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Nederlog


  October
15, 2014
Crisis: Hackers, Super-rich*2, Surveillance, Loneliness, Citizenfour, Obama, Kohl
  "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.
 Russian hackers suspected of Kremlin ties used Windows
     bug ‘to spy on west’

2.
From ancient castles to mega-yachts: what history
     teaches us about the super-rich

3. Mass internet surveillance threatens international law,
     UN report claims

4. The age of loneliness is killing us
5.  “Citizenfour”: Laura Poitras’ Secret Snowden
      Documentary Is Electric

6. The Top 1% Own... Half
7. How Obama Controls Media Coverage of the
     Administration

8. The Reckoning: Kohl Tapes Reveal a Man Full of Anger

About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 15. It is a
crisis log.

There are eight items with eight dotted links, but you should especially read item 3 and the article reviewed there: this is quite good on the legalities of surveilling, and is by a lawyer working for the United Nations. Also, there are items 2 and 6 on the super-rich; item 5, which is mostly a review - quite praising also - of Citizenfour; and revealing articles about Barack Obama and Helmut Kohl in item 7 and item 8. Also, item 1 explains Windows is still used for spying.

But at least check out item 3! Here goes:

1. Russian hackers suspected of Kremlin ties used Windows bug ‘to spy on west’

The first item is an article by Alec Luhn on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Russian hackers suspected of ties to the Kremlin have spied on the Ukrainian government, European Union, Nato and others through a previously unknown bug in Microsoft Windows, researchers say.

The cyber-threat intelligence firm iSight Partners said on Tuesday it had found a “zero-day vulnerability” – an unaddressed security breach – affecting almost all versions of the Windows operating system since the 2007 Vista. ISight notified Microsoft of the vulnerability before publishing its findings, and the software multinational said it would release an automatic update to fix it.

A group of hackers iSight called the Sandworm Team reportedly exploited this and other vulnerabilities from 2009 to steal diplomatic and intelligence documents, as well as data that could be used to penetrate further systems. The team targeted dozens of computers used by Nato, the Ukrainian and EU governments, French telecom firms, Polish energy firms and a US academic body, iSight said.

I say. But I am not really amazed: MS Windows is private and closed source, and it is probably full of holes, some intentional and some not, and therefore you can expect news like this.

Here is the mode of operation for the present news:
The zero-day vulnerability arose because Windows allows a technology known as object linking and embedding to download certain types of files from unverified sources, which can be used by hackers to remotely run codes for obtaining information. In particular, the Sandworm Team reportedly infected targets with malicious email attachments, largely PowerPoint files.
I never used that, and indeed I have not used Windows on a computer connected to the internet for 2 1/2 years now. And I suggest you do the same: I am not saying you are safe running Linux/Ubuntu, but (1) it is better than MS Windows and (2) it is quite easy to install.

In case you need a guide, here is one and here another (the last is not mine, and probably the most useful).

2. From ancient castles to mega-yachts: what history teaches us about the super-rich 

The next item is an article by John Kampfner on The Guardian:

In fact, this seems to be a prepublication from Kampfner's book "The Rich, From Slaves to Super-Yachts, a 2000-Year History".

I take it he has studied his subject and indeed he reveals the very rich as being quite human, and having all ordinary human weaknesses - except that these are writ very large by owning enormous amounts of money:

The people who are blamed for the economic crisis and for widening inequality are still living in their parallel worlds, raking in the bonuses, taking their private jets to their private islands, while dolling out the odd scrap known as philanthropy.

This is the topography of the global nomads – they mix with a narrow group of similar-minded people, sparring with each other at the same auctions, fraternising on each other’s yachts. They compare themselves only against each other, leading them often to be dissatisfied with their lot, believing themselves to be not wealthy or powerful enough. They pay as little back to the state in tax as they can get away with. They reinforce each other in their certainties, convinced that their acquisition of wealth, and spending of it through charitable enterprise, has earned them their place at the apex of global decision-making and moral supremacy. Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, spoke for many of his group when he famously quipped that he was “doing God’s work”.

I take it this is more or less correct as regards their living in private parallel worlds, in which they only compare themselves to their likes, and where they also believe that they are so very special that their very speciality has given them, in their eyes at least, "their place at the apex of global decision-making and moral supremacy".

