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Nederlog

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Crisis: "Healthcare" In USA, "Russiagate", Trump's Budget, NSA Surveillance


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Evidence-Based Policy Making? - Dumb Things Politicians Say
     About Health Care Policy

2. Has the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Assessment of
     ‘Russiagate’ Been Politicized?

3.
Trump’s Budget Is Cruel and Deviant
4.
Wikimedia Scores 'Important Victory' in Fight Against NSA
     Surveillance
 
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Roy Poses about postmodernism and the collapsing American health care system; item 2 is an about an article by Robert Parry that outlines why there - so far - has not been produced any evidence that the Russians hacked the American elections or the Democrats' mail servers; item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich, who is quite right that Trump's (proposed) budget is "cruel and deviant"; and item 4 is about an article on Common Dreams that is glad about a recent judicial win in the fight against NSA surveillance.

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 24: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site was  once again not on time as it has not been on time most of the time during - "just" - the last 1 1/2 years: It sticks for me (now) on May 22. Where it is for others I don't know.

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. Evidence-Based Policy Making? - Dumb Things Politicians Say About Health Care Policy

The first article today is by Roy Poses on Health Care Renewal:
This is a fine article about some of the Republicans, healthcare in the USA, and postmodernism (to which I was first exposed in 1978, after which the total "University" of Amsterdam was soon postmodernistic, between 1983 and 1995, at least).

Here are first some examples of the present styles of speaking by some Republicans. This gets introduced as follows:
While the experts have been shut out, some of its supporters of the AHCA in the US House of Representatives have been free with their explanations of their actions.  Some have been rather alternative, so to speak. Some recent examples, in chronologic order (...)
And after this there are a number of bolded quotes + comments. I will skip the comments (you can read them by clicking the above dotted link) but give the quotes:
Rep Roger Marshall (R-Kansas): the Poor "Just Don't Want Health Care"

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) The Problem with "Obamacare" is "the People Who Are Healthy Pay for the People Who Are Sick."

Rep John Shimkus (R-Illinois) Why Should Men Have to Purchase Prenatal Care?

Rep Mo Brooks, (R-Alabama): "People who Lead Good Lives" Do Not Get Sick

Rep Paul Labrador (R - Idaho) "Nobody Dies Because They Don't Have Access to Healthcare"

Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget: "The Person Who Sits at Home, Eats Poorly and Gets Diabetes" Does Not Deserve Health Insurance
Well... I have an excellent M.A. in psychology, and the people who are saying this are diagnosed by me as sadists. I have no more friendly term for them.

And this is from the ending of this article (and is the last bit that I'll quote from this article):
In 2003 I published an article entitled "A Cautionary Tale: the Dysfunction of American Health Care," which summarized the views of health care professionals about the causes of health care dysfunction.  One of the major findings was the importance of " attacks on the scientific basis of medicine."  In turn, I hypothesized that some of these attacks stemmed from the rise of post-modernism, then a fashionable intellectual affectation on university campuses, mainly of the avant garde left-wing.  I wrote then:
Postmodernism is 'an attempt to question the fundamental philosophical and political premises of the West.   It argues that many of the concepts we take for granted—including truth, morality, and objectivity—are culturally ‘constructed’'  To postmodernists, truth is just what the powerful say is true.
Now it seems that post-modernist "thought" has escaped the confines of left-wing humanities departments, and infiltrated political discourse, and for some unfathomable reason, seems to particularly affect some of those who profess to be conservative.
Hm. I basically agree, except that I think the situation is considerably more serious, but I will only mention a few points here and now:

1. I met postmodernism in 1978 in the University of Amsterdam. At that time, that university was owned by the students and still Marxist, as were most of the other Dutch universities, but from 1983 onwards, postmodernism was the rage, not only among the students, but also among the academic staff.

2. Postmodernists was and is very popular among the stupid and the semi-intelligent, because it gives endless reasons not to know, not to think, and not to study, and instead embrace whatever idiocy that one likes, for no better reason than that one likes it: It is pure wishful thiking.

3. The reason postmodernism is attractive is that it embraces every kind of stupidity and every mode of wishful thinking. And since I am by now convinced that at most 1 in 20 are intelligent enough to find their own ways by their own intelligences, this does explain its popularity: Mere pretension is enough - and this holds for the "leftists" as well as the "rightists".

And this is a recommended article.

2. Has the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Assessment of ‘Russiagate’ Been Politicized?

The second article is by Robert Parry on Truthdig and originally on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows (and can be seen as a continuation of an earlier article in Consortiumnews, reviewed here):

At the center of the Russiagate scandal is a curious U.S. intelligence “assessment” that was pulled together in less than a month and excluded many of the agencies that would normally weigh in on such an important topic as whether Russia tried to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

The Jan. 6 report and its allegation that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails and publicized them through WikiLeaks have been treated as gospel by the mainstream U.S. media and many politicians of both parties, but two senior Obama administration intelligence officials have provided new information that raises fresh doubts about the findings.

Yes, indeed. Then again, it is now more than six months ago it was pointed out that there was then no evidence that "Russia “hacked” Democratic emails and publicized them through WikiLeaks", and this has remained so ever since.

Here is the recent news:
Brennan said the report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies, and for good reason because of the nature and the sensitivity of the information trying, once again, to keep that tightly compartmented.”
I say, which I do because - as far as I know - the ordinary American public knows very little about these 17 agencies, though they fund them all through their taxes.

