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Nederlog

November 21, 2015
Crisis: Whistleblowers, Paris, Sanders & Socialism, "War on Terrror", NSA & E-mails
 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
 
  -- Benjamin Franklin
  "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone

  "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton


















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Sections

Introduction

1.  Air Force Whistleblowers Risk Prosecution to Warn Drone War
Kills Civilians, Fuels Terror
 
2. The Paris Attacks Are Being Used to Justify Agendas They Have
Nothing to Do With

3. Bernie Sanders Champions Democratic Socialism in Major Speech at Georgetown
4.  The ‘War on Terror’ Has Been Lost
5. New Docs Reveal NSA Never Ended Bulk Email Collection, Just Hid It Better

Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 21, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is again on the four drone operators who stepped forward as whistleblowers: This gives some more information and also quotes their quite good letter to Obama and others; item 2 is mostly concerned with the spineless "journalists" of the mainstream media and with some quite crazy comments by GOP presidential candidates; item 3 is about a speech on democratic socialism that Bernie Sanders gave at Georgetown, with various comments by me; item 4 is about an article by Nat Parry, where I agree with Parry's main thesis that the "War on Terror" has been lost, but also insist Bush Jr, Obama, their military men, and most politicians disagree with Parry and me; and item 5 is about the news that the NSA continues collecting all e-mails, and does so by moving to another country. I am not amazed (and much against).

1. Air Force Whistleblowers Risk Prosecution to Warn Drone War Kills Civilians, Fuels Terror

The first item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows, and I wrote about this before (here), but today there are several interviews with these four whistleblowers on Democracy Now! This is from the beginning of one of them:
Has the U.S. drone war "fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS"? That’s the conclusion of four former Air Force servicemembers who are speaking out together for the first time. They’ve issued a letter to President Obama warning the U.S. drone program is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism. They accuse the administration of lying about the effectiveness of the drone program, saying it is good at killing people—just not the right ones. The four drone war veterans risk prosecution by an administration that has been unprecedented in its targeting of government whistleblowers. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, they join us in their first extended broadcast interview.
I will leave the interviews to your interests. I thought they are interesting. Instead I give two more quotes, the first by Juan González who explains the position of the four:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But now an unprecedented group is calling for the drone war to stop. In an open letter to President Obama, four U.S. Air Force servicemembers who took part in the drone campaign say targeted killings and remote control bombings fuel the very terrorism the government says it’s trying to destroy. The four whistleblowers write, quote, "We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."
The second is the open letter in the above quote, which is here because it is brief, clear and quite good:

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Secretary Ashton B. Carter
Department of Defense

Director John O. Brennan
Central Intelligence Agency

Dear President Obama, Secretary Carter and Director Brennan:

We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.

When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. We were cut loose by the same government we gave so much to ­­ sent  out in the world without adequate medical care, reliable public health services, or necessary benefits.  Some of us are now homeless. Others of us barely make it.

We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country’s leaders lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program. We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home.  Such silence would violate the very oaths we took to support and defend the Constitution.


We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the unprecedented prosecution of truth­tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. For the sake of this country, we hope it is otherwise.

Sincerely,

This is signed by the four, with ranks and titles. I think it is a brave and very sensible letter. 

2. The Paris Attacks Are Being Used to Justify Agendas They Have Nothing to Do With

The second item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This is mainly here because I can't copy anymore from The Guardian [1]. Here are two quotes from Trevor Timms writing on The Guardian, who reacted to the great Republican publicity offense after the Paris attacks:
First, there’s the loud “we need to ban encryption” push that immediately spawned hundreds of articles and opinions strongly pushed by current and former intelligence officials the day or two after the attacks, despite the government quietly admitting there was no evidence that the attackers used encryption to communicate. It was a masterful PR coup: current and former intelligence officials got to sit through a series of fawning interviews on television where they were allowed to pin any of their failures on Edward Snowden and encryption – the bedrock of privacy and security for hundreds of millions of innocent people – with virtually no pushback, or any critical questions about their own conduct.
Incidentally, I'd say the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the "journalists" who failed to ask any critical questions, for "intelligence officials" may be fairly expected to abuse any opportunity they get to further their own agendas.

