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Keeping a Grip on Reality

Men and Machines: Which is Master, Which is Slave?

by Robert Henderson

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com (September 08 2010)

The British public has become weary of state-run computer projects either failing to be completed in whole or part after immense amounts of public money has been spent or public service information technology (“IT”) systems being incompetently operated where they are put into use. Common as such failures are, the present fiasco with the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (“HMRC”, the British equivalent of the USA’s IRS) attempting to recover tax from 1.5 million people that has been under-deducted in the past two years because incorrect tax codes were issued is probably the most spectacular operational failure to date besides having a projected final cost of 389 million GBP compared with the original cost projection of 140 GBP million and being introduced a year late. It is a classic instance of IT failure. There is the cost over-run, the delayed implementation, the failure to design the system properly, the inadequate training of staff and the seeming inability of anyone involved with the project to understand the system in its entity.

The operational failure was unsurprising because as an investigation by the National Audit Office (“NAO”) established that the new system was put into operation with more than fifty identified technical defects. Up to 500 staff had to be reassigned to carry out the “manual workarounds” that had to be devised to correct the errors, which included creating “erroneous work records” for many taxpayers and “The [NAO] audit discovered that data on taxpayers was loaded onto the new computer system last year without being checked for accuracy, raising the risk of workers being issued incorrect tax codes”. {1}

When the system went live in 2009 HMRC officials expected the new system to generate about thirteen million new tax code notices. In the event, it produced almost 26 million.

According to the National Audit Office, a “significant proportion” of those codes were wrong:

 

 

Many of the incorrect notices were generated because the new system allocated a new code for each job that a person had done. That led to many people receiving several different tax codes. {1}

 

 

The failure of the HMRC system was the result of (1) the IT professionals who designed the system not understanding the requirements of tax collection and/or the HMRC people in charge of the project not understanding computerised systems and (2) the staff running the system, especially those responsible for inputting of data, being inadequately trained. The circumstances also suggest that either the HMRC management in charge of the project allowed the system to go ahead despite knowing that there were many program shortcomings or the IT contractors did not properly inform the HMRC management of the defects in the system.

The consequences were the diversion of 500 people to make manual adjustments and God alone knows what further expenditure of time and money in the future to deal with the millions of incorrect codes being issued, many simply because the system had not been designed to link up multiple employments. Using a centralised computerised system has created a degree of chaos which no manual system could create nor in all probability that which could be created if computerised wage and accounting systems were used by HMRC at a local level to calculate tax because with small local systems problems such as different codes issued for multiple employments would be almost certainly spotted quickly.

Such monumental IT failures are symptomatic of a general problem with digital technology, namely, our ever-growing reliance on it and the increasing complexity of the hardware and software which outstrips both the expertise of so-called IT professionals and the abilities of the average person to simply operate the programs.

For the private computer user the frustration is even greater, because at least an organisation of any size will either have its own in-house computer expertise or can afford to buy in IT expertise to deal with IT problems. The private individual often has no access to such expertise because the cost is prohibitive, but even where cost is no barrier the expertise of supposed experts is often found wanting. (I have paid for two new computer systems to be installed in the past ten years and on both occasions the supposedly simple task took multiple visits. Both occasions involved large well-known retailers).

The general consequence of our ever growing reliance on digital technology is that we are increasingly being controlled by the needs of the technology rather than using technology to serve us. It is very difficult to escape such control. If a person is in work they will almost certainly have to use it. If they are in education they will definitely have to use it. Even if a person does not encounter digital technology in their work or education, they find it increasingly difficult to avoid it in their private lives even if they refuse to use a computer or a mobile phone, not least because businesses and government increasingly require those dealing with them to do so by computer.

But increasing numbers of people do buy computers and other digital equipment for private use. Why do they do that if the machines are so unreliable and demanding? Simple: once a significant minority uses a technology it becomes increasingly difficult for the rest to resist.

We have long passed the point where a handwritten document is likely to be read by most people in business. Now, except between social contacts, everything must be word-processed to be acceptable. A word processor or access to one has become a sine qua non for anyone who wishes to be taken seriously. Even amongst private individuals, a letter is increasingly seen as unusual or even quaint.

With emails, we have not come to the stage that telephone ownership reached a quarter of a century ago when not to have a phone became considered eccentric, but we are rapidly moving towards it. Employers increasingly wish to contact employees by email wherever they are and this means the choice is often between having a computer and email at home or not having a job.

