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Nederlog

January 21, 2016

Crisis: "Terrorism", The Kochs, Banning Trump, Internet, TTIP Explained
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Introduction   

1.
The White House Asked Social Media Companies to Look
     for Terrorists. Here’s Why They’d #Fail.

2. The Kochs & the Nazis
3. ‘Free to Be a Fool’: Behind the Scenes at the British
     Parliament’s Debate on Banning Trump

4. I Ramped Up My Internet Security, and You Should Too
5. ‘Corporate Courts’ Have Taken from the Poor and
     Handed to the Rich

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 21, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is - I think - a bit of a strange story on The Intercept; item 2 is a quite interesting series of three files on Democracy Now! on the Koch brothers, the Nazis, and what the Kochs surrected in the USA; item 3 is about a debate in the British parliament about banning Trump from Great Britain (with a good journalistic answer); item 4 is about ramping up one's internet security, but it forgets about operating systems; and item 5 is about what the TTIP will mean to Europe (it will destroy it, in my opinion: with the TTIP Europe will soon be made American, without any of the social policies that presently, still, serve the European public: these cost profits and can, therefore, be taken down by the multi-nationals).

1. The White House Asked Social Media Companies to Look for Terrorists. Here’s Why They’d #Fail.

The first article is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The White House asked internet companies during a counterterrorism summit earlier this month to consider using their technology to help “detect and measure radicalization.”

“Should we explore ways to more quickly and comprehensively identify terrorist content online so that online service providers can remove it if it violates their terms of service?” asked a White House briefing document that outlined the main topics of conversation for the meeting. The document, which was obtained by The Intercept, is now posted online.

The briefing suggested that the algorithm Facebook uses to spot and prevent possible suicides might be a helpful model for a technology to locate terrorists, asking: “Are there other areas where online providers have used technology to identify harmful content and remove it? … Something like Facebook’s suicide process flow?”

This seems to grant far too much to "the government":

I think the whole internet should be encrypted so that no one can spy on anyone. At present only a small part of the internet is encrypted, and nobody really knows whether the NSA can break the encryptions or somehow can get the keys, e.g. by invading computers and registering all key-strokes.

And it seems all secret services are trying to get all the data they can get from any computer that connects to the internet - and if this is not quite true (nobody knows, who is not a top governmental spy), this is by far the safest assumption,
which in fact is also is supported by a whole lot of evidence (mostly from Edward Snowden).

To make this perhaps a little more urgent: How will you feel in one year's time (less so, in fact) about "the government's secret services", if the American government is then headed by Donald Trump, with - say - Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin as vice-president? (I think - and hope - this is less likely, but it may happen.)

Then there is this, that also seems misdirected to me:

First of all, it doesn’t work. Many experts, including people with law enforcement, academic, and scientific backgrounds, agree that it’s practically impossible to boil down the essential predictive markers that make up a terrorist who is willing and capable of carrying out an attack and then successfully pick him out of a crowd.

This seems misdirected because I think (since 2005, at the latest) that the government is far less interested in finding terrorists than it is interested
in the possibility that it may control everyone who is using a computer,
simply by knowing everything there is to know about him or her, indeed
in far larger detail than they themselves recall.

And once they have the information, they can start to - again all in deep secret - "Deny, Disrupt, Degrade and/or Deceive" anyone whose views they Dislike, in brief, by Destroying them, quite Dishonestly, but very effectively, indeed as the NSA and GCHQ plan to do and probably did do:


And to turn back a moment to what I wrote above: Do you really think you can
trust a Trump/Cruz - say - American government? That may be there in less than a year? And that will have access to everything the NSA gathered?

Then there is this:

But “identifying” terrorists is a different matter. “Because of the statistical impossibility of catching terrorists through data mining, and because of its high costs in investigator time, taxpayer dollars, lost privacy, and threatened liberty, I conclude that data mining does not work in the area of terrorism,” Harper said.
I am willing to believe Harper (and if I were a terrorist, I would be writing about - say - films and actors and foods, which would be codes for what I am really talking about), but (1) this only considers data-mining and not spying, and (2) this also fails to mention William Binney (<- Wikipedia) who invented a system that would track terrorists, and only terrorists, and not take all or most data from everyone - but he was sidelined by 2001, since Bush Jr. (and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, etc.) wanted to know everything anyone did. [1]

There is also this in the article, which does seem correct:

Algorithms that filter content are “a really powerful tool for a more authoritarian government,” said Schneier.

