January 22, 2016

Crisis: Political "Experts", NSA, New Alliance, Trump, Nader, Freedom
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Half the Foreign Policy Experts Signing Clinton’s
     Anti-Sanders Letter Have Ties to Military Contractors

2. NSA Chief Stakes Out Pro-Encryption Position, in Contrast
     to FBI

3. To Create 'Better World Than This,' New Alliance Targets
     Destructive Inequality

4. National Review Is Against Trump, But it Probably
     Doesn't Matter
5. The Devastating Cost of Monetized Elections
The Right to Tell the Government to Go to Hell

This is a Nederlog of Friday, January 22, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is (in fact) about "political experts" (who rarely are real experts); item 2 is about the fairly amazing fact (until one thinks it through) that the NSA now is for encryption; item 3 is about a new alliance I suppose I agree with, except that they seem to be - umh, hm - "rather late"; item 4 is about "conservatives" who are against Trump (this is mostly entertainment); item 5 is about a fine article by Ralph Nader, and item 6 is - indeed - about one's right to tell the government to go to hell, and contains some very good reasons and arguments.

1. Half the Foreign Policy Experts Signing Clinton’s Anti-Sanders Letter Have Ties to Military Contractors

The first article is by Lee Fang on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a letter this week in which 10 foreign policy experts criticized her opponent Bernie Sanders’ call for closer engagement with Iran and said Sanders had “not thought through these crucial national security issues that can have profound consequences for our security.”

The missive from the Clinton campaign was covered widely in the press, but what wasn’t disclosed in the coverage is that fully half of the former State Department officials and ambassadors who signed the letter, and who are now backing Clinton, are now enmeshed in the military contracting establishment, which has benefited tremendously from escalating violence around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

You'll find a list of some of these claimed "experts" (on "foreign policy" rather than higher mathematics or physics) by clicking the last dotted link.

I only consider a related question: What is an "expert"? It seems to come to this (in politics and related fields):

An "expert" - in 9 out of 10 cases, these days, in political discussions, which is what we are concerned with here: this is not physics or mathematics - is someone (i) with ties to journalists prepared to call him or her "expert" (ii) with usually no academic or intellectual expertise in the field he or she is called "expert" in (and there is no academic degree that makes anyone "expert"), but (iii) with firm private financial interests that steer his or her opinions - as outlined in the last dotted article.

There are other kinds of "experts", but these occur rarely in politics or political discussions, indeed in considerable part because they are real experts.

2. NSA Chief Stakes Out Pro-Encryption Position, in Contrast to FBI

The second item is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts in the following rather amazing way - to me at least (but I draw the consequences, as you will see):

National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said Thursday that “encryption is foundational to the future,” and arguing about it is a waste of time.

Speaking to the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., think tank, Rogers stressed that the cybersecurity battles the U.S. is destined to fight call for more widespread use of encryption, not less. “What you saw at OPM, you’re going to see a whole lot more of,” he said, referring to the massive hack of the Office of Personnel Management involving the personal data about 20 million people who have gotten background checks.

“So spending time arguing about ‘hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it’ … that’s a waste of time to me,” he said, shaking his head.

But why, I'd like to ask? What about all these terrorists who can hide their communications behind encryption? What about keeping the Very Exceptional USA Free from Terrorists?! What about ten years of engineering against unbreakable encryption?!

For example, consider this:

Other government officials — most notably FBI Director James Comey — have been crusading for a way that law enforcement can get access to encrypted data.

But technologists pretty much universally agree that creating some sort of special third-party access would weaken encryption to the point that it would threaten every internet transaction we make, from online banking to filling out our health records to emailing our friends and significant others. A hole in encryption for special FBI access would be a hole that criminals could sneak through, too.

There were many pro-governmental pro-NSA people argueing against unbreakable encryption, and while those who were for unbreakable encryption had a fair case, it was never considered conclusive by the first group.

But now there is this:

The previous NSA director, Michael Hayden, said in January that he thinks Comey is on the wrong side of this debate. “I disagree with Jim Comey. I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America,” he said.

Hayden has also spoken about how U.S. intelligence agencies have figured out how to get the information they need without weakening encryption — such as using metadata, which shows who is contacting whom. Another former NSA boss, Mike McConnell, has also spoken out against trying to install backdoors in encryption.

Left unsaid is the fact that the FBI and NSA have the ability to circumvent encryption and get to the content too — by hacking.

So... I do not think people like Michael Hayden have ever given up their ideals of knowing everything about anyone, in the sense of having all the data available to them, so as to be able to destroy (by the "Denying, Disrupting, Degrading and/or Deceiving" that secret government officials and secret hired help now  can do, all in secret) their opponents, whoever these are.

