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Nederlog

September 9, 2015
Crisis: 9/11, Putin, Iain Duncan Smith, Privacy & Encryption, Bill of Rights

 "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.
Mantra for 9/11
2. How Putin Controls the Internet and Popular Opinion in
     Russia

3. Does Iain Duncan Smith really think disabled people are
     less ‘normal’?

4. 
Apple Privacy Push Faces First Big Test From US
     Government

5. ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’: The Loss of Our
     Freedoms in the Wake of 9/11



This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 9, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an angry article by Tom Engelhardt that I mostly liked; item 2 is about a bad article
that does in no way answer its title; item 3 is about Iain Duncan Smith, who seems a definite sadist to this psychologist (his fountain pen - with which he signed his decisions - kills 90 ill Brits a month); item 4 is about a court case Apple faces over encryption; and item 5 is a review of the ten amendments of the American Constitution that contain most of the Bill of Rights: Considerable parts of every American's rights have been voided "because of terrorism" (I would add: from the government, though I think the situation may be - so far - a bit less bad than the author asserts).

1. Mantra for 9/11

The first article today is by Tom Engelhardt on several sites, and originally on TomDispatch.com. I kept his original title, but I am quoting from Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that?

Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters. Fourteen years of a culture of fear in America, of endless alarms and warnings, as well as dire predictions of terrorist attacks. Fourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance). Fourteen years of the spread of secrecy, the classification of every document in sight, the fierce prosecution of whistleblowers, and a faith-based urge to keep Americans “secure” by leaving them in the dark about what their government is doing. Fourteen years of the demobilization of the citizenry. Fourteen years of the rise of the warrior corporation, the transformation of war and intelligence gathering into profit-making activities, and the flocking of countless private contractors to the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, and too many other parts of the national security state to keep track of. Fourteen years of our wars coming home in the form of PTSD, the militarization of the police, and the spread of war-zone technology like drones and stingrays to the “homeland.” Fourteen years of that un-American word “homeland.” Fourteen years of the expansion of surveillance of every kind and of the development of a global surveillance system whose reach -- from foreign leaders to tribal groups in the backlands of the planet -- would have stunned those running the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Fourteen years of the financial starvation of America’s infrastructure and still not a single mile of high-speed rail built anywhere in the country. Fourteen years in which to launch Afghan War 2.0, Iraq Wars 2.0 and 3.0, and Syria War 1.0. Fourteen years, that is, of the improbable made probable.

Clearly, Tom Engelhardt is angry - but indeed so would I be, if I were American.

Then again, I am not an American, and also I am feeling - it seems to me - considerably less defrauded than many quite intelligent Americans, of whom Tom Engelhardt is one, and that for mostly two reasons that are a bit special to me, although I didn't do much for them:

Firstly, I had sincere, honest and intelligent communist parents, and secondly, I had given up both communism and politics at age 20 (in 1970). Because of the first, I never was told and never believed that capitalism was a moral or a good
system, and because of the second, I radically turned away from any and all party-politics, and from all dreams of liberating mankind through politics. I think
both were good convictions, but I realize very few started from a similar situation
I started from, and indeed I know no one who chose like I did. [1]

But enough about me. This is a well written interesting and angry article that I recommend you to read all of, while I will briefly raise a few questions.

In fact, most questions deal with the many improbabilities about the official American explanations for 9/11 (with which I agree) together with the lack of
sufficient rationally credible information to surrect a plausible alternative.

But there is one big contributing factor that is not in the above quotation, nor  anywhere else in the article:

A major part of the reason that most of the facts (I will suppose) in the above quotation could and did occur is that large parts of the American electorate are both stupid and ignorant. For you simply cannot have (I quote)

"[f]ourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance)"

without the tacit - stupid, ignorant, tricked, deceived - support of many of the supposedly democratic voters.

So the rest of my quotations from and comments on this article are based on two assumptions:

1. I don't believe the official American explanations for 9/11, but I also don't have the relevant knowledge to design a plausible alternative, and
2. an important reason for the radical decline of democracy in America is the presence of large sections of voters without real intelligence and without any real knowledge about what they are judging.

First, there is this:

Psychologically speaking, the 9/11 attacks represented precision targeting of a kind American leaders would only dream of in the years to follow. I have no idea how, but you clearly understood us so much better than we understood you or, for that matter, ourselves. You knew just which buttons of ours to push so that we would essentially carry out the rest of your plan for you. While you sat back and waited in Abbottabad, we followed the blueprints for your dreams and desires as if you had planned it and, in the process, made the world a significantly different (and significantly grimmer) place.
No, far more important than Osama's knowing "which buttons of ours to push so that we would essentially carry out the rest of your plan for you" are the American main media, all of which supported the official explanations; denied any alternative explanations; and followed the government's sayings in nearly everything, also without any real criticisms, and without supporting real democracy.

