October 16, 2015
Crisis: Drone Papers, Assange, Gaza, Bureaucracy, AI, Austerity
 "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

Prev- crisis -Next


Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US
     'Assassination Complex'

2. Police: Assange would be arrested if he left embassy to
     visit hospital

3. VIDEO: Chris Hedges and Max Blumenthal on Israel, Gaza
     and ‘The 51 Day War’

Creating an Un-Intelligence Machine
The Fascinating Truth About Why Artificial Intelligence
     Won't Take Over the World

AUSTERITY 101: The Three Reasons Republican Deficit
     Hawks Are Wrong

This is a Nederlog of Friday, October 16, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about The Drone Papers that were published this morning on The Intercept, that also includes a link to these papers, but I postpone discussing them till tomorrow or next week (too little time today, though what I do give is quite good); item 2 is about a problem Julian Assange has since June: A painful shoulder, that needs an MRI, that when taken outside the Ecuadorian Embassy will lead to his arrest; item 3 is about a video by Hedges and Blumenthal about Gaza and Israel; item 4 is about an article by Tom Engelhardt that is in fact about the enormous quite secret and classified bureaucracy that gathers and analyses everybody's private data (I am quite sure because the American government seeks to control everyone: were it otherwise they would have proceeded quite differently); item 5 is about AI and concludes, correctly in my view, that it is far more rational to worry about the really existing and very dangerous bureaucracies (such as the secret American one in the previous item) than about "AI is taking over the world", for it isn't, and it will not be, until a whole lot more is known; and item 6 is Reich's explanation of rational economics (and I think he is right, but the majority of the American politicians don't think so, generally without having his economical knowledge).

Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US 'Assassination Complex'

The first item today is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This is quite interesting: There may be another Edward Snowden, it seems, and he (or she) has revealed papers about the drone war that the U.S. is conductiing in many countries.

Since I have to do a lot today (and a few hours to write these Nederlogs, and a lousy health, with bad and painful eyes) I will split things up: Today there is the link to a decent exposition of what gets revealed, plus a link to the main paper on The Intercept, and I will later - tomorrow or in the next week - return to The Intercept.

So... to start with, here is the summary of Nadia Prupis' article:

Based on cache of secret slides leaked by national security whistleblower, stunning exposé by The Intercept reveals inner workings—and failures—of the U.S. military's clandestine efforts in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia

That is the summary. Clearly, the "secret slides" contain a lot less information than Edward Snowden revealed, but meanwhile they are very welcome, because
the wars that the US now conducts are done mostly in secret and by a large professional and privatized - non-drafted [1] - army.

The article starts as follows:

A stunning new exposé by The Intercept, which includes the publication of classified documents leaked by an intelligence source, provides an unprecedented look at the U.S. military's secretive global assassination program.

The series of articles, titled The Drone Papers, follows months of investigation and uses rare primary source documents and slides to reveal to the public, for the first time, the flaws and consequences of the U.S. military's 14-year aerial campaign being conducted in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan—one that has consistently used faulty information, killed an untold number of civilians, and stymied intelligence-gathering through its "kill/capture" program that too often relies on killing rather than capturing.

Here is the first link, to The Drone Papers on The Intercept:

And here is Jeremy Scahill, the lead investigator, quoted in the article:

"The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America's assassination program," writes the investigation's lead reporter, Jeremy Scahill. "This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy. The public has a right to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal."

The source of the documents, who asked to remain anonymous due to the U.S. government's aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, said the public has a right to know about a program that is so "fundamentally" and "morally" flawed.

