1. Glenn Greenwald: U.S.
Government Wants Ability to
Access the Communications of
2. Highlighting Western Victims While Ignoring Victims of
Blog: A Conversation on Privacy With Noam
Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald and
4. Should Progressives Back Sanders?
5. Postcard from a Failed State? Attacks Cast Light on
Belgium's State Crisis
This is a Nederlog of Saturday, March 26,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item
1 is about an interview on Democracy Now! with Glenn Greenwald that
is good; item 2 is about an article by Greenwald on
The Intercept; item 3 is about an interesting
conversation on privacy that Chomsky, Greenwald and Snowden had; item 4 is about a decent article about the question
whether progressives should back Sanders; and item 5
is a bad article (by a committee) in Spiegel about Brussels.
1. Glenn Greenwald: U.S. Government Wants Ability to
Access the Communications of Everyone, Everywhere
first item is by Amy
Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now!:
starts as follows:
Web-exclusive interview with
Glenn Greenwald on the debate over encryption and the Apple-FBI battle.
interview can be both seen and read if you click the above dotted link.
It is recommended, and I select here some precisifications of Glenn
Greenwald, that are important.
First, there is this:
GREENWALD: One really
interesting aspect of this is, a lot of people ask what really has
changed as a result of Edward Snowden’s revelations, and sometimes
people express the view that not much has, by which they mean that
there’s not a lot of laws that have been passed limiting the NSA’s
ability to spy. But one critical change, a really fundamental and
significant one, has been that prior to the Snowden revelations,
Silicon Valley companies, like Apple and Facebook and Google and Yahoo,
were full-scale collaborators with the NSA’s effort to collect
everything, essentially, to turn the Internet into an unlimited realm
of surveillance. And they were able to do that because nobody knew they
were doing it, and so there was no cost.
Yes, indeed, and this is both an important
change and a change that one should properly understand:
Spies like "Apple and Facebook
and Google and Yahoo" did cooperate for
time with the NSA, simply because it was quite unknown they cooperated,
and also because it was less well known that they spied themselves; now
that they have been outed by Snowden, and many of their users
want encryption, they are also for encryption, but not in principle but
out of self-interest; and this is commercial self-interest only
(or so it seems, also seeing their past behavior): They are led by
their own profits much rather than the interests of their users.
Here is some more:
And there is now a serious wedge
between the U.S. government, on the one hand, and Silicon Valley, on
the other—not because these companies suddenly care about privacy. They
don’t care about privacy at all. It’s because they perceive it as being
within their self-interest to demonstrate a commitment to privacy. And
that has created a real difficulty for the NSA
and for its allied agencies around the world to be able to intrude into
people’s private communications.
Yes, this is what it seems to come down to.
And here is how Glenn Greenwald looks on governmental spying:
And so, ultimately, the question
is: Do you think there should be ever any way for people, human beings,
to communicate without the U.S. government being able to access that?
That really is the critical question we face. And politicians like
Hillary Clinton are trying to exploit the fear of terrorism to get
people to say there should never be any communications out of the reach
of the U.S. government.
The question is strong and good, and while it
makes sense to concentrate on the U.S. government because it is the only
government known (!) to have the power, the money and
the desire to know everything about anyone living anywhere,
I think this should be extended to all governments while it
deserves to be answered in principle.
And two principles that are highly relevant are these:
"Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men
are almost always bad men."
In brief: You cannot
trust any government to speak the truth, and you cannot
trust any man with much power. And the NSA
wants to know everything that anyone living anywhere
knows: They want their anonymous secret service men to be God, and indeed they
detailed what their kind of God may do to anyone
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
I am not American. My nationality is Dutch and according to my
principles and knowledge the American government does not
have and should not have any say about anything
I do, I know, I believe, I owe or I desire unless and until I am on American
More specifically, no government that is not my own
government has any right to anything I owe or that is stored
on anything I owe, and quite specifically neither the American
government nor the American secret services has any
right to steal any information this non-American has
and owes: It is private and should remain private, and no one
who is not Dutch has any right to it. 
And there is also this in the interview, that mostly refers to a
(quoted) interview of Michael Hayden by Bill Maher, in which Hayden
claimed the military might very well obstruct Trump's eventual
Yes, indeed. Hayden was simply
lying, as he does normally, it seems. And this is a recommended article.
SHAIKH: Glenn Greenwald,
your response first to what former CIA
Director Michael Hayden said and then to Trump’s endorsement of torture?
