15, 2014
Crisis: Art, Hillary Clinton, Psychologists, AT&T, Cold War, Quiet Media, Spying, Bill Black
  "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

 Art in a Time of Surveillance
 Cynics, Step Aside: There is Genuine Excitement Over a
     Hillary Clinton Candidacy

3. Psychologists Are Rethinking Their Cozy Relationship
     with Bush Torture Program

4. AT&T Stops Tracking Customers but Verizon Remains
     Committed to Prying

5. Can the World Avert a New Cold War?
6. As New War Rages, Study Finds, Mainstream Media
     Silences Debate

7. Revealed: US Agency Using Spy Planes to Fool Cell
     Phones, Capture Data

8. Bill Black and Marshall Auerback Discuss Why Economists
     and Regulators Don’t Use “Fraud”

About ME/CFS


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 15. It is a
crisis log.

There are 8 items with 8 dotted links: Item 1 is about art & surveillance (and contains some about my own - quite non-standard but very well-informed - ideas about art you may skip); item 2 is about Hillary Clinton's huge promises; item 3 is about American psychologists, war and government; item 4 is about AT&T (stopped spying) and Verizon (still spying); item 5 is about a new cold war; item 6 is about how the mainstream media serve the U.S. government; item 7 is about a new way of spying on American cellphones; item 8 is a nice video with Bill Black (<- Wikipedia).

There is rather a lot for a Saturday, but OK - that's fine with me, also since I did sleep well last night, which makes me feel a little better than I did the last days.

And here goes:

1. Art in a Time of Surveillance

The first item is an article by Peter Maass on The Intercept:
This is paragraph two of the article:
You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a surveillance art project, and the remarkable thing is that so much of it is so good. Some of the Snowden era’s sharpest interrogations of collect-it-all tracking by corporations and the government are to be found in galleries and other art spaces. They are the opposite of the acronym-laden news stories we read: NSA, FISA, PGP, PRISM, ACLU, EFF, SIGINT, GCHQ, TOR, FOIA, HTTPS, are you still awake? They are playful, invasive and eerie, and best of all they are graphically visual. With a transgressive edge that journalism struggles to match, they creatively challenge what it means to be human in a time of data.
I say. Indeed, I am willing to believe it (well... except for "they creatively challenge what it means to be human in a time of data": that I really don't understand [2]), but I have to admit that (i) this is new for me - i.e. however much creative and challenging art there is in art houses or on the internet, very little of it has registered with me (and I do follow daily and weekly papers better than most, and the same for the internet) and also (ii) - which may be part of the reason for (i) - I am fairly sure that I am not a good (i.e. sympathetic, kind, welcoming, glad) judge of any modern art, indeed since my childhood.

The last point needs a bit of explanation. When I was 8 or 10, a Dutch noble-born person, who then was the director of the Amsterdam Municipal Museum for Modern Art, got in the Dutch papers in a big way because he had said anything
may be art, anyone may make art, and to tear figures from the paper was just
as well
and just as good an art as what any well-known painter - Rembrandt, Rafael, Titian, for example - did.

I know about this because this was quite seriously treated in school - and because
I completely disagreed, as the only one in my school: I could draw fairly well, and better than most; I had a mind to think with; and even then this seemed to me to be an intentional reduction of extreme talent -
Rembrandt, Rafael, Titian, for example - to the prejudices, tastes, and values of the utterly talentless, for the essential part of the thesis, that also made it very well-known, was that, at least as far as art is concerned, everybody is as good as anybody, and the talentless and the stupid may ask as much or more for their abstract splotches as the finest draughtsmen and the most committed and well-trained talents.

But thus it happened. Also by then (the early Sixties) the new architecture - extra-ordinary ugly blocks of concrete good for nothing but completely over the top false and dishonest architectural bullshit - was arising and destroying very much architecture that was, if not good or excellent, at least quite a bit better than the rot - think Birmingham, think English cities - that replaced it.

