February 2, 2016

Crisis: Encryption, Zika Virus, Krugman, Military-Industrial Complex, Trump
Sections                                                                     crisis index    

Is Law Enforcement “Going Dark” Because of
     Encryption? Hardly, Says New Report

2. WHO Declares Zika Virus a Global Public Health

Paul Krugman: The Fate of the World Is at Stake in This

4. Feeding the Military-Industrial Complex
5. America's Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World's Most
     Dangerous Man

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about law enforcement (in the USA) and the secret spying that almost every big corporation plus large parts of the secret state of the USA are presently doing: the article concludes law enforcement doesn't suffer from encryption; item 2 is about the Zika virus, that now is - correctly, I think - considered a global emergency by the WHO; item 3 is about a rather odd article by Paul Krugman, who also seems much too optimistic about the current chances on renewable energy; item 4 is about the American military-industrial complex, that rules the USA more than ever, since 2001; and item 5 is about a Spiegel International article about Donald Trump, that seems to exaggerate Trump's importance, if only because the other GOP presidential candidates are not much better.

1. Is Law Enforcement “Going Dark” Because of Encryption? Hardly, Says New Report 

The first article is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Bring technologists and members of the intelligence community together to figure out what to do about unbreakable encryption and guess what they conclude?

They conclude that they don’t really need to worry about it.

Unbreakable encryption — which prevents easy, conventional surveillance of digital communications — isn’t a big problem for law enforcement, says a new report published by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society on Monday. The report, titled “Don’t Panic,” finds that we are probably not “headed to a future in which our ability to effectively surveil criminals and bad actors is impossible” because of companies that offer end-to-end encryption, such as Apple.

That’s because the technology isn’t universally marketable and there are so many other spying options on the table, as everything from fitness trackers to fridges is getting hooked up to the internet and transmitting vast amounts of data about our everyday lives.

I think I need to do some translating: "the intelligence communities" = "the myriads of secret spies of all kinds, from multi-national corporations to state terrorists [1] in secret organizations"; while "everything from fitness trackers to fridges is getting hooked up to the internet" = "the many disgusting or fascistic [2] ways to own and control and manipulate everyone who is not a corporate owner or a very rich man or woman, are and have been growing exponentially".

You may disagree with my translations and my diagnosis (which is here, in its fundamental form): This seems to me to be the beginning of an incredible amount of future fascism, if it isn't stopped very soon, for that is what I think. And what I think is based on a great amount of relevant knowledge. (Besides, I can warn you about this because I am nearly 66 and do not have a family that can be wrecked and destroyed by the myriads of degenerate spies.)

In any case, it seems as if some of the biggest spies decided they could continue to learn almost everything about you, and me and everybody else - in secret, without your knowledge, although it are your private data, and certainly not about how you are spied upon, and the same for billions of others, including me - simply because they have illegally taken over the internet. [3]

And I think they are right in believing their secret spying on everyone can continue, also with encryption - and I think that they are illegal spies, and if they are not, they should be made illegal, because they are spying on everyone without any permission, for profit mostly... but then I am also part of a minority who knows about the spying, knows about computers, knows about programming and who is well educated, and most are not, or not as well as I am.

Basically, the morally totally degenerate spies of all kinds have two arguments about why they can continue to spy, according to the article.

The first argument is this:
First, the signatories conclude, not every company is going to jump on the end-to-end encryption bandwagon, because it’s not going to make them money. All the data that applications and cloud services and social media networks amass about their users — what kind of clothing you like to buy, what sports you play, where you eat out — is incredibly valuable to advertisers.
This is true, though it might be phrased differently: Encryption is mostly done by firms who profit from it, and not by the rest, and profits or power is what motivates spying, rather than morals, laws, or decency.