There is also this (quoted in part here: For more, click the first dotted link):

As outlined by The Intercept, the key revelations of the reporting are:

  • Assassinations have depended on unreliable intelligence. More than half the intelligence used to track potential kills in Yemen and Somalia was based on electronic communications data from phones, computers, and targeted intercepts (know as signals intelligence) which, the government admits, it has “poor” and “limited” capability to collect. By the military’s own admission, it was lacking in reliable information from human sources.
  • The documents contradict Administration claims that its operations against high-value terrorists are limited and precise. Contrary to claims that these campaigns narrowly target specific individuals, the documents show that air strikes under the Obama administration have killed significant numbers of unnamed bystanders. Documents detailing a 14-month kill/capture campaign in Afghanistan, for example, show that while the U.S. military killed 35 of its direct targets with air strikes, 219 other individuals also died in the attacks.
  • In Afghanistan, the military has designated unknown men it kills as “Enemies Killed in Action.” According to The Intercept’s source, the military has a practice of labeling individuals killed in air strikes this way unless evidence emerges to prove otherwise.

This is the ending of the article:

(...) as the documents reveal, assurances from the Obama administration that drone strikes are precise and used only in cases of "imminent" threats are themselves based on intentionally vague definitions of "imminence."

"Privately, the architects of the U.S. drone program have acknowledged its shortcomings," said Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of The Intercept. "But they have made sure that this campaign, launched by Bush and vastly expanded under Obama, has been shrouded in secrecy. The public has a right to know how the US government has decided who to kill."

As the source himself said, "We’re allowing this to happen. And by 'we,' I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it."

There will be more in Nederlog on The Drone Papers the coming days.

2. Police: Assange would be arrested if he left embassy to visit hospital
The next article is by Matthew Weaver on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The Metropolitan police have confirmed that their officers would arrest the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he left the Ecuadorian embassy in London to go to hospital for a medical examination.

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said Assange, who has been living in the embassy for more than three years, should be given safe passage to hospital for an MRI scan to help diagnose a pain in his shoulder.

The Foreign Office said Assange, who is subject to a European arrest warrant over an allegation of rape in Sweden, will not be prevented by the British authorities from receiving medical treatment. But it said questions over his arrest were a matter for the Met, which this week scaled back its costly 24-hour surveillance of the embassy.

Scotland Yard confirmed that Assange would face arrest if he stepped outside the embassy (...)
As the article describes, Julian Assange's right shoulder is constantly painful since June 2015, which limits all movements with it, and the doctor who treats him needs and MRI - and an MRI is a big machine, that is quite difficult to get to the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has been locked up since three years.

This is the current situation in brief:

Assange, an Australian national, sought political asylum at the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. His American lawyer, Carey Shenkman, accused Britain of forcing Assange to “choose between the human right to asylum and the human right to medical treatment”.
Yes. There is more in the article.

VIDEO: Chris Hedges and Max Blumenthal on Israel, Gaza and ‘The 51 Day War’

The next article is posted by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig, with the text of the video prepared by The Real News Network:

This starts as follows:

In an interview on teleSUR’s “Days of Revolt,” Chris Hedges and Max Blumenthal discuss the brutal tactics used by the Israeli state in its ongoing effort to suppress Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip.

I selected this article because I think what the Israeli's did in Gaza was pretty obscene, and because Max Blumenthal has a Jewish background.

This starts as follows:

CHRIS HEDGES: Hi, I’m Chris Hedges. Welcome to Days of Revolt. Today we’re going to discuss Israeli military policy. In particular, how that policy is directed towards the subject population in the Gaza Strip; 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in the largest open-air prison in the world. We’re going to focus on the assault last summer that left over 2,000 dead, including over 500 children; what that means for where Israel is going to go; and what that means for the Palestinians themselves.

In the studio with me is Max Blumenthal, the author of The 51 Day War, as well as Goliath, which without question I think is the most important book on modern-day Israel.
This is continued thus:

HEDGES: So, so we’ve seen, going back to 2006, a series of very heavy military strikes carried out by Israel against a completely captive population in Gaza. 2006 when they were attempting to free the Israeli soldier Shalit, 2007, 2008 and ‘09 with Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud, 2002, and last summer the most extensive assault on the Gaza Strip with Protective Edge. Why? Why does Israel keep using this kind of military force, and why do they keep ratcheting it up?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, it’s fairly simple if you consider that the Gaza Strip has really been the base of the Palestinian armed struggle since the 1950s, and that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have not relented in their quest to liberate themselves.
There is a considerable amount about the conflict in the article. I read it all,
but must add that the information is fairly specific.