It is not that I dislike all modern art, that I will here understand very simply as: art that was made the last 100 to 150 years or so. I like quite a few films, for example; I like some pop music, mostly from the sixties; I like a few writers (Orwell, Miller, Heller, for example) - but that is about it, and not because I am
uninterested or insensitive, but because I tend to like the art - architecture, painting, writing, and also the intellectual climate - of the 18th and early 19th
Century (Mozart, Beethoven) a lot more than most that was served under the name "art" in the twentieth century.

And as this really started for me when I was 8 or 10, at least this was really sincere, though I suppose I must say "sorry, sorry, sorry".

Anyway... let's say this must be my depraved and definitely non-modern set of aesthetic values, and return to Peter Maass. He tells us, quite a bit further on in his article, that:
The latest wave of surveillance art has been evident for a number of years, especially since 9/11, which increased the powers and budgets of intelligence agencies in the United States and elsewhere. The wave seems to have grown larger in the wake of the leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and this is fortunate.
And again a bit later:
(...) these projects engage us with the problems of surveillance in ways that news stories and congressional hearings do not. There’s a freshness to each one, and the list lengthens every day.
Also, he ends the article with a list of no less than 19 "surveillance projects and artists" that may be worth looking into.

In fact, I will - and I will tell you if I find anything I do really like, and only if so.
(But don't count on it that you will hear from me: there is really not much modern art that gives me joy or understanding, and I also do not - really - think that is my fault.)

2. Cynics, Step Aside: There is Genuine Excitement Over a Hillary Clinton Candidacy  

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

This starts as follows:

It’s easy to strike a pose of cynicism when contemplating Hillary Clinton’s inevitable (and terribly imminent) presidential campaign. As a drearily soulless, principle-free, power-hungry veteran of DC’s game of thrones, she’s about as banal of an American politician as it gets. One of the few unique aspects to her, perhaps the only one, is how the genuinely inspiring gender milestone of her election will (following the Obama model) be exploited to obscure her primary role as guardian of the status quo.

That she’s the beneficiary of dynastic succession – who may very well be pitted against the next heir in line from the regal Bush dynasty (this one, not yet this one) - makes it all the more tempting to regard #HillaryTime with an evenly distributed mix of boredom and contempt. The tens of millions of dollars the Clintons have jointly “earned” off their political celebrity - much of it speaking to the very globalists, industry groups, hedge funds, and other Wall Street appendages who would have among the largest stake in her presidency - make the spectacle that much more depressing (..)
But then you should not be cynical about such an excellent candidate for the bank managers - and I am here summarizing a whole lot, but the evidence is under the last dotted link, and is in terms of quoted articles (and it's all bold because it is thus in the quoted articles, that are quoted at much greater lengths):

Wall Street: (..) the big bankers love Clinton, and by and large they badly want her to be president.

The Israel Lobby: Both Bill and Hillary are so enamored with the idea of Israel and its unique history that they are prone to make certain allowances for the reality of Israel’s behavior, such as the continuing construction of settlements.

Interventionists (i.e., war zealots): (..) former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.

Old school neocons: (..) neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign (..)

So clearly, this is why Glenn Greenwald is so stirred:

So take that, cynics. There are pockets of vibrant political excitement stirring in the land over a Hillary Clinton presidency.

And she may well make the presidency, in these frabjous times...

3. Psychologists Are Rethinking Their Cozy Relationship with Bush Torture Program

The next item is an article by Cora Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows, and indeed is only here because I am - among other things - a psychologist (but a Dutch one):

The top professional organization for psychologists is launching an independent investigation over how it may have sanctioned the brutal interrogation methods used against terror suspects by the Bush administration. The American Psychological Association announced this week that it has tapped an unaffiliated lawyer, David Hoffman, to lead the review.

In 2002, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its code of ethics to allow practitioners to follow the “governing legal authority” in situations that seemed at odds with their duties as health professionals. Many argue that the revision, as well as a task force report in 2005 that affirmed that the code allowed psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, gave the Bush administration critical legal cover for torture.

The APA has since removed the just-following-orders excuse from their code, disavowed the 2005 report, and gone to lengths to distance themselves from the controversy.

