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Nederlog

Sunday, Apr 2, 2017

Crisis: On The "Deep State", White House Staffers, U.S. Borders, Junk Economics


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. The Deep State, Explained
2.
The White House Wouldn’t Post Trump Staffers’ Financial
     Disclosures. So We Did.

3. U.S. Border Agents Are Doing 'Digital Strip Searches'—Here's
     How to Protect Yourself

4. Days of Revolt: How We Got to Junk Economics
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, April 2, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is an article on "the deep state", but I found it rather weak (and it reminds me of the days that I was told - in the University of Amsterdam - that "everybody knows that truth does not exist"); item 2 is about some of the White House's financial disclosures
on some of Trump's staff; item 3 is about the illegal thefts of all private information that people risk who want to enter the USA (but it is a Guardian-article, which these days is not a recommendation [1]); and item 4 is a quite interesting video by Chris Hedges who is interviewing Michael Hudson (it is economy, but it is important).
April 2: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; and even the Dutch site was on time! I say! For the fourth day in succession! Nearly unheard of in the last 15 months! I have to admit that I am so amazed that I'll wait a little longer, but if this persists I can go back to the old site opening that worked for 20 years (which would be a considerable relief, for I don't like extra work).

I still have to add that where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)

1. The Deep State, Explained

The first article today is by John Light on Truthdig and originally on Moyers & Company:

This starts as follows - and I must say that I found the whole article a bit strange, while I have read considerably about the deep state:

As the daily drip of information about possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia trickles on, Democrats, commentators and at least some officials in the US intelligence community, it seems, smell a rat. CNN reported last week that according to sources, “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

Meanwhile, White House sources continue insisting to reporters that there’s no fire behind all the smoke. The true story, they say, is a conspiracy by the so-called “Deep State” to undermine a democratically elected president.

This is a bit strange, to start with, because in fact this is reported on the most superficial levels, in both cases, which will most probably consist of lies: "What CNN says" contrasted with "What the White House replies".

This may be allowed, for you have got to start somewhere, but the following bit is definitely a bit misleading:

“Deep State” may meet a similar fate, with some anti-Trump commentators arguing that the term, while appropriate for less democratic governments abroad, has no meaning in the United States, and refers to one of many conspiracy theories that found a home at InfoWars, Breitbart, and, ultimately, in the president’s brain.

Yet despite that, the idea of a Deep State is useful when talking about the forces that drive US policy. Here’s a look at its history and use today.

For the first paragraph - quite falsely - insists that the the USA is a democracy (no: it is an oligarchy of the rich, meanwhile, in which the non-rich have hardly any vote) and
insists that "therefore" the term
“Deep State” "has no meaning in the United States". That is simply propaganda (indeed from "some anti-Trump commentators").

But instead of saying why this is propaganda, the second paragraph, a bit incoherently, insists that the term "Deep State" "is useful", though again it offers no criterions nor any elucidations what "useful" is supposed to mean: "useful" as a fairy tale? "useful" as a fact? "useful" as a hypothesis? "useful" as "fake news"? We are not told.

Next, there is this:

How Trump allies talk about the “Deep State”

In Trump’s world, the “Deep State” is a sub rosa part of the liberal establishment, that crowd resistant to the reality TV star’s insurgent candidacy all along, and which ultimately was rebuffed by voters on Election Day. Although Trump has taken the helm of the executive branch, this theory goes, his opponents lurk just below the surface. “We are talking about the emergence of a deep state led by Barack Obama, and that is something that we should prevent,” Steve King, the right-wing member of Congress from Iowa and a Trump ally, told The New York Times.

Implicit is the idea that the intelligence agencies’ investigation into Trump and his campaign’s Russia ties are baseless, and that leaks about the investigation to the press are part of an effort to undermine him.
The first paragraph charts some of the uses the term "Deep State". Clearly - for anyone who has somewhat seriously considered the idea of the deep state in the USA - it  is mere propaganda to speak of "the emergence of a deep state led by Barack Obama", but again that is not stated.

And the second paragraph, again quite unaccountably, suddenly leaves the deep state, and talks about "
the intelligence agencies’ investigation", without noting the possibility of any overlap, and indeed without saying in what sense the "deep state" may be real.

Here is a definition of "Deep State", but it is restricted to the non-USA and it is given
considerably more clarity of a different kind than I thought it had:

The Deep State abroad

Historically, the idea of a Deep State is an import; it has been used for decades abroad to describe any network of entrenched government officials who function independently from elected politicians and work toward their own ends.

Not quite. First of all, the "Deep State" outside the USA is not merely "any network of entrenched government officials".

