June 5, 2015
Crisis: Scheer & Hedges - 7/7, NSA, USA hacked, Wikileaks, Obama helps NSA
  "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


VIDEO: Robert Scheer to Chris Hedges: ‘I Will Not Blame’
     the American Masses for Imperialism (7/7)

2. Report: NSA Sifts Americans’ International Internet
     Traffic to Hunt Hackers

3. OPM hack: China blamed for massive breach at US federal

4. WikiLeaks Releases ‘Largest Leak of Trade Negotiations
     in History’

Defying Courts and Critics, Obama Moves to Resurrect
     NSA's Phone Dragnet

This is a Nederlog of Friday June 5, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the last part of the seven interviews that Chris Hedges had with Robert Scheer (and I add some about intelligence); item 2 is about an article in The Intercept that one of the responses of the NSA is to do more against "hackers"; item 3 is about a major hack of a U.S. federal agency (not stopped by the NSA); item 4 is about an article about Wikileaks, that published leaked TISA files; and item 5 shows that Obama is already busy helping to keep the NSA collecting everything.

Finally, a repeat from yesterday. Here is a remark on my summaries: I know that since circa June 11, 2013 the titles of my Nederlogs are pretty unclear, basically because most days I reviewed at least five articles (which I did not do before), and I can only use the titles of the articles if I publish each separately, which is simply too much trouble.

However, I did all of this year start my Nederlogs with a summary, while I have collected all of these summaries in English News (aka: summaries). This will help you to find out what the Nederlogs are about.
1. VIDEO: Robert Scheer to Chris Hedges: ‘I Will Not Blame’ the American Masses for Imperialism (7/7)

The first item is an article by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

  • VIDEO: Robert Scheer to Chris Hedges: ‘I Will Not Blame’ the American Masses for Imperialism (7/7)

As the title says, this is the 7th from 7 parts of the interview that Chris Hedges had with Robert Scheer. I am - again - quite glad that someone took the trouble to link in the videos and to prepare the texts: it is quite important, at least for people who want to know what happened and who want to react rationally.

So, to start with, here is the video (from the Real News) of part 7:

And here is a selection from the text, after telling you that part six is here, and you can also find there links to earlier parts:
The present part 7 starts as follows (by Natasha Hakimi Zapata):
In the final installment of the seven-part interview on The Real News Network, Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer and columnist Chris Hedges continue their discussion about violence, this time with a focus on whether the American masses benefited from imperialism. Drawing on personal experience as well as ideology, the two get into an illuminating conversation that highlights how, though as journalists and activists they ultimately work toward the same ends, their fundamental understanding of American society is in many ways at odds.
Yes, indeed. I agree that "they ultimately work toward the same ends" while also "their fundamental understanding of American society is in many ways at odds".

As far as I am concerned, I also like both, though ultimately, while I think I understand Chris Hedges fairly well, and I have been born in a quite Marxist family, I am neither a Marxist nor a socialist, nor indeed - as Chris Hedges is -
a Christian or indeed a religious believer, for which reasons, since I also still am
morally a leftist, I mostly side with Robert Scheer, who seems to share my basic disagreements with Chris Hedges, while admiring his courage and stances, which
I also agree with.

Indeed, while I do not know much about how Robert Scheer got his opinions, it
seems fairly likely that he has - as I have - a fairly skeptical attitude to politics and religion (for they are certainly not - for the fast majority who engage in these activities somehow - rationally or scientifically founded). [1]

This is still from Natasha Hakimi Zapata's introduction, and starts with her "
Take a look at the beginning of their exchange:"

HEDGES: I would disagree with you in saying that I think most segments of the population did not ask the hard questions about slavery or about the genocidal campaign—roughly 2 million Native Americans (by 1900 there’s less than 250,000 left) who were slaughtered—because it was in their interests…So I think it’s a bit like Nazi Germany, the idea that somehow people are manipulated. Yes, of course propaganda; the elites always manipulate. But I think it was in their interest to be manipulated in many cases, and therefore they didn’t ask the kinds of questions they should have asked. I think they’re far more complicit than you give allowance for.

