June 9, 2015
Crisis: NSA, Spiegel Pro TTIP, NYT Lies, Dutch Dgeneracy
  "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


NSA Won’t Say If It Automatically Transcribes American
     Phone Calls in Bulk

The TTIP Gap: How a Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal Can Still
     Be Fixed

3. NYT: Taxing Wealthy and Cutting Pentagon Makes
     Senator Sanders "Unelectable"

4. The Dutch want to renew their spy laws

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday June 9, 2015

This is a crisis blog. I found only 4 items today, and one of them is in Dutch, but then I can review only what I can find: Item 1 is about an article about the very many things the NSA does not wish to say by Dan Froomkin; item 2 is about what I regard as a very bad article in Spiegel On Line that tries to defend or save the  TTIP, without even saying the TTIP is secret; item 3 is about an article in Truth-out about a quite manipulative article in the NYT; and item 4 is about an ill written Dutch article that announces the Dutch want to go the way of the NSA: Everything any Dutchman does will be known, secretly of course, by the Dutch secret services.

On the one hand, I'm sorry there isn't much on the crisis today, but on the other
hand I also feel a bit relieved, simply because I have to do some other things, for which I also need time.

Also, tomorrow's crisis news will probably be about Edward Snowden, simply because it is then precisely two years since I learned his name, and I want to
look back a little. (But this also will depend on what else there is, and on how
much time I will have available.)

1. NSA Won’t Say If It Automatically Transcribes American Phone Calls in Bulk

The first item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
  • NSA Won’t Say If It Automatically Transcribes American Phone Calls in Bulk
This starts as follows:

When it comes to the National Security Agency’s recently disclosed use of automated speech recognition technology to search, index and transcribe voice communications, people in the United States may well be asking: But are they transcribing my phone calls?

The answer is maybe.

A clear-cut answer is elusive because documents in the Snowden archive describe the capability to turn speech into text, but not the extent of its use — and the U.S. intelligence community refuses to answer even the most basic questions on the topic.

Asked about the application of speech-to-text to conversations including Americans, Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said at a Capitol Hill event in May that the NSA has “all sorts of technical capabilities” and that they are all used in a lawful manner.

“I’m not specifically acknowledging or denying the existence of any particular capability,” he said. “I’m only saying that the focus needs to be on what are the authorities the NSA is using, and what are the protections around the execution of those authorities?”

To start with, here are some answers by me - and yes, they are probabilistic, simply because the NSA and the government hardly say anything about the enormous amounts of spying they do on everyone.

First, if you are an American: Is the NSA transcribing your phone calls? There are two answers: One, strictly speaking, one cannot say, simply because the NSA generally does not rationally answer any question. Two, since one must therefore guess: Very probably - after 14 years of billions of transgressions of the laws by the NSA - the answer is yes. Third, the reason why your phone calls are stored does have nothing to do with private "terrorism" and indeed never did (and the vast majority of all Americans is not a terrorist in any sense): it has everything to do with control. The NSA wants to know everything about you, because they want to know whether they need to control you: "knowledge is power", and they mean to know everything about anyone, and have said so themselves, albeit - until Snowden - only to themselves and their government bosses. And this desire is the root of what is called state terrorism.

Second, about Robert Litt. Dan Froomkin points out, quite correctly, that the second half of his quoted "answer" is quite useless, because Litt never said what the authorities say or what the protections are. He simply was misleading his audience. The same is true of the first half: Without knowing anything about any capability, all discussion is quite useless. Also, since the NSA hires more mathematicians than anybody else, it is safe to presume that the NSA does have most of the known capacities in house.

The rest of the article is a survey of the four kinds of methods that the NSA uses or may use to track American phone calls. It is interesting and useful, but since in the end both the NSA and the government remain silent, and also have classified most information, one must use probabilities to assess one's situation.

2. The TTIP Gap: How a Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal Can Still Be Fixed  

The next item is an article by Spiegel Staff on the Spiegel On Line International site:
  • The TTIP Gap: How a Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal Can Still Be Fixed
To me, this seems a very manipulative piece of quasi-journalism, that tries to further the TTIP as its title says.

The main reason I think so is that the word "secret" does not occur in the entire article, whereas the main reason why many people are against the TTIP (and the TTP and the TIAS and earlier the NAFTA) is that these are secret treaties, that are so secret that not even American senators may read them and take notes they may take with them, just as they cannot discuss what they read with other senators, while the fast track legislation seems engineered to force these laws through Congress by denying any amendments and giving each senator only 88 seconds to speak his mind. (See:
Rep. Alan Grayson: ‘88 seconds to Debate the TPP’?)

But the word "secret" does not occur in the entire article, that also suggests, indeed without saying that clearly either, that the TTIP is known to politicians or journalists, which also is false.

Here is the tone of the article:
Europe is about to see changes as serious as when the European Single Market was created more than 20 years ago.

