May 11, 2015
Crisis: Conformist Snitches, Snowden, Professors, Commercial Spying, Tariq Ali
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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

1. A Nation of Snitches
 Veteran D.C. Attorney: ‘Without Edward Snowden, Our
     System Could Have Failed’

What’s the Point of a Professor?
4.  The Pentagon, DEA and Private Companies Conspiring to
      Beat Encryption, Track Everything You Do

5.  Farewell to the United Kingdom


This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 11, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a good article by Chris Hedges; item 2 is about a decent article by an American attorney who worked for Robert Kennedy (with a bit by me on the real end of the spying); item 3 is about how education grew worse and worse (and in my opinion: since 1965, for which there also is good evidence); item 4 is about a recent development in spying: anyone with sufficient money (it seems) can now buy
professional spying systems from an Italian company, that allows one to spy on hundreds of thousands at the time; and item 5 is about a recent article by Tariq Ali, who reflects on what "the left" is to do.

1.  A Nation of Snitches

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows - and breaks an important theme:

A totalitarian state is only as strong as its informants. And the United States has a lot of them. They read our emails. They listen to, download and store our phone calls. They photograph us on street corners, on subway platforms, in stores, on highways and in public and private buildings. They track us through our electronic devices. They infiltrate our organizations. They entice and facilitate “acts of terrorism” by Muslims, radical environmentalists, activists and Black Bloc anarchists, framing these hapless dissidents and sending them off to prison for years. They have amassed detailed profiles of our habits, our tastes, our peculiar proclivities, our medical and financial records, our sexual orientations, our employment histories, our shopping habits and our criminal records. They store this information in government computers. It sits there, waiting like a time bomb, for the moment when the state decides to criminalize us.

Totalitarian states record even the most banal of our activities so that when it comes time to lock us up they can invest these activities with subversive or criminal intent. And citizens who know, because of the courage of Edward Snowden, that they are being watched but naively believe they “have done nothing wrong” do not grasp this dark and terrifying logic.

Tyranny is always welded together by subterranean networks of informants. These informants keep a populace in a state of fear. They perpetuate constant anxiety and enforce isolation through distrust. The state uses wholesale surveillance and spying to break down trust and deny us the privacy to think and speak freely.

Yes, indeed. I quite agree, and indeed go further, because my direct family all were - genuine, which needs to be added, since most are not - marxists for over 45 years (in case of both my parents), and who also were quite intelligent, though not highly educated, due to a lack of money to go to school or study since they were 15.

The points I go further in relate to my own life (I gave up Marxism, aged 20, in 1970, for very good reasons: Marx was too totalitarian, dialectics was not understandable, and his economics was mistaken, all concluded by myself, on the basis of reading Marx, though indeed I also did not give up my parents, nor did I give up their moral lessons):

(1) the vast majority of all people I have known are dishonest role-players who
     lie about most things to nearly everyone or everyone, and who never have
     any original ideas of their own: they are natural born followers, and always
     have most of the opinions most in their surroundings have;
(2) the vast majority are not thinkers, are not intellectually curious, do not
     know much, and conforms willingly (and often with pride).

These attitudes I probably had before I acquired Marxism around 15, and they were mostly based on two things: My parents were not like that, and were evidently considerably more intelligent than those who surrounded them (in a proletarian neighborhood in Amsterdam), and I also was not like that, since I
was evidently intellectually quite gifted.

I think I had acquired both attitudes by the time I was 10 to 12, although at that age I would and could not have formulated the first point as I did now. But by age 12 I certainly had the second point, and indeed probably did describe most people
as willing and eager conformists, who also took pride in being conformist (as indeed also Holland at that time - 1962 (!) - was still quite conformistic, except for a very few, to which my parents also belonged, and indeed also quite unlike - or so it seemed to most - especially in the 1970ies and also, though less so, in the 1980ies, when many conformists were conformists in being, talking and behaving as if they were non-conformists, like the majority seemed to be, but really wasn't).

But back to Chris Hedges:

“If you see something say something,” goes the chorus.

