Jul 7, 2016

Crisis: American Surveillance, Chilcot * 2, "Advertising", Trump
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Federal Court Hears Long Overdue Arguments Over
     2008 Surveillance Law

2. Chilcot Report: Tony Blair Told George W. Bush, “If We
     Win Quickly, Everyone Will Be Our Friend.”

Tariq Ali on Chilcot Iraq Report: Tony Blair is a War
     Criminal for Pushing Us into Illegal War

4. The Convenience of Customized Advertising May Come
     at a High Price

5. The Huckster Populist

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, July 7, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the fact that (eight years too late) at long last an American federal court hears (!) a case over the 2008 surveillance law; item 2 is about the Chilcot Report and Tony Blair; item 3 is a continuation of item 2, mostly from the point of view of Tariq Ali; item 4 is about the presumed fact that everyone who has an internet computer or cellphone is being spied upon continuously and in deep secret by hundreds of secret dataminers and possibly over a hundred secret services; and item 5 is about Robert Reich on Donald Trump.

Also, I uploaded yesterday the
crisis index that is now up to date till the end of June - when I had written, since September 1, 2008, 1257 articles about the crisis. (So yes, I do regard it as very important.)

Federal Court Hears Long Overdue Arguments Over 2008 Surveillance Law

The first item today is by Alex Emmons on The Intercept:

  • Federal Court Hears Long Overdue Arguments Over 2008 Surveillance Law
This starts as follows:

More than seven years after President George W. Bush signed a law authorizing warrantless surveillance of international communications, a federal appellate court heard arguments challenging the 2008 law for the first time.

Congressed passed the FISA Amendments Act in the wake of revelations that the Bush administration was wiretapping all Americans’ transnational communications. Rather than reigning in the program, Congress effectively legalized it – providing legal immunity to the phone companies involved, and allowing the government to conduct surveillance without a court order, as long as the “target” was a foreigner living overseas.

First note that the first paragraph marks a totally ridiculous fact: That it took more than seven years to see this discussed in an American court. More on this below.

And next note that Congress effectively legalized the American NSA-habit of stealing everything from anyone anywhere, provided he or she was not an American.

Personally, I think Congress ratified a neofascistic law [1], probably based on two neofascistic propositions: (1) non-Americans are not ex-cep-tio-nal: they are inferior to American citizens, who are ex-cep-tio-nal (2) Congress is allowed to make "laws" that ordain that every non-American can be stolen anything whatsoever from, in complete secrecy, without any warning or indication, provided this is done by American citizens (for datamining or the secret services).

Then this happened:

In 2013, documents from by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the government cites the law as the legal authority for its PRISM and Upstream programs – which collect Americans’ emails and browsing histories with individuals and websites hosted overseas.

Courts have previously dismissed multiple lawsuits by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation that challenged electronic mass surveillance, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they could not prove their communications were being collected by the NSA’s secret programs.

The first paragraph sketches one of the essential things Snowden revealed (and I continue the above points): (3) Ordinary Americans are just as un-ex-cep-
tio-nal as non-Americans: Everything they've got also may be stolen in secret from their computers or cellphones. Therefore (4) effectively the only persons liable to some protection are the members of the NSA, and possibly of Congress (but you don't know, for everything is secret).

And the second paragraph charts the total absurdity with which these four points were defended by the US government:

We surveil you; we may download everything we can get from your computers and cell-phones, all in secret, without you knowing anything; we make secret dossiers from this that may be used against persons at any time in the future; we keep everything we do completely secret ("NSA" was said to mean, until recently: "No Such Agency") - but because of the secrecy you don't know whether you are spied on nor how much was downloaded from your computer or cellphone, nor who knows that private information, you are not allowed to complain about anything in court. (?!?!?!?!)

In effect, the US government allowed its secret services to make secret dossiers on absolutely everyone that may contain anything, and that may be used against anyone at any convenient time (usually in secret) - but no one is able even to go to court about this, because it happens in secret.

It gets even more absurd:

In ordinary cases, the prosecution is required to provide notice to the defense about the types of searches and surveillance conducted on the defendant, allowing the defense to cross examine the investigative methods, and question whether they are legal or constitutional. Despite being required by law to disclose when it uses evidence obtained under the FAA in a criminal case, the government has only provided this type of notice in a small number of occasions.

So the government and the NSA simply wipe their asses with any piece of law they don't like, such as this one. (For this is what happened.)

