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Nederlog

December 13, 2015
Crisis: French Emergency, Climate Accord, Google Spies, Whistleblowers
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Introduction


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 13, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the radical decline of France: Out go "Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!" and in come the police and the secret services that now can do as they please; item 2 is about the accord in Paris, that seems to me mostly propaganda (and I explain); item 3 is about Google who is now spying on 40 million American children, to deliver their full details to advertisers; and item 4 is about William Binney and spying: I once again insist that the "war on terrorism" was a pretext for spying on everyone, which was the aim from the beginning: The foundations for more power than anyone ever had.

And I also uploaded an updated version of the
crisis index.

1. “Emergency” Measures May Be Written Into The French Constitution

The first item is by Martin Untersinger on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

JUST HOURS INTO A TERRORIST ATTACK that started on the evening of Nov. 13, and would eventually claim 130 lives, François Hollande announced that France was reestablishing border controls, and used a 1955 law to proclaim a state of emergency.

This 60-year-old law gives French law enforcement wide and sweeping powers, freeing them from much of the normal judicial oversight. The law gives prefects, the French government’s local representatives, the ability to place people under house arrest, based merely on the suspicion of the intelligence service that they pose a threat to national security. They can also order police raids targeting any place where they think information about terrorism may be found, without a warrant.

Initially intended to last 12 days, the state of emergency was extended on November 19 for an additional three months by both chambers of parliament. During the vote in the lower house, only six MPs voted against the extension.

I say.

To start with, I also should honestly admit that I detest His Excellency premier Hollande about as much as I detest Tony Blair. A "democracy" that repeatedly elected persons of this sick careerist level cannot be much of a real democracy.

But OK: He is not the only one responsible for making France a police state, for that is what it is now - since nearly all parliamentarians supported his sick proposals.

In case you think I formulated my distaste in an extreme fashion, please consider this:

Since last month’s attacks, there have been some 2,500 police raids, and nearly a thousand people have been arrested or detained. French local and national press are now full of reports of questionable police raids. So outrageous were some cases that the French Interior Ministry had to send a letter to all prefects  reminding them to “abide by the law.”

The state of emergency, which was initially supposed to mitigate the threat posed by Islamic terrorism, has been used to target environmental and political activists who have nothing to do with radical Islam, let alone terrorism.
As to the second paragraph: Of course! That is much of the point of the "War on Terrorism": It is and always was a pretext for a war on anyone who disagrees with the government or its secret services. So I am not amazed that as soon as the police can do as it pleases, and stands beyond the law, it immediately started to arrest "environmental and political activists".

As to the first paragraph: It seems to me that the letter from the French Interior Ministry - written in a situation where the police and the secret services can do as they please - in fact had the opposite meaning: "We remind you that now you can do as you please and arrest anyone you want: Take the chance! There is no law that will be used against you!" (That at least is a logical explanation!)

Finally, there is this:

Yet rather than be regarded as a temporary measure for extraordinary circumstances, the government’s ability to declare an extended state of emergency may soon be written into the constitution. François Hollande, speaking in front of both chambers summoned in Versailles two days after the attacks, announced his plan to modify the French constitution in response to terrorism.

Although some members of parliament were stunned by the boldness of the proposal, most welcomed the news.

In brief: Down with liberty! Down with fraternity! Down with brotherhood! France fears the terrorists, and hides behind its liberated police and secret service men, who can now arrest whom they please without any fear for any law.

That is what His Excellency Hollande and the vast majority of the political careerists want - for they (and only they) profit from the vast increase of their personal powers.

2. Landmark Climate Accord in Paris 

The second item is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows (and was chosen because it is brief and clear, and also because I do not believe this will change much - I explain myself below):

Representatives of 195 countries reached a landmark deal Saturday night at the COP21 climate change summit in Paris that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement, which follows two weeks of negotiations, sets the goal of limiting the world’s rise in average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

I say. I had not expected that they would reach an agreement, so to that extent I am refuted. Will this make any or an appreciable difference? Here is a summary of what was achieved:

Environmental organization Earthjustice summarizes the main tenets of the agreement:

—Hold the average increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, a goal that reflects the most current science on the maximum allowable rise in warming to reduce the risk of the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

—Review progress every five years, with the first review before 2020, and bring countries back to the table to increase their emissions reduction efforts.