I have reported on this before, on October 18 of this year, and said then that (and I quote myself):

From 2002 to 2010, what the "Ethics Code" told American psychologists to do, was to make an assumption that the conflict they are making good money from is in fact "unresolvable" (this must always be an assumption), and to conclude from this that if "the government" meanwhile has turned christian or authoritarian or fascist or anything else, then still American psychologists could continue to make good money by watching "enhanced interrogations" and such - for the government is always right.

So I quite agree with Cora Currier that this was a most unfortunate, invalid and immoral change - for which reason I disagree with the (anonymous) "Many" who maintain that: "Many argue that the revision, as well as a task force report in 2005 that affirmed that the code allowed psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, gave the Bush administration critical legal cover for torture."

For that seems a totally false inference - "
critical legal cover" ?! - from what was indeed a major mistake on the part of the American Psychological Association.

There is more in the article, and it ends as follows:
The APA said it would look into “whether there is any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate the use of ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques.”
This in fact is quite good, and also quite necessary, given that we live in a time when secret agencies who work for the government spy on everyone and frequently also strike false poses to further their own agendas.

4. AT&T Stops Tracking Customers but Verizon Remains Committed to Prying

The next item is an article by Julia Angwin that I found on Truthdig but that first appeared on ProPublica:
This starts as follows:

AT&T says it has stopped its controversial practice of adding a hidden, undeletable tracking number to its mobile customers’ Internet activity.

“It has been phased off our network,” said Emily J. Edmonds, an AT&T spokeswoman.

The move comes after AT&T and Verizon received a slew of critical news coverage for inserting tracking numbers into their subscribers’ Internet activity, even after users opted out. Last month, ProPublica reported that Twitter’s mobile advertising unit was enabling its clients to use the Verizon identifier. The tracking numbers can be used by sites to build a dossier about a person’s behavior on mobile devices 2013 including which apps they use, what sites they visit and for how long.

The controversial type of tracking is used to monitor users’ behavior on their mobile devices where traditional tracking cookies are not as effective. The way it works is that a telecommunications carrier inserts a uniquely identifying number into all the Web traffic that transmits from a users’ phone.

There is more under the last dotted link, that includes that AT&T has stopped, but may continue, but then only if a customer agrees, whereas Verizon still spies as much as it can, and still adds supercookies, but this I leave to your interests.

5. Can the World Avert a New Cold War? 

The next item is an article by Annie Machon (<- Wikipedia) on Consortium News:

This contains the following bit (that I agree with, although I do not know about the details in the second paraghraph):

After a panicked phase of playing catch-up to the Internet’s exhilarating burst of democratization, Western spy agencies saw the potential for total mastery of the Internet, creating a surveillance panopticon, a single location from which a watchman can observe all inmates of an institution without them knowing they are being watched. In this case, the institution was the entire planet and the inmates were the world’s people. It was an opportunity that the KGB or the Stasi could only have fantasized about. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we are now beginning to get glimpses of the full horror of the surveillance under which we all now live.

Building on the old Echelon model, which was so nearly overthrown in Europe back in July 2001, the National Security Agency suborned, bought and prostituted other intelligence agencies across Europe to do its bidding. Germany, at the nexus of east and west Europe, remains a front line in this battle, with the BND possibly working unconstitutionally to do the NSA’s bidding, even apparently to the detriment of its own national interest.

And it ends as follows:

(...) we are indeed facing a new Cold War, and this time it is clearly of America’s making. But Europe will bear the brunt, through trade sanctions, energy shortages and even, potentially, war. It is time we Europeans broke away from our American vassalage and looked to our own future.

Yes - though I must ask, given that I lived for 40 years in a cold war, whether that is really negative, provided (1) it does not end in war, and provided (2) considerably more gets known about the incredible destructions modern atomic
weapons are capable of, precisely because (3) I feel certain that an atomic war
between the U.S. and Russia or China means the end of human civilization.

Also, I am merely asking: I do not know.

6. As New War Rages, Study Finds, Mainstream Media Silences Debate

The next item is an article by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

While Congress may soon debate the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Syria, a new FAIR study shows that at the critical moments leading up to the escalation of US military action, mainstream media presented almost no debate at all.

