Oct 6, 2016

Crisis: Nuclear War, Yahoo's Spying, NSA Contractor, German Hate "Explained"
Sections                                                                                     crisis index

What We Talk About When We Don’t Want to Talk
     About Nuclear War

2Yahoo May Have Let the Government Spy on Emails.
     Now Will We Embrace Encryption?

3. Shadow Broker? NSA Contractor Arrested for Allegedly
     Stealing Classified Code

4. Where Does the Hate Come From?

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 6, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article I mostly agree with, except that I think the writer should have shown less irritation and more contempt for the language both presidential candidates use; item 2 is about another article I mostly agree with, except that I would have formulated it all a bit sharper; item 3 is about a fundamentally vague article about the arrest of an NSA contractor in August: I don't blame the journalist, but I do blame the American government for keeping things as unclear as they can; and item 4 is about an article in Spiegel I think is quite incompetent, for it effectively says "East Germans" (I quote) "behave less like free citizens and more like released prisoners", because they have been living in the Communist past, the last 27 years, and that explains "German hate". (If that holds, any fantasy holds, in my opinion: it is just stupid bullshit.)

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click/reload twice or more to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer.

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.


1. What We Talk About When We Don’t Want to Talk About Nuclear War

This first item is by
Andrew J. Bacevich on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch: This is from near the beginning (and incidentally the "We" in the title does not refer to you and me, but to the U.S. presidential candidates):
With regard to the issue of “first use,” every president since Harry Truman has subscribed to the same posture: the United States retains the prerogative of employing nuclear weapons to defend itself and its allies against even nonnuclear threats.  In other words, as a matter of policy, the United States rejects the concept of “no first use,” which would prohibit any employment of nuclear weapons except in retaliation for a nuclear attack.
Yes, indeed: This is what I thought I knew since the 1960ies. And I take it I was correct all the time, which is a bit important because what I (and many others) knew implies that the leaders of the USA do believe they can attack anyone else with atomic weapons as a first user.

And this is different from a set of nations that do have atomic weapons but who committed themselves not to use them first. To be sure, words are one thing, and deeds another, but if the nation that first built atomic weapons, and first used atomic weapons, does not want to verbally commit itself against using them first, the situation is worse than it could have been.

Then there is something else about the present article. There is considerable irritation with Trump as a speaker. On one level, I entirely agree, for Trump is a lousy speaker who doesn't speak in proper sentences, and who does repeat many things three times in as many "sentences".

Then again, I skipped all of it (i) because I think contempt would have been better in an article like this, and (ii) because Bacevich also criticizes the language of Hilary Clinton, in the following terms, using characterizations that
are nearly a century old and were not applied originally to her:

In contrast to Trump, however, Clinton did speak in complete sentences, which followed one another in an orderly fashion.  She thereby came across as at least nominally qualified to govern the country, much like, say, Warren G. Harding nearly a century ago.  And what worked for Harding in 1920 may well work for Clinton in 2016.

Of Harding’s speechifying, H.L. Mencken wrote at the time, “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges.”  Mencken characterized Harding’s rhetoric as “so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.  It drags itsuelf out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh.  It is rumble and bumble.  It is flap and doodle.  It is balder and dash.”  So, too, with Hillary Clinton.  She is our Warren G. Harding.  In her oratory, flapdoodle and balderdash live on.

I like Mencken. He was a bright man and he could write. And I agree Hilary Clinton is not a great speaker and only served propaganda when she talked  about nuclear weapons. But I think Bacevich should have attacked Clinton on these issues and not, instead, borrowed Mencken's words of 96 years ago describing a completely different president with completely different issues.

But I do understand one can get angry when seeing both presidential candidates lie. What are the questions America's serious presidential candidates, when discussing nuclear arms, should have answered (but did not, indeed)?

