April 14, 2016

Crisis: Cybersecurity, Kerry & Atomic Bombs, "Nuit Debout", Big Banks Fail Tests
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Secure Cars, but Not Phones? Government Doublespeak
     on Cybersecurity

2. As John Kerry Visits Hiroshima, U.S. Quietly Launches
     $1 Trillion Effort to Upgrade Nuclear Arsenal

‘Up All Night’ Protests Sweep France as 100,000 Join
     Pro-Democracy Movement

4. Five Big Banks Flunk Key Test, Proving They're Still
     "Too Big To Fail"

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 14, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an opposition in governmental propaganda: Pro safe cars, against safe phones (for ordinary people); item 2 is about John Kerry and a dangerous plan "to upgrade every single part of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile" (and I recall I admired Kerry in 1971, but not since); item 3 is about the "Up All Night" movement - "Nuit Debout" in French - in Europe, that might be interesting (or might disappear); and item 4 is about the fact that the five big banks (again or still) fail a key test: I explain why this may be the case, and I quite agree with Bernie Sanders that "If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist".

Also, this is a bit of a late and a short Nederlog for the simple reason that I had to do more things today than write and because I did not sleep enough last night.

1. Secure Cars, but Not Phones? Government Doublespeak on Cybersecurity

The first item is b
y Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

PRIVACY ADVOCATES SAY government officials are talking out of two sides of their mouths when it comes to cybersecurity. The latest case in point: Assistant Attorney General John Carlin calling for super-secure, hack-proof cars at an automotive conference on Tuesday, even as FBI Director James Comey continues to pressure phone manufacturers and technology companies to roll back their security to allow for law enforcement access.

“There are things you can do to mitigate the risk, protect yourselves and your companies, and ultimately, the cybersecurity of the United States,” Carlin said at the SAE 2016 World Congress conference in Detroit. “First, design with security in mind.”

I say, but not really.

In fact, while I agree that the government is speaking with two voices (belonging to two persons, who work in two different governmental institutions) on two kinds of "securities", I think it is relatively easy to understand why:

Cars are expensive pieces of property, and by now technology is so far advanced that it can make "
super-secure, hack-proof cars"; persons are dangerous entities that may do evil things to the very rich controllers of our fine and admirable economies, but (happily!) persons also can - for the most part - be rather easily controlled by knowing everything they know, do, write and want, and by manipulating what they get to see on the internet (of course, without ever revealing anything about anything known or done by the secret services). [1]

And therefore, because the American government, the American banks, and the American oil companies all mean the best for everyone, and because these institutions all have members that are far superior to ordinary Americans (in incomes, in intellects, in morals, in education and in motives), it is evidently clear that the secret services of the government absolutely need full access to the computers of absolutely everyone who might conceivably threaten the leaders of government, the leaders of banks, or the leaders of oil companies, to help save the security of everyone against the
evil dangers of terrorism and anarchy.

Am I spoofing you?

Yes and no: No, I think the above two paragraphs probably state the views of
the American government, the American banks, and the American oil companies fairly well, but yes, I totally disagree with them:

I do not think these persons are superior (also not if they are really intelligent and well educated, as some are); I do not think these persons are good; and I think no man can be trusted with the enormous (and mostly secret) powers these non-superior non-good persons have assigned to themselves, quite undemocratically and illegally as well.

2. As John Kerry Visits Hiroshima, U.S. Quietly Launches $1 Trillion Effort to Upgrade Nuclear Arsenal

The second item is
by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:
On Monday, John Kerry became the first secretary of state to visit Hiroshima, the Japanese city destroyed by a U.S. nuclear bomb on August 6, 1945. Three days after the Hiroshima bombing, the U.S. dropped another nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands were killed. The United States is the only country ever to drop an atomic bomb. Kerry offered no apology for the U.S. nuclear attack but called for "a world free from nuclear weapons." Despite his remarks, the Obama administration has been quietly upgrading its nuclear arsenal to create smaller, more precise nuclear bombs as part of a massive effort that will cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. We speak to Marylia Kelley. Her group, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, just published a report titled "Trillion Dollar Trainwreck: Out-of-control U.S. nuclear weapons programs accelerate spending, proliferation, health and safety risks."
I think John Kerry (<-Wikipedia) lied about "a world free from nuclear weapons"
and sold out to power. The reasons for his selling out to power may be his rich
family (I don't know, but his family is rich); the reason this is a bit disappoint- ing to me is that I can recall some bits of Kerry's 1971 activities for the Vietnam Veterans Against War, which I admired (long ago).