GLENN GREENWALD: It was one of the most bizarre
exchanges I think I’ve witnessed in a while. I mean, Donald Trump was
absolutely, and Michael Hayden, what he said, is completely absurd. The
idea that the U.S. military, in mass, refuses to follow orders if they
constitute illegal conduct or war crimes is negated by the entire
history of this country, including very recently. You do have isolated
members of the armed forces who periodically refuse on grounds of
conscience or legal and moral duty. They denounce certain tactics. They
resign from the military. They refuse to follow orders. But
overwhelmingly, the U.S. military has been continuously willing—and not
just the U.S. military but also the CIA—to engage in all sorts of war
crimes and illegal behavior.
2. Highlighting Western Victims While Ignoring Victims of
is by Glenn
Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
FOR DAYS NOW, American cable news
has broadcast non-stop coverage of the horrific attack in Brussels.
Viewers repeatedly heard from witnesses
and from the wounded. Video was shown in a loop of the terror and panic
when the bombs exploded. Networks dispatched
their TV stars to Brussels, where they remain. NPR profiled
the lives of several of the airport victims. CNN showed a
moving interview with a wounded, bandage- wrapped Mormon American
teenager speaking from his Belgium hospital bed.
I agree, but then again this tendency - Our Group
First! - is human-all-too-
(picture of someone who
only has visible eyes, a mouth and
All of that is how it should be: That’s
news. And it’s important to understand on a visceral level the
human cost from this type of violence. But that’s also the same reason
it’s so unjustifiable, and so propagandistic, that this type of
coverage is accorded only to Western victims of violence, but
almost never to the non-Western victims of the West’s own violence.
human, and I rarely saw anything else in the ordinary
There is more that I skip in the article, but that you can read by
clicking the last dotted link. I quote just one bit more, that sums up
the tendencies of the news brought by the main media:
But regardless of the rationale
for this media discrepancy, the distortive impact is the same: By
endlessly focusing on and dramatizing Western victims of violence
while ignoring the victims of the West’s own violence, the impression
is continually bolstered that only They, but not We, engage in violence
that kills innocent people. We are always the victims and never the
perpetrators (and thus Good and Blameless); They are only the
perpetrators and never the victims (and thus Villainous and
I agree, but again note that (i) in the over
50 years that I have read "the daily media" there has not
been much attention to anyone who did not belong to
one of Our
Own Groups (that is in my case especially: who is not
Dutch, or -
at best - European), while (ii) most of the news I do get in the ordinary
daily media does tend to praise Us and Our Qualities
at the costs of Them
and their (decisively less superior) characteristics.
It is a pity, and while it also is worth reviewing, I cannot see great
changes in this as long as men are on average as they are now.
3. Live Blog: A Conversation on Privacy With Noam Chomsky,
Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden
The third item is by Eric
Ortiz on Truthdig:
This starts as follows - and I
start with saying that I do not much like this format, although it
works out reasonably well in the present case, except
for the fact that it is inverse order.
My selection is in the proper order (from earlier to later) and starts
4:35 p.m. PST: What is the proper
balance between national security and
individual rights? That question has been on the minds of many people
since 9/11 and the passing of the Patriot Act.
With the rise of government surveillance
and growing concerns about maintaining personal privacy (see: Apple vs. FBI), the debate isn’t quieting
On Friday at the University of Arizona,
political activist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky,
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and The Intercept
co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald will discuss the subject of privacy in a
panel organized by the Center for Democracy and
Technology (CDT). Nuala O’Connor, president and CEO of CDT,
This is here mostly to summarize the theme
and the speakers. This is a good point of Chomsky:
5:20 p.m. PST: Self and state,
boundaries of corporate interests: Chomsky starts with the
commercialization of the Internet, an interesting phenomenon. The
Internet was intended to be a free, open means of communication. It was
intended for scientists to exchange ideas freely, and then the general
public. It was hoped it would democratize information. Once it became
commercialized, that changed. There are systems of unaccount- able
power — some of them private, some of them govern- mental. They don’t
care about democracy and have shaped and molded the system. Technology
is neutral. It can be used for good or evil. It’s up to us to determine
what the future holds. Recognize the forces that will attempt to shape
and mold for their own purposes.
Yes, indeed. I agree that the internet
started out as a public place, and it is by now pretty commercialized,
and that those who commercialize it also have a lot of power and a lot
of money, and are not in the least interested in fairness, principles,
honesty, decency, accountability or democracy. Also, I like to refer to
Gore Vidal here, who said around 2010 that the internet freedom would
last at most ten more years.
Here is Greenwald, with a - sort of - declaration of principle:
5:24 p.m. PST: Greenwald, a
journalist, views himself like any other citizen. He begins with a
history lesson—the founding of America and freedom of the press. The
core of his job is to make certain that the people who wield the
greatest power meet scrutiny. It is essential to push back against
power. Greenwald’s mission is to make life difficult for the powerful.
