March 15, 2015
Crisis:  Surveillance, Prostitution, Gray on Pinker, Obama, Canadian Spying
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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

1. The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your

2. Sex work advocates attempt to no-platform journalist,
     Chris Hedges, after damning sex industry report

John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and

Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe
5.  #StopC51: Protests Grow Against Expansive Canadian
     Surveillance Bill


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 15, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interview with security expert Bruce Schneier; item 2 is about Chris Hedges, who almost lost his position as a key speaker because some misrepresented his ideas; item 3 is about Gray on Pinker (who believes humanity is growing less and less violent); item 4 is about Ray McGovern on Obama's possibly being manipulated by Brennan (the CIA-director); and item 5 is about Canadians opposing their government's plans for evern more spying and surveillance.

And this got uploaded earlier than is normal for me.

1. The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

The first item is an article by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows (and is the record of a video interview):
Leading security and privacy researcher Bruce Schneier talks about about the golden age of surveillance and his new book, "Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World." The book chronicles how governments and corporation have built an unprecedented surveillance state. While the leaks of Edward Snowden have shed light on the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, less attention has been paid to other forms of everyday surveillance — license plate readers, facial recognition software, GPS tracking, cellphone metadata and data mining.
This is a decent interview. I will select some bits that relate to "The Big Questions About Surveillance".

First, there is this on what enables surveillance:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about this problem, in terms especially of commercial or corporate surveillance, that the public are willingly giving up their data in exchange for some kind of reduced price or more efficiency in their ability to communicate, this apparent willingness on our part to give away this trove of information about ourselves?

BRUCE SCHNEIER: I mean, we give it away all the time, right? Our cellphones know exactly where we are at all times; otherwise, they can’t work. And think of Facebook or email or paying with credit cards, or anything we do that generates data, we give to third parties. I mean, we do it willingly. I’m not sure we do it with full knowledge. You know, we don’t pick up our phones and say, "This is my tracking device. I’m going to carry it in my pocket."
Yes, indeed - though in fact it is a tracking device. But one of the things Schneier is right about is that the vast majority of the people who use computers do not really know how they work; can not program; and really have no idea what computers may do. Besides, all the spying is happening in secret, and very few of those who are targeted (hundreds of millions) know they are.

Next, there is this question:

AMY GOODMAN: Can you compare government surveillance with corporate surveillance?

BRUCE SCHNEIER: You know, they’re very similar. And I look at it as a partnership, the public-private surveillance partnership. One is caused by fear, right? We fear criminals, we fear terrorists. That’s government surveillance. The other, as you said, it’s convenience. We like the iPhone. We like this free services we get. They both collect data, very intimate data—where we live, where we work, what we’re interested in, what we’re saying, who we’re speaking to, who we’re intimate with. And they share it back and forth. Data that’s illegal for the government to collect, they purchase from corporations. Corporations purchase data from the government. It goes into databases in the United States. It’s bought and sold. And profiles are generated. And those profiles are used, in both cases, to pigeonhole us, to make decisions about us, maybe whether we can get a mortgage, maybe whether we can board an airplane, maybe what sort of credit card offer we see. They’re all used to judge us. And in all cases, we don’t have the ability to look at the data, to correct the data, to see why we’re being judged and how we’re being judged. We’re being judged in secret.

Yes, precisely: You - and me, and everyone else - are "being judged in secret". And in great detail. And these decisions pertain to all areas of our lives.

Then there is this on the dominant lie that spying governments tell their very naive and mostly quite ignorant inhabitants (and incidentally: against non- inhabitants anything goes, as a matter of course, also):

AMY GOODMAN: So, governments tell us, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." Why should you be concerned about government surveillance, Bruce?

BRUCE SCHNEIER: Well, I mean, that’s ridiculous on the face of it. Those same government officials who say that don’t tell you all of their secrets, give you copies of all of their emails and correspondence. Privacy is not about something to hide. Privacy isn’t something that you only have if you’re a criminal. Privacy is about individual autonomy. It’s about presenting yourself to the world. It’s about being in charge of what you say about yourself and what you reveal about yourself. When we’re private, we have control of our person. When we’re exposed, when we’re surveilled, we’re stripped of that control, we’re stripped of that freedom. We don’t feel secure. We don’t feel like we have something to hide. We feel like we’re under the microscope. We feel like prey. Privacy is a fundamental human need, and it’s not about something to hide.
Yes - though the real point is not about "how we feel", for the feelings of the majority about surveillance are based on ignorance about surveillance, ignorance about politics, and ignorance about computing: The real point is that privacy is
about being in charge of what you say about yourself and what you reveal about yourself. When we’re private, we have control of our person. When we’re exposed, when we’re surveilled, we’re stripped of that control, we’re stripped of that freedom.
And these are matters of fact, quite regardless of what you feel about it.

