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Nederlog

Sep 2, 2016

Crisis: Spy Gear, Rousseff, US Army Inaccountable, "Leftist" Lies, Chomsky
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Introduction

1.
Leaked Catalogue Reveals a Vast Array of Military Spy
     Gear Offered to U.S. Police

2. Dilma Rousseff on Ouster: This is a Coup That Will
     Impact Every Democratic Organization in Brazil

3. U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars,
     auditor finds

4. Courting the Right, Smearing the Left: The Ethos of the
     Clinton Campaign

5. Burkini Bans, New Atheism and State Worship:Noam
     Chomsky on Religion in Politics

Introduction: 

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 2, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the enormous amounts of - totally unconstitutional, totally anti-democratic - spy gear that the British firm of Cobham is selling to U.S. police (and I take a pessimistic view of it all); item 2 is about Dilma Rousseff and Brazil, and is also not optimistic at all; item 3 is about how the American army (etc.) now for twenty years cannot be properly audited, and how this somehow disappeared trillions of tax dollars; item 4 is about the rightist propaganda and lies that are spread by supposed "leftists" (I deny they are Leftists in any sense); and item 5 is about a good interview with Noam Chomsky.

1. Leaked Catalogue Reveals a Vast Array of Military Spy Gear Offered to U.S. Police

The first item today is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

A confidential, 120-page catalogue of spy equipment, originating from British defense firm Cobham and circulated to U.S. law enforcement, touts gear that can intercept wireless calls and text messages, locate people via their mobile phones, and jam cellular communications in a particular area.

The catalogue was obtained by The Intercept as part of a large trove of documents originating within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where spokesperson Molly Best confirmed Cobham wares have been purchased but did not provide further information. The document provides a rare look at the wide range of electronic surveillance tactics used by police and militaries in the U.S. and abroad, offering equipment ranging from black boxes that can monitor an entire town’s cellular signals to microphones hidden in lighters and cameras hidden in trashcans. Markings date it to 2014.

I say. I also take this as good evidence that there are now definitely two classes of people in the USA: Those working for the government, and those
who don't and also aren't rich, and the former class (a very small subset of
the total American population) are now practically allowed to know absolutely everything about any member of the second class, whose constitutional rights against being spied upon by the police, by the military, by the secret services and by dataminers have been completely eroded.

If everything you do, and write and say with your computer or cellphone is secretly downloaded and stored to be used against you between now and your death, forget "being a cititzen" and forget about "democracy" and forget about "protected rights as outlined by the Constitution": The military-industrial-congressional complex has totally taken over (and what you are believing in is totally outdated).

And here is a statement by Richard Tynan:

“By design, these devices are indiscriminate and operate across a wide area where many people may be present,” said Richard Tynan, a technologist at Privacy International, of the gear in the Cobham catalogue. Such “indiscriminate surveillance systems that are not targeted in any way based on prior suspicion” are “the essence of mass surveillance,” he added.

Yes, indeed, though it is in fact a whole lot more than surveilling: It is building up dossiers on absolutely everyone, in which there is far more information than the people surveilled are able to recall, and it will be used, if collected by the police, the military or the secret services for any purpose any future US government (of any kind, including that of Donald Trump - who likes torturing people he doesn't like - if he becomes president).

I should also say that this article contains a fairly good survey, including six pictures, of the stuff that Cobham offers to sale (to police forces, military forces, secret service forces, and presumably also to dataminers), which are
all interesting, and are available from the last dotted link.

The article ends as follows:

But the proliferation of spy tools like those sold by Cobham is actually eroding safety, according to Tynan. “As we move to a more connected world where cars, toys, fridges, and even implantable devices contain miniature cellphone technology, the capability to cause harm using one of these devices becomes ever greater,” he said. “It is unacceptable for our modern critical infrastructure to be so vulnerable to such interception,” and therefore “it is vital that the international standards that underpin our communications are built to the highest security standard possible.”

This is not only "eroding safety" for everyone who is neither rich nor employed by US governmental forces:

It is an enormous buildup of incredible powers for the American police, military, and secret services, who by now must know very much more than the Stasi knew about East-Germans and then the KGB knew about Russians - and they know this about absolutely everyone absolutely anywhere, to the best of my knowledge, for that is and was their end for over 15 years now.

