February 26, 2016

Crisis: Pundits, CIA, Climate Science, US Mass Media, Sanders' Economy
Sections                                                                     crisis index    

TV Pundits Praise Hillary Clinton On Air, Fail to Disclose
     Financial Ties to Her Campaign

Interview with former CIA agent Barry Reiser
The World’s Carbon Budget Is Only Half as Big as
     Previously Thought

4. How the U.S. Went Fascist: Mass Media Make Excuses
     for Trump Voters (Video)

5. What the Mainstream Media Won't Tell You About Bernie
     Sanders' Economic Plan

This is a Nederlog of Friday, February 26, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about the honesty and the pay of American TV pundits; item 2 is about two interviews with a former CIA agent turned writer that I found interesting; item 3 is about news from a climate scientist that climate scientists have underestimated the world's carbon budget by 50%: my own response is that I do not believe this without independent confirmation; item 4 is about the demise of the American Republic, in a good article to which I append some references and quotations I gave in 2012; and item 5 is about how some Democratic economists tried to destroy Sanders' economic plans by bullshit and nonsense (which I agree is the case but which I leave mostly to my readers' interests).

Also I re-uploaded the 2012 artices I mentioned in item 4, because a link was mistaken. Otherwise nothing was changed.

1. TV Pundits Praise Hillary Clinton On Air, Fail to Disclose Financial Ties to Her Campaign

This first item is by Lee Fang on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
Tune into television coverage of the presidential campaign and undoubtedly you will hear from various pundits described as “former campaign strategists” and “political contributors” explaining the latest developments of the race. But in many cases, these pundits — though introduced as neutral experts on campaigns or party politics — in fact have financial ties to the candidates they praise on the air.
I say, though not really.

More precisely, I am amazed in principle because I know of rules like these:

Journalism 101 teaches that reporters and TV news hosts must properly identify their sources and analysts,” says Jeff Cohen, an associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College. We reached out to NBC, CBS, CNN, and ABC News, but did not hear back.
But then I am not amazed at all in fact, simply because I know (that is: given extensive evidence it is far more probable than not) that the main media have
been changed into propaganda funnels through which a lot of lies, halftruths, and avoidable falsehoods are spread, and where also many things are just not or hardly being mentioned, even though these things are quite important - consider for example the time being spend on Bernie Sanders and on Donald Trump on the main TV media.

The rest of the article gives some details on four of these worthies. I will leave this to your interests, and I merely cook it down as follows, also leaving out one because I could not find specific sums:

Stephanie Cutter: "has been paid at least $120,049 from the Clinton campaign since June of last year. "

Sara Fagen pro Bush: "$586,610 in 2015, starting in July"

Hari Sevugan: $301,621 + $75,200
That was my summary of a lot more. Here is my appraisal (also knowing none answered The Intercept):

These two gentlewomen and this gentleman are not whores, not even expensive ones. My reason is that they get a lot more for doing effectively a lot less.

For more, see the article. And no, these three are just a small sample of many more, all of whom are very well-paid, and most of whom are not properly sourced as having financial ties to the candidates they "objectively" support.

You cannot trust the main media any more: Most they deliver is intentionally false propaganda, that is not properly sourced. [1]

2. Interview with former CIA agent Barry Reiser

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now, and in fact consists of two interviews with the same man, Barry Eisler, a former CIA agent who turned writer:

This is from the start of the the first dotted item above, and I take them together because they are in fact one interview, that's spread over two videos (which I didn't see: reading is a whole lot faster) and two written pages:
The FBI says Apple is overstating the security risk to its devices, and argues the litigation is limited. "It won’t be unique to this one phone. It would be something that the government can use against any phone. And even if you think that it’s OK for the government to be able to break the encryption of anybody’s phone … what backdoor is accessible to the U.S. government would also be accessible to whatever is the American enemy du jour," says our guest Barry Eisler, who has written about government surveillance in fictional form. He is also a former CIA agent. Eisler is the author of several books, most recently, "The God’s Eye View."
Yes, indeed - and the FBI is capable of spreading any amount of lies so as to be able to break anybody's encryption, thereby also breaking - intentionally completely destroying - the Fourth Amendment. (I know you have to know about the disagreement between Apple and the FBI. If you don't, try this.)