Finally, here is what lawyers for the ACLU said - in court, which now was graciously allowed by the government, it seems:

Lawyers from the ACLU argued on Wednesday that the government was using NSA surveillance to circumvent the defendant’s right to privacy, and failing to provide notice in order to prevent the defense from challenging its constitutionality.

“The government is using FAA surveillance to bypass the fourth amendment rights of communications, while amassing a huge database of their private communications,” said Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the ACLU’s National Security Project.

Of course they are quite right. But the NSA wants everything it can get from anyone, anywhere, simply because this will guarantee virtually absolute power over anyone, and because absolute power (in secret!) is such an enormous lure for the bad and the worst, this will probably continue until the whole NSA is cleaned up - which I see no reason to happen soon or in a foreseeable future.

This is a recommended article.

2. Chilcot Report: Tony Blair Told George W. Bush, “If We Win Quickly, Everyone Will Be Our Friend.”

The second item is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:
  • Chilcot Report: Tony Blair Told George W. Bush, “If We Win Quickly, Everyone Will Be Our Friend.”

This starts as follows, and turns to Great Britain and Tony Blair, the degenerate freak who destroyed the Labour Party; helped start a war that cost over a million lives just in Iraq; became a vastly rich personal millionaire; and who claims he did not do anything wrong:

The Chilcot Report, the U.K.’s official inquiry into its participation in the Iraq War, has finally been released
after seven years of investigation.

Its executive summary certainly makes former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the British push for war, look terrible. According to the report, Blair made statements about Iraq’s nonexistent chemical, biological, and nuclear programs based on “what Mr. Blair believed” rather than the intelligence he had been given. The U.K. went to war despite the fact that “diplomatic options had not been exhausted.” Blair was warned by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”

On the other hand, the inquiry explicitly says that it is not “questioning Mr. Blair’s belief” in the case for war — i.e., it is not accusing him of conscious misrepresentations. Blair is already spinning this as an exoneration, saying the report “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies, or deceit.”

The inquiry that led to the Chilcot Report was limited in some important ways, and the above is an example, for what they said came to this - and I imagine
a case in which I am Baloney Tair, a well-known fraud and liar, and you are
an elderly rich man with 750,000 pounds in the bank.

I get the money from you by lies, by frauds, and by gross dishonesty. At long last, I end up in court, where I am told by the judge that my lies were not lies, my frauds were not frauds, my gross dishonesty was not gross dishonesty, all for the reasons that they were my beliefs, and neither the court nor the judge feels qualified to question my beliefs, for I am entitled to my beliefs. (And then I am set free, with praise from the judge.)

That is the case of Tony Blair, except that he did not make 750,000 pounds, but helped kill a million Iraqis and in the end made at least 80 million pounds for himself.

But his beliefs are beyond scrutiny and - it seems - beyond criticism. Here is some more on the deceptions Blair was involved in:

The Downing Street Memo, sometimes called the “smoking gun” document of the Iraq war, was leaked to the U.K.’s Sunday Times in 2005 (and the original has now been declassified as part of the Chilcot Report).

According to the Downing Street Memo, the British cabinet — including Blair — was informed by Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, that the U.S. government was being consciously deceptive about its case for war. Dearlove, the memo reads, “reported on his recent talks in Washington. … Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

This is to say: The head of the British intelligence warned Blair (on of before July 23, 2002!) that his American friend Bush wanted to destroy Saddam Hussein militarily, and was fixing - that is: falsifying - both the intelligence and "the facts" that he would tell in public.

It turns out that the head of British intelligence was quite right. But Mr. Blair believed otherwise, for personal reasons, and Mr. Blair's beliefs are neither scrutinized nor criticized.

This is a recommended article.

3. Tariq Ali on Chilcot Iraq Report: Tony Blair is a War Criminal for Pushing Us into Illegal War

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
  • Tariq Ali on Chilcot Iraq Report: Tony Blair is a War Criminal for Pushing Us into Illegal War
This starts as follows:
While Iraq is marking a third day of mourning, a long-awaited British inquiry into the Iraq War has just been released. The Chilcot report is 2.6 million words long—about three times the length of the Bible. Using excerpts from private correspondence between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush, the report details how Blair pushed Britain into the war despite a lack of concrete intelligence. For example, eight months before the invasion, Blair wrote to Bush: "I will be with you, whatever." Then, in June 2003, less than three months after the invasion began, Blair privately wrote to Bush that the task in Iraq is "absolutely awesome and I’m not at all sure we’re geared for it." Blair added, "And if it falls apart, everything falls apart in the region.” For more, we speak with British-Pakistani writer, commentator and author Tariq Ali.
This is simply the introduction, which clarifies things, and can be seen as extending item 2.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Tariq Ali your response to the report, especially the sections that talk about Blair’s almost obsession with regime change, with getting rid of Saddam Hussein. And also, why did it take seven years to produce this report?

