1. Edward Snowden Calls
the Hack of NSA Hackers by
‘Shadow Brokers’ a Significant
Turn in the Spy Wars
2. The Summer of the Shill
3. Socialism is obvious
4. Ten Times Worse Than
Hell: A Syrian Doctor on the
Humanitarian Catastrophe in
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, August 18, 2016.
There are 4 items with 4
dotted links today: Item 1 has more news about the
NSA hack that was announced yesterday; item 2
is a review of an article by Matt Taibbi who argues that the American
press is mostly dead, in the sense that the mainstream media have been
transformed into propaganda outlets rather than (more or less)
objective reporters; item 3 is about "the
obviousness of socialism", and while I liked the article, I also needed
to make quite a few qualifications; and item 4 is
about the situation in Syria, which is dire to horrible for many
millions of Syrians.
Snowden Calls the Hack of NSA Hackers by ‘Shadow Brokers’ a Significant
Turn in the Spy Wars
first item today is by Nika Knight on Truthdig and originally on Common
This starts as follows (and
continues yesterday's review of the
The National Security
Administration (NSA) was allegedly hacked by a mysterious group calling
itself “The Shadow Brokers,” and the “most
powerful espionage tools” of the NSA’s elite hacker team, as the
Washington Post put it, were leaked to the internet this weekend.
Yes, indeed. In fact, here is a bit from my
review of yesterday:
So who got hacked was the Equation Group
(<-Wikipedia). Then again, it seems from the Wikipedia link that
indeed this is
"affiliated with the NSA". Incidentally, if you want an idea of what
the NSA was capable of in 2013, check out the Wikipedia lemma NSA ANT Catalog:
It is an amazing list.
Indeed this is what happened - and
to repeat this is the last link: if you think you can secure
private computer (with internet), read this and think again. And here
is some from The
Washington Post, that also goes a bit beyond what I reported
I take it the material was "legitimate" -
although this is (incidentally) a bit a strange term to assure
that actually stolen
material that serves to steal material indeed is what it
says it is,
but let that be for the moment, even though it was better to
a term like "real": the material is real, and it does concern important
codes that are being used to steal from very many computers.
A cache of hacking tools with code names
such as Epicbanana, Buzzdirection, and Egregiousblunder appeared
mysteriously online over the weekend, setting the security world abuzz
with speculation over whether the material was legitimate.
The file appeared to be real, according
to former NSA personnel who worked in the agency’s hacking division,
known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO).
“Without a doubt, they’re the keys to
the kingdom,” said one former TAO employee, who spoke on the condition
of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal operations. “The stuff
you’re talking about would undermine the security of a lot of major
government and corporate networks both here and abroad.”
Said a second former TAO hacker who saw
the file: “From what I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that it was
And incidentally, while I saw that all "TAO hackers" that are
mentioned in this article are former "TAO hackers" this doesn't
worry me, in part because actual TAO hackers are not at all allowed to
talk with journalists.
Here is some more on what the Shadow Brokers made public (in part):
I puzzled a while whether I would reproduce
Snowden's 13 tweets, which are a decent exposition, but also show - as
I have said from the beginning when I learned about Twitter - that restricting
communications to 140 characters while everyone has
nearly all communications to sloganeering, and while Snowden does not
do that, I think it is so ridiculous to have to write 13 tweets
email would have easily done the same, and a lot better, that I refer
you to the above dotted link if you wish to see them.
“The exploits are not run-of-the-mill
tools to target everyday individuals,” the Post added. “They are
expensive software used to take over firewalls, such as Cisco and
Fortinet, that are used ‘in the largest and most critical commercial,
educational and government agencies around the world,’ said Blake
Darche, another former TAO operator and now head of security research
at Area 1 Security.”
In a series of tweets, noted NSA
whistleblower Edward Snowden posited that Russia was behind the breach.
Here I only repeat that I think Snowden's argument is good (but
speculative, though probably correct).
And here are two extensions to Snowden's Tweets by me:
(1) the Russians are (and have been) quite good mathematically
speaking : If the NSA could put together
of tenthousand fine
mathematicians, the KGB (or whatever it calls itself now) certainly
was able to do the same, and
(2) this indeed may have been a way by which the Russians try
to make clear to the
US government that the Russians can steal the same things that the NSA
This certainly is quite interesting, also because both
and the KGB are secret services, spying organizations, and are now
dedicated (the NSA more recently than the KGB) to knowing as much as
possible of the population, in order to be abled to control them
More will follow, it seems to me.
