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Snowden, Manning and So-Called Secrets. It Isn’t the Russians and Chinese Secrecy Is Aimed At.

By: Kurt Sperry Saturday August 17, 2013 7:35 am

Assange claims the Russians are playing nice with Snowden and not trying to pry information from him. This strikes me as entirely reasonable–-if Snowden was one of literally thousands of admin with access to the same information it’s probably safe to assume that the Russians already knew essentially everything Snowden does, in fact almost inconceivable that they didn’t. Further, the considerable propaganda value of the whole affair from the Russian point of view would be destroyed either by reports of coercive interrogations or any unexplainable prolonged silence from Snowden necessary to conceal such interrogation.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Yes Snowden could help them, but there’s no need for him to. There are apparently at least several thousand people with the same admin perms and access Snowden had, they are apparently paid about what a policeman or fireman with seniority makes. Given the billions the Russians could easily spread around if necessary, what’s at stake and the number of ripe targets, the chances they hadn’t bought enough assets off to tell them whatever they want to know must be almost exactly zero. Secrets thousands of people can access that someone is willing to pay whatever it takes to get aren’t secrets, they are simply commodities. The only question is the price they can fetch.

It’s just common sense and human nature. Remember PFC Manning’s “Cablegate” leaks and how it came out that literally tens of thousands of even low level employees had the same perms Manning did? Do you really think, and more so given the ease with which digitized data can be surreptitiously copied and moved today, that anyone outside “the loop” who was sufficiently motivated could not have obtained copies of whatever data they wanted from that pool of data? Even the most crude national level intel agencies with access to attractive women and envelopes full of $100 bills–and I assume the Russians are orders of magnitude more capable than that–could obviously have obtained any or even all of the data Manning dispersed to the press. Same here with Snowden and the NSA data.

“Secrets” that thousands of people can readily access–and more so when the data are already digitized not even needing to be scanned–are simply insecure. Always. The only question is the cost and effort required for people outside the organization to obtain them. The real secrets are obviously never scanned, digitized, have slide shows created about or put onto networks accessible by random PFCs and contractor employees, they will be kept in file cabinets on paper and access will strictly and necessarily be limited to a tiny group. Once data is digitized and networked, secrecy becomes impossible.

Think about it, the only people without the means to bribe, blackmail or otherwise divert and obtain that data are the public. Journalists almost completely rely on people acting out of conscience, principle or scruples, the so-called bad guys aren’t constrained by such concerns, they’ll send out the pretty girls and cash stuffed envelopes and get whatever they want.

Given all this, it becomes clear that the real purpose of all this secrecy isn’t to keep it out of Russian or Chinese hands but out of the public view where the US citizens and voters could act on it. The Russians or Chinese obtain the data and keep it quiet to protect their ongoing sources, no big deal, nobody is publicly embarrassed there is no political blowback. Nobody’s ass is really on the line. If a whistleblower acting on principle releases the same information and makes it available to the press and the American electorate, huge deal, powerful people are embarrassed and exposed, unpleasant consequences immediately ensue.

The secrecy isn’t intended to keep the Russians or Chinese from obtaining it, that is essentially impossible, the secrecy is very obviously to keep the press, the American public, and the global public in the dark. To the NSA, the real enemy isn’t Russia or China. No. The real enemy is you and I who could potentially actually bring accountability to bear. And accountability is the real stuff of their sweaty nightmares.


A Crown Jewel of the Enlightenment Lies Discarded in the Dungheap

By: Kurt Sperry Tuesday June 11, 2013 11:04 am

The US Constitution with its Bill of Rights was and remains a remarkable document, one of the treasures of the Enlightenment–in itself one of the high water marks of human culture. It is also a document in mortal danger.

Edward Snowden, like Bradley Manning, appears to be among the few people of actual conscience and principle allowed access to the dirty cesspool that is the modern American surveillance state. The systemic illegal collection of vast amounts of personal data on American citizens is a flagrant violation of the Bill of Rights and those who knew about or participated in its collection and did nothing are traitors and far more serious criminals than Manning and Snowden.

