Wednesday, March 26, 2014

(Jimmy Carter Zings Colbert!) Can We Rebuild An Internet Secure from Snooping Spies? (Why I Must Speak Out on Israel, Palestine and BDS (Roger Waters Speaks))

Jimmy Carter may be the only guest (or one of the few) to actually out-zing Stephen Colbert on his show (and this happened just last night against all of Colbert's plans).

I'm thinking that Jimmy should have his own show. He's, naturally, intelligent, affable, and a very witty man, and quite capable of speaking knowledgeably on all sorts of subjects. Not to mention, being able to quote personal letters from people like the Pope (knocking out Stephen!) again and again.

I'd watch it.

And I'd bet that lots of people would.

Here's Colbert's Jimmy Carter moment:

The NSA Is Burning Down the Web, But What if We Rebuilt a Spy-Proof Internet?

By David Byrne, Creative Time Reports

24 March 14

To realize what we've given away, imagine going totally offline. Better yet, believe in what a truly secure online life might look like

hat will life be like after the internet? Thanks to the mass surveillance undertaken by the National Security Agency and the general creepiness of companies like Google and Facebook, I've found myself considering this question. I mean, nothing lasts forever, right?
There's a broad tech backlash going on right now; I wonder just how deep the disillusionment runs. I get the feeling that there are folks out there who would relish putting the internet behind us sooner rather than later. Imagine that: even the internet could be a thing of the past one day. What would that be like? No Facebook. No Google. No government nerds looking through your webcam.
But could we become more secure without abandoning the internet? What if there's a third way? One that doesn't involve either passive resignation to being exploited or a Luddite smash-the-looms fantasy. What if we began to develop and encourage the adoption of machines and a network that are actually secure – through which neither thieves, corporations, nor the NSA could track us – and what if these could be configured by us, to really do what we want them to do? To stop the spying, stealing and monitoring, but to allow other things to continue.

What would that look like?

A problem: maybe the internet wasn't built to be secure

We all know by now that the NSA and the UK's Government Communication Headquarters are reading our emails, listening to our phone conversations, storing our metadata and using our computers and phones to watch us. A bunch of dorky guys amassing huge collections of pictures of tits and dicks. Here they are, hard at work, protecting us:

I know I feel safer now! Happy viewing, guys! If we had any doubts before, now we know that the government doesn't trust us – so very many of us – and we certainly don't trust it.

Meanwhile, thieves have managed to get their hands on more than 100 million credit card numbers and PINs from Target and Neiman Marcus. Lots of cyber thieves operate in the former Soviet republics, so maybe that new sports car in Baku or that night on the town in Sofia is courtesy of your hard-earned savings.

It's not just the government and thieves who take advantage of the web's weird combination of opacity and insecurity; Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies repurpose our phones and tablets into tracking and monitoring devices. Google, for one, makes a lot of money gathering information from us and selling it to advertisers. The free conveniences we enjoy – email, endless web browsing, cats and all sorts of gossip – are not, in fact, free. They are merely clever trade-offs for information about you. In return for access to much of the world's knowledge, we hand over valuable personal information about everything we believe, everything we're curious about, everything we desire or fear – everything that makes us who we are, at least to the retailers, advertisers and secret government agencies on the receiving end.

It is we who are being sold.

Trading our privacy for the convenience of a Google search is not so different from giving up constitutionally protected freedoms in exchange for the "security" that our government claims to offer. At least with Google and other tech services we know we're getting something; whether we actually are more secure because of the NSA's surveillance is an unresolved question. We are frequently told that this indiscriminate data collection has produced valuable results, but those results are "secret," so you'll just have to trust the government. I'm not saying we don't need strong security measures to protect us from lunatics, but this dragnet surveillance has gone way beyond meeting that need.

Cyber thieves, for their part, don't offer the average internet user anything in return – not only that, but they make money selling information about the security gaps they find to the US government. It's an open question whether the government actually wants to patch up those holes and make the internet more secure. For now, it's in its interest to keep these holes open – available for future use, but secret. And we know how good the government is at keeping secrets.

To a lot of folks it appears that the corporations, the thieves and the government are all doing exactly the same thing: the "legal" behavior and the illegal theft are cousins. Spying and cyber theft are not freak phenomena; increasingly, they appear to be unavoidable consequences of online access as it now exists.