—Robust transparency provisions to hold nations accountable to carry through on their pledges.

—Provide support to poorer countries to help them leapfrog to low-carbon development, adapt to climate change and cope with unavoidable loss and damage.

“Critics said the agreement would still condemn hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas and small islands,” The Guardian comments. “But supporters said the negotiations took a significant step forward in getting countries to act together on a global challenge of immense complexity, and in sending a signal to global markets.”

I am sorry, but this sounds mainly like propaganda. What is the legal basis? Who will act against those countries - say: the USA or China - who don't want to keep their side of the deal? What can they do against such countries? I don't see any answers.

Next, here is a much longer item by Coral Davenport on the New York Times:

This starts as follows:

LE BOURGET, France — With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

The deal, which was met with an eruption of cheers and ovations from thousands of delegates gathered from around the world, represents a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change.

Traditionally, such pacts have required developed economies like the United States to take action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but they have exempted developing countries like China and India from such obligations.

The accord, which United Nations diplomats have been working toward for nine years, changes that dynamic by requiring action in some form from every country, rich or poor.

Again, my problem is how this is going to be effected. You can decide what you please, but without firm legal foundations this will rarely work, especially if "working" means that some of the profits of multi-national corporations may be endangered. (And these are the holy of holies, especially if the TTP, TTIP and TiSA are signed into law.)

Indeed, there is this:

The new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming. At best, scientists who have analyzed it say, it will cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about half enough as is necessary to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

First, it will cut emissions only if the plan succeeds. Second, as The Guardian correctly inferred (I quote from the above):

the agreement would still condemn hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas and small islands.

This means in effect saying goodbye to New York (barely above the present sea level) and to Amsterdam and most of Holland's West (2 meters below the present sea level).

Third, there is also this (and a whole lot more in the article):

Despite the historic nature of the Paris climate accord, its success still depends heavily on two factors outside the parameter of the deal: global peer pressure and the actions of future governments.

Which is to say (again): There is no legal agreement, and in fact all will depend on "peer pressure" (amongst goverments) and the good will of future governments.

In brief, I am afraid that whoever enjoys this "Landmark Climate Accord" is enjoyed - as the Dutch say - by a dead sparrow (i.e.: effectively nothing), that is mostly made up of propaganda and hope, and is without any assurance it will work or get practiced.

Finally, why do I think this will not change much?

Basically because I am interested in the climate and the environment since 1971, after reading Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb", and briefly before reading the Limits to Growth, which was published by the Club of Rome in 1972.

At that time there were less than 4 billion people. 45 years later there are more than 7 billion people. And most that I have heard about the climate, the population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and resources depletion (the main variables in Limits to Growth) was simply idle chatter.

Here is how things appeared in 2008, from the Limits to Growth lemma on Wikipedia (without note numbers):

In 2008 Graham Turner at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia published a paper called "A Comparison of `The Limits to Growth` with Thirty Years of Reality".It examined the past thirty years of reality with the predictions made in 1972 and found that changes in industrial production, food production and pollution are all in line with one of the book's three scenarios so far- that of 'business as usual'. This set of predictions in LtG goes on to forecast economic and societal collapse in the 21st century. In 2010, Peet, Nørgård, and Ragnarsdóttir called the book a "pioneering report". They said that, "its approach remains useful and that its conclusions are still surprisingly valid... unfortunately the report has been largely dismissed by critics as a doomsday prophecy that has not held up to scrutiny."

In a 2009 article published in American Scientist titled "Revisiting the Limits to Growth After Peak Oil," Hall and Day noted that "the values predicted by the limits-to-growth model and actual data for 2008 are very close." These findings are consistent with the above-mentioned 2008 CSIRO study which concluded: "The analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compares favorably with key features… [of the Limits to Growth] ‘standard run’ scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st Century."
As far as I am concerned, this - still - seems to be the most probable prediction, that is also based on nearly 40 years of mostly sustained data and predictions: Most probably, there will be a
collapse of the global system midway through the 21st Century.
I've seen no good evidence of any kind to oppose that very sad conclusion.

