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BelgianMadCow's Journal
BelgianMadCow's Journal
December 10, 2013

State surveillance of personal data is theft, say world's leading authors

Source: The Guardian

More than 500 of the world's leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people's digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

They have urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age.


Winterson told the Guardian she regarded Snowden as a "brave and selfless human being"."We should be supporting him in trying to determine the extent of the state in our lives. We have had no debate, no vote, no say, hardly any information about how our data is used and for what purpose. Our mobile phones have become tracking devices. Social networking is data profiling. We can't shop, spend, browse, email, without being monitored. We might as well be tagged prisoners. Privacy is an illusion. Do you mind about that? I do."

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/surveillance-theft-worlds-leading-authors

Note that the Guardian goes on to mention yesterday's "similar" effort of the US tech companies demanding changes to the NSA programs. I fail to see how a call for digital rights by 500 independent authors is even remotely similar to tech companies who see the light after the facts are exposed, and who fully cooperated in silence with an obvious overreach.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, and AOL were willing accomplices. See the PRISM documentation here and here. This was not a case of them being hacked (though that also happened). They flatly denied cooperating yet they were paid to adapt their systems to allow for "proper" access, and only now that their bottom lines are hurting try to slither away from the guilty to the accusers' table.

Those that value their privacy might consider the broad collection of open source software at PRISM break.

On edit: I see it's being reported this call for digital rights is appearing as an op-ed in not just The Guardian, but also: The Frankfurter Allgemeine, El Pais, de Volkskrant (NL) and De Standaard (BE). There is also an underlying petition people can sign at http://www.change.org/petitions/a-stand-for-democracy-in-the-digital-age-3
On 2nd edit: Op-Ed running in 30 papers, list here.
November 30, 2013

The Icelandic rebels are at it again: taxing banks to write down home mortgages

The government plans to provide homeowners with as much as 70 billion kronur in direct writedowns of home-loan debt and give 80 billion kronur of tax exemptions over three years, according to a statement handed out in Reykjavik today. The deal is equivalent to 9 percent of Iceland’s $14 billion economy.

“The action requires the Treasury to serve as an intermediary in financing and implementing it,” according to the statement. “There is no need to establish a debt-relief fund, as the action will be fully financed. The net impact on the Treasury is expected to be insignificant each year during the period 2014-2017.”

Iceland’s Financial Services Association estimates the nation’s banks have forgiven about $2 billion in debt since 2008. At 14 percent of gross domestic product, that’s the highest in the world. Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson won April elections on promises to provide even more relief to households.

Iceland’s government intends to finance the writedowns by raising taxes on financial institutions, a move Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson said today would bring 37.5 billion kronur into Treasury coffers next year. The tax will also be levied on Kaupthing Bank hf, Glitnir Bank hf and Landsbanki Islands hf, all of which are undergoing winding-up proceedings.

More at WaPo.

It would seem protest DOES pay, as does collective rewriting of one's constitution.

On edit: the new constitution hasn't been voted on, yet. TY muriel_volestrangler!
November 10, 2013

The TPP, if Passed, Spells the End of Popular Sovereignty for The United States

From Naked Capitalism:

The principle of popular sovereignty is the idea that a government’s power derives only from the consent of the people being governed. The Constitution’s first three words—”We the People…”—establish from the very start that the United States government draws its authority and legitimacy directly from the people. The concept of popular sovereignty differs from the old monarchical belief in the divine right of kings (in which the monarch was said to draw his right to rule directly from God) and also from the British principle of parliamentary sovereignty (in which ultimate authority rested with Parliament rather than with the people directly).

Making it all the more remarkable, or not, that our political class — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch, a bipartisan caucus, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Editorial Board of The New York Times, to name a few of the usual suspects — would pursue an agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that sells out popular sovereignty to transnational investors, and allows them to rule us. I know your friends think this sounds like nutty black helicopter stuff, but it’s true! It’s true! (Tell them to watch Yves on Bill Moyers, in a really sharp transcript.) So bear with me, please, as I work through the thesis. First, I’ll look at how TPP replaces popular sovereignty with transnational investor rule, in two ways. Next, I’ll take a very quick look at the state of play. Finally, I’ll suggest that all is not lost, and in fact the TPP can be defeated.


Yet in a manner that would enrage right and left alike, the private “investor-state” enforcement system included in the leaked TPP text would empower foreign investors and corporations to skirt domestic courts and laws and sue governments in foreign tribunals. There, they can demand cash compensation from domestic treasuries over domestic policies that they claim undermine their new investor rights and expected future profits. This establishes an alarming two-track system of justice that privileges foreign corporations in myriad ways relative to governments or domestic businesses. It also exposes signatory countries to vast liabilities, as foreign firms use foreign tribunals to raid public treasuries.

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/11/the-tpp-if-passed-spells-the-end-of-popular-sovereignty-for-the-united-states.html

The eye-opening Bill Moyers segment with Yves Smith and Dean Baker mentioned above is here. DU thread on it here.

Something not mentioned in the NC post: this international court will be presided over by a judge chosen on a rotating basis from the corporate lawyers that plea cases in front of it. Its decisions cannot be appealed.

Corporate coup d'etat in motion. I hope you all are ready to get vocal to oppose fast-tracking of this secret NAFTA on steroids. I'll do my part on the corresponding and equally awful TTIP.
September 11, 2013

Silent unanswered 9/11 questions thread - an american requiem - symbolman

Given that the most important event in recent history is not to be openly discussed in GD on the day we remember it, and given that a collection of questions juxtaposed with a timeline is not creative speculation, I'm thinking this falls within the norm:


For those of you that believe all questions have been adequately answered, please respect people with a different opinion, and just trash the thread

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