May 8, 2015
Crisis: NSA Illegal, Cameron triumphs, Clinton, Nike+Obama, Germany
  "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. NSA’s Bulk Collection of Phone Records Is Illegal, Appeals
     Court Says

Cameron on track to remain prime minister after
     electoral triumph

The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, 1992—2016
4. Why Nike Is the Problem, Not the Solution
5. In Wake of Spying Scandal, Germany to Restrict
     Intelligence-Sharing With US


This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 8, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a recent decision by a U.S. appels court, that says the NSA's bulk collection of
cell phone records is illegal; item 2 is about David Cameron's winning the
British elections (is there really no manipulation by the GCHQ? and how can one possibly know?); item 3 is about a fine article by a former bank manager about the very many ties the Clintons have to the banks; item 4 is about an article by Robert Reich on Obama and the TPP; and item 5 is about - I take it - an attempt
of Merkel to extricate herself from the problems of her BND (the German counterpart of the NSA).

Also, the present file got uploaded earlier than is normal for me.

1. NSA’s Bulk Collection of Phone Records Is Illegal, Appeals Court Says

The first item today is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:

  • NSA’s Bulk Collection of Phone Records Is Illegal, Appeals Court Says
This starts as follows:

A federal appeals court panel ruled on Thursday that the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata of phone calls to and from Americans is not authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, throwing out the government’s legal justification for the surveillance program exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden nearly two years ago.

Judge Gerard E. Lynch, writing the opinion for the unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, described as “unprecedented and unwarranted” the government’s argument that the all-encompassing collection of phone records was allowed because it was “relevant” to an authorized investigation.

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU attorney Alex Abdo told The Intercept, “This ruling should make clear, once and for all, that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is unlawful. And it should cast into doubt the unknown number of other mass surveillance operations of the NSA that rely on a similarly flawed interpretation of the law.”

This is quite good news, that also is widely reported. I chose the present article, from quite a few others I saw or glimpsed, because it is a good article that also is from The Intercept.

Also, it is not just the news that is good: the three judges in this case also did well. For example, as to "relevance" there is this - and this is quoted from judge Gerald Lynch:

The government emphasizes that “relevance” is an extremely generous standard, particularly in the context of the grand jury investigations to which the statute analogizes orders under § 215. Appellants argue that relevance is not an unlimited concept, and that the government’s own use (or non-use) of the records obtained demonstrates that most of the records sought are not relevant to any particular investigation.”

Indeed, he noted:

The records demanded are all-encompassing; the government does not even suggest that all of the records sought, or even necessarily any of them, are relevant to any specific defined inquiry.

And therefore, he concluded:

We agree with appellants that such an expansive concept of “relevance” is unprecedented and unwarranted.

Quite so - and note that he also noted that "the government does not even suggest that all of the records sought, or even necessarily any of them, are relevant to any specific defined inquiry" - which at least strongly suggests that
the government is not looking for terrorists, in the first place, but abusing
"terrorism" as an excuse to collect all the data there are
(incredibly many, what with computing without unbreakable encryption) on everybody, so as to be able to control them forever.

Also, while the judges did not say so, that is what I think, and indeed since 2005
(<- Dutch link) at the latest, also without my knowing then (nearly 10 years ago) anything about the NSA or massive internet spying: I merely reacted to the incredible liberties many governments were taking purportedly directed against "terrorists" but actually abrogating many human rights of their total populations, and quite consciously so.

The judges also considered the sick lies of Clapper and Hayes that "a search" is called "a search" by them only if it was done by human eyes:
[T]he government admits that, when it queries its database, its computers search all of the material stored in the database in order to identify records that match the search term. In doing so, it necessarily searches appellants’ records electronically, even if such a search does not return appellants’ records for close review by a human agent. There is no question that an equivalent manual review of the records, in search of connections to a suspect person or telephone, would confer standing even on the government’s analysis. That the search is conducted by a machine might lessen the intrusion, but does not deprive appellants of standing to object to the collection and review of their data.
Actually, I fail to see why a search done by a machine "might lessen the intrusion", for I'd argue that (1) this increases the intrusion because it is done much faster than humans can read, and (2) the results are stored anyway, and
may be used for any purpose, at any future time, and (3) I do not trust any NSA promise that some materials are kept only for months. But otherwise I agree with the argument.
The government has pointed to no affirmative evidence, whether “clear and convincing” or “fairly discernible,” that suggests that Congress intended to preclude judicial review. Indeed, the government’s argument from secrecy suggests that Congress did not contemplate a situation in which targets of § 215 orders would become aware of those orders on anything resembling the scale that they now have. That revelation, of course, came to pass only because of an unprecedented leak of classified information.
Yes, indeed: Congress was tricked and lied to by the government and its agents, notably James Clapper. Indeed:

The primary author of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., has said that neither he nor anyone else imagined the law would be used for bulk domestic surveillance. “How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?” Sensenbrenner asked, shortly after Snowden revealed the program.