But these days, it seems as if most journalists who work for the mainstream media have been selected as journalists because they do not ask any critical question, and merely serve as obsequious admirers of those they interview.
That is, they are selected to work as "journalists" precisely because they lack the guts or the brains to really question political types' many lies and obfuscations.

And there is this:

As dishonest as the “debate” over encryption has been, the dark descension of the Republican party into outright racism and cynically playing off the irrational fears of the public over the Syrian refugee crisis has been worse. We now know the attackers weren’t Syrian and weren’t even refugees. It was a cruel rumor or hoax that one was thought to have come through Europe with a Syrian passport system, but that was cleared up days ago. But in the world of Republican primaries, who cares about facts? …

It doesn’t matter that the US has a robust screening system that has seen over 750,000 refugees come to the United States without incident – the Republican-led House has now voted to grind the already intensive screening process to a virtual halt (they were disgracefully joined by many Democrats). Chris Christie said the US should refuse widows and orphans. Rand Paul introduced a law to bar the entire Muslim world from entering the US as refugees. Donald Trump has suggested he would digitally track every Muslim in the county.

I'd say that the position(s) of Christie, Paul and Trump is this: 'We kill 'm for you! We blow up their houses, roads, hospitals and schools! We murder the lot for you! Including their women and children! But don't you dare ask us to take in any refugee! We kill 'm; the Europeans have to take them in if they are too  cowardly to be killed or to fight in Syria! WTF do we care! We are Ex-Cep-Tio- Nal!'

3. Bernie Sanders Champions Democratic Socialism in Major Speech at Georgetown

The third item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This is the start of a fairly long series of quotes from the speech, preceded by two introductory bits. The first is this:
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders presented himself as heir to the populist legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday that amounts to the clearest articulation yet of his political philosophy and vision for the United States.
OK - and you find parts of it below. I agree to the above assessment. There is also this:
Connor Kilpatrick, an editor at the radical left magazine Jacobin, praised Sanders’ speech and campaign in words meant for socialists who view Sanders as not pure enough to deserve their support:
[T]he popular association of socialism with Scandinavian social democracy rather than “the country with all the gulags that doesn’t exist anymore” is a far better starting point for a renewed anticapitalist politics.
I think myself that the "socialists who view Sanders as not pure enough to deserve their support" consist - in fact - mostly of Chris Hedges, although this is a guess of mine.

And I also have several times protested against Chris Hedges (whom I also like, but disagree with on this point), though I think I have all these times said that from a European point of view (which is mine: I have never even been in the USA) the senses of many political terms, and notably "socialism", "liberalism" and "neoliberalism" seem rather strongly confused. (It very probably is the same for most Americans who try to make sense of European politics.)

Besides, I stem from a much more radical family than Sanders or Hedges [2], and one of my reasons, when 20, to change from a basically political point of view to a basically scientific point of view was precisely all the infighting I'd seen between various types of socialists, who nearly all battled with each other very much more than with their capitalist enemies, and who did so - they said - on the grounds of what seemed to me minor differences of socialist doctrine, but which they almost always saw in terms of betrayals.

Anyway, the rest of the quotations in this item are all from Bernie Sanders' speech:

Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.” Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Yes. But I have two remarks.

First, Roosevelt himself was a capitalist (with lots of money from a rich background), who may have saved capitalism and who did so (whether or not he saved it) by strongly supporting what I call capitalism-with-a-human-face, and by opposing the plans of many rich men of his time for capitalism-with-an- inhuman-face. Roosevelt certainly was not a socialist.

Secondly, As to the final paragraph above: I am willing to suppose that "all" of the measures were described (by someone, somehow) as socialist. But then that was and is rather misleading from my point of view, for (1) all these changes were proposed within and for a fundamentally capitalist economy and society, and (2) while most or all of these changes were initialized or supported by socialists (of various kinds) I'd say that, within a fundamentally capitalist society, they are less about socialism than about fairness. [3]

The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

In fact, I'd like to say it started in 1979/1980 when Thatcher was elected as British prime minister, and Reagan was elected as American president. This accords better with my own memories, and also with most of the facts I do know, and one such a bundle of facts is the 1980 book "American Averages", which gives a great amount of facts about American society in the 1970ies. (It gets reviewed in four consecutive parts starting here and does give the best review of "the USA in the 1970ies" that I know.)

