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Nederlog

Aug 7, 2016

Crisis: Pentagon, Chomsky, Trump's Dangers, Voting, ACLU, "New Deal"
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Introduction

1.
Pentagon Tapping In to Social Science to Target
     Activist Movements

2. Noam Chomsky's 8-Point Rationale for Voting for the
     Lesser Evil Presidential Candidate

3. America's Top Spies and Analysts Warn of Real Threat
     of a Trump Presidency

4. Computer Expert Hacks Into Common Voting Machine
     in Minutes to Reveal Shocking 2016 Election Threat

5. ACLU Forces US Government to Release Secret Drone
     Playbook

6. The 21st Century Doesn't Need a New Deal -- It Needs
     a New Economic Model
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 7, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about how the Pentagon now - effectively - researches all Americans and everybody else as if they are terrorists; item 2 is about Chomsky's reasons to vote for "the lesser evil presidential candidate" (and I quite agree); item 3 is about a warning by 5 American top spies (!!) who are against a Trump presidency (and their arguments are good); item 4 is about how easy it is to crack the present American voting machines; item 5 is about the secret drone playbook (that is now "revealed", except that it doesn't answer many questions); while item 6 is about the "New Deal" (in an argument I think is a bit mistaken: we need a new deal, but it needs not be Roosevelt's, and we do not need A New Economic Model - I think).

1.
Pentagon Tapping In to Social Science to Target Activist Movements

The first item today is by Emma Niles on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

A June 12 report published by The Guardian exposes what many Americans have long feared: United States military strategists are setting their sights on social movements. The report, written by Nafeez Ahmed, explains how a program under the Department of Defense, the Minerva Initiative, has begun to utilize social science to develop better “operational tools.” Ahmed writes:

The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.” …

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social [contagions] by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

I say. In fact this is what I expected since the NSA etc. are free to treat every American as a terrorist, and are free for that reason to collect every- thing they can get from any American, and also from any non-American, and to make huge dossiers of these.

In fact, I'd say this seems to have created four groups of Americans. The first two are these: 1. the staffs of the Pentagon and the NSA, and 2. the staffs of the government.

These folks now know everything about anyone [1], while no one who does not belong to these groups knows anything, not even about what is known about him or her by these mostly anonymous forces, that, for these reasons, must be assigned a superhuman status: They and only they know what there is to be known
[1].

Next, there are these two groups: 3. the rich, and 4. the non-rich. Both are not to know what the superhumans from the first two classes know (who also are the only ones to command military and police forces), but these two groups differ radically, in that the first is both served by and serves the first two classes, while the second carries everyone else, but has almost nothing to say, while being completely known
[1] to the first two groups.

I have been sketching, and perhaps to some extent indulged in trying to foresee the future, but then again, with such enormous differences in power and knowledge between the military and the governmental men and women on the one side, and the rest of the people on the other side, I think I have been fair, for these days the military and the government know
[1] everything (in secret) while no one else has even the right to know anything about what they know. (For these are overseen by secret courts.)

And in any case, for reasons like the above, I am not at all amazed that the military and governmental forces have decided to treat every American who does not belong to them as a terrorist:
One of the most startling aspects of the initiative is its conflation of peaceful activism with terrorism. “[S]upporters of political violence” are “different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on ‘armed militancy’ themselves,” Ahmed explains. And although university researchers were told that the initiative was a “basic research effort” with no real application, Ahmed cites an email that clearly shows “that DoD is looking to ‘feed results’ into ‘applications.’ ”
In fact, "supporters of political violence" are not diferent from "terrorists" only in that "they do not embark on ‘armed militancy’ themselves" - for that would make Obama and the Pentagon terrorists as well, as it would make all their supporters (who do support violence by drones in many countries against what they are sure are "terrorists").

And I am certain that in fact who is "a terrorist" and who is not "a terrorist" is decided by the American military and government by a simple criterion: Those who support the military and the government are heroes; those tho oppose the military and the government are terrorists; and no hero is a terrorist.

This is also quite logical (except that the premises are wildly arbitrary), for which reason it can be safely inferred that the Department of Defense will be "
looking to ‘feed results’ into ‘applications.’"