Since I am not a believer in the goodness, kindness and intelligence of the vast majority of the men and women I know anything about, I feel rather certain that these enormous and completely unconstitutional powers are being built to be used.

And this is an interesting article that is recommended.
2. Dilma Rousseff on Ouster: This is a Coup That Will Impact Every Democratic Organization in Brazil

The
second item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!: This starts with the following introduction:
The Brazilian Senate has voted to impeach the country’s democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff from office in what many are calling a coup. The vote was 61 to 20. Rousseff denounced the decision, saying there’s no constitutional justification for her impeachment. In an unexpected twist, the senators voted 42 to 36 to allow Rousseff to maintain her political rights, meaning she can continue to stand in elections and hold public office in the future. Irate opposition senators vowed "to appeal to the Supreme Court" to reverse the decision. Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment ends 13 years of rule by the Workers’ Party in Brazil and brings to power President Michel Temer for the remaining two years of Rousseff’s term. Temer is deeply unpopular and currently under investigation himself, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the state oil company Petrobras. We speak to James Green, professor of Brazilian history and culture at Brown University. He is the director of Brown’s Brazil Initiative. Green is the author of several books, including "We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States."
Yes, indeed: This seems a good summary of the events in Brazil. There is also a good quotation of Rousseff:
DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] They’ve just overthrown the first woman elected president of Brazil, without there being any constitutional justification for this impeachment. But the coup was not just carried out against me and my party or the allied parties who support me today. This was just the beginning. The coup is going to strike, without distinction, every progressive and democratic political organization. ...
I fear that she is quite right, and that soon leftists and any other opponents of Temer's government may be arrested and tortured again. (Incidentally, if I
were Glenn Greenwald, I'd very seriously consider whether I wanted to continue to live in Brazil.)

Here is one bit by James Green, who explains "a five point plan" to restore Brazilian's rich right to power:

AMY GOODMAN: What about the significance of the ouster of the first woman president of Brazil, of Dilma Rousseff?

JAMES GREEN: Well, it’s really part of a five-point plan that has been articulated by sectors of the opposition—first to eliminate the president from her office; then to find a way to make Lula, President Lula, ineligible for election in 2018 to the presidency; then to install a neoliberal economic policy; to diminish and eliminate all of the social programs that have been established in the last 13 years; and, finally, to turn back some of the progressive social measures that have been fought for by the LGBTQ community, women, the black movement in Brazil.

This is probably true, although this is the first time I read about this "five point plan", while I also should say that the main thing the Brazilian rich want is "a neoliberal economic policy" - where "neoliberal" probably is a polite propa-
ganda term for the neofascism (rule of the rich, rule of the corporations, rule of profit) that is intended. [1]

And this is a good article, in which there is considerably more, and that is recommended.

3. U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds

The third
item is by Scot J. Paltrow on Reuters: This starts as follows:

The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced.

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.

As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”

Disclosure of the Army’s manipulation of numbers is the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing the Defense Department for decades.
Yes, indeed. And since I have been writing about this before in Nederlog, I can add that - to the best of my knowledge - this mock accounting started around 1996 and continued ever since: The US Army now gets over 50% of the money the government gathers, but has not given any honest and fair accounting or auditing for twenty years.

Here is some more:

The new report focused on the Army’s General Fund, the bigger of its two main accounts, with assets of $282.6 billion in 2015. The Army lost or didn’t keep required data, and much of the data it had was inaccurate, the IG said.

“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” said Franklin Spinney, a retired military analyst for the Pentagon and critic of Defense Department planning.

The significance of the accounting problem goes beyond mere concern for balancing books, Spinney said. Both presidential candidates have called for increasing defense spending amid current global tension.

An accurate accounting could reveal deeper problems in how the Defense Department spends its money. Its 2016 budget is $573 billion, more than half of the annual budget appropriated by Congress.

Incidentally, Franklin Spinney is the same man as the Chuck Spinney I mentioned repeatedly on August 29, and who also drew up one of the schemes there.