But this packs extremely little criticism for major theft - "
They pay as little back to the state in tax as they can get away with" - and for enormous exaggerations of their own talents and their own good will: their talents are mostly greed and determined egoism, and their good will is mostly public relations. Besides, most who made their fortunes themselves are not so much intellectually special as that they were very greedy, very egoistic, and also quite lucky: for every successful mogul, there are a thousand would bes who failed, and not by being less greedy and less egoistic, but mainly though being less lucky.

Also, while I agree the rich of today are like the rich of yesterday as regards greed, egoistic cunning, exaggerated consumption, and being locked in their own private worlds of their own kind, I think the very rich of today are also unlike the very rich of yesterday:

They own more wealth and more power than anyone ever did, and presently they also live in a world were extreme wealth and extreme power talk as never before, for democracy, justice, and equality have been mostly murdered by propaganda, lies and deceptions, indeed for the most part not through the direct actions of the very rich, but through the actions of the politicians they control with their money. Also, while former very rich men might control a country, the present rich men own the world, and they also control much of it.

Here is part of the actions of the very rich, which may be described as egoistic greed helped by millions, and indeed this kind of behavior is well-known through the ages:

The super-rich are compulsively competitive – in the making of money and spending of it. Opulence has been manifested differently over the ages, but the psychology underlying it has rarely changed. For slaves, concubines, gold and castles of ancient and medieval times, read private jets, holiday islands and football and baseball clubs of the contemporary era.
(...)
What matters most is reputation. They employ a well-paid army to look after their brand, to wash away inconvenient facts about their past. Lawyers are hired to slap libel writs; public relations agents massage the message.
Yes, that probably also is correct, and it again shows the very rich are quite like the non-rich: they like to sport their enoprmous opulence to the non-rich, just as the non-rich like to sport their new car to their jealous cronies.

And there is also this:

Status and reputation have always followed money. In the complex psychology of the super-rich, victimhood is a natural concomitant to entitlement. By the same token, a sense of innate superiority is the flip side to the desperate yearning for reputation.
Yes and no: Status and reputation may always have followed money, but these were not the status and reputation for large intellectual, artistic or moral talents, which most of the very rich simply do not have, but more simply the status and reputation that great wealth may buy.

Also, the notion that victimhood = entitlement is a degenerate piece of modern propaganda, that translates as "the many poor owe their poverty to themselves: let them rot and die", which is just sick: To be rich is always to be exceptional; not to be rich has always been the norm, but the outspoken contempt for the many poor these days is just sick and morally degenerate complete lack of care.

I agree that many of the rich have a - quite false, and quite dishonest - "
sense of innate superiority", which is quite false and quite dishonest precisely because it is based on greed, egoism and luck in most cases, and not on any intellectual, artistic or moral superiority of any kind: You never hear about any billionaire who has made his own money and then used that to turn himself (or herself) into a great scientist, a great artist or a great saint, and the reason you do not hear this, but instead hear a lot about the opulence of the very rich, is that they simply lack real human talents for the most part (that is, again: apart from greed, egoism and considerable luck, which indeed will bring some of the greedy egoists to the top).

But as I said: it seems to me John Kampfner is a bit too eager not to judge the rich too harshly, and he also seems too much intent on painting the modern rich like the earlier rich, which is true as far as their "talents" go, but not true as far as their effective scope is concerned: the modern mega-rich of the present century simply command much more than the mega-rich of earlier centuries.

For more, see the above dotted link and also section 6 below.

3. Mass internet surveillance threatens international law, UN report claims

The next item is a - very good - article by Owen Bowcott and Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Mass surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies is “corrosive of online privacy” and threatens to undermine international law, according to a report to the United Nations general assembly.

The critical study by Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, released on Wednesday is a response to revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden about the extent of monitoring carried out by GCHQ in the UK and the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US.

Emmerson’s study poses a direct challenge to the claims of both governments that their bulk surveillance programs, which the barrister finds endanger the privacy of “literally every internet user,” are proportionate to the terrorist threat and robustly constrained by law. To combat the danger, Emmerson endorses the ability of Internet users to mount legal challenges to bulk surveillance.

