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Nederlog

May 29, 2015
Crisis: Propaganda, NSA, Encryption, TPP, Unions, TISA
  "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















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Sections
Introduction

1.
 Anonymous Fearmongering About the Patriot Act from
     the White House and NYT

2. Inside NSA, Officials Privately Criticize “Collect It All”
     Surveillance

3. 
U.N. Report Asserts Encryption as a Human Right in the 
      Digital Age

4.  VIDEO: Michael Hudson: The TPP and Europe’s Central
      Bank Against Syriza

5.  Ten ways to make the economy work for the many, not
      the few: #7

6. 
TISA: Yet Another Leaked Treaty You’ve Never Heard Of
      Makes Secret Rules for the Internet

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 29, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an aritcle of Glenn Greenwald on the radical decline of a really free press (also outside the U.S. as I point out); item 2 is about an article that shows why the NSA has caught no terrorists: Far too many data (which are gathered, I think, not so much to find terrorists as to give the few in government full control of everyone's thoughts and desires); item 3 is about an article that tells that the UN is strongly pro encryption; item 4 is a fine interview with an economist who understands what the TPP is about; item 5 is by Robert Reich, who explains what unions are good for; and item 6 is about yet another secret, oligarchic, anti-democratic system of quasi-"laws" that seek to regulate the internet the way the plutocratic oligarchs want it.

And this file was uploaded a bit earlier than is normal for me.
1. Anonymous Fearmongering About the Patriot Act from the White House and NYT

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Several of the most extremist provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act are going to expire on June 1 unless Congress reauthorizes them in some form. Obama officials such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and new Attorney General Loretta Lynch have been engaged in rank fear-mongering to coerce renewal, warning that we’ll all be “less safe” if these provisions are allowed to “sunset” as originally intended, while invoking classic Cheneyite rhetoric by saying Patriot Act opponents will bear the blame for the next attack. In an interview yesterday with the Intercept, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer explained why those scare tactics are outright frivolous.
I treated that interview yesterday. Glenn Greenwald continues the above as follows:

Enter the New York Times. An article this morning by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, in the first paragraph, cites anonymous Obama officials warning that “failing to [strike a deal by the deadline] would suspend crucial domestic surveillance authority at a time of mounting terrorism threats.” Behold the next two paragraphs:

“What you’re doing, essentially, is you’re playing national security Russian roulette,” one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. “We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities, and it’s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.”

Those two paragraphs, courtesy of the Obama White House and the Paper of Record, have it all: the principal weapons that have poisoned post-9/11 political discourse in the U.S.

Yes indeed, and the same has been and is happening in other papers, such as the Dutch NRC-Handelsblad, which got very much worse since 2010, under a new owner who seems only interested in profits, and a new editor who isn't even Dutch,
and without most or all of the high class journalists and intellectuals who wrote for it from 1970-2010, when I read the NRC-Handelsblad daily. [1]

Also, the recipe is very easy, except in a climate with a real free press:
  • you reduce virtually all input to anonymous spokesmen, so that the reader must trust both the journalist(s) and the spokesmen and cannot check - verify or refute - any person or any saying;
  • you reduce the language you use to a potpourri of clichés and slogans, all of which are ideological rather than factual, and also
  • you reduce the style to operatic: everything - 'terrorst threats', 'national security Russian roulette' - is styled in an overdramatized form that implicitly makes the anonymous spokesmen's ideologies appear as true.
The above points are my own summary, and are based also on non-American papers. Glenn Greenwald gives his own analysis, which is quite good, and ends as follows:
It’s just government propaganda masquerading as a news article, where anonymous officials warn the country that they will die if the Patriot Act isn’t renewed immediately, while decreeing that Congressional critics of the law will have blood on their hands due to their refusal to obey. In other words, it’s a perfect museum exhibit for how government officials in both parties and American media outlets have collaborated for 15 years to enact one radical measure after the next and destroy any chance for rational discourse about it.
Yes, quite so, except that this style of quasi-journalism (for this is not real journalism: this is government propaganda) has another twist: It also pretends to be real and responsible journalism.

Well, it really is not, even though it is very common now, and you can be pretty certain that if "the news" that "modern journalists" are conveying to you has (almost) all of its input by anonymous spokespersons, in a language that consists of clichés, and uses an operatic overdramatized style, that what you get is plain government propaganda. (And: "All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed." - I.F. Stone)

2 Inside NSA, Officials Privately Criticize “Collect It All” Surveillance 

The next item today is by Peter Maass on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
AS MEMBERS OF CONGRESS struggle to agree on which surveillance programs to re-authorize before the Patriot Act expires, they might consider the unusual advice of an intelligence analyst at the National Security Agency who warned about the danger of collecting too much data. Imagine, the analyst wrote in a leaked document, that you are standing in a shopping aisle trying to decide between jam, jelly or fruit spread, which size, sugar-free or not, generic or Smucker’s. It can be paralyzing.