There is considerably more in the article, but it does not draw the conclusion I draw:

Since this has been going on for decades, what this shows is simply that
the American Army, the Pentagon etc. is simply completely out of any democratic or Congressional control, and is systematically irresponsible and unaccountable, in the end because this makes it easier to get what they want: There is and has been no effective control nor any good auditing for a long time now.

4. Courting the Right, Smearing the Left: The Ethos of the Clinton Campaign

The fourth
item is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams: This starts as follows:

Throughout the 2016 Democratic primary, left-wing critics of Hillary Clinton, including Bernie Sanders, were repeatedly smeared as racists, sexists, and class-reductionists — or some combination of the three — by surrogates of the former Secretary of State, and by the former Secretary of State, herself.

Clinton and her team, for instance, accused Sanders of making everything "about an economic theory," claimed that "black lives don't matter much to Bernie Sanders," and attempted to paint Sanders as someone who "perpetuates sexist and misogynistic stereotypes."

Yes. And clearly it all was propaganda for Clinton, which also happened to be completely false. Not only that:

But even after Clinton emerged victorious—indeed, even after Sanders (to the dismay of many of his supporters) formally endorsed Clinton—the attacks continued, and, in many ways, they intensified. Perhaps it won't surprise you that Joan Walsh is still doing her best to accuse "the anti-Clinton left" of "misogyny, homophobia, [and] transphobia."

Joan Walsh appears to be one of the many rightist degenerates who pretend to be "leftist" while supporting the multi-millionaire Clinton and blackening her opponents with the dirtiest and sickest "leftist" lies. (Note that I consider this quite common for "leftists" these days: They are not Leftist anymore in any real sense.)

Here are more who are very wrong and very bad according to the sick and lying propagandists for Clinton (though Kirchick appears to be a conservative liar and propagandist):

Among those apparently deserving of the label "progressive Trump fan" are Glenn Greenwald, Rania Khalek, Zaid Jilani, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, all of whom, according to Kirchick, are "captive to a crude and one-dimensional anti-Americanism."

The one sin that unites these progressive commentators, journalists, and political figures with Trump is, in other words, that they all dare to question the morality of America's use of force abroad.

There is considerably more in the article, that ends as follows:

Rhetoric aside, the party Clinton seems intent upon constructing is far from a "party of the people." Rather, it is a party of the managerial class, a party of establishment hawks, a party of the self-styled "good billionaires." And it is a party that is, at its core, hostile to the ambitious aims of the nation's progressive movements.

If we take Clinton's messaging seriously, perhaps it couldn't be otherwise. "There's an old Mexican proverb that says 'Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are," Clinton said in her much-lauded speech on the alt-right. 

The question that should follow is an essential one: Who, then, is a candidate who counts Henry Kissinger among her friends and mentors and celebrates the endorsements of Republican billionaires and neoconservatives? And what does a party that touts such characters ultimately stand for?

Whatever it is, it isn't democracy, it isn't justice, and it isn't progress.

Yes. And I agree Hillary Clinton now leads a Democratic Party that is mostly like the Republicans were, whereas Trump heads a Republican Party that is neofascist. I suppose this illustrates the "shift to the right".

Also, I would never vote for Clinton nor call for voting for Clinton, if it were not for the fact that I regard her opponent as both mad, a racist and a neofascist, and as a very great danger to mankind.

But then that is were American politics is right now: Choosing between a candidate of the rich right who poses as a progressive but is as conservative
as a Republican, or a candidate of the rich right who is insane and a neofascist.

5. Burkini Bans, New Atheism and State Worship: Noam Chomsky on Religion in Politics

The fifth
and last item today is by C.J. Polychroniou and Lily Sage on Truth-out: This starts as follows - and I like to mention that I have been following earlier interviews of Noam Chomsky by C.J. Polychroniou, and always found them well done and instructive.

This article starts as follows:
Religion and politics have often marched hand-in-hand in the course of human affairs. In this latest interview, leading public intellectual and father of modern linguistics Noam Chomsky shares his views about religion and its link to politics, with particular reference to American society and the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. Chomsky also offers his perspective on the "New Atheism" movement and assesses the claim that knowledge and reality are simply socially constructed artifacts.
I have selected some bits, but there is a lot more in the interview, and I have skipped a lot (you can read by clicking the last dotted link).

