February 6, 2014

Crisis: Surveillance, Hidden Deception, Schröder,  inequality US,  power to  the people,  60ies

   "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

crisis -Next  

Not Waiting for Feds, 'Fight Back' Against Surveillance
     Goes Local, Global

Nudge nudge, say no more. Brits' minds will be controlled
     without us knowing it

3. Iraq War Critic: NSA Targeted Gerhard Schröder's Mobile

4. Why Widening Inequality is Hobbling Equal Opportunity
A Bill To Return Power To The People
6. When Did "The Sixties" Really Begin? Here's Why It

About ME/CFS


This is today's crisis issue, with 6 items covering 7 dotted links. As you see, I can't get longer titles, under the conventions I use, and my titles are often mere brief summaries, but then the alternative is to spread these over several files, and that really takes too much work, and will not be read more but less.

Anyway, I think at least item 2 and item 5 are quite interesting (and item 2 is quite frightening as well).

1. Not Waiting for Feds, 'Fight Back' Against Surveillance Goes Local, Global

First, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Concerned about the government's increasing surveillance powers but unimpressed with the congressional response in Washington so far, state lawmakers from both major political parties are now taking it upon themselves to protect the online and communication privacy of their constituents.

Meanwhile, individuals and privacy groups are planning their own grassroots response to mass surveillance, hoping to repeat past victories by harnessing the power of digital communications to ensure they are adequately protected from government overreach.

The least this is, it seems to me, is necessary. I think so because I too have been "unimpressed with the congressional response in Washington so far" - although one can, I suppose, more or less respect the motives of congressmen who look the other way because they have been blackmailed by the NSA. (Of course, I do not know this, but clearly this is a possibility.)

The writer of the article also cites Associated Press - and I cite part of that:

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have joined in proposing the measures, reflecting the unusual mix of political partnerships that have arisen since the NSA revelations that began in May. Establishment leadership has generally favored the programs, while conservative limited government advocates and liberal privacy supporters have opposed them.

Supporters say the measures are needed because technology has grown to the point that police can digitally track someone's every move.

At least that is reassuring, for I do believe that global surveillance should upset all men of good will, regardless of their political convictions.

Also, there is this:

According to Katitza Rodriguez at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the groups organizing the action, those participating will be demanding "an end to mass surveillance in every country, by every state, regardless of boundaries or politics."

Galvanized by what they see as 13 Principles of internet and communication freedoms, activists will use the day to call attention to those goals, lobby on their behalf with their representatives, and declare an end to the encroaching, unaccountable, and unregulated surveillance apparatus.

And in case you missed the last link, here it is again, because it is important, is mostly quite correct, embodies some serious thinking, and got signed by 362 organizations, 50 prominent persons, and - it this astounding? - no less than 3 elected officials:
It is quite serious, and also a bit officialese, which doesn't matter much.

2. Nudge nudge, say no more. Brits' minds will be controlled without us knowing it

an article by Ian Dunt in the Guardian:
This starts as follows, and is more important than it may seem:

Like all major changes to democratic accountability, it happened with a minimum of fuss. By the time we heard about it, it was already over.

The behavioural insights team – otherwise known as the "nudge unit" because it nudges us to alter our behaviour – has been part-privatised. David Cameron's pet group of 16 behavioural psychologists and economists are being moved from Whitehall to the London headquarters of Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), a charity that will co-own it alongside staff and government. Nesta is providing £1.9m in financing and services to nudge.

Where other government departments could previously make free use of the unit's expertise, they will now have to pay for the privilege. But ministers are hoping the big money lies in providing nudge services to foreign governments, local authorities and private-sector clients.

The reason this is more important is the overwhelming importance of propaganda, deception, and "public relations", in brief: careful, considered lying, deception, falsification and repression in "modern communications", and not only by the propaganda departments of big corporations, but these days also financed by tax money, from the government, and present on all levels.

And the main reason for its enormous success is - I am sorry, but it seems quite true - the average intelligence of the electorate: it is clever enough to be deceived, but generally not clever enough to see they are being deceived.