Next, here are a few details about upgrading the American nuclear arsenal:

As you noted, there’s a trillion-dollar plan over the next 30 years to upgrade every single part of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile. And right now, as we’re speaking, at Livermore Lab, an hour, hour-15 minutes from here, they’re designing a new warhead, a particularly destabilizing new warhead, to sit atop a new cruise missile. This Long-Range Standoff weapon, if you think about what that name means, it means that an airplane will be able to stand off its intended target by thousands of miles, launch a smart nuclear weapon that will hug the terrain and be radar-evading and will arrive as a surprise nuclear attack. It is a weapon that goes beyond deterrence. No matter what you may think of deterrence, positively or negatively, it goes beyond deterrence. This is about nuclear war fighting. This is about potentially initiating a nuclear war. Additionally, the conventional version and the nuclear version will be indistinguishable. So if it is picked up on radar, a country will not know whether it’s being attacked by a nuclear or a conventional weapon.

I say. I agree it sounds very dangerous.

3. ‘Up All Night’ Protests Sweep France as 100,000 Join Pro-Democracy Movement

The third item is
by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

A police crackdown will not deter France’s burgeoning Nuit Debout (or ‘Up All Night’) movement that has swept across the country in recent weeks as the unifying call for change sparked protests in over 50 cities this weekend.

Riot police early Monday cleared the encampment in the Place de la Republique in central Paris after 11 nights of protest, but demonstrators have vowed to maintain their nightly vigil.

Demonstrations this weekend were held in as many as 60 cities and towns across France as well as in Belgium, Germany, and Spain, according to reports, as an estimated 120,000 protested against austerity, globalization, increasing inequality, privatization, and the continent’s severe anti-migrant policies.

I have hesitated whether I would report on this when I first read about this, a few days ago.

Originally, I did not, because I did not know how many people were involved, and because it seemed to me not very many people can be up all night, but "an estimated" number 0f 120,000 in 60 cities in three countries is rather a lot, and so now I do report on it.

There are also two other reasons, but these are a bit more personal:

First, I do recall the days of 1968 (Dutch link) in Paris, when there was something like a considerable revolt, that also might have become more serious if the French communists had worked together with the students who started it. They didn't, but I was in Paris - having given up my daily job to do so - in the beginnings of May and of June 1968, and I learned quite a lot (and was barely 18 at the time), although that also took some time to crystallize. [2]

Second, I liked the idea of discussions about "
austerity, globalization, increasing inequality, privatization, and the continent’s severe anti-migrant policies", in part because I am an intellectual, in part because I think all these
topics are relatively new, and in part because I do not trust the great majority
of politicians (of any side, of any party).

To illustrate the second point, here is a bit quoted from the Guardian (in this article):

“On 31 March, at the time of the labour law protests, that’s what happened. There was torrential rain, but still everyone came back here to the square. Then at 9pm, the rain stopped and we stayed. We came back the next day and as we keep coming back every night, it has scared the government because it’s impossible to define.

“There’s something here that I’ve never seen before in France – all these people converge here each night of their own accord to talk and debate ideas – from housing to the universal wages, refugees, any topic they like. No one has told them to, no unions are pushing them on – they’re coming of their own accord.”

That is at least somewhat interesting, in part because it is spontaneous, and
in part because people need "
to talk and debate ideas", because "the current situation" (which probably started at 9/11) is mostly new, and because almost all politicians lie or equivocate, and have no useful or interesting ideas, while
many of them seem to cooperate with the government, which is authoritarian,
non-democratic and repressive, and seems mostly pro rich.

There also is something like an organization called Nuit Debout (<- Wikipedia) and it gets quoted as follows in the article:

Our mobilization was initially aimed at protesting against the French Labour Law. This reform is not an isolated case, since it comes as a new piece in the austerity measures which already affected our European neighbors and which will have the same effects as the Italian Job Acts or the Reforma Laboral in Spain. This concretely means more layoffs, more precarity, growing inequalities and the shaping of private interests. We refuse to suffer this shock strategy, notably imposed in the context of an authoritarian state of emergency.   