SCHEER: This is a fundamental disagreement we have. I just think, you know, my own parents…going to work and the kinds of jobs—my father was…running knitting machines and my uncle was a welder and so forth. (...)
I will not blame them. I blame—even when they are so-called populist movements, there’s a Father Coughlin, there’s the Koch brothers, there’s people manipulating them, there’s money pouring in. We saw it with Occupy. They’re agents of the state coming in. They’re the false divide-and-conquer…Oh, there are terrorists out there and there are communists out there, there’s foreign enemy, national security. And then we buy people off—go into the military, be cannon fodder. And I just come from a very strong sense that throughout the world—and I’ve seen it everywhere that I’ve been—the masses of people are manipulated.

I deleted part of Robert Scheer's reply, and I also know the sort of evidence Chris Hedges appeals to quite well (see e.g. "Ordinary Men", by Christopher Browning).

My own view is again inbetween the two, with a bit more sympathy for Scheer, firstly, because like Scheer I come from a poor proletarian background, and secondly because, again like Scheer, I seem to carry fewer assumptions than Hedges does.

Then again my position is probably rather personal and not supported by many:

I mostly do not blame the people I grew up amongst (mostly ordinary proletarians with few theoretical interests), not because I cannot see, with Hedges, that "
it was in their interest to be manipulated in many cases, and therefore they didn’t ask the kinds of questions they should have asked", for I can, and I also can see the fear and the lack of courage that moved many of them to consent or conform, but basically because I hold that the vast majority is simply not capable of much rational thought, and lacks the requisite knowledge, intelligence and courage to act and think like rational individuals.

And I am also quite convinced that this is an important part of the truth about most people that most people do not wish to see: Both of my parents had IQs above 130; both went into the resistance against the Nazis in a country were very few went into the resistance, and few had their intelligence. And the same for my grandparents.

Then again, I also live in a country where the fundamental lie that "everyone is of the same value" is part of the law [2] - in spite of large differences in intelligence, knowledge, courage, ethics, individuality or talents - so that if I deny these lies then (i) at least 49 ouit of 50 will be angry that I dare to regard them as less intelligent, less courageous, or lesser individuals than - for example - my parents or grandparents (or Einstein or Russell) and (ii) most of these will depict me, think of me, and scream at me that I must be "a dirty fascist", as happened e.g. rather often in the University of Amsterdam, from which I was removed from the right of taking my M.A. in philosophy, because I was, according to 16 academic whores of reason "a fascist", which was a deeply offensive slander, but it succeeded, so I now tend to be mostly silent about the big differences I see i
n intelligence, knowledge, courage, ethics, individuality or talents, simply because I know most are too stupid to see them well or at all. [3]

Now to the interview, of which I have just treated the start, which I therefore skip.

SCHEER: (...) So what I have seen in my life as a journalist, as a young person, and everything was a pattern. And this is why I wrote this bloody book, because I think now, with the new tools of surveillance, you know, being able to compare our biometrics and with Facebook being able to move the discussion from pessimistic to optimistic, with somebody like Barack Obama coming into power because he was able to use all of this data to target advertising, I see a lessening of the ability of most people to be able to know what’s going on, to challenge it.

HEDGES: Well, all of that’s true. And yet I think we as an imperial power are infected with the disease of imperialism. And imperial power is primarily about the violent subjugation of others, abroad and at home. And we have become the richest nation on the planet through the suffering of the wretched of the Earth.
This is another instance of the disagreement, and here I am with Robert Scheer, simply because (i) imperialism is a difficult concept anyway while (ii) it describes mostly the actions and desires of those who are rich and have a lot of power, and not of others, or only very indirectly so.


SCHEER: What I’m disagreeing [on] is that the amount that—we didn’t benefit from imperialism. I disagree. The rich benefited from imperialism.

HEDGES: Well, disproportionately the rich benefited from imperialism.

SCHEER: No. We benefited from labor unions. We benefited from our ability to organize.
And even if there is something to Chris Hedges' point, the problem is that you cannot make the many poor rationally responsible for decisions they hardly know about, cannot properly judge, did and do not have any power over, and that almost completely do not benefit them, but only the rich.

Here is Chris Hedges again:
HEDGES: [crosstalk] they do all of the labor. They work in construction and they work in the hotel industry, they work in the—everywhere else. And so the idea—we’re not the country we were. We have become something really frightening. And I blame the American public, because I think that there’s a willful kind of blindness.

And we can just take the case of—African-Americans in this country, two-thirds, the bottom two-thirds or three-quarters are living worse than when King marched in Selma. The civil rights was a legal victory, but it was never an economic victory, and King understood that if there was no economic justice, there was no racial justice.
I agree with most of that, but I cannot blame "the American public" even while I ternd to agree that their blindnesses are in part "a willful kind of blindness".