“Electronic monitoring and censorship can be effective for chilling political dissent, removing much content that authority frowns upon, and making people fearful of discussing political subjects online,” UC Davis’ Rogaway wrote in an email. “China already does this quite effectively.”

Precisely - and "the government" (possibly Trump's government, next year) only needs to be known to have (secret!!) access to much or all anyone does with a computer to be able to silence most of its - formerly free, now effectively enslaved - "citizens", simply because they know they must keep silent, even in their own private journals (if written on a computer), because they know the goverment's spies check and store everything, to be used if and when "the government" wants to use it, at some point, in the coming 40 years or so.

2. The Kochs & the Nazis

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows, and is in fact the first of three pages dedicated to the Koch Brothers and New York reporter Jane Mayer:

In her new book, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right," New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer explores how the Koch brothers and fellow right-wing billionaires have funded a political machine aimed at shaping elections and public policy. The book contains a number of revelations and new details. Mayer begins with revealing that the Kochs’ father, industrialist Fred Koch, helped build an oil refinery in Nazi Germany—a project approved personally by Adolf Hitler. The refinery was critical to the Nazi war effort, fueling German warplanes. Mayer joins us to discuss.

I think this is quite interesting. I recommend that you read all three pages (i.e. files) on Democracy Now! Here is one reason:

According to its own estimates, the Koch network aims to spend nearly $900 million on the 2016 presidential and congressional races, more than doubling its amount in 2012. The Kochs’ political machine now eclipses the official Republican Party in key areas, with about three-and-a-half times as many employees as the Republican National Committee. Charles and David Koch’s 2016 spending comes as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. Their net worth is a combined $82 billion, placing them fifth on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.

The Kochs’ political operations have exploded in the six years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which removed limits on campaign spending by ruling that donor money is a form of free speech. Citizens United has allowed the Kochs and others to spend millions in dark money—political donations where the source is kept secret.

Here is a bit more about the organization(s) the Koch brothers have set up:

And the Kochs, on their own, probably would not be able to have the kind of influence they have. But what they’ve done is kind of a magic trick. They’ve attracted around them—they’ve purposefully built what they call an unprecedented network—it’s a pipeline, they talk about it, too—where they’ve gathered about 400 other extraordinarily wealthy conservatives with them to create a kind of a billionaire caucus almost. And that’s the group that met, just as Obama was being inaugurated.
(...)
So this is not—it’s an organization that I think people need to understand is not just about elections. They’ve been playing a long game that started 40 years ago, when Charles Koch really got involved in politics in the beginning. And they wanted to change not just who rules the country, but how the country thinks. They’re very antigovernment. They are—and they have pushed this kind of antigovernment line for 40 years through many different channels. And it’s kind of a war of ideas as much as anything else.

With big money and big power on the side of the Kochs, in good part thanks to the American Supreme Court. Finally, here is Jane Mayer, who explains what
the Koch brothers surrected, thanks to the Supreme Court:

JANE MAYER: Well, what you have to understand is the Kochs have built kind of an assembly line to manufacture political change. And it includes think tanks, which produce papers. It includes advocacy groups, that advocate for policies. And it includes giving money to candidates. And you put those three together, and they’ve pushed against doing anything about climate change on all those three fronts at once. So you get papers that look like they’re real scientific opinions doubting that climate change is real, you get advocacy groups saying we can’t afford to do anything about it, and you get candidates who have to sign a pledge that—their largest political group is Americans for Prosperity. They have a pledge that says that if you want to get money from this—from their donors, you have to sign a pledge saying that, if elected, you will do nothing about climate change that requires spending any money on the problem. And 156 members of Congress currently have signed that pledge.

There is a lot more, and I recommend you read all of it (three files): I found it quite interesting, and not only nor indeed mostly because of the Nazi-connections of the Kochs (though these are real too, and go back to the Thirties).

3. ‘Free to Be a Fool’: Behind the Scenes at the British Parliament’s Debate on Banning Trump

The third item is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
Several of the Americans and Brits waiting outside the debate room in the airy Westminster Hall on Monday groaned at the thought that Donald J. Trump’s run for president hadn’t turned out to be a joke. One thing became clear: No one seemed to like Trump. Once the debate began, that sentiment was echoed by Members of Parliament on the committee that was considering two petitions: The first (and most popular in the history of the committee) was to ban the Republican front-runner from entering the United Kingdom. The second was not to ban him.
First a bit of clarification (that is also in the article): The debate was started by a petition, but the English parliament cannot (itself) deny Trump's visiting Great Britain, for this can be done only by the British Home secretary.

