1. Five Big Unanswered Questions About NSA’s Worldwide
A Little-Known Way Our Political System Is Rigged to
Favor the Establishment
3. Sanders Forges Ahead:
'No One Said a Political
Revolution Would Be Easy'
4. Uncontrollable—Pentagon and Corporate Contractors
Too Big to Audit
5. The Frictionless Machine of Modern Fascism
This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 18,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item
is about the question what the public knows about the NSA's worldwide
spying: Little, and with little idea of what there is to know, in spite
of Snowden; item 2 is about a very dirty trick that
guarantees (almost certainly) that those who get elected in the
Democratic or Republican parties remain "elected" forever: No
one else - not even their own party members - may get the voters lists;
item 3 is about Bernie Sanders' chances to
win the presidential candidacy: still present, I think; item
4 is about the (apparent) fact that the Pentagon, that now claims more
than half of the American taxes, simply has not been
decently audited since 1993 (!); and item 5 is
about how the Americans may soon have their own - Exceptional! - breed
of fascism, especially if Trump becomes president.
1. Five Big Unanswered Questions About NSA’s Worldwide Spying
first item is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Nearly three years after NSA
whistleblower Edward Snowden gave journalists his trove of documents on
the intelligence community’s broad and powerful surveillance regime,
the public is still missing some crucial, basic facts about how the
Surveillance researchers and privacy
a report on Wednesday outlining what we do know, thanks to the
period of discovery post-Snowden — and the overwhelming amount of
things we don’t.
Yes indeed - although to say (judged by
the report) that "the public is still missing
some crucial, basic facts" seems a considerable understatement:
The public just does not know most of the relevant
facts, for the simple reason that these are declared secrets.
For one example, there is this fact - which I did not know,
which seems to hold for most persons, including those who are quite
The central guidelines the NSA is
supposed to follow while spying abroad are described in Executive
Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which the
authors describe as “a black box.”
Again the link - Executive
Order 12333 - is quite
interesting and important, for it shows that indeed most of the
spying that has been done on everyone anywhere has been
"justified" by reference to a - very shady and unclear - set of
laws that date back to 1981, long
before there was internet or personal computing of any size. (In 1981
the best one could get - a friend of mine got one, and this is why I
know - was an Apple II that could run Applebasic, the results of which
had to be stored on a tapedeck if they were not to disappear forever:
That was pretty impressive then, but not at all internet or
personal computing as we know it today and since ca. 1995.)
In actual legal fact, this seems to be like dealing with big
multi-national corporations on the basis of laws that date from the
Middle Ages - but these
are the rules, indeed in considerable part because
of a quotation that opens the report:
“There are very few things we
cannot accomplish within the
existing rules, using the authorities we have and those
authorities we can receive.”
— NSA training slide, slide no. 83.
So in fact the NSA can do almost
anything it wants because (1) the fundamental legal rules that are
supposed to guide it date back to 1981 and are completely
inadequate, and because (2) apart from that the NSA is mostly
"overseen" by a secret FISA court, that as a rule permits the
NSA (in secret) to do almost anything it wants.
Jenna McLaughlin states five questions
that are also stated in the report which follow, without the texts that explain them,
to which I will attend after stating the questions:
- How far does the law go?
- Who’s watching the spies?
- How much foreign spying ends up in
- How many words don’t mean what we
think they mean?
- Where does it end?
The answers come mostly down to this, in
spite of Edward Snowden's data:
"We" - that is: both the general public and most
members of the Senate and the House - do not know because (1) all
these questions and their answers depend on closely guarded
secrecies, and because (2) due to the secrecies "we" also do not
even know how much it is that "we" do not know.
I think "we" ought to know; I think "we" who are not US
citizens must be protected from spying by any foreign
secret service; and I think that as long as "we" do not know,
and do not know how much we do not know, and as long
as the spying on everyone anywhere continues (as it has
now since 2001, with God knows how many petabytes of secret
information) the NSA is - intentionally, on purpose - setting up the
most powerful secret service there has ever been in the world,
that is designed, on purpose, since 2001, to know everything
about anyone, and that is also, in my opinion at least, without
any democratic, legal and valid basis (other than
Reagan's baloney from 1981 and the secret pronouncements of the
secret FISA courts).
What to say? This is "democracy" the NSA-style: Based on obsolete,
intentionally vague "laws" that permit the secret services to
do virtually anything and that forbid both the public and
most of its chosen representatives to know almost anything about what
the secret services do in fact.
A Little-Known Way Our Political System Is Rigged to Favor the
is by Eric Zuesse on AlterNet:
This starts as
Did you know that if a given
political party already has an incumbent in a particular political
post, it’s standard practice in the United States for a political party
to prohibit its voter-list to be purchased by anyone who’s not an
incumbent office-holder in that party — including by someone who wishes
to challenge or contest within that party the incumbent, in a primary
Actually, I did know, but indeed
quite briefly, since a little over a week, from another article on
Only incumbents have access to that crucial
list — crucial for any candidate in a primary election (unless there is
no incumbent who is of that party).