...This movement was not born and will not die in Paris. From the Arab Spring to the 15M Movement, from Tahrir Square to Gezi park, Republic square and the plenty of other places occupied tonight in France are depicting the same angers, the same hopes and the same conviction: the need for a new society, where Democracy, Dignity and Liberty would not be hollow shells.

I mostly agree, although I do not know how this will evolve. We shall see.

4. Five Big Banks Flunk Key Test, Proving They're Still "Too Big To Fail"

The fourth and last item today i
by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Federal regulators Wednesday confirmed what watchdogs have been warning for years—the biggest banks in the United States are still "too big to fail."

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that five major U.S. banks failed to offer credible strategies for how they would enter bankruptcy in an "orderly fashion," without taking the whole economy down with them. The so-called "living wills" rejected by the banking agencies were submitted by Bank of America Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., State Street Corp., and Wells Fargo.

I say, although I also think that the big banks profited enormously much in 2008 and 2009, and were then also saved by tax money, so I can quite well understand why the big banks want to keep the chances that they once again may go under, and once again will be saved from tax money.

At least, that seems to be the present situation. Here are first a former Goldman Sachs executive who is now a Federal Reserve member, and then Bernie Sanders:

Earlier this year, former Goldman Sachs executive and current president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, Neel Kashkari—who is credited as an architect of the 2008 bailout—channeled Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren when he said the country's largest financial institutions are "still too big to fail and continue to pose a significant, ongoing risk to our economy."

Breaking up big banks has become a rallying cry of Sanders' presidential campaign.

"If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist," he declared in downtown Manhattan in January. "When it comes to Wall Street reform, that must be our bottom line."

I agree with Sanders, who also gave the following fact:

And on Wednesday, Sanders pointed out on Twitter:

The remedy, Robert Reich wrote on Tuesday, isn't more regulation. "The bottom line: Regulation won't end the Street's abuses," Reich argued. "The Street has too much firepower. And because it continues to be a major source of campaign funding, no set of regulations will be tough enough."

"So," he concluded, "the biggest banks must be busted up."

Again I agree, and I also give (what I think is) the main reason why regulations fail: Because many of the bankers switch between government jobs (little pay, for very rich bankers; lots of power) and banking jobs (millions of pay every year; but no possibility of directly clobbering up banking regulations), and because they also are invited to do this.

And I should add that the present bad situation with the American banks will probably continue, unless Bernie Sanders becomes president.

[1] I can't forebear to show again this bit from a Snowden file (which regular readers have seen before):

Of course, all the Denying/Disrupting/Degrading and Deceiving is and will be done in utter secrecy, and "for the safety of Our Fine Democracies".

In fact it took something like two years, although "Paris '68" was not the only event that moved me. In 1968 I was a communist (and had just become a member of the Dutch CP) but I disagreed with many of the policies and "analyses" of the Communist Party (I thought them - correctly - quite stupid); my father was a communist and indeed a revolutionary since 1935, who mostly followed the Dutch CP; and one of my lessons of "Paris '68" (which was impossible to nearly all others) was that while I disagreed with my father and with the leaders of the Dutch CP about politics, I found my father far more credible as a marxist revolutionary (which he had been then - in 1968 - for 33 years!) than the French student leaders, who had definitely not impressed me (and who still don't, in so far as they are alive).

In the end, and after a little over two years, in which I did considerably more reading in Marx, Engels and Lenin, and also participated in a philosophy club, which again triggered more readings in philosophy and economics, I resolved this by giving up Marxism completely and politics mostly by the end of 1970.

Incidentally, while this did not please my father, we did not quarrel about it.
And while we disagreed about politics, I still thought him quite admirable morally, and much more so than almost everyone else of his age - and I should add here that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands agreed, for she awarded my father a knighthood in 1980, briefly before he died.

This was quite special for the following reason: Although the communists were
the only political party that went into the resistance (and almost directly after Holland had surrendered to Germany), which had cost the lives of many communists, communists were never knighted in Holland - except for the leader of the Northholland resistance, who could not be refused a knighthood and, much later, my father.

No other communist was ever knighted in Holland, although there were quite a few other brave or heroic persons who were communists.

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