May 13, 2018

Crisis: Spies & Journalism, On Sen. McCain, Net Neutrality, ´Bloody Gina´, Noam Chomsky


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 13, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 13, 2018. (This is an ordinary crisis file, but fairly late yesterday I uploaded a non-crisis file, namely the third and probably last file on the Diggers.)

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 13, 2018
1. When Spies Hack Journalism
2. White House Refuses to Apologize for Kelly Sadler’s Joke About McCain
3. A Last-Ditch Battle for 'Net Neutrality'
4. 'Bloody Gina' Hearing Does Not Bode Well for Us
5. A Brief Chat With Noam Chomsky
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. When Spies Hack Journalism

This article is by Scott Shane on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
For decades, leakers of confidential information to the press were a genus that included many species: the government worker infuriated by wrongdoing, the ideologue pushing a particular line, the politico out to savage an opponent. In recent years, technology has helped such leakers operate on a mass scale: Chelsea Manning and the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables, Edward Snowden and the stolen National Security Agency archive, and the still-anonymous source of the Panama Papers.

But now this disparate cast has been joined by a very different sort of large-scale leaker, more stealthy and better funded: the intelligence services of nation states, which hack into troves of documents and then use a proxy to release them. What Russian intelligence did with shocking success to the Democrats in 2016 shows every promise of becoming a common tool of spycraft around the world.

Yes indeed, although I don´t quite agree on the view the NYT is taking on Russia. Here is more:

What does this mean for journalism? The old rules say that if news organizations obtain material they deem both authentic and newsworthy, they should run it. But those conventions may set reporters up for spy agencies to manipulate what and when they publish, with an added danger: An archive of genuine material may be seeded with slick forgeries.

In fact, I think ¨journalism¨ (between quotes, because there are several kinds of journalism) will continue to do as they did before, that is ¨if news organizations obtain material they deem both authentic and newsworthy, they should run it.¨

It is true that ¨news organizations¨ may be more easily duped in several ways, but that cannot be helped. Besides, if a ¨news organizations¨ does get duped by trickery, it should report this, and as prominently as they reported the ¨news¨ when they first reported it.

And indeed, here is a final bit from this article:

Despite the hazards, the imperative to publish scoops is likely to prevail. Far from being wary of leaks, most news outlets are inviting them like never before.

In recent years, The Times and many other outlets have added to their web pages a “secure drop” that can offer leakers total anonymity. That may be a crucial attraction for a whistle-blower deep inside an American institution, but it will also protect a hacker sitting in Moscow or Beijing. The reporter may never be the wiser.

But that also is the risk of the reporter. And ¨the imperative to publish scoops is likely to prevail¨. I do not think that the problems Shane addresses are very important, although I agree that they are real.
2. White House Refuses to Apologize for Kelly Sadler’s Joke About McCain

This article is by Peter Baker on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
The White House declined on Friday to renounce or apologize for an aide whose joke at a meeting that Senator John McCain was irrelevant because he would soon die went viral, outraging relatives, friends and admirers of the ailing lawmaker.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said she would not comment on a closed-door meeting where the joke was made. And she offered no words of regret over the remark or sympathy for Mr. McCain, a Republican senator and two-time presidential candidate who is battling brain cancer at his Arizona ranch.

I say! What would The White House or Sanders say if I - or anybody else - said that Trump will soon die (and how soon is ¨soon¨?), and that therefore I - or anybidy - can say what I please about Trump?

And while I don´t agree with Senator McCain on most political issues, I think he is a brave man who got terribly abused by ¨an aide¨ and then by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders also is either a dirty liar or else a total idiot (and I am telling it as I see it):

But she denied that President Trump, who in 2015 said that Mr. McCain was “not a war hero” because he spent more than five years as a prisoner in North Vietnam and that he preferred “people who weren’t captured,” had set a tone of disrespect. “We have a respect for all Americans and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, both in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country, every single day,” Ms. Sanders said.

