April 9, 2016

Crisis: Clinton, Bacevich, Encryption, Sanders, Blind Media, New Bill
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Nothing Bill Clinton Said To Defend His Welfare Reform
     Is True

2. Andrew Bacevich: America's War for the Greater Middle
     East Cannot Be Won

Why Aren’t Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Talking
     About Encryption?

4. Sanders Has Been Summoned to the Vatican: Is the
     Pope Feeling the Bern? (Video)

5. A Media Unmoored from Facts
6. Leaked Encryption Draft Bill 'Ignores Economic,
     Security, and Technical Reality'


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 9, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about the present pretensions of Bill Clinton; item 2 is about the ideas of an interesting American military expert; item 3 is about why neither Clinton nor Sanders talks about encryption; item 4 is about an invitation Sanders received from the Vatican; item 5 is an interesting article on the radical decline of truth and of facts in the mainstream media (and I relate this to my experiences in the University of Amsterdam, where truth and facts were systematically denied to exist from 1976-1995 (!!)); and item 6 is about the latest (and extremely sick and sickening) draft of an American bill that would make encryption effectivelty disappear, namely for the government's secret services: They must know absolutely everything.

1. Nothing Bill Clinton Said To Defend His Welfare Reform Is True

The first item is b
y Zach Carter on The Huffington Post:
This starts with a very brief subtitle that is worth quoting:
C'mon man.
Also - just in case you wonder - the reason this item about Bill is here is that he is the husband of Hillary, who wants become the next president, as Bill was from 1993-2001. And here is te beginning of the article:

Everything Bill Clinton said Thursday to defend his 1996 welfare reform law was false.

Clinton claimed that he left the program with plenty of money for poor people, suggested that it helped reduce black poverty and that it was only the mean, nasty Republicans from the George W. Bush era who gutted it and hurt the poor. Clinton's distortions of economic history and his own record are so outrageous that - you will be shocked - it is difficult to believe he was being honest.

I suppose Zach Carter was speaking in irony when talking about Bill Clinton's honesty. In any case, here is some about what Clinton really did in the 1990ies:

Welfare reform was an intentional effort to curb financial assistance to poor people, on the grounds that many were simply too lazy to get a job. Clinton turned over a federal program to states, which were effectively allowed to slash welfare funding and impose new work requirements on people who received assistance. Even Republican co-architects of welfare reform concede that the program ended up hurting the poor.
This wasn't an accident or an unintended consequence. The whole point of welfare reform was to kick people off the welfare rolls. Clinton had campaigned on it in 1992. "When I ran for president four years ago, I pledged to end welfare as we know it," he said on the day the bill passed. "I have worked for four years to do just that."

Yes, indeed - and there is a lot more to it, but the basic idea indeed was that "welfare reform was an intentional effort to curb financial assistance to poor people". And it is nice - or ironic - to see that Bill Clinton, according to his own words, "worked for four years to do just that" (boldings added).

Here is some more background:

But hey, it was the '90s, right? Everyone was doing it? Nope! Poverty advocates had pleaded with Clinton, urging him to veto the bill. Peter Edelman, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, even resigned in protest. His 1997 essay for The Atlantic titled "The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done" is a classic.

The last link in this quotation is quite interesting and still works.

And here is why Bill Clinton is lying about his past:

Clinton is fabricating political history for a reason. His wife, then-first lady Hillary Clinton, was an aggressive champion of his welfare reform agenda. She is now running for president at a time when the Democratic Party is undergoing a mass re-evaluation of his presidency. Many of those voters are concluding that Bill Clinton's time in office was an eight-year disaster for progressive ideas.

I think that last statement is mostly true, indeed not only because of his destruction of welfare, but because of his many deregulations of the banks.
And this is a recommended article.