I agree, and I also point out that (i)
this concerns powers of any kind and any motivation, and (ii) it
certainly seems to me - since about 50 years also - that powerful
politicians tend to be a special kind of person, who are
especially marked by a combination of lust for personal power
and personal high income, and the ability to lie and
deceive to get such powers. (And no, they are not
especially marked by intelligence or scientific knowledge.)
Then again, the second point is my own. Then there is this principial
point by Chomsky:
5:33 p.m. PST: Chomsky cites the Age of
Enlightenment and says any form of authority, domination and
hierarchy must be assumed to be illegitimate. Authority has to
demonstrate that it is credible and justified. The burden of proof is
on the state—and it is high.
I agree with the principle, but I also
remark that the - realistic, rational, empirical - proofs that
authority is credible and justified will (rather probably) only
be open to intelligent minorities.
This is itself not a weakness (the same holds for most results and most
methods and many assumptions of real science: these also are open only
to rather small
intelligent minorities), but should be kept in mind.
5:42 p.m. PST: What is privacy
today in the modern context? It means different things to different
people. For some, it’s just Facebook settings. For others, it’s much
more complex. Snowden cites “The Right to Privacy” by Louis
Brandeis and Samuel Warren. In the 1890 essay, Brandeis says it’s the
right to enjoy the products of our own intellect. Privacy is the
fountainhead of all things. Privacy is the right to self. Privacy is
the right to a free mind. Freedom of thought is the foundation of all
other freedoms. Freedom of speech has no meaning if you don’t have the
freedom to think. The protection of the private realm is the foundation
of individual freedom in the modern age.
Personally, I am not much
interested in people who believe that privacy consists in their
Facebook settings. That is just not a credible opinion for anyone who
has rational ideas about computers and privacy.
And I like and agree with the marks of privacy that Snowden states.
And again I point out that while "the
freedom to think" for yourself may not be very
important to the majority (who in majority may be so stupid as
to believe that "who has nothing to hide has nothing to fear"), it
still is important for everyone in a society that there
are intelligent minorities who have the freedom to think for
themselves and also to speak in public about what they thought.
Then there is this, with which I disagree:
5:51 p.m. PST: Should our
government be omniscient? That has value, of course, in thwarting
nefarious and criminal behavior. But the public has a right to know if
the government is going to be omniscient. As it stands, this decision
has been made by a few people behind closed doors. That is the problem.
I disagree because I think no man and no
combination of men has divine properties like omniscience, or indeed can have
them. So this is just a mistaken question.
As to the government knowing too much
(which is the sensible question):
This is certainly possible, and present day governments do know
much about nearly all private persons.
In brief: The government should work according to the Fourth
Amendment in order to remain democratic, and if it doesn't it is no
longer a democratic but -
at least - an authoritarian government.
6:38 p.m. PST: Greenwald says the
FBI’s case against Apple is pure deceit. It wanted to create a
precedent: Apple would be forced into involuntary labor to create a
backdoor anyone could use. The NSA’s motto is: Collect it all. Not
collect a lot of it. It wants to be able to collect and store all
communications between humans in the world and eliminate privacy in the
I agree (and those who want to know more
should consult the crisis index).
Also, it is very important to see
what the NSA is trying to do:
It wants to collect all
communications of everyone in the world who lives anywhere,
and thereby it seeks to remove all privacy from anyone
(who does not belong to the government or its secret services).
Yes indeed, and this is itself a crazy and completely totalitarian
plan, that also gives far too many powers to the American government
and its secret services.
And besides: The Americans have no
rights to plunder anyone's private data if that person is
not an American citizen, and also not if all these citizens
were to agree that their government has that right. Not about
me, nor about anyone else who is not an American
citizen: It is pure and impertinent theft.
Then there is this:
Chomsky's reference is a good one. And I
think "the Fourth Estate" is close to death in many places: Where "the
media" are effectively in the hands of a very few, the free press is
either dead or will be dying soon. And this is the situation
6:52 p.m. PST: Should we be
rethinking the Fourth Estate? Chomsky says we should pay close
attention to the way the media frames, analyzes and presents materials
He suggests reading the original introduction to “Animal Farm”
for insights into the freedom of the press. It was initially suppressed
and remained unpublished for 30 years, and then later discovered.
in both the USA and Europe.
Then there is this by Greenwald (and also from Snowden):
6:58 p.m. PST: Greenwald
also would do it all over again. You cannot shine the light in dark
places enough. We cannot start enough debates on the abuse of power,
the value of privacy. No matter how powerless you think you are in the
face of injustice, all individuals have the power to stand up to the
most powerful institutions. More people will be inspired by Snowden to
reveal things that should not have been concealed in the first place.
I agree. There was also this, that was quite
7:00 p.m. PST: Last word from
Noam Chomsky: What Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have done is
great for democracy, and they should be lauded for that. Sustained
applause from the crowd, followed by a standing ovation.