Trump clearly disrespected McCain (and avoided Vietnam himself by stating what I regard as evident lies), while Sanders does not ¨have a respect for all Americans¨, for these include Senator McCain, who gets a lot of disrespect from both Trump and Sanders.

Here is the last bit from this article that I quote:

Ms. Sadler’s comment came on the same day a retired Air Force three-star general went on Fox Business Network to deride Mr. McCain’s conduct as a prisoner of war. Mr. McCain was brutally and repeatedly beaten but refused early release unless other captives were also freed. But in discussing Ms. Haspel’s nomination, the retired general, Thomas G. McInerney, rejected Mr. McCain’s opposition to torture.

“The fact is, is John McCain, it worked on John,” he said. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’”

Well... I think McInerney is a sick bastard who probably would have talked if he had been exposed to the same tortures as McCain did (if McCain did talk). Besides, I think McCain acted very bravely when he ¨refused early release unless other captives were also freed¨.

3. A Last-Ditch Battle for 'Net Neutrality'

This article is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

“Net neutrality” laws are set to expire June 11, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday, and now a number of senators, mainly Democrats, are staging a last-ditch effort to save them.

The Obama-era rules, enacted in 2015, aimed to create a free and open internet by preventing telecommunications companies from charging more for faster internet service, or otherwise privileging their own material or that of their advertisers online. If the rules are allowed to expire, companies will have “broad new power over how consumers can access the internet,” Reuters notes.

In repealing the rules, the government is favoring the interests of giant telecoms over those of American consumers, effectively limiting the information they can consume based on their ability to pay for it.

Multiple state and federal officials have spoken against repeal. Barbara Underwood, the acting attorney general for New York, told Reuters that “the repeal of net neutrality would allow internet service providers to put their profits before the consumers they serve and control what we see, do, and say online.”

To the best of my knowledge, this is all perfectly true. Then again, it will probably fail for the following reason:

Michael Fauscette, an expert in net neutrality and chief research officer of G2 Crowd, a software and services review company, said in a statement, “There is some momentum in the Senate, with two Republicans already defecting and promising to vote for the bill when it comes in the floor next week, which is only 1 vote shy of the simple majority required to pass.”

“Unfortunately,” he continues, “the attempt seems doomed either in the House or with the President, who would most certainly refuse to sign the bill.”

Yes indeed, and I agree with Fauscette. Unfortunately, net neutrality is almost certainly gone.

4. 'Bloody Gina' Hearing Does Not Bode Well for Us

This article is by Joe Lauria on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Instead of facing a judge to defend herself against prosecution for violating U.S. law prohibiting torture, 33-year CIA veteran Gina Haspel on Wednesday faced the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing to confirm her as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Yes indeed - and note that Haspel should be prosecuted ¨for violating U.S. law prohibiting torture¨, for that is the law. And she isn´t, because that law is widely disobeyed, since 17 years at least, and because the present U.S. government likes torturing, in spite of the law.

Here is more on Haspel:
(..) [T]his perfectly typical middle class American personally supervised a black site in Thailand where terrorism suspects were waterboarded. It remains unclear whether she had a direct role in the torture. The CIA said she arrived at the black site after the waterboarding of senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah had taken place. Some CIA officials disputed that to The New York Times. The newspaper also reported last year that Haspel ran the CIA Thai prison in 2002 when another suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded.

Even if she did not have a direct hand in overseeing the torture, she certainly acquiesced to it. And if that were not bad enough, Haspel urged the destruction of 92 videotaped CIA “enhanced interrogations,” conducted at the prison in Thailand, eliminating evidence in a clear-cut obstruction of justice to cover-up her own possible crimes.

Quite so - and I´d say that any rational person would say that someone who ¨urged the destruction of 92 videotaped CIA “enhanced interrogationsshould be prosecuted for intentionally obstructing justice, indeed regardless of the question whether she tortured prisoners in Thailand (which is more probable, because she urged destroying the evidence).

