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Nederlog


  December
27, 2013
Crisis: Greenwald+Omidyar * 4, internet giants, Rakoff & financial crisis, personal
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton




















Sections
Introduction
  1. Pierre Omidyar plunges first $50m into media venture
       with Glenn Greenwald

  2. A First Look at NewCo’s structure
  3. Why the Internet Giants Oppose Federal Surveillance
  4. Greenwald Responds to 'Ludicrous' Accusations Over
       Snowden

  5. The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives
       Been Prosecuted?

  6. Glenn Greenwald and Sibel Edmonds: Two
       Whistleblowing Heroes

  7. Personal
About ME/CFS

Introduction

This is also a regular crisis item, mostly because there were quite a few crisis items, and because of my energy. There are six crisis items, and a brief seventh on my own appreciation of the year. I guess the Rakoff piece is the most interesting.

1. Pierre Omidyar plunges first $50m into media venture with Glenn Greenwald

To start with, an article by Ed Pilkington in the Guardian:

This opens as follows:

Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, is injecting his first $50m into the new journalism venture he is setting up with former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald.

The investment represents the first tranche of a total pot of $250m that the billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist has promised for the new operation. A statement released from Honolulu on Thursday said that the money was being used to set up offices in New York, San Francisco and Washington.

The holding company, which has changed its name from NewCo to First Look Media, seeks to build on Greenwald’s growing following in the wake of his work on the Edward Snowden leaks of National Security Agency documents to generate what it calls “robust coverage of politics, government, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, arts and culture, business, technology, and investigative news”.

There is more in the article, and also in the next item:

2.
A First Look at NewCo’s structure 

Next, an article by Jay Rosen (who teaches journalism) on what seems to be his own site:

Jay Rosen supports Glenn Greenwald, and also is an adviser to Omidhyar's new company. In the article he explains a little about the new company:

The new company will consist of several legal entities. One is a technology company, a business run for profit, that will develop new media tools for First Look properties and other markets. Another is a 501(c)(3), a non-profit under U.S. law. Its mission will be to publish and support independent, public interest journalism.

He also explains that the idea to have several companies, of which the for-profit one supports the non-profit one, is not new. Then again, the present set-up is at least a bit different from other, existing, entities:

Another way to say it is: public service, mission-driven journalism, including investigative work, has always been subsidized by something: advertising, other kinds of news, donors to a non-profit (as with ProPublica) or a related and profitable business like the Bloomberg terminals that subsidize Bloomberg News. First Look Media is adding to the picture another possible source of support: profits from a company specifically focused on technology for producing, distributing and consuming news, views and information.

For more, see the article.

3. Why the Internet Giants Oppose Federal Surveillance 

Next, an article by ZoŽ Carpenter, that I found on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Eight prominent Internet technology companies unveiled an open letter last week calling for reforms to the government surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual—rights that are enshrined in our constitution,” reads the letter, published on a website that lays out five principles for reform, including greater oversight and transparency, as well as an end to bulk data collection.

Executives from seven of the firms will meet with President Obama on Tuesday, in the shadow of a federal judge’s ruling that the collection of domestic phone records is "almost certainly" unconstitutional. The opinion from US District Judge Richard Leon reinforces the impression that NSA overreach constitutes a primary threat to privacy and civil liberty. But some privacy advocates caution that even if the NSA’s programs are scaled back, surveillance infrastructure will persist in the private sector—thanks to the same companies now calling for reform, whose business models depend on the collection and sale of vast quantities of personal information.

Indeed. In case you were inclined to believe that the internet technology companies exist to help you, the answer is no:

When it comes to its own practices, however, the IT industry has a record of fighting consumer protections. Silicon Valley has lobbied aggressively against legislation in Europe that would help users evade online tracking and targeted advertising. Google has paid more than one multi-million dollar settlement for evading privacy protections built into the Internet browser Safari, and a related lawsuit is pending in the United Kingdom. It appears that, as Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU tweeted last week, Google and other companies “just want to be the exclusive spying source for their customers’ data.”

Quite so. The article also explains "Google and other companies" are far less dangerous than the states' secret services (the NSA, the GCHQ etc.) are, but the general point is that "Google and other companies" exist to exploit rather than help you, though indeed the one happens through the other.