“We in the agency are at risk of a similar, collective paralysis in the face of a dizzying array of choices every single day,” the analyst wrote in 2011. “’Analysis paralysis’ isn’t only a cute rhyme. It’s the term for what happens when you spend so much time analyzing a situation that you ultimately stymie any outcome …. It’s what happens in SIGINT [signals intelligence] when we have access to endless possibilities, but we struggle to prioritize, narrow, and exploit the best ones.”

This is an interesting article, with rather a lot of information, in part consisting of
files linked at the end, but it also, rather uncritically from my own point of view, accepts that the NSA's data gathering has terrorism and terrorists as its main aim, whereas my own view - in fact since 2005, but much sharpened by Edward Snowden's revelations that started in 2013 - is that "terrorism" was mostly the pretext for getting all there is to get on everyone.

That is: "terrorism" was used as a pretext to give state terrorism all the power by giving it all the information on everyone. I still think so, and indeed the present article does show why: The NSA has far too many data to sort through, even by only machines, for the purpose of finding real terrorists.

But this is an interesting article, and I quote one more bit of it, because it makes intuitive sense to me. This is from an NSA official:
“I was told that there are 2 petabytes of data in the SIGINT System at any given time. How much is that? That’s equal to 20 million 4-drawer filing cabinets. How many cabinets per analyst is that? By the end of this year, we’ll have 1 terabyte of data per second coming in. You can’t crank that through the existing processes and be effective.”
This makes some intuitive sense because I have two 4-drawer filing cabinets of 140*75*50 cm approximately (which is rather large), which I bought in 1980 and 1982 to try to accomodate the papers and letters that I produced and received. Well, they are quite full, and hold approximately 5000 pages per drawer, which makes 20,000 pages per cabinet (nearly all typed). [2]

And these are just my papers - notes, correspondence, many articles I wrote without publishing them, remembrances etc. - from 1970-1987. And indeed,
all I can say about it is that most of it was written by me, but except for some
things - my notes, my correspondence - much of it has been unread ever since
it was filed, and it will take many months of hard work to get some understanding of most, even for me (who knows me, which others don't).

But yes, this does make it a bit more feasible to imagine why the NSA could hardly find any terrorist in such an enormous flow of data.

3. U.N. Report Asserts Encryption as a Human Right in the Digital Age 
The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Encryption is not the refuge of scoundrels, as Obama administration law-enforcement officials loudly proclaim – it is an essential tool needed to protect the right of freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age, a new United Nations report concludes.

Encryption that makes a communication unintelligible to anyone but the intended recipient creates “a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,” says the report from David Kaye, who as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is essentially the U.N.’s free speech watchdog.

The significance of encryption extends well beyond political speech, Kaye writes. “The ability to search the web, develop ideas and communicate securely may be the only way in which many can explore basic aspects of identity, such as one’s gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexuality.”

Encryption, like anonymity, is essential to artists, journalists, whistleblowers, and many other classes of people, the report says.

And far from banning or weakening encryption, governments should embrace and strengthen it, Kaye writes. He specifically urges the U.S. Congress to “prohibit the Government from requiring companies to weaken product security or insert back-door access measures.”

Yes, quite so. And besides: I find it very frightening that a few paid spies working for governmental agencies in secrecy are capable of intercepting and reading all or almost all (apart from unreadable encyrypted stuff) secrets that no one could read so far. [3]

But this is an interesting article.


4. VIDEO: Michael Hudson: The TPP and Europe’s Central Bank Against Syriza

The next item is an article by A/V Booth (?) on Truthdig, that in fact consists of two articles, of which I will only consider the first: This is from the beginning - and Michael Hudson (<- Wikipedia) is "a heterodox economist:

HUDSON: It’s appalling. It’s so bad that when I try to describe it to professors who are not economists, or to foreigners, they can’t believe that there’s actually a law that is classified as secret. That the congressmen and senators can only read by making an appointment, reading in secret, without taking notes. That they will be accused under national security legislation if they tell anybody what it’s all about. It’s amazing that, what is happening is of such a great magnitude, people are not out in the streets.

What is at stake is something that has been under international law for over 350 years. And that’s the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It established the principle that nations are in charge of their own policy. The fast-track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the European partnership, is so radical that it takes economic policy out of the hands of government and puts it in the hands of unelected lobbyists for the corporate interests.

I quite agree, though I did not know that the TPP and TPIP - which I propose to reject because they are secret treaties that never were well considered or well discussed by almost any parlementarian anywhere: that is totally undemocratic and should be forbidden - contradict the Treatise of Westphalia.

