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Nederlog

May 18, 2016

Crisis: NSA, Chomsky, Sanders, Obama, American "democracy"
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
NSA Closely Involved in Guantánamo Interrogations,
     Documents Show

2. Chomsky: Today's Republican Party is a Candidate for
     Most Dangerous Organization in Human History

3. Sanders Urges Democrat Leaders to Welcome 'Real'
     Fighters for Change

4. Obama Has Been At War Longer Than Any Other
     President In History

5. An Exhausted Democracy: Donald Trump and the New
     American Nationalism

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 18, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about the NSA's involvement in Guantánamo, in the early days of the 2000s; item 2 is about Chomsky's interviews on Democracy Now! and in particular about Chomsky's assessment that the GOP is the most dangerous organization in human history (I tend to agree, but couple it with the fact that the USA is the most powerful nation on earth: The GOP would be merely quaint and horrific if they functioned in - say - Honduras or Holland); item 3 is about the widening rift between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (I am on the side of Sanders); item 4 is about two articles on Obama, the one outlining (point by point by point) the horrible things he did, and the other saying he is quite warlike; and item 5 is about an article in Spiegel International that is half decent and half blind (I think, especially because this speaker for Germany's free press doesn't seem to see that the main media in the USA ceased to be free and mostly propagandize and exclude rational and informed speakers).

1. NSA Closely Involved in Guantánamo Interrogations, Documents Show

The first item is by Cora Currier on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Personnel from the National Security Agency worked alongside the military, CIA, and other agencies on interrogations at Guantánamo in the early days of the war on terror, new documents show.

Entries from an internal NSA publication, which were among the documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, described staffers’ deployments to Guantánamo Bay during a time period when prisoners were subjected to brutal questioning and mistreatment. An NSA employee also described participation in a rendition, when U.S. forces seized six men in Bosnia and secreted them off to Cuba.

In October 2003, a post in SIDtoday, the online newsletter of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, or SID, advertised the “chance to get to GITMO for 90 days!

Yesterday I reported on the fact that The Intercept decided to make more of its Snowden Archive available to the public. This is part of some of the conse- quences of that decision, and is about the early days of the "War on Terror" (in the early 2000s).

As to that last quoted term: This "war" was initialized by Bush Jr. but please note that Reagan also started a - likewise propagandistic - "war on terror": Both presidents never affirmed that the terror of a few allowed them to set up - especially Bush Jr - enormous institutions of the USA's state-terrorism, notably the NSA, that now checks everyone's mail and everyone's internet publications to see whether these conform to the USA's government's desires.

This is how the NSA reacted in the early 2000s - as contrasted with some FBI agents and with the
nternational Committee of the Red Cross:

FBI agents there internally protested the interrogation tactics they witnessed, describing them as “torture techniques” and “beyond the bounds of standard FBI practice,” including detainees being chained in fetal positions on the floor, without food or water, and the use of strobe lights, loud music, and dogs.

The International Committee of the Red Cross charged in a 2004 confidential report that treatment of some prisoners at Guantánamo was “tantamount to torture.” In a June 2004 visit, its investigators reported “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions” and “some beatings,” according to a New York Times report.

interrogators “to collect information of value to the NSA Enterprise and Extended Enterprise” and be “responsible for interfacing with the DoD, CIA, and FBI interrogators on a daily basis in order to assess and exploit information sourced from detainees.” In some instances, the relationship would go the other way, with the NSA providing “sensitive NSA-collected technical data and products to assist JTF-GTMO [Joint Task Force Guantánamo] interrogation efforts.”

The post’s title was “Can You Handle the Truth?” — a reference to Jack Nicholson’s famous line in the courtroom drama A Few Good Men, set in Guantánamo.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended. (And note that at that time very few people even knew about the NSA's existence, for this was the time when its acronym was still widely read as "No Such Agency".)

2. Chomsky: Today's Republican Party is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human History

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

There are in fact (on May 17 - and see yesterday's Nederlog) six interviews with Noam Chomsky on the site of Democracy Now!

I picked two of them for a brief review - and I think Noam Chomsky should be read or listened to, also because he is mostly totally excluded from the USA's massively lying and/or deceiving main media (which are deceiving hundreds of millions of Americans by simply not putting on Chomsky and not saying that they refuse to give a decent hearing to one of the greatest living intellectuals).

This is from the start of the first of the above two dotted links:
We speak with world-renowned political dissident Noam Chomsky about the Republican party, the rightward shift in U.S. politics and the 2016 election. "If we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects," Chomsky says, "but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally."
Yes, I agree. Also, while Trump is the latest semi-sane semi-fascist (see item 5 for "semi-fascist" [1]) horror to be coughed up from the extreme rightists that currently rule the GOP, this in fact goes back to Ronald Reagan and before him  to Lewis Powell Jr.