Finally, there is this question:

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think political liberty and justice are threatened?

BRUCE SCHNEIER: I think they are. I think we’re living in a world where we are being judged by our data, we’re being judged in secret, where there are effectively secret courts. (...) And you can’t face your accuser and try to protect yourself. These are extraordinary times, and I think the threats are great, because algorithms are making decisions, not people, and that’s very dangerous.

Yes, but the danger is not in the "algorithms": the danger is in the secrecy in which the NSA is almost completely free to do its collecting, and in the secret courts that even can order you - illegally, in my view - not to discuss the fact
that you are being ordered in secret, say, to give all the data of your customers
to the NSA.

But this is a good interview in which there is a lot more. You are recommended to read it all.

2. Sex work advocates attempt to no-platform journalist, Chris Hedges, after damning sex industry report 

The next item is an article by Meghan Murphy on

This is from the beginning (and relates to an article of Chris Hedges that I reviewed here):

After publishing an unforgiving report on the sex industry and the left’s unwillingness to challenge what Hedges calls “the quintessential expression of global capitalism,” the bestselling author received an email from conference organizer, Stephen Collis.

The email, sent on March 11, explained that Hedges’ article “set off a ‘firestorm.” Collis writes that, despite his “own knowledge of this issue [being] highly limited… the views expressed in [the] piece are highly controversial.”

Collis was informed, apparently, by local sex work advocates, that the arguments Hedges highlights in his report are “not supported by most organizers and organizations in the [Downtown Eastside of Vancouver], who have found comments in the article offensive and prejudiced.”
Collis wrote, in his initial email, that “the stakes of the conference are premised on solidarity with frontline and marginalized (and largely Indigenous) communities facing continuing colonial dispossession — a loss of agency, and a loss of voice,” informing Hedges that, in an effort to “stand with marginalized indigenous communities,” he intended to cancel the journalist’s keynote speech.

I say?! I have read Hedges' piece and while I don't agree with all it seemed to me clearly motivated by his desire to help poor prostitutes. This response is totally misdirected, and indeed the last part reads like bullshit composed of many ready bits of conventional leftist sloganeering:

“the stakes of the conference are premised on solidarity with frontline and marginalized (and largely Indigenous) communities facing continuing colonial dispossession — a loss of agency, and a loss of voice,”

This is composed of sloganized bits of hot air: "stakes", "premised on soldarity", "frontline", "marginalized", "Indigenous", "communities", "facing", "colonial dispossesion", "loss of agency", "loss of voice" - and the end of it all was that Chris Hedges was to be removed as a keynote speaker.

It is true that decision was undone, after protests like Megan Murphy's, but it is also true that - speaking for myself - I have seen some 45 years of these kinds of underhanded mostly anonymous quasi-leftist bullshit, that seems perpetrated by quasi-leftist hypocrites who pose as leftists because this gives them excellent opportunities to tear down anyone with a deserved personal reputation. [1]

3. John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war

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

This has the following subtitle:

A new orthodoxy, led by Pinker, holds that war and violence in the developed world are declining. The stats are misleading, argues Gray – and the idea of moral progress is wishful thinking and plain wrong

It also is a long article by an English philosopher, who disagrees with Pinker. I think I agree more with Gray than with Pinker, who indeed does seem to engage in wishful thinking, but you should make up your own mind. All I have is one quotation, from a great lot more:

With other beliefs crumbling, many seek to return to what they piously describe as “Enlightenment values”. But these values were not as unambiguously benign as is nowadays commonly supposed. John Locke denied America’s indigenous peoples any legal claim to the country’s “wild woods and uncultivated wastes”; Voltaire promoted the “pre-Adamite” theory of human development according to which Jews were remnants of an earlier and inferior humanoid species; Kant maintained that Africans were innately inclined to the practice of slavery; the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham developed the project of an ideal penitentiary, the Panopticon, where inmates would be kept in solitary confinement under constant surveillance. None of these views is discussed by Singer or Pinker. More generally, there is no mention of the powerful illiberal current in Enlightenment thinking, expressed in the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks, which advocated and practised methodical violence as a means of improving society.

