February 27, 2016

Crisis: FBI vs Apple, On VIPS, Bees, "Left-leaning" Propagandists
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FBI vs. Apple Establishes a New Phase of the Crypto

VIPS Offers Advice to Candidates
New Report Issues Dire Warning About Global Decline in

4. The Dominant Media, "Left-Leaning" Economists and
     the Illusion of Consensus


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 27, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. It is the weekend and there were fewer crisis articles. I have 4 items with 4 dotted links, and they are all mostly background about matters I have reported on before:

Item 1 is about the latest crypto war between Apple and the FBI: I suggest the FBI, CIA and NSA have so far, and the last 47 years, gotten what they wanted; item 2 is about an article by Ray McGovern about VIPS: I like them, but hardly any presidential candidate does, other than Sanders and Stein; item 3 is about the very ill position of the bees and other pollinators, and ends with a statement that much more is being written about them than done; and item 4 is another article about the massive propaganda media-accepted "left-leaning" economists engage in if they meet anyone who does not quite share their media-acceptable prejudices. (It's the same as with the media-accepted "right-leaning" propagandists: You simpy can't trust the main media.)

1. FBI vs. Apple Establishes a New Phase of the Crypto Wars

This first item is by Dan Froomkin and Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

For over two decades, the battle between privacy-minded technologists and the U.S. government has primarily been over encryption. In the 1990s, in what became known as the Crypto Wars, the U.S. tried to limit powerful encryption — calling it as dangerous to export as sophisticated munitions — and eventually lost.

After the 2013 Snowden revelations, as mainstream technology companies started spreading encryption by putting it in popular consumer products, the wars erupted again. Law enforcement officials, led by FBI Director James Comey, loudly insisted that U.S. companies should build backdoors to break the encryption just for them.

That won’t happen because what these law enforcement officials are asking for isn’t possible (any backdoor can be used by hackers, too) and wouldn’t be effective (because encryption is widely available globally now). They’ve succeeded in slowing the spread of unbreakable encryption by intimidating tech companies that might otherwise be rolling it out faster, but not much else.

I wish I was as certain as Dan Froomkin and Jenna McLaughlin seem to be.

Perhaps one reason is that they probably do not share one of my presumptions, which is that the secret services and the Pentagon (i) have the same or a very similar program as they had already in the late Sixties (!) and (ii) they have so far succeeded in furthering it for 47 years now.

In proof of which, here are two quotes I reproduced in 2012, the first from the late Sixties:

However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite
lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new
order. For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost
continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-
date, complete files, containing even personal information
about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be
possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.

And the second from 1970:

"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities."
– Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970

To me that suggests that so far the FBI, the CIA, the NSA etc. have simply succeeded in getting all they wanted, and more.

In fact, something like this may be behind this quote from Froomkin and McLauglin:

The more we learn about the FBI’s demand that Apple help it hack into a password-protected iPhone, the more it looks like part of a concerted, long-term effort by the government to find new ways around unbreakable encryption — rather than try to break it.
But this does not seem very clear to me, at least not beyond suggesting that the FBI, the CIA, the NSA etc. may be seriously considering getting all of every- body's keystrokes (which means that they can retrieve passwords, also in a generally unsuspected way).

I don't know. Here is someone with a similar attitude as I have - "
the priority is to access data, point blank" is what moves both law enforcement and the secret services:

“I think that for many within law enforcement, the priority is to access data, point blank. That could mean installing backdoors directly into encryption standards or finding some kind of workaround,” Andrea Castillo, the technology policy program manager for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

“The first strategy failed in the court of public opinion, so it appears that they are now attempting more covert methods to get around encryption. Unfortunately, there are major security risks with both approaches,” she said.

Anyway... this is an interesting article on some of the backgrounds of "the Crypto Wars", and it contains considerably more.

2. VIPS Offers Advice to Candidates

The second item is by Ray McGovern (<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows (and if you don't know who Ray McGovern is you should read the first link in this item):

A Memo to: Dr. Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Dr. Jill Stein, and Donald Trump

The media brouhaha over naming your campaign advisers on foreign policy prompts this reminder of a unique resource available, gratis, to all of you. That resource is our nonpartisan group – Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). If we were into self-promotion, we would add to our (virtual) letterhead: “serving satisfied customers since 2003.”

We are about apolitical analysis; we are into spreading unvarnished truth around; we do not shape our analysis toward this or that debating point. Thus, we eschew the moniker “campaign adviser.” But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t provide apolitical and unvarnished advice to anyone who seeks it.

I think Ray McGovern is quite correct in thus describing VIPS (of which he is one of the creators). Here is more about VIPS:

Also distinguishing us from “campaign advisers,” none of us in VIPS lust for a high position in a new administration; none are heavily invested in arms industries; none of us ask for a retainer. In other words, there are no strings attached to the substantive analysis we provide to all our readers and listeners. If objective, disinterested analysis is your cup of tea, we suggest that you check out VIPS’s record, to include the multiple warnings we gave President George W. Bush in the months before the attack on Iraq.

In fact, VIPS was founded by a handful of former CIA analysts, including me, for the express purpose of warning President Bush that his small coterie of advisers, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, was adducing fraudulent – not mistaken – “intelligence” in promoting the concept the war on Iraq.

There is a considerable amount more that I leave to your interests. The article ends as follows:

If nonpartisan, fact-based analysis is your cup of tea, have a look at those memoranda, which we believe are second to none in terms of candor and tell-it-like-it-is analysis. Our work reflects the ethos that earlier guided the work of intelligence community analysts at CIA and elsewhere, a commitment to both objectivity and scholarship.

