January 16, 2015
Crisis: Cybersecurity, "The", Being Charlie, "Free Trade", Greek Crisis
  "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

Prev- crisis -Next


1. Secret US cybersecurity report: encryption vital to
     protect private data

2. Use of definite article shows ‘radical decline’ in last
     century, research shows

The Problems with Being Charlie
Don't Buy the Hype: 20 Years of Data Reveals 'Free
     Trade' Fallacies

5. Richard Wolff on the Greek Crisis, Austerity and a
     Post-Capitalist Future



This is a Nederlog of Friday, January 16, 2015.

This is a crisis log.
There are 5 items with 5 dotted links. Item 1 is on Cameron's desire to undo all encryption (for the state's secret security experts); item 2 is on the radical decline of "the"; item 3 is on some problems with being Charlie; item 4 is a report that shows "free trade" serves the rich at the costs of the poor; and item 5 is a long but interesting interview about Greece.

1. Secret US cybersecurity report: encryption vital to protect private data

The first item today is an article by James Ball on The Guardian:
  • Secret US cybersecurity report: encryption vital to protect private data
This starts as follows:

A secret US cybersecurity report warned that government and private computers were being left vulnerable to online attacks from Russia, China and criminal gangs because encryption technologies were not being implemented fast enough.

The advice, in a newly uncovered five-year forecast written in 2009, contrasts with the pledge made by David Cameron this week to crack down on encryption use by technology companies.

Related: David Cameron pledges anti-terror law for internet after Paris attacks

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the prime minister said there should be no “safe spaces for terrorists to communicate” or that British authorites could not access.

I have reviewed the last link two days ago, and I note that "the newly uncovered five-year forecast" is in fact from 2009. The above continues thus:

Cameron, who landed in the US on Thursday night, is expected to urge Barack Obama to apply more pressure to tech giants, such as Apple, Google and Facebook, which have been expanding encrypted messaging for their millions of users since the revelations of mass NSA surveillance by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Cameron said the companies “need to work with us. They need also to demonstrate, which they do, that they have a social responsibility to fight the battle against terrorism. We shouldn’t allow safe spaces for terrorists to communicate. That’s a huge challenge but that’s certainly the right principle”.

No, no and no: Tech companies do not need to work with degenerate immoral ever lying millionaires who are selling Great Britain to the rich, mostly because they have propagandized the 50% who have IQs less than 100 to support them; "the battle against terrorism" is and was a Big Lie to try to make everyone who
is not rich a fully owned consumer whose complete life, values, preferences, choices, sales and secrets of all kinds, including their own pornography, are fully known to a small number of anonymous governmental spies; the state-terrorists from the Western governments have destroyed far more lives - outside Europe, to be sure, and rarely in the news that the main media provide, but quite obviously so - than the terrorists whose actions they have used to kill far more people; and the principle David Cameron is for is the principe of the fascist surveillance state, and not of any democratic state of law.

There is also this (and a lot more you can check out yourself):
The latest versions of Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems are encrypted by default, while other popular messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, also use encryption. This has prompted calls for action against such strong encryption from ministers and officials. Speaking on Monday, Cameron asked: “In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”
I'd say: Yes, you should. The dangers of Islamic terrorism for Western countries are far less than the dangers that conmen like Cameron are creating a climate for the arisal of Western terror states where everyone is constantly spied upon by many kinds of governmental secret agencies.

But I am quite open to the possibility that Cameron, Obama and the present U.S. Congress may succeed in making two kinds of people:

The 90% who are poor or not rich, and who do not deserve rights or privacy, and can be certain that they are spied upon all the time, in anything they do, by their mobile phones, by their desktop computers and by hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras, all of which are controlled by secret government agencies shielded by secret courts; contrasted with the 10% or 1% who are so rich or so proven pro-government that they - and only they, and that only conditionally - are not spied upon all the time (though they too will generally not know whether they are not).

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, but it is not said that the real
choice Cameron offers is that of a fascist surveillance state that knows every- thing and rules everything.

And he also may very well succeed, though I much desire he does not. [1]

2.  Use of definite article shows ‘radical decline’ in last century, research shows

The next item is an article by Alison Flood on The Guardian:
  • Use of definite article shows ‘radical decline’ in last century, research shows
This starts as follows:

It might appear to be one of the more useful words in the English language, but according to research by a linguistics professor, use of the definite article “the” has declined “radically” over the last century.