2. Andrew Bacevich: America's War for the Greater Middle East Cannot Be Won

The second item is
by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:
When will the United States realize a military victory is impossible in the Middle East? Military historian Andrew Bacevich asks this question in his latest book. He writes, "As an American who cares deeply about the fate of his country, I should state plainly my own assessment of this ongoing war, now well into its fourth decade. We have not won it. We are not winning it. Simply trying harder is unlikely to produce a different outcome."
Andrew Bacevich also is a retired Colonel, a Vietnam War veteran, a professor emeritus, and the author of various books. I think he is right in what he says, even if he also may be - somewhat subtly - mistaken.

What I mean is this: Bacevich is quite right that politically and militarily there will be no military victory for the United States in the Middle East. What he may be mistaken about (I don't know, but I can guess) is his assumption that "the Pentagon" (as I will say, for "the United States" certainly is too general) strives
for a victory.

It may very well be that what they strive for is something quite different:

The maintenance of a climate of war in the United States, and the maintenance for now and for the coming decades (or more) of at least as much money for "defense" aka "the military-industrial complex".

In other words: "The Pentagon" no longer fights to win wars; it fights to keep on fighting, and to keep on spending as great an amount as is possible from the taxes on the buying of ever new ever more expensive military materials.

And I admit I am guessing, but the guess seems a plausible one, and the profits on military matters - if you disregard all loss of lives and all destructions - are very great, and are very great for American companies.

Next, here is Bacevich on Trump:
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I mean, I think he has the same sort of—his attitude is the same sort of smirking cynicism that we saw in that pharmaceutical scandal. I have a five-year-old grandson, who I love dearly, and he’s a wonderful boy. He also has a tendency to blurt out whatever happens to be passing through his mind. And it seems to me that Donald Trump, who is not five years old, suffers from the same sort of inclination. And it suggests that he would be an enormously dangerous commander-in-chief. And I think we all recognize people say things on the campaign trail that may not actually reflect their intentions were they to be in office, but there does come—there are moments when the gap between what’s being said and what ought to be done by any responsible person, when that gap is so broad that the rhetoric itself, I think, becomes a disqualifying factor. But let me quickly add, it’s not clear to me that Senator Cruz, who is the apparent alternative, is, by any inclination, any better.
I quite agree, and indeed I think both Trump and Cruz are unfit to be president. Period. (My reasons? The enormous amount of lies both told; the fact that Cruz was born in Canada; and my estimate of Trump's character.)
For some reason, I mean—I’m with Clausewitz: War is the continuation of politics by other means. War makes sense only if you are able to achieve your political purposes at some reasonable cost. And we have been fighting a war in the Greater Middle East without achieving, in any conclusive sense, any positive political outcomes. And yet the tendency is to evaluate our conduct there in operational military concerns, of winning fights as opposed to accomplishing political objectives. And that’s yet another problem.
As I indicated (and while I have read Clausewitz and like him), I think this is probably mistaken, and the reason is that war also may be the continuation of
a certain - military-industrial - profits, and especially if you disregard the destroyed lives and properties of those you kill and destroy.

But this is also a recommended article.
3. Why Aren’t Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Talking About Encryption?

The third item is
by Emma Niles on Truthdig:

This is a short article that contains this passage:
While some say that giving the authorities access to encrypted information would help them prevent terrorist attacks and solve other crimes, others argue that “back-door” technology could easily fall into the hands of hackers and criminals, putting private information at risk.

But it’s not just the White House that is hanging back on encryption: The Democratic presidential candidates have also kept relatively quiet, too. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have had little of substance to say on the subject, as illustrated by their vague statements in a debate in January. Sanders’ website indicates that he voted against the Patriot Act and opposes mass surveillance, but Sanders himself has mainly focused on other issues during his campaign. Clinton, too—beyond offering a few confusing propositions—has been subdued on encryption.

This is here mainly because the title does pose an excellent question, and also because the second quoted paragraph is correct. I will give my brief and partial answers to the question, after dealing with the first quoted paragraph:

The first quoted paragraph is not precisely false (it attributes something to "some", and another point of view to "others", and indeed there are such some and such others) but it is misleading, for it leaves out my own position (and that of many others):

It simply is both morally wrong, extremely authoritarian, quite undemocratic, and very dangerous to allow state terrorists - for that is what all these anonymous mathematicians of the NSA are - to know everything about anyone, which is what they are trying to do, which also probably will change the NSA into an effective (and much more powerful) Stasi, that also will control how well-behaved everyone is, and to try to disrupt and deceive anyone who isn't.

