Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

May 21, 2015
Crisis: Small Business, Parents, Clintons, TPP, Obama, Scheer & Hedges - 2
  "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

Sections
Introduction

1.
The Revolt of Small Business Republicans
2. South Korean Parents Will Be Required to Have
     Government-Approved Spyware on Teens’ Smartphones

3. The Clintons Made Wall Street Richer, and It Returned the
     Favor

4. TPP Could 'Undermine Health of Web' Say 250+ Tech
     Companies and Digital Rights Groups

5.  The Trojan Horse President
6.  Scheer and Hedges: They Know Everything About You
     (Text 2/7)


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 21, 2015.


This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a Robert Reich article (that has a somewhat misleading title); item 2 is about an innovation of the South Korean government: Any teenager with a new smartphone must have government-approved spyware, that allows his or her parents, and the state, and the NSA, GCHQ etc. etc. to know and record absolutely everything the teenager said, wrote or did; item 3 is about how the Clintons made it from poor to mega-rich; item 4 is another good file about the extreme dangers of the TPP (that Obama wants to inflict on most everyone, together with the TTIP); item 5 is about Obama, who is a fraud, a competent one indeed, but a major fraud; and item 6
is about interview 2 in a series of 7 that was done between Scheer and Hedges,
and that is here because I liked the interviews a lot, and now the text for interview 2 appeared on Truthdig, and so I have some quotations and comments.

1.
The Revolt of Small Business Republicans

The first item today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Can it be that America’s small businesses are finally waking up to the fact they’re being screwed by big businesses?

For years, small-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies.

They’ve contributed to the same Republican candidates and committees favored by big business.

And they’ve eagerly connected the Republican Party in Washington to its local business base. Retailers, building contractors, franchisees, wholesalers, and restaurant owners are the bedrock of local Republican politics.

But now small businesses are breaking ranks.
What are they breaking ranks about? A further tax cut on the rich, which will benefit the rich, but not the owners of small businesses.

Reich also explains:

In case you hadn’t noticed, big corporations have extended their dominance over large swaths of the economy.

They’ve expanded their intellectual property, merged with or acquired other companies in the same industry, and gained control over networks and platforms that have become industry standards.

They’ve deployed fleets of lawyers to litigate against potential rivals that challenge their dominance, many of them small businesses.

And they’ve been using their growing economic power to get legislative deals making them even more dominant, such as the corporate tax cut they’re now seeking.

That much I already knew, but OK. What I did not know is that between 1978 and 2011 only half as many new businesses were formed as in previous periods (which is pretty striking), and also over the last twenty years small business got 20% less loans from the banks: From 50 to 30 percent.

These are large changes. Is there a revolt, as the title of the article says? Not really. As Reich himself says:
Don’t hold your breath. Small business groups have done the bidding of big business for so long that the current conflict may be temporary.
But eventually... (though until then I will continue not holding my breath).

2.  South Korean Parents Will Be Required to Have Government-Approved Spyware on Teens’ Smartphones

The next item today is an article by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows - and heralds a move that well may become very widespread:

It appears that South Korea is playing Orwellian catch-up with its security-obsessed northern neighbor.

Under a new law, parents in South Korea will be required to have government-approved spyware on the smartphones of children below the age of 19.
Here is an outline of the new South Korean law (by Associated Press):

The app, “Smart Sheriff,” was funded by the South Korean government primarily to block access to pornography and other offensive content online. But its features go well beyond that.

Smart Sheriff and at least 14 other apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as “suicide,” ‘‘pregnancy” and “bully” or receives messages with those words.

Last month, South Korea’s Korea Communications Commission, which has sweeping powers covering the telecommunications industry, required telecoms companies and parents to ensure Smart Sheriff or one of the other monitoring apps is installed when anyone aged 18 years or under gets a new smartphone.
One important point is that children are the responsibility of their parents: They have hardly an independent legal standing. Another is that the government uses
the parents to force access to absolutely anything their children do with their smartphones (including where they are; including what they say to their friends, also when the phones are supposed to be "locked"; hence also including the childrens' conversations with their parents) - for that is why this is done.

One might think this is limited to South Korea, but that would be a serious mistake. As Roisin Davies explains:

Critics have noted that the Smart Sheriff app might give government agencies access to minors’ communications, all under the auspices of helping parents protect their children. As a result of this mandate, some South Korean teenagers are no longer viewing smartphones as essential equipment.

