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Nederlog


  July
18, 2014
Crisis: Snowden, Greenwald, Banks, Assange, Capitalism, Jobs
  "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.
Edward Snowden urges professionals to encrypt client
     communications

2. NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After
     Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children

3. Big Banks Hit With Monster $250 Billion Lawsuit in
     Housing Crisis

4.
Julian Assange Not Freed: 5 Issues to Consider
5. Capitalism's Deeper Problem
6. Technology Displacing Jobs: The European Case

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of July 18. It is an ordinary crisis log.

1.  Edward Snowden urges professionals to encrypt client communications

The first item is an article by Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (and in fact is based on seven hours of interview that are to be published today, but that I haven't seen yet: probably tomorrow):

The NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has urged lawyers, journalists, doctors, accountants, priests and others with a duty to protect confidentiality to upgrade security in the wake of the spy surveillance revelations.

Snowden said professionals were failing in their obligations to their clients, sources, patients and parishioners in what he described as a new and challenging world.

"What last year's revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default," he said.

The response of professional bodies has so far been patchy.

I agree, but I understand the patchiness: First, it is not easy to do. Second, at least in the variant of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) that I tried, your partners must have it installed as well.

Also, I am on Linux, since well over 2 years, and indeed hardly ever touch MS Windows, and Linux is in various ways better than Windows, and should have this installed as a matter of course - but it hasn't. And while installing PGP on Thunderbird worked it took a fair amount of trouble to get that far, and then all of the Thunderbird I had relied on, which was html-based, completely disappeared: PGP took over everything, is only text-based, and that was that: I got no choice on what I wanted (as I initially thought I should get, but no) - and I also do not know anyone who also has it assembled and working, so I could not even try it.

So I deinstalled it again, so as to have a somewhat working Thunderbird back, but that also took considerable trouble. In any case, since I can program in five languages, it should have been easy for me, but it wasn't, although this probably also is related to the very scanty help that came with my installation (which is par for the course, by the way: it seems very few good programmers also can write well).

My own opinion is in fact that e-mail encryption and internet browsing also should be done as a matter of course by one's provider - but since "xs4all" is my provider, which is in fact the Dutch Telecom KPN abusing the name, which they bought some 15 years ago, and which I found consistently horrible, I gave up on them, and will not mail them unless I absolutely have to, if my computer stops working. (Why no other provider? It seems they are all bad in Holland.)

I will try to set up encrypted mail again, since I got other means recently, but one really important problem will remain, I fear: Most others will not have done so, simply because it is too technical. (And I also need a decently working e-mail for those who did not set up encryption.)

Snowden also said something else that is quite important:

"An unfortunate side effect of the development of all these new surveillance technologies is that the work of journalism has become immeasurably harder than it ever has been in the past," Snowden said.

"Journalists have to be particularly conscious about any sort of network signalling, any sort of connection, any sort of licence-plate reading device that they pass on their way to a meeting point, any place they use their credit card, any place they take their phone, any email contact they have with the source because that very first contact, before encrypted communications are established, is enough to give it all away."

Yes indeed. This is simply true. It is also true there isn't that much real journalism left, but this makes it even harder.

And here is Michelle Stanistreet on the same subject:

Michelle Stanistreet, the National Union of Journalists general secretary, echoed the concerns. "For democracy to function, it needs to have a free press and journalists who are able to do their job without fear or hindrance. But this is becoming increasingly under threat."

She added: "Last year's revelations show that unencrypted communications can mean that journalists may be unwittingly handing over their contacts, footage or material, against their will."

Yes. There is considerably more in the article, which I leave to my readers.

2. NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

Further down, Glenn Greenwald writes:

Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.

How one adult can order some other adult - neither being military or police - "to leave Gaza immediately" sounds a bit strange to me, though I am willing to believe it.

What was Mohyeldin's crime or shortcoming? I must suppose he was too friendly or too shocked about the killed Palestinian boys, and he also may have been too factually correct, for the standard US media pose is strongly pro-Israel (which they also tend to confuse with pro-Netanyahu).

