Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

August 25, 2015
Crisis: Digital surveillance, China, Ashley Madison & privacy, Climate Change, me+M.E.

 "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.
Digital surveillance 'worse than Orwell', says new UN
     privacy chief

2. Why is China's stock market falling and how might it
     affect the global economy?

3. Email from a Married, Female Ashley Madison User
4. Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism?
5. me+M.E. - August 2015



This is a Nederlog of Tuesday August 25, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the new UN privacy chief (I am not very optimistic); item 2 is about the Chinese stock market failing (but I decided to report facts, but not speculations); item 3 is about another article by Glenn Greenwald about Ashley Madison and privacy; item 4 is about an article from December 2014 about Naomi Klein's last book, that I then missed; and item 5 is the monthly report on me+M.E.: I am still down after
doing too much in the beginning of May (!), but it may be picking up again, although that is far from certain.

1. Digital surveillance 'worse than Orwell', says new UN privacy chief
The first article of today is by Adam Alexander on The Guardian:
This is a somewhat ambiguous review, but I will explain my reasoning. But first there is this, from the beginning of the article:

Speaking to the Guardian weeks after his appointment as the UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci described British surveillance oversight as being “a joke”, and said the situation is worse than anything George Orwell could have foreseen.

He added that he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter, and said it was regrettable that vast numbers of people sign away their digital rights without thinking about it.

“Some people were complaining because they couldn’t find me on Facebook. They couldn’t find me on Twitter. But since I believe in privacy, I’ve never felt the need for it,” Cannataci, a professor of technology law at University of Groningen in the Netherlands and head of the department of Information Policy & Governance at the University of Malta, said.

I agree with all of this, and indeed am a determined non-user of Facebook and Twitter (see here for Facebook and here for Twitter), not only because I like my privacy, but because I also much dislike Facebook and Twitter and have no use for them either: I can write my own site, and have done so for 19 years, and I have an e-mail that can send more than 148 characters also since 19 years. [1]

Next, there is this:

But for Cannataci – well-known for having a mind of his own – it is not America but Britain that he singles out as having the weakest oversight in the western world: “That is precisely one of the problems we have to tackle. That if your oversight mechanism’s a joke, and a rather bad joke at its citizens’ expense, for how long can you laugh it off as a joke?”

He said proper oversight is the only way of progressing, and hopes more people will think about and vote for privacy in the UK.
Well... I agree Britain's "oversight" in fact is not oversight but protection of the secrecy of the governmental thieves of privacy.

But I think the same is true of the NSA, and if the American situation is less bad than the British one (which I don't know because I do know that I don't know more than at most 1% of what I would like to know about the NSA and the GCHQ [2]) it is so basically because there was an American Bill of Rights that still has not been completely destroyed.

As to the "bad joke" and the expense of the citizens whose private data are stolen: I agree, indeed also about the term - but it seems to me (who has been following especially the NSA and GCHQ rather closely for over 2 years now) that
the bad jokes can be continued indefinitely as long as most users of computers
hardly know anything about programming or computers, don't care to know, and
generally also lack the intelligence or the time to find out. [3]

Finally, I think
Cannataci is both right and mistaken in supporting "proper oversight" as "the only way of progressing": Proper oversight - although it does
leave this term undefined - is one major way to go ahead, but until that arrives
(and I do not see arriving it soon) proper encryption will do part of the job that
needs doing, namely keeping the things that are and ought to be private as private as one can.

Then there is this:

Although Cannataci admits his job is a complex one that is not going to be solved with a magic bullet, he says he is far from starting from scratch and believes there are at least four main areas – including a universal law on surveillance, tackling the business models of the big tech corporations, defining privacy and raising awareness among the public.

“I would say it’s impossible to achieve in three years. And it’s probably impossible to achieve even if the mandate is renewed to six years, if you’re trying to do too much. But I do think that – at least my view of things in a field like human rights – is the longer term view, right? The impact must be felt in the long term.”

However, Cannataci says we are dealing with a world even worse that anything Orwell could have foreseen. “It’s worse,” he said. “Because if you look at CCTV alone, at least Winston [Winston Smith in Orwell’s novel 1984] was able to go out in the countryside and go under a tree and expect there wouldn’t be any screen, as it was called. Whereas today there are many parts of the English countryside where there are more cameras than George Orwell could ever have imagined. So the situation in some cases is far worse already.