Haspel testified that the U.S. has a new legal framework that governs detentions and interrogations forbidding what she refused to call torture. But the U.S. already had a law on the books against it when the Senate ratified the international Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on October 21, 1994. Every time the U.S. “tortured some folks” after that, as Barack Obama put, it broke U.S. law.

In speaking about it in a folksy way, Obama was minimizing the enormity of the crime and justifying his decision to not prosecute any American who may have taken part in it. That includes Haspel. So instead of facing the law she’s facing a career promotion to one of the most powerful positions in the United States, if not the world.

Precisely. Then there is this about Ray McGovern:

Because she wasn’t giving any straight answers, Ray McGovern, a CIA veteran of 27 years and frequent contributor to Consortium News, stood up in the hearing room and began asking his own questions. Capitol police were immediately ordered by the chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), to physically remove McGovern from the room. As he continued turning towards the committee to shout his questions, four officers hauled him out. They ominously accused him of resisting arrest. Once they got him into the hallway, rather than letting him go his way, four policemen wrestled him to the ground, re-injuring his dislocated left shoulder, as they attempted to cuff him.

I say! There is also this:

In 1975, Sen. Frank Church (D-ID) conducted hearings that revealed a raft of criminality committed by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over a period of thirty years from the end of the Second World War. It has been more than 40 years since that Senate investigation. After the release of the CIA Torture Report by the Senate in 2014 and the revelations about the NSA by Edward Snowden, a new Church Committee-style expansive probe into the intelligence agencies is long overdue.

Quite so - and for Sen. Church´s opinions, including a fine and important quote, see here - which I only now see I reviewed before.

Well... I am sorry, but this is a fine article. (And my mistake has to do with the horrors that are happening presently on AlterNet´s site, that was recently sold, and that currently is being served by some sort on Tweeting program, that produces tens of ¨articles¨ a day of a few statements long. Possibly more on this tomorrow.)

5. A Brief Chat With Noam Chomsky

This article is by Dan Brook on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Noam Chomsky is an exceptionally influential figure. Author of well over 100 books (as well as many articles, letters, speeches and interviews) published over the past 60 years, Chomsky is integral to cognitive science, modern linguistics, philosophy, mass media criticism and political analysis -- especially of US foreign policy, the military-industrial complex, capitalism and imperialism. Chomsky is a defender of free speech and is one of the most cited authors.

Chomsky was kind enough to take some time out of his extraordinarily busy schedule to give what he described as "much too brief" responses to Truthout's questions.

This is more or less correct (although not well written). Here is some more:

Despite all the fraud, voter suppression, corporate mass media biases, political party duopoly, plutocracy, etc., votes are still mostly counted in this very imperfect, top-down democracy. Yet, only a little more than half the electorate, and a little less than half of millennials, voted in 2016.

There's an excellent study of these matters by two outstanding political scientists, Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson. They focus in detail on the 2014 election, but the conclusions are general. As they point out, participation is reducing to the level of the days when voting was restricted to white males with property qualifications. The reasons are not hard to figure out. People don't have to read the academic work in political science (these authors, GilensBartels, Page) to know that the large majority are essentially unrepresented, in that their opinions and choices are ignored by their own representatives, who, like others, listen to the voices of the ultra-rich and corporate sector, overwhelmingly. So why bother?

Well... one answer to Chomsky´s last question would be that, even if ¨their own representatives, (..) listen to the voices of the ultra-rich and corporate sector¨ there are several styles amongst the ultra-rich and in the corporate sector. Then again, I agree that is probably not a strong argument in the eyes of most non-voters.

Here is the last bit I quote from this - indeed brief - interview:

The Sanders campaign, the most remarkable feature of the '16 election by far, broke with the long-standing pattern of reliance on wealth and corporate power. He might well have won the nomination, maybe the election, had it not been for the machinations of the Obama-Clinton "New Democrat" party managers. But without a mass popular and activist-engaged base, Sanders couldn't have done anything even if he had been elected. There's lots more to say about this.

Quite so. And this is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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