2. The Summer of the Shill
The second item is by Matt Taibbi on RollingStone:
This has a subtitle that is quite
Campaign 2016 won't just have
lasting implications for American politics. It's
obliterated what was left of our news media
I think the subtitle probably is correct, but
I like to point out that rather a lot has happened, especially
last 16 years or so, in order to get there:
(1) from around 2000 many parts of the media, and especially the
printed parts, lost a great amount of advertisements, and therewith
their main source of income; (2) from soon after 2000 people with lots
of money bought many parts of the media, and entralized them in that
there now were far fewer owners, and changed them in
making them find and produce propaganda and/or amusements
("infotainment") much rather than making them find facts and objectively
report on these; so that (3) there currently are now three
broad sources of "news" in the USA (and also elsewhere, though there
the background may be a bit different): Republican propaganda;
Democratic propaganda; and also a smattering of much smaller, much
less financially endowed organizations that still try to
present facts and analyses based on facts (e.g. Truthdig, Common
Dreams, Democracy Now!, Alternet and some more).
I think that is the present situation, which may well grow considerably
worse fast, mostly because of the very old truth I formulated
yesterday: There is no democracy without a real free press. And
the free press is mostly dead in the USA. 
That is what - I take it - Taibbi is saying in the present article. To
start with, here is some of Taibbi's background:
Years ago, when I was an exchange
student in the Soviet Union, a Russian friend explained how he got his
"For news about Russia, Radio Liberty,"
he said. "For news about America, Soviet newspapers." He smiled.
"Countries lie about themselves, tell truth about others."
media consumers are fast approaching the same absurd binary reality. We
now have one set of news outlets that gives us the bad news about
Democrats, and another set of news outlets bravely dedicated to
reporting the whole truth about Republicans.
Like the old adage about quarterbacks –
if you think you have two good ones, you probably have none – this
basically means we have no credible news media left. Apart from a few
brave islands of resistance, virtually all the major news organizations
are now fully in the tank for one side or the other.
Yes, indeed - although the backgrounds in both
the Soviet Union and the USA in the previous century were quite
different: In the USA there was not yet a binary press mostly
dedicated to propaganda, while in the Soviet Union the press was
in most respects, and the state was dictatorial (to varying
So here is what we have at present in the
USA, in Matt Taibbi's eyes:
These all-Trump, all-the-time story
lineups are like Fox in reverse. The commercial media has devolved,
finally, into two remarkablynot humorless messaging platforms.
What's crucial to understand is that a
great many commercial media outlets now are not so much liberal-leaning
as Democratic-Party leaning.
There's a huge difference between
advocacy journalism and electoral advocacy. Not just occasionally but
all the time now, private news organizations are doing the work that
political parties used to have to pay for in the form of ads.
indeed. Incidentally, some of the weaker alternative sites, such as
AlterNet, have had for quite a while a nearly daily series with titles
like "5" or "10" of "the latest insanities by" (some rightwing source).
This is less now, but indeed I both did not like it at all and
also I never
saw such things before the present century started. 
And in more general terms, the main
difference between how it was and how it is, is that it was
fact-oriented although ideologically based, and it is propaganda-oriented
with the pretension this is not ideology but is
Here is what Trump achieved, in Taibbi's eyes:
really sent this problem into overdrive. He is considered so dangerous
that many journalists are beginning to be concerned that admitting the
truth of negative reports of any kind about the Democrats might make
them complicit in the election of the American Hitler.
There's some logic in that, but it's
flawed logic. When journalists start acting like politicians, we pretty
much always end up botching things even more politically and crippling
our businesses to boot.
I agree this is "flawed logic", but if the great majority of the
American papers and news shows are spouting mostly propaganda, which I
think is the case, I'd rather see that such propaganda as there
is accords more with my views than with the opposite. (I know
this is no good, but this is then the second-best - or indeed the
Here is the last bit I'll quote from this
The model going forward will likely
involve Republican media covering Democratic corruption and Democratic
media covering Republican corruption. This setup just doesn't work.
Matt Taibbi proceeds to unfold his
argument why this doesn't work, which is more or less correct, but he
seems to forget that without a real free press the political
and legal situations will probably change.