And I am sorry, but here I grow quite skeptical, and that for three reasons:
(1) 
Cannataci has the job for a mere three years; (2) it is a UN job; and (3)
he is a double professor in Holland (University of Groningen) and Malta.

First, three years is not much, and indeed far too little to hope for much success. Second, I know about the UN from people who have worked there: it is basically
a sick institution that caters to careerists, who are well paid but whose reports are not often taken serious. And third, precisely the same is true of the Dutch "uni- versity"-system, that is so bad that I refuse to call them "universities" without scare quotes.

For me, these are three reasons all pointing the same way: A kind of posed radicalism that will be mostly limited to the UN, but that will meanwhile be very well paid.

Again, the four areas he distinguished suggest the same:

First, "
a universal law on surveillance" is not necessary other than insisting that
the laws for mail and privacy also hold for the internet, and cannot be deregulated away by a phony Patriot Act.

Second, "the business models of the big tech corporations" are in part based on fraud and deception, but also are very profitable, and it will be very difficult to challenge or change them as a professor in Groningen.

Third, "privacy" does not need (re-)defining for computer users: One needs to insist that computer users are subject to laws, and that the two main reasons that privacy is massively broken is that the internet was mostly unencrypted, and the
"big tech corporations", aided by illegal signatures of Bush Jr., simply invaded the computers of everyone because they could.

Fourth, "raising awareness among the public" is mostly a pipe dream, that is about as effective as is raising awareness about the physics of transportation or about the importance of linear algebra: Half of the public that currently uses
computers has an IQ that is at most 100, and however desirable a vastly increased awareness about these things might be, the vast majority just won't care.

Finally,
Cannataci is right that the situation is far worse than Orwell could imagine, for he did not imagine 24 hours a day constant surveillance by machines that register everything, down to the latest breath one took; one's mood; the pills one takes; and one's precise position within 1 1/2 meters, and save and share these data with whomever (because they are all stolen behind one's back, in part in "exchange" for the "gift" of "personalized advertising").

The last bit I will quote is correct, though not formulated clearly:

“We have a number of corporations that have set up a business model that is bringing in hundreds of thousands of millions of euros and dollars every year and they didn’t ask anybody’s permission. They didn’t go out and say: ‘Oh, we’d like to have a licensing law.’ No, they just went out and created a model where people’s data has become the new currency. And unfortunately, the vast bulk of people sign their rights away without knowing or thinking too much about it,” he said.

Yes, but it was not so much that some obscure "corporations" "created a model":

What happened in fact is that because the internet was not encrypted, (1) anybody who could tap e-mails could read them (which is very much cheaper and very much less labor-intensive than holding up all paper mails, steaming them open, and photocopying their contents), indeed by means of machines, and store the results on computers of the secret services, Facebook or AT&T, and (2) this
happened as a matter of course since 9/11/01 after Bush Jr. signed the Patriot Act, even though it was illegal and immoral and a theft of all privacy of anyone (as it has turned out): it was done because it could be done and because it promised and promises total power: absolutely nothing will be unknown to the anonymous supermen who work for the NSA (if they get their way, which they currently do).

So it seems to me that the probability is that
Cannataci has a very well paying job that will allow him to say a few radical things that will have few listeners and little influence.

I would have much liked it if it were different, but what I know about the climate in the UN and about Dutch "universities" makes this a nearly inescapable conclusion.

2. Why is China's stock market falling and how might it affect the global economy?

The next article is by Katie Allen on The Guardian:

This starts as follows - and is reported by me in the morning of Tuesday, August 25, after the "Black Monday" of the previous day:

What has happened in China?

China’s stock market has fallen sharply over recent weeks despite measures by officials in Beijing aimed at calming investors’ jitters and shoring up global confidence in the country’s slowing economy.

Shares in China had soared 150% in the 12 months to mid-June as individual investors piled into the rising market, often borrowing heavily to do so. But chiming with warnings that shares were overvalued and the signs of an economic slowdown, the momentum came to a shuddering halt when shares hit a seven-year peak.

Following another plunge on what was dubbed “Black Monday”, China’s stock markets have now given up all their gains for the year.

China’s shock move to devalue its currency, the yuan, this month only served to intensify worries about the world’s second-largest economy.
OK - that seems a fair if minimal description. Then there is this:

Is this a repeat of the 2008 global financial crisis?