2. Noam Chomsky's 8-Point Rationale for Voting for the Lesser Evil Presidential Candidate

The second item is by John Halle and Noam Chomsky on AlterNet and originally on Chomsky's Official Site:
This starts as follows:
Among the elements of the weak form of democracy enshrined in the constitution, presidential elections continue to pose a dilemma for the left in that any form of participation or non participation appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop a serious opposition to the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians. The position outlined below is that which many regard as the most effective response to this quadrennial Hobson’s choice, namely the so-called “lesser evil” voting strategy or LEV. Simply put, LEV involves, where you can, i.e. in safe states, voting for the losing third party candidate you prefer, or not voting at all. In competitive “swing” states, where you must, one votes for the “lesser evil” Democrat.
Yes, indeed - although I must add that I doubt somewhat whether "partici- pation or non participation appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop a serious opposition to the corporate agenda". My reason is that most voters simply are not activists, but apart from this I quite agree.

And I also agree with the following principle:

The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.
Indeed, and that is quite fundamental. In fact, here is the full argument by Chomsky and Halle, and I think it ought to be convincing to anybody who likes rational thinking and reasonable acting:

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning.

3) One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point. Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.” Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.

4) The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.

5) 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.

6) However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.

7) Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it. They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.

8) Conclusion: by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.

As I said: I quite agree.

3. America's Top Spies and Analysts Warn of Real Threat of a Trump Presidency

The third item is by Adele M. Stan on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Starting next week, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, the two major-party candidates for the presidency of the United States, will begin receiving national security briefings from intelligence officials. 

One senior intelligence official, speaking to the Washington Post on August 3 on the condition of anonymity, contended “he would decline to participate in any session with Trump…citing not only concern with Trump’s expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin but seeming uninterest in acquiring a deeper or more nuanced understanding of world events.”
I agree with the anonymous intelligence official - and speaking for myself: I am a psychologist who says Trump is not sane. Then again, what I think is not important - but then the following five American top military men also either agree with me, or come close to what I think:
1. Michael J. Morell, former acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
2. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA director, former U.S. Air Force general.
3. John Allen, retired U.S. Marine general, veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
4. John Hutson, retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, the Navy’s former top lawyer.
5. John Noonan, former U.S. Air Force captain and Minuteman III nuclear missile launch officer, former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s Republican primary opponent Jeb Bush.
I have not copied any of the texts that accompany these names in the article, but their arguments are quite good and this is a recommended article.

The article ends as follows, and includes a bit by John Noonan:

Noonan also asserts that Trump “doesn’t have a clue about” the nuclear triad. In the December debate in which Trump seemed to prove that point, he punted with the following comment

The biggest problem we have today is nuclear—nuclear proliferation, and having some maniac, having some madman, go out and get a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, that is the biggest single problem that our country faces.

Indeed.

Yes. And I agree Trimp is such a "maniac" and such a "madman" - and I am an M.A. in psychology with a lot of knowledge about politics.

4. Computer Expert Hacks Into Common Voting Machine in Minutes to Reveal Shocking 2016 Election Threat

The fourth item today is by Bethania Palma Markus on AlterNet and originally on Raw Story:

This starts as follows - and I have warned about this possibility several times before in the crisis series:

It took Princeton computer science professor Andrew Appel and one of his graduate students just minutes to hack into a voting machine still used in Louisiana, New Jersey, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Politico reports.

Professor Andrew Appel purchased for $82 a Sequoia AVC Advantage, one of the oldest machines still in use. Within 7 seconds, he and his student, Alex Halderman, had picked the lock open. Within minutes, the duo had removed the device’s unsecured ROM chips with their own hardware that makes it easy to alter the machine’s results.

Appel, his colleagues and students have been hacking into voting machines at the Center for Information Technology Policy since the late 1990s. With their work, the group has come to the conclusion that at some point, the national election will be the target of a coordinated cyber attack.

I have also said several times that such attacks on computers would be "easy". The above story strongly supports me.

And here is Andrew Apple saying who he thinks is most likely to do such a thing:

“Look, we could see 15 years ago that this would be perfectly possible,” Appel told Politico. “It’s well within the capabilities of a country as sophisticated as Russia.”
I agree, but I also tend to think that anyone with sufficient money may rather easily do so. And these real dangers have been about ever since Al Gore lost the elections he factually won in 2000, due to a combination of problems with
counting votes properly, and an intervention by the Supreme Court.

