1. Greenwald: FBI-Apple
Fight Tied to U.S. Effort to Access
the Communications of Everyone
2. Police Use of ‘Stingray’ Phone Surveillance Hurts
Minority Communities Most
3. The Trump-Clinton
4. Bernie’s Right. Wall Street’s Business Model Really Is
5. Noam Chomsky: The Republican Base Is "Out of
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 30,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item
1 is about Greenwald on the FBI vs Apple fight; item
2 is about the American police's abuse of stingrays; item
3 is about Trump, Clinton and the freedom of the press; item 4 is about the fact that Wall Street is a pool of
massive and extremely profitable frauds; and item 5
is about a recent interview with Noam Chomsky.
1. Greenwald: FBI-Apple
Fight Tied to U.S. Effort to Access the Communications of Everyone
first item is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh
on Democracy Now!:
To start with, I saw - realizing this when
I reread the article - that I have reviewed the article on March 26. But this contains other
selections, and all three quotes I did select today might be said to be "precisifications from Glenn Greenwald".
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. Once we were able to shine a light on the cooperation between
Silicon Valley and the NSA as a result of
Edward Snowden, there was a huge cost to these companies, which was
that people around the world would be unwilling to use their services
and would instead move to South Korean or German or Brazilian social
media companies that protected their 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, indeed - or worse: Either the
big Silicon Valley companies "don’t care about
privacy at all", simply from the fact that Apple, Facebook, Google and Yahoo have spied all
they could when this wasn't widely known, or else they do
care, but on the understanding that they do want to know everything
about you, for this serves the buyers of the data they secretly
Next, as to the enormous amounts of
governmental spying the Americans do on absolutely everyone
absolutely everywhere  there is this:
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
Yes, indeed - and please note this really
concerns everyone's privacy absolutely anywhere on earth:
The US government steals anything it can get, and no: Either those who
do it are divinities,
wholly beyond any human understanding or reproach, or else they are
sick and degenerate thiefs trying to know everything about anyone. (And
yes, you may be sick and degenerate merely because of the work
you do, or the pay you receive.)
Also, "terrorism" - as I have said from 2005 onwards - was
and is a pretext to allow the U.S.'s state terrorists
to gather all anyone said or wrote using a cellphone or an internet
computer. And state terrorists are historically very much
more dangerous than non-state terrorists: Hitler's,
Mussolini's and Stalin's state terrorists have destroyed very
many more human lives than non-state terrorists ever did. 
Finally, there is this precisification:
You know, I think it’s really critical
to understand that politicians—and this is the lesson we ought to have
learned from Barack Obama—what they say in political campaigns doesn’t
necessarily correspond to what they actually do in—once they obtain
Quite so! I have - meanwhile - said many
times that in my experiences Obama says what he believes his
audience likes to hear, and does what he knows his financial
backers like to see done, which often is the opposite.
Then again, it is also true that Barack Obama is not the only
politician who plays this game: Nearly all do. He merely is the
most prominent and most powerful one.
And this is a recommended article.
2. Police Use of ‘Stingray’ Phone
Surveillance Hurts Minority Communities Most
is by Thor Benson
This is here mainly because as soon
as I was convinced about the enormous amounts of spying the NSA did, I
also believed it would be a matter of time until other
governmental forces, and specifically the police (but not only
these), would also want to use these means to spy on anyone and
They did, and the article starts as follows:
Police use of cellphone surveillance
devices in the past was cloaked in mystery. Now, it is out in the open.
We know that officers can, with little
preparation, set up at remote locations and sweep up all of the
cellphone data they want in those areas. Phones meant for private
communication have become activity trackers for the government. Though
this has become widely known, police departments and other government
agencies are still fighting hard to keep the secrecy around these
The main surveillance tool is the
Stingray, which is a “cell site simulator.” The Stingray is a
briefcase-sized device that can electronically pretend to be a cell
tower so all phones in the immediate area will attempt to access it,
which means it can collect the data from those phones. Critics of
Stingray surveillance once thought that the device collected only
metadata, but we now know it can collect actual
content—in effect, recording phone calls.
Police departments and other agencies
that use Stingrays, such as the
IRS, sign a nondisclosure agreement when they purchase the devices.
As a result, no mention of the device generally occurs in court cases
involving information from Stingray investigations.
Actually, the last quoted paragraph seems
not quite consistent with the first quoted paragraph, and it also seems
illegal to me, although I might be mistaken about that
In any case, it seems to me that (1) it is
(or ought to be) illegal to set up non-disclosure agreements
for acts that are not legal (and using a stingray to secretly
get at one's communications goes against the Fourth Amendment),
and (2) it is (or ought to be) illegal not to mention how one
has gathered evidence that is used in a court of law.
Next, here is Malkia Cyril, who heads the
Center for Media Justice, who says what stingrays are being used for by
Cyril said she believes local police
departments are using Stingrays to disrupt black social movements, such
as Black Lives Matter. Civil rights organizations and journalists have
been able to identify cases in which government agencies conducted
surveillance on Black Lives Matter protests. This isn’t hard to
believe in the same country that had Cointelpro.
