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Nederlog

Monday, May 22, 2017

Crisis: Dead Republic, Iran's Moderation, Russia-gate, Stingrays


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. The Death of the Republic
2. Iran’s Victory for Moderation
3.
The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate
4.
Trump Admin. Now Deploying Controversial Surveillance Tool
     in Immigration Crackdown
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 22, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges, who explains why he thinks the American republic is dead, and I agree; item 2 is about Iran's victory, which was for moderation; item 3 is about an article by MicGovern and Binney who explains their still has not been produced any credible evidence that Russia hacked the American elections (and I agree); and item 4 is about the use of stingrays to find people by finding their location from their cellphones.

And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for more than 1 1/2 years, though now only at one of my two sites:
May 22: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site was  on time today, probably because it is the day after Sunday, for that is the only time my site has a half- decent chance of being properly updated.

They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most and without any problem, as indeed is the work of ISPs. Now this takes a full week, on average.

I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And what changed is that you have to refresh (and refresh and refresh and refresh) to get the latest, which is again NOT as it was before, from 1996 till 2015, and which for me this only serves to make it extremely difficult for naive users to get the latest from my site - that for them may seem to have stuck somewhere in 2016 or 2015.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. The Death of the Republic

The first article today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The deep state’s decision in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.

Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth.
Yes indeed. I did read all of Gibbon's (<-Wikipedia) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (meanwhile twice: I think it is quite enjoyable and great writing) and I as well see considerable similarities between Rome then and the USA now. Then again, one also should keep in mind that the Roman empire started as a republic some 500 years before Julius Ceasar was appointed as perpetual dictator, and lasted (in Rome) some 500 years after him.

Also, in case you're interested, here is some about Commodus (<-Wikipedia). And I also notice that Chris Hedges is one of the many believers in the deep state, as indeed I am.

Here is something that may be seen as a sum-up of the present article:
There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.
I agree that the American republic is dead, and my own main reason (there are quite a few) is that it definitely is no longer a res publica, that is, something carried by all or a majority of its inhabitants: Since Reagan started this, it has become something that is carried by the rich men for the rich men, and indeed the rich have enormously extended their incomes over the last 40 years, while everybody else either received the same income (corrected for inflation etc.) or a lesser income.

There is this on the strategy that is used by the rich:
Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the “first citizen”—neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the autonomous soviets. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.
I mostly agree, although what strikes me especially is that indeed in Rome, and in the Soviet Union, and in Nazi Germany, (i) great parts of the populations supported their leaders (though probably less towards the ends of these empires), which means that the greatest parts of these populations were succesfully deceived by their rulers. And I think the same is also true of the United States (and Europe, though so far a bit less).

Then there is this:
Our constitutional rights—due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent—have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd.
I mostly agree and add something that is mostly based on my age, which is 67 at present:

It seems to me that (i) "
due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent" did function more or less as they should have from the 1960ies till the early 1980ies, and to some extent also since Roosevelt took power in the USA, which also means that I - and I am a European - spent most of my life in considerable personal freedom; that (ii) these personal freedoms that I enjoyed seem to belong to the past, also in Europe (if the present tendencies continue); that (iii) the difference I sketched in (i) amounts to two quite different styles of capitalism: Capitalism-with-a-human-face and high taxes on the rich, which was favored by Roosevelt, Keynes and Eisenhower, and capitalism-with-an- inhuman-face, that has been favored since Reagan (also by Clinton and Obama, if you look at many of the laws they signed and discard their verbal propaganda); while also (iv) I explain that the reasons that these things are happening now, both in the USA and in Europe, are the same as that they happened in Rome, the Soviet-Union and Nazi- Germany: The vast majority of the non-rich are convinced that most of the propaganda they are fed is true, while it is not.

In other words, the rich can succesfully propagandize and deceive most of the non-rich. And here is what is happening now:
Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.
I agree, and the same things have been happening in Europe, especially since the introduction of the Euro. Also - and I mention this because it turned out that only about 5% of the student and the staff in the University of Amsterdam was truly interested in science - I've heard for the first time in the University of Amsterdam the stiking and immoral utter lie that "Everybody knows that truth does not exist" in 1978, and I saw that the University of Amsterdam was governed by - especially - that principle from 1978 till 1995, when most of the hitherto existing university was destroyed, and replaced by a kind of college (still called "university") where, according to Blatcherist "social democratic" ideals, everybody with an IQ of 100 or so can get some degree, for a large payment.

And there is this, which I first recognized in 2005, and which I regard as the very strong threat of (neo)fascism from the rich, by the rich, for the rich:
The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.
After 16 years on completely unlimited spying on absolutely everyone with a computer or a cellphone, the states' terrorists that call themselves "secret service men" or "police" now know everything there is to know about virtually anybody:
The state uses “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners’ communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted.
And it seems to me that unless the system collapses economically, this will almost certainly lead to a fully controlled life for the many non-rich, who will have to live fully known lives that they can only protest with chances of disappearing of being locked up for life (without trial, as happens now to Mohammedans).

Here is the present enormous power of the executive branch:
The executive branch of government has empowered itself to assassinate U.S. citizens. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called “extraordinary rendition.” Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.
And I think that sketches the future of all American and all European inhabitants, unless the system collapses economically (on which there still is a fair chance).

And this the end of the present article:
The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.
I completely agree, and I think Hedges is also right that the above is factually the current situation, even if most people are blind to it. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Iran’s Victory for Moderation

The second article is by Trita Parsi on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

The Iranian population’s political sophistication continues to impress. Despite a highly flawed political system where the elections are neither fair nor free, the overwhelmingly majority chose a non-violent path to bring about progress.

They massively participated in the elections with a 75 percent turnout – compare that to the turnout in the U.S. elections in 2016, 56 percent – and handed the incumbent moderate President Hassan Rouhani a landslide victory with 57 percent of the vote.