The second argument is this:
And even if end-to-end encryption were ubiquitous, metadata — or information about the communications — is not encrypted. Phone numbers, email addresses, email subject lines, and other information is still accessible to law enforcement, and will continue to be, because it’s impossible for the company to send something somewhere without knowing its destination.
To start with: No, it is not impossible. This is from the Tor lemma on Wikipedia:
Onion routing is implemented by encryption in the application layer of a communication protocol stack, nested like the layers of an onion. Tor encrypts the data, including the destination IP address, multiple times and sends it through a virtual circuit comprising successive, randomly selected Tor relays. Each relay decrypts a layer of encryption to reveal only the next relay in the circuit in order to pass the remaining encrypted data on to it. The final relay decrypts the innermost layer of encryption and sends the original data to its destination without revealing, or even knowing, the source IP address.
So that is simply mistaken. And besides, there is a third argument that is not in the article, which probably is the main reason why secret spying must have increased several billion times since 2001:

The very great majority of today's computer users doesn't understand computers, can't program computers, and have no idea about the enormous amounts of their personal private data that are simply stolen from them while they don't know it.

That simply is the truth, and that truth is extremely dangerous, simply because most persons are now hooked up to the internet - which seems to be there mostly because it can secretly steal all your private information about anything you do or want, and sell it to those who can use it against you.

At least, this is true so far as the state one lives in is concerned, and so far as the corporations and the state's secret services are concerned - and these are three of the most powerful groups of people there are (states, corporations and secret services).

2. WHO Declares Zika Virus a Global Public Health Emergency

The second item is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The World Health Organization has declared a rare “public health emergency of international concern” because of the apparent link between the Zika virus and a huge increase in serious birth defects in Central and South America, where the virus has spread to more than 20 countries.

The announcement follows an emergency meeting in Geneva, where health experts reviewed the data on the outbreak. In some areas, infection with the Zika virus has been associated with the paralyzing neurological condition Guillain-Barré syndrome and with microcephaly, in which babies are born with severely shrunken and deformed heads and brains, according to WHO.

In Brazil, which reported its first case of Zika in May, the virus has infected about 1 million people and is associated with a 20-fold increase in microcephaly cases. Brazilian health officials have reported an estimated 4,000 confirmed and suspected cases of the ailment. By contrast, 2014 saw only 147.

I say.

To start with what may seem an odd question: Do you know the Gaia hypothesis? If not, consider the last link to Wikipedia - and no, I do not know whether to believe it, simply because I lack the requisite biological knowledge to do so, but I did think of it because of the following reasons:

First, I believe 7 billion persons living on the earth now are simply too many persons. And yes, I know that what is "too many" depends on quite a few things, including the lack of political or social wisdom in most politicians, and the lack of adequate technologies of many kinds, but that is what I think. (And the human population of the earth grew to be more than three times as many people as there were when I was born, in a mere 65 years.)

Second, if I were Mother Earth, I'd try for a way to get rid of the billions of men that are destroying the climate and destroying the environment, and - given that I were Mother Earth - the best chances to do so would be a disease that threatens most humans and for which they can't find a cure.

Third, during the last 25 years or so, I've seen several of these: Aids, Ebola, and now Zika (<- Wikipedia) - and also see Microcephaly (<- Wikipedia), which seems to be caused by an infection with the Zika virus. (There are other means as well: Killing all the bees is one, for that would ruin the possibility to get food for most of the many humans, but I leave this out of consideration for the moment - and see the index for 2015 if you are interesed: Try "Bee".)

As I said, I really don't know whether the Gaia hypothesis is true, or even to know a rational estimate for its probability, but what struck me is the combination of Aids, Ebola and now Zika, each of which threaten humanity rather than a mere sub-group, and none of which were there in the first forty years of my life.

Here is some from the New York Times on the virus and the reaction to it by the World Health Organization:

The official “emergency” designation can trigger action and funding from governments and non-profits around the world. It elevates the W.H.O. to the position of global coordinator, and gives its decisions the force of international law. The agency is trying to cast itself as a global leader to revive its reputation after a faltering response during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

“Can you imagine if we do not do all this work now and wait until all these scientific evidence to come out, people will say why didn’t you take action?” Dr. Chan said.

The current outbreak of Zika has taken the world by surprise. It was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, and for years lived mostly in monkeys. But last May in Brazil, cases began increasing drastically. The W.H.O. has estimated that four million people could be infected by the end of the year. It is spreading fast in the Americas because people there have not developed immunity.
There is more under the last dotted link, including a link to the NYT. This is a recommended article.

