Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog


  July
17, 2014
Crisis: NSA, The Rich, Citigroup, Spies to Police, Snowden, Facebook
  "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
Sections
Introduction

1.
NSA Surveillance: What the Government Can’t See
2. The Rise of the Non-Working Rich 
3. Citigroup: The Original Gangsta
4.
What Exactly Are the Spy Agencies Actually DOING with
     their Bag of Dirty Tricks?

5. ‘We Need’ People Like Edward Snowden, U.N. Human
     Rights Commissioner Says

6. Having a Facebook Account Is to Beg to Be Manipulated

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of July 17. It is an ordinary crisis log.

Yes it is, and there are six items today, that follow. Incidentally, why do I do this - I mean writing more than 555
crisis items since September 2008?

I will not answer that question here and now, except by saying I would not have done it if I did not think it was important, and that I also have something to con- tribute. Then again, I am quite restrained about the good my own contributions do make: About 2000 daily readers of my very individual point of view is sufficient stimulus for me to keep writing, but it also is not sufficient to make a real difference. (But then that is the fate of nearly all men: even if they are heard, they do not make much of a difference for the ongoing events.)

More about this later. Now to the items of today.

1. NSA Surveillance: What the Government Can’t See

The first item is an article by Sue Halpern on the New York Review of Books:  
This starts as follows:
When official documents are released on the eve of a national holiday, there is a good chance they will attract little notice. This almost happened with a July 2 report on a national security law known as Section 702, which allows warrantless surveillance of people who do not have US citizenship. Bland and bureaucratic, the 150-page report, issued by the bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, mostly found that the surveillance program was working as it was supposed to, and thus seemed certain to disappear from view before the July Fourth fireworks on the National Mall were over.
The article then proceeds to point out that there were thrown two spanners in the wheel:

First, the article by Barton Gellman and two colleagues in the Washington Post, that was based on a study of a lot of data gathered by Edward Snowden, that also took four months. This resulted in the following conclusion:
The main gist of the Post investigation was this: a law ostensibly governing surveillance of foreigners was being used by the intelligence community to monitor a substantial number of Americans themselves. After analyzing more than one hundred thousand intercepted emails, chats, text messages, and the like, Gellman and his colleagues found that about 90 percent of people whose communications were intercepted by the government were not the intended target, that many of those unintended targets were American citizens residing on American soil, and that many of the documents scooped up were personal correspondence—baby pictures, love letters, messages between attorneys and their clients.
Second, a book and an article by Glenn Greenwald, with a similar message, that may be put as follows:
As the Post article pointed out, unintended or not, once those extraneous communications were in the system, they were fair game, and not only for the NSA, but for the FBI, which could hold onto them for future reference. According to Gellman and his team, “The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another.”
Note this concerns native Americans. As for non-Americans, like me: I am clearly not "exceptional", as all Americans are supposed to be, and neither is anyone else whose birth was unamerican:
To address concerns about domestic surveillance, the law required the government to obtain warrants from the secret FISA court only if it sought to monitor “US persons.” Under Section 702, “non-US persons,” all 6.9 billion of them, remained, essentially, fair game.
But the brief of it is that the NSA collects everything and attempts to see everything and indeed can see most things most people do with their computers and cell phones, although the NSA also may have to do a few things in case the persons whose private data are stolen is American (but this is rarely a serious problem for them, for the reasons explained in the quotations).

Also, to me it seems that is what the NSA is for, and what Section 702 is for: To collect all that can be collected, so as to be in a position to control everyone, somehow, if not now then later. And until the NSA gets radically reigned in and turned around, if ever it is, that is what the NSA (and the Five Eyes) will do, which also means that they have much changed their work: They turned from spies to policemen - who spy on everyone (1) to see whether they behave well, which again is as the government wants, and (2) to make them behave well, by virtually any means, foul or fair, though always anonymously and in secret, in case they don't: See item
4.

2. The Rise of the Non-Working Rich 

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows, with a rather startling completely dishonest opinion:

In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”

So why aren't these "self-described conservatives" poor? Given that greed is good and selfishness is moral, as Ayn Rand taught? Well, here the next bit of completely ideological and self-flattering bullshit enters: "because they are not natural born loafers, welfare queens and parasites", of course: they grit their teeth and are busy getting rich. Or so they tell themselves, though this must be false, eventually, for nearly all, for to be rich is to be fairly rare: 1 in 99, at most. And most of the rich are not self-made, these days, but inherited their wealth.

As Reich says:

In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.

