Battles for Democracy. Week 13

Battles for Democracy. Week 13

A weekly summary of the battles for democracy we couldn’t write about.

Citizens Losing

Citizens abused or killed, liberties and rights cut.

More than 500 people sentenced to death in a single hearing in Egypt. According to state media reports, in a single hearing, the Minya Criminal Court sentenced 529 supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi to be executed for their alleged role in violence following his ousting in July last year where more than 600 people were killed by the security forces.

Michael Hayden, director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005, being too sincere in an interview to Der Spiegel. Some excerpts:

Hayden: Look, we spy. We’re really good at it.
SPIEGEL: Wouldn’t it be better to bring him [Edward Snowden] home?
Hayden: … absolutely
SPIEGEL: … and grant him clemency?
Hayden: No. God, no. No. No.
SPIEGEL: Isn’t there a disconnect between your country being the champion of the Internet as a symbol of freedom and the goal, as the NSA puts it, of owning the Internet?
Hayden: I wouldn’t say disconnect. But there is a dissonance.
Hayden: I don’t know the facts of the case, but to be perfectly candid with you and your readers, the president promised to not surveil Angela Merkel. This was not a promise in perpetuity that no head of the German government would be surveilled.

Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, is not trying to block social media as much as taint it. An immense number of pixels have been lit analyzing Turkey’s Twitter block. Some basic facts are widely understood. The block doesn’t work in terms of keeping people off Twitter, nor in terms of keeping information from spreading on other social media. But it is misguided to assume that the Turkish government is unaware of this fact. All the analyses out there asking whether Erdogan understands this are missing the point. Of course he does.

Although the European Commision is to freeze negotiation over EU-US trade deal, to conduct a public consultation, it might be just smoke: (1) The Commission wants to reform, not dump, the special courts for corporations. (2) The Commission’s reform agenda will not address the basic flaws of the system. (3) Other trade deals are not affected by the Commission’s consultation, but they contain the same extreme corporate rights. (4) Other dangerous aspects of the EU-US trade talks are not addressed. (5) Commission consultations are biased and dominated by corporate lobbyists.

The British Government threaten to close the Guardian for the publication of Snowden’s revelations. The Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson has clarified his statement at a radio conference in Dublin that the British Government would close down the newspaper over the Edward Snowden spying affair.

Citizens Winning

Citizens unite, react and take action, institutions support them.

This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public’s seat at the table of government.”-  Edward Snowden statement on Administration’s NSA Reform Plan.

  • Obama to Call for End to N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection. The Obama administration is preparing a legislative proposal for a reform of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone and electronic communication records program. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.
  • In response to this, Senator Patrick Leahy pointed out that there’s a much easier way to accomplish that. The authority to do so technically runs out on Friday of this week (March 28th), so if the President wants to end the program, he can just not seek to renew the authority

Turkish Court Overturns the Government’s Ban on Twitter. A court in Turkey ruled on Wednesday that the government could not ban Twitter, as it sought to do five days ago, and ordered the country’s telecommunications authority to restore access to the service.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has won the infamous Rosemary Award for worst open government performance in 2013. Despite heavy competition, Clapper’s “No, sir” lie to Senator Ron Wyden’s question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” sealed his receipt of the dubious achievement award, which cites the vastly excessive secrecy of the entire U.S. surveillance establishment.

Brazil freedom on the internet now in the hands of senators (In Portuguese). After more than 38 thousand citizens mobilized to send messages to party leaders, the House of Representatives finally passed the Internet Legal Framework keeping its three main pillars: net neutrality, freedom of expression and user privacy. Brazilians want to repeat the same strategy with the Senate.

European Commission to freeze negotiations over dangerous corporate rights in the proposed EU-US trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP) and to conduct a public consultation on the issue. In the face of the growing opposition to excessive corporate powers in TTIP, European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht has announced that he will consult the public on the EU proposal for the investment protection chapter in the deal. The proposal, probably not the negotiation text but a summary that the Commission will put together specifically for the consultation, will be published in March. There will be three months to comment.

Tools For Democracy Private and secure. Real time messaging, calling and email.
edit 5/4/14: they advertise that users can generate and store their own private key but this is only possible if you pay

Caritas Europa Crisis Monitoring Report 2014. A study of the impact of the crisis and austerity on people, with a special focus on Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

How to get Chrome to expose less attack surface to potentially malicious web pages, and to be less chatty on the network. Many things can be applied in other browsers too,

Lo and Behold!

The Bank of England’s dose of honesty throws the theoretical basis for austerity out the window. Something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy”, stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.

In effect, we have been transferring money from the poor to the rich, from people who would spend the money to people who do not need to spend the money, and the result of that is weaker aggregate demand.”- Joseph E. Stiglitz. Nobel Prize in Economics 2001 on why the economic crisis was caused by bad regulation and bad financial practices in the US.