First, here is Chomsky on spiritualism and religion:

Do you believe in the spiritual factor behind religion or find something useful in it?

For me, personally, no. I think irrational belief is a dangerous phenomenon and I try to avoid it. On the other hand, I recognize that it's a significant part of the lives of others, with mixed effects.

I completely agree.

Next, here is something on propaganda of the "left" - that I, who is a Leftist son from Leftist parents and Leftist grandparents, completely reject as real Leftists:

A drumbeat of propaganda on how "we are good" and "they are evil," with constant exercises of self-admiration and abuse of others, can hardly fail to have an impact on perception of the world.

Examples abound, but merely to illustrate the common pattern, take a current example from the peak of the intellectual culture: Samantha Power's August 18 article in the New York Review of Books. Without any relevant qualification or comment, the author presents Henry Kissinger's sage reflections on "America's tragic flaw": namely, "believing that our principles are universal principles, and seeking to extend human rights far beyond our nation's borders... 'No nation... has ever imposed the moral demands on itself that America has. And no country has so tormented itself over the gap between its moral values, which are by definition absolute, and the imperfection inherent in the concrete situations to which they must be applied.'"
(...)
And this is not talk radio, but a leading journal of left-liberal intellectuals.

Incidentally, the first paragraph illustrates that Orwell's ideas about totalitarianism have been embraced by "leftists" - in the sense that they
are now as totalitarian as the right, and lying as much and as filthily.

And the rest shows that "left-liberal intellectuals" are neither Left nor Liberal: They may be sick liars who embrace a rightist monster like Kissinger.

Here is another good point by Chomsky about the distinction between facts and values:

The idea of neutral objectivity is at best misleading and often fraudulent. We cannot help but approach complex and controversial questions -- especially those of human significance -- with a definite point of view, with an ax to grind if you like, and that ax should be apparent right up front so that those we address can see where we are coming from in our choice and interpretation of the events of history.

Yes, I agree.

That is: I also insist that facts are not values, because facts are supposed to be so in the real world, whereas values are some person's appreciations - liked and dislikes - of both facts and non-facts. But I agree that any problem that is significant to humans for that reason also invites values (of possibly many distinct kinds) that inform how humans will react and think about these problems. And you cannot exclude these values without invalidating your enquiry, whatever it is: to be human is to think and to value.

Finally, here is Chomsky on burkinis (and I completely agree):

I don't think there should be laws forcing women to remove veils or preferred clothes when swimming. Secular values should, I think, be honored; among them, respect for individual choice, as long as it does not harm others. Secular values that should be respected are undermined when state power intrudes in areas that should be matters of personal choice. If Hassidic Jews choose to dress in black cloaks, white shirts and black hats, with hair in orthodox style and with religious garb, that's not the state's business. Same when a Muslim woman decides to wear a scarf or go swimming in a "burkini."

There is a lot more in the interview that is recommended.

---------------
Note
[1] I am sorry, but I have by now so many times explained that I think that much that I see in politics - and especially TTP, TTIP, CETA and TISA, and the ever continuing illegal downloadings of anything anyone does with his computer or cellphone by very many secret services - is in fact a dedicated attempt by the right to institutionalize neofascism (of a new kind: the multi-national corporations are to have nearly all the powers governments had), that I will simply use the term wherever I think it is appropriate.

You may think I am mistaken, but if so, it is very probable (I think) that you don't know as much about politics as I do (nor about philosophy and psycho- logy); that you certainly didn't have my - sincere - communist parents nor my - sincere - communist and anarchist grandparents; that also your grandfather was not murdered for resisting the Nazis, nor was your father locked up as a "political terrorist" for over 3 years and 9 months in German concentration camps; and that finally you have not been scolded as a "fascist" and a "terrorist" in the University (by rightist "leftists" posturing as if they were Marxists), nor have you been removed right before taking an excellent M.A. in philosophy and been denied the right to take that M.A.-examination, because you honestly told the utter incompetents who "taught" you that they were lazy, incompetent and dishonest. (I think I was the only student ever to be removed from a Dutch university - since WW II ended - for saying honestly what he thought (and thinks).)

All of this happened to me, and therefore I think I probably see things connected to fascism and politics a bit more clearly than the vast majority
of conformists.

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