Monday, November 13, 2017

Crisis: Chris Hedges, The NSA, Spies and Spies, Bernie Sanders, Patriotism & Taxes

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 13, 2017 

This is a Nederlog of Monday
November 13, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since nearly two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from November 13, 2017
1. Fight the Disease, Not the Symptoms
2. N.S.A. Struggles to Recover After Huge Breach of
     Spying Tools

3. Siding With the Enemy
4. Bernie Sanders: To Reform the Party, Democrats
     Must Split from Corporate America

5. Patriotism, Taxes, and Trump
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Fight the Disease, Not the Symptoms

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The disease of globalized corporate capitalism has the same effects across the planet. It weakens or destroys democratic institutions, making them subservient to corporate and oligarchic power. It forces domestic governments to give up control over their economies, which operate under policies dictated by global corporations, banks, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. It casts aside hundreds of millions of workers now classified as “redundant” or “surplus” labor. It disempowers underpaid and unprotected workers, many toiling in global sweatshops, keeping them cowed, anxious and compliant. It financializes the economy, creating predatory global institutions that extract money from individuals, institutions and states through punishing forms of debt peonage. It shuts down genuine debate on corporate-owned media platforms, especially in regard to vast income disparities and social inequality. And the destruction empowers proto-fascist movements and governments.
I agree with all of this, except for the term ¨proto-fascist¨, at least with reference to the USA: I think it is neofascism, and not to let you skip into vagaries, here is my definition of neofascism:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system
And I think all of this applies to Trump and his government, altough they so far are a movement rather than a social system.

Here is part of how neofascism works, and indeed also why it strongly depends on stupidity, ignorance and egoism:

These proto-fascist forces discredit verifiable fact and history and replace them with myth. They peddle nostalgia for lost glory. They attack the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern, technocratic world. They are xenophobic. They champion the “virtues” of a hyper-masculinity and the warrior cult. They preach regeneration through violence. They rally around demagogues who absolve followers of moral choice and promise strength and protection. They marginalize and destroy all individuals and institutions, including schools, that make possible self-criticism, self-reflection and transcendence and that nurture empathy, especially for the demonized. This is why artists and intellectuals are ridiculed and silenced. This is why dissent is attacked as an act of treason.
Yes indeed: Trumpian neofascism relies on medieval stupidity, ignorance, totalitarianism, wishful thinking, and egoism - I completely agree.

Here is the last bit that I´ll quote from this article:
There are within America’s corporate power structures individuals, parties and groups that find the hysterical, imbecilic and irrational rants of demagogues such as Trump repugnant. They seek a return to the polished mendacity of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They hope to promote the interests of global capitalism by maintaining the fiction of a functioning democracy and an open society. These “moderates” or “liberals,” however, are also the architects of the global corporate pillage. They created the political vacuum that the demagogues and proto-fascist movements have filled. They blind themselves to their own complicity. They embrace their own myths—such as the belief that former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians were responsible for the election of Trump—to avoid examining the social inequality that is behind the global crisis and their defeat.
To put this in slightly different terms: It does not really matter whether you support the corporate powers that support Trump or the corporate powers that support Clinton. Both are out to swindle the non-rich out of any real democracy and out of their money.

I agree and there is considerably more in this recommended article.

2. N.S.A. Struggles to Recover After Huge Breach of Spying Tools

This article is by Scott Shane, Nicole Perlotti and David Sangernov on The New York Times. I took it because of its title, that anounces ¨a fact¨ that I have not read about before.

It starts as follows, about a Mr. Jake Williams, who is claimed to work for the NSA:

Mr. Williams had written on his company blog about the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries. Now the group had replied in an angry screed on Twitter. It identified him — correctly — as a former member of the National Security Agency’s hacking group, Tailored Access Operations, or T.A.O., a job he had not publicly disclosed. Then the Shadow Brokers astonished him by dropping technical details that made clear they knew about highly classified hacking operations that he had conducted.

America’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency had been deeply infiltrated.

“They had operational insight that even most of my fellow operators at T.A.O. did not have,” said Mr. Williams, now with Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm he founded. “I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. Whoever wrote this either was a well-placed insider or had stolen a lot of operational data.”