3. Big Banks Hit With Monster $250 Billion Lawsuit in Housing Crisis 

The next item is an article by Ellen Brown on Truthdig (and originally on Web of Debt):

This starts as follows, with what I regard as good news:

For years, homeowners have been battling Wall Street in an attempt to recover some portion of their massive losses from the housing Ponzi scheme. But progress has been slow, as they have been outgunned and out-spent by the banking titans.

In June, however, the banks may have met their match, as some equally powerful titans strode onto the stage.  Investors led by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and PIMCO, the world’s largest bond-fund manager, have sued some of the world’s largest banks for breach of fiduciary duty as trustees of their investment funds. The investors are seeking damages for losses surpassing $250 billion. That is the equivalent of one million homeowners with $250,000 in damages suing at one time.

The defendants are the so-called trust banks that oversee payments and enforce terms on more than $2 trillion in residential mortgage securities. They include units of Deutsche Bank AG, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, HSBC Holdings PLC, and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Six nearly identical complaints charge the trust banks with breach of their duty to force lenders and sponsors of the mortgage-backed securities to repurchase defective loans.

There is considerably more there, over two pages, that all seems good to me. She ends like so:

Will the BlackRock/PIMCO suit help homeowners?  Not directly.  But it will get some big guns on the scene, with the ability to do all sorts of discovery, and the staff to deal with the results. 

Fraud is grounds for rescission, restitution and punitive damages.  The homeowners may not have been parties to the pooling and servicing agreements governing the investor trusts, but if the whole business model is proven to be fraudulent, they could still make a case for damages.

In the end, however, it may be the titans themselves who take each other down, clearing the way for a new phoenix to rise from the ashes.

And indeed the business model was fraudulent, and started with Bush Jr. who said that he wanted to give everybody his own house, and that he also would provide the money to buy one - which he did, knowing full well that nearly everyone who accepted such a loan to buy a house while having no reserves (very many, in fact) would loose both his money and his house, as indeed they did.

Anyway - I am curious about the outcome, though I realize this probably will be a long fight.

4. Julian Assange Not Freed: 5 Issues to Consider

The next item is an article by Christian Christensen (an American who is professor of journalism in Sweden) on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows - and note the second paragraph:
A Stockholm district court has ruled that the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not be dropped, and that the outstanding arrest warrant against him still stands.

I’ve made it a point in my writing about WikiLeaks over the past four years to avoid superficial, uninformed pop-legal anaylses of the Swedish case, as well as superficial, uninformed pop-psychological analyses of Assange and others involved in the matter. There have been far too many of those already—by Assange/WikiLeaks opponents and supporters alike—emerging via what I have described as a “social media whirlpool of bullshit, innuendo and de-contextualized half-truths.” My primary interest is in WikiLeaks as an organization and political actor, not in the Assange personality per se.

I like the second paragraph. I do not know much about Christensen, but that seems the correct sort of approach. As to the first paragraph: it's a pity, but it was to be expected.

Christensen discusses five points and seems to do so well. I will not quote them, but I do lift two of his points. First, there is this:
I see WikiLeaks as the pre-cursor to Snowden: WikiLeaks set the stage, at least, for what Snowden did. Now, Manning is facing 35 years in jail, Snowden is in Russia and Assange fears extradition. What all three have in common is the issue of exposing various abuses of power, and how those exposures have been now addressed by those who wish to silence them via the use (or threatened use) of the law.
I agree - and the sketched situation is not one of strength, but of weakness. It would be nice it it were different, but it isn't. Second, there is this:
One of the major issues that came out today was Assange’s fear of extradition to the US and/or indictment. This fear has been treated with disdain by a number of commentators. Whatever your feelings about the case against Assange in Sweden, I find myself surprised by the level of trust placed in the US government by people who deride Assange for this fear. I consider myself to be far from a tin-foil hatted conspiracy nut, but, honestly, how much does the US have to do before people will realize that the rule of law and ethics are not barriers for the US? Gitmo, rendition, drones…you name it. Assange might be wrong. But he might also be right, regardless of the case in Sweden. Blowing off that possibility seems, at least to me, short-sighted.
Yes, I agree, although I doubt (in quite a few cases, at least) that they have a "level of trust placed in the US government": I think they just don't care very much for the rights of (other) persons, and/or seem to think very lightly about being abused by "security persons" or about what one's life is like if one has to go to prison for five, ten or twenty years.

