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 Computers are
2. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Brad Sherman Team Up to
Break Up America’s Biggest
3. So Much for Liberté: France
May Beef Up Domestic Spying
4. The Obscene Amounts of
Money the 10 Highest-Paid
Hedge Fund Managers Just Made
5. TPP: The “Fascism” Issue
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 6,
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1
is about an article by Dan Froomkin, that explains that one's cell
phone conversations (at least) may be read, translated and searched
while one has them (and stored
- in secret - forever, for any future government's use); item
2 is about an attempt by Sanders and Sherman to break up the big
banks (it will very probably fail, but that is no reason not to propose
it); item 3 is about how France may be
fascist real soon and quite successfully, now that the French decided
domestic spying is allowed (what with Le Pen waiting to be nominated); item 4 is about the
truly obscene amounts of money the richest Americans lay claim to (and
and item 5 is about the TPP and "fascism".
This file was uploaded a little later than is normal for me.
Computers are Listening
item today is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows (and has a subtitle
that was too long: How the NSA Converts Spoken
Words Into Searchable Text):
Actually, I do not think that there are any
understand what [people] say", apart from some sounds that serve as signs
to do commands. But that also is not understanding. What does
happen is that speech sounds are turned to texts, and these texts are
searched for key words. And while this is clever, it does not involve any
real understanding. 
Most people realize that
emails and other digital communications they once considered private
can now become part of their permanent record.
But even as they
increasingly use apps that understand what they say, most people don’t
realize that the words they speak are not so private anymore, either.
Top-secret documents from
the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the National
Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within
phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations
that can be easily searched and stored.
The documents show NSA
analysts celebrating the development of what they called “Google for
a decade ago.
transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the
Intelligence Community’s “holy grail,”
the Snowden documents describe
extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs
designed to analyze and “extract” the content of voice conversations,
and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest.
But this does mean that most of one's telephone conversations
may be translated
to English texts and stored in one's - secret - NSA dossier, to
be used maybe 25
years later, to serve God knows what ends of the then existing
government (or indeed any other government that has good
relations with the then ruling American government).
So the following is quite correct:
Spying on international
telephone calls has always been a staple of NSA surveillance, but the
requirement that an actual person do the listening meant it was
effectively limited to a tiny percentage of the total traffic. By
leveraging advances in automated speech recognition, the NSA has
entered the era of bulk listening.
And this has happened
with no apparent public oversight, hearings or legislative action.
Congress hasn’t shown signs of even knowing that it’s going on.
And here is some
information of the capacities of the NSA seven years ago:
There is a lot
more in the article. For the moment, here is the summary:
document from the Snowden archive shows that transcribing
news broadcasts was already working well seven years ago, using a
program called Enhanced Video Text and Audio Processing:
(U//FOUO) EViTAP is a
fully-automated news monitoring tool. The key feature of this
Intelink-SBU-hosted tool is that it analyzes news in six languages,
including Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, English, and
Farsi/Persian. “How does it work?” you may ask. It integrates Automatic
Speech Recognition (ASR) which provides transcripts of the spoken
audio. Next, machine translation of the ASR transcript translates the
native language transcript to English. Voila! Technology is amazing.
Anything you say in any cell phone anywhere
may be listened into, may get translated to English, and may get stored
- in secret - forever, and may be used against you by any
future American government, or any government with good
relations with the then existing American government.
And (I quote):
shown signs of even knowing that it’s going on.
2. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Brad Sherman Team
Up to Break Up America’s Biggest Banks
item is an article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
I've said already that I
like Bernie Sanders, and also like his candidacy, and that simply
because he is - so far, at least - the only candidate
with a sensible program. This may not make him win, but that is
no reason not to be a candidate.
Building off the momentum
from his 2016 campaign launch Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking
aim at America’s banking behemoths with an aggressively named new bill
he drew up with Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., called the “Too Big to
Fail, Too Big to Exist Act.”
Here is some more on the new proposed bill:
I agree. And I also
agree that the present Congress will not pass it, but that is certainly
no reason not to propose it.
