March 24, 2015
Crisis: Canada, Benefit sanctions, Voter IDs, 99%, Neoliberalism, Security State
  "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. Documents Reveal Canada’s Secret Hacking Tactics
2. Independent review of benefit sanctions urgently
     needed, say MPs

3. 'Recipe for Disaster' as US Supreme Court Refuses
     Challenge to Voter ID Law

Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing
5. Comments on David Harvey’s “A Brief History of

6. The Rise of the National Security State — An American
     History Lesson With Gore Vidal


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about Canada's secret hacking tactics; item 2 is about the awful situation of the ill and the poor in Cameron's Great Britain; item 3 is about the sick and heavily politicized US Supreme Court; item 4 is a good article on seven reasons "why the 99% keeps losing"; item 5 is about - a somewhat technical but interesting - article about neoliberalism; and item 6 is about an excellent set of videos with Gore Vidal that I didn't see before.

1. Documents Reveal Canada’s Secret Hacking Tactics

The first item is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Canada’s electronic surveillance agency has secretly developed an arsenal of cyberweapons capable of stealing data and destroying adversaries’ infrastructure, according to newly revealed classified documents.

Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, has also covertly hacked into computers across the world to gather intelligence, breaking into networks in Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and North Africa, the documents show.

The revelations, reported Monday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, shine a light for the first time on how Canada has adopted aggressive tactics to attack, sabotage and infiltrate targeted computer systems.

The latest disclosures come as the Canadian government debates whether to hand over more powers to its spies to disrupt threats as part of the controversial anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51.

I say. In fact, here are some Nederlogs of this year in which I reviewed articles about Canada's secret services: January 29, March 6, March 15 and March 18 (and also one fell out because I reviewed it and then my text disappeared). They are all well worth reading, and are connected to the present article.

Here are two quotations from the present article. First, there is this:

One document from CSE, dated from 2011, outlines the range of methods the Canadian agency has at its disposal as part of a “cyber activity spectrum” to both defend against hacking attacks and to perpetrate them. CSE says in the document that it can “disable adversary infrastructure,” “control adversary infrastructure,” or “destroy adversary infrastructure” using the attack techniques. It can also insert malware “implants” on computers to steal data.

Note that all these "methods" are done in secret, by anonymous secret people, who are acting on secret plans, even though all gets paid by the Canadian taxpayers (who should not know a thing, because of "national security" - which is grossly false bullshit).

And next, there is this:

Notably, CSE has gone beyond just adopting a range of tools to hack computers.

According to the Snowden documents, it has a range of “deception techniques” in its toolbox. These include “false flag” operations to “create unrest,” and using so-called “effects” operations to “alter adversary perception.” A false-flag operation usually means carrying out an attack, but making it look like it was performed by another group — in this case, likely another government or hacker. Effects operations can involve sending out propaganda across social media or disrupting communications services. The newly revealed documents also reveal that CSE says it can plant a “honeypot” as part of its deception tactics, possibly a reference to some sort of bait posted online that lures in targets so that they can be hacked or monitored.

There is more in the article - and no: These methods should not be unchecked, and should be checked in public courts. That is: If Canada is still a democracy.

2. Independent review of benefit sanctions urgently needed, say MPs

The next item is an article by Patrick Butler on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

A wide-ranging independent review of the government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime is urgently needed to address widespread concerns that it is unfair, excessively punitive, and does little to help people get into work, according to a cross-party committee of MPs.

The MPs’ report follows a short inquiry undertaken amid public concern that sanctions were being imposed inappropriately, causing hardship, destitution and ill-health, and routinely forcing jobseekers to rely on food banks to survive.

Sanctions are financial penalties, stopping claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks for apparent breaches of jobcentre rules, such as missing appointments or failing to carry out enough job searches.

But the inquiry heard evidence that sanctions were often imposed for trivial infringements. Claimants often did not understand why they had been given sanctions, and often struggled to cope without income.

Fresh legal safeguards are needed to ensure that vulnerable claimants who are most at risk of sanctions are properly protected, especially those with mental illness or a learning disability, the work and pensions select committee says.

In fact, you mostly owe this to the fact that I am ill since 37 years, although the Amsterdam dole still refuses to admit it, just as it still also does not answer my polite mails. And I have very much to complain about the Amsterdam dole, but
the English system seems even worse, and pays less.

Here is one bit:

Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who instigated the DWP select committee’s inquiry, said: “The mountain of evidence that was put before the select committee by religious organisations, academics and charities, not to mention those actually affected by inappropriate sanctions themselves, pointed overwhelmingly to a system that is inhumane and deliberately created to skew unemployment figures.”

I agree - but am I too cynical if I suppose this political interest is mostly due to the coming English elections? (I really don't know.)

3. 'Recipe for Disaster' as US Supreme Court Refuses Challenge to Voter ID Law

The next item is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In a move that will impact hundreds of thousands of voters and may carry national implications, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a challenge to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's restrictive voter identification law.

Immediately after the high court rejected, without comment, to hear the case of Frank v. Walker, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an emergency motion with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the court stop the law from taking immediate effect. In Wisconsin, voting is currently underway in the April 7 general election as absentee ballots have already been sent to voters and early voting began Monday morning. ACLU warned that if the law is immediately enacted, some 300,000 Wisconsin voters will be impacted.