“They [Stingrays] are being used against
legal protesters organizing to save their lives, improve the world, and
defend the human rights of the most vulnerable members of our
society—while bolstering the power of an already brutal police force,”
I think she is correct, and I also think
stingrays are used for much more (and are quite illegal).
And the article ends like this:
There is no way to tell how much of an
impact that Stingray surveillance by police, the FBI and other agencies
has had on minorities and other communities. Until the secrecy around
these devices ends, the organizations asking for an investigation fear
that the damaging effects of surveillance will multiply. Surveillance
affects all Americans, but for people of color—historically targeted by
law enforcement—the effect is amplified to a brutal level.
And that seems true to me.
The third item is by John Pilger
(<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:
A virulent if familiar censorship is
about to descend on the U.S. election campaign. As the cartoon brute,
Donald Trump, seems likely to win the Republican Party’s nomination,
Hillary Clinton is being ordained both as the “women’s candidate” and
the champion of American liberalism in its heroic struggle with the
This is drivel, of course; Hillary
Clinton leaves a trail of blood and suffering around the world and a
clear record of exploitation and greed in her own country. To say so,
however, is becoming intolerable in the land of free speech.
The article is mostly about the second
paragraph, mostly because John Pilger (who is a prominent journalist of
76) is being censored by an "editorial committee" of Truthout, because
- as an editor of Truthout said - Pilger had broken "guidelines", that
Pilger denied he had any knowledge of.
I say. I am against censorship,
and I like John Pilger, so here is his paragraph that Truthout found totally
I don't agree with everything. Notably, I
think it is a mistake to say that
“Trump is a media hate figure. That
alone should arouse our skepticism. Trump’s views on migration are
grotesque, but no more grotesque than David Cameron. It is not Trump
who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace
Prize winner Barack Obama … The danger to the rest of us is not Trump,
but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience
and violence of a system … As presidential Election Day draws near,
Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her
crimes and lies — just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black
president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about ‘hope.’”
"The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but
Hillary Clinton". But what if
John Pilger thinks so? Why should he - a prominent 76-year old
journalist - not be allowed to write what he thinks?!
Well, because the editor of Truthout thinks she can force
him to publish, under his own name, things he does not
think, but that she desires him to say, it seems because
she is pro-Clinton and he is not.
It sounds pretty sick to me, but this is all I will say about it.
There is also this on Obama:
The 2008 presidential campaign of Barack
Obama should have alerted even the most dewy-eyed. Obama based his
“hope” campaign almost entirely on the fact of an African-American
aspiring to lead the land of slavery. He was also “antiwar.”
But Obama was never antiwar. On the
contrary, like all American presidents, he was pro-war. He had voted
for George W. Bush’s funding of the slaughter in Iraq and he was
planning to escalate the invasion of Afghanistan. In the weeks before
he took the presidential oath, he secretly approved an Israeli assault
on Gaza, the massacre known as Operation Cast Lead. He promised to
close the concentration camp at Guantanamo and did not. He pledged to
help make the world “free from nuclear weapons” and did the opposite.
Well... yes and no. First no: Obama
tricked me too, for about half a year (for then I was over it,
because he did not close Guantánamo), but this was in part
because I had been less interested in politics for quite a long while,
and because I believed (perhaps naively, I agree) that politicians
might mean what they say.
(There are a few, but a few only, and they do not
comprise Obama. Or Clinton.)
Second, yes: If one has followed Obama,
one should have learned at least one thing: What he says is
always intended to please his audience, and that seems to be his only
norm. Put otherwise, he is a real bullshitter,
though indeed not by far the only one.
Here is John Pilger's diagnosis of the root of the conflict he had with
At the root of this episode is an
enduring unsayable. This is the need, the compulsion, of many liberals
in the United States to embrace a leader from within a system that is
demonstrably imperial and violent. Like Obama’s “hope,” Clinton’s
gender is no more than a suitable facade.
Perhaps. But because I know a lot of
logic, I know that few people are much concerned with
consistency. My own guess about the root is simpler: John Pilger did not
write what Truthout wanted him to write.
4. Bernie’s Right. Wall Street’s Business Model Really Is
The fourth item is by Richard Eskow on Common
This starts as follows:
Our nation’s largest and most powerful
banks have repeatedly engaged in widespread fraud, causing both
individual suffering and a recession that millions of Americans are
still living through today.
They continued to commit
the same frauds after the American people rescued them, and
after they promised to stop as part of some major settlement
agreements. There’s no reason to believe they’ve stopped today, and
every reason to believe they haven’t.
Fraud is an essential part of Wall
Street’s DNA. A 2015
survey, commissioned by law firm Labaton Sucharow, found that a
deeply immoral culture had taken root among British and American
The survey showed that bankers’ ethical
behavior is bad and getting worse. The percentage of bankers who
believed their own colleagues had engaged in illegal or unethical
behavior has nearly doubled since 2012. More than one-third of those
earning $500,000 or more annually said they had first-hand knowledge of
wrongdoing in the workplace.