Those with school age children, whatever they think of computers, find it next to impossible to deny their children not only a computer but access to the internet, both because the children want it to match their peers and because they have been brainwashed into believing that a computer is a necessary educational tool.

In short, people are increasingly being driven to become computer owners not because they actively want to, but because they feel isolated and excluded if they remain computerless. Again, as with the analogy between telephones and emails, within the foreseeable future, someone without a computer is in danger of becoming in the eyes of the majority as much as an oddity as someone without a TV is now considered.

Despite all these pressures, there are still a large number of people in Britain who have remained distant from the digital world. According to a recent Office for National Statistics report nine million British adults have never been online. Nor is this simply the elderly for “Only 45 per cent of adults without any formal qualifications had used the Internet, compared with 97 per cent of those with a degree” {2}. It is worth bearing in mind that approximately ten per cent of the British population (six million) have IQs of eighty or less, and an IQ of eighty is the point at which most psychologists working in the field of intelligence testing think a person would struggle to live an independent life in an advanced modern society such as Britain.

It is unreasonable in a civilised society to simply hang the computer ignorant or the intellectually underpowered out to dry as digital technology looms ever larger. Yet that is precisely what is happening.

Technology as Magic

To master computers to the degree where a person does not lie helplessly in the hands of experts is a demanding and continuing task. It is unlikely that many could or would manage it without making computers their profession. In fact, even supposed computer professionals are only knowledgeable in their specialist areas: a hardware specialist has no deep knowledge of software and vice versa.

The science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke pointed out a good few years ago that there comes a point with technology when it became indistinguishable from magic for all but the initiates. The dangers of that are obvious: that which is not generally understood gives the few who do understand a great power over those who do not. That potentially awards private corporations and governments a great stick with which to beat their customers and citizens into submission, either for profit or political power.

Where the technology is as vital and central to a society as computers have become, there is the further and more fundamental risk of society reaching a state where the technology can no longer be either properly maintained or controlled.

Computers are like no other machine ever invented. They have a unique combination of an unparalleled public and private use and a central importance to economic activity and public administration. The potential penalties for the failure of these machines are vastly greater than for any other piece of technology. Not only can an immediate application of a computer be ended, as can happen with all machines, but computer users also risk losing networking capacity and, if they have not useable backed up copies of their computer data, the loss of their entire records and conceivably the loss of the means to continue their business.

Computer users are also vulnerable to outside sabotage though hacking and viruses. No other machine has ever exposed a society to such risks through its ubiquity and vulnerability to outside influences.

Computers are also vastly more demanding of time and trouble than any other machine used by the general public. Technological change has been making increasingly severe demands on human beings for around 300 years. There was change before then of course, but it was slow and most people could live their lives without having to adapt to radically new ways of living.

The Industrial Revolution changed that and arguably someone living between 1815 and 1914 saw more radical technological qualitative change than any generation before or since. But that change was the difference between living in a still largely pre-industrial society (in 1815) and an industrial society in its early middle age (in 1914). Moreover, the change did not require the vast majority of the population to master complicated machines at their work, let alone in their own homes.

In 1914 the most complicated machine most people would have had to operate was probably the telephone and vast swathes of the population would not even have had to go that far into the world of technology. Not only that, because machines then were either mechanical or part mechanical, that is, not electric, just looking at the way a machine was made often allowed the intelligent observer to have a fair guess at how it worked and to see what had gone wrong if it malfunctioned. Even work-related machines which required skilled operators, such as machine lathes, were not fundamentally difficult to understand, although the dexterity required to operate them often took time to acquire.

In general terms, things stayed much the same until the age of the personal computer, and even beyond. Machines became more and more predominant in advanced societies but they were not, in most instances, complicated to use. This was particularly true of those machines used in private life.

Telephones just required the user to dial; washing machines gave you a dial with a program on it and a start button; televisions and radios required simply needed switching on; cars were simply designed to travel. Even today, when they are increasingly packed with microprocessors and menus of function “options”, such machines are simple to use compared with a computer.

When did the computer rot set in? It is a stunningly recent phenomenon. Most people even in the West would not have used a computer before 1985. Probably a majority had not done so by 1990. By the end of the 1980s the nearest most would have got to a computer would probably have been bank ATM machines. The internet was esoteric and laborious, the web barely more than a gleam in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye. Even in the world of employment computers were still used sparingly.