TARIQ ALI: It took seven—it took seven years because it—it took seven years because every single person interviewed had to have a chance to see the report, and Blair and his lawyers were looking at the fine print very closely, as were the generals and other people.

The findings of the report, quite honestly, are not very remarkable or original, as Sami has already said. These were things that were being said by all of us before this war started. It was what virtually every speaker said at the million-strong Stop the War demonstration in London. Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn, in particular, have been saying all this. So, to have official confirmation that what we were all saying was right is nice, but it’s too little and too late.

And because the report had no desire or was not permitted to discuss the legality of this exercise, it means that while there is evidence in the report for independent lawyers to proceed and file a citizen suit, the report itself doesn’t allow the state to actually prosecute Blair for war crimes. He is a war criminal. He pushed the country into this illegal war.
Yes, this seems mostly quite true (although at present there is more detail than there was around 2003). Also, according to my memory I think the Chilcot Report was not allowed "to discuss the legality of this exercise" but
I grant this is just my memory, and in any case they did not.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

TARIQ ALI: Madeleine Albright defended the deaths of half a million kids because of the sanctions. So, what can one say? And the other thing which is worth remembering, they are now all saying they made mistakes in Iraq. They’ve made the same and even worse mistakes in Libya. They’re carrying on with Syria. They’re doing nothing to stop the Saudi invasion of Yemen or the Saudi occupation of Bahrain. And then they pretend to be a bit more humble: "We won’t make the same mistakes again." Well, you are making them even as the West is watching.
Yes, indeed. But one can say a little more: The politicians are continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again (quite like Einstein said: One must be mad if one continues doing the same while expecting different results) because they are allowed to, and they are allowed to, in considerable part, because of the main media's refusals to do good, honest investigative journalism, and instead they desire to function as relayers of government propaganda they claim "is true".

This is also a recommended article.

4. The Convenience of Customized Advertising May Come at a High Price

The fourth item is by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
  • The Convenience of Customized Advertising May Come at a High Price
This starts as follows:

The advertising industry has changed significantly since the advent of the internet, and companies are constantly finding new ways to track and understand potential customers. One question that remains is whether privacy can be preserved while these entities create more and better methods for gathering information on internet users.

The most common way ad companies follow people online are with cookies—data that track your online browsing habits from one website to the next. People often easily delete cookies from their browsers, but tools such as super cookies and fingerprinting are harder to escape. Super cookies hide in hard-to-find places in your browser and track your history, and fingerprinting involves a tracker looking at the unique properties of your browser, such as the version of the browser you’re running, your screen size, the plug-ins you have and other data, to identify you.

I'd say it is quite clear that "privacy" can not "be preserved while these entities create more and better methods for gathering information on internet users", for the simple reason that everything is done in secret, and in fact
as if the ordinary internet user is a sub-human who has no right whatsoever
to know who spies on him or her. (I am sorry, but that is how I feel.)

Here is some on the dataminer that advertises itself as "Facebook":

Facebook is also at the forefront of location-based advertising techniques. As Popular Science recently noted, Facebook will be using cellphone location data to see when users go to certain stores, information it will then sell to advertisers to show how well their social media ads are working.

“We’re seeing that contextualization is really important,” Hays said. The more companies know about where people are going, what they’re looking at online and how it all relates to their current situation in life, she said, the better they can target potential customers. Hays called this the new trend of utilizing “connectedness.”

This is sick and morally totally degenerate. Here is some more - and keep in mind that "hundreds of companies are getting to see what you are looking at every day on the web" - and so "hundreds" of dataminers are spying on you without warning you, in secret, and without paying you anything:

Companies seeking higher profits and having access to ever more information on consumers can pose risks to privacy in ways many Americans don’t yet realize. Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, explained how significant the effects can be.

“Some of the privacy concerns are essentially [that] there are all of these hundreds of companies that are getting to see what you are looking at every day on the web, and they’re selling that information to each other,” he said. “They’re getting to see everything that you look at, even if you’re completely unaware of it.” In the past, he noted, a brick-and-mortar store owner would only know what you bought at his or her store. When you’re being followed online, companies know what you looked at, what you bought, which store you went to next, what news you read on the way and other information about you.