Indeed, this is what the British counterpart of the NSA, the GCHQ, took great pride in (in the deepest secret, that was broken by Edward Snowden):

No one should have the rights to secretly find out everything anyone does, thinks, wants, writes and says (together with his photographs, income, health-problems, and complete past) on the mere ground that "anybody may be a terrorist": The Fourth Amendment (<- Wikipedia) had it quite right, as did Senator Frank Church in 1975 [1], and anything which transgresses these is a move towards totalitarianism.

Next about the quite correct question that the title poses:

I have no answers for Hillary Clinton. I think she is as honest as Obama, by which I mean that (i) she will say what she believes will most help her interests, based on her knowledge about her focus groups, but that (ii) none of this has anything to do with any honest declaration of her values, policies or plans once elected. Therefore I really do not know (but I am far from optimistic about her real plans once she is president, though I am also quite willing to concede that she very probably will be a less bad president than Trump or Cruz or Ryan).

As to Bernie Sanders: I am somewhat disappointed, but not angry.

I am somewhat disappointed because I think "surveillance" - which these days means: everything you do, say, or wrote on any computer that is connected to the internet, wherever you live (!!), will be dowloaded (in secret, of course) by diverse secret services and made into a personal dossier on everyone
, if the secret services get their desires satisfied (as is the case since 9/11!) - is a very important theme.

I am not angry because Bernie Sanders has a history of more than 40 years of political activities that inclines me fairly strongly towards trusting his honesty and decency (indeed also without agreeing with everything he does or says).

This is another recommended article.

4. Sanders Has Been Summoned to the Vatican: Is the Pope Feeling the Bern? (Video)

The fourth item i
by Alexandra Rosenmann on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Is Bernie Sanders on the verge of his biggest endorsement yet? The Democratic presidential candidate announced his plans to travel to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today. 

“You would be the first Jewish president. How did this come about?" asked host Mika Brzezinski.

"It was an invitation from the Vatican,” Sanders replied. "I was very moved by the invitation. I am a big, big fan of the Pope. Obviously there are areas that we disagree on—women's rights, gay rights—but he has played an unbelievable role of injecting a moral consequence into the economy."

I say - and incidentally: Mika Brzezinski is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, and earns a mere $2 million a year at MSNBC: she has arrived through her father - for I had no idea of this.

Also, I must admit that while I like the present pope compared to many previous popes, I am probably less enthousiastic about him than Bernie Sanders, but then I also am a livelong atheist. And while I do agree the present pope injected some 'moral consequence into the economy', I am afraid that will mostly soon be forgotten with the next pope, for that is how things tend to go anyway.

But Sanders is more or less right about Pope Francis:

Sanders explained that Pope Francis urges people to pay attention to "the disposessed, the idolatry of money, the worship of money, the greed that's out there and inject a sense of morality into how we do economics."

The Vermont senator will be traveling to the Vatican to discuss "plans to create a moral economy that works for all people, rather than the top 1%," the invitation read.

I much doubt the two can work out anything that amounts to a clear and feasible plan, but it would be quite nice if the pope were - somehow - to support Bernie Sanders. (And it might help him win the elections.)

Finally, here is something on Sanders' background that I did not know:

Sanders' father, Elias Sanders, immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 and many of Elias' relatives who remained in Poland were killed in the Holocaust, a fact that is connected to Sanders' condemnation of Trump's xenophobic policies. It is "in my heart to see what a lunatic can do by stirring up racial hatred," Sanders said.

I agree.