Here are three or four of them:

In the nuclear arena, the issue of first use is only one of several on which anyone aspiring to become the next commander-in-chief should be able to offer an informed judgment.  Others include questions such as these:

  • What is the present-day justification for maintaining the U.S. nuclear “triad,” a strike force consisting of manned bombers and land-based ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles?
  • Why is the Pentagon embarking upon a decades-long, trillion-dollar program to modernize that triad, fielding a new generation of bombers, missiles, and submarines along with an arsenal of new warheads?  Is that program necessary?
  • How do advances in non-nuclear weaponry—for example, in the realm of cyberwarfare—affect theories of nuclear deterrence devised by the likes of Kahn and Wohlstetter during the 1950s and 1960s?  Does the logic of those theories still pertain?
Beyond the realm of nuclear strategy, there are any number of other security-related questions about which the American people deserve to hear directly from both Trump and Clinton, testing their knowledge of the subject matter and the quality of their judgments.
With Election Day now merely a month away, there is no more reason to believe that such questions will receive serious consideration than to expect Trump to come clean on his personal finances or Clinton to release the transcripts of her handsomely compensated Goldman Sachs speeches.
I agree. Then again, I doubt these issues could have been discussed properly in a verbal debate on TV, but I agree that they should have been discussed on paper, and the American voters should have received a fairly clear answer from both presidential candidates on these issues.

They did not, indeed not at all. As an aside, here are the brief versions of my own answers to the above three dotted questions: Question 1: More power for the USA. Question 2: Totally unncessary, except if you want the USA to be the absolutely dominant military force in the next 25-50 years. Question 3: No, and Kahn and Wohlstetter's "analysis" was already baloney when it was published.

But I grant my own answers are about the briefest possible, and presuppose - for proper understanding - rather a lot (such as: who knows who Kahn (<- Wikipedia) was, these days? I do, but that is because I am 66 and I was also interested in nuclear war 50 years ago, but no: he wasn't really interesting).

Anyway... here is the end of the article:

What do our presidential candidates talk about when they don’t want to talk about nuclear war?  The one, in a vain effort to conceal his own ignorance, offers rambling nonsense.  The other, accustomed to making her own rules, simply changes the subject.

The American people thereby remain in darkness.  On that score, Trump, Clinton, and the parties they represent are not adversaries.  They are collaborators.
I mostly agree, but should say again that I don't think Trump and Clinton "collaborated" on this: Trump doesn't even know enough about nuclear arms
to collaborate with Clinton.

2. Yahoo May Have Let the Government Spy on Emails. Now Will We Embrace Encryption?

The second item is by Trevor Timm on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In a blockbuster scoop, Reuters’ Joseph Menn is reporting that Yahoo secretly built a software program in 2015 that scanned all its millions of customers’ incoming emails at the behest of US intelligence officials, which led to its chief security officer resigning in protest.

We don’t know exactly what the US government might have been searching for, but we do know that this is potentially a huge privacy violation that strikes at the heart of the fourth amendment’s prohibition on indiscriminate search and seizure. Yahoo’s reported secret collaboration with the US government also brings up several points that warrant further investigation. (“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.)

Yes, indeed. I paid some attention to this yesterday, but Trevor Timm is quite right: This is "a huge privacy violation that strikes at the heart of the fourth amendment’s prohibition on indiscriminate search and seizure" and (by implication, at least) Yahoo's statement on its law abidingness are pure propaganda lies.

Then there is this:

This Yahoo story seems to be an escalation of this type of “about” or “upstream” surveillance, which was once done by the NSA by secretly wiretapping internet cables owned by AT&T and others. Since many email companies have started encrypting their emails in transit since that story came out, the NSA probably can’t do that type of surveillance unilaterally (or with the help of AT&T) anymore. The US government now seems to be moving to force internet companies to do this type of mass surveillance for them, on the companies’ servers, where the data remains accessible.

I agree, although I would formulate it a bit stronger: The NSA got everything it could get simply by tapping the cables, but now that email often is being sent in an encrypted form, the NSA gets everything it cab get from the providers' servers, where the mails still are unencrypted.