In any case, what I expect is either
more of the same as there is at present, i.e. rightish propaganda and
"leftish" propaganda, that are both well-endowed financially but deeply
dishonest, with a far smaller not well-endowed bit of real
journalism in the alternative press, or else a
considerable strengthening of the government's rules and interferences,
which will effectively end the alternative press.
And I am not optimistic.
3. Socialism is obvious
item is by X on the anticap site:
This starts as follows:
British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn considers socialism—which he defines
as “You care for each other, you care for everybody, and everybody
cares for everybody else”—to be obvious.
As it turns out, socialism is
increasingly obvious for folks on this side of the pond. Like Bernie Sanders. And Mark Workin and Melissa Young,
who made the film Shift
Change. And Richard Wolff, through Democracy at
Now they’re joined by Shannon Rieger, a recipient of the Janice
Nittoli “Forward Thinking” Award from The Century Fund.
say. I know the word "socialism" has been functioning mostly as a swear
word in the USA, indeed since the 1940ies, which led to a great
amount of baloney and falsities, but I don't think Jeremy
Corbyn's description of it is any good, if only because nobody can
"care for everybody"
(there are over 3 times as many people on earth as there are
seconds in the lives of 70-year olds), and also because it is impossible
that "everybody cares for everybody else", for
the same reason.
I know I may have been - perhaps unduly -
literal-minded, but my parents and most of my grandparents were real
socialists, and also courageous men and women, and quite
intelligent if not highly educated, and that is not
what they would have said socialism is. And they also were right: to
reduce socialism to a kind of "everybody loves everybody and we all are
very happy" sort of teaching does not do it justice.
Then again, it is also not easy what
"socialism" really means. I did spend some thinking and writing on it
and published that nearly a year ago, and here it is: On socialism.
I think it is interesting, but for the moment I only will quote George
Orwell's definition of "socialism" from 1941:
- Nationalization of
land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.
- Limitation of incomes,
on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not
exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.
- Reform of the
educational system along democratic lines.
Indeed, while I do not agree with
implementing this system, which I did not especially because
"nationalizations" will tend to bring the nationalized industries under
control of the state,
which thus will amass far larger powers than it did before, and
which also rather easily may derail into state-capitalism of
the kind that ruled the Soviet Union and its dependents, I do
agree that this is a reasonable definition of "socialism" as my
parents and grandparents thought of it.
But this does not appear to be
what X means, for the above quotation is immediately followed by this
I agree that this depicts an extremely
skewed distribution of incomes and of growth of incomes,
with the already rich (who also form a small percentage of the
population) growing a lot richer since 1979, while the many
non-rich had incomes that hardly grew, but then that is itself not an
argument for socialism.
Indeed it might as well be given as an
argument to return to the capitalism that ruled from 1945-1979,
that was bound by all manners of laws that protected the
interests and the rights of the non-rich that since have all been deregulated in over 35 years
of concerted work of both the Republicans and the Democrats who
both sided with the interests and desires for ever
great profits of the rich (who also paid for their
elections and their advertisements, indeed).
And while this is probably impossible , it does show that a regulated
capitalism did quite well for some 35 years, and did spread a
considerable part of the riches that were earned quite well, although
the system that did this was (also) quite capitalistic, and did not do
much to weaken the gap between the rich and the non-rich.
I agree this seems to have been
insufficient for the infinite greed of the rich, who started changing
it from 1980 onwards, both in the USA and England, and soon in Europe
Indeed, here is Rieger's argument - or
rather, part 1 of her argument, for more follows:
Rieger’s argument is that, in the face
of growing inequality (such that the top 1 percent wage has increased
by 138 percent since 1979, [while] the wages of the entire bottom
90 percent of earners have grown by the comparatively meager margin of
just 15 percent—and an even more unequal distribution of wealth), it’s
imperative that the United States “develop policies that not only
mitigate existing economic inequality and poverty, but that actually reverse
these trends for the long term.”
I have pointed out already that none of
this is, itself, an argument for socialism. It is an argument for
decent and proper laws (but these were there and have all been deregulated by Reagan's, Bush Sr.'s,
Clinton's, Bush Jr.'s, and Obama's governments) and it is an argument against
deep and large inequalities in incomes and wealth, but none of this is
itself properly socialistic.