In any Amtrak station, waiting passengers are told to tell authorities—some of whom often can be found walking among us with dogs—about anyone who “looks like they are in an unauthorized area,” who is “loitering, staring or watching employees and customers,” who is “expressing an unusual level of interest in operations, equipment, and personnel,” who is “dressed inappropriately for the weather conditions, such as a bulky coat in summer,” who “is acting extremely nervous or anxious,” who is “restricting an individual’s freedom of movement” or who is “being coached on what to say to law enforcement or immigration officials.”

What is especially disturbing about this constant call to become a citizen informant is that it directs our eyes away from what we should see—the death of our democracy, the growing presence and omnipotence of the police state, and the evisceration, in the name of our security, of our most basic civil liberties.

Yes indeed - but personally I am quite convinced that the vast majority just doesn't see what Hedges said in the last paragraph, for they really do not know much about the historical, social, legal or moral foundations of their own or any other society, and don't care to know either (with IQs that are as a rule considerably lower than 130 [1]), and they also do not know much or anything about police states, and have little idea about most civil liberties.

Here is more Chris Hedges:

We will not be able to reclaim our democracy and free ourselves from tyranny until the informants and the vast networks that sustain them are banished. As long as we are watched 24 hours a day we cannot use the word “liberty.” This is the relationship of a master and a slave. Any prisoner understands this.

Yes, indeed. But I am not sure whether Chris Hedges realizes that the present state, in which it is indeed quite safe to assume that "we are watched 24 hours a day", has been built up slowly, by the rich, the sick and the degenerate, ever since the 1980ies or earlier.

There is considerably more in the article, including good quotes from Solzhenitsyn, but I will leave that to your interests. Here is Chris Hedges' conclusion:

Freedom demands the destruction of the security and surveillance organs and the disempowering of the millions of informants who work for the state. This is not a call to murder our own stoolies (...) but instead to accept that unless these informants on the streets, in the prisons and manning our massive, government data-collection centers are disarmed we will never achieve liberty. I do not have quick and simple suggestions for how this is to be accomplished. But I know it must.

Yes, I agree - but then indeed there is very little chance the totalitarian system that has been created in the U.S. and in Great Britain will stop, and my own reason for that is that there are too few who are genuinely intelligent who are
also deviant, because they dare to think and read for themselves. [2]

Indeed now that the NSA is mostly in place and working, I don't see how this liberation can take place anymore (everybody being spied on all the time, in secret, virtually without any defense), which is also why I expect by far the
most from the next economic crisis, that will come.

Again, I may be mistaken - perhaps Sen. Bernie Sanders will be the next president, which would solve many problems, though the chances are small -
but this is what I think.

2. Veteran D.C. Attorney: ‘Without Edward Snowden, Our System Could Have Failed’

The next item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This is mostly quoted from a good article in Time (here is the link) by Ronald Goldfarb, who is an attorney who worked in the Department of Justice in the Robert F. Kennedy administration.

This is Ronald Goldfarb:

In a 97-page unanimous opinion in a case entitled ACLU v. Clapper, et. al., the prestigious 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City reversed an earlier trial court ruling, and held that s. 215’s bulk telephone data program is subject to judicial review. In the core of this opinion, Judge Gerard Lynch wrote that “the program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.” The opinion discussed the history of the earlier Church Committee hearings about historic abusive surveillance practices of intelligence agencies, and the evolution of the FISA Act (1978) allowing secret ex parte proceedings, and the Patriot Act now under review in Congress. …

The circuit court ruled that the government’s position—that its standard for collecting metadata conforms with prevailing search and seizure law—was wrong. “Unprecedented and unwarranted” were the words used. The court found that the “sheer volume of information sought is staggering,” and that the amount and nature of the data collected was qualitatively too broad and vague, neither within proper bounds nor limited to data required for fighting the war on terror. The government’s procedures, the court ruled, are “inconsistent with the very concept of an investigation”, lacking specificity, relevance, time limitations.