And I agree this is happening, and is no improvement for most users of email. Then there is this, which I also would have formulated in a stronger form, simply because "mass surveillance" - meaning in fact: the NSA tries to get everything from anyone - has been going on for 15 years now:

Civil liberties groups have been calling this type of “about” mass surveillance – in which the government scans all emails for certain keywords – illegal and unconstitutional for years. But so far, no court has ruled definitively one way or another (mainly because the US has been hiding behind official secrecy to prevent it).

Now the question reporters should be asking is: if Yahoo received this secret order, what about the other tech giants? Did Google, Facebook and Microsoft receive similar demands to wiretap their own systems for searching all emails at the behest of the US government or others?

In fact, I do not think that the defense that "the US has been hiding behind official secrecy to prevent it" makes much sense, after no less than 15 years: This seems much more like systematic irresponsibility in judiciary circles, or that is at least what it seems to me.

Here is one reason why encrypted emails (by Yahoo and others) are more of a scam than a real service:

This is exactly the type of mass surveillance that end-to-end encryption would prevent. Currently, Yahoo emails are encrypted as they travel from one server to another, but can be read by Yahoo at the company’s discretion.

And this makes emails capable of being read just like they were before they were encrypted.

Here is the last bit, that I would have formulated again a bit stronger:

Finally, Yahoo’s possible betrayal of its users is another example of why whistleblowers and leaks to the press are so important. The US government considers this type of surveillance “legal” even though it shocks the conscience of many ordinary Americans and dozens of civil liberties groups have been attempting to have courts rule it illegal for years. The only reason we know about it is because brave people came forward at the risk of their freedom to tell us. For that, we owe them a great debt.

I totally agree, but would have said instead that the US government simply consciously and since 15 years lies about mass surveillance, and they lie because they want mass surveillance very much. And they have had it now for 15 years, and do not plan on giving it up.

3. Shadow Broker? NSA Contractor Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Classified Code

The third item is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The FBI in August secretly arrested a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor for allegedly stealing "highly classified computer codes," the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing anonymous government sources.

The court complaint released Wednesday names the contractor as 51-year-old Harold Martin III, a Navy veteran living in Maryland. Like NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Martin reportedly worked for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. A statement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) states that Martin "had a top secret national security clearance."

I say, for I had no idea about this, and August is more than a month ago. There is also the following bit, "in clarification":

The Times reported that Martin "is suspected of taking the highly classified 'source code' developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea."

As the quotes around "in clarification" indicate, I don't think this is much of a clarification.

What is a bit surprising is the following - and the Tweet you read is by Snowden:

On Twitter, Snowden and others noted that Martin appears to not face espionage charges—as Snowden does. 

Am I correct in reading they didn't charge him under the Espionage Act? Under this administration, that's a noteworthy absence.

Yes, indeed. But what it means will only become clear after more is known about Harold Martin III and what he did take from the NSA.

4. Where Does the Hate Come From?

The fourth and last item today is by Stefan Berg on Spiegel International:
This has a summary which I quote:
Hatred of refugees is widespread in Germany, but it seems particularly prominent in the eastern half of the country. There are several reasons for that, and many of them stem from life under communism -- and unfulfilled expectations afterwards.
I am sorry, but this sounds like nonsensical fantasies dreamt up by some journalistic Freudian: 1989 is 27 years ago, which means that at least a third of the present East Germans don't even recall socialism, and those who do are at least 35 years old.

But no matter, and so I must take it that either Mr. Berg is both a journalist and a genius compared to whom Freud's gigantic genius is as nought, or else he is fantasizing. [2]

Here is some more from his mighty pen:

In its report on the state of German unity, which was celebrated on Monday, the government warned that Eastern Germany's xenophobia represents a danger to social harmony. No matter where it takes place, xenophobia can be dangerous for its victims, whether in East or West. But the government in Berlin has identified a greater danger in Eastern Germany -- one that threatens society as a whole.

Every time a snarling horde marches against a refugee home in Saxony, every time the chancellor is confronted with hateful tirades during a public appearance, I wonder if this behavior is typical for Eastern Germany. At first glance, my answer is: No. The majority of Eastern Germans clearly adhere to the rules of decency and democracy. Nevertheless, something "typically Eastern German" can still be identified in these excesses.

