May 6, 2016

Crisis: U.S. Elections, FBI Illegal, On Trump, The Rich Major Thieves, Ugly
Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Foreign Intelligence Services Targeted 2008 Campaign,
     Officials Were Warned

2. FBI Told Cops to Recreate Evidence From Secret
     Cell-Phone Trackers

3. Here Is the Wrong Way to Go About Defeating Trump
Gimme Shelter (From the Tax Man)
5. The Ugliest American

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 6, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the possibility the American elections may be stolen: I think this is a real possibility, but the present article is about some faint warnings about 2008 by the NSA; item 2 is about the police state methods that now prevail in the USA: The FBI now instructs the rest of the police to find evidence in illegal ways (by stingrays), but then to launder the evidence to that it is acceptable to American courts (that - quite rightly - reject evidence that has been gathered in illegal ways); item 3 is about a criticism of a conservative critic of Trump: it is not bad, but the criticism doesn't notice the conservative also criticized considerable parts of present-day conservatism; item 4 is about an excellent article by Nomi Prins on the astounding amounts of taxes that are being stolen by both the very rich and their rich professional political friends; and item 5 is about Trump, and mostly shows some criticisms of him.

1. Foreign Intelligence Services Targeted 2008 Campaign, Officials Were Warned

The first item is
by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This stars as follows (and may be interesting for those who are concerned about stealing elections):

The Intelligence Community evidently gave some incoming members of the Obama administration a star-spangled welcome briefing — complete with a stern warning.

In a newly disclosed document titled “Unlocking the Secrets: How to Use The Intelligence Community,” intelligence officials told incoming officials that foreign intelligence services had been extensively spying on the 2008 political campaigns.

“Foreign intelligence services have been tracking this election cycle like no other,” the authors from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote.

On the campaign trail, the ODNI authors wrote, foreign spooks met with campaign staff and other sources, hacked into campaign data, and engaged in “perception management” more aggressive than traditional lobbying—though the lack of specifics make it’s unclear what any of that really entails.

I say.  Here are a few remarks:

First, I don't see why these folks have to be styled "
The Intelligence Com- munity". I did see they use that term themselves, but it is a propaganda term; there simply is no real "Intelligence Community" (I grant there may be many small communities of people who work for the NSA and who know each other personally, but that realistic use is in the plural - "many communities" - and certainly not intended); and to say so is to give in to their propaganda efforts.

Second, this is "news" about 2008: Why was it not told in 2008?! Because the members of the NSA thought ordinary folks are too little worth, in their actual practice, to tell them anything while it happens? And while you may doubt that:

Third, why are there such large gaps, holes and ommissions in the present report, about events in 2008, that Jenna McLaughlin concludes that "
the lack of specifics make it’s unclear what any of that really entails"?

There is more in the article, but to me this mostly sounds like yet another propaganda report from the NSA about "The NSA Community", that wishes all Americans - whom they stole everything from they could steal - "Really Well".

And in case you are interested in a realistic possibility that American elections may have been and possibly will be stolen, see here. There are links to earlier publications there as well, and this is how I ended this on May 1, discussing the possibility of stealing the present elections:

Yes, that is entirely possible, and yes that could be done with a few lines of programming code in a small program, that also can be completely deleted after being used. And no, they are quite right that "there is no viable method for monitoring or verifying the electronic vote count in 2016".

And I do not know about the probability that this may happen, but I completely disagree with people who deny the possibility on the basis of the - troll like - argument that this is "a conspiracy theory": No, it is not, for they are right it
can be done, and can be done easily, and also that you do not need a lot of evidence about dark and uncertain things to know this: all you need is some programming ability.

So overall I think it is quite possible that the coming presidential elections may be stolen, and if so, it is quite unlikely to be found out. And I do not know enough to pronounce confidently on the possibility with any rational probability.

This still seems entirely fair to me - but I suppose one must wait until 2024
to get any vague "information" about the present stealing from the NSA, if this happens, for ordinary people - these days, in the USA - are no longer fit to be honestly, fully or clearly reported to on the things they pay, from their taxes.

2. FBI Told Cops to Recreate Evidence From Secret Cell-Phone Trackers

The second item is (also) b
y Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept [1]:

This starts as follows:

A recently disclosed document shows the FBI telling a local police department that the bureau’s covert cell-phone tracking equipment is so secret that any evidence acquired through its use needs to be recreated in some other way before being introduced at trial.

“Information obtained through the use of the equipment is FOR LEAD PURPOSES ONLY,” FBI special agent James E. Finch wrote to Chief Bill Citty of the Oklahoma City Police Department.