3. Paul Krugman: The Fate of the World Is at Stake in This Election

The third item is by Janet Allon on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Paul Krugman writes in Monday's column that no less than the fate of the planet rides on the results of this year's election. And, while that is a pretty scary way to start a column, the rest of Krugman's argument, which is devoted to climate economics and how they are improving, is fairly optimistic.

It is well known that last year was by far the hottest on record, although that fact has not put a dent in climate deniers helmets of denial. What is less known, according to Krugman, is that the "prospect of effective action against the looming catastrophe" has changed "drastically for the better in recent years, because we’re now achingly close to achieving a renewable-energy revolution."

I say. Do I believe Krugman? Not really, especially not when presented in this form: (1) the fate of the world depends on this election, but (2) you don't have
to worry much, for we will very soon get "
a renewable-energy revolution".

I believe that the reasoned connection between the two propositions is lacking, and that the evidence that Krugman quotes for the second proposition is mostly wishful thinking, at present.

First, there is this:

The numbers are really stunning. According to a recent report by the investment firm Lazard, the cost of electricity generation using wind power fell 61 percent from 2009 to 2015, while the cost of solar power fell 82 percent. These numbers — which are in line with other estimates — show progress at rates we normally only expect to see for information technology. And they put the cost of renewable energy into a range where it’s competitive with fossil fuels.

Note that Krugman - like the true economist he is - knows "all" about percentages, but does not say by how much renewable energy is currently
cheaper ("competitive", in economists' broken English) than ordinary energy.

To the best of my - not very extensive - knowledge, renewable energy at present may be a bit cheaper than oil because oil is very cheap. I agree it is
getting cheaper, and at a considerable rate as well, but these seem to be the
present facts, which also means it will not be cheaper as soon as the oil prices
go up again.

And there is also this:

Then there is the small issue of effective policy to shift people en masse to renewables, "a shift to sun and wind instead of fire?" All it would take, Krugman argues, are a few financial incentives in the form of tax credits, which we have already had in Obama's stimulus plan and that even got extended in the recent budget.

Clearly, that is not a "small issue of effective policy" and Krugman takes an extremely optimistic view about what "a few financial incentives" may do.

So basically I think Krugman is vastly too optimistic about renewable energy, and quite unclear about the dangers of the coming American presidential election (which are not so much about energy, as they are about authoritarianism vs. democracy, and/or the few rich against the many poor).

4. Feeding the Military-Industrial Complex

The fourth item is by Jonathan Marshall on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:
America’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised — moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.

Current administration plans call for spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal to fight a pointless war that would decimate major centers of civilization across the globe.

There may be even more successful systems "of wealth transfer" (illegal drugs)  but setting that aside for the moment, Jonathan Edwards is correct, and indeed
also about spending a trillion dollars on better atomic bombs - aka "
America’s nuclear arsenal" - in the next 30 years.

Apart from better atomic bombs, there is this:
At the same time, the Pentagon is also asking for even greater sums to modernize conventional weapons systems that are better suited to East-West conflict scenarios of the 1950s than to today’s skirmishes with insurgents in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Spending on major military acquisition programs is projected to soar 23 percent, after adjusting for inflation, from fiscal year 2015 to 2022. Worse yet, Congress and the administration are spending much of that money on weapons that don’t even work as advertised.
And this is while ever greater groups in the USA are living in deep poverty.

There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended (though it will very probably not make you any happier).

5. America's Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World's Most Dangerous Man

The fifth and last item for today is by Markus Feldkirchen, Veit Medick and Holger Stark on Spiegel International:

This starts as follows, with a bold introduction:
Donald Trump is the leader of a new, hate-filled authoritarian movement. Nothing would be more harmful to the idea of the West and world peace than if he were to be elected president. George W. Bush's America would seem like a place of logic and reason in comparison.
Perhaps - though would it be any better if Ted Cruz is the next American president? I fear not, but I agree Donald Trump is dangerous. Here is some
about Donald Trump:

"Believe me, I'll change things. And again, we're going to be so respected. I don't want to use the word 'feared,'" he told the audience. But that is precisely what Trump wants: to be feared. His bid for the White House, long ridiculed, is a fight for a ruthless, brutal America. Behind his campaign slogan "Make America great again!" is the vision of a country that no longer cares about international treaties, ethnic minorities or established standards of decency.