Clearly, you need Spiegel to tell you that (bolding added) "xenophobia can be dangerous for its victims", while also the majority of Spiegel's readers need to be told that this is also the case "[n]o matter where it takes place" (it "can" be "dangerous" for "its victims") - which suggests that specifications like "East or West" are remarkably terse, at least given the supposed intelligence of the majority of Spiegel's readers: Surely, "and North or South, and inside or outside of Germany, and Europe (inside or outside)" would have been a required addition?!

Then again, Mr. Berg is absolutely certain: "something "typically Eastern German" can still be identified in these excesses"! Twentyseven years after "socialism" died! Maybe the East Germans are all born with half the IQ of West Germans? I don't know what Mr. Berg thinks, for I don't have Mr. Berg's incredible genius, but it seems as if something like this may have been  suggested.

You don't think so? Here is more of Mr. Berg's "personal diagnosis":

According to my personal diagnosis, such types of behavior cannot be blamed on the current material situation in which these people find themselves. They are more indicative of a surfeit of emotional tension.

In the East, there is an exhaustion syndrome: Lots of people were forced to dramatically change their lives following 1989. They only briefly experienced reunification as liberation and many now behave less like free citizens and more like released prisoners whose learned demeanor does not correspond to present-day requirements.
See? "In the East" "lots of people" "only briefly experienced reunification as liberation", 27 years ago, and "many" have since then behaved (all these 27 years, to be sure, according to Mr. Berg) "less like free citizens and more like released prisoners".

Why they would have done so totally escapes me, but then I am neither a journalist nor do I have Freud's gigantic genius [2].

Here is the explanation by the Freudian genius of the behavior of "the East":
From their days behind the Iron Curtain, they are still carrying the baggage of political expectations that today cannot be fulfilled. This includes the demand to be noticed and recognized by those in power -- just as they were before.
See? And "before" means: before 1989. For "[i]n the East" people are so incredibly stupid that for 27 years "they are still carrying the baggage of political expectations that today cannot be fulfilled":
One of East Germany's legacies is the model of a closed society in which uniformity is more important than diversity. People learned little about interacting with people of different faiths and origins. In Eastern Germany, one's own religious tradition is largely irrelevant. The communists systematically gave preferential treatment to atheists over Christians and new cities were forced to make do without church towers. As such, it's hardly surprising that people now feel threatened by the arrival of those who define themselves outwardly by their religion.
That is: Because the communists in the 70ies and 80ies "gave preferential treatment to atheists over Christians", in 2016 "it's hardly surprising that people now feel threatened by the arrival of those who define themselves outwardly by their religion".

See? And in case you doubt or don't see this, there is also this:

Communist rule may have ended in 1989, but the desperate yearning for homogeneity didn't change much in the East.

I take it that this must be due to the peculiar lack of intelligence of the East Germans, or else I must take it that - also - the West Germans are still Nazis like their fathers, grandfathers or greatgrandfathers were ...

... but seriously: This manner of idiocy is now printed by Spiegel, as if this is serious journalism. It is not, and I am sorry, though I did not have any hand in it. [3]

But this is not the Spiegel I knew in the 1960ies - which is a relevant remark, because according to Spiegel it is. I have meanwhile read enough of Spiegel since 2013 to think that is propaganda.

[1]  Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all"destroy (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] Actually, I don't believe Freud was a genius in any other sense than a fraud of genius size, but let that be.

[3] For - in case you need an explanation - Mr. Berg does not say that many Germans are stupid; he does not say that many Germans are ignorant; he does not say that quite a few Germans are racists; he does not say that most Germans have been propagandized and lied to by their own press since decades.

He does not even mention any of these eventualities, but he does say that "East Germans" "
behave less like free citizens and more like released prisoners" since the last 27 years because they still have a "learned demeanor [that] does not correspond to present-day requirements"...

... I am sorry, but that is just plain

       home - index - summaries - mail