The official notice, dated September 2014, said such information “may not be used as primary evidence in any affidavits, hearings or trials. This equipment provides general location information about a cellular device, and your agency understands it is required to use additional and independent investigative means and methods, such as historical cellular analysis, that would be admissible at trial to corroborate information concerning the location of the target obtained through the use of this equipment.”

I have written several times before on stingrays, which are also involved here: See here and here. In brief, the legal position is as indicated by the appellate court, as quoted on April 1, last:
"We conclude that people have a reasonable expectation that their cell phones will not be used as real-time tracking devices by law enforcement, and—recognizing that the Fourth Amendment protects people and not simply areas—that people have an objectively reasonable expectation and privacy in real-time cell phone location information," the panel wrote on Wednesday.
That is: Stingrays are illegal, and evidence gathered with them is illegal, and illegally obtained evidence is no evidence in an American court (as indeed it also should not be).

None of those things is stated clearly in the first piece I quoted, but it is a fact. Also, as I also stated on April 2, the fact that this manner of gathering evidence is illegal doesn't bother the American cops at all, for merely the Baltimore police has been using stingrays daily and since 2007.

But now - nine years later, after nine years of daily illegal evidence gathering by the American police - the FBI tells them what to do: Continue in your illegal gatherings and defraud the courts by refusing to even name a stingray:

The document, obtained by nonprofit investigative journalism outlet Oklahoma Watch, pertains to the use of cell site simulators, or Stingrays — surveillance technology that mimics a cellphone tower to trick cellphones into transmitting location data and other information, sometimes even the contents of calls.

Journalists and activists have uncovered at least 20 similar nondisclosure agreements between FBI and local police about Stingrays in the past few years — but the FBI’s advice about retroactively recreating evidence appears to be new.

In fact, I doubt it is new, for this has been happening daily, merely just in Baltimore, since 2007, while the FBI knew all the time these gatherings were forbidden, and so was the evidence thus gathered.

But OK - and this is even more illegal:

“This is the first time I have seen language this explicit in an FBI non-disclosure agreement,” Nate Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “The typical NDAs order local police to hide information from courts and defense attorneys, which is bad enough, but this goes the outrageous extra step of ordering police to actually engage in evidence laundering,” 

“Instead of just hiding the surveillance, the FBI is mandating manufacture of a whole new chain of evidence to throw defense attorneys and judges off the scent. As a result, defendants are denied their right to challenge potentially unconstitutional surveillance and courts are deprived of an opportunity to curb law enforcement abuses,” Wessler continued.

Precisely: They will be convicted in trials that are based on illegally collected evidence, that is completely hidden from the court and the judge, while the
evidence that is given is laundered, all as ordered by the FBI...

Congratulations, America: Your "justice" is based on illegal evidence, that is
then illegally laundered to hide its illegality on the orders of the American  federal police!

3. Here Is the Wrong Way to Go About Defeating Trump

The third item is b
y Jim Sleeper (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

I haven’t checked to see who in the chattering classes is oohing and ahhing over Andrew Sullivan’s yuuge (and yuugely read) anti-Trump jeremiad “Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic: And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.”
While there are compelling half-truths about this right-wing populism in Sullivan’s argument, there are a few things dangerously wrong in it. Beyond just defeating Trump, strengthening the American republic against his successors will depend on correcting Sullivan’s misrepresentations about the role of money in elections and the role of Bernie Sanders in this one.

To start with, my review of Sullivan is here.

It so happens that I was (and am) considerably more optimistic about Sullivan - while indeed I am also quite a few things Sullivan is not, for I am neither English nor American, not religious at all (ever), not a conservative, and not a homosexual - than is Sleeper, and indeed a considerable part of that is due to this quote from Sullivan's article, that I also gave on May 2:

He has supported a number of traditional libertarian positions, favouring limited government and opposing interventionist measures such as affirmative action. However, on a number of controversial public issues, including same-sex marriage, social security, progressive taxation, anti-discrimination laws, the Affordable Care Act, the United States government's use of torture, and capital punishment, he has taken positions not typically shared by conservatives in the United States. In July 2012, Sullivan said that "the catastrophe of the Bush-Cheney years ... all but exploded the logic of neoconservatism and its domestic partner-in-crime, supply-side economics."

As I said then, I agree with everything in this quotation, at least starting from "However". And I consider(ed) it a bit hopeful that there are at least a few
conservatives who (also) take these positions: I'd say we need more of their
kind, and I say so not because I am a conservative (I am not), but because
Sullivan at least seems a sane conservative, who is willing to consider and respect facts.