And as Lynch wrote in the opinion: “Congress cannot reasonably be said to have ratified a program of which many members of Congress – and all members of the public – were not aware.”

Quite so.

Will this judgment by an appeal court change much? I doubt it without further similar judgments, but it is a good step forward towards getting them.

2. Cameron on track to remain prime minister after electoral triumph

The next item is an article by Patrick Wintour and Rowena Massing on The Guardian [1]:
  • Cameron on track to remain prime minister after electoral triumph

This starts as follows:

David Cameron is on course to secure an astonishing electoral triumph as Tories fended off a Labour challenge in the key English marginals and early results suggested the Conservatives could even win enough seats to secure an overall majority.

The result – devastating Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and leaving Scotland a near one-party state under the control of the Scottish National party – probably represents the biggest surprise in a general election since 1945.

I say. It seems even worse - from my point of view - than stated, although it is hinted at here:
If the exit poll is borne out in the final Westminster tally, Cameron may be able to govern without the need for the support of the devastated Liberal Democrats or even the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland.
This is probably what will happen: Tory government by the Tories alone, since the Lib Dems return with 6 parliamentary seats (was: 57), and the Tories seem to get
sufficient seats to continue the destruction of the British welfare state at their leisure.

For the moment I have just three remarks:

First, I am very sorry for the outcome, and it seems the Great Britain I have known is dead or almost dead, and will be sadistically destroyed in the coming years, which will be extremely hard on everyone who is poor (especially if he
or she is also ill).

Second, I do not know whether I trust the result. What with the GCHQ spying
everywhere, and being quite capable of manipulation and deception, I would not
be amazed if they tricked the outcome of these elections as well. Then again, I
have not much information about the details of British elections, so I simply
raise this as a mere possibility (that will be generally rejected - I know).

Third, the only two outcomes I like about these elections are those of the Liberal Democrats and of Ukip: Clegg is a liar, and most of the English electorate seem to think so as well, and Ukip won all of 2 seats, and Farage was not elected.

3. The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, 1992—2016

The next item is an article by Nomi Prins on Truthdig (originally on TomDispatch):

  • The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, 1992—2016

This starts as follows:

The past, especially the political past, doesn’t just provide clues to the present. In the realm of the presidency and Wall Street, it provides an ongoing pathway for political-financial relationships and policies that remain a threat to the American economy going forward.

When Hillary Clinton video-announced her bid for the Oval Office, she claimed she wanted to be a “champion” for the American people. Since then, she has attempted to recast herself as a populist and distance herself from some of the policies of her husband.  But Bill Clinton did not become president without sharing the friendships, associations, and ideologies of the elite banking sect, nor will Hillary Clinton.  Such relationships run too deep and are too longstanding.

To grasp the dangers that the Big Six banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) presently pose to the financial stability of our nation and the world, you need to understand their history in Washington, starting with the Clinton years of the 1990s. Alliances established then (not exclusively with Democrats, since bankers are bipartisan by nature) enabled these firms to become as politically powerful as they are today and to exert that power over an unprecedented amount of capital. Rest assured of one thing: their past and present CEOs will prove as critical in backing a Hillary Clinton presidency as they were in enabling her husband’s years in office.

This is a good article, and Nomi Prins (<- Wikipedia) knows a lot about U.S. banks and their managers, since she has been a bank's manager, and indeed for the biggest American banks.

It also has four pages, which I will leave mostly to your interests, though I quote two bits, from the first page, both of which deal with the repealed Glass-Seagall

The power of the bankers increased dramatically in the wake of the repeal of Glass-Steagall. The Clinton administration had rendered twenty-first-century banking practices similar to those of the pre-1929 crash. But worse. “Modernizing” meant utilizing government-backed depositors’ funds as collateral for the creation and distribution of all types of complex securities and derivatives whose proliferation would be increasingly quick and dangerous.

Eviscerating Glass-Steagall allowed big banks to compete against Europe and also enabled them to go on a rampage: more acquisitions, greater speculation, and more risky products. The big banks used their bloated balance sheets to engage in more complex activity, while counting on customer deposits and loans as capital chips on the global betting table. Bankers used hefty trading profits and wealth to increase lobbying funds and campaign donations, creating an endless circle of influence and mutual reinforcement of boundary-less speculation, endorsed by the White House.