Soon, if it isn’t already the case, the sysadmins–and reports are there are over 100,000 with his scary level of access–with perms to the database such as Mr. Snowden will realize they hold in their hands the power to destroy essentially anyone in the world by combing through their stored communications looking for dirt. Once found–and face it everyone has dirt–they can then blackmail the powerful and control them. What will inevitably result is a country run by nameless faceless bureaucrats with high security access who are in turn controlling the figureheads the electorate vote for rendering democracy extinct or at the least moot. It’s entirely possible these spooks already are mining this inconceivably large database and using that access to enrich themselves or to blackmail and control the most powerful people in our government. Human nature argues they will if they haven’t already.

Brilliant in its utter stupidity. This is a real imminent existential threat to not only the Bill of Rights but actual democracy.

People are asking, “Why is this Snowden guy holed up in Hong Kong? Is he a Chinese agent or something”? Because there are very few countries remaining in the world that aren’t almost completely subservient to American global hegemony and are by all appearances incapable of standing up to us. China being a rare exception.

One thing that baffles me: I can see maybe why some Americans would buy the security state/military propaganda, but why does the rest of the world follow the US around policy-wise like a helpless lost puppy? “Need another secret rendition/torture/military base?” “Anywhere you please. Really. Anywhere.” “Need some help illegally overthrowing another government?” “Sure, going in right behind you, no problem. Need some cover in the UN?”

Note to world: have a little self respect and stand up for yourselves, at least once in a while. These asshats are screwing us common Americans over too, it’s not like you are really doing us any favors consistently being such servile, compliant doormats for American empire. Hard to respect those who self-evidently don’t respect themselves.

I’m asked by someone in Switzerland if it’s as big a story here as it is there in Europe: Oh, it’s made quite the splash here in the American corporate media although they are obviously spinning it hard to put the best light on the spooks. Hell, half the major network drama shows are little more than mendacious propaganda for this sort of Orwellian spy program featuring attractive and brave security state agents from central casting using idealized sci-fi computer wizardry the viewer is supposed to equate with this to catch scary scar-faced swarthy terrorists before they can strike, killing chiseled firemen and blonde haired little girls. Of course there’s no evidence the real PRISM-type programs has actually prevented anything and the few candidates for having done so when examined more closely turn out to be FBI entrapment stings where the “terrorists” are actually recruited and incited by FBI agents to create a theater simulation of heroic anti-terrorism hardly more authentic than the TV version.

I’m not sure why any country would take us seriously with our high minded talk of freedom and democratic values. Those get discarded the first nanosecond they become a barrier to shadowy cartoon villain billionaires doing whatever they want with government to further enrich themselves. The people at the top in American government actually demonstrably hold the principles of freedom enunciated in the founding documents–the principles that are supposed to differentiate us from tinpot dictatorships and authoritarian regimes–in utter and sneering contempt the moment they feel constrained or inconvenienced by them.

The noble and historic experiment of America, bright eyed child of the Enlightenment, sits teetering on the brink of ignominious failure. It’s by no means clear its citizens even care enough to save it.

Throw Open the Borders–All of Them. I’m Serious.

By: Kurt Sperry Friday April 26, 2013 7:39 pm

Here’s an idea whose time has most assuredly not come, and one whose time may never come but really I don’t care. Use it as a thought experiment if not as a serious call to action.

Abandoned border

Abandoned border

I’ve come to a radical conclusion. The upsides of restricting ordinary people’s movements between states is outweighed by the downsides- which are mostly to do with maintaining immorally disparate levels of wealth. I’d like to see freedom of movement anywhere and anytime on the face of the globe enshrined as an intrinsic human right. Let the Western world unblinkingly face the reality they have grown comfortable with as long as it is kept at a safe distance.

I’m quite serious. I don’t think humans are sufficiently morally evolved to actually take whatever steps are necessary to alleviate endemic extreme poverty in the world as long as it can be rationalized as someone else’s fault or problem or held at a safe emotional and physical remove. Further I find all of the West’s high minded moralizing about human rights and progress to be essentially just hypocrisy and moral cowardice as long as millions of people are dying of the symptoms of extreme poverty while others live lives of comfortable plenty. It’s easy to put on a front of smug moral superiority as long as one knows one’s privileged place in the world is safe. Moral courage can only be evidenced when one’s own self interests are truly put in jeopardy by moral action. Otherwise it’s essentially empty rhetoric and platitudes.