As Ian Dunt puts it, quite correctly:

It is the first time privatisation has reached beyond its usual terrain of public services and utilities to include an actual bona-fide government policy team. But the change is even more unsettling than that. It marks a dangerous new precedent in the rise of private power over the public.

Now that the nudge unit is privatised, it is protected from scrutiny. It is no longer subject to the Freedom of Information Act and it can sue for libel.

The secrecy and legal might of private firms offering public services is morally indefensible whatever the sector. But in the case of nudge it is particularly dangerous, because this is an organisation specifically tasked with implementing policy on the subconscious of the British public.

Yes, quite so. As he also says:

Nudge is everywhere, from local government to the local supermarket, and Downing Street wants to make some money out of it.

Individually, none of these measures are great intrusions on people's civil liberties, but they are all defined by side-stepping our consent and influencing us on a subconscious level.

Now that nudge has been part-privatised, the direction of travel is all one way: public bodies, corporations and government are trying to change public behaviour without us realising. But we are not entitled to find out about it.

It's a disastrous position for a democracy to find itself in, but neither left nor right have stood up to it.

The main reason that "neither left nor right have stood up to it" is that these nowadays are almost all the same type of "professionals", who all detest the public they pretend to serve, and now they all lie, to maintain their plush jobs, and who make their livings by alternating through revolving doors between governments, parliaments, and soft, well-paying university jobs.

Dunt ends as follows:

The right has failed to show any critical thinking over private power and the way it prohibits democratic accountability. After all, it was Tory ministers who swept in to protect private providers of public services from libel restrictions last year.

The left pushes the state to amass more power and the right is silent when that power is siphoned off to the private sector. This isn't just a failure of scrutiny. It's a failure of the terms of political debate.

This is where it has got us: a private entity dedicated to changing our behaviour without our consent and totally exempt from scrutiny.

I quite agree, but I do not expect any real changes until the system has collapsed - which it well may do after I am dead. (I have no idea, but I am not optimistic.)

3.  Iraq War Critic: NSA Targeted Gerhard Schröder's Mobile Phone 

Next, an article without listed authors in the international edition of Der Spiegel (on line):
This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden appeared to come very close to announcing the news himself. During his recent interview with German public broadcaster NDR, he said: "I would suggest it seems unreasonable that if anyone was concerned about the intentions of German leadership that they would only watch Merkel and not her aides, not other prominent officials, not heads of ministries or even local government officials."

Now it appears that, in addition to eavesdropping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile communications, the National Security Agency was also eavesdropping on Gerhard Schröder's phone while he was still chancellor. On Tuesday night, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and NDR reported that Schröder had appeared on the so-called National Sigint Requirement List, a list of people and institutions named for targetting by the intelligence agency whose telephone communications should be monitored. Schröder was reportedly assigned the number "388" in 2002, if not sooner.

There is considerably more in the article, but - so far - there does not seem to be full evidence - and an appearance on a requirement list of people it would be nice to spy on is not sufficient to prove he was spied on, though I also do not see any reason why he would not be, if the NSA could do it, then, for that seems the only limitation to their powers that the NSA admits to.

4.   Why Widening Inequality is Hobbling Equal Opportunity

Next, an article by Robert Reich that I found on Common Dreams:
Here is the main part from it:

In fact, America’s savage inequality is the main reason equal opportunity is fading and poverty is growing. Since the “recovery” began, 95% of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, and median incomes have dropped. This is a continuation of the trend we’ve seen for decades. As a result:

(1) The sinking middle class no longer has enough purchasing power to keep the economy growing and creating sufficient jobs. The share of working-age Americans still in the labor force is the lowest in more than thirty years. 

(2) The shrinking middle isn’t generating enough tax revenue for adequate education, training, safety nets, and family services. And when they’re barely holding on, they can’t afford to — and don’t want to — pay more.

(3) Meanwhile, America’s rich are accumulating not just more of the country’s total income and wealth, but also the political power that accompanies money. And they’re using that power to reduce their own taxes, and get corporate welfare (subsidies, bailouts, tax cuts) for their businesses.