Then there is this:
(...) Osama, it worked. You spooked this country into 14 years of giving any dumb or horrifying act or idea or law or intrusion into our lives or curtailment of our rights a get-out-of-jail-free pass. You loosed not just your dogs of war, but ours, which was exactly what you needed to bring chaos to the Muslim world. 
No, he did not: That's shifting the responsibilities for the many harmful and unfounded decisions the American governors made onto Osama.
Fourteen years later, don’t you still find it improbable that George W. Bush and company used those murderous acts and the nearly 3,000 resulting deaths as an excuse to try to make the world theirs?  It took them no time at all to decide to launch a “Global War on Terror” in up to 60 countries.  It took them next to no time to begin dreaming of the establishment of a future Pax Americana in the Middle East, followed by the sort of global imperium that had previously been conjured up only by cackling bad guys in James Bond films.  Don’t you find it strange, looking back, just how quickly 9/11 set their brains aflame? 
Well... what am I asked to find "improbable"? I don't believe the official story
but I also do not know what really did happen on and around 9/11. And one of the things I find totally incredible is that the Patriot Act was written within 6 weeks (it was passed into law on October 26, 2011): it seems very much more
credible to me that much of it was ready by 9/11.

Don’t you still find it eerie that, amid the wreckage of the Pentagon, the initial orders our secretary of defense gave his aides were to come up with plans for striking Iraq, even though he was already convinced that al-Qaeda had launched the attack?
Unfortunately, I don't have my journal for 1991 available on this computer, but I do remember that either on 9/11 or 9/12 there was a somewhat amazed mention- ing by me that the American government held Iraq somehow responsible.
Who could deny that the top officials of the Bush administration and their neocon supporters had long been thinking about how to leverage “U.S. military supremacy” into a Pax Americana-style new world order or that they had been dreaming of “a new Pearl Harbor” which might speed up the process?  It was, however, only thanks to Osama bin Laden, that they -- and we -- were shuttled into the most improbable of all centuries, the twenty-first.
Well... no: I do suppose the Patriot Act was mostly ready on 9/11 (no, I don't
have a proof); I do agree Cheney and Rumsfeld may well have been thinking
about a Pax Americana and may have been dreaming about
“a new Pearl Harbor”; but even if Osama did have the full and only responsibility for 9/11, there were
many more forces and persons, many also quite American, who created the American climate of opinion in late 2001 that we still have fourteen years later.

But this is an interesting, angry and well written article, that I recommend you
to read all of.
2. How Putin Controls the Internet and Popular Opinion in Russia

The next article is by Masha Gessen on The Intercept:

I selected this because of the title, but the article does not produce much information. Basically, it seems a book review of "The Red Web", by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, but it is far from enthusiastic:
SOLDATOV AND BOROGAN BEGIN their story back in 1950, with the inventors of the Soviet Union’s first surveillance technologies, and they take more than a hundred pages to get to the current political era. They undertake the logical and necessary task of tracing the roots of Putin’s repression and censorship, pointing out various continuities between the spies and censors of the 20th century and today. They are working with several handicaps, however. Soldatov and Borogan are prominent investigative reporters who co-authored a previous book about the Russian security services, The New Nobility, but the pair are not particularly skilled storytellers, and a sloppy English translation renders their prose alternately inelegant and absurd.
Well... possibly so, but Masha Gessen certainly is not a good reviewer.

3. Does Iain Duncan Smith really think disabled people are less ‘normal’?

The next article is by Frances Ryan on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

What’s normal? It’s a good question, and as in all matters, my default is to ask: what does Iain Duncan Smith think?

Luckily, the work and pensions secretary was back in the House of Commons today, and used the time to publicly clarify that not having a disability is “normal”.

“I think the figure is now over 220,000 … ” Duncan Smith said, as he ran through the government’s record on getting more disabled people back into work. “But the most important point is that we are looking to get that up to the level of normal, non-disabled people who are back in work.”

Yes, it is important to bring disabled people up to the level of “normal” people. Similarly, I often think it would be wonderful to bring the competence and empathy of the secretary of state for work and pensions up to the level of a trained chimp.

Well... I think Iain Duncan Smith is more intelligent than that, but I also believe that a man who helps kill at least 90 persons each month (link to an article on The Guardian) is an evident sadist. [2]

What is notable about him using the words “normal” people and “disabled people” in the Commons is not only that he said it, but what he was advocating at the time: forcing up to one million more disabled people off benefits and into jobs. Duncan Smith still gave no hints as to how the people assessed as physically or psychologically unable to work are now meant to do that very thing, or who the employers are who are suddenly willing to hire them. When he launched the policy last month, he did so by decrying the “sickness benefit culture in this country” – as if vomiting through the morning meeting is a lifestyle choice envious healthy workers are now copying from cancer patients or people with Parkinson’s, like the new season’s fashion.

I don't think he cares or gives a damn, except for the money he saves. One simple way for him to proceed is simply to declare there are to be no more disabled people (and he can consult Sir Professor Wessely on this).

This is a politician who has overseen a disability benefit assessment that last year was proven to cause damage to your health – where more than 60% of the disabled or chronically ill people put through the Department for Work and Pensions’ “fit for work” test are in pain afterwards, others reporting their condition was made worse or their recovery delayed.

Or they may simply suicide, to the joy of Iain Duncan Smith, for lack of money, lack of support, and lack of health, and knowing that according to their proud Tory government they are sub-normal since they are ill.