4. Creating an Un-Intelligence Machine

The next article is by Tom Engelhardt on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:


That figure stunned me.  I found it in the 12th paragraph of a front-page New York Times story about “senior commanders” at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) playing fast and loose with intelligence reports to give their air war against ISIS an unjustified sheen of success: “CENTCOM’s mammoth intelligence operation, with some 1,500 civilian, military, and contract analysts, is housed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, in a bay front building that has the look of a sterile government facility posing as a Spanish hacienda.”

Think about that.  CENTCOM, one of six U.S. military commands that divide the planet up like a pie, has at least 1,500 intelligence analysts (military, civilian, and private contractors) all to itself.
In fact, the figure does not astound me, and the real figures - that are indicated below - are far larger. But it is true I have been closely following the crisis news for over 7 years now, and especially since June 10, 2013.

But staying with the 1500 analysts for the moment, here is a good question:
Now, try to imagine what those 1,500 analysts are doing, even for a command deep in a “quagmire” in Syria and Iraq, as President Obama recently dubbed it (though he was admittedly speaking about the Russians), as well as what looks like a failing war, 14 years later, in Afghanistan, and another in Yemen led by the Saudis but backed by Washington.  Even given all of that, what in the world could they possibly be “analyzing”?  Who at CENTCOM, in the Defense Intelligence Agency, or elsewhere has the time to attend to the reports and data flows that must be generated by 1,500 analysts?
The first question - what are they analyzing? - is fairly easy to answer I think: All the data they got from plundering computers and cell phones in the regions, plus all the data they got from everybody else in the world. And - judging by what Snowden revealed - there are a whole lot of such data.

But the second question is good, and also points to something behind it: Who analayzes these analyses? My guess is fairly simple: The higher ups, but these will only consider a small portion of the materials their staff gathered, as indeed
everywhere else in a bureaucracy - and that is what I am talking about: There
is an enormous quite secret bureaucracy:

And while you’re thinking about all this, keep in mind that those 1,500 analysts feed into, and assumedly draw on, an intelligence system of a size surely unmatched even by the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.  Think of it: the U.S. Intelligence Community has—count ‘em 17 agencies and outfits, eating close to $70 billion annually, more than $500 billion between 2001 and 2013.  And if that doesn’t stagger you, think about the 500,000 private contractors hooked into the system in one way or another, the 1.4 million people (34% of them private contractors) with access to “top secret” information, and the 5.1 million—larger than Norway’s population—with access to “confidential and secret” information.

Thus, there are - adding them up - 7 million individuals (about 2 % of the total American population) who have access to various degrees of secret information (not meant to be known by anyone who is not cleared) that keeps tabs on the other 98% of the US population, plus the rest of the world, and does so by stealing all the data they can find on any computer or cell phone.

Here is some more, in the next paragraph:

Remember as well that, in these years, a global surveillance state of Orwellian proportions has been ramped up.  It gathers billions of emails and cell phone calls from the backlands of the planet; has kept tabs on at least 35 leaders of other countries and the secretary general of the U.N. by hacking email accounts, tapping cell phones, and so on; keeps a careful eye and ear on its own citizens, including video gamers; and even, it seems, spies on Congress.  (After all, whom can you trust?)

There is, in brief, a secret system of some 7 million supermen and superwomen who may know all or most of the things that the other 98% of the American population are not and never to know, for all of this information is secret and classified.

Nearly all of these 7 million supermen were hired since 9/11, on the pretext of "the war on terrorism", but in fact to give the government + its backers all the powers they need to redesign American society in the - secret and classified - shape the government + its financial backers desire.

And here is the next paragraph:

In other words, if that 1,500 figure bowls you over, keep in mind that it just stands in for a far larger system that puts to shame, in size and yottabytes of information collected, the wildest dreams of past science fiction writers.  In these years, a mammoth, even labyrinthine, bureaucratic “intelligence” structure has been constructed that is drowning in “information”—and on its own, it seems, the military has been ramping up a smaller but similarly scaled set of intelligence structures.