We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.

Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth - trillions of wealth - going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent - a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.

Yes, though again I like to date it back to 1980. Also, I am less interested in the "one-tenth of 1 percent", and that not because I don't think they have enormously profited, but because they are surrounded by a much larger amount of persons - between 5 and 10% I'd say - who support the government and the rich (and incidentally: most in the government with dominant positions do belong to the rich). It is this group - altogether 5-10% of the people - also who have most of the power, and these who must be defeated.

Today, in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.

Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings - zero - while millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death. “How will I retire with dignity?,” they ask?

Actually, with one of the best M.A. degrees in psychology ever awarded, and living in Holland, I have never earned a single cent due to my degrees [4], and am mostly like the "millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year": I am 65, have disabilities since I was 28, never got any help because of them either, and receive slightly more than $ 13,000, but less than the minimal Dutch pension.

In 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights. This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

Actually, I have that speech of Roosevelt somewhere on my hard disk. I agree it was important, and I also agree it did not get the attention it deserves. I'll try to find it and put it in Nederlog, but not today.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later, after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!

I agree that the system in America is both very corrupt and very unfair, and the rest of Sanders criticism is also quite correct - but again I don't think that the attempts by Sanders and others to reform the system (which I think is very badly needed) and make it far less corrupt and far more fair are necessarily described as "democratic socialism", though indeed some of these attemps may be.

More below. First, there is this:

Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago - and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United States.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy.
I am strongly for a tuition free university, and indeed that system also did exist in Holland, but has since been radically changed: University now is quite expensive in Holland as well, and gives much less education than I received (about half as much for "the same" degree), which again was considerably less than the Dutch intelligentsia received between 1865 and 1965 (when money was also needed to study).

Next and last, there is this, which is quite important:

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:

I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes - if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I like all of this, and especially this bit:

I don’t believe government should own the means of production (...)

Then again, as explained in my "On Socialism" that is the main reason (there are others) why I do not call myself a socialist, and indeed also the main reason why I could not admit (since I had been there in 1964) that the Soviet Union and its surrounding "socialist states" were socialist: the governments in effect owned everything there was to own, and to me that was much more state capitalism than socialism (which besides was both dictatorial and totalitarian).

Then again, there are considerable differences in the use of the term "socialism" in the USA and in Europe, and I still like Bernie Sanders a lot, and indeed especially because he is not corrupt and is fair, and as such is one of the few leading politicians in the USA.

And the speech was a good speech, and deserves full reading.

4. The ‘War on Terror’ Has Been Lost

The fourth item today is by Nat Parry on Consortium News:

This has the following summary:

After 14 years, trillions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of people dead – with violence expanding, not abating – perhaps it’s finally time to admit that the Bush-Obama “War on Terror” has been lost and that a new strategy addressing root causes is required, as Nat Parry describes.

Well... I agree that "the Bush-Obama “War on Terror” has been lost" and that it would be nice if a new and better "strategy addressing root causes" were to arise but (1) neither Bush nor Obama nor most politicians agree that the war has been lost, and (2) since the government and the military make most policies, "the Bush-Obama “War on Terror”" will very probably continue.

Also this is a long article, and I will not review it thoroughly. I pick out two bits, and the first is this:

Despite some tactical differences between the Bush and Obama administrations in the way the war has been waged – with a preference now on drone assassinations, for example, rather than full-scale invasions – the “War on Terror” has essentially followed the same logic of pursuing something like total victory by eliminating every terrorist no matter where they are, with an unfortunately high tolerance for killing large numbers of innocent bystanders in the process.

Any honest appraisal of this effort would now conclude that the overall approach has borne out just as badly as the most pessimistic critics asserted back in 2001 and 2002, when the foundation was being laid for what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld later dubbed the “Long War.”

Again yes and no: Yes, I agree with Nat Parry - but I also know that those making the war (Obama and his generals, let's say, at present) do not agree with Parry.

Indeed, an entire generation of young people has now come of age in the era of the “War on Terror.” To put this into perspective: the 18-year-olds currently enlisting in the United States Armed Forces and being deployed to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban or being sent to Guantanamo to guard the prisoners who continue to languish there were just preschoolers when the Twin Towers came crashing down, and can scarcely remember a time at which their country was not “at war.”