And indeed also by Obama's White House. Here is a sketch of the outcome:

The Glass-Steagall repeal led to unfettered derivatives growth and unstable balance sheets at commercial banks that merged with investment banks and at investment banks that preferred to remain solo but engaged in dodgier practices to remain “competitive.” In conjunction with the tight political-financial alignment and associated collaboration that began with Bush and increased under Clinton, bankers channeled the 1920s, only with more power over an immense and growing pile of global financial assets and increasingly “open” markets. In the process, accountability would evaporate.

Yes, and this is also an important reason why I think the crisis is not over, and may deepen soon: The utterly unaccountable self-enrichment of the big bankers.

  Why Nike Is the Problem, Not the Solution 

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
  • Why Nike Is the Problem, Not the Solution
This starts as follows:

Tomorrow President Obama will be giving a speech promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Paradoxically, he’s chosen to give it at Nike headquarters in Oregon.

Nike isn’t the solution to the problem of stagnant wages in America. Nike is the problem.

It’s true that over the past two years Nike has added 2,000 good-paying professional jobs at its Oregon headquarters, fulfilling the requirements of a controversial tax break it wrangled from the state legislature. That’s good for Nike’s new design, research and marketing employees.

But Nike’s U.S. workers make only a tiny percent of Nike’s products.

In fact, Americans made only 1 percent of the products that generated Nike’s $27.8 billion revenue last year. And Nike is moving ever more of its production abroad. Last year, a third of Nike’s remaining 13,922 American production workers were laid off.

Actually, I don't think Obama's decision to promote the TPP at Nike was "paradoxical": He is very strongly for the TPP and so is Nike, so why wouldn't
he support the TPP from Nike headquarters? And who cares if Nike is leaving
America and destroying American jobs? Not America's president (except when
he is misleading his electorate).

Here is Reich on what the TPP will mean for the United States:

If the Trans Pacific Partnership goes into effect American wages will be dragged down by further losses of manufacturing jobs.

All workers with similar skill levels face downward wage pressure when Americans displaced from better-paying manufacturing jobs join the glut of workers competing for non-offshorable jobs.

Yes: Either you compete, as an American, with the salaries the Vietnamese pay (60 dollarcents an hour) or else out you go, and you'll be happy with a Walmart
job. Sorry, your president loves it so very much he touts this at Nike headquarters!

Robert Reich also says:
Bottom line: we need new rules for the global economy that allow Americans to win.

Instead, the Trans Pacific Partnership – which includes 12 nations, including Vietnam, but would be open for every nation to join – would lock us into an expanded version of the very policies that have failed most American for the past twenty years.

But the "new rules" are mere wishful thinking: the banks rule, the rich rule, and
anyone who is not rich or is not a bank manager doesn't - really - count anymore in American politics.

5. In Wake of Spying Scandal, Germany to Restrict Intelligence-Sharing With US

The last item today is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
  • In Wake of Spying Scandal, Germany to Restrict Intelligence-Sharing With US
This starts as follows:

Germany is scaling back its intelligence-sharing operations with the U.S., shortly after it was revealed that the German government had spied on European allies on behalf of the National Security Agency from 2002 to 2013.

Government officials reportedly met Wednesday night to address the growing pressure to explain Germany's role in the operation.

According to an official who spoke to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, the restrictions will prohibit the country's intelligence agency, BND, from handing over Internet surveillance data requested by the U.S. from a German eavesdropping facility in Bavaria.

I say. First, here is a link to an article I reviewed yesterday on this problem:
Angela Merkel under pressure to reveal all about US spying agreement. Second, what was quoted sounded more serious than really is the case, for a
bit later on the Wall Street Journal is quoted to the following effect:

A second German official, however, stressed the decision only affected the BND’s Bavarian outpost, which he described as a small part of the agency’s overall intelligence sharing with the U.S.

... Government officials haven’t commented publicly on the decision to curtail sharing with the U.S. of intelligence from the Bavarian listening post, which was disclosed in a classified briefing to select members of parliament on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear who ordered the move, though the Chancellery officially oversees Germany’s intelligence agencies.

So for the moment I interpret this as a move by Merkel that is intended to
get her out of the problem, much rather than a real restriction on the activities
of the BND.

I may be mistaken, but there certainly needs to be considerably more evidence,
if only because most of the ruling European politicians tend to follow the USA,
and also are very proud to spy on everyone they govern - and fuck any and all
classical Human Rights! - so that their kind may govern forever.

[1] That gets a special prize by me for having - since January of 2015 - the sickest, most degenerated, most awful, most ugly "photographs" ever put on the web since 2000, which I am also certain of is wholly on purpose, because I've seen it nowhere else and on no other site except on the extremely bad site of The Guardian, since this was "restyled". (But yes, I know that no one seems to care. But to me this "restyling" is one of the strangest things I ever saw on the internet, that I can only explain by a total lack of knowledge about computing and programming by Alan Rusbridger and other leaders of journalism on The Guardian.)
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