Here is the definition of a yottabyte from Wikipedia:

1 YB = 10008bytes = 1024bytes = 1000000000000000000000000bytes = 1000zettabytes = 1trillionterabytes

There is a whole lot more in the article that is well worth reading, that I leave to your interests - but I do think they are collecting real information, and that they are doing so to control the world. They're not there yet, but they are well on the way.

Here is the end of the article:

My own suspicion: you could get rid of most of the 17 agencies and outfits in the U.S. Intelligence Community and dump just about all the secret and classified information that is the heart and soul of the national security state.  Then you could let a small group of independently minded analysts and critics loose on open-source material, and you would be far more likely to get intelligent, actionable, inventive analyses of our global situation, our wars, and our beleaguered path into the future.

The evidence, after all, is largely in.  In these years, for what now must be approaching three-quarters of a trillion dollars, the national security state and the military seem to have created an un-intelligence system.  Welcome to the fog of everything.

Yes and no, in my opinion:

Yes, Tom Engelhardt is quite right if the aim of the intelligence gathering were what the American government pretends it is ("beating the terrorists, and winning the wars").

But I do not think that is the aim, as indeed seems obvious to me from the fact that the NSA and the GCHQ and all other intelligence agencies are trying to get all information - private, financial, health, were you are, what you type, what you read, what you think, whom you communicate with, what you look like, naked or not, and on, and on, and on, and on - about everybody, totally regardless of whether they are Muslims, totally regardless of any judicial complaint, and totally regardless of their political values: They simply collect everything they can collect on everyone because they want to control everybody.

And so far they are quite successful.

5. The Fascinating Truth About Why Artificial Intelligence Won't Take Over the World

The next article is by Sean Miller on AlterNet:
From the beginning:

Hollywood's fixation with the threat of AI only exacerbates the public's predisposition to worry over abstract bogeys while ignoring more pressing concerns like climate change. It doesn't help when arguably the world's most famous scientist, Stephen Hawking, reinforces the hysteria with references to yet another movie, Transcendence, featuring a sociopathic AI antagonist.

Where the oracle of Cambridge goes, tech billionaires dutifully follow. So Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak have piled onto the fearmongering. Taking full advantage of the bully pulpit afforded him by his revered standing as a leading theoretical physicist, on numerous occasions, Hawking has gone on the public record with ominous pronouncements about AI. In an interview with the BBC, he said that the "development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."
I think that is nonsense as well, but I am a philosopher and a psychologist,
and got only As in these fields. In any case, I have several times explained why I can't take AI serious (no supercomputer comes close to what a spider does, is one example I gave - and nobody knows what consciousness is, how the brain generates experiences, what are character and personality, or indeed what is madness), and I will take it for granted here.

Here is Miller's example:

Consider Watson, the IBM supercomputer that famously won the American game show "Jeopardy." (...) But compared to the bacteria Escherichia coli, Watson is a moron.
Let's come back to Lovelock's analogy that, in terms of complexity, equates a single cell to the island of Manhattan. Extending the analogy, what Shaw and his minions are doing with their superexpensive supercomputers is modeling one apartment building, say, at the corner of East 82nd and York. Shaw would need an army of Antons to even begin to approximate the hubbub of the entire island.
Yes, that seems mostly correct - and besides: how a bacterium works is also mostly unknown. Next, there is this:
Human behavior, in all its predictably irrational glory, is still the culmination of a complexity that dwarfs the relative primitiveness of the bacterium. Our bodies consist of 10 trillion eukaryotic cells working in concert with 100 trillion non-human guest cells. Our minds—grounded in these bodies—interact with a vast, dynamic world. Max Galka, an expert in machine learning, says that "machines have historically been very bad at the kind of thinking needed to anticipate human behavior." "After decades of work," he points out, "there has been very little progress to suggest it is even possible."
This is also correct, though indeed it seems not very likely that a man is 100 trillion times as complicated as one cell. (But again, there is mainly no relevant information: Most of the principles that guide the interactions of cells and groups of cells are simply unknown today.)