Here is Barry Eisler on the conflict (and Cook's metaphor is that the FBI is trying to force Apple to design the software equivalent of cancer):

BARRY EISLER: Yeah, I like Tim Cook’s metaphor. It’s nice to see someone hitting back linguistically this way. You would expect the FBI to say what it’s saying: It’s only about one phone. This is the kind of thing the government always says. And I’m reminded of the time the CIA acknowledged that it had made two torture tapes. Fifteen months later, it acknowledged that it was in fact 92. In this case, the government said this is only going to be about one phone, and it took them only a day to say, "Did we say one phone? Actually, we’re talking about 12." If you talk to any encryption or security expert anywhere, they’ll all tell you that what the FBI is asking for is impossible. You can’t create a backdoor for one phone without making all phones vulnerable. So that’s one important issue here.
Whereas really the FBI are not talking about 1 or 12 phones, although they say they do, but about all iPhones, owned by anyone, living anywhere.

Here is some more from the same, also from the first of the above two dotted links:
It’s unprecedented for the government to be telling a private company what products it can create and what features it has to include in those products. As Tim Cook pointed out, where does this stop? What if the government said, "We want to have a feature on the iPhone that enables the FBI to turn on the iPhone camera, to turn on the iPhone microphone, anytime we want? Would that also be OK?"
According to the FBI - is my guess - this would be most admirable patriotism. Also, according to the best information I have, they have these features from Microsoft on Windows, which is one among many reasons I don't want Windows.
And in any case I think these features are both criminal and illegal according to the Fourth Amendment.

The rest is quoted from the second of the above two dotted links. This is the first bit, that is a bit accidental, but juicy:

I mentioned earlier Dick Cheney had his doctor turn the wireless accessibility feature in his pacemaker off. And there’s been a lot of—a lot of studies now about vulnerability of not just medical devices, but of cars and even airplanes, because everything is wired now.
That is, Dick Cheney prevents that he gets killed by messing with his pacemaker. He knows about the dangers, but most still do not realize that wiring everything to the internet increases the chances that the information will be shared with others by hundredthousands, millions or billions of times.

Here is another bit, this time about how close fiction can be to fact - and this is still Reiser talking:

And the guy, my CIA guy, Kanozaki, says, "There’s—of course nobody calls this thing an assassination list. That would be gauche and would be hard to explain in front of some outraged congressional committee down the road. What we call it is a disposition list." And then, a couple years ago, it turns out that the White House has Terror Tuesdays, and what they call their assassination list is the disposition matrix. I was like, "Damn! I’m even getting the—I’m almost getting the nomenclature right." But yeah, that’s the government, right? They’re never going to call it a kill list. In fact, we don’t even do assassinations. We have "targeted killings." There are so many words like that, that the government uses to obscure what’s really going on. You know, if we wind up making another war in Libya, it’s not going to be a war, it will just be an intervention. We never call these things what they really are.
Yes, indeed. And in case you might think that is legal - no, it is not:
I thought, "Wow! The rules have really changed post-9/11. The government is now conducting assassinations"—sorry, targeted killings—"of people, including American citizens. No due process whatsoever, no judicial process. They must have some sort of list. Who would they want to kill? How would my guy, John Rain, get involved?" So, yeah, every time the government does a new crazy thing, it’s just like another plot for another one of my books.
I think Eisler is quite right that the rules changed after 9/11, and indeed have become quite illegal: " The government is now conducting assassinations — sorry, targeted killings — of people, including American citizens. No due process whatsoever, no judicial process."

And I think both articles are quite interesting and contain a lot more, and therefore they are recommended.
3. The World’s Carbon Budget Is Only Half as Big as Previously Thought

The third item is by Tim Radford on Truthdig and originally on Climate News Network:
This starts as follows:
Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted.

Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and European and Canadian colleagues propose in Nature Climate Change that all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous.

Instead of a range of permissible emissions estimates that ranged up to 2,390 billion tons from 2015 onwards, the very most humans could release would be 1,240 billion tons.

I am quite sorry, but I do have a scientific training and a lot of knowledge; I know about the environment, climate change etc. since 1971; and therefore this seems to me to be sensational if true: I must assume that all "climate scientists" (?) have been off by no less than 50% all these years?!

I am sorry, but I find that incredible until it has been confirmed by quite a few other "climate scientists" [2]: Either nearly all climate scientists were off by 50% or Joeri Rogelj is.

So I will await independent confirmation before I start believing this.

4. How the U.S. Went Fascist: Mass Media Make Excuses for Trump Voters (Video)

The fourth item is b
y Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Juan Cole's website:

This starts as follows:

The rise of Donald Trump to the presumptive Republican standard bearer for president in 2016 is an indictment of, and a profound danger to the American republic. 

The Founding Fathers were afraid of the excitability of the voters and their vulnerability to the appeal of demagogues.  That is the reason for a senate (which was originally appointed), intended to check those notorious hotheads in Congress, who are elected from districts every two years. 