As the internet has become more integral to our lives, we've become more vulnerable to its seductions, and the web has started to act like a bully, a drug dealer. It knows we need it, love it and are addicted to it, so it can take advantage of that need.

Moreover, the internet is no longer even egalitarian. And that was one of the big pluses! Once it seemed that everyone had the same access to information. Soon, though, its glories will be available only to those who can afford them. Recently, Verizon won a court ruling against net neutrality, which the Federal Communications Commission has announced it will not appeal, so the way is clear for corporations to play favorites with internet traffic. Clearly this miraculous technology – developed in part with the noble ambition that nuclear scientists might communicate freely – has been perverted into something dark and disturbing.

A thought experiment:  what if we broke the internet?

These deteriorating conditions feed into the rapidly growing discontent regarding the internet. What if the disillusionment eventually reaches a point at which many feel that the free services and convenience no longer compensate for the exploitation, control and surveillance? What if, one night, a small group of people decided they've had enough and say, Let's call it a day? What exactly might this imaginary band of outsiders do? Would they or could they shut down the entire internet? Is that even possible? And what would be the consequences? Now, let's be clear, I'm not advocating this, but I also don't think it's entirely outside the realm of possibility.

As we all know by now, the NSA tapped into a vast amount of international and domestic internet communications by installing devices in small rooms in data centers in San Francisco and a few other places. It didn't require an all-out assault to subvert one of these fortresses – just a small intervention with impunity and intent. Here is what the inside of one of these buildings looks like:

That's what makes it all work? My music studio isn't this messy!

The internet, it seems, is not "nowhere". There are nodes in the internet, where great amounts of data come and go, and they do have real physical locations. Intercept a few of these nodes – there are some here in downtown New York, linked to some in Lisbon, where the fiber-optic cables surface – and you can infiltrate the whole world, as the NSA knows. They needed access to only a few undistinguished buildings to get what they wanted.

So… imagine that a hypothetical group of disillusioned citizens obtains access to the same nodes – let's say it's an inside job by some building employees – but instead of tapping the nodes, as the NSA did, they break them. And to avoid any possibility of repair, they detonate a small timed radioactive paintball after they leave. No one gets hurt, but the radioactive splatter creates a no-go zone. As a result, no one can fix the fiber optics or even get near them for, let's say, 100 years. The city outside, and even the rest of the building, might remain safe, but don't go near that room on the 20th floor!

This might sound far-fetched. Surely no one can "break" the internet! The internet is our friend! And how could anyone even get into the buildings that keep it running?! But as we've seen, neither our "security" organizations nor the world's largest corporations are very good at keeping their shit secure.

OK, now, for the sake of this thought experiment…

A wasteland: what if the web as we know it didn't exist?

The internet is a thing of the past. What now?

Obviously business goes haywire, to say nothing of the profitable business of watching us. High-speed automated trading, which makes up half or more of New York's stock market activity (though the proportion is currently declining, ends. Wall Street initially crashes, but eventually it finds a new normal. (There was trading before the internet, after all.) Streaming movies and music, however, is totally over. Skyping your grandmother – over.

Google is now absolutely worthless, though it still has all its existing data housed in massive server farms. No more drones will take flight or drop bombs on Pakistan or Yemen. Cash and checks are still pretty good; credit and debit cards can't rely on internet connections to verify accounts anymore – though they still work, as they did before the web. Amazon has ceased to exist, and huge brick-and-mortar stores like Wal-Mart have lost track of their massive inventories. Small towns and bookstores make a comeback! Even record stores!

No one can unfriend you, and Mark Zuckerberg won't know what and whom you like or don't like ever again. Online courses will halt; teachers will have to teach their students face-to-face. The Singularity will be postponed.

Would the world really be a better place without the internet? Is a complete reset really necessary?

For some, the internet has offered endless moneymaking opportunities, but whether many of the web's touted benefits end up reaching the majority of people is debatable. More and more, it seems that only a minority are making a fortune off what was extolled as a universally liberating technology.

To be fair, the internet offers some egalitarian benefits, besides pictures of cats. There's the well-publicized assistance it lends to movements for human rights and democracy and the instantaneously accessible forum it provides for much of the world's knowledge. Truth be told, the internet didn't actually create any of those movements or that knowledge, but it has certainly empowered a lot of previously voiceless people who now have access to them.

It's hard to weigh the worth of the internet because we can't even imagine life without it. We've internalized it. It's part of us, which explains why we are exploited so easily online. Is the internet a cancer killing us little by little or a wonderful cybernetic extension of our brains? Let's say we wanted to rid ourselves of the cancer. Would the cure be catastrophic or would the liberation be worth it?