Yes, indeed - and this very strongly suggests, simply because this spying on everyone that is "neither within proper bounds nor limited to data required for fighting the war on terror", in fact did and does happen (as I argued first in 2005!) not at all because of "terrorism", but happens because it gives the government all the information it needs to install a fully fledged totalitarian state, that knows everything about anyone.

Indeed that also fully explains why the "government’s procedures (..) are “inconsistent with the very concept of an investigation”, lacking specificity, relevance, time limitations":

The government does not battle terrorism, and never did, except as a pretext: it tries to get all the information it can get, on absolutely everyone, so as to be able to control everyone indefinitely, both because this makes governing a whole lot easier, and because this promises to make the incomes of the very rich, who these days mostly own the U.S. government through lobbyists and subsidies, a lot higher, while giving them excellent security.

There is also this:

The court concluded that “to allow the government to collect phone records only because they may be relevant to a possible authorized investigation in the future “is impermissible, irreconcilable with the statute.” Congress can’t be deemed to have approved a program of which many members were unaware, and which was “shrouded in secrecy,” the court added, agreeing with critics that congressional oversight of national security surveillance procedures since 9/11 has been lacking. In an observation critical of the process of congressional oversight in national security matters, the court remarked that suggesting legislative approval of the questionable practices “would ignore reality.”

Yes, indeed - although I do not know to what extent judge Lynch or attorney Goldfarb would or do agree with what I said in my previous remarks.

3.  What’s the Point of a Professor?

The next item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows (and happens to strongly support a judgement of mine):

When he was a student in the early 1980s, Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein and his peers spoke with their professors regularly and at length, knowing “that these moments were the heart of liberal education.” Today, polls show, one-third of students never do so.

Bauerlein is the author of the book “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30).” That title will no doubt anger many people, but because the technological and other forces that shape the development of personality have changed profoundly over the past 30 years, its thesis should probably be dealt with rather than dismissed and ignored.

Well... I don't distrust anyone under 30 (and I recall how stupid this was in the sixties and seventies) but I certainly never believed their education is good in any sense, and I am quite capable of believing that they are even much worse than the generation whose miseducation was presented (and sliced) in Brian Ford's "The Cult of the Expert", that was published in ... 1982, that is, all of 33 years ago.

And then the English students were horribly misguided and miseducated, and since then this trend (that started in Holland in 1965, when almost all schools and almost all courses were radically simplified) has only grown and grown, and now
dominates all of education, which guarantees that absolutely no one gets as decent an education as the Dutch did between 1865 and 1965, when the education
people got was quite good (five foreign languages, and eleven more examined subjects in grammar schools, for example), although there was no money to pay or loan to any bright student [3].

So yes, I agree with Bauerlein (in outline, at least: I did not read his book), but I also insist that in my own experience the decline of education started, in Holland, in 1965, and has been continuing ever since.

4. New Example of the Pentagon, DEA and Private Companies Conspiring to Beat Encryption, Track Everything You Do

The next item is an article by Bill Blunden on Nakedcapitalism:
This starts as follows:

Yet another report has surfaced describing how tools created by the companies selling software that can damage and hack into people’s computers are being deployed by U.S. security services. While the coverage surrounding this story focuses primarily on federal agencies it’s important to step back for a moment and view the big picture. In particular, looking at who builds, operates, and profits from mass surveillance technology offers insight into the nature of the global panopticon.

A report published by Privacy International as well as an article posted by Vice Motherboard clearly show that both the DEA and the United States Army have long-standing relationships with Hacking Team, an Italian company that’s notorious for selling malware to any number of unsavory characters.

Federal records indicate that the DEA and Army purchased Hacking Team’s Remote Control System (RCS) package. RCS is a rootkit, a software backdoor with lots of bells and whistles. It’s a product that facilitates a covert foothold on infected machines so intruders can quietly make off with sensitive data. The aforementioned sensitive data includes encryption keys. In fact, Hacking Team has an RCS brochure that tells potential customers: “What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain.”
The main points are: (1) "The DEA and Army purchased Hacking Team’s Remote Control System (RCS) package" and (2) "’Remote Control System’ can monitor from a few and up to hundreds of thousands of targets. The whole system can be managed by a single easy to use interface that simplifies day by day investigation activities.”" (This last point is quoted from further on in the article.)