In a regional context, this election is even more remarkable. In most of the Middle East, elections are not even held.

Yes indeed or at least: Thus it also seems to me. And here is some more:

There are a few things we can say about the meaning of the Iranian people’s collective action.

First of all, once again, Iranians voted against the candidate who was believed to be favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This is now a strong pattern.

Secondly, the Iranians rebuked exiled opposition groups and Washington hawks and neocons who called on the Iranian people to either boycott the elections or vote for the hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi in order to hasten a confrontation. Clearly, these elements have no following in Iran.

Third, despite Trump’s undermining of the nuclear deal with Iran, and despite significant problems with the sanctions relief process which has left many Iranians disappointed in the nuclear deal, Iranians still chose diplomacy, detente and moderation over the confrontational line of previous Iranian administrations.

I agree with all of that. There is more in the article, which is recommended. (And incidentally, two reasons that I pay a lot less attention to Russia, China, and the Middle East are that I neither speak any of the languages that are current there, and I never lived there.)

3. The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate

The third article is by Ray McGovern (<-Wikipedia) and William Binney (<-Wikipedia):
This starts as follows:
Official Washington got to relive the excitement of Watergate in a “gotcha” moment after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. There were fond recollections of how righteous the major newspapers felt when condemning President Nixon over his “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

But the overriding question from “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia” — as President Trump calls it — is whether there is any there there. The President labeled it a “made-up story” and, by all appearances from what is known at this time, he is mostly correct.
I agree with Binney and McGovern, and indeed have done so since last year. And the facts I agree on are these: So far, neither the FBI nor one of the 17 secret services that seem to inhabit the present USA has produced any evidence.

And while I agree this does not mean it isn't there, nor does it mean that Russia would not want to manipulate the American elections, I do not think anyone outside the secret services has seen the evidence, if it exists - and that seems pretty odd for something that is now going on for more than half a year.

Here is more:

In contrast to Comey’s see-no-evil reaction to criminal leaking, the FBI Director evinced strong determination to chase after ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until the cows came home. The investigation (already underway for 10 months) had the decided advantage of casting doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and putting the kibosh on his plans to forge a more workable relationship with Russia, a win-win for the Establishment, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the FBI/CIA/NSA “Deep State”; a lose-lose for the President – and arguably the American people and the world, both of whom might benefit from fewer big-power tensions and lower spending on an arms race.

I quite agree, and I also note that McGovern and Binney do seem to admit the "Deep State" (in the shape of the police and the secret services, it seems).

Here is the judgment of Binney and McGovern (who both, and for decades, had leading roles in the NSA and the CIA):

What has been particularly noteworthy about this “scandal” is how much spooky music we’ve heard and how many sinister suspicions have been raised versus actual “evidence” of the core allegations. So far, it has been smoke and mirrors with no chargeable offenses and not a scintilla of convincing proof of Russian “meddling” in the election.

The oft-cited, but evidence-free, CIA/FBI/NSA report of Jan. 6 — crafted by selected senior analysts, according to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — is of a piece with the “high-confidence,” but fraudulent, National Intelligence Estimate 15 years ago about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

I agree. Then there is this:

On March 31, 2017, WikiLeaks released original CIA documents — almost completely ignored by the mainstream media — showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs (like Cyrillic markings, for example). The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the “Vault 7” trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines. But the Deep State has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for “proving” the Russians hacked into Democratic Party emails.

In other words, it is altogether possible that the hacking attributed to Russia was actually one of several “active measures” undertaken by a cabal consisting of the CIA, FBI, NSA and Clapper — the same agencies responsible for the lame, evidence-free report of Jan. 6.

I again agree, although to my - limited but informed - knowledge, there so far has not been produced any real evidence that the Russians hacked the American elections.

This ends as follows:

If Mr. Trump continues to “take on” the Deep State, he will be fighting uphill, whether he’s in the right or not. It is far from certain he will prevail.

I agree, and this is a recommended article.

4. Trump Admin. Now Deploying Controversial Surveillance Tool in Immigration Crackdown

The fourth article today is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

As the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans continue to push for a harsher immigration crackdown, new reporting reveals that FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents employed a controversial surveillance technology known as Stingrays to hunt down undocumented immigrants.

According to Electronic Frontier Foundation's Adam Schwartz, the The Detroit News report, based on a federal search warrant affidavit, marks "the latest sign of mission creep in domestic deployment of battlefield-strength surveillance technology."

I say. As I said under item 1, the secret services now know everything about anyone (to the best of my knowledge, and qualified by "as far as this knowledge is spread on the internet/cellphones), and they also know how to locate anyone with a cellphone:

In this case, The Detroit News reported, the

secret device [either a Stingray or an upgraded version of them known as Hailstorm] was used in March by a team of FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Metro Detroit to find Rudy Carcamo-Carranza, 23, a twice-deported restaurant worker from El Salvador whose only brushes with the law involve drunken driving allegations and a hit-and-run crash.

"Few law enforcement spying technologies are a greater threat to digital liberty: by their very nature, [cell site simulators or] CSSs seize information from all of the people who happen to be nearby. So government should be barred, for example, from using CSSs to hunt down traffic scofflaws, petty thieves, and undocumented immigrants," Schwartz wrote.

Yes and no. I'd say by far the most dangerous thing about spying technologies is that they have delivered extremely much knowledge to the government's spies that they never should have gotten in the first place. Those who think this will not be abused by any U.S. government I can only congratulate on their stupidity.

And again: For me, all surveillance that contradicts the Fourth Amendment -

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

- is grossly illegal surveillance, and this applies now to nearly all surveillance done in the USA, since 16 years, to the best of my knowledge.

This is a recommended paper.

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