As with computers, so with the other machines which cause most grief now. The mobile phone was a status symbol and the size of a brick, while landline phones were still phones boringly restricted to simply phoning rather than mini-computers with a tendency to bemuse. Microwaves had a simple choice of power. Refrigerators did not offer to remind you of what needed to be ordered. TVs tended to simply work when switched on.

In the past twenty years all this has dramatically changed. We are now in a world in which computers are absolutely integral to business and public administration and they are now the norm rather than the exception in homes. For most people, it is literally impossible to escape them. Worse, they have become ever more complex and demanding to use and invade ever more of our lives as microprocessors are inserted into the most unlikely things such as clothes. In fact, all machines are more and more demanding.

The Constant Learning Process

Personal computing began in the mid-seventies. A person starting them would have had to learn the BASIC programming language. By the early eighties they would have been using DOS. By 1990 Windows expertise was necessary. Since 1990 successive editions of Windows have varied considerably from the previous version requiring further learning.

What goes for operating systems applies also to most other programs, which when they are upgraded often bear surprisingly little resemblance to the version prior to them. Certainly, if one moves from an old program to a version which has been upgraded twice, the chances are that knowledge of the original program will be of little use in understanding the new one. In addition to this burden of learning and frustration, one added the need to familiarise oneself with the Internet and the Web.

Apart from the effort needed to constantly learn new programs and to attend to such things as installations of software and hardware, the other great drawback of computers is the amount of time which can be spent on purely maintaining and learning sufficient to use them. It is all too easy to find a day or two slip by just sorting out a single relatively simple computer problem or learning how to use a new program.

The Nature of What is to be Learned

The burden of learning is especially heavy because of the nature of that which is to be learned. This is what might be termed dead information. There is no intrinsic interest in what is to be learned. It is merely a means to an end. To operate a program all that is needed is a knowledge of the menus and function keys. That is precisely the type of information which is least palatable to the normal human mind. Hence, it is the least easy to learn for most people.

The computer is in effect forcing human beings to act like computers, something utterly alien to them. Intelligence is of little use when it comes gaining knowledge of the functionality of programs (how a person uses the program once the functionality is learned is a different matter). Computers are information-driven machines. Put the most intelligent man in the world before a computer and he will be utterly helpless if he has no computer experience. Even if the man has some computer experience, he will be as incapable of using an unfamiliar program as the dullard.

That computers are function- rather than intelligence-driven is objectively demonstrated by the fact that all of what might be called the administrative operations of a computer – file management, loading of programs et cetera – could be done by a computer program.

The Substitution of Function for Intellect

When I watch the young using computers, obvious or disguised in the shape of phones and the like, I get a feeling of deep unease. They so obediently pull down menus and select options that I wonder at the difference between them and a robot. The machine is driving the human being at least as much as the human being is driving the machine; brute machine functionality is replacing intellect.

There is only so much any human being can learn, both in terms of time and mental impetus. If increasing amounts of both are required by computers simply to operate them, where will that leave intellectual development? Worse, will the ability to operate machines become seen to be the most important activity of human beings?

The Myth of Youthful Expertise

It is true that those who have grown up with computers are more comfortable with the machines than those who came to them in adult life – the latter still comprise, incidentally, more than fifty per cent of the population. However, the idea that the young are have any deep understanding of computers is a myth.

The young know how to use the internet and the web, can work a word processor, and can use programs which really interest them such as social networking sites and games. But let their computer develop a fault which renders Windows unstable or unusable or a piece of hardware fails, and they are, in most cases, as helpless the generations which did not grow up with computers.

What the young do have which older people do not have is group knowledge. A schoolchild of today can call on the computer knowledge of their peer group and the assistance of teachers. Those a little older who are in work still have their peer group to help them if they get stuck. In addition, if they work for a large employer they can call on the expertise of the employer’s IT department or service contractors.

Computers have only been in schools since the mid-eighties. Anyone over the age of forty will not have a peer group on whom they can call for assistance with computers (and other machines) because almost all of those they know well will be of their approximate age – few people have close friendships with those who are much younger than themselves – and the people who are their age will have little computer experience or knowledge. The best they can hope for is assistance from their children if they have any, and then it is pot luck as to how computer competent those children are and how willing they are to help the parent. If an older person has no compliant computer literate children and does not work for a large employer, he or she will be utterly isolated from the knowledge needed to deal with even basic computer developments.