The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing. 

In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

Yes, indeed, and the reason is the tax reforms that have been made since 1980, which all benefitted the rich, and only the rich.

Reich gives a decent overview, and concludes as follows:

What to do? First, restore the estate tax in full.

Second, eliminate the “stepped-up-basis on death” rule. This obscure tax provision allows heirs to avoid paying capital gains taxes on the increased value of assets accumulated during the life of the deceased. Such untaxed gains account for more than half of the value of estates worth more than $100 million, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Third, institute a wealth tax. We already have an annual wealth tax on homes, the major asset of the middle class. It’s called the property tax. Why not a small annual tax on the value of stocks and bonds, the major assets of the wealthy?

We don’t have to sit by and watch our meritocracy be replaced by a permanent aristocracy, and our democracy be undermined by dynastic wealth. We can and must take action — before it’s too late.

Yes, but it seems to me it is too late right now. This does not mean one should do nothing, but the fact of the matter is that the few rich have gotten a whole lot richer, and have done so for thirtyfive years now.

3. Citigroup: The Original Gangsta 

The next item is an article by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Barack Obama’s Justice Department on Monday announced that Citigroup would pay $7 billion in fines, a move that will avoid a humiliating trial dealing with the seamy financial products the bank had marketed to an unsuspecting public, causing vast damage to the economy.

Citigroup is the too-big-to-fail bank that was allowed to form only when Bill Clinton signed legislation reversing the sensible restraints on Wall Street instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt to avoid another Great Depression. 

Those filled with Clinton nostalgia these days might want to reflect back on how truly destructive was his legacy for hardworking people throughout the world who lost so much due to the financial shenanigans that he made legal.

Yes, indeed, though I am not "filled with Clinton nostalgia": He is one of the crooks who started "The Third Way", which was and is just propaganda that blinded quite a few but served to help the rich and to destroy social democracy, also outside the US, in Europe (where Blair and Kok adopted it, and were equally bad and equally phony and deceptive as was Clinton).

As for Clinton (Bill not Hillary, though Hillary is as bad):

In 2000, just before leaving office, Clinton went much further in radical deregulation of the financial industry when he signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. In one swoop this eliminated from the purview of any existing regulation or regulatory agency the new financial products, including the mortgage-backed securities at the heart of the financial meltdown and the subject of the $7 billion fine levied in what has to be viewed as a copout deal.

As to the deal Citigroup made: it simply returned a small part of the profits it made in order not to be prosecuted, and instead to be washed clean.

Scheer ends as follows:

The collapse of the derivative market that Summers predicted was immune to “fraud and counterparty insolvencies” plunged U.S. household worth $16 trillion or 24 percent between the third quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2009, according to a study by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.

That’s trillions of dollars, not the $7 billion fine that Citigroup just got slapped with as a means of avoiding the harsher judgment in a court of law that the bank and its politician enablers so richly deserve.

I agree, but the bankers and their "politician enablers" will go on and on with sucking riches from the poor and doing as they please, with at best a fine of part of their profits as "sanction".

And I do not see this ending without a radical and mostly honest candidate - rather than the false "Yes, we scan!" president - being elected as president, on which the chances are quite small, or else without the whole economic system collapsing, which may solve some problems, such as the NSA, at the cost of enormous problems and dangers for everyone.

In fact, I think a collapse is more probable than the election of an honest and radical president, but I do not have numerical probabilities [2], and also I am well aware that a real collapse anyway is a major disaster with very uncertain outcomes.

4. What Exactly Are the Spy Agencies Actually DOING with their Bag of Dirty Tricks?

The next item is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:

This is an interesting and rather long article that starts as follows (colors and links in the original):

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF WHAT THEY MAY BE DOING

Newly-released documents from Edward Snowden show that the British spy agency GCHQ has developed numerous offensive digital tools.

But what exactly are they doing with these dirty tricks?

We think it’s important to think through the specific possibilities, in order to gain an understanding of how pernicious these manipulations can be.

We quote verbatim (in black) the names and descriptions of some of these tools – some of which Glenn Greenwald didn’t highlight in his report.  We then provide descriptions in blue of potential misuses of such tools.

Then we discuss how likely such misuses really are.

I think you should read the article yourself. I will not list the eighteen techniques of deception and control that Washington's Blog lists, but here is part of a summary by Glenn Greenwald (colors and links in the original):

And reporter Glenn Greenwald noted that Snowden documents showed:

Western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.

***

These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse …. Among the core self-identified purposes … are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts
(pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.

