who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. The dick pic test: are you happy to show the government
2. The US isn’t winding down its
wars – it’s just running them
at arm’s length
3. The White House’s New Executive Order On Cyber Crime is
(Unfortunately) No Joke
Groups Demand Justice as New Details on DEA
Spying Program Revealed
5. Can the world economy
survive without fossil fuels?
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 9,
is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links:
Item 1 is about a - to my mind - strange
inconsistency: the majority of the public does not seem to care
much that they are surveilled - except if it concerns pictures of their
dicks or tits: then they are much against; item
is about the wars in the Middle East and isn't
optimistic; item 3 is about "cyber crimes": now you
risk being arrested as a terrorist if you are
trying to break into a computer legitimately
(because you are testing it);
item 4 is about illegal phone tapping that
American DEA has been doing since 1992; and item 5
is a long read on The Guardian about fossil fuels,
which I think is mainly wishful
dick pic test: are you happy to show the government
item is an article by James Ball on The Guardian:
This has the
following subtitle, which is relevant:
We rarely care about our
privacy and surveillance in general terms, but when it comes to
specifics we can get very defensive indeed
If so - and I am not
one of these "We" - while I will also suppose most M.A.s or Ph.D.s also
are not, but indeed that is a minority - this must be mostly
due to either a lack of relevant knowledge or considerable
or else simple and plain stupidity. (For
it is utterly inconsistent.)
The article starts as
If you’re doing nothing
wrong, and have nothing to hide from your government, then mass
surveillance holds no fears for you. This argument might be the oldest
straw man in the privacy debate, but it’s also a decent reflection of
the state of the argument. In the UK’s first major election since the Snowden revelations, privacy is a nonissue.
This is a shame, because
when it comes down to it, many of us who are doing nothing wrong have
plenty we would prefer to hide.
Well, yes - but this
is in fact a pretty offensive pair of assumptions: That the
government are the people who decide whether you do
anything wrong (much rather than a judge and a public court), and that in
order to decide whether you do anything that is wrong by their
standards, anonymous governmental spies may hoover up anything
whatsoever that anyone puts on the internet or says into his or
And clearly everybody has plenty to hide, if only
because you do not know what the next government will
be like, nor what they will consider "wrong", nor what
their punishments will be if you are "wrong" in their eyes, nor
how much has been retained of what got secretly stolen from you, nor
how the laws will be changing
in the future, while all your private affairs have been stored
- in secret of course - on the GCHQs computers (or the NSA's, which
have more space), quite possibly forever.
Then there is this:
We rarely care about our
privacy in general terms; when it gets to specifics – can I read your
text messages? – we tend to be more defensive. And when we get anywhere
near the sexual realm, we get very defensive indeed.
Again, I do not
belong to this "We" (and would have much preferred if this had
read "Many" instead of "We"), and one reason is that it seems to me to
be a sign of considerable lack of intelligence if you do not
care about "privacy in general
terms" while you do care
if someone else reads your text messages or sees your naked pictures.
This is also much like insisting you do not care if anybody
steals anything from anybody as long as they don't steal any prized
possessions from you.
And indeed most Americans
are not very intelligent or informed, and do seem to think in this way:
Yes, indeed - although
that is pretty silly, and not merely because of the following fact: Of
the very great amount of video images that the GCHQ hoovered up to
control you and everybody else (on the pretext that knowing your naked
pictures will help keep the world free from "terrorism")
That’s a truth the US
comedian John Oliver realises to a much greater extent
than many of his journalistic colleagues. In a segment during an
interview with Edward Snowden, he vox popped people in Times Square on
mass surveillance, only to be received with apathy and confusion. Then
he suggested the government was collecting their dick pics – to a
unanimously furious response.
turned out a substantial quantity (up to 11%) of what it was
intercepting were pornographic pictures.
The article ends as
follows, after pointing out that the English goverment's spies have
been in your bedroom and know your dick and tit pictures:
It is currently perfectly
possible, and perfectly legal, that a government employee has seen you
naked. The question is, are you bothered? Because when we talk about
surveillance reform, this is what we’re talking about.
I disagree with the
legality - indeed also if James Ball is right about this - for I do not
see what any government's secret spies have to do with how I
look naked, and I also completely disagree they have any
right to be reading my mails or to be listening to my phone
there is plausible evidence overseen by a public judge that I might be
a terrorist, which there is not).
But OK...this seems to be "the standard of evidence" that the English
public - perhaps - can handle: They don't want their dick pics and tit
pics to be seen by anonymous governmental spies, while they don't mind
being surveilled by anonymous governmental spies who can secretly
hoover up anything they put on line.
