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."
Atwood: we are double-plus unfree
2. Fools, Fascists and Cold
Warriors: Take Your Pick
3. When Is Assassination Not
Assassination? When the
Government Says So
Argues: If Your Mobile Phone Provider
Knows Where You Are, Why
5. Brazil bans corporations
from political donations amid
for Bosses: The Future of Workplace Surveillance
This is a Nederlog
September 19, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1
is about an article by Margaret Atwood on freedom; item
about an article by Robert Scheer on the GOP; item 3
the power of euphemisms; item 4 is about one's
rights not to be checked in everything one does; item
5 is about Brazil's
supreme court, that decided - quite correctly, in my opinion - to deny
the right of corporations to buy ("invest in", "give financial gifts
to") politicians; and item 6 is about the
surveillance of their employees (possibly 24 hours a day, in
corporations these days engage in, "because they can".
1. Margaret Atwood: we are double-plus
article today is by Margaret Atwood
(<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:
From the beginning (and I had to extract a number of good
points from considerably more, that I leave to your interests):
our desire for safety all too well, and like to play on our fears. How
often have we been told that this or that new rule or law or snooping
activity on the part of officialdom is to keep us “safe”? We aren’t
safe, anyway: many of us die in weather events – tornados, floods,
blizzards – but governments, in those cases, limit their roles to
finger-pointing, blame-dodging, expressions of sympathy or a dribble of
emergency aid. Many more of us die in car accidents or from slipping in
the bathtub than are likely to be done in by enemy agents, but those
kinds of deaths are not easy to leverage into panic.
Yes. And to treat this
in reverse order: First, there are and have been since 9/11 far
more people killed by "ordinary causes" like traffick accidents or
"gun-related deaths" than by terrorists. Second, if the number of
killed by various causes is relevant - and it clearly is - they should
be compared, and if this is done, terrorism is, in the West at least, a
very minor killer (compared to deaths by
traffick accidents, say).
And third, the promises governments make of keeping us "safe" are all
baloney: In Holland for example - where I
calculated it in 2005, a bit over 10 years ago - there is 1
soldier per 660 citizens that the soldier - and I counted
everyone, including generals, colonels etc. - is supposed to protect.
That is clearly completely impossible (and also if it were 1 in
a 100): The "safety" governments love to talk about is not the
citizens' safety, but only their own safety: The armies can
protect their governments, they cannot protect their citizens,
except incidentally, by accident and rarely.
The promise of "safety from terrorism" is therefore baloney, plain and
Then there is this:
frightful tigerish threat was communists: in the 1950s, one lurked in every
shrub, ran the message. Today, it’s terrorists. To protect us from
these, all sorts of precautions must, we are told, be taken. Nor is
this view without merit: such threats are real, up to a point.
Nonetheless we find ourselves asking whether the extreme remedies
outweigh the disease.
I selected this in part
because my parents and grandparents were communists or anarchists (both
of my parents were communists for over 40 years):
There were in the fifties not more than 10.000 members of the Dutch
communist party, all told, which meant that at most 1 in a 1000
Dutchmen were members of the Communist Party. I do not know how typical
my parents were (they were more intelligent than most, but they also
were faithful communists), but they were not dangerous to the
government, and my guess is that the same holds for nearly all members,
and not because they might not have wanted to be, but simply because
they belonged to a very small minority without any effective
As to the rest of the paragraph: The precautions that are supposed to
be necessary to protect us cannot protect ordinary people. They
are also not meant
to be: They are meant to extend the powers of the government, and have
so very much.
Here is Margaret Atwood's opinion on the real sacrifice of many of the
freedoms we did have:
And is that
sacrifice an effective defence? Minus our freedom, we may find
ourselves no safer; indeed we may be double-plus unfree, having handed
the keys to those who promised to be our defenders but who have become,
perforce, our jailers.
I agree - and since I
have been writing about this for over ten years now I can
only conclude that was the point of all the baloney about
terrorism: Far fewer freedoms for ordinary citizens; far
more power for
the few in givernment. And no: the extended powers of the various
goverments will not serve the citizens; it only serves the
Here is Margaret Atwood on the causes why so many consented that their
freedoms were taken from them:
With so many so
willing to die in its name, why have citizens in many western countries
been willing to surrender their hard-won freedoms with barely more than
a squeak? Usually it’s fear.