5. A Media Unmoored from Facts

The fifth item i
by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows - and I give a fairly long quote because Robert Parry is a good journalist and because he says what I also have concluded, meanwhile:

Several weeks ago, I received a phone call from legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh who had seen one of my recent stories about Syria and wanted to commiserate over the state of modern journalism. Hersh’s primary question regarding reporters and editors at major news outlets these days was: “Do they care what the facts are?”

Hersh noted that in the past – in the 1970s when he worked at The New York Times – even executive editor Abe Rosenthal, who was a hard-line cold warrior with strong ideological biases, still wanted to know what was really going on.

My experience was similar at The Associated Press. Among the older editors, there was still a pride in getting the facts right – and not getting misled by some politician or spun by some government flack.

That journalistic code, however, no longer exists – at least not on foreign policy and national security issues. The major newspapers and TV networks are staffed largely by careerists who uncritically accept what they are fed by U.S. government officials or what they get from think-tank experts who are essentially in the pay of special interests.

For a variety of reasons – from the draconian staff cuts among foreign correspondents to the career fear of challenging some widely held “group think” – many journalists have simply become stenographers, taking down what the Important People say is true, not necessarily what is true.

The main part in this quotation is that the journalistic code of deep and fundamental trust that there were real and important facts behind any real
and important story, and that good journalists try to find and present the real
and important facts behind the stories, has been almost completely discarded.

I think that is true, and it happened most everywhere, also outside the United States: The mainstream media no longer report the real facts. Instead, they report edited parts of the real facts, which are edited to provide as best a view of the governmental worthies who are supposed to be responsible as is possible; they dish most of what will not be good for their governments; in general the postmodern journalists ceased to believe in real truth, in real facts, or in real responsibilities, and only care to receive as big a slice of money as they can get; while most have redefined their tasks from "informing our readers with the facts" to "amusing our readers with our stories". [2]

Here is some more:

This dishonesty – or lack of any commitment to the truth – is even worse among editorialists and columnists. Having discovered that there was virtually no cost for being catastrophically wrong about the facts leading into the Iraq invasion in 2003, these writers must feel so immune from accountability that they can safely ignore reality.

But – for some of us old-timers – it’s still unnerving to read the work of these “highly respected” journalists who simply don’t care what the facts are.

I note that I have seen all of this develop in the University of Amsterdam, that was officially opened in 1978 (!!) with the thesis - a stinking and quite conscious and intentional lie - that "everybody knows that truth does not exist", which then was maintained by around 90% of the students and the staff, in considerable part because both of them profited a lot, for the students had much easier exams and the staff much easier work (since there is no truth, in their opinions) - until 1995 at least (and also since then, but in slightly different forms).

Also, I'd like to suggest that while Parry does belong to the remaining minority of journalists who do believe in real truth and real facts (as real journalists should), it at least ought to be more unnerving for the many consumers of journalism like me and hundreds of millions others, who in fact are being silently deceived by the mock journalists who mostly provide trash or amuse- ment, but who also are too cowardly to admit even that: They pretend to be real journalists, whereas in fact they only are real deceivers, real liars, and really bad men. [3]

Here is the end of Robert Parry's article:

So, the answer to Sy Hersh’s question – “Do they care what the facts are?” – is, it appears, no. There is just too much money and power involved in influencing and controlling Washington and – through those levers of finance, diplomacy and war – controlling the world. When that’s at stake, real facts can become troublesome things. For the people who wield this influence and control, it is better for them to manufacture their own.

Actually, I am more cynical than Parry is, and the reason is that I have seen a whole university go postmodernistic after having gone marxistic, and the reasons for those corruptions were not so much "money and power" as ease and desires: Postmodernism made studying and teaching extremely much easier than they were in case one believed in facts and truths. [4]

And besides, postmodernism delivered automatically what postmodernists desired:

Not to be refuted (for there was no truth), not to be the inferior of anyone in anything (for "everyone is the equal of anyone": another widely believed postmodern lie), not to have any real personal responsibility (for there is no responsibility without truth), not to need to know anything more than everybody else (for there is no knowledge), and in general to lead the lives they pleased (for "everybody is equal" and "truth does not exist").