And it’s not just South Korea’s youths that are — justifiably — concerned. A slew of teen-tracking apps such as TeenSafe have been soaring in popularity in the United States. Claiming more than half a million customers, TeenSafe allows parents complete access to their children’s smartphone data for just $14.95 a month.
This means that for a mere $180 dollars a year any parent may know absolutely everything about his or her children (who are his or her responsibility, as the government will be eager to point out), and while doing so also gives the secret services of the NSA, the GCHQ etc. etc. etc. complete access to absolutely everything the cildren and their parents do, say, write or think.

Thus will the new totalitarian state be bullt, in which everyone (who is permitted to live) will be fully happy all the time, and all the secret services will know absolutely everything about  absolutely everyone, and will be proudly parenting everyone, anonymously, and in secret.

(I am very glad I was born in 1950. And very glad illness prevented my having children. For this is the most probable future, it seems to me, given the lack of real intelligence, true information and real courage of the great majority.)


3. The Clintons Made Wall Street Richer, and It Returned the Favor

The next item is an article by Zaid Jilani on Alternet:
This article has a very adequate title, and also a fine summary (bold in the original):
The Clintons' wealth is derived from an army of corporations that benefited from the laws the couple passed.
That seems to be about the shortest adequate summary of the Clintons in two brief statements.

The article itself  starts as follows:

Late at the end of last week, the Clinton campaign sent its long-awaited personal financial disclosures to select media outlets. From the perspective of the campaign, it was a clever move; by sending their disclosures to the media first before sending them to the Federal Election Commission, they essentially controlled the timing of the stories about their income for the past year and a half.

The disclosures detail the incomes of both Clintons going back to 2014. From what was offered to the press, we know that in less than a year and a half, the Clintons raked in over $30 million, the vast majority from speaking fees they charged to foreign and domestic corporations and other organizations willing to pay speech honorariums.
I say - and no, this is not because Bill and Hillary are enticing speakers with bold plans that will serve most: it is the excuse to get huge financial favors. I will not quote much, but here is one of the highlights of what the Clintons did (in this case president Bill):

In 1999, President Bill Clinton rallied allies in Congress to pass the Financial Services Modernization Act, which repealed the Depression-Era Glass Steagall law separating commercial and investment banking. The result was a spree of mergers and growth that involved a huge growth in the size of the nation's biggest banks and their profits. 

Clinton's Treasury chief, Robert Rubin, was soon hired to become an executive at Wall Street megabank Citigroup, pulling in $115 million in pay from 1999 to 2008. But the next beneficiary of Wall Street was the Clintons themselves.

And here is a summary:
The Clintons made the financial sector even richer, and in return, the financial sector made the Clintons go from being in debt when they lived in the White House to being in the top .01% of all American income earners. From deregulation of the big banks, to tightening personal bankruptcy laws, to supporting unfair and unfettered bailouts, the Clintons, to steal a phrase from Donna Summer, “worked hard for the money."
There is considerably more in the article, that is well worth reading, if only to get a good grasp of what it means - in 95 out of a 100 cases - to be a leading American
Democratic politician.

4.  TPP Could 'Undermine Health of Web' Say 250+ Tech Companies and Digital Rights Groups

The next item is another article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

More than 250 tech companies and digital rights organizations on Wednesday sent a joint letter to Congress, blasting the corporate-backed trade deal they say "actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies...while undermining the health of the entire Web."

The letter (embedded below)—whose signatories include AVG Technologies, DreamHost, Namecheap, Mediafire, Imgur, Internet Archive, BoingBoing, Piwik, Private Internet Access, and more than 200 others—calls on Congress to come out against Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, which they say "legitimizes" the secret process under which mammoth trade pacts are negotiated.

"The Fast Track...process actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies while giving the biggest players even more power to set policy that benefits a few select companies while undermining the health of the entire Web," said Evan Greer, campaign director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future.

In particular, the letter expresses concerns about how the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership—which it notes goes "far beyond the scope of traditional trade policy"—would impact everything from net neutrality to online freedom of expression to digital innovation.

"We simply cannot allow our policymakers to use secret trade negotiations to make digital policy for the 21st century," said Maira Sutton, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The TPP is a huge threat to the Internet and its users. Full stop."

Yes, indeed. Here is some more on the - extreme - dangers of the TPP and the TTIP:
David Heinemeier Hansson, partner at Basecamp and creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework: “TPP makes a mockery of democratic legislative ideals. It's shrouded in secrecy exactly because it would wither in sunlight. It's a terrible piece of overreach to endow a few special interests with enormous and unsavory power. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and started over. International trade is too important to have it hitched to this collection of wishful thinking by a select few. "
Indeed. There is more in the article.