Mark Liberman, Christopher H Browne distinguished professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, has analysed the frequency of “the” in US presidential State of the Union addresses, finding that the average frequency of “the” in addresses between 2004 and 2013 was 47,458 per million words. Yet in the first 10 addresses, which took place between 1790 and 1799, it was 93,201 per million words, “almost double the frequency”.

I say. I will below explain why I am interested. First a few more quotations, that show this is not merely so in presidential speeches:
“During the course of the 20th century, the frequency of the English definite article the decreased gradually and radically,” Liberman writes (...)
And there is this on Liberman's intuitions:

“I didn’t expect to see the effect in the first place;  and I’ve been surprised both by its magnitude and by the fact that it’s (so far) so consistent across sources,” he told the Guardian. “I haven’t been able to find any previous discussion of this trend, and the knowledgeable colleagues that I’ve asked don’t know of any, either.”

“I think that one part of the explanation is a long-term trend towards greater informality in writing,” Liberman told the Guardian by email.
Why am I interested? Mostly because this is one of the changes I have been warning about for more than 35 years, that also coincides with the enormous rise in propaganda language, that does away with the definite article and replaces many occurrences of "is" by "may", all because it makes lying, misleading and deceiving very much easier: "the" is based on a definite description, as in "the people from the university's first year students", while "people researched" is very much vaguer and sounds far more grandiose; to say that a medicine does improve your health is falsifiable, but to say it "may" improve your health makes the very same suggestion while making it completely unfalsifiable.

Finally, here are two examples of two presidents of the United States. First George Washington, who praises the United States and says definite things:
“I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favourable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States … the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.”
Clearly, he is being propagandistic, but for most of the things he claimed there was some factual evidence.

Next Barack Obama, who praises the United States and talks propaganda trash:
“Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades. An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.”
Clearly, he is being propagandistic, but for none of the things he claimed - "a teacher", "an entrepreneur", "an autoworker" - there was any statistical evidence: He is telling tales, and tales that are completely non-checkable, non-specific, and imprecize, but with the pretense they are real, factual and correct.

And that is the whole point - and no: It is not so much "a greater informality in writing" that is behind this; it is the increased need to deceive by propagandistic
suggestion that removed precision from most places, including medical and psychological articles. And this happened for the most part on purpose, at least in those writing propaganda i.e. lies, deceptions or bullshit.

3. The Problems with Being Charlie

The next item is an article by Paul R. Pillar on Consortium News:
  • The Problems with Being Charlie
This has the following summary:
t’s one thing to decry all terrorism and defend the principle of free expression; it’s another to show disproportionate concern for some victims over others and to embrace offensive or irresponsible media content, troubling issues from the Charlie Hebdo case, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.
I select three quotations. First, there is this (and I select from much more):
Lost sight of amid the swell of street-marching champions of such civil liberties is the inconsistency in getting so worked up about this one affront to free speech but not to others. Surely we ought to be worked up as much about other, comparable limitations on free expression, especially when the power of the state is used to enforce those limitations. In France itself the state enforces a variety of such limitations (...)
Yes, that is true - but then "we" (I don't like that term, but OK) Westerners are a lot more sympathetic to the rights of free speech claimed by satirists who attack the Islam and then get murdered, than to the rights of free speech claimed by - say - Islamists. I think that is not quite fair, but it is the case.

Next, there is this:
The exerciser of free speech in question in Paris was a satirical magazine that seems to specialize in cartoons that are bound to offend a lot of people. It is fair to say that in the centuries of struggles for civil liberties, this is probably not one of the nobler vehicles for the cause. We are not talking Thomas Paine here.
Well... and so? I agree Charlie Hebdo was not Thomas Paine (although Paine wasn't much liked during his life either), and I am also willing to agree that they were far more critical of Muslims than of Jews, for example, but neither is a reason for murdering them nor is it a strong point of criticism of an explicitly satirical weekly.

Finally, there is this question:
What is that “je suis Charlie” stuff supposed to mean?
I copy the question, because I had a similar reaction. In fact, I did not know there was a Charlie Hebdo until 8 days ago: it is French, and while I knew of some other French satirical publications, I had not heard of it, as I am sure is the case with most non-French.

This does not explain why - literally - hundreds of thousands most of whom knew as little as I did identified with Charlie Hebdo (for that is what
“je suis Charlie” means: "I am Charlie", and this was shown by very many).