The bill’s title draws
upon the same rationale that banks like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase
and Bank of America capitalized upon—both while playing roulette with
the global economy and then while putting the squeeze on two successive
American administrations to bail them out—to illustrate precisely why
those same institutions shouldn’t be able to survive in the same
destructive form that allowed them to wreak havoc on an unprecedented
“No single financial
institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could
send the world economy into crisis,” Sanders said of the driving idea
behind his and Sherman’s joint project. “If an institution is too big
to fail, it is too big to exist.”
Here is the ending of the article:
also be working this measure into the national conversation and
campaign discourse about the 2008 financial catastrophe that, far from
being contained by governmentserious interventions ostensibly designed to manage
the fallout, has further widened the nation’s economic gap into a chasm.
Yes, indeed - and this
is also one of the many sensible things a Sanders campaign may do: Open
up the conversation, and make clear to the Americans that the next
crisis may well be America's last, and not because it will weather it
no more crises, but because it may not weather it and sink forever.
3. So Much for Liberté: France May Beef Up Domestic Spying
item is another article by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This starts as
The shootings at the
Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris last January drew comparisons to
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., and now the French
government appears to be responding in a similar manner to its American
counterpart by doubling down on surveillance.
Here are the liberties
Hollande could not resist, and that may transfer to the next French
president, who may be Le Pen:
The measure would give
French intelligence services the right to gather potentially unlimited
electronic data from Internet communications, and to tap cellphones and
capture text messages. It would force Internet providers to comply with
government requests to sift through subscribers’ communications.
[...]The provisions, as
currently outlined, would allow them to tap cellphones, read emails and
force Internet providers to comply with government requests to sift
through virtually all of their subscribers’ communications.
Among the types of
surveillance that the intelligence services would be able to carry out
is the bulk collection and analysis of metadata similar to that done by
the United States’ National Security Agency.
The intelligence services
could also request a right to put tiny microphones in a room or on
objects such as cars or in computers or place antennas to capture
telephone conversations or mechanisms that capture text messages. Both
French citizens andSince foreigners could be tapped.
As to any "judicial oversight": According to the New York Times, this will be "limited".
Perhaps because it is the New York Times, they didn't say anything
about secrecy, but I suppose this will be very similar to Germany - the
service is essentially uncontrolled, and indeed quite secret, and until
revolution has taken place almost everyone will be mostly ignorant and
Also, since I am an
anti-fascist (who was scolded a mere twelve years as a
"fascist" in the sick and degenerate University of Amsterdam, whose
of Directors even removed me, while I was seriously ill and
just before taking my - brilliant, to be - M.A. in philosophy, as a
"fascist" and a "terrorist" from the right of getting that M.A. because
I had dared, as an invited speaker, to question - this is what
I said: only questions, without knowing merely questioning would get me
removed - the wisdom of
the University of Amsterdam) I will be so free as to say that the
French moved a whole lot closer towards fascism, and indeed may
be there with the next elections. (Further see item 5.)
Obscene Amounts of Money the 10
Highest-Paid Hedge Fund Managers Just Made
item is an article by Michael Arria on Alternet:
This is just a brief item, but it shows you
the direction the United States is moving towards under its great
presidents Bush Jr and Obama. It starts as follows:
Alpha Magazine has
its "Rich List," the annual rundown of the Unites States'
highest-earning hedge fund managers and there's an interesting
development. The top earners underwent a 45% drop in earnings during
2014, which prompted the magazine to invoke, "harsh memories of the
global financial crisis [that] pervaded Wall Street."
Incidentally, the last link
- to Alpha Magazine - is worth reading, if only for the style. Here is
the list of this year's biggest earners (over 2014):
Even the most miserable earner
of this lot cleared in 1 year around 2000 times as much
as I earned in my whole life. Do you really think they earned
Yes, rough. Here's the
5. TPP: The “Fascism” Issue
item today is an article by Joe Firestone, with an introduction by Yves
The introduction is as follows, and I will
give some text with links under it:
Yves here. As much as
creeping fascism is a real issue in the US and arguably even more so in
Europe, making it a central theme of a post runs the risk of
encouraging readers to make Godwin’s Law violations.