But it isn’t only the checks and balances in government that are necessary to keep the republic.  It is the Fourth Estate, i.e. the press, it is the country’s leaders, and the general public who stand between the republic and the rise of a Mussolini.

I agree - but then matters are quite serious in the U.S.A., because "the press" now is mostly owned by some 6 major corporations, and the main media have
been transformed in purveyors of propaganda.

That is, while "
the country’s leaders" (in government or in the Senate) still may know (and probably do know, also if they don't tell) what the country really is doing, "the general public" does not know anymore, and certainly not if what they rely on for their information are the main media.

Here is Juan Cole on Donald Trump:

Donald Trump should have been kicked out of the Republican Party the moment he began talking about violating the Constitution.  The first time he hinted about assaulting the journalists covering his rallies, he should have been shown the door. When he openly advocated torture (‘worse than waterboarding’), he should have been ushered away. When he began speaking of closing houses of worship, he should have been expelled.  He has solemnly pledged to violate the 1st, 4th and 8th Amendments of the Constitution, at the least.  If someone’s platform is unconstitutional, it boggles the mind that a major American party would put him or her up for president.  How can he take the oath of office with a straight face?

I agree, but it does happen (and will happen if Trump becomes president).

There is also this, that seems also correct to me:

As Amy Goodman has pointed out, corporate television has routinely pumped Trump into our living rooms.  They have virtually blacked out Bernie Sanders.  Trump seems to have connived to have 10 or 15 minutes at 7:20 every evening on the magazine shows, such as Christ Matthews’ Hardball, who obligingly cut away to Il Duce II’s rants and gave away his show to him on a nightly basis.

There is more in the article that is good, and it ends as follows:

This is how the dictators came to power in the 1920s and 1930s.  Good people remained silent or acquiesced.  People expressed hope that something good would come of it.  Mussolini would wring the laziness out of Italy and make the trains fun on time.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked by a lady after the Constitutional Convention what sort of government the US had, he said, “A Republic, Madame, if you can keep it.”

You have to wonder if we can keep it.

Or alternatively: The American Republic was effectively killed briefly after 9/11, with the passage of the Patriot Act.

This is what Gore Vidal thought, and the last link is to an item I wrote in August 11 of 2012, with quite a few links. (The next two Nederlogs there are also about Vidal, and are also quite interesting. And see Notes [3] and [4] below, that were both copied from August 2012.)

5. What the Mainstream Media Won't Tell You About Bernie Sanders' Economic Plan

The fifth item is by Dave Johnson on AlterNet and originally on OurFuture:

This is about an "economical" discussion amongst "economists" that turns out to have been a political discussion amongst politically strongly interested persons.

I think this is a good exposition and summary, that starts (after a quotation) as follows:
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he wants the American people to join him and “fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all.” His website outlines a number of proposals toward this end, including increasing taxation of corporations and the wealthy and using the money to repair the country’s infrastructure, extending public education four years to cover college, extending Medicare to everyone, expanding Social Security and addressing climate change.
This is fair enough. There also was "a respected economist", Gerald Friedman (who happens to be not a Sanders supporter but a Clinton supporter) who ran Sanders' proposals through "a standard economic model" and concluded that
Sanders might well be right.

Here are Friedman's conclusions in Friedman's words

Like the New Deal of the 1930s, Senator Sanders’ program is designed to do more than merely increase economic activity: the expenditure, regulatory, and tax programs will increase economic activity and employment and promote a more just prosperity, “broadly-based” with a narrowing of economic inequality.

On balance, the Sanders program will lead to a dramatic acceleration in economic growth and employment. It will raise wages, especially for the lowest-paid Americans, and narrow the gap between rich and poor. With these gains, economic conditions will return to the prosperity of the late-1990s, or even the mid-1960s.

Next, Friedman's essay was mostly neglected, until this happened (from the White House, by Democrats):

Then, four ex-chairs of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), all Democrats, wrote an open letter using Friedman’s projections as a way to attack the Sanders campaign. The letter called the projections “fantastical,” “extreme” and “claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence.” They compared the projections to the “grandiose” predictions Republicans make about the effects of tax cuts. They wrote that the Sanders campaign (not Friedman) was making “promises” of high job and income growth, writing, “Making such promises runs against our party’s best traditions of evidence-based policy making and undermines our reputation as the party of responsible arithmetic.”

Note that this was all baloney (as the rest of the present article shows), starting from confusing Sanders and Friedman, for Sanders was accused of the predictions Friedman made.