5. The Trojan Horse President

The next item is an article by William Rivers Pitt on Truth-out:
This starts as follows:

I am not an economist, not even close, but Joseph Stiglitz is. Stiglitz is actually a Nobel Prize winning economist, former Chair of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, and former chief economist for the World Bank. Joseph Stiglitz is positively terrified of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal being pushed rabidly by President Obama. Because he is, I am also frightened by what this "deal" portends.

Stiglitz:

Fundamental to America's system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a "judge" in one case and an advocate in a related case.

If there ever was a one-sided dispute-resolution mechanism that violates basic principles, this is it. That is why I joined leading U.S. legal experts, including from Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, in writing a letter to President Barack Obama explaining how damaging to our system of justice these agreements are.

Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century. I hope citizens in the U.S., Europe, and the Pacific answer with a resounding no.

At the core of this Nobel Laureate's argument against the TPP deal is the simple fact that legal authority - basic, bedrock legal authority - would be transferred from the sovereign courts of the United States to multinational corporations if this "deal" comes to pass. Note well, also, this statement from Stiglitz: "Though corporations can bring suit, others cannot. If there is a violation of other commitments - on labor and environmental standards, for example - citizens, unions, and civil-society groups have no recourse."
This is a very good article, in which besides Stiglitz also Senators Warren and Sanders are extensively quoted. I recommend you read it all.

I have just one more bit to quote (from a lot more: use the last dotted link):
Or is he what many of us have feared he is for a while now: a Trojan Horse president, presented at the gates as a progressive gift? Once let in, however, an army of Third-Way "Democrats," multinational corporations, insurance companies, banks and Wall Street masters-of-the-universe were unleashed to wreak havoc, again.
Yes, indeed: he was and is a fraud. A competent fraud, like the bankers he protects, but a fraud. ("All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed." - I.F. Stone.)

6. Scheer and Hedges: They Know Everything About You (Text 2/7)
 
Yesterday I wrote about the 7 part interview of Robert Scheer by Chris Hedges, simply because this is a really good interview, even though it takes some 150 minutes in all.

After writing it, I indeed spent a part of the day seeing it all, which confirmed my decision: Yes, they are smart, competent and honest [2], and this is also one of the very few interviews of considerable length that I saw that I enjoyed - for as a rule I don't like talking: it is too slow (I read at least 4 times as fast) and often contains many irrelevancies.

And today I find that Truthdig has published the text of interview Nr 2 (from 7).
So here it is again, and I will also quote and comment some.

I start with saying (again) what the interview is about and who are the interviewer and interviewee:

This is the record (made by The Real News (<- Wikipedia), which does bring the real news, unlike the mass media these days) of the second of seven videos that recorded the interview by Chris Hedges
(<- Wikipedia) interview of Robert Scheer (<- Wikipedia), who recently published a book on surveillance and spying, They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies are Destroying Democracy:
As I said yesterday: Part 1 of the interview is here, on May 14, 2015. And I strongly recommend that you watch these interviews: they are by two of the most knowledgeable and accomplished U.S. journalists, and the interviews are
very well done.

Here are some bits of the second interview, also listed above. It begins as follows (apart from a small bit indicated by ellipsis), and I quote this because this is a fact that still may not be widely known:
CHRIS HEDGES, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: (...)

In this book, Bob, you begin, at least from my reading of it, by positing that the security and surveillance apparatus really began as a commercial enterprise, primarily, and that government then came in, then saw what was going on, saw its usefulness in terms of the data collecting, and came in later. Would that be—?

PROF. ROBERT SCHEER, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Yeah. At first it was really a boondoggle of the Defense Department.
One reason to select this goes back to the late Sixties - and see my bit from 2012: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968 - when Zbigniew Brezezinski said the following (quoted from p. 154 of Stephen Spender's 1969 book):
'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
My question is this: While I dismissed this in 1969 as at best futurology (then a quasi-science about the future), it now can be seen as a very adequate prediction of what would happen. Now: How did Brezezinski know this? It took over thirty years to be realized, but it was realized, and it works as he predicted in 1968.
(And no, I do not expect to get any real information on this, but I do find it rather odd that someone could predict a future that was 30 years later realized. [1])

Here is Robert Scheer on what the internet meant for the advertisers:

SCHEER: Yeah. And what the internet did is suddenly you had information on who these people are. You know—you started to see, you could know their most intimate habits, their emails, their shopping habits, their networks, particularly when social networking and things like Facebook developed, who their friends are, and so forth. And they were willing, these people out there who’re doing Google searches or on Facebook, to surrender voluntarily an enormous amount of information that you never had before about their age and their marital status and their sex life and their dress size and whether they’re bald or have a lot of hair or are taking different medicines. I mean the most intimate knowledge of people, not just in the United States, but all over the world, and you have this incredible data.