But Zuesse is quite right that this is a most anti-democratic law
that is expressly designed to destroy anyone's chances who does
not already occupy the post to come to occupy it: The
crucial information to do so - the voter-list of his own party - are
expressly denied to anyone but those who occupy the post already.
Here is how it works in practice:
Last week, I called the Florida
Democratic Party to request access to the voter file database and
software known as VAN that is routinely used by Democratic candidates
across the country.
That is: If you want to replace Debbie
Wasserman Schultz as a Democrat, then you, and any other Democrat who
is not Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will not get the voter lists
that would enable you to address your fellow Democratic voters:
Ms Schultz is to rule forever, until she voluntarily
leaves for an even better paying or even more powerful job - or so it
I was told that our campaign would be denied access to this database
because I am running against an incumbent Democrat, Debbie Wasserman
Schultz. I was also told that any Democratic candidate running against
an incumbent Democrat would be denied access.
Here it is spelled out - and it is a game practised by both the
Democrats and the Republicans:
In other words: Politicians
campaign hypocritically saying they favor ’term-limits’ but universally
support the real reason (which isn’t the lack of term-limits;
it’s the lack of fairness, such as this) why even the most vile
incumbents get re-‘elected’ time and again: this thuggish custom of the
Democratic and Republican political Parties, which blocks challengers
from having access to the most crucial tool for becoming a Party’s
nominee: the list of that Party’s registerd voters. Only the existing
incumbent can buy that list.
What this means is that, if an
incumbent serves well the donors who financed his/her campaign, then
that person will almost certainly not be effectively challenged in a
primary by someone else from that party, because that prospective
challenger won’t even have access to the list of registered voted in
In brief: Exit democracy - those with
the power have
arraigned it so that they will retain that power forever (until
they voluntarily leave).
3. Sanders Forges Ahead: 'No One Said
a Political Revolution Would Be Easy'
The third item is by Nadia Prupis on Common
This starts as follows:
Following a series of presidential primary
losses to Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders reminded
supporters: "No one said a political revolution would be easy."
"What you will not hear from the
political and media establishment," the campaign said in an email
Wednesday, "is that, based on the primary and caucus schedule for the
rest of the race, this is the high water mark for the Clinton
campaign...Starting today, the map now shifts dramatically in our
"The fact remains that Hillary Clinton’s
lead will never be as large as it is right now," the email said. "From
here on out we keep chipping away until we take the lead."
As regular readers of Nederlog know, I
normally avoid commenting on the outcomes of states' elections
for the presidential candidates of either party.
This is here mostly because I consider Bernie Sanders by far
the best candidate, because what he said above seems quite right,
because I think he is scandalously under-represented in the
main media, and because I again have read a couple of "Bernie
supporters" who falsely insist he is out and should stop: No,
if only because what was said above seems correct and because he is the
only candidate with a sensible program.
But I won't make it long, and merely quote
the ending of the article:
"With more than half the delegates yet
to be chosen and a calendar that favors us in the weeks and months to
come, we remain confident that our campaign is on a path to win the
nomination," he said.
Yes. And while it is true Sanders
may not win, it is also true he still may win.
Corporate Contractors Too Big to Audit
The fourth item is by Ralph Nader on his blog:
This starts as follows:
The Reuters report put this colossal
dereliction simply: “A law in effect since 1992 requires annual audits
of all federal agencies—and the Pentagon alone has never complied.”
All $585 billion and more, e.g., for the
Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, of your money—not just unaudited, but,
in the sober judgement of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of
the Congress, this vast military budget is year after year UNAUDITABLE.
That means that the Congressional auditors cannot obtain the basic
accounting data to do their job on your behalf.
Auditing the Department of Defense
receives left/right support, from Senator Bernie Sanders (Dem. VT) to
Senator Ted Cruz (Rep. TX).
I say. And I said that because I did not
know this, and because it is quite amazing, for it means that the part
of the American government that takes over half of the American tax
money is completely unaudited - it seems - from 1993
onwards. That is, for 23 years.
Here is a sketch of how this seems to be done normally, since 1993 (or
so it seems at least):
H.R. 942, the “Audit the Pentagon Act of
2014,” is supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the House of
Representatives. In the statement announcing this legislation, the
sponsors declared “The Treasury Department’s Financial Report of the US
Government for fiscal year 2012 shows the DOD yet again has nothing to
audit—its books are a mess. In the last dozen years, the Pentagon has
broken every promise to Congress about when DOD would pass an audit.
Meanwhile, Congress doubled Pentagon spending.”
That is: "We agree it there is nothing to
audit because all books are a mess - but we
double the budget." I suppose this is because the House trusts the
Pentagon - but then there are facts like these:
Yet it has seemed that the military—this
huge expanse of bureaucracy, which owns 25 million acres (over seven
times the size of Connecticut) and owns over 500,000 buildings in the
U.S. and around the world—is beyond anybody’s control, including that
of the Secretaries of Defense, their own internal auditors, the
President, tons of GAO audits publically available, and the Congress.