Indeed there also was Paul Krugman (whom I did read, and did not believe):

This was picked up widely and amplified further. Paul Krugman, in Varieties of Voodoo wrote that the former CEA chairs’ letter matters because “fuzzy math from the left would make it impossible to effectively criticize conservative voodoo.” Krugman said all of this “is an indication of a campaign, and perhaps a candidate, not ready for prime time.”

This struck me as crazy because he wrote that "fuzzy math from the left would make it impossible to effectively criticize conservative voodoo", which is just plain totally false bullshit: Even if Friedman used fuzzy math, this would not at all make it "impossible to effectively criticize conservative voodoo": This is like saying that one Protestant who was claimed to be mistaken thereby made it impossible for all Protestants to criticize the Catholics. [5]

I am still in the beginning of the article, which is good and recommended:

I think it shows clearly that Friedman's analysis was reasonable (and contains no mistakes that his critics suggest) and that Sanders proposals well may work and indeed also are not extremist.

But I leave it to your interests (and in case you are interested: Quite a few economists are quoted).


[1] By the way: It is the same in Holland.

[2] I am sorry, but I don't know "climate science" is an academic subject (like physics, bio-chemistry or mathematics) in which one can specialize.

I may be too skeptical - and I just don't know - but the reason is in part that I live in Holland where many former Labour politicians get offered professorates in what can only be called their own private "sciences", that do not and would not exist but for their persons.

[3] This is a list of points I made on August 12, 2012 that summarize points of Vidal in criticism of the USA between 1999 and 2001:
  • bad education ("U.S. of Amnesia": most US citizens have no historical knowledge)
  • bad health care
  • bad government (Bush Jr. is a moron, the effective real president was Cheney)
  • the - executives or owners of the rich, large, powerful - corporations rule the US
  • 2000 elections was a coup d'état (with help from the Supreme Court)
  • after that there were many bad appointments
  • "magna charta is gone"
  • habeas corpus is gone
  • Bill of Rights is being throttled
  • there is illegal government: the US military has been used against US citizens - legally forbidden since 1865 (also with drones)
  • there is effectively a dictatorship (Quote from Wikipedia: "In contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.")
  • there is just one party that comes in two flavours that are both right wing: See e.g. The Party-System, and also see Chesterton
  • there is no conspiracy, for there is no need: the members of the ruling elite think alike (and come from the same small group that were educated in the same universities and fraternities)
  • the (members of) elite despises the (members of) people (privately, not publicly, of course)
  • "internet will be taken over by the government - 10, 20, 30 years" (1999)
[4] What I forgot to mention, also in the list of points:
  • Independent media are dead: No more independent media - TV and the papers all sing the praises of government or corporations, and don't inform anymore: They propagandize, amuse, and repress alternative views, by neither mentioning them nor containing spokesmen for them.
  • Intermediate governance is dead: Cities and provinces, at least in Holland, have turned corporate (as I noticed in 2008, in what became the first Nederlog on the ongoing Crisis, on September 1, 2008, in Dutch), and also the days produce their own inane PR, that is completely Orwellian in tone and terminology, evidently also on purpose, in a sort of sadistic irony: See Laudatio Neerlandica, of 2010, for several examples).
  • The middle class is dead: No more heads of small but important institutions - headmasters, GPs, lawyers, trade union leaders and such - with some independent power of their own: Gone or else part and parcel of a corporate party-machine.
  • The political parties are dead, except in name: At best, these are now manpower offices where possible candidates for corrupt office are tested and selected by succesful corrupt holders of offices, and where no individual mind can break through party machine. (For Holland and in Dutch, this has been treated in Nederlog in "De illusie van democratie".)
  • A new elite has arisen, certainly in Holland: A class of folks that switch jobs between the various tools of governments and corporations: They start out as journalist; progress to PR-spokesmen of cities, villages or corporations; then get nominated as personal assistants of parliamentarians or mayors or aldermen; then become, through these functions, professors, mayors, aldermen, or parliamentarians, after which they become parliamentarians, aldermen, mayors or members of boards of large corporations, to end life as well-paid professorship in "a science" that coincided with their own political hobbies, or again as journalist/older statesman
To start with, I should remark, in the interest of cognitive clarity, that I am speaking of tendencies of what are perhaps best referred to as social processes of social institutions: In name, all of these things linger on: There still are "daily papers", "news shows", "mayors", "aldermen", "GPs" and "political parties", but none of them are much like they were 30 years ago, and as independent institutions with at least some countervailing power against the state, big business or the corporations, they are dead and gone: What remains with the old names all function differently from how they functioned before: They work for different ends, with different agendas, and different reward schemes and ideologies.

[5] It is also true that I considerably downsized my estimates of Krugman's honesty and rationality: This was a major blooper, and indeed also one that had nothing to do with economics.
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