominated by long-distance trade and excess consumption, nobody gets even mildly excited by tasting a foreign fruit or receiving a small gift. Instead, adults dive into a cornucopia of food, typically followed by dieting, whilst children expect numerous expensive gifts, with electronic toys, games, gadgets and designer clothes topping the list.

Anja Lyngbaek's grandmother may be of my generation, or may be a little older. In any case, my background is a poor one, though not quite as poor as her grandmother, and I saw the rise of advertisements in the Sixties and Seventies, and recognized it then - even at age 10, when a schoolfriend and I discussed the ethics of advertising strong alcohol, which we considered immoral - for being nothing but lies and propaganda aka public relations, which you find explained, and defended, in the book Propaganda, that is also on my site.

Anja Lyngbaek notices this:

Whereas I have no doubt that consumerism does create greed – greed for the latest model of computers, mobile phone, clothes or cars – it has nothing to do with human nature, but all to do with artificially-induced behavior. Our world-spanning corporate-controlled economy, is hatching consumers like never before. From early childhood our eyes, ears and minds are flooded with images and messages that seeks to undermine our identity, culture and self-esteem, creating false needs and teaching us to seek satisfaction and approval through consumption of industrial and corporate products.

No people have been more exposed to this onslaught than the US citizen. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average young person in the US views more than 3,000 ads per day on television, the internet, billboards and in magazines.
Which is completely insane, in my opinion, and strongly supports my notion that ordinary people read these days far more advertisements than any other literature.

Anja Lyngbaek also tells how her son got corrupted very soon when living a year in Denmark, mostly by peer pressure, which again was mostly the product of seeing advertisements.

This is a good piece, but I do not see how the very excessive economical propaganda that moves nearly all ordinary people in the West - whatever their faith or political opinions - can be stopped, other than by a collapse of the whole social system or by a rise in intelligence of some 30 IQ points at least.
And the last possibility is mere science fiction at present.

6. The Year of the Great Redistribution

Finally, an article by Robert Reich from his site:
Basically, this is about two things: That "redistribution" has been made into an evil word, by Fox News etc., and that in fact a gigantic redistribution has taken place in 2013, and indeed through most of the years of the crisis, all in favour of the few rich, at the cost of the many poor.

Here is a small part from the middle of the article:
In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers were members of labor unions. Now, fewer than 7 percent are unionized.

All this [there is more that I did not quote - MM] helps explain why corporate profits have been increasing throughout this recovery (they grew over 18 percent in 2013 alone) while wages have been dropping. Corporate earnings now represent the largest share of the gross domestic product — and wages the smallest share of GDP — than at any time since records have been kept. 

Hence, the Great Redistribution.
Yes, indeed - and this also supports my continuing to speak of a crisis: I am talking of everyone, and not just the rich few, and as long as the rich get richer while the many get poorer, it will be a time of crisis, whatever the stock markets say.


[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.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

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)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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