Finally, this is from close to the end:
Bureaucracy is a superintelligence that transmutes individuals into a machine. While utterly dependent upon it, we all mistrust, even begrudge it. It's the DMV. It's Big Data. It's Wall Street. It's the Deep State. What's most intimidating about bureaucracy is that it's a human-machine hybrid, a cyborg.
It is a bit sudden, but indeed bureaucracies are a kind of coordinated superintelligence (being composed of human beings and computers, working for specific ends, posed by values and ideologies); they undoubtedly exist; and they also may be very dangerous: See e.g. item 1 and item 4.

And I do agree with Sean Miller that it is much more rational to be quite afraid of quite a few bureaucracies than engage in speculations about the dangers of some future supercomputer.

In case you're interested, I also wrote a Bureaucracy Plan - but I am quite sure that will not be realized or even started while I live, in spite of the fact that it is
rational and humanistic.

6. AUSTERITY 101: The Three Reasons Republican Deficit Hawks Are Wrong

The final article today is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

Congress is heading into another big brawl over the federal budget deficit, the national debt, and the debt ceiling.

Republicans are already talking about holding Social Security and Medicare “hostage” during negotiations—hell-bent on getting cuts in exchange for a debt limit hike.

Days ago, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew asked whether our nation would “muster the political will to avoid the self-inflicted wounds that come from a political stalemate.”

It’s a fair question. And there’s only one economically sound answer: Congress must raise the debt ceiling, end the sequester, put more people to work, and increase our investment in education and infrastructure.

Here are the three reasons why Republican deficit hawks are wrong. (Please watch and share our attached video.)

I agree with all that, as indeed I think anyone with some sound knowledge of (Keynesian inspired) economics does, indeed also because the one alternative, which may be called Friedmannian, only worked to make the very few rich a whole lot richer, at the costs of the many poor and non-rich.

Here is Reich's first reason:

FIRST: Deficit and debt numbers are meaningless on their own. They have to be viewed as a percent of the national economy.

That is or ought to be self-evident. Next, the second reason:

SECOND: America needs to run larger deficits when lots of people are unemployed or underemployed – as they still are today, when millions remain too discouraged to look for jobs and millions more are in part-time jobs and need full-time work.

As we’ve known for years – in every economic downturn and in every struggling recovery – more government spending helps create jobs – teachers, fire fighters, police officers, social workers, people to rebuild roads and bridges and parks. And the people in these jobs create far more jobs when they spend their paychecks. 

This kind of spending thereby grows the economy – thereby increasing tax revenues and allowing the deficit to shrink in proportion.

Doing the opposite – cutting back spending when a lot of people are still out of work – as Congress has done with the sequester, as much of Europe has done – causes economies to slow or even shrink, which makes the deficit larger in proportion.

As Keynes explained. Here is the third reason:

THIRD AND FINALLY: Deficit spending on investments like education and infrastructure is different than other forms of spending, because this spending builds productivity and future economic growth.


Keep these three principles in mind and you won’t be fooled by scare tactics of the deficit hawks.

And you’ll understand why we have to raise the debt ceiling, end the sequester, put more people to work, and increase rather than decrease spending on vital public investments like education and infrastructure.

I agree - but the problem with Robert Reich's plans (which I tend to agree with, which is also why I treat them in Nederlog: he is a clear and rational writer with good ideas) is that most politicians see it otherwise, indeed not for good economical reasons (though they like to pretend they do) but for political reasons.


[1] Richard Nixon finished the draft, that could select anyone of the appropriate age as a soldier, including the sons of rich, wellknown or political persons, and replaced it by a professional army. This contributed much to the
secrecy and authoritarianness in the American army (and also lowered its average intelligence, I am quite sure, but now no son of a politician or a pundit needs to fear anymore he will be drafted).

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