“Bulk access technology is indiscriminately corrosive of online privacy and impinges on the very essence of the right guaranteed by [the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights],” Emmerson, a prominent human rights lawyer, concludes. The programmes, he said, “pose a direct and ongoing challenge to an established norm of international law.”

Quite so! And these bulk surveillance programs are clearly not "proportionate to the terrorist threat" (for "the terrorist threat" is quite small: less than 1% of 1% of the might of the Soviet Union and China in the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties) and also clearly not "robustly constrained by law": in fact the law has been consistently trampled upon, denied, abused, overthrown and lied about by governments and by spokesmen for the spying agencies.

Indeed:
Article 17 of the covenant, Emmerson points out, states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home and correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation”.
And all the lies and bullshit from Obama's government do not overthrow that law, that implies that the NSA's and the the GCHQ's stealing of the private data of billions was just that: Extremely impertinent extremely dishonest theft, that was and is being robbed by the powerful to make them more powerful.

In fact:
The 22-page report warns that the use of mass surveillance technology, through interception programs developed by the NSA and GCHQ such as Prism and Tempora, “effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the internet altogether”.
Again quite so. And there also is the following correct distinction:
Emmerson differentiates between targeted surveillance, which follows a belief that its subject is involved in a specific act of wrongdoing, with bulk surveillance, which indiscriminately swallows up digital or telephonic communications data. The latter practice gives countries like the US and the UK access to an “effectively unlimited number of users,” Emmerson writes.

“This amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect for the privacy of communications, and requires a correspondingly compelling justification,” Emmerson maintains.

“Merely to assert – without particularization – that mass surveillance technology can contribute to the suppression and prosecution of acts of terrorism does not provide an adequate human rights law justification for its use. The fact that something is technically feasible, and that it may sometimes yield useful intelligence, does not by itself mean that it is either reasonable or lawful.”

Yes indeed - for otherwise anybody stealing anything from a safe with a blow torch is not doing anything criminal.

And Emmerson quite rightly says this:
The argument that anything online should be considered to be in the public domain is demolished by Emmerson. “Merely using the internet as a means of private communication cannot conceivably constitute an informed waiver of the right to privacy,” he states. “The internet is not a purely public space. It is composed of many layers of private as well as social and public realms.”
(..)
“It is incompatible with existing concepts of privacy for states to collect all communications or metadata all the time indiscriminately. The very essence of the right to the privacy of communication is that infringements must be exceptional, and justified on a case-by-case basis.”
Quite so! The only thing I am not quite happy with is the ending:

“The right to privacy is not,” Emmerson’s report acknowledges, “an absolute right. Once an individual is under suspicion and subject to formal investigation by intelligence or law enforcement agencies, that individual may be subjected to surveillance for entirely legitimate counter-terrorism and law enforcement purposes.”

But he adds: “There is an urgent need for states to revise national laws regulating modern forms of surveillance to ensure that these practices are consistent with international human rights law.

“The absence of clear and up-to-date legislation creates an environment in which arbitrary interferences with the right to privacy can occur without commensurate safeguards. Explicit and detailed laws are essential for ensuring legality and proportionality in this context.”

The reason I am not happy about this is that I think there is good legislation; that legislation has not been written to be specific to paper mail; and that legislation also has been used to get the above conclusions, which indeed are quite correct.

So for me the situation seems to be the reverse: There are "
arbitrary inter- ferences with the right to privacy"; these are interferences because they are clearly illegal; and while "explicit and detailed laws" are nice to have, the existing rules and regulations are quite sufficient to deny all rights to any mass surveillance, and to infer that any government who denies this consist of willing computer criminals who abuse the privacy of their inhabitants to build up their own power, which will be larger than that of the Gestapo, the SS and the SD combined. (And: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" - Lord Actoon.)

And that is also the reason these data are being stolen anyway, regardless of the legislation that forbids this.

In any case: this is a very good article you should read all of.

4. The age of loneliness is killing us

The next item is an article by George Monbiot on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void filled by marketing and conspiracy theories. Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous 20. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.

I say. There is a lot more in the article, but I would not call this "the Age of Loneliness". There are lots of other titles that are also too simple, but are at least a bit better: The age of alienation; the age of greed; the age of egoism; the age of stupidity; the age of propaganda and deception; the age of money; the age of no moral values - any of these seem to me both better (or at least: less bad) than "the age of loneliness", and indeed quite a few of the alternatives (alienation, greed, egoism, deception) also may explain the loneliness.