The study of key TV news discussion programs from September 7 through 21 reveals that guests who opposed war were scarce.

You can get the FAIR study from the last link. Indeed, I am not amazed at all, having concluded that the free press in the U.S. is mostly dead, and especially
in the mainstream media.

And while I agree that is a major problem (no free press implies no democracy, indeed: You really need at least an adequately informed electorate, and this means a free press) the present study, which I agree is worthwile, only covers the news between September 7 and September 21, and only as regards a specific question.

But OK - I agree the free press is mostly dead in the U.S., and this is fair if restricted evidence.

Also, it shows how it works: Not - so far, at least (!) - by locking up people with opinions the government doesn't like, but far more simply by denying them an audience.

7. Revealed: US Agency Using Spy Planes to Fool Cell Phones, Capture Data

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

According to new reporting by the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Marshals Service—an arm of the Department of Justice—has been using small aircraft equipped with technology that can mimic the functions of cell towers in order to capture the data contained on phones and mobile devices of people across large areas on the ground below.

Citing those familiar with the program, the Journal report (subscription) reveals how the program's use of so-called "dirtbox" technology is part of "a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans" in a dragnet approach that will remind some of similar techniques known to be used by the National Security Agency and other federal agencies.

The WSJ reporting relates how the Marshals Service operate a fleet of specially-outfitted Cessna airplanes which can take off from "at least five metro-area airports," allowing the aircraft a range that covers "most of the US population."

As GeekWire explains, because the "dirtbox" devices "emulate a cell tower, they can pick up thousands or tens of thousands of signals from other citizens who aren’t being targeted by the Marshals."

I say: No personal and private data are safe in a climate - like the U.S. - where the government absolutely refuses to maintain those laws it does not like.

This is from Kate Knibbs:

This is a huge deal. If the details in the WSJ are accurate, this program is as invasive and disturbing as the NSA surveillance programs exposed last year.

American Civil Liberties Union chief technologist Christopher Soghoian told the WSJ that this was "a dragnet surveillance program. It's inexcusable and it's likely—to the extent judges are authorizing it—[that] they have no idea of the scale of it."

And this is from The Guardian:

The reportedly indiscriminate collection would permit the marshals and potentially other justice department agencies to avoid having to seek records from the phone companies themselves, especially in criminal investigations where a court order may be required.

The legal basis for the previously undisclosed program is unclear. It is not reportedly a national security or counterterrorism program, but instead used to target crime.

There is more under the last dotted link, and I merely repeat what I said under the first quotation: No personal and private data are safe in a climate - like the U.S. - where the government absolutely refuses to maintain those laws it does not like.

And that is the case.

8. Bill Black and Marshall Auerback Discuss Why Economists and Regulators Don’t Use “Fraud”

The next and last item today is an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism (in fact the introduction to a video, that follows):
This starts as follows (and introduces the video):
Yves here. Bill Black discusses his favorite topic, fraud, with Marshall Auerback of the Institute of New Economic Thinking. Some of this talk is familiar terrain for those who know Black’s work, such as Black’s well-argued criticism of the failure of financial regulators to make criminal referrals for misconduct in the runup to the financial crisis. Even so, many readers are likely to find new information here, such as the number of FBI agents assigned to handle white collar fraud, and how some regulators during the savings & loan crisis defied Congressional pressure to go easy on failing and defrauded banks, and the career costs they paid.

It's a good video.
[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] In case you do understand: (1) What is "a time of data" and why is this time more "a time of data" than other times, and if so, why is this important; (2) what is the meaning of "human" "in a time of data"; (3) how can this be "challenged" by other human beings, and indeed what is it that is being "challenged"; and also (4) what is the meaning of "means" in "what it means to be human"? I'm only asking - and yes I know various answers, but even so:
the phrase is virtually meaningless, at least to one with my mind, that also knows a very great amount of philosophy and logic as well: I'm really baffled (and indeed often am when I read about "modern art"). 

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)

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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