March 24, 2016

Crisis: GOP, Apple vs FBI, Stop Freedoms, On Terrorism, Economics
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The GOP Response to Belgium

2. FBI's "Outside Party" Revealed as Bureau Angles to
     Keep New Hack Secret

After Brussels, Calls to Ditch Europe's Freedoms for

4. Terrorism in Western Europe Used to Be Much Worse
5. The Real World Cost of Turning Classical Economics
     Upside Down


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 24, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links. Item 1 is about the GOP's response to Belgium: awful but predictable; item 2 gives some clarifications to the fight between Apple and the FBI; item 3 quotes some governmental voices (perhaps hidden) that want to give up most liberties for "some" security (which also is a lie for ordinary people); item 4 is a very fine article on terrorism from 1970-2000 and terrorism since 2000: In Western Europe there was considerably more terrorism from 1970-2000; and item 5 is about Michael Hudson, who is an economist with sensible ideas.

1. The GOP Response to Belgium

The first item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:

Following the Belgium attacks, Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz issued a statement saying, "We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." Meanwhile, Donald Trump urged the waterboarding of captured Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam despite international laws against torture. "I would do a lot more than water- boarding," Trump said.

I am not amazed. Here is some more on Trump, and indeed it is quoted (which I say so that you know his exceptional command of spoken English is indeed his very own):

DONALD TRUMP: I’m not looking to break any news on your show, but frankly, the waterboarding, if it was up to me, and if we changed the laws and—or have the laws, waterboarding would be fine. And if they want to do—as long as it’s with—because, you know, we work within laws. They don’t work within laws. They have no laws. We work within laws. The waterboarding would be fine. And if they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding. You have to get the information from these people.

There is more in the article. I have provided the link so you can check it out if you care.

In case you are interested, here is another opinion on Trump, from Abby Zimet on Common Dreams (here):

This is a small, sick, mean, racist, hand-and-penis-obsessed, twistedly narcissistic, and deeply insecure person. This is a moron. Oh, America.

I went to a great school,” he said. “I was a good student and all. I am an intelligent person. My uncle, I would say my uncle was one of the brilliant people. He was at MIT for 35 years. As a great scientist and engineer, actually more than anything else. Dr. John Trump, a great guy. I’m an intelligent person.”

I mostly agree, and I add that a really intelligent person does not say the things Trump says. Period. In my own words (from March 20): Trump is a bully; he doesn't know much; he utters many obvious lies; and his speeches sound stupid and crude. (I might have added: And that is his appeal among the "poorly educated".)

2. FBI's "Outside Party" Revealed as Bureau Angles to Keep New Hack Secret

The second item is
by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The FBI wants to classify its new "alternate" method of unlocking the suspected San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, keeping it secret even from Apple itself, according to new reporting.

The Guardian confirmed with government officials on Wednesday that the technique does enable the FBI to get into Syed Farook's iPhone. That means the agency can back off from its legal battle with Apple, which has accrued widespread support from consumers and privacy advocates in its refusal to create decryption software.

The FBI made its announcement on Monday, a day before it was due in court to continue seeking an order to force Apple to unlock Farook's phone, which Apple has said would weaken its users' privacy rights.

Most of this I knew, and have reported it e.g. on March 22. But the following I did not know before today:

And according to additional reporting by Reuters on Wednesday, the "outside party" is an Israeli software company called Cellebrite, which creates, among other things, "a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices."

As The Verge notes, Cellebrite's involvement in the case is not a total surprise. The company has "a sole-source contract with the FBI that it signed in 2013 specifically to help with mobile forensics and data extraction, exactly the task presented by the San Bernardino case," writes Ashley Carman.

Incidentally, while I do not know how Cellebrite wants to crack the code, it seems that in any case it will not open most iPhones (according to this article).

Here is a final thought on this issue:

Alex Abdo, an attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, wrote in a blog post published Tuesday that "[e]ven if the FBI gets access to the San Bernardino phone using the new method it is exploring, it is inevitable that the FBI will come knocking again," particularly as Apple and other tech companies begin to bolster their existing security systems in response to consumer demand.

Yes, I quite agree.

3. After Brussels, Calls to Ditch Europe's Freedoms for Security

The third item is b
y Lauren McCauley om Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Just one day after the coordinated attacks in Brussels, the resounding cry from governments, media, and national security experts is that we need less freedoms and more security.

As they did in the wake of the Paris attacks, countries across the continent rushed to tighten border security in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's bombings, which killed at least 34 people, striking the airport and a metro station.

Meanwhile, officials and so-called "terrorism experts" rushed to place the blame for the attack on Europe's—and more specifically Belgium's—supposedly lax border policies and restrictive information-sharing rules.

Again, I am not amazed.

And by the way: The next item shows that there is much less terror these days, and since 2001, in Western Europe than there was in the period from 1970-1990.

But nevertheless, here are some who do not face the facts and do not have any rational argument, but nevertheless are being read:

British author and journalist Max Hastings put it even more bluntly. "Our tolerance of electronic surveillance, subject to legal and parliamentary oversight, seems a small price to pay for some measure of security against threats that nobody—today of all days—can doubt are real," Hastings said in an address Wednesday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong.

In the United States, this fervor translated into an push for lawmakers to act quickly on controversial legislation, that, according to The Hill, would "create a national commission to explore" how the government and law enforcement could access encrypted communications.