Jim Steeler seems considerably less sympathetic, and has some criticisms.
This is the first I'll quote:

Regarding campaign financing, has Sullivan forgotten that in 2008 Obama—who he says “was propelled by small donors and empowered by the internet [and] blazed the trail of the modern-day insurrectionist”—actually turned down public campaign financing in order to raise huge donations from elite neoliberals who adored him for perverse reasons that always push neoliberals toward conscience-easing gestures? I esteem Obama for reasons too numerous to mention, but a corrector of corrupt capitalism he was not, either in his 2008 fundraising or in his appointments of Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers.

I agree with the beginning of that, though not with the end: For a president who broke most of his promises, and tried to smuggle in the neofascistic TTIP, I don't have much respect, though I grant that he is intelligent and calm, and certainly is a lot better than Trump.

Then there is this about Hillary Clinton:

Nothing in Clinton's record proves she can or will work to curb the national-security mania, the militarist juggernaut and the predatory marketing and lending that have trapped us like flies in a spider’s web of 800-numbered, sticky-fingered pick-pocketing machines that are pumping so much heartsickness and violence into our daily lives.

I agree with this as well, but see the above quoted list of traditional conservative positions - these days - that are not shared by Sullivan, although he is a conservative and a Catholic.

And there is this about Trump and Sanders:

Trump is the terrifying consequence of what both party establishments have done to this country. Sanders is quite right to have steered clear of them, even while working with them strategically, as a mayor and in Congress. Even as a Democratic candidate, he has kept telling truths that Trump won’t tell about our national-security mania, militarist juggernaut, and predatory marketing and lending, which are dissolving our republican virtues and even sovereignty almost mindlessly instead of using whatever remains in the United States’ power to reconfigure these arrangements, in concert with others.

I mostly agree with this, though I want to stress that one major group is not mentioned at all: The American voters, whose average IQ probably is lower than 100, and who are for at least 50% rather to very unintelligent and - especially - quite ignorant about many things, including those they vote on.

And indeed, if Trump does get to be president of the USA, I shall primarily blame the voters, if only because they did have the power and could have had the knowledge not to elect him.

But we aren't there yet. This is a recommended article, though I believe Sleeper might have been more friendly to Sullivan, if only because (i) he certainly is a conservative, while having more sensible positions than many American (and English) conservatives, and (ii) his kind may be needed to stop Trump from becoming president.

4. Gimme Shelter (From the Tax Man

The fourth item is
by Nomi Prins (<- Wikipedia) on

This starts as follows:

There’s a pile of money hiding offshore. It’s true that jobs are also leaving the United States because American companies find it convenient to cut labor costs by moving manufacturing abroad, the economic issue you’re hearing most about in this election season. But the stunning amount of money that continues to flow across American borders (and those of other countries), and eventually disappears into the pockets of the corporate and political elite, ultimately causes even more damage to our finances and our lives.

While the two leading candidates for the presidency, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have indeed suggested cosmetic fixes for a situation that only grows more extreme with the passage of time, they have themselves taken advantage of numerous tax “efficiency” strategies that make money evaporate. Of course, you shouldn’t doubt for a second that they’ll change their ways once in the Oval Office.

This is the beginning of a very good article that you are recommended to read all of. Three reasons are that Nomi Prins is an honest specialist on banks and finance, and that she in this article considers two major means of plain theft that are being used by both the multi-national corporations, and by rich individuals like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump:

Tax havens for the rich, whether corporations or millionaires/billionaires, and for industrialists also the deregulated possibility that allows them to steal most of the jobs from the American population, by simply putting their factories in India or Pakistan, or having it done in China.

Here are some numbers on the amounts " the top 50 U.S. companies" - merely these! - have stolen and are hoarding outside the U.S. (bolding added):

According to an April 2016 Oxfam report, the top 50 U.S. companies are hoarding more than $1.4 trillion in cash offshore.

What’s more, for every dollar that these firms spent lobbying Congress for “favorable” tax treatment (a collective total of $2.6 billion between 2008 and 2014), they received $130 dollars in tax breaks and $4,000 in subsidies from the U.S. government. These companies, including Pfizer, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Chevron, Walmart, IBM, and Procter & Gamble, created “an opaque and secretive network” of more than 1,600 company subsidiaries located in tax havens that they decided to disclose. (Because of the weak reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission, there could be thousands more.) According to a March 3rd report from the Citizens for Tax Justice, the Fortune 500 companies are now saving $695 billion in federal income taxes on a total of $2.4 trillion in offshore holdings.

All of this - trillions of dollars (that is: thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of dollars - are being stolen by the very rich to get even richer themselves. It is true quite a few of the previously illegal thefts now have been "legalized", but this makes it no less major thefts.