I think most of this is beyond doubt:
Check the crisis index if you doubt. I don't know about the last
paragraph, but it sounds plausible. By the way, here is what bankers do
offenses committed by our largest banks include “price fixing, bid
rigging, market manipulation, money laundering, document forgery, lying
to investors, sanctions-evading, and tax dodging.”
Wall Street has now paid more than $200
billion in fines and settlements for fraudulent activity.
And here is one of the main reasons why
bankers got enormously much richer, indeed through frauds: Because Eric
Holder got nominated as the head of the Department of Justice, it seems
in part because he had, already in 1999, written something in which he
said that he would not prosecute the banks, because these were too
big to fail - which is like saying: No, we won't prosecute this
mass-murderer, because he murdered too many people.
Here is how it works:
If the purpose of Wall
Street’s “business model” is to help bank executives get rich
without personal risk or penalty, there is no question that fraud is at
its heart. Senior bankers at our too-big-to-fail institutions have made
a lot of money from fraudulent activities, but other people always seem
to pay when those activities come to light. The American people bail
them out, and bank shareholders pay the fines.
And let’s be clear: the evidence for
bank fraud is overwhelming. Bank executives would not have paid $204
billion to settle fraud charges if it was not. (In fact, it would have
been a violation of their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to
do so.) These fines and settlements were usually great deals for the
banks, which is why their stock prices often rose after they were
Of course! Where else can you do frauds
worth more than $204 billion dollars; pay back a small part of your
profits; and get rewarded by a total clearing of your names and an
assurance that you and your firm did not do any crime?!
Here is the ending and the summary:
Play by the rules? For bankers, Rule #1
is “win at any cost.” As long as they can commit fraud without
suffering personal consequences, fraud will be the business model for
5. Noam Chomsky: The
Republican Base Is "Out of Control"
The fifth and last item today is by C.J.
Polychroniou on Truthout:
This is a fairly long interview from which I
will select three bits:
Are we witnessing the end
of the old economic establishment in American politics?
Noam Chomsky: There is
something new in the 2016 election, but it is not the appearance of
candidates who frighten the old establishment. That has been happening
regularly. It traces back to the shift of both parties to the right
during the neoliberal years, the Republicans so far to the right that
they are unable to get votes with their actual policies: dedication to
the welfare of the very rich and the corporate sector. The Republican
leadership has accordingly been compelled to mobilize a popular base on
issues that are peripheral to their core concerns: the Second Coming,
"open carry" in schools, Obama as a Muslim, lashing out at the weak and
victimized, and the rest of the familiar fare.
Perhaps. But then when I ask myself: Why
did the Republican leadership allow
the Republicans to move so far to the right, I don't know another
answer except that the leadership isn't competent. Then again, that may
be the case, although
I don't know.
Then there is this:
Has the power of money suddenly
shrunk in an election year dominated by extreme voices?
Don't know the exact figures, but Trump
seems to be putting plenty of money into the campaign. However, it is
striking how huge money chests have failed. Jeb Bush is the clearest
case. There is a very interesting article by Andrew Cockburn
about this in the April issue of
Harper's, reviewing studies that show that an enormous amount of the
money poured into political campaigns with TV ads etc., serves
primarily to enrich the networks and the professional consultants but
with little effect on voting.
own answer would be (but it is true I know a lot less about the USA
than does Chomsky) that I don't know. And I am not struck so much by
of "huge money chests" if only because some of these were bound to fail.
I grant the whole show hugely favored the
networks, but I really don't know
how big money is or may be able to influence the rest of the campaign.
The article ends as follows:
Traditional Marxists speak of
human society as consisting of two parts: base and superstructure.
Would you say that the base dictates the superstructure in US society?
Don't have much to say. I don't find the
framework particularly useful. Who holds dominant decision-making power
in US society is not very obscure at a general level: concentrated
economic power, mostly in the corporate system. When we look more
closely, it is of course more complex, and the population is by no
means powerless when it is organized and dedicated and liberated from
Chomsky is an anarchist not a marxist, so
the question seems to have been directed at the wrong person. But I
agree with him that the thesis that - "in the end (so Marx had proved)"
- it is a society's economy that determines every- thing else in the
society, is pretty incredible.
And Chomsky does not seem very optimistic, for "the population"
(in the USA) is not organized, not dedicated, and not liberated from
illusions, though small parts are, in varying degrees.
This is another recommended article.
Incidentally, I like to say that (1) all this spying is in
fundamental contradiction with Article 12 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights:
Besides, (2) I protest
the fact that the American government can and does treat me and
everyone else who is not an American citizen as people who are so
totally rightless that they can be spied on by
the American government's secret spies.
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference
with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon
his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of
the law against such interference or attacks.
(But I am pretty sure these protests won't register, though they are
At this point you may insist that the American government is not
Hitler's, Mussolini's or Stalin's. (I agree, but also insist that you