There is also this:
If the fast-track is passed by Congress, it will be illegal for America to regulate environmental pollution. It will be illegal for America, or impractical, to regulate the banks. All government regulations, if they cost the government money—for instance, if America were to fine British Petroleum $10 billion for environmental destruction, then America would be obliged under the court to pay back the $10 billion to British Petroleum. Saying wait a minute, you cannot pass a law regulating business unless you compensate the business for the result of any law.

So this court is to have authority over any law passed by Congress or the Senate, any national law. It is somehow to shift the ability to make rules out of the hands of elected officials and put them in the hands of unelected officials, very much like central banks have done by making financial laws by essentially bank lobbyists like Tim Geithner or the present Jacob Lew, or the Justice Department under Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch. You have essentially lobbyists for the corporate sector in charge of overruling legislation. So it doesn’t matter what the law says that are criminal penalties for banks or civil penalties for banks. If the courts refuse to enforce these laws, then the laws are nullified.

Yes, indeed. There is more, and Obama wants it all, that is, he wants democracy bypassed by oligarchs, who are mostly non-elected, and who only work for personal profit and profits of the firms that pay them.

This is a good and recommended interview.
 
5. Ten ways to make the economy work for the many, not the few: #7

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This is #7 of Reich's ten ways of making the economy work, and this one is dedicated to strengthening the unions. I suppresed the all capitals of the title, and also did not print the whole title because it is too long, but OK - it starts thus:

One big reason America was far more equal in the 1950s and 1960s than now is unions were stronger then. That gave workers bargaining power to get a fair share of the economy’s gains – and unions helped improve wages and working conditions for everyone.

But as union membership has weakened – from more than a third of all private-sector workers belonging unions in the 1950s to fewer than 7 percent today – the bargaining power of average workers has all but disappeared. 

In fact, the decline of the American middle class mirrors almost exactly the decline of American labor union membership. 

So how do we strengthen unions?

There is more under the last dotted link.

6. TISA: Yet Another Leaked Treaty You’ve Never Heard Of Makes Secret Rules for the Internet

The final item today is by Jeremy Malcolm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that I found on Raging Bull-Shit:
This starts as follows:

A February 2015 draft of the secret Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) was leaked again last week, revealing a more extensive and more recent text than that of portions from an April 2014 leak that we covered last year. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and theTrans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), TISA completes a trifecta of trade agreements that the administration could sign under Fast Track without full congressional oversight.

Although it is the least well-known of those agreements, it is the broadest in terms of membership. As far as we know, it presently includes 20 countries plus Europe (but notably excluding the major emerging world economies of the BRICS bloc), who, with disdainful levity, have adopted the mantle “the Really Good Friends of Services”. Like its sister agreements, TISA will enact global rules that impact the Internet, bypassing the transparency and accountability of national parliaments. The only difference is that its focus is on services, not goods.

What is this good for? Among other things - this is another secret law I propose to reject because it is secret - the following:
The agreement would also prohibit countries from enacting free and open source software mandates. Although “software used for critical infrastructure” is already carved out from this prohibition (and so is software that is not “mass market software”, whatever that means), there are other circumstances in which a country might legitimately require suppliers to disclose their source code.

For example, one step that might be considered to improve the dire state of security of consumer routers might be to require that they be supplied with source code, so that their security could be more broadly reviewed, and third parties could contribute patches for critical vulnerabilities. Although that may sound radical, this is already required for many routers because they are based on software covered by the GNU General Public License. TISA would prohibit any such national initiative.

I say. There is considerably more under the last dotted link. (And no, it will not make you any happier or more optimistic, but this is what the oligarchs want.)

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Notes

[1] It is also true that many of the (locally) first class journalists and intellectuals who wrote for the NRC-Handelsblad died between 1990 and 2010.

But then either there are no more
(locally) first class journalists and intellectuals
(which I think most probable, since all educational standards have been lowered, lowered, and lowered again since the 1960ies, while very few protested, since nearly all expected higher degrees and more money for less education, which is what nearly all wanted, and indeed also got - since 1965) or else the new first class intellectuals are called Van Saarloos and Moerland, which is plainly totally absurd (for the very few, all 65 or older, who still were somewhat decently educated).

[2] This means there are some 40,000 pages of information in my two filing cabinets, that were nearly all written between 1970 and 1987. I guess about a
third to a half is written by me.

Incidentally, since 1987 I do things by computer, and produced much more than 40,000 pages since then, but also lost parts of that, through illness, new technologies, and forgotten passwords, mostly. (And just the Maartensz section plus my notes and journals are over 1.3 Gb, for example - and I wrote most of that, though indeed that also covers most I wrote, say around 1 Gb in all, which is pretty amazing. But true.)

[3] Here is another argument for encryption: Without encryption all secrets of any kind become the possession of the very few who rule us. This makes them absolute rulers who know everything, which is exremely dangerous (for: "all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" - Lord Acton).

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