The True Cost of Computers

The common arguments for computers in business and public administration are that they increase efficiency by (1) reducing staff, (2) allowing faster working, including new working practices, and (3) producing information which would previously have been impossible to produce.

Despite the fact that experience has frequently shown these arguments to be invalid, they continue to be made in religious fashion by both the computer industry and the many uncomprehending executives who have bought into the computer dream without troubling themselves with even a basic understanding of the subject. (Thankfully we have at least got past the pipe dream of the paperless office.)

When computers first began to be generally used in business and public service the overwhelming majority of the people making the decisions about their introduction – businessmen, politicians and senior public servants – had absolutely no experience of computers, mainframe or otherwise. Not only did they lack experience they were terrified of anyone who did. This meant that the snake oil salesmen of the computer industry could sell them virtually anything. Things have not changed dramatically even now. That is one of the prime reasons why so many large computer systems, especially public service ones, go to Hell in a handcart. (One of the lesser known laws of C Northcote Parkinson states that the time spent on discussion of any agenda item in a committee meeting is inversely proportional to the knowledge of those present – discussion of a large computer system last five minutes because only the one expert present understands what is going on; discussion of the refreshments to be served at the meeting lasts 45 minutes).

Buying computer systems is an expensive business for any organisation. Buying a badly designed computer system is not merely expensive but potentially disastrous, because to prepare for its introduction the structure of the organisation will have been changed and the old system, manual or computer, will have been dumped. So, when the new computer system malfunctions neither can the organisation use it or revert to the previous system. The same applies, at least temporarily, when a computer system simply goes down for a limited period. Costs continue, but work ceases.

But even where the computer system is properly designed and works efficiently the costs are immense. The readily identifiable costs are frightening enough. There is the initial cost of the system (many public service systems run into billions), the cost of its maintenance, the cost of its upgrading, the cost in time and money of the initial and ongoing training of staff and the cost of the employment of new people in new supervisory posts to oversee the system.

There are also the less readily quantifiable costs. Computers generate vast amounts of data which is distributed promiscuously. This occupies time which would not otherwise be spent. Email means that substantial amounts of time are spent by employees answering or even simply deleting emails, not least because everyone is much more prone to send an email than a letter.

More generally, the structure of working within the organisation will tend to shape itself around the computer and employees will begin to develop a different sense of priorities with the computer looming largest in their mentality rather than the overall needs and ends of the organisation.

How often is any proper cost-benefit analysis done on the utility of a computer system? Very rarely, not least because once a computer system has been put in place with its concomitant staffing changes, it is a daunting and hideously expensive task to change matters. Nor will those who have made the decision to purchase a computer system willingly admit they were wrong. Not only that, but we still have the problem, which will never go away, of the people with the power within organisations knowing insufficient about computers to make any meaningful decision on the value of computers to the organisation. This ignorance also robs the powerful of the self-confidence to challenge the need for computers or the nature of systems being proposed by the “experts”.

The Problem of Long-Term Data Storage

Data storage bids fair to cause fundamental problems in both the medium and the long term. This is because the nature of the storage media, both hardware and software, is changing so rapidly.

Even in the twenty odd years of the widespread use of the personal computer, we have already had storage on hard disks, 5.25″ disks, 3.25″ disks, zip disks of various sizes, CDs, DVDs and USB memory sticks, with the saved in a wide variety of formats depending on the software used. To the problems of access to electronic data may be added the fact that fewer and fewer documents (as a percentage of the total number of documents created) are being and will be saved in hard copy form.

The implications for the future are profound. Until now, historians have been able to look at documents because they were written or printed. In the future, historians (or any other researcher) will find either no documents or ones which are inaccessible because they are only in an outdated electronic format.

There is also a standing temptation for those in positions of power and influence, especially politicians, to deliberately destroy any record of their misbehavior. This is made vastly easier if the documents are only held on computer.

The Failure of the Market

There is no better modern example of the market failing to provide what the customer both needs and wants. If it was driven by the customer, the computer industry would produce hardware and software which was easy to install, had continuity of use, was simple to use and was supported by adequate help lines and manuals. The industry signally fails to do any of these things.