And there is this to end this conference,
with a fine reference to George Carlin, and a link to see the video
7:01 p.m. PST: That’s all, folks.
Go in peace. Let freedom reign. And follow the immortal wisdom of
George Carlin and question everything.
If you want to watch a video of the
conversation on privacy with Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald and Edward
Snowden, click here.
This is a recommended article.
4. Should Progressives Back Sanders?
The fourth item today is by Rick Sterling on
This starts as follows:
Yes, I completely agree, and indeed I have
repeatedly deplored this - in my eyes: idealistic and totalitarian -
tendency not to support someone because his program is not quite what
In the past year, some progressives have
explained why they are not supporting Bernie Sanders. Last summer,
Bruce Dixon from Black Agenda Report presented
a “sheepdog” theory suggesting that people who join the Bernie Sanders
campaign will eventually be herded into supporting Hillary Clinton.
More recently, Chris Hedges wrote
“We must focus exclusively on revolt” and break with the establishment
parties. Steven Salaita criticized
Sanders’s lack of a radically different foreign policy, especially
regarding Israel and Palestine.
While there is some truth in all these
criticisms, I personally think it’s important to support Bernie Sanders.
And yes, I agree that being (in this sense) idealistic and totalitarian
are widely spread and rather habitual modes of thought in both left and
right politics, but I reject them because they are fundamentally
irrational and unreasonable: Nobody is perfect; in real life as soon as
you deal with others you have to compromise; and to pretend it is
otherwise seems to me to be wilfully blind.
Then again, I simply agree with Rick Sterling, who also explains his
position - the reasonable one, in my opinion - in these terms:
Sanders is not just a “lesser evil.” His
proposals and policies are good on some key issues such as economic
inequality, health-care, education, and the judicial/criminal system.
His ideas on foreign policy suggest a substantial shift away from
interventionism and militarism.
In addition, Sanders seeks to change the
current electoral process based on money coming from corporations,
political action committees and wealthy individuals. Changing this
system is the first step toward breaking the strangle-hold of the
military- industrial complex, Wall Street and reactionary lobbies such
as AIPAC and the NRA.
This is all true. Next, there is a series
of twelve points that all plead for Sanders (and I think Sterling is
correct: To read them, click the last dotted link), and there is this
Sanders’s policies are closer to those
advocated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein than the policies of
Hillary Clinton. But unlike Jill Stein, Sanders has a remote but real
chance of winning the presidency. And, it’s not only a question of how
much Sanders can turn American politics and policies in beneficial
directions; it’s also a question of how bad things will be with either
Trump or Clinton.
Yes indeed. And this is a recommended
5. Postcard from a Failed State? Attacks Cast Light on
Belgium's State Crisis
The fifth item today
is by Spiegel Staff (a committee of 9
journalists) on Spiegel International:
This is a fairly long article that I selected
on the chance that Spiegel should be abled to say some
interesting things. Maybe they are, but - it seems - not if
they let their journalism be done by committees.
I found just two mildly interesting points amidst a flood of details on
all kinds of individuals hardly anyone ought to be interested in (like:
Bart de Wevere sits "in
a room with dark wooden wall panels", "on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in
February"; Moureaux has "a study with dark books and dark-red leather
sofas" etc.: What is the relevance of this information?!)
Here is the first point:
That is: Four days later it is still
uncertain how many died and how many were wounded. (Is this really
The attack on Brussels, on March 22,
2016, came from inside the country. More than 31 people died and more
than 270 were injured, and the victims included people from more than
Here is the second:
All criticism aside, we need to
remind ourselves that nothing and no one can absolutely prevent attacks
-- neither the most reliable police force nor the most effective
This seems quite true, and should suggest
that - given that there will be attacks - there may be too
much security, also because "security" in fact means: Every
thing of anyone will be secretly hoovered up and
stored, to be used (or not) by any (American) government at any
later date for any purpose.
In case you want more, click the last dotted link. I did not
find this interesting, and one reason is - I think - that this article
was written by 9 journalists.
I note two things here:
First, what I said about my rights holds for everyone these days: You
have few rights outside your own country, and most of the rights you do
have are relative to your country. This does not only hold for privacy
etc. but holds for most rights. And apart from some international
principles - of which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems
the most important - most of the rights one does have are relative to
the nation one belongs to, and are somewhat or rather a lot different
in other countries, where they also may be wholly missing.
Second, I have not said anything about the Dutch government,
except that if anyone would have some rights over me (and as long as I
live in Holland), it is the Dutch government. I also will leave
their say over me (in my opinion) open here, except by
reiterating that the American (and the English, the Australian,
the Canadian and the New Zealand) secret services or governments
do not have anything to say about me or my
rights, and should stay away from anything I owe, and
specifically from my computers.