And I think if the human race is actually on a more or less progressive arc of development and these problems are actually faced with honesty, we could be looked back upon as being just as morally compromised by our blithe acceptance of widespread extreme poverty as those who dismissed slavery or the institutional subjugation of women or having systemic underclasses to perform our work cheaply with a cynical shrug as the natural state of man and viewed any efforts at improving the lot of the larger portion of humanity as opposed to the privileged few as naïveté.

There’s little concrete we as individuals can effectively do any more than individuals could in the past do about slavery or institutional misogyny or serfdom. I’m not opposed to charity but it does little or nothing to address the underlying structural issues that perpetuate the current morally untenable reality. Change cannot really be forced, it will require a moral evolution at some point resulting in a consensus for change being arrived at.

There are however things that perhaps could be done to hasten an arrival at the necessary consensus. Like breaking down the institutional barriers that allow some people- us frankly- to live in relative fabulous comfort and lack of need cordoned off from the sufferings the vast majority like the rich in their gated communities protected by armed guards from the festering slums that surround them.

Even I’m not sufficiently naive to believe this will happen anytime soon. Human nature mightily conspires against it. Humans may never evolve past being capable of quite happily and contentedly ignoring great and unjust suffering as long as they can continue live in pampered comfort insulated from that suffering–even benefiting from it. There’s certainly no lack of historical precedent suggesting such a thing to be the case.

That seems a pretty bleak and terminally cynical outlook really though to me. Perhaps we can do–be better than that. Eventually, at least. Perhaps we could at least honestly try, or even think about trying.

Dear Left, Enjoy Your Pot and Gay Marriage Because That’s All You’re Getting

By: Kurt Sperry Thursday April 25, 2013 6:48 am

The putative left has definitively prevailed in the social sphere and there is no end in sight for that. The ascendancy of the libertarian right has meant that traditional social mores are under constant attack with fewer and fewer influential defenders, and at least a major part of even the American “right” isn’t much concerned. Gay marriage, to cite the current watershed issue, is now widely accepted by the moneyed right and still only reliably taboo among the working class and less educated, déclassé right.

But. Where money is involved, on economics, regulation of private business and taxation issues the conservatives are routing the left as surely as the left is carrying the social battles. It isn’t really even a question of conservatism–any policies that protect or increase the wealth of the already wealthy, however non-traditional or even radical they may be, are brought on board by the right. Today’s right has no apparent significant reliable ideological moorings beyond wealth accumulation and concentration into as few hands as possible.

The establishment right has pretty much come around to the position that you may get gay married or smoke some pot without government interference, but at the same time we’ll steal your retirement, move your job to China, see that the bank can illegally foreclose you out of your home, give all your tax money away to criminal fraudsters who by the way are also our largest campaign contributors, oh and you’ll be put under microscopic total government surveillance and imprisoned or even killed without trial if that’s what we really want in the new police state we’ve created because dark Muslims booga booga. Actually the mainstream left is pretty onboard with all this bad stuff too. So just STFU hippies, marry your same sex partners, spark a bowl and don’t cause any trouble. OK?

Thoughts on War, 10 Years Post Shock and Awe

By: Kurt Sperry Friday March 22, 2013 3:29 pm

This is short because the scam is a very, very simple one.

The beauty of initiating war is that among the conventional thinkers who dominate any society there can be no questioning or reappraisal of the wisdom or rationale for doing so. While the conflict is in the hot phase, you must be seen to “support the troops” which means not questioning the mission. Then later, nobody wants to hear their sons, brothers and friends have died for no good reason so retrospective judgments are off the table as well. Once the bombs start falling, the bullets start flying and the maimed victims and body bags start their glorious patriotic assembly line march home, you can call anyone questioning it “unpatriotic” and the charge will find traction. The more kids you can kill, the more sacrosanct the mission becomes. Is there any better way to poison a political opposition? And the more ridiculous and pointless the war, the better this works because then the opposition will be more likely to take the bait. You just have to get the initial sell done using whatever lies are necessary. Then you are set.

We Can Do This the Easy Way Or…

By: Kurt Sperry Wednesday March 6, 2013 11:49 am

Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!