Some of the falls on stock markets are certainly reminiscent of the swings seen around the time of the collapse of the US bank Lehman Brothers. The FTSEurofirst 300, a pan-European share index, suffered its biggest one-day drop since late 2008, losing 5.4%. For Shanghai’s composite index, Monday’s 8.5% slump was the biggest since February 2007.

But some economists say the parallels stop there. They see limited risk to China’s real economy from the stock market turmoil and little to be worried about beyond China.

In fact, there is a whole lot more, in this article and in quite a few other articles, both on The Guardian and elsewhere, that "interprets" the changes, but I must say I think almost all of that is mere journalistic or economic vanity that very strongly reminds me of the reams of bullshit and trash that were published in the last four months of 2008.

So I will try to miss out on speculation, economists and journalists, simply because no one can accurately predict the stock exchanges. I will report on
the facts, and the facts are that the second economy of the world is having
large problems, that have spilled over elsewhere.

The rest remains to be seen (and I will inform you).

3. Email from a Married, Female Ashley Madison User

The next article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
Ever since I wrote on Thursday about the Ashley Madison hack and resulting reactions and consequences, I’ve heard from dozens of people who used the site. They offer a remarkably wide range of reasons for having done so.
In fact, I dealt with Glenn Greenwald's article the next day and I agreed with him.
In this article, he quotes an e-mail he received, which I leave to your interests, and concludes as follows
:

As I argued last week, even for the most simplistic, worst-case-scenario, cartoon-villain depictions of the Ashley Madison user — a spouse who selfishly seeks hedonistic pleasure with indifference toward his or her own marital vows and by deceiving the spouse — that’s nobody’s business other than those who are parties to that marriage or, perhaps, their family members and close friends. But as the fallout begins from this leak, as people’s careers and reputations begin to be ruined, as unconfirmed reports emerge that some users have committed suicide, it’s worth remembering that the reality is often far more complex than the smug moralizers suggest.

The private lives and sexual choices of fully formed adults are usually very complicated and thus impossible to understand — and certainly impossible to judge — without wallowing around in the most intimate details, none of which are any of your business. That’s a very good reason not to try to sit in judgment and condemn from afar.

Yes, indeed. In fact - and this is an interesting example of what happens if
privacy gets broken, though indeed it seems to be so painful that there are
some suicides because of it - I go further:
"The private lives and sexual choices of fully formed adults" are none "of your business"
unless - perhaps - you are the mate (marital partner etc.) of them, and indeed rather precisely as these things were - more or less - regulated in the days people
had to buy small ads in daily or weekly papers.


And also I extend this simply to "the private lives" of nearly everyone, nearly all the time: These are the business of those whose life it is, and not of anybody else, unless there is evidence of a crime, and some judge has decided that in this case some of the privacy may be broken for the end of obtaining more evidence. (I guess Glenn Greenwald agrees.)

4. Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism? 

The next item is by Elizabeth Kolbert on The New York Review of Books:

In fact, this article is from December 2014, when I managed to miss it. It is here because I am sympathetic to the argument. But I will not quote much of the article (to which there was an answer by Naomi Klein, that again was answered by Elizabeth Kolbert), and will do with two bits.

The first outlines the basic positions:

What explains our collective failure on climate change? Why is it that instead of dealing with the problem, all we seem to do is make it worse?

These questions lie at the center of Naomi Klein’s ambitious new polemic, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. “What is wrong with us?” Klein asks near the start of the book. Her answer turns upside-down the narrative that the country’s largest environmental groups have been telling.

According to these groups, climate change is a problem that can be tackled without major disruption to the status quo. All that’s needed are some smart policy changes.
(...)
Former president Jimmy Carter recently summed up this line of thinking when he told an audience in Aspen: “I would say the biggest handicap we have right now is some nutcases in ouritem 5 country who don’t believe in global warming.”Klein doesn’t just disagree with Carter; she sees this line of thinking as a big part of the problem. Climate change can’t be solved within the confines of the status quo, because it’s a product of the status quo. “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” she writes. The only hope of avoiding catastrophic warming lies in radical economic and political change. And this—again, according to Klein—is the good news.
In fact, I think I disagree with both basic positions: I do not think "climate change is  a problem that can be tackled without major disruption to the status quo" and I also do not think that the "only hope of avoiding catastrophic warming lies in radical economic and political change".