"Imposing a new restriction in the midst of an election will disenfranchise voters who have already cast their ballots," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "It is a recipe for disaster."

The "disaster" may well be that the next president of the U.S. may be a Republican because millions of potential black and Latino voters have been
denied the right to vote because they lack the requisite IDs.

There is considerably more in the article.

4. Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

The next item is an article by Robert Kuttner on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.

If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?

Let me suggest seven reasons:

And this is a good article that should be read completely. I will copy only the seven reasons (and not the explanatory text: click the last dotted link) and make one additional remark.

Here are the seven reasons (minus explanatory texts):
Reason One. The Discrediting of Politics Itself.
Reason Two. Compromised Democrats.
Reason Three. The Reign of Politicized Courts and Big      

Reason Four. The Collapse of Equalizing Institutions.
Reason Five. Bewildering Changes in How Jobs Are

Reason Six. The Internalization of a Generation's Plight.
Reason Seven. The Absence of a Movement.
Yes, indeed. As to the additional remark: This pertains to part of the text under Reason Seven, namely:
In the face of all these assaults on the working and middle class, there are many movements but no Movement. The Occupy movement, which gave us the phrase, "The One Percent," was too hung up on its own procedural purity to create a broad movement for economic justice.
I agree. And the "procedural purity" refers (among other things) to there being no leaders and no clear plans: You really need to know what you want and have a plan for achieving it before you start actions, and you really need leaders to articulate the plans, make proposals, and unify movements (and I know they
may easily be corrupted
[1], but even so: they are needed).

5. Comments on David Harvey’s “A Brief History of Neoliberalism” 

The next item is an article by Lambert Strether on Naked Capitalism: This is a fairly long review of some ideas in Harvey's "A Brief History of Neoliberalism", followed by a long discussion, that is here because I have a theoretical mind.

It is probably not for everyone (and Naked Capitalism is mostly a site for people with some economical knowledge), but I liked it (though I did not read the discussion).

I take up two quotations. First, there is this, by Lambert Strether:
And it does seem clear that since what Harvey labels “the neo-liberal turn” in the mid-70s — marked, if not defined, by the Powell Memo, the formation of the Business Roundtable, the advent of Thatcher and Reagan, and after which real wages were flattened and most gains from productivity necessarily accrued to the 1% and the 0.01% — the relationship of the citizen (now we say “consumer”) to the state changed.
Yes indeed.

I agree these were crucial years, that mark a radical turn. What I would like to know (but which I very probably never will) is this: How much of these events - and of later events - were in fact secretly planned?

I know this suggests "conspiracy theories", which all suffer from the problem that the evidence is not easy to find; because if it exists, it nearly always exists  secretly, and therefore often is not sufficient or missing - but that doesn't mean there are no conspiracies. (It does mean they are often very hard to prove).

In any case, I find this quotation (from the Lewis Powell, Jr entry on Wikipedia) about Powell's Memorandum at least suggestive:
The memo called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding politics and law in the US and may have sparked the formation of several influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, such as The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as well as inspiring the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to become far more politically active. Marxist academic David Harvey traces the rise of neoliberalism in the US to this memo.
And second, here is Harvey's definition of "neoliberalism":
Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices.
That seems fair enough, and the thing that strikes me is that - at least as formulated - this describes an ideal of the "entrepreneurs" (but of nobody else) for the "freedoms" they want, and the "free markets, and free trade" they pretend to advocate [2] are the freedoms to exploit non-entrepreneurs (the 99 %) mercilessly, as these are "freed" from almost any protection of the state, and of almost any effective rights.

Anyway - there is a whole lot more under the last dotted link.

6. The Rise of the National Security State — An American History Lesson With Gore Vidal

The last item today is an article by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit: This starts as follows, with a quote from Gore Vidal:
Today we’re in a peculiar limbo. Nine-eleven proved to be a pretext for getting rid of the old republic, which has not been in good shape for a long, long time. Now we’re in a strange, strange situation. There is nothing in our history to guide us… We just go further and further along the road toward total war. We’re like somebody going through a minefield dropping matches, waiting to hear the bang. Well, the bang might take us all out.”
In fact, this is mostly about and contains 3 videos, each of almost 10 minutes, made by the Real News, that together give nearly half an hour of Gore Vidal (<- Wikipedia) who explains recent American history in 2008.

I think this is quite interesting, and I did not see this before. (For more on Vidal see e.g. August 11, 2012, when I first discovered him.)



[1] As most of "the student left" of my generation ceased being leftish as soon as they ceased being students and started to make money and/or because being "a leftist" became unfashionable. (It was quite fashionable in the 1970ies and 1980ies in Holland.)

[2] For there are no "free markets" or "free trade" without considerable support and maintenance by states. Besides "freedom" has a very different meaning in "the freedom of the citizen" (protected by laws that guarantee everyone's basic rights) and "the freedom of the entrepreneur" (to exploit
anyone exploitable for profit, while the exploited have neither freedoms - in
the first sense - nor rights)

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