So please be mindful as to whether your use of historical comparisons
is merited or sensationalistic. And perhaps even more important, be
mindful of the thrust of Firestone’s observations: that fascism
describes a very specific type of social and political arrangements.
It’s tempting to cry “fascist threat” to overcome complacency. Over
time, that strategy loses its potency, particularly if the warning is
sounded on too little evidence or simply incorrectly.
I say, and I am
sorry, for I think this is mostly nonsense. First, here is Godwin's "Law"
(better described as a Rule) as stated on the Wikipedia (minus note
Godwin's Law (or Godwin's
Rule of Nazi Analogies)
is an Internet adage asserting that "As an online
discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving
Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"
That was just
bullshit, as far as I am concerned: He might as well have said "a
comparison involving Christians or Jesus Christ" or "communism or Karl
Marx" or anything else that is both emotional, known
superficially by many, and that is also usually not well known,
for that applies to Nazism, Christianity and Communism.
Next, Firestone's thesis "that fascism describes a very specific type
of social and political arrangements". I say. I really must have missed that, with a grandfather
murdered by the Nazis and a father for almost 4 years in German
camps, as a political prisoner, and as a philosopher and psychologist.
Besides, Firestone's thesis is one of
many, and not much worth. (See below.)
Finally, Yves Smith's
that saying so-and-so is or sounds like fascism results - she says - in
this: "Over time, that strategy
loses its potency, particularly if the warning is sounded on too little
evidence or simply incorrectly"
She certainly did not
study in the University of Amsterdam!! I was called "a fascist"
(regularly also "a dirty" idem) for a mere 12 years, mostly by
my supposedly "socialistic", in fact often communist opponents, who
never identified anything more "fascist" in me than that I believed in truth, science and intelligence
and was not afraid to say so, while indeed they did not believe
in truth, nor in science, nor in intelligence: that much is true.
It is also true that I did
not tell them that my parents were communists since the WW II or
before, and that I had the best anti-fascistic background I
know of, but then it is also true that I had a lot of contempt for
them, and liked my parents, and did not want them disturbed by these
quasi-communistic "leftist" moral and intellectual degenerates (which
is what they were, as their subsequent histories
also tend to show: hardly anyone published anything, but all got rich
and conservative by their eventual tenth-rate degrees).
In brief: "Fascist!",
"Dirty fascist" etc. are mere terms of abuse; are quite popular;
are often used; are rarely used based on any good understanding
of what they mean; and generally serve as an attempt to denigrate
I can't take this very
seriously (especially since I got this poured out over me for 12
years), but I certainly also can't take Godwin's Rule seriously,
for this also prohibits - in effect, not as stated - anyone who did a serious
study of fascism
from mentioning the Nazis or Hitler, which is just completely
Next, I used it seriously
at the end of 2012, simply
because the system that was and is being built in the U.S. and England,
in particular, did seem more like that than any other social system I
know of - and I
studied them seriously. Also, it was not something I wanted
to: I was forced by the facts.
I explained this on February 6, 2015, which is interesting
because I also talk about rising anti-semitism and discuss someone else
who said that America may stand on the doorstep of descending into
This someone was Thom Hartmann,
and he started his piece, entitled How American Oligarchs Are Pushing
America to the Brink of
Fascism as follows:
This seems to me - who very
probably did read a lot more about fascism than you did, simply
because of my personal background - a reasonable core definition of
As the American Heritage
Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of
state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.".
And I observe that on its four basic traits: (1) the billionaires now
funding their way to power in the U.S. are all "rightists", while (2)
the state in the U.S. (the government, at least in Washington) has
"merg"ed with the "business leadership" (through revolving doors and
lobbyists), while (3) the United States is "belligerent", and
it also is (4) "nationalis"tic, indeed "exceptionally" so.