And in fact, I think climate change has happened, and there is little that can be done about it, simply because the problem is too big. This might seem to land me among the supporters of Naomi Klein, but that is a mistake, in part because of this:

In place of “degrowth” she offers “regeneration,” a concept so cheerfully fuzzy I won’t even attempt to explain it. Regeneration, Klein writes, “is active: we become full participants in the process of maximizing life’s creativity.”

To draw on Klein paraphrasing Al Gore, here’s my inconvenient truth: when you tell people what it would actually take to radically reduce carbon emissions, they turn away. They don’t want to give up air travel or air conditioning or HDTV or trips to the mall or the family car or the myriad other things that go along with consuming 5,000 or 8,000 or 12,000 watts. All the major environmental groups know this, which is why they maintain, contrary to the requirements of a 2,000-watt society, that climate change can be tackled with minimal disruption to “the American way of life.” And Klein, you have to assume, knows it too. The irony of her book is that she ends up exactly where the “warmists” do, telling a fable she hopes will do some good.

Yes, indeed. You cannot change the climate (if indeed you can at all [4]) if the great majority simply does not want to do the necessary things, which I agree are quite radical. (For more, see the index of 2014, and search with "Klein".)

5. me and M.E. - August 2015


The final item for today is not an article but a report on my M.E. which I have now since January 1, 1979. I will not hold you up summarizing a lot, and merely refer you - in case you are interested - to the previous report, from which I also cite this bit:

The brief update is that I am not well and not as good as the last year, though also not as bad as I was between 2005 and 2010, and that I very probably was set back by having to do too much starting the end of April of this year.

That also was the case for the last month, and indeed I stopped using the vitamins I took on August 2 and instead used only 1 VM-75 and 2 C a day until August 22, when I started with this:

vitamin C: 2 grams:
This decreased the dose I have been taking by 2 grams a day.
Calcium+vitamin D+vitamin K:
I take 1 pill a day of each, which together with the Multi Total gives the daily required amounts
Potassium: 2 pills a day
This gives 400 mg a day.
Metafolin: 1 pill a day
This gives 1000 mcg a day.
Magnesium: 1 pills a day.
This gives the daily required amount, together with Multi Total.
Vit mB12 5000 mcg: 1 pill a day.
Multi Total: 1 pill a day.
This gives the daily recommend dosage (which is much too low
in vitamins, but is sufficient in minerals).
That does seem to pick me up some, and is a simplified and somewhat diminished version of what did help me in 2012. But it remains to be seen
how much this will help me.

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] I really think the enormous popularity of Facebook and Twitter is a direct consequence of the low intelligence of the vast majority of their users, that prevented their learning to write their own sites and prevented their having a
need to communicate in anything beyond slogans.

[2] Incidentally, I am not an opponent of secret services, nor an opponent of the thesis that much more needs to be kept in secret about them than about other governmental activities.

What I am a strong opponent of is that at present and since 2001 the Western secret services illegally and immorally steal all the private data of - by now - billions of users hardly anyone of whom is "a terrorist", which they do steal not because they are in battle against "terrorism" but because the data they gather will give them far more powers to control anyone and everyone than were possible to the Gestapo, the Stasi and the KGB.

Here is the late Senator Frank Church:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

To the best of my knowledge we are now at a situation in which (bolding added):

no American would have any privacy left

and we are now in a situation in which (bolding added):

the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny

America has crossed to

the abyss from which there is no return.
What will happen is anybody's guess. It may be possible to prevent tyranny, but
only if the legislation that existed until 9/11 is kept working and everything that
passes through the internet is encrypted, and indeed unbreakably so.

[3] I am sorry if I offended you, but my IQ is not maximally 100, as is true of 50% of the population, and I do think that the average intelligence is a dominant factor in politics, basically because it can be abused, tricked and deceived by almost any "democratic politician", and it is very widely thus abused, tricked and deceived, which happens again because any majority of 50% + 1 gives them the power they desire so much.

[4] And I tend to think you cannot change the climate, for the same reasons as you cannot flatten Mount Everest and all surrounding mountains: It will cost too much, if it were possible (and it was ruined over a course of more than fifty years as well). Also, those who think they might "save the planet" should take a look at the last link (a bit of George Carlin).

       home - index - summaries - mail