Yes and no: It is not so
much fear as stupidity
joined to a lack of individual courage. The fear is indeed a good part
of the motive, but the motive would not exist as it does now if people
were considerably more intelligent and more informed.
Here is Margaret Atwood's version of Lord Acton on power:
If there’s one
thing we ought to know by now, it’s that absolutist systems with no
accountability and no checks and balances generate monstrous abuses of
power. That seems to be an infallible rule.
Yes, indeed. And I also
agree to the ever increasing lack of "accountability and no checks and balances".
Finally, there is this:
Our problem is
that our western governments, increasingly, are an unpleasant
combination of both the Log King and the Stork King. They’re good at
asserting their own freedom to spy and control, though bad at allowing
their citizens as much freedom as they formerly enjoyed. Good at
devising spy laws, bad at protecting us from the consequences of them,
including false positives.
I think it is worse
stated: Both badnesses are simply the reverse side of the grab for power
by Western governments, for by enormously increasing the
governments' freedom to spy, they thereby denied their citizens
freedoms they had, and by devising new spy laws, they thereby
affirmed the bad
consequences for their ordinary citizens (the vast majority of whom are
not terrorists in any sense).
But yes, the citizens in Western democracies these days are doubleplus
simply because most of the rights they had until 9/11 have been taken
from them, basically - so the story goes - because they might
and Cold Warriors: Take Your Pick
next article is
by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
This is the beginning of
Robert Scheer's article. I agree on his diagnosis of the GOP debate
between their presidential candidates: It was mostly a "darkly peculiar spectacle of scorn for the
children of undocumented immigrants".
Are they fools or
fascists? Probably the former, but there was a disturbing cast to the
second GOP debate, a vituperative jingoism reminiscent of the
xenophobia that periodically scars Western capitalist societies in
moments of disarray.
While the entire world is
riveted by the sight of millions of refugees in terrifying exodus
attempting to save drowning and starving children, we were treated to
the darkly peculiar spectacle of scorn for the children of undocumented
immigrants and celebration of the sanctity of the unborn fetus.
Marching to the beat of
that mad drummer Donald Trump, the GOP candidates have taken to
scapegoating undocumented immigrants, in particular the young, blaming
them for all that ails us. Most of the GOP contenders appeared as a
shrill echo of the neo-fascist European movements of late, adopting the
traditional tactic of blaming the most vulnerable for economic problems
the most powerful have caused.
Forget the collateralized
debt obligations and other Wall Street scams that continue to cripple
the world economy—as the Federal Reserve Bank noted Thursday in
postponing a threatened increase in interest rates—or the massive
shipment of jobs abroad by leading companies like GE. Instead, blame
the folks who cook your food, raise your kids and pick the grapes from
the vineyards for all that has gone wrong.
I want to consider one question, and want to avoid both "fools"
and "fascists": Are these Republican candidates stupid or were they
lying? My answer: While I
do not have any respect for the intelligence and knowledge of any of
their candidates, they are not stupid. Therefore, they were
Finally, as to fascism: Is the GOP fascistic or are any of the
presidential candidates on offer fascists?
Surely, the GOP is a rightwing party now - but I can't answer the
question for three reasons, mostly: (i) the real programs of the
candidates are quite unclear; (ii) if there are any with fascist ideas,
they certainly will not publicly say so; and (iii) most or all
candidates will strongly object to the term "fascist", for
themselves, their party, or their programs, probably mostly sincerely
So I'll stick for the moment to: The GOP and its candidates are rightwing.
3. When Is Assassination Not Assassination?
When the Government Says So
next article is
by Nick Turse on The Intercept:
This is about terminology,
and specifically the presently quite
"targeted killing" for "intentional assassination" or
The question is quite justified, but the answer is plain:
"targeted killings" sounds considerably less unpleasant than
"intentional assassination". Indeed, Scott Shane agrees:
Today, the preferred line
for assassination is “targeted killing,” as in Greg Miller’s recent Washington
Post exposé revealing that CIA and special operations forces have launched
“a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria as part of a
targeted killing program.”