Hardware and software are of course purchased in ever greater volume and computer services, including maintenance, continue to swell. But that is not an indication of computer satisfaction. Rather, it is simply a reflection of how computers have become an inescapable part of our lives, not only as obvious computers but also in the guise of so many of the other machines we use – everything from phones to intelligent clothes. Business and public administration have become so dependent on their use that they cannot do without them. That being so, whatever is on offer, however unsatisfactory, is bought out of sheer necessity. The computer companies have the modern world over a barrel.

The power deriving from the ubiquity and utility of the computer is bolstered by the fact that the computer industry is in some respects a natural monopoly. Once a single operating system (“OS”) gained dominance, the chances of any other system effectively competing were very small. This is because the weight of programs available to run under the dominant OS soon became much greater than those which could be run under any other OS. Thus, it became inefficient to choose any other OS. That, in turn, meant most of the software was written in a way to make in “friendly” to the dominant OS systems’ users. This further excluded OS competitors and the software to run under them because users, especially employers, did not want to spend the time training their employees on completely new systems.

What Needs to be Done?

In a sane world, governments would act to prevent the introduction of massive centralised networked computer systems providing vital services because of the dangers of a general failure of such systems from cyber attacks. This applies especially in public services but also to privatised business such as the water and energy companies and to private enterprise businesses such as banks. Governments should also take the lead in both costing their own computer projects honestly (see above) and encouraging large businesses and not-for-profit organisations to do the same.

As for the private user, they will be asking themselves questions such as these: why should using a computer be such a demanding and hit and miss business? Why should we tolerate a machine which is not in any meaningful sense “fit for purpose”, in the words of our current consumer protection law? Why do we allow ourselves to be fobbed off with precious little information about how to operate programs, both in terms of free instruction by the vendor and in the laughably inadequate instruction manuals, whether in hard copy or from the all too frequently risibly named “help” functions? Why do we put up with hardware and software which go out of date (and hence become unusable) in a year or three? Why do we have to pay an arm and a leg for computer training or repair? These problems could be substantially ameliorated by legislation to ensure that:

1. Windows (or any other operating system) is written so that any version of Windows will encompass every previous version of Windows. Users should be able to choose from a menu which version of Windows they use. The already vast and rapidly increasing storage capacity on computer drives means that an increase in the size of the programmes would not be impractical. The effect of this would be to reduce the need to constantly learn to use new software.

2. Windows is written to ensure that all software written to operate under Windows can operate under any version of Windows. The effect of this would be to (1) reduce the need to learn new software and (2) reduce the need to buy new software.

3. Windows is designed to accept any peripheral regardless of age.

4. Hardware is designed so that any hardware can continue to be used for as long as it works.

Are any of these four things likely to happen? Sadly, no. The problem is simple: no single country, not even the USA, could insist on such laws globally.

There is one thing the government of any advanced country can and should do: create circumstances in which those who cannot come to terms with digital technology can live in an ever more computer-controlled world. They can do this by maintaining non-computer access to state-funded organisations and forcing, through legislation, larger businesses and not-for-profit organisations to do the same. A good start would be to knock on the head the clearing banks’ proposal to stop clearing checks by 2018.

Links:

{1} http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/tax/7983495/Taxmans-new-computer-spotted-errors.html

{2} http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/7968703/Nine-million-British-adults-have-never-been-online-ONS-says.html)

See Also:

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/robotics-and-the-real-sorry-karl-you-got-it-wrong-final-crisis-of-capitalism/

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/the-geepees-a-cautionary-tale/

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/men-and-machines-which-is-master-which-is-slave/

Categories: Uncategorized

America’s Reign of Terror

A Nation Reaps What It Sows

by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute

Zero Hedge (May 16 2017)

 

 

The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.

– James Madison

 

 

Who designed the malware worm that is now wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers internationally {1} by hackers demanding a king’s ransom? The US government.

Who is the biggest black market buyer and stockpiler of cyber weapons {2} (weaponized malware that can be used to hack into computer systems, spy on citizens, and destabilize vast computer networks)? The US government.

What country has one the deadliest arsenals of weapons of mass destruction {3}? The US government.

Who is the largest weapons manufacturer and exporter {4} in the world, such that they are literally arming the world? The US government.

Which is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon in wartime {5}? The United States.

How did Saddam Hussein build Iraq’s massive arsenal {6} of tanks, planes, missiles, and chemical weapons during the 1980s? With help from the US government.

Who gave Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida “access to a fortune in covert funding and top-level combat weaponry” {7}? The US government.