I know how to prevent all of this in principle, but not in fact. The principle is very simple:

The internet should be organized so as to keep private what people want(ed) to keep private and could keep private before computing, notably their e-mails, their phone conversations, who they call with, where they are themselves, and their political and ethical opinions (that occur in their e-mails and phone conversations) and also their financial information (what they buy, how much they earn etc.)

It is fairly easy, in principle, to organize the net this way, namely by encrypting all this information (and this encryption is to be undone only by a judicial process, quite as indicated in the Fourth Amendment).

The main factual problems are two: First, it seems that none of the big players, that covers both the internet technology companies and the states, want this sort of encryption, even though it would be perfectly in line with the agreements that have been in place for many decades for the paper post. Second, it seems that there is no legal way to enforce this, simply because any law is maintained by states, and the internet is international.

Then again, if the US or the EU could be brought so far as to enforce this, it is likely to be maintained, mostly - if the encryption of private data is really in place, and is effective.

4.  Greenwald Responds to 'Ludicrous' Accusations Over Snowden 

Next, an article by the staff on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

“Ludicrous.”

This is the best word to describe accusations that former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald is merely a "spokesman for Edward Snowden," so says the embattled journalist who has taken heat from corporate media and political commentators around the world for working with the NSA whistleblower to expose the vast dragnet surveillance practices of the spying agency.

In an interview on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, Greenwald was forced to defend himself once again when anchor Kristen Welker accused him of "crossing the line" with his coverage of the ongoing NSA revelations, which have shocked the world since last June, and asked him to respond to the 'spokesman' accusations.

There is a link to the interview below. Here I quote only a brief piece by Ms Welker, who speaks for MSNBC:

"I think the point is not so much about MSNBC and what happens here,” Welker responded, “but more that sometimes when you talk about Edward Snowden you do defend him, and some people wonder if that crosses a line.”

If you do not get it after more than half a year of real revelations, you do not get it either because you are a moron or because you are evil minded.

As to Ms Welker: I do not think she is that much of a moron; I think Greenwald's earlier point was quite fair; I think MSNBC is to the Democrats what Fox News is to the Republicans; I think Greenwald is right to defend Snowden; and I think "some people" are Hayden, Alexander and others, who are thieves of the personal data of 300 million American citizens - but I do understand that Ms Welker does not want to discuss them, because she supports them, rather than Greenwald, Snowden or her viewers, and this may not be quite her own intent, but simply a condition of working for MSNBC.

Anyway... here is the "interview" with Greenwald, at least in part:

5.  The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?

Next, I wrote about Judge Rakoff before. Here is the piece he wrote in the New York Review of Books:

This starts as follows - and I recommend you read all of the article:

Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope.

Who was to blame? Was it simply a result of negligence, of the kind of inordinate risk-taking commonly called a “bubble,” of an imprudent but innocent failure to maintain adequate reserves for a rainy day? Or was it the result, at least in part, of fraudulent practices, of dubious mortgages portrayed as sound risks and packaged into ever more esoteric financial instruments, the fundamental weaknesses of which were intentionally obscured?

I think by now - having meanwhile written over 300 pieces on the crisis, since September 1, 2008 - it is evidently the last: The crisis resulted from the fraudulence that was enabled by the deregulation (that was started by Clinton).

Judge Rakoff - skipping some - has this:

But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.

Yes indeed. And I think it is an egregious failure - that was also mostly planned and implemented by the US governments from Clinton's second government onwards.

Next, after explaining that earlier frauds were prosecuted and convicted, Judge Rakoff asks:

In striking contrast with these past prosecutions, not a single high-level executive has been successfully prosecuted in connection with the recent financial crisis, and given the fact that most of the relevant criminal provisions are governed by a five-year statute of limitations, it appears likely that none will be. It may not be too soon, therefore, to ask why.

Judge Rakoff first deals with the possibility that no fraud was committed. He himself declares he has no opinion, but then proceeds:

But the stated opinion of those government entities asked to examine the financial crisis overall is not that no fraud was committed. Quite the contrary. For example, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in its final report, uses variants of the word “fraud” no fewer than 157 times in describing what led to the crisis, concluding that there was a “systemic breakdown,” not just in accountability, but also in ethical behavior.