Anyway... you can read the rest, but it seems Monbiot also is not very certain that his "age of loneliness" explains all or much.

5. “Citizenfour”: Laura Poitras’ Secret Snowden Documentary Is Electric 

The next item is an article by Andrew O'Hehir on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

As is customary each fall, this year’s New York Film Festival has unveiled any number of buzzed-over new movies, including the world premieres of David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice,” and the United States premieres of several major Oscar contenders, among them Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman.” But nothing at NYFF felt quite as consequential (to use the vocabulary word of the moment) as “Citizenfour,” the documentary about Edward Snowden that Laura Poitras made over the last two years, essentially in secret and under severe duress.

There is a lot more in the article, that is quite enthusiastic. I leave this to your interests, and indeed have not seen the film myself, though I intend to if and when it comes to Amsterdam.

Here is just one more bit, that I think is quite right:

So what drove Ed Snowden? You can pretty much boil it down to the fact that the U.S. government has repeatedly lied to the citizens it supposedly serves about many things, but most of all about the level of intense surveillance we’ve all come under since 9/11, without even the pretense of public discussion or legislative debate.

6. The Top 1% Own... Half

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and underscores that the present very rich are not like the previous very rich, for the simple reason that they are both a lot richer and a lot more powerful):

The top one percent of the wealthiest people on the planet own nearly fifty percent of the world's assets while the bottom fifty percent of the global population combined own less than one percent of the world's wealth.

Those are the findings of an annual report by the investment firm Credit Suisse released Tuesday—the 2014 Global Wealth Report (pdf)—which shows that global economic inequality has surged since the financial collapse of 2008.

According to the report, "global wealth has grown to a new record, rising by $20.1 trillion between mid-2013 and mid-2014, an increase of 8.3%, to reach $263 trillion – more than twice the $117 trillion recorded for the year 2000."

(...)

And the report reveals that as of mid-2014, "the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets.”

As I have said before, I consider that last state of affairs throroughly obscene. Here is part of the reason why, which is a quotation from the report:

In almost all countries, the mean wealth of the top decile (i.e. the wealthiest 10% of adults) is more than ten times median wealth. For the top percentile (i.e. the wealthiest 1% of adults), mean wealth exceeds 100 times the median wealth in many countries and can approach 1000 times the median in the most unequal nations. This has been the case throughout most of human history, with wealth ownership often equating with land holdings, and wealth more often acquired via inheritance or conquest rather than talent or hard work. However, a combination of factors caused wealth inequality to trend downwards in high income countries during much of the 20th century, suggesting that a new era had emerged. That downward trend now appears to have stalled, and posssibly gone into reverse.

It definitely has "gone into reverse", and that is also why I consider it throroughly obscene:

Clearly, the inequalities of the 18th and 19th centuries were gross and inhuman - but it now seems, at least according to the very rich and their spokepersons, that the 20th century was a mere humane intermission in their compact to plunder and exploit nearly everyone for their personal benefit, to augment their already obscene riches even more.

7. How Obama Controls Media Coverage of the Administration

The next item is an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows:

Despite grand promises of transparency before he took office, Obama has proven to be the most secretive president in modern history. His Administration has classified vastly more documents than any of its predecessors. And let us put none too fine a point on it: classification of information is how we do censorship in America.

In keeping, the Obama Administration has been far more aggressive than any modern president, including Richard Nixon, in his efforts to muzzle the press. One of its new measures to cow the media has been to target leakers, and the journalists to whom they speak, with the Espionage Act.

Yes, indeed. There is a considerable amount more, that includes a video, in which you can see Obama promising his presidency would be more open and less secret than any other. In fact, it has been less open and more secret and it has hounded journalists as if they are criminals. ("All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed." - I.F. Stone)

8. The Reckoning: Kohl Tapes Reveal a Man Full of Anger

The next and final item is an article by René Pfister on Spiegel International:

This is a long article - in four parts - about the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who recorded no less than 600 hours of interviews over 105 conversations with the journalist Heribert Schwan in 2001 and 2002.

It is here because the tapes of these 600 hours are now contested, and also for those who want to know more about Germany and German politics.

---------------------------------
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] 


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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