Here is Chomsky from the first of the above two dotted links:

What are the roots? The Republican—both political parties have shifted to the right during the neoliberal period—the period, you know, since Reagan, goes back to late Carter, escalated under Reagan—during this period, which has been a period of stagnation and decline for much of the population in many ways—wages, benefits, security and so on—along with enormous wealth concentrated in a tiny fraction of the population, mostly financial institutions, which are—have a dubious, if not harmful, role on the economy. This has been going on for a generation. And while this has been happening, there’s a kind of a vicious cycle. You have more concentration of wealth, concentration of political power, legislation to increase concentration of wealth and power, and so on, that while that’s been going on, much of the population has simply been cast aside. The white working class is bitter and angry, for lots of reasons, including these.
This has been going on on the governmental level (!!!) since Reagan took office, that is, for a full 35 years now.

And here are the two main reasons why Noam Chomsky thinks - and I agree with him - that "
today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history" [2]:
We should recognize—if we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects, but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally. Just take their position on the two major issues that face us: climate change, nuclear war. On climate change, it’s not even debatable. They’re saying, "Let’s race to the precipice. Let’s make sure that our grandchildren have the worst possible life." On nuclear war, they’re calling for increased militarization. It’s already way too high, more than half the discretionary budget. "Let’s shoot it up." They cut back other resources by cutting back taxes on the rich, so there’s nothing left. There’s been nothing this—literally, this dangerous, if you think about it, to the species, really, ever. We should face that.
This is from the second dotted link, and gives Chomsky's analysis of some events in the Republican Party:
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, the phenomenon that we’ve just seen is an extreme version of something that’s been going on just for years in the Republican primaries. Take a look back at the preceding ones. Every time a candidate came up from the base—Bachmann, McCain, Santorum, Huckabee, one crazier than the other—every time one rose from the base, the Republican establishment sought to beat them down and get their own—get their own man—you know, Romney. And they succeeded, until this year. This year the same thing happened, and they didn’t succeed. The pressure from the base was too great for them to beat it back.
I think that is correct (and incidentally, at least Bachmann, Santorum and  Huckabee are real religious extremists).

Finally, here is Chomsky's assessment of Obama:

AMY GOODMAN: What is your overall assessment of the Obama administration?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s about what I thought before he—before the 2008 primaries, when I wrote about him just based on the information in his web page. I didn’t expect anything. I expected mostly rhetoric and—you know, nice rhetoric, good speaker and so on, but nothing much in the way of action.
Yes. He excelled in the way Bill Clinton did (although Clinton is the more clever of the two): He publicly was "a Democrat", while in fact did almost everything
he could to please the rich and the bankmanagers. Also, as far as Bill Clinton was concerned: He was paid very well - about $120 million - after being president. It seems Obama expects the same or more.

There is a lot more in either interview, and there are four others on the site of Democracy Now! All are recommended, simply because Noam Chomsky is a very rational very informed man.

3. Sanders Urges Democrat Leaders to Welcome 'Real' Fighters for Change

The third item is b
y Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Following a raucous state Democratic Party convention in Nevada on Saturday that left both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters deeply divided over the establishment of rules and delegate voting, Sanders spoke out on what transpired for the first time on Tuesday and took party leaders to task for using their powers to prevent a "fair and transparent" process.
There are some - on the Young Turks, for example - who said that Bernie Sanders should have been considerably more aggressive in attacking Hillary
Clinton.

Here is Sanders' view as mediated through Jon Queally:

According to Sanders there were a number of ways in which Lange and other party leaders in Nevada used their power to diminish transparency and democracy, including:

  • The chair of the convention announced that the convention rules passed on voice vote, when the vote was a clear no-vote. At the very least, the Chair should have allowed for a headcount.
  • The chair allowed its Credentials Committee to en mass rule that 64 delegates were ineligible without offering an opportunity for 58 of them to be heard. That decision enabled the Clinton campaign to end up with a 30-vote majority.
  • The chair refused to acknowledge any motions made from the floor or allow votes on them.
  • The chair refused to accept any petitions for amendments to the rules that were properly submitted.

With many political observers wondering if the incident in Nevada portends a more divided party than many are willing to admit or whether such scenes will repeat themselves during other state conventions or at the national convention in July, Sanders did not miss the opportunity to talk about what's at stake as the primary season heads toward its conclusion.

I do not know all the details, but it has seemed obvious to me for a long time that Hillary Clinton has tried to win the election as the Democrats' presidential
candidate by being vastly unfair to Sanders. To be sure, that is far from new
to politics, but the non-elected "superdelegates" she uses to push through her
candidacy is the absolute opposite of acting as a real democrat.


4. Obama Has Been At War Longer Than Any Other President In History

The fourth item also consists of two articles:

This is from the first item, which is by Washington's Blog on his site. It is a list of points that suggest that Obama may be a very bad president (when looked upon factually):

Bush was a horrible president. At the time, I thought he was the worst president in American history.

But Obama has made a lot of firsts himself …

For example, Obama:

In case you thought that was all: No, there is more under the first of the last two dotted links.