So why is that? My own explanation is along these lines (which are the same as for the enormous popularity of aliases on the internet):

It widely appealed because it was an obvious lie - those who said they were Charlie, at the same time clearly suggested they were not, and were speaking in a sort of ironic solidarity, which also did not make any personal claim (with their own name and address), and did not entail any personal responsibility.

I may be mistaken, but I also was genuinely puzzled by the very many who claimed to be Charlie while not knowing any more than I did.

4. Don't Buy the Hype: 20 Years of Data Reveals 'Free Trade' Fallacies

The next item is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

  • Don't Buy the Hype: 20 Years of Data Reveals 'Free Trade' Fallacies

This starts as follows:

Fast-tracked international trade deals have led to exploding U.S. trade deficits, soaring food imports into the U.S., increased off-shoring of American jobs, and an "unprecedented rise in income inequality," according to new data released Thursday by the watchdog group Public Citizen.

The report, "Prosperity Undermined" (pdf), compiles and analyzes 20 years of trade and economic data to show that the arguments again being made in favor of providing the Obama administration with Fast Track trade authority—effectively handing over extensive new executive powers and delegating away core congressional constitutional authorities—have repeatedly proved false.

Incidentally, "Prosperity Undermined" seems a good report (and yes, it can be dowloaded), which also includes an explanation of "fast tracking".

The article also contains this quotation from Dave Johnson (I quote only part):

Our trade negotiating process is rigged from the start. Giant, multinational and Wall Street corporate interests are at the negotiating table. Consumer, labor, environmental, human rights, democracy, health and all the other stakeholder representatives are excluded and the results of these negotiations reflect this. A rigged process called "fast track" is used to essentially force Congress to pre-approve the agreements before the public has a chance to analyze and react to them.

Obviously the giant, multinational and Wall Street corporations would want the public to believe that everyday small businesses gain from our trade deals, when in fact they do not. It is less obvious why President Obama would want to present at the State of the Union the story of one small business that does not reflect the reality of the trade deals he is promoting.

Well - for president Obama's motives one could read yesterday's "The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our Willingness to Be Tricked".

But this is a good article.

5. Richard Wolff on the Greek Crisis, Austerity and a Post-Capitalist Future

The last item today is an article by Michael Nevradakis on Truthout:
  • Richard Wolff on the Greek Crisis, Austerity and a Post-Capitalist Future
This starts as follows:
In the following interview, New School professor and economist Richard Wolff provides his analysis of the causes of the economic crisis in Greece and in the eurozone, debunks claims that the Greek economy is recovering and offers his proposal for what a post-capitalist future could look like for Greece and the world.
I liked the interview (and no, this is another marxist Wolff than the one meant here) and this is from the start:
We have the worst economic downturn in the last 75 years, second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s, and we're not yet clear how long this one will last and how bad it will be, so it may even overtake the one in the 1930s; we just don't know.

I would remind everyone that in the aftermath of the Great Depression, with the rise of Keynesian economics, we were told in the economics profession that we had learned the lessons, that we had the mechanisms, we had the research, we had the monetary and fiscal policies and the Keynesian economic theory behind it all to make sure that this kind of economic collapse, cutting this deep, lasting this long, would never happen again.
The second thing I would say is this: There has been a recovery. There has been a recovery in the incomes and wealth of the 5 to 10 percent of many of the societies hit by the crisis; stock markets in many countries have recovered; corporate profits have recovered in some parts in both financial and non-financial industries - but for the vast majority of people, there has been no recovery. Unemployment is at record highs in many parts of the world. Even for those who have kept their jobs, their jobs have fewer benefits, lower degrees of security [and] children are having to forego education or rack up enormous debts to pay for it. Wherever we turn, the basic life condition of the mass of people is poorer than it was five and six years ago.
Quite so. There is a lot more in the interview, that I recommend you read all. (I do not agree with all, but it is an interesting interview with someone who is quite
well informed.)


[1] Those who complain about my use of "fascism" certainly do not have my very strong anti-fascistic education and parents and grandparents; have not been called "a dirty fascist" etc. hundreds of times in the university (because I did not wish to pretend to be a quasi-marxist like nearly everyone else: my parents and grandparents were real marxists); and have not been gassed and terrorized nearly four years by illegal drugsdealers protected by the mayor of Amsterdam.

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