There is also this:

The U.S. government is also spending millions to figure out how to manipulate social media to promote propaganda and stifle dissenting opinions. And see this and this.

And any criticism of government policies is now considered “extremist” and potential terrorism. According to Department of Defense training manuals, all protest is now considered “low-level terrorism”. And see this, this and thisQuestioning war is considered extremism. The government also considers anyone who tries to protect himself from government oppression and to claim his Constitutional rights a “extremist”. This is not entirely new … the CIA director in 1972. Indeed – for 5,000 years straight – mass surveillance of one’s own people has always been used to crush dissent.

The NSA is now also collecting and retaining the most intimate personal details of Americans, including nude and suggestive pictures and medical and financial records … even though they admittedly have no conceivable security value.

You may think you have “nothing to hide”, but you’re breaking the law numerous times every day … without even knowing it (update).

Indeed, top NSA whistleblowers say that the NSA is blackmailing and harassing opponents with information that it has gathered – potentially even high-level politiciansjust like FBI head J. Edgar Hoover blackmailed presidents and Congressmen.

Moreover, if the NSA takes a dislike to someone, it can frame them. This has been CONFIRMED by top NSA whistleblowers.

I think this all correct and it also is all very frightening. Indeed, here is in conclusion the judgements of William Binney and Thomas Drake:
Top NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney and Thomas Drake both say that the U.S. has become a police state. They say that the U.S. government has become like the Stasis or Soviets, Binney says that the NSA has become like “J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids” and that “the ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control
And I fear that Binney and Drake - who know a lot more about the NSA than most others - are right.

5. ‘We Need’ People Like Edward Snowden, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Says

The next item is a brief article by Peter Scheer on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news conference Wednesday that Edward Snowden is a defender of human rights and should not be prosecuted.

“We owe a great deal to him for revealing this kind of information,” she said.

When asked specifically whether President Obama should pardon Snowden, Pillay acknowledged that he would first have to be convicted, but said, “I am raising right here some very important arguments that could be raised on his behalf so that these criminal proceedings are averted.”

I agree, though I do not think this will make much real difference, not because of Pillay but because of Obama.

6. Having a Facebook Account Is to Beg to Be Manipulated

The next item is an article by Marty Kaplan on AlterNet:
This article start as follows:

What do you call it when media try to manipulate your feelings without first asking for informed consent?
(..)
Example:  The average Facebook user sees only 20 percent of the 1,500 stories per day that could have shown up in their news feed.  The posts you receive are determined by algorithms whose bottom line is Facebook’s bottom line.  The company is constantly adjusting all kinds of dials, quietly looking for the optimal mix to make us spend more of our time and money on Facebook.  Of course the more we’re on Facebook, the more information they have about us to fine-tune their formulas for picking ads to show us.  That’s their business model: We create and give Facebook, for free, the content they use and the data they mine to hold our attention, which Facebook in turn sells to advertisers. 

Yes, except that I do not belong to the billions who allow themselves to be inspected, spied upon, deceived and abused by Facebook: See my 2011 article: "On the sham called "Facebook".

There is considerably more in the article, including this:
Academic committees called Institutional Review Boards rule on what professors can do to research subjects, but informed consent in Silicon Valley is basically what someone can get away with, which is what’s been true for commerce, politics and the content industries since at least the 1980s.
But I found it - as much that I found on AlterNet - basically a relativist way to sound vaguely leftist but not say anything much at all, much like CNN and MSNBC.

In illustration, here are the last two lines:
 I’ve seen a lot of stories about Facebook fiddling with the happiness of our feeds.  The irony is that I encountered all of them on media whose owners are just as determined to push my buttons as Mark Zuckerberg.
First: "all of them"? But apart from that: Surely, "all of them" are not billionaire freaks like Suckerbug, or whatever his name is.

This is just like Wolf Blitzer: "A does X. B also does X. So A is like B." That way you can "equalize" everything, provided you are stupid enough, though it also is true many people are not precisely intelligent.

And this also is my complaint about AlterNet: It is vaguely leftist, but it is also definitely for the dimmer wits.

---------------------------------

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

[2] As indeed is quite rational, and as should be more frequent: One often can say on rational grounds that there is evidence that pr(F|H)>pr(G|H) but one often does not have rational grounds to assess the individual probabilities numerically, in any precise or enlightening way. (This insight is as old as Keynes' "A Treatise on Probability", of 1921, but it still is not often seen or faced.)


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 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)



       home - index - summaries - mail