Really now? I am not saying the above may not be true. Then again, Shane et al. do not give the slightest evidence that what they say is true: while this is also the first time I read about this. And apparently, you just have to believe the journalists of the NYT, presumably because they write for the NYT.

Well, I cannot believe anyone without any credible evidence. Here is more that comes without any evidence whatsoever:

The jolt to Mr. Williams from the Shadow Brokers’ riposte was part of a much broader earthquake that has shaken the N.S.A. to its core. Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world’s leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own.

I have been following the NSA and crisis quite narrowly since June 10, 2012; I wrote more than 1743 article on it since then; and I have not
read anything like this ever since August 2016, which is more than a year ago, when it was claimed to have been started.

Where is the evidence?! Here is more that is presented without any evidence whatsoever:

Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the F.B.I., officials still do not know whether the N.S.A. is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both.

In short, we are supposed to believe that the N.S.A. has been hacked by the Russians, all without the least evidence, while we are simultaneously requested to keep our full belief (again without the least evidence) on the American spies who spy on everyone and steal everyone´s private mails and opinions, as if the USA is a totalitarian country:

In response to detailed questions, an N.S.A. spokesman, Michael T. Halbig, said the agency “cannot comment on Shadow Brokers.” He denied that the episode had hurt morale. “N.S.A. continues to be viewed as a great place to work; we receive more than 140,000 applications each year for our hiring program,” he said.

I am sorry, but I do not believe on whit of the above until it has been supported and given real evidence by sites that are FAR more reliable than the NYT.

3. Siding With the Enemy

This article is by Charles M. Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows, and seems rather similar to me to the previous item:

Consider the strategic and historical magnitude of what “President” Donald Trump said last week: He said that he believed the intelligence conclusions of a nation hostile to this country — Russia — over the intelligence conclusions drawn by American agencies.

It is a striking declaration, a betrayal of American trust and interests that is almost treasonous in its own right.

No, this is just plain nonsense, and for a quite simple reason: There are a few fundamental differences between spies (whether for Russia or for the USA) and other people:

Spies have far more power to find out things than ordinary people; spies in the West have illegal powers to spy on everyone; no spy can be trusted to speak the truth without independent evidence; spies are required to lie by their superiors; and spies have many secrets they are supposed to remain silent about.

And while I am not saying any of this makes Russian spies more credible than American spies, I am saying that I cannot believe American spies on the mere ground that they are Americans.

But this does seem to hold for Mr. Blow, who is an American (unlike me).
Here is more about what Mr. Blow says Mr. Blow believes:

Let’s say this again, as a clear declaration: Russia attacked our elections. They stole emails that were published and broadcast ad nauseam. They created and distributed propaganda on social media designed to exacerbate our divisions, content that was seen by nearly half the country.

We may never know precisely how all the Russian efforts influenced our elections — which of these might have influenced the vote of individuals or conversely turned other voters off of the process altogether so that they just stayed home — but saying that it had no effect defies logic and is indeed laughable.

I am sorry, but this is just exaggerated nonsense:

The first paragraph does not say that the USA does precisely the same to Russia, and the first paragraph also does not say that the only evidence that Russia attacked the American elections seems to be that some Russians (?) paid $80,000 to get some advertisements on Facebook (which I calculated as the 100,000th part of the turnover of Facebook in a year).

And in fact the second paragraph partially concedes this for it says effectively that the Americans do not know ¨how all the Russian efforts influenced our elections¨ and indeed do also not know how this ¨might have influenced the vote of individuals or conversely turned other voters off of the process altogether¨.

But none of this seems much to matter to Mr. Blow: He knows that he is an American, and that is enough evidence for him, or so it seems.

Mr. Blow ends as follows:

Trump won’t acknowledge the crime because Trump was the beneficiary of the crime. Trump won’t insult Russia because it may well be that he was installed by Russia. Trump is as much a Russian project as an American president.

This means that he is compromised, in capacity and function, and that means that Trump’s fear of dishonor places the rest of us in danger of future attacks and exploitation. Trump is Putin’s dupe.

I dislike Trump as much (or more) than Mr. Blow does. But since I am not an American, I lack the totalitarian switch that makes me exclaim enthusiastically that the American´s unevidenced spies´ lies must be vastbly preferable to the Russian unevidenced spies´ lies, simply because they are by Americans.