And therefore I think the NSA (etc.) now have very good reasons to believe that they are able to get through almost anyone's encryption. How? By having access
via secret backports in Windows and Apple, and probably Google's Android as well, that allows them to get all passwords (and anything anyone does with any
computer with closed source operating systems).

I grant my argument is speculative, but it has to be since it is about secret spying organizations that for the last 15 years were against encryption.

And to see them suddenly say they are for it simply means to me that they have established to their own satisfaction that they can circumvent it.

3. To Create 'Better World Than This,' New Alliance Targets Destructive Inequality

The third item is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The goal? A total revamp of the economic system that sidelines the interests of the majority. The time? Now.

And the stakes couldn't be higher.

At issue is the global inequality crisis that is "spiraling out of control," an alliance of nine groups including Amnesty International, Association for Women's Rights in Development, Greenpeace, International Trade Union Confederation, and Oxfam says, as they issue a joint call for a "better world than this."

I say. And I don't disagree with the goal - but why weren't they (say) thirtyfive years earlier? Here are some their ends:

The current economic system—deliberately put in place by "our leaders listening to the 1% instead of to the majority"—is a disaster for the global public, they state, as it "helps only a small elite, and is failing the majority, and failing the planet."

A better system, they say, would "put the interests of the people first," and the transformation of the economic system must happen "on a scale never seen before."

The statement, they add, marks "the beginnings of a global alliance to fight inequality," as they vow to tackle to the roots of the crisis, including land reform, workers' rights to collective bargaining, the right to health and education, corporate power, and violence against and discriminatory pay for women.

But to return to my question why they didn't demand this thirtyfive years ago.

The reasons I am asking this, in this way also, are that (1) I was thirty years old thirtyfive years ago, and the situation then was rapidly declining already, what with the then recent elections of Thatcher and Reagan, while (2) since then the powers of the right - the "neoliberal" neoconservatives of many kinds, and the staunch deregulators especially - have been very systematically intriguing for 35 years (at least) to help the few rich, and to deregulate away all laws that protected the people against financial and corporate massive fraudulence, and (3) they have almost totally succeeded:

Very many protections of the poor and the middle class have been
deregulated away, and the TTP, TTIP, TiSA and CETA are ready to enthrall the whole world, and do effectively away with all governmental powers, all parliamentary powers, all judiciary powers, plus everybody who is not rich, on the ground that such powers might threaten any of the profits of the multi-national corporations.

But now, after a mere 35 years of very major successes for the right, there is a plan to oppose this.

As I said, I am in favor of the goal. And I think it is about thirty-five years late. Also see [1] for some intellectual background about postmodernism and "social democracy".

4. National Review Is Against Trump, But it Probably Doesn't Matter

The fourth item is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

National Review has finally released its big anti-Trump issue. A bevy of conservative stars contributed to the issue, and they complained about Trump's boorishness, his ignorance, his bullying, his libertine personal life, his racism, his narcissism, his love of dictators, his vitriol, and the fact that he'd probably lose to Hillary Clinton. But the most common complaint was simple: Trump is no conservative.

I included this for entertainment, and deleted a link that only produces a totally blank page for me. You can read eight snippets by clicking the last dotted link.

5. The Devastating Cost of Monetized Elections

The fifth item is by Ralph Nader on his blog and is quite good, and recommended:

This starts as follows:

Corporatized and commercialized elections reach a point where they stand outside and erode our democracy. Every four years the presidential and Congressional elections become more of a marketplace where the wealthy paymasters turn a civic process into a spectacle of vacuous rhetorical contests, distraction and stupefaction.

The civic minds of the people are sidelined by the monetized minds of a corrupted commercial media, political consultants, pundits and the purveyors of an ever-more dictatorial corporate state.

Quite so! Here are some examples of the dictatorial corporate state:

The dominance of influence money by the plutocracy and now big business PACs, such as that of the super-rich Koch brothers is just the beginning. The monetized minds don’t just rely on their “quid pro quo” checkbooks. They foster gerrymandering electoral districts so that politicians indentured to them pick the voters instead of a legitimate congressional district’s voters picking a candidate. And the debates now are more ratings inventory for Big Media than a discussion of major issues which remain off the table.

Presidential debates are controlled by a Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) – a private corporation – created by the Republican and Democratic parties and funded by beer, auto, telephone and other corporations whose patronage includes lavish hospitality suites. Thus, through the cover of CPD, the two big parties control the number of debates, who is invited to participate and which reporters ask the questions before an approved audience.

Here is some more on the dictatorial corporate state:

Monetizing elections has predictable consequences. The ditto-head reporters, obsessed with tactics and gaffes, never ask about corporate crime, corporate welfare, the American Empire with its un-auditable Defense Department, the over $300 billion a year in computerized billing fraud in the health care industry, or why corporations are given free exploitation of our public property – such as gold and silver mines on public land , the public airwaves and the trillions of dollars of federal research given away to big business in such industries as the drug, aerospace, computer, biotech and information companies.