Trump wants to attack head-first again. The 69-year-old embodies a new harshness and brutality, and both a physical and emotional crudeness. Trump has launched an uprising of the indecent, one that is now much bigger than he himself, a popular movement of white, conservative America that after eight years under Democratic President Barack Obama, yearns for a leader who will usher in the counter-revolution.

Actually, I think the same is true of Ted Cruz and most other GOP candidates (and Ted Cruz won in Iowa, not Donald Trump). Then again, the following bit is typically Trump, who can do so basically because he is a billionaire, unlike the other presidential candidates (who aren't much more moral, but have less money):

But his most unique characteristic is his lack of scruples. When speaking about his amiable rival Jeb Bush, he has often said that Bush is such a "low-energy person" that no one can even look at him anymore without seeking signs of his lack of energy. Trump has repeatedly said that Marco Rubio, another Republican contender, "sweats a lot," which, according to Trump, would be a little embarrassing for a president who has to negotiate with "strong leaders like Vladimir Putin." He recently began claiming that his strongest rival at the moment, Ted Cruz, lacks the legal qualification to become president because he was born on Canadian soil. And last year he tweeted: "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?" All of this profanity and scrupulousness would have forced anyone else to resign. But for his millions of supporters, they are further evidence of Trump's boldness and strength.

There is a whole lot more in the Spiegel article, but I leave the rest to the interests of my readers, and only quote this bit from near the end:

Despite their differences, the US and Germany share an unshakeable faith in democracy and freedom. But nothing would be more harmful to the idea of the West and world peace than if Donald Trump were to be elected president. Compared to that, the America of George W. Bush would seem like a land of logic and reason in retrospect.

Hm, hm!

Let me put it thus: While I don't know about Germany's "unshakeable faith in democracy and freedom" (which anyway mostly sounds like propaganda) it is quite inexplicable to me how either Trump or most of the other GOP candidates could ever have become presidential candidates in a country with an "unshakeable faith in democracy and freedom".

So I really reject this as a correct characterization of the current USA: I do not know how I would characterize the USA, but certainly not as having, at present,
with its many incompetent and dangerous presidential candidates, an
"unshakeable faith in democracy and freedom".


[1] "Terrorism" is "the attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder, directed especially at civilians", and "state terrorism" are "the secret services of states that attempt to get the state's ways in politics or religion, by doing anything fit for that purpose".

I define it thus because (1) "terrorism" is a very slippery piece of verbal propaganda (generally the "terrorists" of one organization are called "freedom fighters", or some other terms of praise, by their opponents) and because (2) the generally secret activities by states - e.g. in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China - have killed or captured far more people than the also very reprehensible terrorist activities of non-state groups.

Speaking for myself, I am against both groups of terrorists, though I fear the states' terrorists more, simply because they are greater and have more money and power.

I think I am quite justified in describing the spying by both multi- national corporations and of governments as "fascistic", simply because it is deeply dishonest, quite secret, and dedicated to - very, very much - increase the powers of the organizations that secretly spy. (But you are free to replace it by "disgusting", if you care. And I use the term especially because of the secret services, who have this "right to spy" - on anyone and everyone, which is what they do - as little as any corporation.)

[3] Spying organizations like Google and Facebook are among the most profitable corporations there are, and they are so because they are spying. That is about their power and money. And this is about their illegality: It might not be illegal and immoral and indecent if it were presented as an honest choice:

We give you free advertisements (!!) if you give us the text of your diaries, the text of your emails, the amounts of money you have, the ways you spend it, and in fact all of your hard disk and all of your phone conversations and pictures and in fact your complete phone - but it is never presented as an honest choice, and all the data you loose are simply taken from you, in secret also, as if these organizations owed you body and soul.

As it is, it is illegal theft by deeply dishonest secret means.

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