2. The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s
just running them at arm’s length
item is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
So relentless has
the violence convulsing the Middle East become that an attack on yet
another Arab country and its descent into full-scale war barely
registers in the rest of the world. That’s how it has been with the onslaught on impoverished Yemen by
western-backed Saudi Arabia and a string of other Gulf dictatorships.
Indeed - and I had
missed this as well.
Here is some more, and I note Obama's great progressiveness ("US weapons sales to the Gulf have
exceeded those racked up by George Bush, and last week Obama resumed US
military aid to Egypt"):
wars, while Obama has bombed seven mainly Muslim countries ...
Since the disasters of
Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its allies are reluctant to risk boots
on the ground. But their military interventions are multiplying. Barack
Obama has bombed seven mainly Muslim countries since he became US president. There are now four full-scale wars raging in the Arab
world (Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen), and every one of them has
involved US and wider western military intervention. Saudi Arabia is by
far the largest British arms market; US weapons sales to the Gulf have
exceeded those racked up by George Bush, and last week Obama resumed US
military aid to Egypt.
What has changed is that, in
true imperial fashion, the west’s alliances have become more
contradictory, playing off one side against the other.
I agree with the article, but there is little to rejoice over in it
(although that is not Seumas Milne's fault).
3. The White House’s New Executive Order On
Cyber Crime is (Unfortunately) No Joke
item is an article by Nadya Kayyali and Kurt Opsahl on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
On the morning of
April 1st, the White House issued a new executive
order (EO) that asserts that
malicious “cyber-enabled activities” are a national threat, declares a
national emergency, and establishes sanctions and other consequences
for individuals and entities. While computer and information security
is certainly very important, this EO could dangerously backfire, and
chill the very security research that is necessary to protect people
from malicious attacks.
In fact, and as the
article explains, this is another executive order that
dangerously overbroad. That’s because tools that can be used for
malicious attacks are also vital for defense. For example, penetration
testing is the process of attempting to gain access to computer
systems, without credentials like a username. It’s a vital step in
finding system vulnerabilities and fixing them before malicious
But then if you try to
gain access to a computer without credentials like a user name, you may
be "a terrorist". It is true there is some apparent relief:
To be sure,
President Obama has said
that “this executive order [does not] target the legitimate
cybersecurity research community or professionals who help companies
improve their cybersecurity.” But assurances like this are not enough.
Essentially, with these words, Obama asks us to trust the Executive,
without substantial oversight, to be able to make decisions about the
property and rights of people who may not have much recourse once that
decision has been made, and who may well not get prior notice before
the hammer comes down.
Precisely. And no, you cannot
"trust the Executive", and not because he is currently
Obama, but simply because "all governments lie and nothing they say
should be believed" (in I.F.
Stone's words - and no, he didn't say they always lie). But
this is especially true about cyber-security, which is far
to secretive as is.
4. Rights Groups Demand Justice as New Details
on DEA Spying Program Revealed
item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I take it the last
statement has been carefully neutralized, but yes I quite agree. Also,
this seems to be a big case for two reasons: First, it started
in 1992, under Bush Sr., and second it concerns a very
large amount of telephone calls:
As new reporting by USA
Today on Wednesday exposed
the scope of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's two-decade
secret surveillance operation against American citizens, dubbed USTO
and first publicly revealed in January, a human rights organization
filed suit for what it called unconstitutional overreach of government
In its lawsuit against
the DEA, filed Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said that the agency's
operation, which collected bulk data on billions of Americans'
international phone calls without a warrant, jeopardized the nonprofit
"At Human Rights Watch we
work with people who are sometimes in life or death situations, where
speaking out can make them a target," HRW general counsel Dinah
PoKempner said in a press
release after the organization filed suit. "Whom we communicate
with and when is often extraordinarily sensitive—and it's information
that we wouldn't turn over to the government lightly."
In fact, if Holland was
included, there may be quite a lot of evidence that the mayors of
Amsterdam have set up an illegal schema to turn over at least 25
billion euros each year
in illegal drugs (which is a fact, that just isn't
revealed new details about USTO, which started a decade before 9/11 and
developed significantly during then-President George H.W. Bush's
administration—and eventually came to serve as a prototype for the
NSA's more recent surveillance operations:
In 1992, in the last
months of Bush's administration, Attorney General William Barr and his
chief criminal prosecutor, Robert Mueller, gave the DEA permission to
collect a much larger set of phone data to feed into that intelligence
Instead of simply
asking phone companies for records about calls made by people suspected
of drug crimes, the Justice Department began ordering telephone
companies to turn over lists of all phone calls from the USA to
countries where the government determined drug traffickers operated,
current and former officials said.