4. Bernie Sanders: To Reform the Party, Democrats Must Split from Corporate America

This article is by Charlie May on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near the beginning:

In an op-ed published in Politico, Sanders began with a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump and everything that Trump's policies and rhetoric stand for. But that's a given to a party at a crossroads, facing the question of what's next.

So far, Sanders — who is technically an independent — and the Democrats have been on the same page with this message. But the two factions diverge when Sanders talks about reform from within the party. Scan "Resistance" on Twitter, and you're apt to find thousands of accounts who believe that Sanders hurt Clinton's chances for victory.

It is true that Sanders is not a real Democrat but an independent, for which reason Sanders´ popularity among Democrats must be a bit painful for the Democrats.

Then again, I am sorry, but this seems to me to be a fact: if you believe in Twitter you must be an idiot. I neither believe in Twitter, nor do I ever consult it, and I suggest that anyone who is rational should agree with me at least in not believing ¨Twitter¨.

Here is more on Sanders´ ideas:

He went on to argue that, despite the victories, "the longer-term trend for the Democratic Party is worrisome."

There's plenty of merit to that claim, even if many don't want to believe it to be true. Only 37 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the Democratic Party, a new CNN poll revealed. It's the lowest mark for the party in more than 25 years of polling. A majority, 54 percent, said they had an unfavorable view of the party. Note that Sen. Sanders is far more popular than the Democratic Party at large: in an October Harvard-Harris poll, 53 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Sanders. That sounds low, but he was still the most well-liked politician by far (..)

I think Sanders is right, and I draw your attention to the following: ¨There's plenty of merit to that claim, even if many don't want to believe it to be true¨, for this seems to imply that wishful thinking now is a totally acceptable way to arrive at conclusions (on Twitter): ¨I wish it were not true, and therefore it isn´t true.¨

Back to the article:

But perhaps his final point is the toughest for many to finally come to terms with.

"If we are to succeed," Sanders wrote, "we must fully appreciate [Donna] Brazile’s revelations and understand the need for far more transparency in the financial and policy workings of the Democratic Party." He added, "Hundreds of millions of dollars flow in and out of the Democratic National Committee with little to no accountability. That simply is not acceptable."

The "revelations" in question referred to former interim Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Donna Brazile, wrote last week that the DNC had an "unethical" agreement in place that put the Clinton campaign in charge of directing the party's funds, staffing and overall strategy long before she had won the primary.

There are others who claimed that Sanders was frauded out of his leading position with the Democrats.

And I should add that I think the Democrats are as lost as the Republi- cans for the simple reason that in both parties most Senators and most members of Congress seem to have been bought by the rich.

5. Patriotism, Taxes, and Trump

This article is by Robert Reich on  his site. This is from near the beginning:
[T]he tax plan gives American corporations a $2 trillion tax break, at a time when they’re enjoying record profits and stashing unprecedented amounts of cash in offshore tax shelters.

And it gives America’s wealthiest citizens trillions more, when the richest 1 percent now hold a record 38.6 percent
of the nation’s total wealth, up from 33.7 percent a decade ago. 

The reason Republicans give for enacting the plan is “supply-side” trickle-down nonsense. The real reason is payback to the GOP’s mega-donors.
I totally agree with this. Here is more, that I also agree with:

The biggest likely beneficiaries are busily investing an additional $43 million to pressure specific members of Congress to pass it, according to The Wall Street Journal.

They include the 45Committee, founded by billionaire casino oligarch Sheldon Adelson and Joe Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs; and the Koch Brothers’ groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners.

They’re not doing this out of love of America. They’re doing it out of love of money.

And there is this:

As more of the nation’s wealth has shifted to the top over the past three decades, major recipients have poured some of it into politics – buying themselves tax cuts, special subsidies, bailouts, lenient antitrust enforcement, favorable bankruptcy rules, extended intellectual property protection, and other laws that add to their wealth.

All of which have given them more clout to get additional legal changes that enlarge their wealth even more.
In fact, I think it is more serious: I think that in both parties most Senators and most members of Congress seem to have been bought by the rich.

But this is a recommended article.
I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky. They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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