That seems quite correct.

4. Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe

The next item is an article by Ray McGovern (<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

CIA Director John Brennan told TV host Charlie Rose on Friday that, on assuming office, President Barack Obama “did not have a good deal of experience” in intelligence-related matters, adding – with remarkable condescension – that now “he has gone to school and understands the complexities.”

If that’s the case, I would strongly suggest that Obama switch schools. Judging from his foreign policy team’s inept and increasingly dangerous actions regarding Ukraine and the endless stream of dubious State Department and senior military cry-wolf accusations of a Russian “invasion,” Obama might be forgiven for being confused by the “complexities.”

He should not be forgiven, though, if he remains too timid to bench his current foreign policy team and find more substantively qualified, trustworthy advisers without axes to grind. He is, after all, President. Has he no managerial skill … no guts?

This U.S. pattern of exaggeration – making scary claims about Ukraine without releasing supporting evidence – has even begun to erode the unity of the NATO alliance where Germany, in particular, is openly criticizing the Obama administration’s heavy-handed use of propaganda in its “information warfare” against Russia.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link.

5. #StopC51: Protests Grow Against Expansive Canadian Surveillance Bill

The last item today is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Canadian activists are taking part in a weekend of action against the controversial C-51 surveillance bill currently making its way through Parliament.

Supporters of the bill say it would protect the nation against terrorist attacks, but critics charge that it would give the government ever more expansive and invasive spying powers.

If passed, C-51 would give up to 17 government agencies access to Canadian citizens' private information, including their financial status, medical history, and religious and political beliefs. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service would also be given the power to spy on Canadians and foreign nationals living in the country, while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be granted increased powers of preventive arrest.

Protests against C-51 are slated to take place in "every province across Canada," organizers said on Friday. Many of those actions will take place outside the offices of 13 conservative Ministers of Parliament who support the bill.

There is also this, that indeed seems quite justified to me (and see item 1):

Steve Anderson, executive director for OpenMedia, told Yahoo! News on Friday, "More and more Canadians from all walks of life are concerned about this bill.

"We’re just hoping to make that more clear to the government and educate more Canadians, because … the real kind of challenge for those of us who understand the dangers of the bill is to educate [other] Canadians," he added.

This is quite justified simply because most people do not understand computers or programming, though they know how to use them for their own ends.

And there is this by Edward Snowden:

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression last week hosted a teleconference with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who warned that C-51 was "an emulation of the American Patriot Act" and that Canadian intelligence agencies have the weakest oversight in the Western world.

"No matter what we do, no matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms because we are afraid of rare instances of criminal activity," he said at the time.

I agree, although I also should remark that from my perspective (and again see item 1) it seems as if the majority of the current computer-users are quite able to "throw away all of our rights, all of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms", though indeed not because of these users want to, but mostly because they are ignorant and lack the necessary knowledge of politics, computing and humanity, and fill these spaces with wishful thinking, bullshit and propaganda, that they are also indeed fed every day, though not at all in these true terms.

[1] O yes! There are sickos on the left - especially anonymous ones - as well as on the right, though their types and motives differ. As for the leftist sickos: They generally are anonymous or unknown, and seem to be motivated by a combination of leftist conformist groupthinking and a personal great envy and hate for anyone who excels them.

And I know - very much bettter than most of my readers, it seems - because I have tried to change the University of Amsterdam as a student with a discarded marxist background, that meant I knew Marx very much better than my quasi-marxist opponents, but with mostly leftist ideas, though I opposed the quasi-marxist conformist careerists of the Asva (who had the absolute majority in the University's Parliament from 1971-1995) - who replied, and replied, and replied, for many years also, that I was a "fascist", a "terrorist" (they lost all their discussions with me) or - at best - "something like a fascist".

Meanwhile, I am poor and still a liberal leftist; while nearly all of the opponents who "knew" I was "a dirty fascist" circa 1985 now are neo-conservative rich stupid moral degenerates who only care for their own statuses and own incomes.

       home - index - summaries - mail