I say again this is sick and morally totally degenerate. Besides, there is also this:

And Quintin pointed out that political organizations and ad agencies might not be the only ones using them.

“The thing that we saw from some of the leaked documents from Edward Snowden is that the [National Security Agency] and presumably other government agencies, not just in the U.S. but all over the world, love to piggyback on these third-party tracking cookies for their own purposes of tracking people online,” he said. “Not only are these helping companies track you around, they can also be helping governments track you around the internet.”

And these "hundreds" of dataminers that track everyone every day may be helping the government directly, and certainly are helping them indirectly, for all the data they gather can be picked from the cables on which the NSA is spying by tapping them.

I don't know (everything is secret, after all) but it seems quite likely to me that by now everyone with an internet computer or a cellphone is followed as a matter of course by hundreds of dataminers (all in secret) and possibly more than a hundred of secret services (again all in secret).

This is a recommended article.

5. The Huckster Populist

The fifth and last item today is by Robert Reich on his site:
  • The Huckster Populist

This starts as follows:

The tectonic plates of American politics are no longer moving along the old fault lines of “left” versus “right” or even Democrat versus Republican.

As we’ve seen this bizarre political year, the biggest force welling up is rage against insider elites in both parties, and against the American establishment as a whole – including the denizens of Wall Street, large corporations, and the mainstream media.

I strongly disagree with the first paragraph:

The left and the right exist in about the same sense as they existed since the French Revolution:

The left is for democracy, for equality, for freedom, for progressive taxes ("Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" - Supreme Court Justice Holmes Jr.), for government, and for the best education for all; the right is against democracy, against equality, against freedom, against progressive taxes, against government, and against education for all.

And this is so since the French Revolution, and the fundamental reason is that
there is the fundamental opposition between the few rich and the many non-rich. (See political texts if you disagree: it's a lot of reading, but it is good reading.) [2]

Trade isn’t to blame for the declining wages and job security of most Americans.

The real problem has been the unwillingness of the biggest beneficiaries of trade (and also of job-displacing technologies) to share the gains with the rest of America – through larger wage subsidies, stronger safety nets, better schools, and easier access to higher education. Trump’s Republican Party has been the main culprit.

This also is not quite correct. First, it's a bit artifical to distinguish between "trade" (like banking) and "the biggest beneficiaries of trade" (like bankers), for there is no trade without traders. And second, while I agree that the "beneficiaries of trade" are to blame, as is the Republican Party, that party
is not quite Trump's (though I agree again that it is bad enough without Trump, and worse with him).

This is about the TTP and Trump:

The central problem with the TPP is it would penalize member nations for raising health, safety, environmental, and labor standards. But this aspect of the TPP doesn’t trouble Trump, who calls America “overregulated.”

Yes, that is correct. Here is the real Trump, according to Robert Reich:

And the real Trump is on the side of the super wealthy. He proposes to cut taxes on the rich from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, and reduce taxes on all business income to 15 percent (thereby slashing the top tax rate of hedge fund and private-equity managers from the current 23.8 percent to 15 percent).

The real Trump isn’t a populist. He’s a plutocrat. Above all, he’s a con man. And the people being conned are average working Americans who are buying Trump’s ruse of being a man of the people.

That is also correct, and indeed that seems the reason why Reich started the article with saying that "the old fault lines of “left” versus “right”" no longer apply: They do apply, but it is true that Trump's antics confused quite a few
who ought to be against him, from a leftist perspective.

But that is not a reason to give up the distinction between left and right. It is a reason to call Trump a conman and a liar.

[1] I have explained this several times in Nederlog, but will do so again, starting with "On fascism and neofascism: 23 definitions", that I still have to finish. In case you are interested, here are some references to neofascism in
2016: April 29, May 2, May 10, May 22, June 6, June 11, June 14, June 16.
(You don't need to agree, but likely you know a lot less than I do.)

[2] I have said several times in Nederlog that I am strongly in favor of a society in which (i) everybody has sufficient money to live decently and healthily, and (ii) nobody is allowed to earn more than twenty times as much as the poorest in the society.

I also insist that 97% of every adult (now) will not loose any money by this (on the contrary), but I know this is a radical proposal I will not see realized during my life, even though (or perhaps because) it is rational and reasonable.

O, and as to those who wish to excel others: You may try to excel others in any (legal) way you please, but excelling them by earning more than 20 times as much as they do would simply be forbidden as too dangerous for everyone else. (But you may be a great mathematician,
a great scientist, a great sportsman, or a great anything else. As long as you are not more rich than 20 times as much as the poorest earn.)

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