It is a real problem in part also because - like most computer crimes - it will happen, if it happens, invisibly and unrecorded, and will be done by anony- mous men, working for unknown institutions and for unknown pay, who are serving unknown interests (until they become revealed, somehow - which also may not happen).

5. ACLU Forces US Government to Release Secret Drone Playbook

The fifth item today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The release of the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), also known as "the Playbook," came in response to a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seeking the framework—which Obama said at the time was created in the interest of greater transparency and oversight over the expansive targeted killing program.

"For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power—or risk abusing it," the president declared in May 2013 during a landmark foreign policy speech at National Defense University.

Now, three years after that address, the redacted PPG finally provides the rights group with "crucial information about policies that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including hundreds of non-combatants, and about the bureaucracy that the Obama administration has constructed to oversee and implement those policies," said ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer in a statement on Saturday.

I should say first that I do not trust Obama, simply because I have now seen eight years of the same policy: His public statements to his voters are quite good - more or less - leftist propaganda, but many of his political acts - and not only his military decisions but also other ones, such as those about banking - are the opposites of what he publicly claims.

And clearly, if one has seen this for nearly eight years, it does not increase one's trust in the honesty of the president. Indeed, here are some of the things still missing:

The ACLU said that while the documents provide a "window" into the government's process of targeting individuals, questions still remain about "where the PPG applies, whether the president has waived its requirements in particular instances, and how the PPG’s relatively stringent standards can be reconciled with the accounts of eye witnesses, journalists, and human rights researches who have documented large numbers of bystander casualties."

This is again the opposition between Barack Obama's public words to his voters, and quite a few of his factual policies, e.g. as regards the military and as regards banking.

And there also are such rather wide gaps between what the White House claims (and maybe I should remind you of I.F. Stone's relevant quotation: "All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed") and what can be found in fact:

Last month, the White House reported that since 2009 U.S. drone strikes have killed between 64 and 116 civilians in areas outside of active hostilities, which was far lower than the 380 to 801 recorded by the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

That is a huge difference: The difference between the claims of the White House and what the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found are as 1 : 6, that is about 6 times more civilians are killed in fact (it seems) than is admitted by the White House.

And so, while I think it is a good thing that the ACLU did - at long last - get the reports it wanted, this doesn't mean that these reports are true, indeed quite simply because
"All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed". (Incidentally, one reason this quotation is correct is because it does not have an "always" between "governments" and "lie".)

6. The 21st Century Doesn't Need a New Deal -- It Needs a New Economic Model

The sixth and last item today is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truth-out:

This starts as follows - and perhaps I should say that I rather like C.J. Polychroniou, and have reviewed several of his articles, notably about Noam Chomsky (I found five in 2016 in the index):

In today's global economy, neoliberalism reigns supreme, organized labor is in deep retreat and public debt has shot through the roof. In the face of these crises, is a global 21st century remaking of the 1930s-era New Deal what people on the left should be fighting for?

Contemporary progressive parties, such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, have rallied around the idea of a "new New Deal," while the European Citizen's Initiative for a "New Deal 4 Europe" appears to have the backing of both Labor and Green party leaders in several European countries. In the US, Bernie Sanders has also been a strong advocate of this idea as the way out of our troubles.

However, a closer look at the history of the 1930s-era New Deal reveals that a new New Deal would do little to solve the underlying problems of capitalism and could even delay efforts to combat climate change through its emphasis on boosting growth via a new era of state capitalism.

Yes... but I very much doubt that most of the members of "contemporary progressive parties" have anything like an adequate understanding of Roosevelt's "New Deal" (which is also over 80 years old), while I also doubt that most of the leaders of these movements do.

In fact, I would guess that for the large majorities of these parties, their support for a "New Deal" mostly expresses that they want a new deal in current economics, much rather than their supporting Roosevelt's "New Deal". (Though I agree that their propaganda is incoherent - but then that is what I expect propaganda to be.)