Which is to say: Spying on hundreds of thousands - completely unknowing - people at the time, for anything they do with their computers, now has gone commercial, and is available to anyone with sufficient cash.

5. Farewell to the United Kingdom
The last item today is an article by Tariq Ali (<- Wikipedia) on Counterpunch:
This starts as follows:
The British General election was dramatic. On the superficial level because three party leaders— Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal-Democrat) and Nigel Farage (UKIP—a racist, right-wing populist outfit)…resigned on the day following the Conservative victory. On a more fundamental level because the Scottish National Party took virtually all the Scottish seats (56 of 59) wiping out Labour as a political force in the region where it had dominated politics for over a century. Scotland was where the Labour Party was founded. Scotland it was that gave Labour its first leaders and Prime Minster (as well as the last one). Scottish working class culture was in most cases much more radical than its English equivalent.
I didn't know that (about the Labour Party and the Scots). Incidentally: it seems also the case that English party leaders who are defeated in an election are expected to remove themselves as party leaders, but indeed here I am judging
by what a Dutch commentator (who lived in England for 30 years) said recently.

Here is some about the SNP versus Labour in Scotland:
It was the proudly vaunted Thatcherite politics of Blair, Brown and their Scottish toadies that accelerated the rise of civic nationalism and fuelled desertions from Labour to the SNP that realized the only way to defeat Blairite Tories was by positioning themselves to the left of Labour on every major issue: the SNP opposed the Iraq war, defended the welfare state, demanded the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil and slowly began to build up support. Labour remained in denial.
I am not amazed, simply because I think Labour ceased being Labour with the rise of the "Third Way" man Tony Blair (and indeed I thought so from the very
beginning, because Blair looks like a hypocritical fraud, which is what he was, indeed in a far worse way than his awful looks promised).

Here are four brief statements by Tariq Ali (lifted from various parts of his article) that I happen to agree with (and I write "happen to" because, while I know about Tariq Ali since the Sixties, I have no ideas about his present position):
As I’ve argued at length in The Extreme Centre: A Warning, this is a Europe-wide phenomenon. There are NO fundamental differences between centre-right and centre-left parties anywhere.
The first-past-the-post, winner-takes all system is a malignant cancer that needs to be extracted from the body politic.
We need an alliance of all radical forces to build an anti-capitalist movement in England.
As for the Labour Party, I think we should let it bleed. Here the Scottish route offers hope.
Also, while I agree, I don't see - right now, at least - how "an anti-capitalist movement in England" can be build, but I do agree with Edmund Burke:
In despair, just work on.

[1] This marks the point were 49 in 50 have a lower IQ and 1 in 50 have 130 or more. (And no, I am not saying IQs are good measures of intelligence, but they are the best we have at the moment, and indeed do have considerable predictive validity as to how far one can reach on the basis of one's talents in the school system, up to and including universities.)

[2] I am sorry, but I am the only one I know who is genuinely intelligent;
who has an - excellent - M.A.; and who did not sell out, as almost everyone I have known (of those meant to be "academics"), usually already did around 30, namely when they started earning well, and started moving up the ladder of power.

And indeed the vast majority of those I have known who did study at university (a minority in the total population) simply - also - were not intelligent enough to be able to study and think for themselves outside their - usually very limited - field of experience.

I'm sorry, but these are the facts, and no: they do not please me.

[3] My mother certainly wanted to study in a university, but her parents were poor so she had to leave school aged 15, in the crisis. The same held for almost
everyone who did get the necessary preparations at 17 or 18: If your parents couldn't pay you, you couldn't study at university. Indeed the only exception known to me is that of L.E.J. Brouwer, who indeed was a mathematical genius,
who did get some special support in his early twenties. (There may have been a few more, about which I don't know, but then that was the lack: No grants or loans to anyone, except the very, very few.)
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