This is how it went in the University of Amsterdam from 1977-1995 for nearly everyone who worked or studied there, and this also makes me more cynical than Parry:

I know that for the majority to get what they want - regardless of any other norm - is the main end in their lives, and if what they want can be reached only with falsehoods, lies, and deceptions, they will be proud to lie and deceive.

For this happened in the University of Amsterdam - which I completed, all the time ill, and after having been denied the right to take an M.A. in philosophy, with an M.A. in psychology with an excellent, extremely rare score. (And no, I too would not have believed this kind of things could happen in a university - until it happened to me.)

6. Leaked Encryption Draft Bill 'Ignores Economic, Security, and Technical Reality'

The sixth item is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This has a subtitle that is worth quoting:
"This bill makes effective cybersecurity illegal."
Here are the reasons why. First, there is this:

A draft of a proposed bill mandating companies give, under a court order, the government access to encrypted data is being derided by technology experts as "ludicrous," as it "ignores technical reality" and threatens everyone's security.

The Hill reports that it obtained a discussion draft of the legislation, and others have posted the purported 9-page draft online.

The links (some, at least) work.

Next, here is what the new law is supposed to do:

The draft states that, if faced with a government court order for data access, the company must "provide such information or data to such government in an intelligible format; or provide such technical assistance as is necessary to obtain such information or data in an intelligible format."

Essentially, writes Joshua Kopstein at Mothernboard, "the draft bill is an encryption-specific version of the All Writs Act, the controversial 1789 statute that the US government invoked to force Apple to build software capable of hacking into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone."

Yes, indeed. It also is extremely authoritarian, very anti-democratic and quite totalitarian, and gives all power and all authority to the very few who work, in secret, in the state's secret services: These must be genuine supermen, since they - and only they - may know everything about anyone, without anyone (except their colleagues) even knowing who they are, and they may also (and will, but all in the deepest secret) Deny/Disrupt/ Degrade and/or Deceive anyone whose attitudes or values or writings they don't like. (And they also can secretly have them arrested to keep them imprisoned without any trial.)

It is completely authoritarian, totally anti-democratic, and will give incredibly vast powers to the very few. And all in the deepest secret.

Here is a brief indication of the feelings of the ACLU:

"This bill is a clear threat to everyone's privacy and security," said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the ACLU, in a statement Friday.

"Instead of heeding the warnings of experts, the senators have written a bill that ignores economic, security, and technical reality. It would force companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products by providing backdoors into the devices and services that everyone relies on. Senators Burr and Feinstein should abandon their efforts to create a government backdoor," Singh Guliani stated.

Masnick added, "This bill makes effective cybersecurity illegal," referring to encryption allowing the "building [of] systems as secure as possible to protect people from malicious attacks."

Yes, indeed.

[1] Here are the words of Senator Frank Church once again - and it is from 1975, but it is more actual than ever:
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
[2] You may disagree, and indeed (if you are not Dutch) you probably do not have my - extensive - experience with Dutch papers. In any case, I have read the NRC-Handelsblad from 1970-2010 (for forty years, also when I lived in Norway), but I gave it up by the end of 2010 not because of anything I wrote
in this article, but simply because I realized how very much amusement had crept into their writing, and how extremely irresponsible they had become about factual truth in many of their articles "about facts".

I don't read a paper to be amused nor to be lied to, and I therefore stopped reading the NRC-Handelsblad (and never regretted it: It now is considerably worse than it was in 2010).

[3] I think they are, if they are journalists who take pride in lying and deceiving.

[4] This is the bitter truth, but if you are not Dutch it will be hard to understand this, whereas if you are Dutch it will be very easy to deny this.
But it is a fact. (Readers of Dutch should check out ME in Amsterdam: it is long, but most of the facts are there. O, and most of the Dutch will deny this, because most of them still "believe" that truth may not exist and that everybody - you, me, Einstein and Hitler - is of precisely the same value as anyone else.)
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