My reason is that half of
"the American public" has an IQ lower than 100, and also is very badly educated, and I know they simply do not have the wherewithall to think rationally in any deep way, which includes knowing rather a lot they were never exposed to.

Here is the last bit that I will quote, from very near the end of this last interview:

HEDGES: And I think that every totalitarian country I’ve covered from Syria to—they’ve all had elections. And I’m not saying don’t vote. I mean, I voted for Jill Stein. As you know, I worked for Nader; I wrote his speeches for him in 2008. But if we don’t build radical movements to push back, mass movements that defy the system and understand how dark that system has become, we’re finished.

SCHEER: I agree with that.

And so do I - which makes me rather pessimistic.

2. Report: NSA Sifts Americans’ International Internet Traffic to Hunt Hackers

The next item is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:
  • Report: NSA Sifts Americans’ International Internet Traffic to Hunt Hackers
This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency’s ability to warrantlessly sift through Americans’ international Internet traffic has been secretly expanded as part of efforts to identify malicious hackers.

The increased surveillance, sanctioned by the Obama administration in 2012, has allowed the NSA to monitor U.S. Internet networks for information about hacks originating abroad, the New York Times and ProPublica reported Thursday, citing documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to the Times:

The Justice Department allowed the agency to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures” — patterns associated with computer intrusions — that it could tie to foreign governments. But the documents also note that the N.S.A. sought to target hackers even when it could not establish any links to foreign powers. […]

It is not clear what standards the agency is using to select targets. It can be hard to know for sure who is behind a particular intrusion — a foreign government or a criminal gang — and the N.S.A. is supposed to focus on foreign intelligence, not law enforcement.

The government can also gather significant volumes of Americans’ information – anything from private emails to trade secrets and business dealings — through Internet surveillance because monitoring the data flowing to a hacker involves copying that information as the hacker steals it.

One internal N.S.A. document notes that agency surveillance activities through “hacker signatures pull in a lot.”

As I have said before - and see: NSA Whistleblower William Binney: The Future of FREEDOM - I believe that a secret organization like the NSA, that is covered by a secret court, that issues secret judgments, and that has for 14 years acted in grossly illegal ways "to get everything" will - secretly - continue to get everything. (And see item 5.)
3.  OPM hack: China blamed for massive breach at US federal agency

The next item is an article by Dominic Rushe on The Guardian: 

  • OPM hack: China blamed for massive breach at US federal agency

This starts as follows:

The Obama administration is scrambling to assess the impact of a massive data breach involving the agency that handles security clearances and US government employee records, with suspicion quickly falling on China, which has been accused of carrying out cyber-espionage against the US in the past.

Government officials familiar with the situation told the Associated Press the hack occurred at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Interior Department, and could potentially affect four million people at every federal agency.

The OPM is the human resources department for the federal government and does checks for security clearances.

I say, even though I am not really amazed. There is considerably more in the article, including denials by the Chinese.

What I did not find was more information about whose "security clearances" may now be known to the hackers, but I would also not be very amazed if the hackers now know the names and clearances of most who work for the NSA.

And I do not know how much there is to follow in the press, especially if the last guess - which is a mere guess - is true.

4. WikiLeaks Releases ‘Largest Leak of Trade Negotiations in History’

The next item is an article by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

  • WikiLeaks Releases ‘Largest Leak of Trade Negotiations in History’

This starts as follows:

WikiLeaks has posted 17 documents about the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), a giant, controversial global trade deal being negotiated among the U.S. and 23 other countries. TISA is a lesser-known relative of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a deal that President Barack Obama has been actively campaigning for in Washington.

There is also this, quoted from Wikileaks:

The 24 countries in the deal together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. “Services” now account for nearly 80 per cent of the US and EU economies and even in developing countries like Pakistan account for 53 per cent of the economy. While the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become well known in recent months in the United States, the TISA is the larger component of the strategic TPP-TISA-TTIP ‘T-treaty trinity’. All parts of the trinity notably exclude the ‘BRICS’ countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

[June 3’s] release is the largest on secret TISA documents and covers numerous previously undisclosed areas. It contains drafts and annexes on issues such as air traffic, maritime, professional services, e-commerce, delivery services, transparency, domestic regulation, as well as several document on the positions of negotiating parties. WikiLeaks has also published detailed expert analysis of the topics covered in today’s release.

