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Germany Should Lead On Disarming Our Global Surveillance System - GuardianUK

Germany should lead on disarming our global surveillance system
Despite its privacy laws, Germany is the most spied-on country in Europe. The Pirate party is committed to turning this around

Anke Domscheit-Berg - theguardian.com
Monday 26 August 2013

Supporters of the German Pirate party. 'This young political force represents
the digital society, fighting for transparent governments and citizen empowerment
as well as for freedom rights and privacy.' Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters


Every week, we hear more bad news about the danger to democracy brought by uncontrollable secret services spying on millions of citizens. And every week, more people realise how grave this cyber-attack on civil rights is.

The debate triggered by the recent NSA and GCHQ spy scandal forces governments to take a stand – in one way or another. How they act will be judged by us – the citizens of each nation in Europe and the rest of the world. The UK government is currently testing its limits with its outrageous assault against the Guardian, after disclosure of its shameful "I spy for you, you spy for me" policy. The British government turned against its people, against core democratic values and everybody could see it. But the German government is so far also failing to take a clear stand.

Germany assumes a very specific role in this conflict, turning out to be the most surveilled country in Europe, spied upon just as much as Saudi Arabia or China. But Germany is also the nation with perhaps the highest respect for data protection worldwide. In Germany, we learned the hard way how dangerous data collections about people are. My parents saw how in one lifetime a society can switch values from one extreme to the other, with two dictatorships using all the data its helpers could get hold of to oppress its own people. I saw one of these dictatorships close-up, growing up in East Germany. Why would we not be suspicious? If not against our current government, than against governments to come?

It is because of this dark past that not only are Germany's data protection laws stricter than elsewhere but also freedom rights are still held high. Intelligence officers forcing the destruction of source material at a media institution would lead to unthinkable outrage in Germany and, likely, a minister stepping down.

But among the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the last decade, Germany too has started using totalitarian methods.
Many laws have been passed to ease surveillance – most of them while Angela Merkel was chancellor. Nearly one in every four of them were then scrapped by our highest court for being unconstitutional. Even the lax barriers of spy-friendly laws are regularly being ignored by public agencies. And still, we feel like a nation with the highest standards of privacy rights although, in fact, we have ceased to be one.

But the feeling and the high estimation of privacy is still vivid and this can now be used to reset the course, back to democracy, where we, the people, define checks and balances and the degree of transparency we want. It is no accident that the Pirate party has seats in four German state parliaments and realistic prospects to enter the national parliament in September. This young political force represents the digital society, fighting for transparent governments and citizen empowerment as well as for freedom rights and privacy.


More: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/26/germany-lead-disarm-global-surveillance

More on the Pirate Party: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Party_Germany

NSA and GCHQ: The Flawed Psychology Of Government Mass Surveillance - GuardianUK

NSA and GCHQ: the flawed psychology of government mass surveillance
Posted by Chris Chambers - GuardianUK
Monday 26 August 2013


Recent disclosures about the scope of government surveillance are staggering. We now know that the UK's Tempora program records huge volumes of private communications, including – as standard – our emails, social networking activity, internet histories, and telephone calls. Much of this data is then shared with the US National Security Agency, which operates its own (formerly) clandestine surveillance operation. Similar programs are believed to operate in Russia, China, India, and throughout several European countries.

While pundits have argued vigorously about the merits and drawbacks of such programs, the voice of science has remained relatively quiet. This is despite the fact that science, alone, can lay claim to a wealth of empirical evidence on the psychological effects of surveillance. Studying that evidence leads to a clear conclusion and a warning: indiscriminate intelligence-gathering presents a grave risk to our mental health, productivity, social cohesion, and ultimately our future.

For more than 15 years we've known that surveillance leads to heightened levels of stress, fatigue and anxiety. In the workplace it also reduces performance and our sense of personal control. A government that engages in mass surveillance cannot claim to value the wellbeing or productivity of its citizens. People will trust an authority to the extent that it is seen to behave in their interest and trust them in return. Research suggests that people tolerate limited surveillance provided they believe their security is being bought with someone else's liberty. The moment it becomes clear that they are in fact trading their own liberty, the social contract is broken. Violating this trust changes the definition of "us" and "them" in a way that can be dangerous for a democratic authority – suddenly, most of the population stands in opposition to their own government.

For more than 50 years we've known that surveillance encourages conformity to social norms. In a series of classic experiments during the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch showed that conformity is so powerful that individuals will follow the crowd even when the crowd is obviously wrong. A government that engages in mass surveillance cannot claim to value innovation, critical thinking, or originality.

Security chiefs may believe that surveillance gives them greater control over the populace, but is this truly the case? The answer is complicated. A recent study found that if members of a team felt a common social identity with their leader then surveillance in fact reduced the leader's influence by fostering resentment and distrust. However, if they saw their leader as belonging to a social outgroup then surveillance increased the leader's power.