In fact, the Wikipedia defines "deep state" as follows:

State within a state is a political situation in a country when an internal organ ("deep state"), such as the armed forces and civilian authorities (intelligence agencies, police, administrative agencies and branches of governmental bureaucracy), does not respond to the civilian political leadership.

That is NOT the same as "any network of entrenched government officials" although I grant that the next statement more or less reflects what Light claimed the "Deep State" might be:

Although the state within the state can be conspiratorial in nature, the Deep State can also take the form of entrenched unelected career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial manner, to further their own interests (e.g., job security, enhanced power and authority, pursuit of ideological goals and objectives, and the general growth of their agency) and in opposition to the policies of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting the policies and directives of elected officials.

But this second meaning seems rather different from the first, that is much wider, much more comprehensive and also much more political/governmental than merely bureaucratic.

Then there is Mike Lofgren's use of the term, that is introduced by the baloney that in the USA ("Exceptional!","Exceptional!", "Exceptional!") - bolding added - "we have another kind of Deep State" (which in fact was not properly defined by Light, at least according to Wikipedia):

America’s Deep State

Here in the United States, we have another kind of Deep State, one that Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer specializing in intelligence, described in an original essay for our site in 2014.

The Deep State, Lofgren wrote, was not “a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day.” It is not a tight-knit group, and has no clear objective. Rather, it is a sprawling network, stretching across the government and into the private sector. “It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies,” Lofgren wrote. “… I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.” In Lofgren’s definition are echoes of President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous farewell address in 1961, in which he implored future presidents to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

I shall take this as mostly correct, though I add that Lofgren - correctly according to the Wikipedia - did speak of "the state within a state". It is also correct that Lofgren connected his "deep state" with what may be called in effect Eisenhower's "deep state" - except that Eisenhower referred to it as "the military-industrial complex".

Then again, already in 1961 Eisenhower extended the concept to comprise both elements of the military and of industry, while Lofgren added government officials (I think quite correctly):

But in his Obama-era definition of the Deep State, Lofgren also included “the White House advisers who urged Obama not to impose compensation limits on Wall Street CEOs, the contractor-connected think tank experts who besought us to ‘stay the course’ in Iraq, the economic gurus who perpetually demonstrate that globalization and deregulation are a blessing that makes us all better off in the long run.”

Next, we get this:

A Deep State divided and debated

The 2016 election shook up the Deep State. It’s without question that elements within it are concerned about Donald Trump and pushing back against him. The FBI, which may have helped Trump win the election with its last-minute announcement about Clinton’s emails, is now investigating him.
But which "Deep State" was "shook up"? The state in the state? The bureaucrats who are jockeying for power and money? Eisenhower's deep state? Lofgren's deep state? Light does not answer the question at all.

And then there is - in Light's opinion - a fifth kind of "deep state" emerging, which is generated by Trump and his government:

The Deep State to come

While the Russia story continues to trickle out, Trump and his minions have gotten to work trying to build their own network of loyal informants across the government, a web that resembles the deep states seen abroad more than anything America has known.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly has taken the reins of foreign policy from the State Department and is running it out of the White House. He’s also been tasked with overhauling, and potentially privatizing, elements of the federal bureaucracy from his perch at Donald Trump’s side. Meanwhile, Trump has installed hundreds of officials across government to serve as his eyes and ears, rooting out those opposed to his administration and pushing his agenda throughout official agencies.

If Obama’s Deep State is perceived by Trump as the enemy, his solution is to build his own Deep State to counter it.

I agree that "Trump has installed hundreds of officials across government to serve as his eyes and ears" - but that is not at all a "deep state" as defined above by Eisenhower, the Wikipedia, or Mike Lofgren, for each of these depends on quite long
existing governmental bureaucrats
, quite
long existing institutions and practices, and many ties between personnel in the military, the industries, the secret services, and the government.

So all in all my judgment on this article is that if it explains the deep state, it does so in the manner of post-truth: You don't even know what is and isn't true according to its writer, for you are told only that the term "deep state" is - somehow - "useful" and that now (!) a "deep state" is being build by Trump to stop the "deep state" build by Obama.

This did not really explain anything to me: it added to the confusions, probably deliberately.

2. The White House Wouldn’t Post Trump Staffers’ Financial Disclosures. So We Did.

The second article is by Ariana Tobin and Derk Kravitz on Common Dreams and originally on ProPublica:
This starts as follows:
In a remarkable Friday night news dump, the Trump administration made dozens of White House staffers’ financial disclosure forms available. But they did it with an extra dose of opacity.

These are important disclosures from the people who have the president’s ear and shape national policy. They lay out all sorts of details, including information on ownership of stocks, real estate and companies, and make possible conflicts of interest public.