This is a man who has watched thousands of people with degenerative conditions – that by definition can only get worse – be classified as ready to prepare to get back to work (and accordingly be denied the full version of their benefits and be liable for sanctions).

Under his watch, the department designed to support disabled and chronically ill people has had to publicly list how many of them are dying.

According to The Guardian, Iain Duncan Smith - at least: his plans, his proposals and his policies - are currently killing 90 people a month. I said he is a sadist, and he will enjoy this, and will probably be praised for it by his fellow Tories.

I merely say (before I explode) I am very glad I am pensioned and not British, which is another country, like the USA, that is steeply declining towards fascism.

4. Apple Privacy Push Faces First Big Test From US Government

The next article is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In the latest development in the battle for privacy rights, Apple has rejected a court order to hand over to the U.S. Department of Justice a series of text messages sent between two iPhones, citing encryption safeguards that prevent the company from accessing communications data.

The DOJ says it needs to see the text messages for a criminal investigation—but Apple responded that its new operating system prevents the tech company from accessing data on phones with PINs or passwords, even for law enforcement agencies. The dispute highlights a new frontier in the electronic privacy debate that sparked after Apple introduced its more consumer-friendly iOS last year.

I say. But this is interesting, and indeed Apple is probably right that it cannot
provide the texts.

It also is important, for the stealing of the private data of all Americans was possible because they were unencrypted, and was instituted by the Patriot Act, but that Act does not contain anything that - to the best of my indeed incomplete knowledge - requires anyone to provide his or her data in a forced unencrypted form.
In the wake of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's 2013 domestic surveillance revelations, the call for increased consumer protections against government spying has been met with outspoken rhetoric from intelligence agencies which insist that access to communications data is vital for national security.
No, it is not. First, "national security" has been safeguarded for a very long time
without governmental spies having access to anything anyone said or wrote on the internet, or on a computer or cell phone connected to the internet.

And second, privacy of the vast majority of citizens is an essential condition for maintaining democracy: there is not and cannot be anything but a mock- "democracy" in a country were secret governmental spies have access to anything and everything anyone does on a computer.

A country were anonymous governmental spies have access to anything anyone does with a computer is a sick authoritarian state with vastly more powers for the very few than the KGB, the Stasi or the Gestapo ever possessed or could possess. (And see the Wikipedia lemma on Frank Church! [3])


Then there is this:
FBI director James Comey in October warned that adding encryption protections to cell phones and other devices would leave law enforcement "in the dark" in counter-terrorism operations and hunting down child molesters. Agents in "law enforcement, national security, and public safety are looking for security that enhances liberty," he said during a speech at the Brookings Institution.
Well, Comey is a liar or a fool. And (i) his agents are not looking for "security that enhances liberty" (such as encryption) but for security that completely destroys anyone's liberty (for there is no freedom when every thought and every value you have and utter on any computer pr cell phone goes straight into the files of the governmental spies) and besides (ii) why should I and how can I trust the "[a]gents in "law enforcement, national security, and public safety"" if these operate, as they do, anonymously and in secret with hardly anyone knowing anything about them, and (iii) why should I and how can I trust a government made up from ordinary people who assigned themselves the freedom to be informed about everything anyone does or says using a computer or cell phone?

5.  ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’: The Loss of Our Freedoms in the Wake of 9/11

The last item of today is by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows:

“Since mankind’s dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We’ve seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.” ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and acclimated to life in the American Surveillance State.

The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time, but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has transitioned us to life in a society where government agents routinely practice violence on the citizens while, in conjunction with the Corporate State, spying on the most intimate details of our personal lives.

Yes, indeed. Then there is this:

The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which has historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all sanctioned by a corrupt government run by Congress, the White House and the courts—a recitation of the Bill of Rights now sounds more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we should possess.
(...)
We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned, and “we the people” are seen as little more than cattle to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

And after this there is a list of ten amendments to the Constitution that have been mostly destroyed. It is an interesting list, and while I probably disagree
with Whitehead to some - variable - extent on various rights, I do believe
he is more right than wrong.

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] There were in fact between 1955 and 1975 less than 10.000 communists in Holland; most of them did not have children who qualified for university; and of the handful of persons I have know who had communist parents and did qualify for university no one gave up communism in 1970, and in fact most waited well into the 1980ies or early 1990ies to do so (by which time I had - hm, hm - very large doubts about their intelligence or their honesty, indeed precisely because most profited financially and personally from their leftist choices at least till 1985, for being a communist paid in terms of jobs and status within the - unique - Dutch university-system till around 1985).

Also, I disagreed with my parents intellectually from age 20 onwards, but not morally. That is, I agreed and kept agreeing with their moral judgments, but not
with their intellectual analyses. This also explains (in part) why we never fell out.

[2] He can prosecute me. I've been ill since 1.1.1979, never had more than the most minimal income in Holland, and made a psychology M.A. with an average of 9.3 out of 10 possible points, and a philosophy B.A. with an average of 8 1/2, and I will gladly explain why I think he is an evident sadist.

[3] Because it is an important, prescient quotation here it is again - and this was said, quite correctly also, on August 17, 1975:
"In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

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