That was before Director Tenet decided to welcome frequent visits by Vice President Dick Cheney to make sure CIA analysts were finding or fabricating enough “intelligence” to “justify” the launch of an unnecessary war. We take no pleasure in having been correct at the outset, in predicting “the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

I think Ray McGovern is right, but I also think that only Sanders and Stein might be interested: The others proceed by lies and propaganda anyway.

3. New Report Issues Dire Warning About Global Decline in Pollinators

The third item is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Pollinators worldwide, from bees and butterflies to beetles and bats, are facing a grim state of affairs.

Factors such climate change and land use changes are driving many pollinator species—including 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators—towards extinction. For invertebrate pollinators like bees and butterflies, over 40 percent of species may be be threatened locally, a new report shows.

And this all adds up to very bad news for humans, the report details, as it poses risks to the global food supply.

The assessment released Friday is from the four-year-old Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a UN-formed body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPBES came to its first ever analysis based on a body of existing scientific studies.

I have written repeatedly about this before - see the index of 2015, with "Bees" - precisely because the massive dying of bees (and other pollinators) "poses risks to the global food supply".

This is a brief article that is not optimistic, and that ends thus:

As far as a real impact from the group's report, Dave Goulson, author, bumblebee expert, and professor of biology at the University of Sussex, is skeptical.

"I would question whether any practical on-the-ground action to help pollinators will happen as a result of this document. We are in the midst of the sixth global mass-extinction event, and we sit around spending thousands of hours writing documents about biodiversity, but we do not take action to address the fundamental issues that are causing this ecological catastrophe," Nature reports him as saying.

I fear that is correct.

4. The Dominant Media, "Left-Leaning" Economists and the Illusion of Consensus

The fourth item is b
y Michael Corcoran on Truth-out:

This starts as follows (and can be seen as a continuation of yesterday's What the Mainstream Media Won't Tell You About Bernie Sanders' Economic Plan):

In a matter of a few days, The New York Times and a handful of liberal economists, most of them with close ties to the Democratic Party establishment, created an imaginary left-wing consensus against the most transformative Keynesian reforms in Bernie Sanders' economic agenda. Many economists and experts have since attempted to counter this manufactured consensus, but the mainstream media have largely ignored these efforts. As this false narrative turns into conventional wisdom, prospects for much-needed and substantive changes to our economy - universal health care, access to higher education, a dignified standard of living for all - continue to dwindle.

Yes, indeed. And the present article is especially about propaganda (and my note [1] on this subject is well worth reading):

This development shows the power of the propaganda function of the mass media in the United States, which keeps parameters of debate limited on an extremely narrow spectrum. These parameters are largely shaped by the political parties, with the Democratic Party reflecting the liberal end of acceptable discourse in publications like The New York Times - thus far and no further. To go beyond this point will result in one being marginalized, ignored or mocked - treated as if they have taken "off from the planet," as Noam Chomsky once described the phenomenon. Given the narrative the mainstream media have pushed in recent weeks, it appears that proposals like single-payer health care and tuition-free college go well beyond these parameters. This is not all that surprising given the Democratic Party's financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and the financial services industry.

Yes, indeed. And here is how it worked in this specific example:

The Times' article blew up across social media and other media outlets. This was in part because Paul Krugman, the influential economist and Times columnist, and a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, endorsed the absurdly one-sided article on Twitter and his blog where he dismissed Sanders' single-payer proposal as a "magical unicorn" (again we see mockery as a way to portray supporters of Sanders as unserious, or "on another planet"). It wasn't long before hundreds of outlets ran with the story, demonstrating the "agenda-setting" function of the Times.

There is a lot more in the article that I leave to your interests.

It is recommended, and is one more reason to say that you simply will not get
"The Real News" if you only or predominantly read or view the main media:

The main media mostly turn out propaganda, including propaganda about who is to be marginalized, pooh-poohed or ignored according to accepted propagandists themselves (who are never styled for what they are: propagandists). [2]


[1] I quote a part from the item "Public Relations" in my Philosophical Dictionary:
Public Relations: Cant term for propaganda - distorted, biased, misinformed, slanted, manipulative prose (pictures, video, film, TV) designed to deceive - that is much beloved and used by the institutions that use "Public Relations" to further their interest and strengthen their social support.

"Public Relations" have in fact been consciously created, originally as a species of propaganda, until it became clear this term had negative associations "public relations" spokesmen and spokeswomen wanted to avoid.

Its purpose, from the very start, was to spread lies or biased information about products, manufacturers, instutitons, and organizations, that would improve the social standing or support of the propagandized product or institution.

Note that " Public Relations" tends to go further and be more intrusive, subtle and dishonest than mere propaganda or advertisement, both of which - in its more oldfashioned or naive forms - are more or less outspoken about being propaganda or advertisement.

Not so for much of "Public Relations": This is meant to deceive, misinform, disinform, bias, mislead or prejudice people who partake of it, namely by pretending to be other than what it is - such as advertisements presented and packaged as if they were actual news shows, or "informational services" that really are propaganda for a specific person or institution, without saying so (except perhaps somewhere in very small print).

Also, "Public Relations" often is designed to go further than plain advertisement, propaganda, or recommendations namely by biasing a public through making them feel good about a product, brand, or person, by associating such a thing with what seem to be disinterested or friendly help.
[2] I have to admit that the more I read about this, the less I trust Krugman, whom I may delete from the many files I read daily, indeed also because in over 2 1/2 years of daily reading Krugman I rarely found anything of sufficient interest.
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