But the White House required a separate request for each staffer’s disclosure. And they didn’t give the names of the staffers, leaving us to guess who had filed disclosures, a kind of Transparency Bingo.

I say. Was this to make things as difficult as possible for the hated journalists?
Anyway, here are some of the things that journalists did pick up:

Among the things we’ve learned already:

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s hand-picked chief strategist, earned more than $500,000 last year through businesses connected to Republican donors Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah. The companies include the conservative website Breitbart News Network; the data-crunching firm Cambridge Analytica; the conservative nonprofit Government Accountability Institute; and the entertainment production company Glittering Steel. (Per an agreement with White House ethics attorneys, Bannon is selling his stakes in Cambridge Analytica and Glittering Steel. He made somewhere between $1.3 million and $2.3 million last year, according to the filings.)

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, resigned his positions in 266 different business entities in order to comply with federal ethics rules, White House officials said Friday. He and his wife Ivanka’s financial disclosure shows the scale of their wealth, largely through the family-run Kushner Companies: real estate and investments worth as much as $741 million.

And Kushner is holding onto more than 100 real-estate assets, including a Trump-branded rental building in Jersey City, New Jersey, which was financed with millions from wealthy Chinese investors through a visa program.

There is more in the article, also with the promise there is more to come. This is a recommended article.

3. U.S. Border Agents Are Doing 'Digital Strip Searches'—Here's How to Protect Yourself

The third article is by Olivia Solon on AlterNet:

This is from near the beginning:
According to data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), searches of mobile phones by border agents grew from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to 25,000 in 2016 (DHS told the Guardian that there was an anomaly in the 2016 data, but did not reveal how that changes these figures). Anecdotal evidence indicates that searches have risen further in the wake of the election of Donald Trump.

Border agents carry out these invasive searches without any warrant or even suspicion, going through text messages, social media accounts and photos, while asking the owner about the people they are interacting with, their religious affiliations and travel patterns.

In fact, these are just the techniques of a police state, except that this way the state learns very much more in a very much shorter time. Also, this is simply forbidden by the Fourth Amendment.

Experts credit the rise in searches to the increase in technical capacity at the border.

“They are building capacity to routinely search as many devices as possible,” said Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

The lack of transparency over the process has led the free speech watchdog to file a freedom of information lawsuit, seeking to obtain the DHS’s rules for “suspicionless” searches of mobile devices. The institute wants to know what exactly immigration officials are looking for and how they decide who to target.

I think these experts were not quite honest, to put it that way:

The activity is obviously illegal; it also is obviously a police state technique; it destroys human rights and privacy on a large scale; and such things happen not because of "the increase in technical capacity at the border" ("at the border"!!) but because of political/ethical choices by the leaders of the country. (But O: This is the "Renewed Guardian", where you are now supposed to pay extra for investigative journalism [1]).

Then there is this:

In addition to going through people’s smartphones in person, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) can also confiscate devices for a further forensic examination. In this case agents can make full copies of all of the data on the phone, which can be shared with other government agencies. DHS has published test results from dozens of tools it can use to extract data from phones.

Again this is a very sick and a very sickening application of the techniques of the police state, that steals personal private data.

There is also this:

What if individuals refuse to give over their passwords? Depending on your immigration status, that could mean being turned away from the United States.

But “US citizens and returning green card holders can’t be denied entry for refusing to provide a password,” said Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Then again, it is not stated whether the US citizens smartphones were "also confiscate devices for a further forensic examination". Finally, here is what you can do:

So what can people do to protect their personal data?

“The ideal thing to do is to leave your main phone and laptop at home and go across the border with a burner phone,” said Sinha, referring to a simple device that doesn’t have your email or social media apps on it.

For those who can’t do that, experts suggest deleting data and apps from devices.

That is, the only way to protect yourself against the American police state active at the American borders is a somewhat costly affair. That is, you can "protect yourself" by not having your real smartphone with you, when you travel to the USA, for if you do, you risk falling into the hands of bureaucrats from the police state who will request all your
data "to check whether you are a terrorist".

4. Days of Revolt: How We Got to Junk Economics

The fourth and last item consists of a video with Chris Hedges interviewing the economist Michael Hudson:

I like the video and recommend you see it, but it may be "too economical" for some.

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

[1] I am sorry, but while I liked The Guardian in the 1970ies, and also liked The Guardian under Alan Rusbridger, I have a rather strong distaste for it ever since (i) it made itself uncopyable (ii) it got directed by Katharine Viner, and (iii) its readers are
now asked to contribute extra money to get investigative reporting.

And in fact I think the old Guardian is dead, and the new Guardian is a Blatcherist, neo-Tory-like kind of paper. It is a considerable loss, but I think I am correct (and for more see the Off-Guardian).


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