All this means less equality of opportunity in America. 
Yes, indeed.

A Bill To Return Power To The People

Next, an article by Richard Long on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

If you follow politics, you know the names Koch, Adelson, American Crossroads and Priorities USA Action. If you don’t know the names, you know their tools, the fearmongering ads that purport that voting for this candidate or another will cause the downfall of the country.

These are donors and organizations that spent millions of dollars trying to elect the next president. All in all, the 2012 election cost $5.8 billion, up from the $5.4 billion spent in 2008, with a majority of that money being spent not by candidates campaigns themselves, but rather given to super-PAC creations that arose following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This decision allowed individuals and groups to spend in unlimited amounts, as long as it went to “unaffiliated” political action committees, that could, in turn produce stuff like this.

In fact, there now is a proposal for a bill from Nancy Pelosi and John Sarbanes, that proposes an end to this:

The bill, dubbed the “Government by the People” Act, would work to reduce the power of special interests and big money, and restore the power to the people.

The bill has three main provisions:

  • Providing a $25 refundable “My Voice” tax credit, designed to attract donor participation.

  • Creating a “Freedom From Influence” Matching Fund that would match donations on a six-to-one basis under $150. A candidate would have to prove their support is from a broad base in order to receive these funds, and agree to limit large donations.

  • Giving established candidates additional funds in the last 60 days of the campaign to battle the onslaught of negative ads from Super PACs. This would act as a counterbalance for the candidate that truly has broad support versus the candidate what has donors with deep pockets.

I do not know whether the bill will get passed, were it only because a historical low of passed bills has been reached the last year. In any case, according to Richard Long, it has the following point:

Right now, 69 percent believe that the Republican party pushes policies that favor the rich, and 30 percent of Americans believe the same of Democrats. Unfortunately, the government “by the people, for the people” seemingly has perished from this Earth, and been replaced with a government by the few and for the few. This bill is an attempt to return the country somewhat to Lincoln’s standard, by taking the power away from the rich and returning it to the people.

Daily Kos has a petition where you can add your support to the passage of this bill. Though aiming for 10,000 signatures, as of this writing, the petition has already doubled that number. If you disagree with the notion that big money should run politics, become a citizen co-sponsor of the Government by the People Act by adding your name to the petition here.

Also, I do not know whether I would quite agree to the bill, but I do agree that money must be kept (now: swept) out of politics.

6. When Did "The Sixties" Really Begin? Here's Why It Matters

Finally, an article by Ira Chernus on Common Dreams that is not really about the crisis, and that I list only because "The Sixties" started, in my own Dutch experience, circa 1966, and that also, in Holland, fairly mildly:

The article starts as follows:

When, exactly, did the era of radical ferment we remember as "the '60s" begin? Exactly one half-century ago, PBS tells us in its recent documentary titled "1964," kicking off a year when we'll celebrate the 50th anniversary of a host of memorable events:

After this follows a fairly long list of dotted points that each list some supposedly important event of 1964, after which comes this:

Connect the dots, the PBS show's talking head historians all say, and you'll see a year that changed America forever. "The 60s" had begun!

There's just one problem with this story: Hardly anybody in 1964 was connecting the dots.

Yes, that seems a fair estimate, although I also question whether the ability to connect the dots is the only criterion one should use. Then again, the following seems mostly correct, judged by my own recall of history (and I am from 1950, and am Dutch):

"The '60s" as a real political-cultural phenomenon was not evident to most Americans until 1967 or maybe even 1968. It's only in retrospect that so many events of 1964 seem so obviously intertwined.

There is considerably more in the article. The reason this matters is - or so it seems - that one cannot really judge the current history as it happens, because it will get its definite meaning only some years - at least - later.

I agree, although I also would say that is common sense. And in fact, the big book of photos and events called "The Sixties", by Linda Rosen Obst and Robert Kingsbury, that I have, was originally made in 1977, and was only bought by me, second hand, in 1991, and indeed has more events for 1967, 1968 and 1969 than for the previous years.



[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)[2]

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

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