And then you’re able to target your advertising to get these people. And not only could you get them in the sense that you could find out if they went to an ad, clicked onto that ad, but you could find what they did with it. Did they tell somebody about it? Did they ask for more information? And the killer app of all: did they buy something? And were they satisfied with it? And then you could retarget them.

Yes indeed - though I should also remark that this was all happening on the basis of an unencrypted internet: This would simply not have been possible at all if the internet had been encrypted from the start.

Why was it not encrypted from the start? I can think of two reasons: (1) it would have made it considerably more difficult in the beginning, not so much because of the encrypting, but because the computers were quite slow around 1995 (compared to what they are now), and (2) because - it seems - most people believed the laws on the paper mail (you are not allowed to read another's mails without his personal consent: see the Fourth Amendment) would and did apply to e-mail as well (as indeed it does - except that the secret services jumped at the chance of listening in to what anybody wrote).

But there is more:

HEDGES: And that’s with the internet did. And that is why newsprint is withering away as quickly as it is. And classified, as you know, was 40 percent of most newsprint revenue.

SCHEER: Right.

HEDGES: And that immediately switched to the internet.

SCHEER: Right.

HEDGES: But there’s something else about the internet. It’s not just about surrendering information. You now have large corporations—not only does the government have profiles, but large corporations—it’s a huge, multibillion dollar business—have profiles on us. So if we go to apply for a job, you can pay one of these corporations, and you get an entire profile. They have everything on us, stuff that we couldn’t even imagine that they have.
Actually, I did not know that classified ads made up 40% of the newspapers' revenues. Anyway: the lack of these revenues, together with the getting rid of journalists and editors who did their own thinking, is what made the mass media
into the present awful propaganda machines for conventional points of view.

Then there is this on the totalitarianism that is inherent in unencrypted internet coupled with secret services that are both heavily funded, kept very secret and very willing to break any law (in secret) that would have kept them from any data they wanted:
SCHEER: Sure. And the reason people have done that—if a government, any government in the world, had asked for this kind of—required this kind of information, okay, how far did you read in that book, what movie did you go to, who did you have dinner with, you know, the information that is gathered up now by the so-called private sector, that would be considered the most totalitarian, invasive, coercive, threatening model. Right? I mean, this is something the Stasi in East Germany couldn’t presume. I mean, this was something Stalin never dreamed of. It’s something Hitler, Goebbels could not dream of, this kind of knowledge and following and the movement and the action and the thoughts. And then being able to manipulate it.
Yes, precisely. But what really happened was this:
SCHEER: Right. And the reason we have no privacy is: if the government had demanded this information, we would know it’s a totalitarian government. What happened here, this intellectual sleight of hand, is that increasingly the government was grabbing this data from the private sector. And the private sector was complicit.
I again note that "this intellectual sleight of hand" was possible only because there was hardly any encryption - and no: until Snowden emerged, the very strong need for strong encryption was felt by few, indeed in considerable part because few distrusted the politicians and the secret services as much as they should have.

Here is the last quotation from today, that reasonably well explains what the internet these days really is: The assistant of the secret police that controls everyone to a very much larger extent than ever before (in secret):
HEDGES: (...) [Hannah Ahrendt] says that when you collect data on every single citizen, it’s no longer about crime or justice; it is about having material so that when you criminalize a certain category of people—and Stalin was kind of the master of this—you can instantly arrest them, because there’s always something, and they can exactly do what you’ve done, where they take that rather innocent discussion and twist it to serve the ends of the state. That’s the danger of mass surveillance.
As I said, this is a very good series of interviews.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes
[1] Especially because in fact I do not know of anyone who ever predicted in any detail how the future of a mere 25 years would look like, and had it right.
But Brezezinski did.

[2] Incidentally: I take it you agree with me that they are smart and competent, but how do I know they are honest, never having met or mailed with them? For a very simple reason: Because they are endangering themselves and their families.

       home - index - summaries - mail