Having said that, here is part of Polychroniou's criticism (et je n'aime pas le phrase "critique" en Anglais) of the idea of a Rooseveltian New Deal:

First and foremost, active state intervention in a capitalist regime is inevitably structured toward the end goal of saving capitalism itself. The recent bailouts of the financial system both in the United States and in Europe constitute the most blatant form of active state intervention for the purpose of saving capitalism from collapse. Indeed, when the collapse of the capitalist system seems imminent, suddenly "socialism" is a great idea. In this case, active state intervention in the form of bank bailouts and quantitative easing is socialism for the rich. The same goes for the outrageous taxpayer subsidies to business, which has led to the creation of an enormous corporate welfare state.

With this I more or less agree, for the present capitalist system (i) indeed does try to keep saving capitalism, and (ii) does not at all refrain from using socialist methods to do so, if these socialist methods support the rich, who have most of the power and have most of the money anyway.

But I also partially disagree, in part because I think that under a form of capitalism that is not only still led by the rich, but that has become far more
radically pro-capitalist in the last 35 years of deregulation after deregulation, each of which increased the powers and the incomes of the rich and hurt the powers and the incomes of the non-rich, one cannot expect anything but pro- capitalist rules and (de)regulations.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended, but I will quote only two more bits. The first is this:

What the world needs today is not a return to the traditional economics of rescuing capitalism but a new global economic model based on new economic values, balanced growth, and the introduction of cooperative economics. A reversal of today's globalization trends may also be necessary for the realistic transition into a new economic model, one that breaks free from a political economy paradigm which, as I have argued previously, "revolves around finance capital, is based on a savage form of free market fundamentalism and thrives on a wave of globalizing processes and global financial networks that have produced global economic oligarchies with the capacity to influence the shaping of policymaking across nations."

The economic environment of contemporary capitalism is shaped by three interrelated forces: financialization, neoliberalism and globalization. It is the combined effects of these three forces that have given rise to a new form of predatory capitalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. As such, any project driven by New Deal aspirations needs to implement political processes that will undermine and bring to a halt all three of the above forces.

Again I partially agree and partially disagree. I agree that any "new economic model" should attack "financialization, neoliberalism and globalization". But - it seems - I disagree a new "economic model" is required, for each of the awesome three of "financialization, neoliberalism and globalization" have been introduced in the last 35 years of deregulation on deregulation, usually in the name of "neoliberalism", and were not there before Thatcher and Reagan.

What those who are anti-financialization, anti-neoliberalism and anti-globali- zation are for (and I am among those who are against all three) is - rather simply, at least usually - a return to the welfare state of the 1960ies till the 1980ies.

That is, most who are anti-financialization, anti-neoliberalism and anti- globalization are for capitalism-with-a-human-face and are against capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face, which was introduced by Reagan and Bill Clinton (of course for propaganda reasons which had nothing to do with the real reasons).

And I think that is a reasonable ideal, and it should be a feasible ideal, for all it requires (which I admit is a lot) is to take the power the rich gained in the last 35 years from them, and restore high taxes on the rich, while undoing the effects of globalization and
deregulation.

As I indicated, I think this will be far from easy, especially because all deregulations were legal changes, (the undoing of which also may require another major economic collapse), but then again it does not require anything radical and new in the way of leftist theory.

But the article is interesting and well worth reading, and it ends also as follows:

Whether today's Left is up to the task, however, is another story.

Actually I - who comes from a very - classically! - leftist family insist that much of "today's Left" is no longer Left in the way I learned (before 1970) was (classically) Left. Instead, many of "today's Left" seem to be politically correct defenders of "equality of all" and of the rights of the LGBT(Q) members to differ from the rest (while being equal).

In any case, I agree that the present-day "Left" differs a lot from what I regard as the Left, and while I also disagree with the Left I grew up in, it was certainly more realistic than the "Left" that arose under Bill Clinton (who also radically redefined what the "Left" should be, according to him: See the "Third Way").

---------------
Note
[1] Here there is an ambiguity about "knowledge": There are quite a few who insist that what has not been read by human eyes (which covers the vast majority of what gets downloaded by the NSA etc. from the internet) is not "human knowledge". I think that is a totally arbitrary distinction: What is gathered is gathered on the basis of search terms, and what is gathered may
be used for basing many decisions on, that do effect real people in the real world.

Indeed, you may just as well have said that the databases of the Gestapo or the KGB did not exist until some of its information was used to arrest some individual(s), and did exist only for these individuals.

That is baloney for just the same reasons.

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