OK - now to Joe Firestone's article. This
starts as follows:
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will, if implemented, and as I’ve
argued elsewhere, result in the death of national and state
sovereignty, constitutional separation of powers, and democracy, then
what system and what principles will replace these things? Eric
Zuesse answers that it will be Fascism. And implicitly, that we are
going through an evolution from representative democracy to fascism and
that trade deals like the TPP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) mediate
the transfer “. . . of democratic national sovereignty to international
fascist bodies that represent global corporate management. . . . ”
I note that I more or
less agree with this analysis (and the ISDSs that Zeusse is talking
about are mergers of "legal institutions" with "corporate management",
whose secret decisons override all national
decisions, indeed on the mere ground that they upset the expected
profits of corporations), though it so happens that I do not like
Zeusse (who I know by way of Washington's Blog).
What does Firestone have against this? A lot of pure speculations about
how he thinks the ISDSs (?!) will work plus a list of
"characteristics of fascism" that he insists (falsely) define it. I
will not give the full quote (you can get it
from the last dotted link), but merely the characteristics (and not
quite all). Also, the arrows and comments after them are mine, and not
in the text:
--> the U.S.
--> the U.S. (as
continuing propagandizing by
the mass media
--> the U.S.
state-controlled economy --> ?
respect for the capitalist profit
--> the U.S.
opposition to egalitarianism
--> the U.S.
direct, often violent
--> the U.S. (police and military brutalities)only
militarization of the police --> the U.S.
--> the U.S. (on an enormous scale)
emphasis on youth
traditional male/female roles --> ?
And then he says, rather brazenly in my opinion:
Even though all
would not agree with this specification of fascism in all its
particulars, I claim that students of fascism and totalitarianism would
agree that the specification of it as a social science cluster concept
requires the heavy
majority of these characteristics, and that excludes an ISDS regime
from the world-wide fascism category.
No. Firstly, "all
students" indeed would not agree. Secondly, there is a
problem, namely whether one insists on only studying -
definitely past - history, or also wants to generalize from that,
possibly to the future. One solution (not considered by Firestone) is
to use "neo-fascism" for recent or for anticipated social
Third, the point is not at all "an ISDS regime":
It is what to call the social system that is arising in the United
States, that is furthered by the ISDS, and by the TPP, and by the TTIP,
and by the nearly complete secrecy in which these treaties are
introduced, and by the NSA's spying, and by the strongly increasing
inequalities in income, and by the police's militarization and
violence, and by the enormous amount of jailed criminals in the U.S.,
and by the widespread denials of science and of fairness, and by the
insistence of business leaders that greed is good and selfishness
moral, and by 35 years of deregulation, and by the billions business
leaders make each year, for themselves, and by the legal decisions that
corporations = persons and money = free speech, and by the many wars
the U.S. is fighting, and by its own exceptionalism, and by
I do not say "fascism" is the best term. Perhaps "neo-fascism"
is better. And perhaps another new term is better, though this then
will not automatically carry a strong dislike with it (which is fair,
fascism, at least).
But in any case: What I see emerging in the U.S. and in England,
especially, does look a lot like fascism, and I have
given serious study to these systems, and to recent politics
and I don't like to see my language "politically
corrected" by vague leftists I hardly know anything about - except that
they cannot possibly have my anti-fascist background.
Finally, here is a reference to yet another serious student who - to my
knowledge, and note the "serious" - was the first to say that the U.S.
is descending into a kind of fascism, namely Sheldon Wolin
(<- Wikipedia). I reviewed
this on June 19, 2014:
Also, here is more on Wolin's
There is considerably more in the index for 2014:
Search with "Wolin", if you are interested (which I say because the
real titles are much abbreviated, and this will
 Here is my position on artificial intelligence,
about which I know a lot, since I studied psychology and philosophy,
and also learned to program quite well in at least six programming
I don't believe in it, and my position is rather the same as it was 25
years ago, when I asked AI enthusiasts whether they could make anything
like a spider, including its size and its amazing
capacities for web weaving and fly catching.
They couldn't then and they couldn't now, though I am willing to grant
they are coming closer. As to human intelligence: No way. I
don't say so because I
believe it is impossible (though human intelligence is little
understood, and is analog not digital, and probably also probabilistic
rather than binary) but surely it will take a lot of time. (And no, the
computer that beat Gary Kasparov did not think like Kasparov