How — or if — killing a
human with a remote-controlled flying robot differs from, say, a Green
Beret killing a rogue colonel, has been discussed
for years now. “If it’s premeditated assassination, why call it a
‘targeted killing?’” wrote
Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times’ public editor, in
2013, channeling some of the complaints she received from readers.
Well... yes and no: Yes,
Obama's government acts as if executive orders against assassinations
do not apply to the government, and therefore much rather
speaks of the murders they commit as "targeted killings" rather than as
"intentional assassinations", indeed because the former term
is much more "clinical".
Scott Shane, a Times
national security reporter, had a ready answer: The Obama
administration decreed it. He explained that since assassination is
banned by executive order, using the term would indicate the
administration is deliberately violating the ban. “This administration,
like others, just doesn’t think the executive order applies,” he wrote
to Sullivan. He crossed off the term “murder” for similar reasons.
“This leaves ‘targeted killing,’ which I think is far from a
euphemism,” Shane continued. “It denotes exactly what’s happening:
American drone operators aim at people on the ground and fire missiles
at them. I think it’s a pretty good term for what’s happening, if a bit
But "targeted killing" is a euphemism, especially given
the executive order that extra-judicial assassinations or murders are
it only because you can apply "targeted killings" to insects that eat
your crop, but you would very probably not use "intentional
assassination" for the attempt to save your crop.
Words do matter, and the Obama government knows this as well,
and that is why
they much favor euphemisms for their own actions.
4. Government Argues: If Your Mobile Phone Provider Knows Where
You Are, Why Shouldn’t We?
next article is
by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
To start with, "the Supreme Court’s well-established
In one of the stronger
defenses of Fourth Amendment rights in the digital age, a federal
appellate court panel in August ruled
2 to 1 that law enforcement officials can’t request cell phone
location records without a warrant.
The government is now
asking the full Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule the
panel’s earlier decision, arguing that by choosing to connect to a
mobile network, users lose any reasonable expectation that their
location is private.
the dissenting judge, the government wrote that the panel’s decision
“flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s well-established third-party
The third-party doctrine
is a legal theory that asserts that users voluntarily give up
information like location data by subscribing to public services like
communications providers, and thus have “no reasonable expectation of
privacy” when it comes to that information.
(1) dates back to the 1970ies and (2) applied to "checks and
and "a device that records the
numbers of outgoing phone calls"
which are completely different from listening in to each and
any phone converation an American may make - which means the government
is intentionally lying so as to extend its powers over its citizens.
(And yes, I am aware the court case is about locations, but I am also
aware that -
to the best of my considerable knowledge - the government in fact
copies every phone call any American makes, when using a cell phone.)
Second, the government is also intentionally lying when it says "that by choosing to connect to a mobile
network, users lose any reasonable expectation that their location is
On the contrary: They have the reasonable expectation that
their private mails and phone calls are and remain
that is what the laws say.
If this argment were valid, the government could (and
should!) have said a hundred or more years ago that the handing of your
paper mail to the postoffice amounted to losing "any reasonable expectation" that your post would not be steamed
open and read, simply
because that can be done.
5. Brazil bans corporations from political donations amid
next article is
by Bruce Douglas on The Guardian:
This starts as
Amid a massive corruption
scandal which has tarnished Brazil’s political class and driven the
country’s president to the brink of impeachment, the Brazilian
supreme court has banned corporate donations to candidates and parties
in future elections.
With eight votes in
favour and three against, the court declared late on Thursday that the
rules allowing companies to donate to election campaigns were
I say - and I completely
agree with the majority of Brazil's supreme court.
That is also quite important financially, as can be seen from this:
Around 76% of the over R$3bn ($760m) donated
during last year’s election campaigns for the presidency, senate
and congress came from corporate entities. Both the ruling leftwing
Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and the main opposition Partido da
Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) received over R$1bn each.