As the commission found, the signs of fraud were everywhere to be seen, with the number of reports of suspected mortgage fraud rising twenty-fold between 1996 and 2005 and then doubling again in the next four years.

Indeed. Next, he discusses three grounds for not prosecuting these frauds, each of which he discusses. I give only the grounds:

First, they have argued that proving fraudulent intent on the part of the high-level management of the banks and companies involved has been difficult.
(...)
Second, and even weaker, the Department of Justice has sometimes argued that, because the institutions to whom mortgage-backed securities were sold were themselves sophisticated investors, it might be difficult to prove reliance.
(...)
The third reason the department has sometimes given for not bringing these prosecutions is that to do so would itself harm the economy.

My own view is that this is merely a lot of quite intentional baloney, which may not be Judge Rakoff's opinion, but seems quite close - but he is (and needs to be) considerably more careful than I am.

I again summarize and skip a lot, and arrive at this:

So, one asks again, why haven’t we seen such prosecutions growing out of the financial crisis? I offer, by way of speculation, three influences that I think, along with others, have had the effect of limiting such prosecutions.

Here are the three influences, that are each carefully discussed, but are here merely reproduced:

First, the prosecutors had other priorities.
(...)
But a second, and less salutary, reason for not bringing such cases is the government’s own involvement in the underlying circumstances that led to the financial crisis.
(...)
The final factor I would mention is both the most subtle and the most systemic of the three, and arguably the most important. It is the shift that has occurred, over the past thirty years or more, from focusing on prosecuting high-level individuals to focusing on prosecuting companies and other institutions.

As to the third influence, that indeed seems the most important, not only as regards banks, but also in medical cases (pharmaceutical companies), and that is discussed at considerable length, though not with regard to pharmaceutical companies, here is judge Rakoff's opinion:

I suggest that this is not the best way to proceed. Although it is supposedly justified because it prevents future crimes, I suggest that the future deterrent value of successfully prosecuting individuals far outweighs the prophylactic benefits of imposing internal compliance measures that are often little more than window-dressing.

So indeed this is a very good article. And while judge Rakoff is quite clear in repeatedly insisting he has no specific opinion on whether fraud was committed, here is his last line:

But if it was—as various governmental authorities have asserted it was—then the failure of the government to bring to justice those responsible for such colossal fraud bespeaks weaknesses in our prosecutorial system that need to be addressed.

And since I am neither a judge nor an American, I can say that in my opinion a colossal fraud was committed, and it happened all or at least for the most part on purpose, not only by the banks, and other large corporations, but also by the governments.

6. Glenn Greenwald and Sibel Edmonds: Two Whistleblowing Heroes

Next, here is an article on Washington's Blog:
I list this mainly to give my readers a chance to make up their own minds, namely on the question whether Greenwald (and also Snowden) can be failed in some major respect, such as being blind to false flag terrorism.

I do not know, but I do have an opinion on false flag terrorism - which is a technique that is quite popular, and often amounts to organizing an attack on one's own troops under the flag of the country one wants to start a war with.

My opinion is that false flag terrorism, which may also have been involved in 9/11: see the Nederlog of October 21, 2013, almost always is very difficult to prove, and therefore easily leads to all sorts of problems, unclarities, and extended discussions that generally do not terminate, simply because there is no decisive evidence.

So it seems to me Greenwald did very well avoiding the issue of false flag terrorism, and that not because it doesn't exist, but because it is difficult to prove.

7. Personal

The above is again an ordinary crisis item. I know I have made some promises I have not (yet) kept, but it's also true that most of my time and energy go to maintaining the crisis reports, which i.a. prevented my finishing - so far - the translation of the Dutch "On terrorism" piece, and also some other things.

Also, I do not know whether these things will get done this year, and I suspect most, possibly all, will not be done this year.

In any case, as there are only four more days to the year, I'd like to say that this year was better - considerably less bad - for me than last year:

The first half of 2012 was quite good, but the second half was very bad, whereas in 2013 my eyes have consistently, albeit also quite slowly, improved, which allowed me to sleep properly in the last third of the year, after not having been able to do so for 15 months, and also in 2013 my ME has not grown worse, and may even have grown a little less. (I may use one of the four days that remain to write some about that, but it is difficult to be sure.)

So by and large 2013 was better for me than 2012, though it also was - still - mostly unpleasant.
---------------------------------
Note

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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