A utopia: what would a revised internet look like?

To be honest, I have a hard time imagining internet 2.0. I'm old enough to remember the utopian enthusiasm that greeted the internet when it emerged 20 years ago. We can't go back – we know too much now – but maybe we can learn from what we loved about the internet back then. Namely, its egalitarian nature – that homemade and small-scale sites were just as accessible as the emerging e-commerce platforms. It was a pleasant, chaotic jumble. Can we revive the feeling of a souk and lose the big-box store feel?

Some folks have advocated that the internet be considered a utility. A "necessary" part of our lives like water, electricity or gas. It might be better to have some fair regulation than to let market forces shape the landscape. Can you imagine if corporations owned our water supply?

Imagine this: in a new internet, we'd still be able to send emails. Academic and nonprofit institutions would still share resources online. Wikipedia and web-based journalism would still exist. But if we can't be tracked as we are now, a lot would change. Google would lose its primary sources of revenue – ads – and return to being a very good search engine, with a lot fewer employees. The NSA and the other data thieves and collectors would be helpless. No one would have data on countless innocent citizens that could be repurposed to God knows what ends. The Chinese couldn't hack into the North American power grid.

All that money that was poured into online surveillance programs could of course now be spent on health and education (I did say "could" – I'm being very optimistic). That would actually increase security – worldwide. It's pretty well accepted that extreme poverty breeds terrorism. Offering attractive alternatives to extremism that lead to better lives is the way to win the "war on terror". Guns, drones and mass surveillance do the opposite: they actually breed terrorism. If we have the imagination to rethink both network security and national security – and that's a big if – then the whole world would have the opportunity to become safer, no matter what the US government claims.

Is there a will to change?

Let's assume that such a secure network structure is technically possible. internet 2.0 for real. Even if it is technically possible, I have a feeling that it might take a lot of willpower to walk away from the tit of convenience. Corporations and governments have built massive economic and political systems based on our accepting things as they are, and they will fight powerfully against any reforms.

What could make that surge of willpower come into existence? The information-hoovering in which corporations engage is of a kind with the government surveillance; in both cases we are prey to distant agendas. The three forms of data-gathering (if one includes cyber crime) are all connected – and none of them make us happier or more secure.

Reassessing what makes us secure might be a start. Real, life-long security comes not from the barrel of a gun or from being able to spy on your fellow citizens like a Stasi informant; it comes with less harsh extremes of wealth and poverty and increased access to health care and education. Embracing the security that comes with a more robust democracy is far preferable to other incentives to change, like all our credit cards becoming worthless or the NSA leaking incriminating webcam pictures of its critics. Before a catastrophic collapse like my hypothetical one ever comes, let's find it within ourselves to give up some convenience and become a little more human.

Roger Waters is an earth hero.

But who'd today believe in an earth hero?

Losing my father before I ever knew him and being brought up by a single, working mother who fought tirelessly for equality and justice colored my life in far-reaching ways and has driven all my work.

I'm glad we all didn't have to lose our fathers to become so selfless.

Roger Waters: Why I Must Speak Out on Israel, Palestine and BDS

Roger Waters: Why I must speak out on Israel, Palestine and BDS 

Roger Waters (Credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews)

Seventy years ago, my father – 2nd Lt. Eric Fletcher Waters – died in Italy fighting the Nazis. He was a committed pacifist, and a conscientious objector at the start of the war, but as Hitler’s crimes spread across Europe, he swapped the ambulance he had driven through the London blitz for a tin hat and a commission in the Royal Fusiliers and he joined the fight against fascism. He was killed near Aprilia in the battle for the Anzio Bridgehead on Feb. 18, 1944. My mother – Mary Duncan Waters – spent the rest of her life politically active, striving always to ensure that her children, and everyone else’s children, had no Sword of Damocles in the form of the despised Nazi Creed or any other despicable creed hanging over their heads.
Last month, thanks to the good people of Aprilia and Anzio, I was able to pay tribute to the father I never knew by unveiling a memorial in the town where he died and laying a wreath to honor him, and all the other fallen. Losing my father before I ever knew him and being brought up by a single, working mother who fought tirelessly for equality and justice colored my life in far-reaching ways and has driven all my work. And, at this point in my journey, I like to think that I pay tribute to both my parents each time I speak out in support of any beleaguered people denied the freedom and justice that I believe all of us deserve.
After visiting Israel in 2005 and the West Bank the following year, I was deeply moved and concerned by what I saw, and determined to add my voice to those searching for an equitable and lawful solution to the problem – for both Palestinians and Jews.