The list of
countries included in the sweep totaled up to 116 and reached not just
Iran, as the DEA has previously admitted, but nations virtually
throughout the world—in Central America, South America, Europe, Asia,
western Africa, and the Caribbean, as well as Canada.
at all in Holland since parliamentarian Van Traa "had
a mortal accident" in 1997) and also may have extensively
profited themselves. 
Back to the DEA:
I agree, and I think it is
worthwile to go to court, but I also think this - again - is not
to succeed, although it is firmly based on two Constitutional
Amendments, and my reason is the following, for what is happening now
EFF staff attorney Nate
"The DEA's program of untargeted and suspicionless surveillance of
Americans' international telephone call records—information about the
numbers people call, and the time, date, and duration of those
calls—affects millions of innocent people, yet the DEA operated the
program in secret for years."
"Both the First and
Fourth Amendment protect Americans from this kind of overreaching
surveillance," Cardozo continued. "This lawsuit aims to vindicate HRW’s
rights, and the rights of all Americans, to make calls overseas without
being subject to government surveillance."
Every day, the agency
assembles a list of the telephone numbers its agents suspect may be
tied to drug trafficking. Each day, it sends electronic subpoenas —
sometimes listing more than a thousand numbers — to telephone companies
seeking logs of international telephone calls linked to those numbers,
two official familiar with the program said.
... The White House proposed
a similar approach for the NSA's telephone surveillance program,
which is set to expire June 1. That approach would halt the NSA's bulk
data collection but would give the spy agency the power to force
companies to turn over records linked to particular telephone numbers,
subject to a court order.
Which is to say that - also
given the nearly complete pliancy of the so-called
5. Can the world economy survive without fossil
secret "FISA courts" - very little will change, unless the EFF
quite improbable, unfortunately, precisely because the present
chosen to use the DEA schema to help the NSA.
item is an article by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:
In fact, this is a long
read on The Guardian that is accompanied by six quite vague
orange-and-black photographs (in the New
Blauified Guardian style: vague and only two colors).
It starts like this:
The final chapters
of The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell’s 2014 novel,
describe a future in which progress has gone into reverse. In 2043, the
fossil fuel age is over: nuclear power stations ar e melting down,
there is no access to the electricity grid and solar panels are so
prized that they are looted. Catastrophic climate change has become a
reality. Rising sea levels have caused floods on the New York City
subway, killing thousands. Internet coverage is patchy, food and
consumer goods are scarce, and life‑saving drugs such as insulin are
hard to come by.
It is a dystopian vision
that looks like a brutal, dangerous version of the past – one not at
all like the future that was promised when the cold war ended with
victory for the western capitalist model. If it comes to pass, it will
be because, despite all the warnings, climate change has not been taken
O Lord! No, it will not:
If it comes to pass, it will be because most of the politicians did not
take their responsibilities since the 1970ies; because the Western
economies are running on the profit principle; because Western
consumers have been habituated to consuming too much; and because of
quite a few other reasons, all of which interact and can not be
reduced to "climate change".
In fact, I take it Larry
Elliott knows this, but he is now writing on the lines of Naomi Klein
and Alan Rusbridger, who have decided that climate change is an
Well... I agree it
is, and I have agreed with environmental policies since 1971 (when
Naomi Klein was 1), but I have seen few changes in 45 years,
changes at all in the general tendencies, and so I concluded that
very probably cannot be stopped - I am very sorry to
say - in the world in which I currently live.
For in order stop it - within
28 years, also, with politicians who have done very little
that's really effective in 45 years, and with economies that
are built around the profit principle and high consumption
- we need some revolutionary changes in quite a few different things
and approaches, such as the profit principle and the Western levels of
consumption, and I see zero evidence for that.
There is a lot more in the article, but I will quote only one bit more:
The question, therefore,
is whether it is possible to marry two seemingly contradictory
objectives. Can we imagine a future that is cleaner, greener and
sustainable – one that avoids climate armageddon – without abandoning
the idea of growth and, thus, forcing living standards into decline?
The answer is that it will be hellishly difficult, but it is just about
feasible if we make the right choices – and start making them now.
I am very sorry, but
a "hellishly difficult" project, that is supposed to be "just
about feasible" and wants to continue economic growth, and does
not attack either the profit principle or consumerism,
seems to me to be far too improbable to succeed or believe in.
And I am very sorry,
but this seems to me mostly wishful
 I think they did but have no proof. (But if you
organize an illegal trade on that scale, and you are
two or three of the (great-)grandsons of two criminals who helped
murder 116.000 Dutch Jews in WW II, what difference would it
make to you if you get the chance to set up such a schema?)