This pattern is interesting because it places politicians and the security services at loggerheads. For politicians to succeed in a democracy they must be seen as part of the same ingroup as their electorate. We see this in force most strongly during election time, when politicians go to great pains to emphasise their grass roots connections with the community. But by supporting mass surveillance, politicians then undermine this relationship.

The security services, on the other hand, have the opposite motivation. For them, mutual distrust is par for the course, so it is better to maintain a social distance from the public. That way they are guaranteed to be perceived as an outgroup, which – the evidence suggests – increases the influence they can wield through surveillance.

There are two ways to resolve this conflict...


More: http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2013/aug/26/nsa-gchq-psychology-government-mass-surveillance

JP Morgan Gave $500,000 To Group Promoting Cuts To Social Security And Medicare - FDL

JP Morgan Gave $500,000 To Group Promoting Cuts To Social Security And Medicare
By: DSWright - FDL
Monday August 26, 2013 9:26 am


According to JP Morgan’s own financial disclosure the Too Big To Fail bank has decided to use its massive wealth and power to promote cuts to entitlement programs for current and future senior citizens. The group “Fix The Debt Coalition” received $500,00 from JP Morgan.

Despite the fact that JP Morgan received billions in bailout funds from taxpayers and loan guarantees from the Federal Reserve, the bank appears to believe austerity is the best program for the rest of the country. No more moochers.

The Fix The Debt Coalition is an attempt to convince Democrats that other Democrats support Republican ideas. The group is mostly made up of Republicans who are trying to mask hard right economic policy with vacuous Corporate PR. Even for Washington that’s cynical.

Fix The Debt’s leadership structure is also politically balanced: Democrat Erskine Bowles and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson (Wyo.) serve as the group’s co-chairs, and the two steering committee co-chairs are former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

But the bipartisanship is only skin deep, according to campaign finance records and non-profit tax filings reviewed by The Huffington Post, which reveal that Fix The Debt’s biggest backers and partners are Republicans and Republican-allied.


Update: Thanks to a user comment, I’m noting that Crandall Bowles, wife of Erskine Bowles of Simpson-Bowles debt commission fame, is on the Board of Directors of JP Morgan Chase. Interesting to keep track of these connections. (h/t Ocoastperson)

Link: http://news.firedoglake.com/2013/08/26/jp-morgan-gave-500000-to-group-promoting-cuts-to-social-security-and-medicare/

How Snowden Did It - MSNBC

How Snowden did it
By Richard Esposito and Matthew Cole - NBC News


When Edward Snowden stole the crown jewels of the National Security Agency, he didn’t need to use any sophisticated devices or software or go around any computer firewall.

All he needed, said multiple intelligence community sources, was a few thumb drives and the willingness to exploit a gaping hole in an antiquated security system to rummage at will through the NSA’s servers and take 20,000 documents without leaving a trace.

“It’s 2013 and the NSA is stuck in 2003 technology,” said an intelligence official.

Jason Healy, a former cyber-security official in the Bush Administration, said the Defense Department and the NSA have “frittered away years” trying to catch up to the security technology and practices used in private industry. “The DoD and especially NSA are known for awesome cyber security, but this seems somewhat misplaced,” said Healy, now a cyber expert at the Atlantic Council. “They are great at some sophisticated tasks but oddly bad at many of the simplest.”

As a Honolulu-based employee of Booz Allen Hamilton doing contract work for the NSA, Snowden had access to the NSA servers via "thin client" computer. The outdated set-up meant that he had direct access to the NSA servers at headquarters in Ft. Meade, Md., 5,000 miles away.

In a “thin client” system, each remote computer is essentially a glorified monitor, with most of the computing power in the central server. The individual computers tend to be assigned to specific individuals, and access for most users can be limited to specific types of files based on a user profile.

But Snowden was not most users. A typical NSA worker has a “top secret” security clearance, which gives access to most, but not all, classified information. Snowden also had the enhanced privileges of a “system administrator.” The NSA, which has as many as 40,000 employees, has 1,000 system administrators, most of them contractors.

As a system administrator, Snowden was allowed to look at any file he wanted, and his actions were largely unaudited. “At certain levels, you are the audit,” said an intelligence official.


More: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/26/20197183-how-snowden-did-it?lite

Here's What I Would Like To Know...

If the ASSAD Regime used chemical weapons in Syria...

Why don't we know this already...

I mean... if we are virtually listening to EVERYBODY...

Why are we weak kneed on this one?

Or... could it be that the 3 Dimesional Chess is aimed at defeating us, and promoting more war?