Let me briefly consider Hastings' words:

"Our tolerance" - no, we are not on a par: I do not tolerate spying on me by secret services, even if I can not test or block it - "of electronic surveillance" - which really is stealing our private information - "subject to legal and parliamentary oversight" - that doesn't work, isn't clarified, and is mostly secret, also to parliamentarians - "seems a small price" - to Max Hastings, without any arguments or evidence - "for some measure of security" - that consists almost completely out of lies in so far as ordinary people are concerned [1] - "against threats that nobody - today of all days" - Max Hastings is bullshitting for all he is worth - "can doubt are real" - and again see the next item.

So all in all I'd guess Max Hastings belongs to the well-paid liars of the government. It is interesting that there are some who do work for European governments who do not
agree with Hastings:

Guy Trouveroy,  the Belgian Ambassador to the U.K., is one European official who is raising concerns over the rush to sacrifice the continent's freedoms to the so-called "war on terror."

"I would say that to transform our countries into police states, I am not sure that would be the right response. Also because if (we do that) then we start antagonizing communities again," he said on CNBC.  "You have to realize that it's not always to protect every single place where human beings assemble and do you want to change your society to such an extent that you make your life much more difficult," he said. "By doing so, you're handing over a fantastic victory to these terrorists."

I think Trouveroy is right - and I point again to the next item.

4. Terrorism in Western Europe Used to Be Much Worse

The fourth item today is by Bryan Schatz on MotherJones:

This starts as follows:

Following the Paris attacks, and now the Brussels bombings, the so-called Islamic State has been described as a terrorist organization unlike any seen in recent history. This isn't a new idea: Back in 2014 former defense secretary Chuck Hagel said that ISIS "is beyond anything that we've seen." 

Yet even with the threat of terrorist attacks from homegrown and ISIS-linked jihadists, the streets of Western Europe are safer now than in the not-too-distant past, when terror groups ranging from the IRA to Basque separatists killed hundreds. After the ISIS attacks that struck Paris in November 2015, killing 130 people, the statistics portal Statista created this chart for Huffington Post showing the number of victims claimed by terrorist attacks in Western Europe since 1970.

This is for the years 1970-1990:

And this is for the years 2000-2015 (on the same scale, indicated at the bottom):

I also note that this is about Western Europe and not about the USA. But the lesson is - or ought to be - very clear:

There was much more terrorism between 1970 and 1990 than between 2000 and 2015 in Europe; there was no need to carry your identification papers; there were no political and legal hysterics; and there also was no hidden reason for hysterics, for there were no private computers connected to the internet (till ca. 1995, and with a few exceptions) whose contents could be reached in secret and be plundered by the secret services.

Looking at the above charts, it is obvious that nearly everything that government speakers (and - secret or not - government journalists) say about "terrorism" is in fact propaganda for state terrorism: To prevent a few acts of terrorism, every civilian in Europe is supposed to give up all his private information to the secret services (without him or her having any knowledge or any control).

Incidentally - for readers of Dutch - the above corresponds very well to what I said in 2005.

The Real World Cost of Turning Classical Economics Upside Down

The fifth and last item today is by Chris Hedges on TeleSUR:

This starts as follows:
CHRIS HEDGES: Hi, I’m Chris Hedges. Welcome to Days of Revolt. Today in a two-part series we’re going to be discussing a great Ponzi scheme that not only defines not only the U.S. but the global economy, how we got there, in the first segment, and secondly, where we’re going. And with me to discuss this issue is the economist Michael Hudson, author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy, a professor of economics who worked for many years on Wall Street, where you don’t succeed if you don’t grasp Marx’s dictum that capitalism is about exploitation.
This is the introduction to part I on TeleSUR. I read it all, but I also read the item on Michael Hudson on Wikipedia, and I thought his thoughts were better expressed there, so I will give two quotes from Wikipedia.

The first is on parasitic finance:

He states parasitic finance looks at industry and labor to determine how much wealth it can extract by fees, interest, and tax breaks, rather than providing needed capital to increase production and efficiency. He states the "magic of compounding interest" results in increasing debt that eventually extracts more wealth than production and labor are able to pay. Rather than extracting taxes from the "rentiers" to reduce the cost of labor and assets and use the tax revenue to improve infrastructure to increase production efficiency, he states the U.S. tax system, bank bailouts, and quantitative easing sacrifice labor and industry for the benefit of the finance sector.

He states the Washington Consensus has encouraged the IMF and World Bank to impose austerity that the U.S. itself is not exposed to (thanks to dollar dominance) which leads to subjecting other countries to unfair trade that depletes natural resources and privatizing infrastructure that is sold at distressed prices that uses parasitic finance techniques (including western-style tax breaks) to extract the maximum amount of the country's surplus rather than providing a price-competitive service.

Incidentally, Michael Hudson's reason to refer to this as "parasitic finance" is precisely that the banks do not anymore provide capital for more production or more efficiency: They merely scan who they can milk the best. And thus the banks "sacrifice labor and industry for the benefit of the finance sector" (and only the finance sector).

And the second quotation is about "quantitative easing" (with a number to a footnote deleted):

Hudson states that the mortgage crisis was caused by parasitic finance that used law and outright fraud, and that the government backing of toxic debt and quantitative easing are ways to keep real estate inflated while the banks shift the real losses to U.S. labor, taxpayers, and the international community. Hudson states "quantitative easing" and "restoring stability" are euphemisms for the U.S. finance sector using the Federal Reserve and dollar dominance to engage in financial aggression to a degree that previously required military conquest. He points out Joseph Stiglitz has similar views.

I agree with both quotes, and I think they are clearer than what the interview offers, although I read that with interest.

[1] Ordinary people (without jobs in the government) will not be protected against terrorism by their police, for the simple reason that there are far too many ordinary people to protect. There will be police for them only after terrorists have
struck them, and not before: Only top governmental bureaucrats will get police protection before they are attacked. (And indeed there simply is not enough police to do more.)
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