While many Americans might still consider the not-so-new normal of war, militaristic displays at sporting events, routine scapegoating of Muslims, and the relinquishing of individual privacy and civil liberties to be somehow “weird,” to millions of young people, there is nothing weird about it
Perhaps. In fact, I really don't know. I tend to assume that "militaristic displays at sporting events, routine scapegoating of Muslims, and the relinquishing of individual privacy and civil liberties" are weird, indeed in part because I did not see them most of my life, but also because I think - based on reading a whole lot of history - that at least the more intelligent are usually capable, also under more severe circumstances than currently exist in the USA, to see that none of the things I just quoted are normal, desirable, or good for most.

Then again, Nat Parry might agree, and insist that there simply are not many who are more intelligent than the average.

5. New Docs Reveal NSA Never Ended Bulk Email Collection, Just Hid It Better

The fifth item today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency (NSA) secretly replaced its program monitoring Americans' emails and moved it overseas before the operation was exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, according to new reporting.

NSA officials responded to Snowden's leaks by stating that the email records program had shut down in 2011—and in a way, it had. But newly released documents show the agency had simply created a "functional equivalent" that analyzed Americans' emails without collecting bulk data from U.S. telecommunications companies, the New York Times reported on Friday.

The Times obtained a copy of the NSA inspector general's watchdog report through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The report appeared to confirm that by moving its program outside of U.S. borders, the NSA was able to take advantage of several intelligence laws to conduct its surveillance operations with even less oversight and accountability than it had previously.

I say. Actually, while I did not know this, I am not amazed at all, which I am not because I am (still and since ten years) quite convinced that the main end of the NSA (and perhaps even of the Iraq War) is to get all the data they can get on anyone, in order to control them.

So I am not amazed that the NSA shifted part of its operations outside the USA.

This is from the New York Times:

One passage lists four reasons that the N.S.A. decided to end the email program and purge previously collected data. Three were redacted, but the fourth was uncensored. It said that “other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements” that the bulk email records program “had been designed to meet.”

The report explained that there were two other legal ways to get such data. One was the collection of bulk data that had been gathered in other countries, where the N.S.A.’s activities are largely not subject to regulation by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and oversight by the intelligence court. Because of the way the Internet operates, domestic data is often found on fiber optic cables abroad.

In brief: As long as the NSA somewhere can tap all the important cables, and as long as the traffic is not encrypted, the NSA can get all it likes virtually anywhere, and if elsewhere than in the USA, also without any questions.

There is also this clarification:
The NSA's email surveillance is different from the agency's phone record collection program, which is set to expire at the end of this month after a drawn-out legislative battle which ended in June. The sunset means the NSA will expunge five years' worth of metadata collected on millions of unsuspecting people, but "technical personnel" will still be allowed to access the information for an additional three months.
In brief: Your emails are still collected and stored, and as far as the NSA is concerned this will continue forever, from anywhere, without anyone controlling of the NSA.

---------------------------------------------
Note

[1] I will return to this later. Here I merely note that (1) The Guardian is one of the very few papers that does this, and (2) it is quite extreme, technically speaking, for I do not know how to this with Javascript, and tend to believe they
use more, but that too I do not know, yet. More later.

[2] Having two parent who were both communists for 45 years; who were both in the communist resistance in WW II; whose father and his father were arrested by the Nazis and convicted as "political terrorists" to concentration camp imprisonment, that my grandfather did not survive; and with my mother's family being anarchists and atheists since the 1850ies.

In fact, apart from my brother I do not know anyone with such a background.


[3] Also, in part because the term "socialism" has been made (on purpose) hateful to many Americans, I'd say "fairness" is the better term than "socialism", also because it is a good way to discuss the GOP: Is it fair that so many are so poor and so few so rich? Etc. etc.

[4] This is very probably the outcome of (1) my own radicalness (which goes back to being a son of my parents) (2) the degenerates who held power in Holland and (3) my illness since 1.1.1979: If any of these had been absent, I probably would have gotten a job in some university (probably a non-Dutch one).

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