And this is on the so-called "experts" presented on TV (see above, also):

Look at the Sunday morning network news shows. Pundits and politicians fill the stages. The real experts don’t get interviewed; they have trouble getting into the op-ed pages of the print media and are rarely drawn on by the candidates who are too busy dialing for commercial dollars that conflict with seeking out those who work with facts, for truth and justice.

Consequently, shorn of any participating civic culture, the political culture is ready for hijacking by the commercial interests and the corporate state.

In fact, "the political culture" has been hijacked. To end this, here is Ralph Nader on the voters:

Voters, you can change all this rancid defilement of our Republic and its democratic dreams. Do your homework on the parties and the candidates, form informal groups to demand debates and agendas that you preside over, push for more choices on the ballot, make votes count over money. The internet can help speed up such efforts.

You outnumber the politicos and their entourages everywhere.  You are the ones who keep paying the price for letting politics remain a deadly form of distracting entertainment with a mainstream media obsessed with the horse race rather than the human race.

I agree - but I must add that I'll soon be 66, and I have almost not seen any voters since 1970 who were both willing and able to do the things Ralph Nader said they should do. (And see [2].)

But OK, Ralph Nader is right. It can be stopped. With sufficiently many intelligent and courageous voters.

The Right to Tell the Government to Go to Hell

The sixth and last item today is by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows:

Free speech is not for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for those who are easily offended, readily intimidated or who need everything wrapped in a neat and tidy bow. Free speech is often messy, foul-mouthed, obscene, intolerant, undignified, insensitive, cantankerous, bawdy and volatile.

While free speech can also be tender, tolerant, soft-spoken, sensitive and sweet, it is free speech’s hot-blooded alter ego—the wretched, brutal, beastly Mr. Hyde to its restrained, dignified and civil Dr. Jekyll—that tests the limits of our so-called egalitarian commitment to its broad-minded principles.

Unfortunately, our appreciation for a robust freedom of speech has worn thin over the years.

Indeed, it has - and the attack came both from the right and "the left", and I put the last in quotes because I had real leftist parents and grandparents (who risked their lives in the resistance against the Nazis, with a grandfather who was murdered in a concentration camp, and a father who survived over 3 years and 9 months of the same), but I think I have hardly seen any genuine leftist the last thirty years or so. [2]

The article is well worth reading, but I will quote only two quotations from it, because both are very good.

The first is by George Orwell:
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”― George Orwell
Precisely - and this also may take any form, from calm and intellectual, to angry and with strong emotions. (And of course it doesn't need to be correct.)

The second is a summary from an argument from US law, back in 1927, that is linked in the article and summarized as follows (and this was a legal opinion Justice Holmes - he who also said: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society
" - also agreed with):
1. The purpose of government is to make men free to develop their faculties, i.e., THINK. 2. The freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are essential to the discovery and spread of political truth. 3. Without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile. 4. The greatest menace to freedom is a silent people. 5. Public discussion is a political duty, and should be a fundamental principle of the American government. 6. Order cannot be secured through censorship. 7. Fear breeds repression; repression breeds hate; and hate menaces stable government. 8. The power of reason as applied through public discussion is always superior to silence coerced by law. 9. Free speech and assembly were guaranteed in order to guard against the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities. 10. To justify suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable ground (a clear and present danger) to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent, and that the evil to be prevented is a serious one.
This is very good, though indeed these days one has to reformulate "the purpose of government" to "the purpose of honest, moral and democratic govern- ment", in view of the fact that nearly all governments these days are dishonest, immoral and (usually) anti-democratic, while of course also often pretending they are none of these things.


[1] In fact, what I wanted to say here is also said by my next note:

[2] The main reasons for this are postmodernism, that struck the universities from the early seventies and onwards, for at least 20 years, and completely changed all debates and most premisses (for according to it there was no truth and no science, and absolutely everything was merely interpretation), and the Third Wave that was started by the posturer Bill Clinton, that was embraced by his likes, such as the present mega-rich Catholic Blair and the presently rich bankers' servant Kok and others, that completely falsified all premisses and most discussions on what "the left" stood for. (Now they seem to call themselves "New Democrats". This also is a complete lie: They are the new mostly quite autocratic politicians, who pretend to be leftish, but who sign laws that are mostly rightwing. Their models are - the very rich milionairs the Clintons and the Blairs.)

O, and as to the genuine leftists I have hardly seen the last thirty years: They need to be non-politicians, and they need to be both intelligent and informed. Where are they? (<- This is a rare one. And the links still work and are very well worth seeing!)

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