And this is from the start of the second item, which is by Trevor Timm on Common Dreams:

Barack Obama has now been at war longer than any president in United States history, as the New York Times pointed out on Sunday. Barring some sort of peace miracle in the next six months, he will be the only president who ever served two full terms in office while constantly being at war. And given how he has transformed how the US fights overseas, his wars will likely continue long after he leaves office.

Anytime the media writes about Obama and war, it’s apparently a rule that the author must mention that Obama supposedly fights his wars more reluctantly than his predecessors. But in many contexts, this is misleading. Obama hasn’t attempted to avoid war; he has merely redefined it. In some ways, he has fought them in a far more aggressively than any president before him, just with different tools.

Yes, quite so: Obama wars with drones, and he does so because he doesn't like killed American soldiers. Otherwise, he is - "Change!", "Change!", "Change!" - just like Bush Jr., except that he is considerably more intelligent and a bettter speaker (who specializes in propagandizing with charm).

5.
An Exhausted Democracy: Donald Trump and the New American Nationalism

The fifth and last item is b
y Holger Stark - Spiegel's "Washington bureau chief" - on Spiegel International:
This starts as follows:

There have been moments in this election campaign that have brought back dark memories. In Mississippi, Florida and elsewhere, presumed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump asked his supporters to raise their right hands and pledge their allegiance to his cause: "I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there's hurricanes or whatever. Will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for President." Tens of thousands raised their right arms and repeated the oath after him. The America media drew comparisons to Adolf Hitler.

Has the most powerful nation on earth become vulnerable to an authoritarian, nationalist leader?
Clearly, "[t]he American media" were right to make comparisons with Hitler - and note the lunacy of the oath: "no matter how I feel", "if there's hurricanes or whatever", all while stretching your arm as if you are greeting Hitler. And no,
I am not saying Trump is "like Hitler"; I am saying the media were right to say that this behavior is like the behavior of Hitler's followers.

However, the second paragraph makes me doubt where Holger Stark was:

Clearly, Trump is a nationalist ("Make America Great Again"); clearly he is an authoritarian; and clearly the USA has become vulnerable to such leaders, and to deny this and indeed to ask whether this may be the case sounds quite uninformed (to me, who has been reading about 40 sites every day since 2013 on the crisis - and for the ongoing
crisis, see the next quotation).

Here is a small part of the economic background of the USA:

But this growing wealth is largely restricted to a group of multimillionaires and billionaires whose lives have become disconnected from those of the rest of the country. Since 1999, an average family's annual income has declined by $5,000 (4,420) while its assets have shrunk by a third. Two-thirds of all households are in debt, often deeply so.
That is correct - and note that this means that "the average family" lost something like 10% of their incomes since 1999 - and that nearly all that the
average family lost, went to hugely increase the incomes of the very rich and their helpmeets
(all of whom earn - often vastly - more than $300,000 a year).

The following is also interesting (and probably correct, though I have no ready statistics):

Contrary to common belief, Trump's supporters do not consist primarily of blue-collar workers and the unemployed. Exit polls have shown that his voters have an average annual household income of $72,000, which is higher than the average salaries of Sanders and Clinton supporters. Support for Trump highlights middle-class Americans' fear of social and economic decline.
This makes me a bit more confident that Trump will not win the presidential elections - but note that I am not confident nor certain that he will loose, and
that my main two reasons to fear that he will win are (i) the stupidity and ignorance of very many American voters and (ii) the incredible falsities in the reporting that the main media do: They only seek to cash in on Trump, and hardly criticize his baloney, his bluffing and his blustering. (Note that "the free press" was seen for over a 100 years as essential to democracy:
"the free press" is a thing of the past in the USA, apart from some remnants, and none of them main media.)

Then again, the ending seems again to be composed by someone who has not
followed the USA or the American elections very well:

There's much more at stake in the United States right now than the contest between two candidates. This is a question of tolerance, pluralism and the very future of a deeply drained democracy.
Sorry: It is no longer "a question of tolerance": Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton lie and deceive very much, and these lies and deceptions are not attacked any more in the main media; it is no longer "a question of pluralism" when two of the three candidates are extremely rich or working for the extremely rich: this is oligarchic and plutocratic rather than democratic or pluralistic; and there also is no more "a deeply drained (?!?! - MM) democracy": it is mostly a dead democracy, indeed not because of the (quite non-democratic) candidates, as it is because of the death of the free press, at least in the main media, that most Americans see or read.
----------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1] As to "semi-sane": I am sorry, but I am a psychologist, and he just is not sane. Apart from a serious case of narcissism I do not know what is psychologically wrong with him, but if you want to say that someone with 75% of his controlled statements being false is sane, you must hold extremely different ideas about what "sane" means in the very rich and in all others: Ordinary men who lie 3 out of 4 times will be locked up or heavily drugged, to protect others from their many lies.

[2]
Incidentally: It is less the Republican Party as such that is so extremely dangerous, as the fact that it is one of the two parties in the USA that will reign in the most powerful nation on earth. If the Republican Party was similarly placed, and with similar plans, in Panama or Honduras, it would still be crazy, but very much less dangerous.

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