March 26, 2016

Crisis: Greenwald, Groupthinking, Live Blog, Progressives, Spiegel
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. Government Wants Ability to
     Access the Communications of Everyone, Everywhere

2. Highlighting Western Victims While Ignoring Victims of
     Western Violence

Live Blog: A Conversation on Privacy With Noam
     Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden

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, 2016.

This is a 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

The first item is
by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
Web-exclusive interview with Glenn Greenwald on the debate over encryption and the Apple-FBI battle.
The whole 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:
GLENN 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 a long 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."
   -- Lord Acton

All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed."
   -- I.F. Stone
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 (living anywhere):

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 soil.

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. [1]

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 presidency:

NERMEEN 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.
Yes, indeed. Hayden was simply lying, as he does normally, it seems. And this is a recommended article.

2. Highlighting Western Victims While Ignoring Victims of Western Violence

The second item 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.

    (picture of someone who only has visible eyes, a mouth and
     an ear)

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.
I agree, but then again this tendency - Our Group First! - is human-all-too-
human, and I rarely saw anything else in the ordinary news.

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 Culpable).
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 b
y 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 like this:

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 down.

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, will moderate.

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 far too
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 digital age.

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:

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 to us.

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.
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
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 justified:

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 (that did not work for me, not without JavaScript and not with JavaScript).

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 Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

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.
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 you like.

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 after it:

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 article.

5. Postcard from a Failed State? Attacks Cast Light on Belgium's State Crisis

he 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:

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 40 nations.

That is: Four days later it is still uncertain how many died and how many were wounded. (Is this really not known?)

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 security plan.
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.

[1] 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.
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