Four letters are dividing Germany. The planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States, or TTIP, is intended to create a uniform economic zone for about 800 million consumers and eliminate many of the hurdles that obstruct trade across the Atlantic today. It sounds like a subject for association officials and standardization experts, but judging by the controversy the plan has unleashed, it could just as well involve the deployment of medium-range missiles or the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Not a word about the fact that the whole "Partnership" is secret, and indeed is even supposed to remain secret the first five years it is to be active; not a word about the fact that neither politicians nor citizens really know what is in the TTIP; not a word about the fact that the European laws on agriculture and medicine are to be given up mostly for much weaker American laws - but with a swipe at the end at any opponent, who gets compared to people protesting against "the deployment of medium-range missiles or the construction of new nuclear power plants."

In contrast, here is a sketch of the opponents of the plan:

They face a powerful protest movement made up of environmental and social organizations, church representatives, lawyers and local politicians, who view the agreement as a giant fraud. The anti-TTIP network claims that free trade is being used as a cover to "facilitate privatization," pave the way "for genetically modified food and meat laced with hormones" and "erode democracy."
Not a word about the main motive of many protesters: They do not even get to see the proposed secret laws that they are protesting, and the whole term "secret" does not occur in the whole article. Also, they are at least made to look slightly ludicrous, because all their points, quite unlike those of the TTIP proponents, are between quotation-marks, and also made to appear slightly ludicrous: "facilitate privatization", "meat laced with hormones", "erode democracy".

So I regard this piece of "journalism" as a falsification: If you cannot write a long article about the TTIP without saying that the whole TTIP is secret, it seems to me you are intentionally lying and intentionally manipulating your readers.
3.  NYT: Taxing Wealthy and Cutting Pentagon Makes Senator Sanders "Unelectable"

The next item is an article by Robert Naiman on Truth-out, that can be seen as another piece of "journalistic" manipulation, this time by the New York Times:
  • NYT: Taxing Wealthy and Cutting Pentagon Makes Senator Sanders "Unelectable"

This starts as follows:

On Sunday, in the course of an article about Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders attracting huge crowds in Iowa, the New York Times (NYT) told us that:

"[S]ome of Mr. Sanders's policy prescriptions - including far higher taxes on the wealthy and deep military spending cuts - may eventually persuade Democrats that he is unelectable in a general election."

This is a striking example of how big media like the New York Times can try to enforce their own limits on debate by asserting without evidence that certain ideas and therefore the people who espouse them - or are purported to espouse them, more on this below - are not mainstream.

Yes, indeed. I have a bit more below on what the NYT did attribute to Sanders, and Naiman has rather a lot more, but first we need to straighten out a detail:
Of course, it's the democratic right of the New York Times - on its editorial page! - to oppose tax increases on the wealthy and cuts in Pentagon spending. (...) But this was a news article. A news article isn't supposed to make tendentious assertions about political candidates without providing evidence.
Precisely. Now about what the NYT did attribute to Sanders.

First, the content is quite vague, but - as Naimark points out - in fact 61 or 62 percent of all Americans are in favor of raising taxes on the rich, while the greatest plurality of Americans - 37 per cent - also thought American spending on national defense and military purposes is "too much".

So in fact on both points that the New York Times sought to criticize Sanders, he in fact said what the majority or the greatest part of Americans agree with.

And besides: There is no evidence that Sanders proposed "deep cuts" to military spending. (This is extensively argued in Naimark's article.)

Finally, the whole suggestive but - I think - false statement is, intentionally, without a doubt, made technically unfalsifiable by saying "may" instead of "will" (for what "may" be the case also "may not" be the case).

In any case, this is an interesting article that in fact articulates why I seldom visit
or quote the New York Times these days: It is too manipulative and dishonest. [1]

4. The Dutch want to renew their spy laws 

The next item is an article by Ton Siedsma on the Dutch site Bits Of Freedom:

  • Tijd voor het fundament: wetgeving voor geheime diensten wordt herzien
This is in - quite bad - Dutch, but I will translate the main paragraph:
Massive tapping of communications

It will be proposed that the authorities of the secret services are extended. The main part will be the introduction of a massive tapping of communications. Therewith the secret services would be able to tap all our communications - telephone conversations with your parents, the e-mails on your job, all sites that you visit because of your beliefs, sexual orientation or some disease you have. They will be able to follow almost everything you do, wherever you are and whoever you are with. These would be the most fargoing authority that the Dutch secret services ever had.  A bizarre attack on our privacy.
And that is about it: The Dutch government also wants to know absolutely everything about absolutely everyone (who is Dutch or in Holland). And
all Dutchmen, except the supermen in the secret services and the government,
will be regarded as terrorists forever, who are unfit to have any privacy of any kind, and may also soon be arrested in secret, judged in secret, and put to work or "be disappeared" in secret, if I understand my Dutch governors well.

As I have said several times before: I am very glad I was born in 1950 and not later, and also am now very glad that 37 years of illness deprived me of children.

In case you are younger than me and have children: The best advice I can give is to leave Holland as fast as you can, and go to Norway, Sweden or Finland.


[1] You may disagree, and indeed there also is another reason: I check out around 40 items every day for the crisis series, and while there are certainly things I will miss, I think I am fairly well served (for the crisis series) by the combination of Common Dreams, Mother Jones, Truthdig and The Guardian, which also are the sources of most of the articles I reviewed. (This is a plain factual
statement: Thus it has worked out in fact.)

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