5. Capitalism's Deeper Problem

The next item is an article by Richard Wolff (<-Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:
In fact, the Wikipedia link to Wolff's name is there because I looked him up earlier, after seeing an interview with him by Abby Martin, on Breaking the set, in which he made a good impression on me. He turned out to be a fairly prominent American economist of Marxian beliefs, and indeed one who, unlike most I have heard, is intelligent. [2]

Anyway - this starts as follows:
Recent press reports refer to troubling price increases for such assets as real estate, government bonds, companies targeted for acquisition and artwork. A New York Times front-page headline read “The Everything Boom, or Maybe the Everything Bubble.”

Yet while asset prices soar, the production of goods and services, employment and workers’ incomes are not recovering and resuming growth. Instead, Western Europe, North America and Japan are stuck in a longer, deeper crisis than almost anyone expected. Millions have left the labor force. Wages, benefits and job security are declining; the so-called “middle classes” are evaporating. Having promised “recoveries,” desperate governments inject massive new quantities of money into their economies. What they accomplish most are fast-rising asset prices.
Yes, quite so: I agree. Wolff also offers an explanation, which he says started in the 1970ies, namely globalization:
Old-center capitalists seeking to relocate to the former colonial territories encountered there local partners eager to make and profit from deals with them. Hundreds of millions of new, much cheaper workers thereby became available to old-center capitalist employers. Globalization meant above all a sudden increase in the global supply of labor power, yielding an historically unprecedented buyers’ market for labor.

By relocating production facilities out of their old centers, capitalists drastically cut labor costs. They could escape the higher real wages and welfare state services won by generations of old-center workers. The profit possibilities were stupendous. Competition from those who first successfully relocated then forced even reluctant old-center capitalists to follow.
This in turn meant that by "relocating production facilities" in the third world, they not only "drastically cut labor costs": They also destroyed the economical basis of rich consumers, and slowly but surely destroyed the middle class.

I think that also is correct, at least in principle and in general terms, but unfortunately he doesn't have much more, except a question where the extremes produced by global capitalism may be leading to.

6. Technology Displacing Jobs: The European Case

The final item for today is an article by Jeremy Bowles on Naked Capitalism:
This starts as follows, in the words of Yves Smith (who edits Naked Capitalism):
Some technology enthusiasts predict that as many as 47% of current jobs will be displaced in the next decade. Candidates include not only trucking and bus driving (to be eliminated by self-driving vehicles) but more and more white collar work, as computer get better at the sort of information scanning and analysis that is now done by entry and low-level workers. This post examines different scenarios for how that might play out in Europe.
Actually, I will leave it there as well, for while I read the paper, I found it hard to follow and it also is written in academic English, that also is quite vague.

In any case, the above statement - "
that as many as 47% of current jobs will be displaced in the next decade" - may have the percentage wrong, but it is right in suggesting that there will probably be a lot fewer decently paying jobs for the majority of the less well educated, and that this also will effect the better educated, since in consequence there will be a lot less income, money and sales.

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

Notes
[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] My parents were Marxists; and my one grandfather was a Marxist and the other an anarchist; and I also considered myself a marxist until I was 20, but then gave it up, for quite good reasons also. But I know there are intelligent and sincere marxists, and these I respect - my main problem with nearly all of the "marxists" I have known (rather a great lot, in Holland, England and Norway, though mostly in the sixties to the eighties of the previous century) is that they are not intelligent, do know very little of Marx, in spite of their vast praise, and are certainly not sincere either. See my Budeier-letter for an informed criticism of conventional marxists in the mid-seventies.


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)



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