But here is part 2 of her
that indeed is more socialistic (in my understanding of the term, which
is pretty good):
And her proposed solution?
Enterprises that are owned and managed by their employees.
By creating a policy environment to
support and promote democratic employee-owned businesses, the United
States could promote a more equitable employment system and a more just
distribution of wealth. Doing so would not only help the country
recover from the recent economic devastation of the Great Recession,
but also begin to reverse the deep wealth and income disparities that
have plagued American workers and families for decades.
Worker-owned cooperatives (which,
across the world, employ more than 250 million people, and in
2013, generated $2.95 trillion in turnover) are a particular form of
democratic employee-owned business that Rieger considers to
have particularly rich potential in the United States.
It so happens that I agree - and think
it also quite impracticable in the existing USA:
The rich are far too
strong; the rich have deregulated
nearly all the laws that hindered
their actions; and the rich by and large won most of the fights with
the non-rich since 1980, indeed to such an extent that both
political parties of the USA work for the rich.
And while this does not mean it will never happen, I think it does mean
that the present schema of "democratic
employee-owned businesses" - which I agree
is a good schema, in principle - will only be
practicable on a considerable scale after a revolution.
Finally, I do have an argument about the title of the article, "Socialism is obvious":
No, it's not and it's not for three kinds of general reasons:
(1) historically, there simply were quite
a few forms of rather distinct socialisms, also among
socialists, which indeed went back to the very beginning (say, the
1840ies - and incidentally the term "socialism" was created only in
(2) any proponent of socialism the last 100 years who wasn't a
Soviet-style communist had the considerable difficulty of
distinguishing his own ideals from those that were in fact a dictatorial
form of Soviet state-capitalism; and
(3) any proponent of socialism, and especially
in the USA, needs to realize that the anti-socialist rich have won
most of the arguments and deregulated
most of the laws that
protected the non-rich in the last 35 years, and are still the main
force to beat (and are stronger than they were the last 90
So no, I don't think socialism is
4. Ten Times Worse Than Hell: A Syrian Doctor on the
Humanitarian Catastrophe in Aleppo
The fourth and last
item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following
In the latest escalation of the war in
Syria, Russia has begun launching airstrikes from an Iranian air base.
The New York Times reports this marks the first time since World War II
that a foreign military has operated from a base on Iranian soil. The
move comes as fighting has intensified around Aleppo, Syria’s largest
city. Earlier this month, rebels fighting the Syrian government began a
new offensive to break an ongoing government-backed siege of the city.
The rebels have been led in part by an offshoot of the Nusra Front,
which up until last month had been aligned with al-Qaeda. The
International Committee of the Red Cross has described the fight for
Aleppo as "beyond doubt one of the most devastating urban conflicts in
modern times." The United Nations is warning of a dire humanitarian
crisis as millions are left without water or electricity. For more on
the humanitarian and medical crisis in Syria, we speak with Dr. Zaher
Sahloul, founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria and senior
adviser and former president of the Syrian American Medical Society. He
has visited Aleppo five times since the war began.
Incidentally, I usually print the
introductions to articles on Democracy Now! that I review because the
articles are usually interviews (that are often good), while the
introductions are nearly always good (which is fairly rare, in my
Also, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, who seems to be a
brave man, does work and live in the USA. To start with, here is a
sketch of the present situation in Syria:
AMY GOODMAN: According to the humanitarian
group Physicians for Human Rights, there have been more than 370
attacks on 265 medical facilities during the five-year conflict, as
well as the deaths of 750 medical personnel. Overall, the death toll in
the five-year Syrian conflict has reached close to half a million
people. The ongoing war has displaced about half the prewar population,
with more than 6 million Syrians displaced inside Syria and nearly 5
million Syrian refugees outside Syria’s borders.
To find about about more the
humanitarian and medical crisis in Syria, we’re joined by Dr. Zaher
Sahloul, founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria and senior
adviser and former president of the Syrian American Medical Society.
He’s visited Aleppo five times since the war began. Last week, he
addressed the U.N. Security Council on the humanitarian crisis in
Syria. He was a classmate of Bashar al-Assad in medical school. Dr.
Sahloul is a critical care specialist in Chicago.