There is this on motives (but without evidence):

The Jan. 6 report argued one side of the case—that Putin had a motive for undermining Clinton because he objected to her work as secretary of state when she encouraged anti-Putin protests inside Russia—but the report ignored the counter-argument that the usually cautious Putin might well have feared infuriating the incoming U.S. president if the anti-Clinton ploy failed to block her election.

A balanced intelligence assessment would have included not just arguments for believing that the Russians did supply the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks but the reasons to doubt that they did.

And there also was not given any evidence thay the Russians did do what they were supposed to be doing.

This is one conclusion:

In other words, the Jan. 6 report has the look of pre-cooked intelligence.

That impression was further strengthened by the admission of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that “the two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.”

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this approach has worked, such as the determination of the Reagan administration to pin the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

Yes, indeed. And this may have happened in the present case as well.

And here is the "evidence" (that was not delivered, at all):

But at least the appendix offered up some “evidence”—as silly as those examples might have been. The main body of the report amounted to one “assessment” after another with no verifiable evidence included, at least in the unclassified version that the American people were allowed to see.

The report also contained a warning about how unreliable these “assessments” could be: “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

In brief: There still is no evidence that Russia hacked the American elections or the Democratic mails, and all the "judgements" of the mostly secret American government's spies are neither proved nor given evidence.

O well. This is a recommended article.

3. Trump’s Budget Is Cruel and Deviant

The third article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This is a reaction to Trump's budget, that I described yesterday as follows:

America Will Turn Great Again, by enriching the very rich, by stealing billions from the non-rich, and by greatly increasing military spending and building a wall.

It is - in my opinion - both sick and insane, because it tries to convince the 90% of the non-rich that taking their money and giving it to the already very rich will improve the conditions of the 90% by what must be real magic, and is actually pure and total lies, deceptions and propaganda.

Then again, this utter bullshit did get popular in the USA: The fact that it is based on nonsensical lies does not prevent its being sold to the people and accepted by many.

These were my words. Here is the first bit of Reich that I'll quote:

Trump’s budget is cruel and deviant. He proposes to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade, much of it for programs that help the poor (Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security disability, and health insurance for poor children) – in order to finance a huge military buildup and tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

Trump’s budget won’t get through Congress, but it defines deviancy downward in 3 respects:

1. It imposes huge burdens on people who already are hurting. Not just the very poor, but also the working class. In fact, among the biggest losers would be people who voted for Trump – whites in rural and poor areas of the country who depend on Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security disability.
Yes, indeed. And there is this:
2. It sets a new low bar for congressional and public debate over social insurance in America, and of government’s role – far lower than anything proposed by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. It pushes the idea that each of us is and should be on our own, rather than that we are part of a society that benefits from social insurance – spreading the risks and costs of adversity that could hit any one of us.
For an exampe of the sadism of Republican speakers, see item 1. And this is the last point that I'll quote from this article:

The budget thereby frames the debate over Trumpcare, for example, as “why should I pay for her pre-existing health problem if I’m healthy?”

3. Finally, the budget eviscerates the notion that an important aspect of patriotism involves sacrificing for the common good – paying for public services you won’t use but will be used by others and will thereby help the nation as a whole, such as schools, roads, clean air, and health care.
Yes indeed, for that is the whole idea of insurance: Everybody pays, so that the relatively few who will get hurt, will be paid from everyone's contribution. That is, except for the rich - and see item 1.

This is a recommended article.

4. Wikimedia Scores 'Important Victory' in Fight Against NSA Surveillance

The fourth and last article today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday reversed a previous decision by a lower court that dismissed a challenge to the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance operations, scoring an "important victory for the rule of law."

Tuesday's unanimous decision by the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court means a case against the NSA filed by the Wikimedia Foundation can proceed, after the judges ruled that the plaintiffs had provided enough evidence that the NSA was monitoring their communications as part of its Upstream surveillance program.

"This is an important victory for the rule of law. The NSA has secretly spied on Americans' internet communications for years, but now this surveillance will finally face badly needed scrutiny in our public courts. We look forward to arguing this case on the merits," said Patrick Toomey, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing the plaintiffs.

I say! This is - somewhat - good news that I did not yet know, although I do know and have commented on the previous decision by a lower court.

Then again, while I agree with Patrick Toomey, I am not sure that there is no higher court which may stop it again. (I just don't know.)

Here is part of the argument of the ACLU:

"Our government shouldn't be searching the private communications of innocent people in bulk, examining the contents of Americans' emails and chats day in and day out. This mass surveillance threatens the foundations of a free internet," Toomey said.

The three-judge panel found that Wikimedia had standing to argue that the NSA was violating its First and Fourth Amendment rights by spying on its communications.

"Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the opinion stated.

In my opinion, "mass surveillance" is the beginning of neofascist terrorism. Indeed, I am myself so skeptical that I would not be amazed at all if I were to learn (what nobody knows, outside the secret services, I guess) that 9/11/2001 was engineered by the American army to make terrorism both popular and frigthful which in turn "justified" the secret stealings of everyone's privacy, that laid the foundation for the possible future of utter police states where only the very rich are free.

And while I don't know what will happen, I think that possibility is very frightening. Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Still, the decision signaled an important victory in the fight against government spying, attorneys said.

"This kind of indiscriminate surveillance has grave implications for individual rights, including the freedoms of speech and association," said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which also represented the plaintiffs. "It's gratifying that the appeals court has rejected the government's effort to shield this surveillance from constitutional review."

I agree, but as I indicated, I am not optimistic.

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