But they had the debate, and Natasha Hakimi Zapata, who is American, was in England to attend it. Here is part of what she thought:

By the end of the debate, I had no idea how I felt about it. I am a fervent supporter of freedom of speech, but as a member of the American media told me outside the hall, “Freedoms, even in America, are very much curtailed already.” And it didn’t sit too well with me that the politicians whose ideas about freedom of speech I most agreed with had views on most other matters that I strongly reject.
And here is what she concluded:
As the daughter of Mexican and Middle Eastern immigrants, I, much like the Muslim MPs mentioned above, have felt Trump’s abhorrent words personally and worry about the effect of his comments on my fellow humans. Would I like to see the billionaire fool get his comeuppance and be banned, just as he proposes to ban those of a differing skin tone and belief system than his? Some part of me says yes. And yet the overwhelming part of me wants a world in which we all have the freedom to travel as we choose—Trumps and Muslims and Mexicans alike. And that part of me cannot support a ban on any person, regardless of whether he or she holds views that are diametrically opposed to every value I hold dear.
I completely agree - and this is the genuine liberal approach to freedom of speech and freedom of the press: Everyone has the right to write or say anything he or she pleases, with some restrictions on offensive language and calls for violence, and that is as it should be, also for the views one is oneself strongly opposed to.

And this is a recommended article.

4. I Ramped Up My Internet Security, and You Should Too

The fourth item is by Julia Angwin on Propublica:

This starts as follows:

Some people make dieting resolutions in the New Year. I make security and privacy resolutions, because those are the things that keep me up at night. After all, as a journalist, it’s important for me to give my sources assurances that I will keep their communications confidential. And in today’s world, that is an ever-more-difficult task.

Everyone — journalists or not — faces an increasing array of attacks on our security and privacy. Even if you’re not the U.S.’s intelligence chief, whose email was recently hacked, it’s smart to up your game. So this year, I thought I’d share my resolutions.

That sounds fair enough, especially from a journalist. There is considerably more, of which I will just give the headings and leave out the text, which I leave to your interests (except for one bit below): 

1. Software updates
2. Ditching old, buggy software
3. Upgrading my passwords
4. Upgrading my encryption key

The information given (for which you need the original) probably will be useful for quite a few - but I also have an important question (or so it seems to me), which I will introduce by quoting the beginning of its Section 1:

It’s not sexy, but at the top of my list is updating my software to the latest versions. Nothing else matters - not fancy encryption or strong passwords - if you’re using software that contains gaping holes that any criminal or spy can penetrate.

And I hate to break it to you, but all your software is as holey as Swiss cheese. The software updates you receive are just patches for the holes that have been discovered so far. More holes will be discovered later. What’s more, updates are basically red alerts to hackers, pointing them to the holes.

My question is this: What operating system does Julia Angwin use?

I could not find the information in her article. I use Linux since nearly 4 years, for quite a few reasons, and I think every journalist (who wants some of his or her conversations, web-activities etc. to remain a secret, especially for the NSA and/or the GCHQ) should do so.

The reason is very simple: I think both Windows and Apple very probably contain
carefully designed secret parts that allow the NSA (or the GCHQ) to access any computer connected to the internet, and mostly do what it pleases with them.

You may not think so, but you know as little as I know [2] about the code that runs Windows or Apple, for that code is a deep, private, heavily protected secret.

But OK: If you do not think so, the rest of this item will be of little interest.

And here is the rest: I think there are three kinds of spies that I do not want on my computer:

(1) government spies, of any kind, which in the West are especially the NSA and the GCHQ, although this is just the top of a long list - and they very probably know about some of the holes that have been designed (very probably, I think) in both Windows and Apple's operating systems;
(2) industrial spies and "data-gatherers
", from Facebook down, that also form a very long list, who want to know everything about you that may be worth money to their buyers (which seems to be essentially everything, just as in the case of the secret services);
(3) hackers who invade my computer without my consent and knowledge (for whatever purpose).

I have been hacked, quite professionally also, in 2009, and when I found out and warned others the next day my complete computer was destroyed (Windows was told to self-destruct) causing 1 1/2 years of data loss (at least) due to the complete destruction of my computer's hard disk. The only reason I did not loose money is that I don't bank via the internet.

But that also is the least danger - and to keep out especially the governmental spies (of all kinds) I need an operating system that is open source and kept safe
by good programmers.