How can this be?
Have you heard of the $43 million natural gas station in Afghanistan
that was supposed to cost $500,000? Do you know about the $150 million
villas that were built for corporate contractors in Afghanistan so they
could spend another $600 million advising Afghans about starting
private businesses in that war-torn country?
As the second paragraph suggests, the
answer to the question in the first paragraph - "How
can this be?" - can only be: By gigantic
intentional corruption - for otherwise the quoted facts are completely
And here is Ralph Nader's very correct reference to the concept of the
man who may be said to have predicted these grave dangers: The military-industrial
complex (<- Wikipedia: very well worth reading) against
the extreme dangers of which Eisenhower
(<- Wikipedia) warned at the end of his presidency:
President Eisenhower’s farewell warning
about the “military-industrial complex” becomes ever more of an
understatement as it devours over half of the entire federal
government’s operating budget.
Yes, indeed - and it is fair to say that
if more than half of the money raised by taxes goes to war, and
the Pentagon is not even audited, it seems not since
1993, that the military-industrial
complex (or indeed, as the Wikipedia also has it: the military-industrial-congressional complex) simply has
won (so far) the battle with democratic laws and - even - honest
Here is Ralph Nader's conclusion:
In the final analysis, the principal
culprits, because they have so much to lose in profits and bonuses, are
the giant defense companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General
Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and others that lobby Congress,
Congressional District by Congressional District, for more, more, more
military contracts, grants and subsidies. They routinely hire
ex-Pentagon specialists and top brass who know how to negotiate the
ways and means inside of the government.
President Eisenhower sure knew what he was
talking about. Remember, he
warned not just about taxpayer waste, but a Moloch eating away at
our liberties and our critical domestic necessities.
Yes, indeed. And this is a recommended
5. The Frictionless Machine of
The fifth and last item today is by William
Rivers Pitt on Truth-out:
This is from near the beginning:
Meanwhile, Tuesday has passed and Trump won
most contests. Does it mean that he will get to be the Republican
nominee? Possibly. Does it mean that he will win the presidency? Hm.
Physics and engineering have
been around since long before the Egyptians built the pyramids, but all
the rules and logic and constants of those crafts never had to account
for a dangerous authoritarian entertainer who tells his supporters to
beat people up while on national television and still gets a bump in
the polls. Donald Trump is Benito Mussolini with a bad combover. He is
the frictionless machine. He may wind up on a gibbet someday, but if he
carries the contests on Tuesday, he's going to be the Republican
nominee for president.
Here is some more on Trump:
I do not quite agree, although I think Pitt
is quite right in saying that Trump normally - before audiences, at
least - speaks in terms of obscure word salads, that are much
like Pitts renders them.
All he has to do is call
together a confab of cameras and say, "This is so great everything is
so great and it's gonna be great when we launch the Muslims over the
wall into Mexico because Hillary and everything's so great I'm great
let's make America great again arrest that guy punch that guy because
great." It is word salad of the purest ray serene, carefully tailored
to mesmerize the masses. In short, Donald Trump is a Batman villain; he
knows exactly what he's doing ... and that's what is frightening.
But I do not think Trump "knows exactly
what he's doing" (and I am a psychologist,
although I agree that doesn't say much):
I think he presents himself mostly as he is; I also think that
someone who presents himself thus is very probably not
very intelligent and is certainly
not very informed - but I agree with Pitt that he is "frightening",
though not because he is "a Batman", but because his manner of idiocy
finds a wide response in the American electorate. 
Here is the ending of Pitts' article:
This is the most dangerous
election in living memory. Shouters, liars and revisers of flat-footed
history are storming toward a confrontation that will be a calamity no
matter who prevails, and the media are reveling in it. At stake is the
threat of fascism in the 21st century. It will not end well.
I think Pitts may well be correct, although I
guess my reasons are not his (although I do not know):
My reasons are - among others - that the Republicans have been
the early 1970ies to get the present results (that they may
not like, but which were engineered by them); that they have
had extremely little
counterplay by the Democrats, so that they mostly succeeded;
that the Democrats have been changed by Bill Clinton to the
"New Democrats", who positioned themselves to the right of the
Republican Eisenhower; that few of the members of the Senate or the
House seem decent and competent; and that very much that
American governments do has been declared secret, including the
massive spying on what anybody (anywhere in the world)
thinks, feels, desires and does, which is a massive extremely
is: I - once again - blame the electorate more than those they elect,
however evidently rotten, bad and anti-democratic,
because the electorate decides, and because large parts
of the electorate that do elect, know little of politics,
or of art, but nevertheless pretend they are in majority quite capable of
For more on this topic, see my On a fundamental problem in ethics and morals.