Ladies And Gentlemen... The Great Satchmo !!! (I Can't Give You Anything But Love)

Study Finds Wealth Gives Rise To A Sense Of Entitlement And Narcissistic Behaviors - RawStory

Study finds wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement and narcissistic behaviors
By Eric W. Dolan - RawStory
Sunday, August 25, 2013 12:14 EDT


Climbing the economic ladder can influence basic psychological processes within an individual.

According to a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month, wealth tends to increase a person’s sense of entitlement, which in turn can lead to narcissistic behaviors.

Study Here: http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/19/0146167213501699.abstract

Paul Piff of the University of California at Berkeley told PsyPost “there is something about wealth that gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism).”

“Narcissism is a multi-faceted and complex construct, but that wealth is specifically associated with it suggests that as a person’s level of privilege rises, that person becomes increasingly self-focused – in a sense, becoming the center of their own world and worldview,” he explained.

“The studies in the paper measure narcissism in a whole host of ways, including measuring how likely someone is to stare at their reflection in a mirror (wealthier people do that more often). Even students who come from wealth, but have done little to create their own wealth (yet), report more entitlement. This suggests that wealth shapes an ideology of self-interest and entitlement that’s transferred culturally from one generation to the next.”

Piff conducted five experiments to investigate the associations between social class, entitlement, and narcissism.

The first experiment consisted of...


More: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/25/study-finds-wealth-gives-rise-to-a-sense-of-entitlement-and-narcissistic-behaviors/

Latest Radioactive Leak At Fukushima: How Is It Different? - NatGeo

Latest Radioactive Leak at Fukushima: How Is It Different?
Patrick J. Kiger - National Geographic
Published August 21, 2013


In the latest crisis to strike the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) has discovered that 300 tons (nearly 72,000 gallons) of highly radioactive water has leaked from a holding tank into the ground over the past month.

The development comes on top of TEPCO's admission last month that an estimated 300 tons of radioactive groundwater, which picks up small amounts of contamination when it flows through the damaged reactor buildings, has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day. (See related story: "Fukushima's Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know."

The new storage tank leak presents a different and potentially more serious problem than the ongoing groundwater flow leaks. The water from the leaking tank is so heavily contaminated with strontium-90, cesium-137, and other radioactive substances that a person standing less than two feet away would receive, in an hour's time, a radiation dose equivalent to five times the acceptable exposure for nuclear workers, Reuters reported. Within ten hours, the exposed person would develop radiation sickness, with symptoms such as nausea and a drop in white blood cells.

A More Hazardous Leak

The latest leak comes from one of the massive array of 1,000 above-ground storage tanks built inside the plant by TEPCO, which store water that deliberately has been pumped into the damaged reactors in an effort to cool the nuclear fuel inside and prevent a meltdown. Such water is heavily contaminated and dangerous compared with the larger radioactive groundwater flow problem, which scientists say does not pose an immediate health hazard to humans (though it has made some types of fish from the area unsafe for consumption).

The Japanese government's Nuclear Regulation Authority is calling the leak a "serious accident" and wants to raise the official threat level from 1 to 3 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale—the highest level since the level 7 rating given when the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami severely damaged the facility. (See related "Pictures: The Nuclear Cleanup Struggle at Fukushima."

While about two-thirds of Fukushima's storage tanks are welded steel vessels, the leaking tank is one of about 350 improvised temporary tanks that TEPCO has employed to augment its capacity. The temporary tanks are made of steel plates bolted together with plastic packing materials to seal the seams, and apparently are more vulnerable to leaks. A TEPCO official told The Japan Times, an English-language daily, that there have been four previous leaks in the temporary tanks. Unlike the previous ones, this leak somehow went undetected by plant workers for as long as a month. During that time, it leaked an estimated ten tons (about 2,400 gallons) of highly radioactive water per day. (See related photos: "A Rare Look Inside Fukushima Daiichi."

TEPCO hasn't yet found the precise leakage spot or spots on the faulty tank, which according to Reuters is located just 550 yards from the ocean. But the company said that workers have pumped all of the water from inside a small concrete containment area where the leaking tank is located. In the event of rain, they plan to continue running the pump, which they say is powerful enough to keep rainwater from flowing out of the containment.

"We apologize again for creating anxiety among the public," TEPCO executive Masayuki Ono told reporters on Tuesday...


Much More: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/08/130821-fukushima-latest-leak-how-is-it-different/

Jeff Bezos’ Newspaper Runs Joke Front Page Story on Deficit - Dean Baker/FDL

Jeff Bezos’ Newspaper Runs Joke Front Page Story on Deficit
By: Dean Baker - FDL
Sunday August 25, 2013 5:44 am


Those who hoped that Jeff Bezos takeover of the Washington Post would lead to a quick improvement in the quality of its budget reporting will be seriously disappointed by the paper’s lead story today. The story bemoaned the fact that, “after six budget showdowns, big government is mostly unchanged <the article's headline>.”