Here is Nomi Prins on their morals:

Not only are such firms unpatriotic, they are parasitic and while they’re at it, they use similar techniques -- let’s not call it theft (though it is) -- to avoid tax payments in the poorest places on Earth. As Oxfam reports, “the biggest burden” of tax havens “falls on the poorest people.” In the process, they only increase already oppressive levels of inequality globally.

Tax “secrecy” specialists -- people working in the money-hiding field -- help rich individuals, multinational corporations, political leaders, terrorists, and organized crime groups divert cash and capital, sometimes in staggering amounts, from local economies into an obscure, complex, multi-layered global financial network that operates outside any national or international regulatory or tax system.
I think that by now I have discovered one difference between professional politicians and other people (with a few rare exceptions, indeed): Professional politicians do not know more than ordinary academics; are usually not as smart as somewhat successful ordinary academics; but they positively excel at lying and impertinence; and I also think I know one difference between those who
get very rich and those who don't: The very rich are not more intelligent than
others, but they excel in egoism, greed, lying, psychopathology and moral degeneracy - so yes, F. Scott Fitzgerald was right that the rich and their politicians are different: They are much bigger bastards than ordinary people, including ordinary criminals. (Also the very rich are hardly ever punished.)

Here is a final bit, from near the end, about estimates of how much the very rich and their professional political friends stole from the non-rich:

As of 2014, according to Gabriel Zucman, University of California economist and author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations, at least $7.6 trillion, or approximately 8% of global financial wealth, was “missing” somewhere offshore. His analysis demonstrates that the sorts of tax-dodging practices we’ve been discussing put governments across the planet in the red by approximately $200 billion annually. Tax avoidance by major U.S. companies costs governments an additional $130 billion per year since nearly a third of their profits are hidden offshore.

The U.N. estimates that tax dodging by multinational companies costs developing countries $100 billion a year, an amount “equivalent to what it would cost to provide basic life-saving health services or safe water and sanitation to more than 2.2 billion people.”

As I said, this is an excellent article that you should all read yourselves.

(And incidentally: I have some sensible ideas to turn this around, but I do not know how to make them popular. See e.g. here on May 2, and On Socialism of September 21, 2015 - and no I am not a real socialist, though I am a real radical.)

5. The Ugliest American

The fifth item is
by Paul Slansky on The Huffington Post:
This starts as follows (and is mostly here to register this style of comments on Donald Trump):
Happy first day of a half year of living with the possibility (however remote we have to believe it to be in order to stay sane) that Donald Trump -- this crass and crude boor, this bloodthirsty psychopath, this Brobdingnagian narcissist, this proudly misogynistic ignoramus, this pus-filled boil of hate, this odious short-fingered vulgarian -- could be the 45th President of the United States.
Well...Paul Slansky is sharp, but he seems mostly right: Trump is a boor; he is a narcissist; he is a mysoginist; he is an ignoramus; and he is vulgar, though one may have some reservations about the adjectives. Also, while it may be true that Trump is a psychopath (and is true I am a psychologist), I am not certain about that, although he definitely is not normal and far too temperamental for a president.

The other piece I'll quote is this:

Ridicule is the greatest weapon we have against any politician, and no one reacts worse to mockery than Donald Trump -- to him it is absolute Kryptonite -- so we are dutybound (and few duties are easier) to make fun of him. This will happen on a massive scale. Still, how many of you scoffed at the idea that a reptilian clown like Reagan could be taken seriously? How many sneered at the notion that a moronic frat boy like Bush could come close enough to steal the presidency? I did both, so I do not assume that a Trump White House -- and what a grotesque image that phrase conjures up -- is an impossibility, especially in an era when crazy is the new sane and there is no bottom.
I don't think this article is "ridicule" or "mockery", but OK.

And I did not scoff at the idea that Reagan might be president, nor did I sneer at the notion Bush Jr. could get president, and my reasons not to do so were the same both times: I have a low opinion of the average intelligence and relevant knowledge of the American electorate - and I was right both times, though I would have much liked it if I had been wrong.

And therefore I do not think that it is impossible that Trump may become the
next American president, although I still regard this as unlikely. But I may be
overestimating the rational and reasonable powers of the American voters...

[1] The reason - incidentally - is quite simple: She writes for The Intercept, which is one of the few media that gives honest information about spying, the NSA and much more, while I try to avoid most hysterics, propaganda, bullshit and lies, and therefore often do not have much choice. (And besides: I only review those items to which I have something to add, in criticism, in support, or in extension.)
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