3. Google Is Accused of Spying on Kindergartners

The third item is by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Most people know that Google mines user data for information that can help it improve advertising and search results, but they may not realize that an enormous amount of that personal information is coming from students in kindergarten through the 12th grade, according to the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

This month, EFF filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Google is violating the “K-12 School Service Provider Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy” that it signed in January by spying on as many as 40 million students, teachers and administrators who use the company’s Chromebook laptops.

“Parents are very concerned about their children’s privacy and do not want their personal information data-mined or used for targeted advertising,” Leonie Haimson, co-chair of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, told Truthdig. “The FTC complaint against Google reinforces our conviction that far stronger laws and enforcement mechanisms are necessary to protect students from these sorts of harmful practices.”

According to the complaint, Google is tracking students with Chrome Sync, a feature of the Chrome Web browser that allows the sharing of bookmarks, browser histories and other data between computers that use the feature. Google is also monitoring students logged into educational Google accounts.

If you trust Google, you can't be quite sane, rationally speaking. Anyway: So Google is now tracking 40 million American children, mostly - it seems - to hand over their preferences to advertisers:
“Google can track all the activity of students as they use various Google services and products on Google domains (e.g. everything from Google Docs to YouTube),” Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist at EFF, told Truthdig. “For a small subset of these services (i.e. Google Apps for Education), Google has committed to not feeding that data into an advertising profile; however, for services like YouTube, Blogger, News, and Books (just to name a few) Google feeds that data into its ‘interest-based’ advertising profile linked to each student account, by default.”
4. The Courage from Whistle-blowing

The fourth item is by Ray McGovern on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

When Edward Snowden in early June 2013 began to reveal classified data showing criminal collect-it-all surveillance programs operated by the U.S. government’s National Security Agency, former NSA professionals became freer to spell out the liberties taken with the Bill of Rights, as well as the feckless, counterproductive nature of bulk electronic data collection.

On Jan. 7, 2014, four senior retired specialists with a cumulative total of 144 years of work with NSA – William Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis, and Kirk Wiebe – prepared a Memorandum for the President providing a comprehensive account of the problems at NSA, together with suggestions as to how they might be best addressed.

The purpose was to inform President Obama as fully as possible, as he prepared to take action in light of Snowden’s revelations.

On Jan. 23, 2015 in Berlin, Binney was honored with the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. Ed Snowden was live-streamed-in for the occasion, and said, “Without Bill Binney there would be no Ed Snowden.” (Binney had been among the first to speak out publicly about NSA abuses; apparently that emboldened Snowden to do what he did.)

Here is the Wikipedia lemma on Bill Binney. Here is some from that lemma (minus note numbers):
During interviews on Democracy Now! in April and May 2012 with elaboration in July 2012 at 2600's hacker conference HOPE and at DEF CON a couple weeks later, Binney repeated estimates that the NSA (particularly its Stellar Wind project) had intercepted 20 trillion communications "transactions" of Americans such as phone calls, emails, and other forms of data (but not including financial data). This includes most of the emails of US citizens. Binney disclosed in an affidavit for Jewel v. NSA that the agency was "purposefully violating the Constitution". Binney also notes that he found out after retiring that the NSA was pursuing collect-it-all vs. targeted surveillance even before the 9/11 attacks.

Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 Der Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney's view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships. Binney stated that the goal was also to control people.
Yes, indeed (as I have argued independently in 2012 and 2005): The NSA wants to know everything, and never discards anything: it is all saved on government computers.

Back to the article:

As Snowden has quipped, “The problem with mass surveillance is when you collect everything, you understand nothing.”

The net result is that people die first. Only then do detectives and law enforcement go wading into their vast data, focus on possible perpetrators of the crime and often find related information.  This is, of course, exactly the reverse of how the security services should proceed – assuming the main priority is to thwart terrorist or other attacks. And yet the U.S. government proceeds willy-nilly with its SOS (Stasi-On-Steroids) approach.

But I do not think (and indeed never thought) that the "the main priority" of the US government ever was "to thwart terrorist", simply because it always seemed to me that the the US government wanted the Stasi-On-Steroids approach very much, simply because that gives the more power over more people than anyone has ever had.

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