And the only operating system that I trust (more or less: there are holes in Linux) that definitely does not include secret portions that allow the governments' spies to essentially do as they please, which certainly includes getting all the passwords and encryption keys that Julia Angwin recommends renewing, is Linux.

So... my advice is to follow Julia Angwin's advices, but to do so on Linux, simply because closed source operating systems are full of holes, several of which are
very probably designed to be there (and probably are there the last 15 years or more).

5. ‘Corporate Courts’ Have Taken from the Poor and Handed to the Rich – TTIP Will Turbo-Charge This Redistribution

The fifth and last item is by Nick Dearden. I found it on Raging Bull-Shit, but it originated on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Huge corporations and the seriously wealthy will be the big winners from the controversial US-EU trade deal known as TTIP. That’s the implication of a new study which shows that billions of pounds have been won by giant companies like Mobil, EDF, Enron, Suez and Cargill, which have sued governments under similar treaties for taking action they believe to be ‘unfair’.

The most controversial element of TTIP is the ‘corporate court’ system, formally called ISDS. This system allows multinational corporations and other foreign ‘investors’ to sue governments for enacting regulation which damage their profits. Proponents argue that this offers investors, like small business, protection against ‘arbitrary’ government action.

But such corporate courts already exist in numerous other agreements and have allowed corporations to take action against many developing countries for freezing water and electricity prices, raising the minimum wage, introducing a sugar tax and putting health warnings on cigarette packages.

Precisely. Here is some evidence about how effective these "courts" are -
which I dislike to call "courts", for few can prosecute, and there is no appeal, and the "judges" are lawyers from the multi-national corporations:

The report also shows that the success rate of cases brought by such corporate giants is around 71% – far greater than the success rate of smaller companies and investors.

This means, as has often big argued, corporate courts act to redistribute income from the public purse to the richest people in the world. $6.7 billion has been won in 48 cases, with another $1 billion being won by super rich individuals. While smaller companies and investors do sometimes take action, the report suggests that any winnings on their part is normally wiped out by the legal costs.

In fact, the biggest sums have been won by well-known extractive and energy companies – with Occidental, Mobil, EDF, BG Group, Enron and Chevron winning cases, especially against countries like Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina.

This meant billions for these multi-national corporations, to be paid from the taxes from the citizens of these countries (who themselves are not allowed to appear in these "courts").

But they are not the only ones to get extremely rich by this fundamentally fascist
fraud [3]:

Another big winner is what van Harten terms the ‘ISDS legal industry’ – including a selection of corporate law firms – which has made an incredible $1.7 billion in over 214 cases. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, given a Friends of the Earth report from last year which showed that legal costs for such ISDS cases average over $8 million, exceeding $30 million in some cases, while 80% of the legal costs end up in the pockets of the parties’ lawyers. Elite law firms can charge $1,000 per hour, per lawyer.

Who looses?

The biggest losers of all, of course, is public. In the cases studies by van Harten, $10 billion has haemorrhaged from the pockets of developing world governments. But this will only be the tip of the iceberg if TTIP and its sister agreements like CETA (the EU- Canada agreement) are agreed. After all, most cases to date have been won outside Europe and the USA. TTIP and CETA will open up far most lucrative cases up to far more business.

The idea that TTIP is about hard-done-by small business is clearly untrue. TTIP is a vehicle for channeling wealth from the public to the 1%.
And not only that: The TTIP will also be the vehicle for ruining the goverments, ruining the parliaments, and ruining the judiciaries. It will give all relevant powers to the multi-national corporations, and make everyone who is not rich nor a lawyer for these corporations their effective slaves.

---------
Notes

[1] Here is some evidence from the Wikipedia article on Binney (quoted minus note numbers):
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. Meanwhile, he said that it is possible in principle to survey the whole population, abroad and in the US, which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution. In October 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the NSA began with its mass surveillance, he said. Therefore, he left the secret agency shortly afterwards, after more than 30 years of employment.
[2] Or less, for I have a computer since 1987, and can program it well in 5 or 6 programming lanuages - but no: such knowledge does not help against any careful holes that are or may be in any closed source operating system, like Windows' or Apple's.

[3] I think this is what it is, and I think this follows logically from this - quite adequate - definition of "fascism" that I did not originate, but that is in the American Heritage Dictionary:
"fascism" is defined as "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."
The state and the business leadership have merged in the USA, lately also with the blessings of the Supreme Court. For more, see the Nederlog of January 3, 2016.


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