The article uses four metrics to measure the size of government, none of which would inform readers of anything. Its lead metric is spending in nominal dollars, which it tells us will be $3.455 trillion in fiscal 2013. It tells us that this is down by only a small amount from a “whopping $3.457 trillion” spent in 2010.

Incredibly, the article does not even adjust this spending amount for inflation. (The piece does briefly note later that this is a 5 percent decline adjusted for inflation.) Of course a serious analysis would have expressed spending as a share of GDP, which shows that spending dropped from 24.1 percent of GDP in 2010 to 21.5 percent of GDP in 2013. This decline in spending of 2.6 percentage points of GDP would be the equivalent of roughly $420 billion in today’s economy.

Assuming a multipler of 1.5, this reduction in spending has cost the economy more than $600 billion in annual output since there is no plausible story by which cuts in government spending lead to addition private sector demand in the current economic situation. (To be fair, there is a lot of vigorous handwaving on this topic by proponents of spending cuts.) That would translate into more than 5 million fewer jobs.

The piece goes on to tell us that Bezos’ paper does not like government spending in general and in particular dislikes Social Security and Medicare. In terms of government spending the piece tells readers:

“But even now, the government still spends a vast amount of money.

“This year’s projected spending will be more than in any year of the George W. Bush administration. And more than 30 percent higher (accounting for inflation) than the last year of President Clinton’s term.”

Those who are interested in serious historical analysis...


More: http://my.firedoglake.com/deanbaker/2013/08/25/jeff-bezos-newspaper-runs-joke-front-page-story-on-deficit/

A Future for the Middle Class - By: masaccio - FDL

A Future for the Middle Class
By: masaccio - FDL
Sunday August 25, 2013 11:00 am


Politicians of both parties talk a lot about their dedication to the Middle Class. Both parties say that the Middle Class is the backbone of our society. Both parties say that the policies they support will help the Middle Class. But these politicians and the people they appoint to high positions are not themselves members of this Middle Class. They are the prime examples of people who have escaped the pedestrian bonds of house, car and vacation to ascend to the right hand of the rich, where they feed on the same delicacies and talk to the same people and lose contact with the lives of the people actually occupy the medians of wealth and income. These politicians are presiding over the end of the Middle Class they love so much every election.

Every politician who represents people in those median families tells voters that their policies will make those families safe and secure. And apparently, enough of those families believe those politicians. They say that if their set of brilliant saints were allowed to run things, all would be good, but those damfool devils from the other party make that impossible. Neither party believes that the government should try to do what the majority wants; that would be too much like democracy to suit their oligarchic patrons.

The Republicans believe the government should disappear, and the Democrats believe in government but just a little. The Democrats say they are good because of their stands on social issues, and the Republicans say they are good because of their stands on social issues. If politicians are good in this sense, their economic policies must be good too. That makes no sense, but there we are.

All political discussions take place in a cloud of lies and deceit furnished by paid hacks for the rich. There are people in the business of providing lies to politicians and talking heads and reporters that obfuscate and distort reality for short-term profits. These zombie lies about economics don’t die, and return at the worst possible times to destroy any hope. Austerity is a perfect example. As Mark Blyth shows in Austerity, The History of a Dangerous Idea http://fdlbooksalon.com/2013/08/18/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-mark-blyth/ one of our Book Salon books, there is neither intellectual or empirical support for this ridiculous idea, but policy makers here and in Europe just love it and are wrecking societies by following it.

We cannot expect to change things directly through politics.

There is no coherent Middle Class, no enormous group of people in the center of the wealth and income distribution which thinks of itself as a group, with common interests. It seems impossible for people to see themselves as a group when there are enormous social and educational differences among them. Connections like these may seem obvious to an outsider, but they are invisible to the people in those groups.

1. They are dependent for their survival on jobs.
2. They don’t have the means to create jobs for themselves.
3. They have to pay to acquire the skills they need to qualify for those jobs.
4. They do not play any part in deciding the economic policies that control their lives.
5. They do not understand the way economic policy is made in the political labyrinth.
6. They are all subject to being fired for no reason.
7. They are all at risk of becoming permanently unemployable.
8. They are not aware of these facts about their own lives.

How does this change? One way is that enough people get hurt by the current system that we have some sort of radical change. That doesn’t bode well for progressives. The history of repression of leftists in this country is long and painful. The rich have made it clear that they will not tolerate socialism or communism or even a regime of progressive laws for any extended period. Think about Eugene Debs, or the Wobblies, or Occupy.

We can’t have change from any of the usual sources...


More: http://firedoglake.com/2013/08/25/a-future-for-the-middle-class/

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