There is no serious argument against the premise that wealth disparities beyond some arbitrary point are destructive of societies and even eventually to the well being of the putative “winners”. One can look at objective data–there is a wealth of it to study–and come to a reasonable conclusion on more or less where that arbitrary point exists based on metrics having to do with societal health, broad educational and economic opportunity where meritocratic considerations outweigh the built in advantages of inherited wealth, the existence of a broad and viable middle class to fuel economic prosperity and many other factors I’m sure. There is also in the vicinity of that point, one where wealth concentration destroys even putatively democratic political systems as the political class becomes unduly influenced by a tiny demographic minority and the entire premise of democracy fails to apply any longer and government ceases to represent or serve the many but instead the few. And this point is a classic tipping point that inevitably becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop– the wealthy rig the rules of the economic game incrementally further and further in their favor until the situation becomes untenable and great general misery and poverty ensue and society essentially disintegrates.

I would argue that it is self evident that the US has far surpassed that tipping point and unless strong correctives are devised and applied to stop and reverse the current trendlines, the economic, social and political future of the US is in existential peril.

Once this realization sets in we can begin to look at methods for addressing this knowing full well the headwinds will be howling against our accomplishing anything substantive. But in the end we are many and they are few and should a popular resolve coalesce that this needs fixing, there’s precious little the billionaires can do to stop it happening. There are plenteous historical precedents to accomplish a necessary leveling to a healthy sustainable point, from monetary policy, tax policy, electoral finance reform to New Deal-type programs to pitchforks and torches and tumbrels and guillotines. The less bloody should be tried first and if those efforts are stymied, then obviously the more bloody must be employed.

The “Fiscal Cliff” Scam Unmasked– In Clear English

By: Kurt Sperry Monday October 29, 2012 12:00 pm

An admirably cogent and accessible explanation of why the so called “fiscal cliff” is pure political fear mongering in the form of an audio interview between Harry Shearer aka Ned Flanders and an actual economist, Dr. Stephanie Kelton. The Democrats and Republicans would strongly prefer you not understand this lesson in fundamental economics. The upcoming “Grand Bargain” between Obama and the GOP led House isn’t about protecting the dollar or the country’s solvency but about destroying/privatizing the social safety net, privatizing education and essentially gutting or destroying all government except “defense” so that already obscenely rich people can become even more obscenely rich. Um, guess who are paying for both the D & R campaigns? Those same obscenely rich people.

People, This Democratic and Republican Thing Ain’t Working

By: Kurt Sperry Wednesday October 24, 2012 11:58 am

There was a presidential debate where the candidates actually discussed the important policy issues that the corporate Republican and Republican Lite parties– aka R & D parties– assiduously avoid because they don’t want you thinking about them. Issues like:

Do we really need to spend as much on “defense” as the next 19 largest countries in the world combined– mostly to protect tax dodging multinational oil companies with no allegiance to America? (Obama and Romney agree we do.) Should presidential candidates take millions in contributions/bribes from the very entities they are charged with regulating? (Obama and Romney are both more than happy to.) Is outright killing and indefinitely detaining even American citizens with no legal process or judicial oversight in direct violation of the Bill of Rights a good idea? (Obama and Romney both agree this is a good policy.) Is locking up more Americans for non-violent drug crimes than are held in Europe, with a similar population, for all reasons combined a good idea, and should we double and triple down on this failed and racist policy? (Obama and Romney are both completely convinced this is a good plan.) How do you feel about not only failing to prosecute the ringleaders of the largest systemic financial fraud in world history but rewarding the perps with multi-trillion dollar bailouts? Seem like a good idea? (Obama and Romney are both fine with this.) Or maybe protecting sadistic torturers and unapologetic war criminals unambiguously guilty of violating both international law and treaties we have signed and bound by our pledge to enforce? Is that good politics or complicity after the fact? (Obama and Romney vote good policy!)

I obviously could go on but we don’t need to put up with this dismal standard from our politicians. Doing so in fact makes we who support these policies by voting for the politicians and parties that promote them part of the problem.

We cannot fix any of this voting for Democrats and Republicans. They are both unapologetically and implacably opposed to fixing any of this. They are in fact the problem we must get past to fix any of these issues, most of which outright majorities of Americans agree they are wrong on. Lesser evils get us nowhere but into greater evil more slowly. This D & R thing, people, ain’t working.