I note and repeat that 6 million Syrians
are displaced inside Syria, 5 million Syrians are refugees outside
Syria, that at least half a million Syrians have been killed the last
5 years; and that there were 370 attacks on 265 medical facilities that
led to the deaths of 750 medical personnel.
I do not know this is "ten times worse
than hell", but it surely is an extremely serious situation. Here is
Dr. Zaher Sahloul:
SAHLOUL: I mean, my
thoughts and my colleagues’ thoughts from Aleppo, which I keep contacts
every minute with them, is the same, that everyone is bombing Syrians,
and no one cares about ending the crisis. So it looks like the Russians
are having fun bombing Syria from different parts, now added Iran to
this, Iran bases. The coalition are bombing parts of Syria. They are
bombing ISIS and also civilians. The Assad
regime is bombing, you know, cities and historic sites and civilians,
with barrel bombings and all kind of weapons. The Iranians are bombing
Syrians. So everyone is bombing Syrians.
And this is really the story that is not
being told in the media. I mean, when people know about Syria or hear
about Syria, they think it’s something related to ISIS
or that it’s something that is complicated. But what’s happening, that
civilians are suffering every day. Children are being mutilated and
killed with barrel bombs and air missile bombs. Hospitals are targeted.
Schools are targeted. Fruit markets are targeted. And historic sites,
like the Old City of Aleppo, are being destroyed. So this is the
tragedy that we are living in. We had half a million people killed in
Syria so far, half of the population displaced. And so far, we don’t
have a light at the end of the tunnel.
I think this is all true. Here is some
about the fates of Syrian children:
AMY GOODMAN: What about the children? You
have said that they eat cat food and grass?
SAHLOUL: Well, I mean,
that happened in Madaya. That happened in Darayya and other places in
Syria under siege. Let’s not forget that, according to the United
Nations, there are 850,000 people under siege, barbaric siege, by their
own government in places like East al-Ghouta, Darayya, Madaya,
Moadamiya, Alwa and Homs and other places in Syria. And in Aleppo now,
which became under siege, eastern Aleppo, you have 300,000 people,
among them 85,000 children, who are under siege.
And this is the end of the article:
There is more in the article, which is
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Zaher Sahloul, thank you
very much for being with us, founder of the American Relief Coalition
for Syria, senior adviser and former president of the Syrian American
Medical Society, has visited Aleppo five times since the war began.
Last week, he addressed the U.N. Security Council on the humanitarian
crisis in Syria.
Russian mathematics has been good for quite a long time, indeed from
since before 1917, and may have grown rather a lot since "the socialist
revolution" of 1917 because quite a few of the most intelligent preferred
studying mathematics over studying politics, sociology, economics etc.
(I know because I read a considerable amount of mathematics, and indeed
generally prefer the Russian style over the American style, although I
doubt this has much to do with politics, and has probably most to do
with a combination of logic and esthetics.)
 First, I think
true for the USA: the free press is mostly - not wholly - dead. I don't
know the consequences, but these will probably not be pleasant
whatever they are.
Second, it is similar elsewhere. Since I am Dutch and unfortunately am
forced to live in Holland (for I am ill and very poor), I do know most
about Holland. Well, I have read the NRC-Handelsblad
daily for forty (40)
years, namely from 1970 till 2010, and I have seen it grow from a
decent liberal academic paper to a good liberal academic paper (in the
1980ies), since when I have seen it decline, and decline, and decline
(and being sold, and resold) to its present awful position of
infotainment-shit with little real news and no intelligent real
journalists. It's quite amazing - and no: You don't
need to comment if you haven't read it as long as I have, or don't have
an academic diploma as good as mine. (I know
it looks different for much younger people, and for less intelligent
people: I am formulating the opinion of a man who has read it for over
40 years, and who is very intelligent, not those of a 20
year old with an IQ of 115 who has no idea of what it was like in the
 My points here are especially that (1)
I never saw systematic
articles with titles and contents like "The latest 5 insanities by the
rightwing" before this century; (2) such titles and such contents are
only interesting for fanatics; while
(3) I have read through
periods when there were articles like this almost every day. I
think it is odd and deplorable, and I know it is fairly new.
 It is impossible
mostly because deregulating laws
is very easy, but building - sensible,
rational, fair - laws is quite difficult and takes time. Also,
simply will not happen while the rich are by far the strongest,
the case now.