Given my upbringing, I really had no choice.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society appealed to people of conscience all over the world to act where governments had failed. They asked us to join their nonviolent movement – for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) – which aims to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, to secure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to uphold the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the cities and villages they were violently forced out of in 1948 and 1967.

After more than two decades of negotiations, the vulnerable Palestinian population still lives under occupation, while more land is taken, more illegal settlements built, and more Palestinians are imprisoned, injured or killed struggling for the right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till their land, to aspire to each and every human goal, just like the rest of us. The Palestinians’ prolonged statelessness has made them among the most vulnerable of all peoples, particularly in their diaspora where, as now in Syria, they are subject, as stateless, powerless refugees, to targeted violence, from all sides in that bloody conflict, subject to unimaginable hardship and  deprivation and, in many cases, particularly for the vulnerable young, to starvation.

What can we all do to advance the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel and the diaspora? Well, BDS is a nonviolent, citizen-led movement that is grounded in universal principles of human rights for all people. All people! In consequence, I have determined that the BDS approach is one I can fully support.

I feel honored to stand in solidarity alongside my father and my mother, and alongside my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and so many others of all colors, faiths and circumstances from all over the world – including an ever-increasing number of courageous Jewish Americans and Israelis – who have also answered the call.

In the furor that exists in the U.S. today about BDS and the right and wrong of a cultural boycott of Israel, a quote from one of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, has been on my mind. He prophetically said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”  The BDS movement is fulfilling its promise and fits Gandhi’s description.  Once dismissed by many as a futile strategy that would “never work,” BDS has gained much ground in recent weeks, bringing with it the expected backlash.

Divestment votes at major U.S. universities, European pension funds divesting from Israeli banks that do business with illegal Israeli settlements, and the recent high-profile parting of the ways between actor Scarlett Johansson and the global anti-poverty group Oxfam are symptoms of a growing resistance to the Israeli subjugation of the indigenous people of Palestine, and also, to the decades of occupation of land designated by the U.N. as a future state for the Palestinian people.

And with each new BDS headline, the ferocious reaction from the movement’s critics, with Netanyahu and his AIPAC fulminations in the vanguard, has risen exponentially.  I think it’s safe to say BDS is in the “then they fight you” stage.

Some wrongly portray the boycott movement, which is modeled on the boycotts employed against Apartheid South Africa and used in the U.S. civil rights movement, to be an attack on the Israeli people or even on the Jewish people, as a whole. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movement recognizes universal human rights under the law for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or color.

I do not claim to speak on behalf of the BDS movement, yet, as a vocal supporter, and because of my visibility in the music industry, I have become a natural target for those who wish to attack BDS, not by addressing the merits of its claims but, instead, by assigning hateful and racist motivations to BDS supporters like me. It has even been said, cruelly and wrongly, that I am a Nazi and an anti-Semite.

When I remarked in a recent interview on historical parallels, stating that I would not have played Vichy France or Berlin in World War II, it was not my intention to compare the Israelis to Nazis or the Holocaust to the decades-long oppression of the Palestinians.  There is no comparison to the Holocaust.  Nor did I intend or ever wish to compare the suffering of Jews then with the suffering of Palestinians now.  Comparing suffering is a painful, grotesque and diminishing exercise that dishonors the specific memory of all our fallen loved ones.

I believe that the root of all injustice and oppression has always been the same – the dehumanization of the other. It is the obsession with Us and Them that can lead us, regardless of racial or religious identity, into the abyss.

Let us never forget that oppression begets more oppression, and the tree of fear and bigotry bears only bitter fruit. The end of the occupation of Palestine, should we all manage to secure it, will mean freedom for the occupied and the occupiers and freedom from the bitter taste of all those wasted years and lives. And that will be a great gift to the world.

“Ashes and diamonds
Foe and friend
We were all equal
In the end.”


TONY said...

Good man, Roger Waters. Very succinctly put. I hope the Rolling Stones will reconsider their touring plans.

Cirze said...

Roger Waters is god.

Or something close.

I think the Rolling Stones are probably thinking of other things right now than touring.

I'm sure later they will continue.