In US dollars that is
considerably less: about $250 million dollars, but that also is a lot
of money - and it is a good investment, for they are
lot more by the politicians who receive the millions:
Rosa Weber, one of the
judges who ruled in favour of the ban, argued that undue economic
influence comprised the legitimacy of the country’s elections.
“The influence of
economic power has ended up transforming the electoral process into a
rigged political game, a despicable pantomime which makes the voter a
puppet, simultaneously undermining citizenship, democracy and popular
According to “The Spoils of Victory”, a US academic study
into campaign donations and government contracts in Brazil, corporate
donors to the PT in the 2006 elections received between 14 to 39 times
the value of their donations in government contracts.
I say - which means that
investing in corrupt politicians is one of the most profitable
things a corporation may do: You invest 250 million US dollars and
you receive a value of 1 to 3 billion dollar in contracts!
There is also this bit of
information on international practices with regard to this
kind of massive and profitable corruption:
According to a
study of 180 countries by the International Institute for Democracy and
Electoral Assistance (Idea), 39 ban corporate donations, including
Mexico, France and Costa Rica; 126 allow them with certain limitations,
including the UK, Germany and Argentina.
I am completely
against corporate investments in politicians (for that is what
they are), and therefore am quite disappointed to see that in fact only
of 180 countries - less than 1 in 4 - forbid this.
Bosses: The Future of Workplace Surveillance
final article today is
by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
If the thought of hidden cameras in the office and employee
activity-monitoring software weren’t dystopian enough, digital Big
Brother is now expanding into the world of workplace biosurveillance.
As a recent article in The
Guardian explained, the workplace of the near future
looks increasingly Orwellian, with the use of devices that monitor
employee’s sleep, driving, face-to-face interactions, and even
I say. For me, that is
plain evil: Your employer does not have the right
to survey everything they can about you, and if they do they are acting
the Stasi or the Gestapo, and transgress their rights by enormous
Then again, it doesn't
amaze me very much, since I know for more than 45 years now that most
people are mostly totalitarian.
Here is part of my explanation:
One important reason that
so many ideologies and faiths take a totalitarian form is probably the
social nature of human beings, that makes it natural to maintain the
pecking order of a group - who is entitled to what in the group - by
correcting, repressing or casting out any member of the group that
deviates from the average of the group (unless already a leader). This
usually is claimed to happen "in the interest" of the deviating or
different individual, and is called scapegoating (at least when goats
give in to the same beastly impulse).
Totalitairian ideas and
values are very widespread, and usually take the following
general form in practice, if not as clearly outspoken:
Our Belief is the Only
True Belief and Our Believers are the Only Good People, and everyone
who does not believe, or do, or feel, or look like Us is inferior
damned, bound for hell, fit for a concentration camp, and in any case
not a proper well- thinking, decently feeling, morally behaving
follower of Our True Belief, and hence certainly not comme il faut).
Next - returning to the
article - there is this, that is presented as a fantasy:
just arrived at your job with the Anywhere Bank call center. You switch
on your computer and adjust the height of your chair. Then, you slide
on the headset, positioning the mic in front of your lips. All that’s
left to do is to activate your behavior-monitoring device — the gadget
hanging from your neck that tracks your tone of voice, your heart rate
and your physical movements throughout the day, sending real-time
reports to your supervisor.
But this is
happening already. There is also this:
Sensitive to Big Brother
accusations, the biosurveillance industry is trying to keep testing and
tool evaluations under the radar. Proponents of the technology point to
its potential to improve health conditions in the workplace and enhance
public safety. Wouldn’t it be better, they argue, if nuclear power
plant operators, airline pilots and oil rig operatives had their
physical state closely monitored on the job?
Wouldn't it be far better
if corporative executives were decent democratic honest persons who
rejected the possibilities of watching everyone 24 hours a day? But
yes, I agree they often are not, and love all the power they can get,
also if those
powers are of very doubtful legality.
And there is this:
nurtured in a digital world where their behavior is relentlessly
collected and monitored by advertisers may shrug at an employer’s
demands for a biosurveillance badge. In a world of insecure employment,
what choice do they have, anyway?
Well, they could refuse,
but I agree that the choice between not getting a job and getting a job
were you are constantly surveilled by your superiors is difficult.