In fact, as Roisin Davies also says, you can download them here.

There is also this, quoted from The Guardian:

The document dump comes at a tense moment in the negotiations over a series of trade deals. President Barack Obama has clashed with his own party over the deals as critics have worried about the impact on jobs and civil liberties.

Nick Dearden, director of the charity Global Justice Now, formerly the World Development Movement, said: “These leaks reinforce the concerns of campaigners about the threat that TISA poses to vital public services. There is no mandate for such a far-reaching program of liberalization in services. It’s a dark day for democracy when we are dependent on leaks like this for the general public to be informed of the radical restructuring of regulatory frameworks that our governments are proposing.”

Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, said: “Internet users have become increasingly aware that seemingly obscure and complex policies that impact technology can have profound impacts on our most basic rights to communicate and express ourselves freely. Based on the latest leaks, it’s clear that Tisa is not only unacceptably secretive, it contains provisions that could threaten internet freedom, privacy, and even global net neutrality.”

The TPP has been particularly controversial because of the level of secrecy around it – trade agreements by their nature are negotiated behind closed doors, but restrictions on the TPP are such that elected representatives aren’t allowed to express any specific reservations about its content to their constituents. Moreover, advisers specifically included in the conversation to represent the public say they aren’t being allowed to read the entire document.

Yes, indeed.

5. Defying Courts and Critics, Obama Moves to Resurrect NSA's Phone Dragnet

The next and final item for today is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

  • Defying Courts and Critics, Obama Moves to Resurrect NSA's Phone Dragnet
This starts as follows:

A day after President Barack Obama signed the USA Freedom Act into law, the administration began efforts to re-start the government's domestic bulk phone records collection program, new accounts confirm.

The National Security Agency (NSA) was forced to end its collection of domestic phone data on Sunday night after key provisions of the Patriot Act expired, leaving the mass surveillance program without federal authorization.

Under the USA Freedom Act, the agency will have a six-month grace period to hand over data retention control to private phone companies and then shut down its operation for good.

But the government now says it needs to restart the program in order to end it. According to an administration official's statement on Wednesday, the White House will ask the secret court authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to renew the program for the duration of the six-month transition phase.

Officials have not explained why.

There is considerably more in the article, but I have said repeatedly that I think the NSA will simply continue to try to get everything, also if it is clear that doing so is illegal.

There are basically two reason for this:

On the one hand, the NSA is assembling a database with which they can control and blackmail everybody, and on the other hand the present and previous American governments really want all the power they can get, and especially all the knowledge about anyone, regardless of whether that knowledge is collected legally or illegally, and therefore they will continue to do so as long as most of the activities of the NSA remain secret and hidden, which they still are.

[1] Speaking for myself, it is quite possible that the differences between Chris Hedges on the one hand and myself or Robert Scheer on the other hand are mostly temperamental: I have certainly studied more philosophy, philosophy of science and logic than they did, and while I am not a skeptic, I've found it very hard or quite impossible to convince myself of either the truth or the probability (> 1/2) of nearly everything I read in politics, religion or philosophy.

Also, in the end I find it a lot easier to agree to fundamental ethical norms - "you should be honest", "you should not kill", "you should be rational", "you should be just", "you should share fairly", "you should have rational plans" - then I find it to agree to philosophical, political or religious systems of thought.

[2] Also, this pretty insane law (indeed like the U.S. law, formulated by the Founding Fathers who just conveniently forgot about their slaves and the indians, that "all are equal") was proposed by someone who claimed to be "a communist" and who was for many years the leading parliamentarian for the Dutch CP. And incidentally, while "all are equal" is simply false, the Dutch "all are of equal value" - you, Einstein and Eichmann, for example, supposing of course all were Dutch - is also a deeply totalitarian moral falsehood.

[3] This is really one of the basic differences between myself and most who are or pretend to be leftists:

I know - since age 4, also, when I concluded the other children in school "did not imagine anything when they said something" - that there are large differences in individual native talents. I do not hold individual persons responsible for their talents or lack of talents, for this is mostly genetic, but persons who deny this generally - that there are large differences between individual human beings, even though all are human beings - are too stupid to discuss with.

Also, I do think it is a major problem that the intelligence quotient of the average is 100 rather than 130 or higher, and I hold it very probable - though also not experimentally decidable - that human history would have been quite different if only the average IQ had been 30 points higher than it is.

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