What country has a pattern and practice of entrapment {8} that involves targeting vulnerable individuals, feeding them with the propaganda, know-how and weapons intended to turn them into terrorists, and then arresting them as part of an elaborately orchestrated counterterrorism sting? The US government.

Where did ISIS get many of their deadliest weapons {9}, including assault rifles and tanks to anti-missile defenses? The US government.

Which country has a history of secretly testing out dangerous weapons and technologies {10} on its own citizens? The US government.

Are you getting the picture yet?

The US government isn’t protecting us from terrorism.

The US government is creating the terror. It is, in fact, the source of the terror.

Just think about it for a minute: almost every tyranny being perpetrated against the citizenry – purportedly to keep us safe and the nation secure – has come about as a result of some threat manufactured in one way or another by our own government.

Cyberwarfare. Terrorism.

Bio-chemical attacks. The nuclear arms race.

Surveillance. The drug wars.

In almost every instance, the US government has in its typical Machiavellian fashion sown the seeds of terror domestically and internationally in order to expand its own totalitarian powers.

It’s time to wake up and stop being deceived by government propaganda.

We’re not dealing with a government that exists to serve its people, protect their liberties and ensure their happiness. Rather, these are the diabolical machinations of a make-works program carried out on an epic scale whose only purpose is to keep the powers-that-be permanently (and profitably) employed.

Case in point: For years now, the US government has been creating what one intelligence insider referred to as a cyber-army capable of offensive attacks.

As Reuters reported back in 2013:

 

 

Even as the US government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers. The strategy is spurring concern in the technology industry and intelligence community that Washington is in effect encouraging hacking and failing to disclose to software companies and customers the vulnerabilities exploited by the purchased hacks. That’s because US intelligence and military agencies aren’t buying the tools primarily to fend off attacks. Rather, they are using the tools to infiltrate computer networks overseas, leaving behind spy programs and cyber-weapons that can disrupt data or damage systems.

 

 

As part of this cyberweapons programs, government agencies such as the NSA have been stockpiling all kinds of nasty malware, viruses and hacking tools that can “steal financial account passwords, turn an iPhone into a listening device, or, in the case of Stuxnet, sabotage a nuclear facility” {11}.

And now we learn that the NSA is responsible for the latest threat {1} posed by the “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor” malware worm which – as a result of hackers accessing the government’s arsenal – has hijacked more than 57,000 computers and crippled health care, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities in more than seventy countries already.

All the while the government was repeatedly warned about the dangers of using criminal tactics to wage its own cyberwars.

It was warned about the consequences of blowback should its cyber weapons get into the wrong hands.

The government chose to ignore the warnings.

That’s exactly how the 9/11 attacks unfolded.

First, the government helped to create the menace that was al-Qaida and then, when bin Laden had left the nation reeling in shock (despite countless warnings that fell on tone-deaf ears {12}), it demanded – and was given – immense new powers in the form of the USA Patriot Act in order to fight the very danger it had created.

This has become the shadow government’s modus operandi regardless of which party controls the White House: the government creates a menace – knowing full well the ramifications such a danger might pose to the public – then without ever owning up to the part it played in unleashing that particular menace on an unsuspecting populace, it demands additional powers in order to protect “we the people” from the threat.

Yet the powers-that-be don’t really want us to feel safe.

They want us cowering and afraid and willing to relinquish every last one of our freedoms in exchange for their phantom promises of security.

As a result, it’s the American people who pay the price for the government’s insatiable greed and quest for power.

We’re the ones to suffer the blowback.

 

 

Blowback: A term originating from within the American Intelligence community, denoting the unintended consequences, unwanted side-effects, or suffered repercussions of a covert operation that fall back on those responsible for the aforementioned operations.

 

 

As historian Chalmers Johnson explains, “blowback is another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows” {13}.

Unfortunately, “we the people” are the ones who keep reaping what the government sows.

We’re the ones who suffer every time, directly and indirectly, from the blowback.

We’re made to pay trillions of dollars in blood money to a military industrial complex that kills without conscience. We’ve been saddled with a crumbling infrastructure, impoverished cities and a faltering economy while our tax dollars are squandered on lavish military installations and used to prop up foreign economies. We’ve been stripped of our freedoms. We’re treated like suspects and enemy combatants. We’re spied on by government agents: our communications read, our movements tracked, our faces mapped, our biometrics entered into a government database. We’re terrorized by militarized police who roam our communities and SWAT teams that break into our homes. We’re subjected to invasive patdowns in airports, roadside strip searches and cavity probes, forced blood draws.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

We can persuade ourselves that life is still good, that America is still beautiful, and that “we the people” are still free.

However, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People {14}, the moment you tune out the carefully constructed distractions – the year-round sports entertainment, the political theatrics, the military’s war cries, the president’s chest-thumping, and the techno-gadgets and social media that keep us oblivious to what’s really going on in the world around us – you quickly find that the only credible threat to our safety and national security is, in fact, the government itself.

As science fiction writer Philip K Dick warned,

 

 

Don’t believe what you see; it’s an enthralling – [and] destructive, evil snare. Under it is a totally different world, even placed differently along the linear axis.

 

 

In other words, all is not as it seems.

The powers-that-be are not acting in our best interests.

“We the people” are not free.

The government is not our friend.

And America will never be safe or secure as long as our government continues to pillage and plunder and bomb and bulldoze and kill and create instability and fund insurgencies and police the globe.

So what can we do to stop the blowback, liberate the country from the iron-clad grip of the military-industrial complex, and get back to a point where freedom actually means something?

For starters, get your priorities in order. As long as Americans are more inclined to be offended over the fate of a Confederate statue {15} rather than the government’s blatant disregard for the Constitution and human rights, then the status quo will remain.

Stop playing politics with your principles. As long as Americans persist in thinking like Republicans and Democrats – refusing to recognize that every administration in recent years has embraced and advanced the government’s authoritarian tactics – then the status quo will remain.

Value all human life as worthy of protection. As long as Americans, including those who claim to value the sanctity of human life, not only turn a blind eye to the government’s indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians but champion them, then the status quo will remain.

Recognize that in the eyes of the government, we’re all expendable. As long as we allow the government to play this dangerous game in which “we the people” are little more than pawns to be used, abused, easily manipulated and just as easily discarded – whether it’s under the guise of national security, the war on terror, the war on drugs, or any other manufactured bogeyman it can dream up – then the status quo will remain.

Demand that the government stop creating, stockpiling and deploying weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, biological, cyber, et cetera. As long as the government continues to use our tax dollars to create, stockpile and deploy weapons of mass destruction – whether those weapons are meant to kill, maim or disable (as in the case of the WannaCry computer virus) – we will be vulnerable to anyone who attempts to use those weapons against us and the status quo will remain.

Finally, stop supporting the war machine and, as Chalmers Johnson suggests, “bring our rampant militarism under control” {16}:

 

 

From George Washington’s “farewell address” to Dwight Eisenhower’s invention of the phrase “military-industrial complex”, American leaders have warned about the dangers of a bloated, permanent, expensive military establishment that has lost its relationship to the country because service in it is no longer an obligation of citizenship. Our military operates the biggest arms sales operation on earth; it rapes girls, women and schoolchildren in Okinawa; it cuts ski-lift cables in Italy, killing twenty vacationers, and dismisses what its insubordinate pilots have done as a “training accident”; it allows its nuclear attack submarines to be used for joy rides for wealthy civilian supporters and then covers up the negligence that caused the sinking of a Japanese high school training ship; it propagandizes the nation with Hollywood films glorifying military service (Pearl Harbor); and it manipulates the political process to get more carrier task forces, antimissile missiles, nuclear weapons, stealth bombers and other expensive gadgets for which we have no conceivable use. Two of the most influential federal institutions are not in Washington but on the south side of the Potomac River – the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. Given their influence today, one must conclude that the government outlined in the Constitution of 1787 no longer bears much relationship to the government that actually rules from Washington. Until that is corrected, we should probably stop talking about “democracy” and “human rights”. {16}

 

 

Links:

{1} https://theintercept.com/2017/05/12/the-nsas-lost-digital-weapon-is-helping-hijack-computers-around-the-world/

{2} https://www.theverge.com/2013/5/10/4319278/us-government-hacking-threatens-cybersecurity-former-officials-say

{3} http://theweek.com/articles/460030/americas-weapons-mass-destruction-by-numbers

{4} http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/tomdispatch-dc-congress-defense-international-arms-business

{5} http://www.icanw.org/the-facts/the-nuclear-age/

{6} http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/longroad/etc/arming.html

{7} http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3340101/t/bin-laden-comes-home-roost/#.WRntIFUrK70

{8} https://theintercept.com/2015/03/16/howthefbicreatedaterrorist/

{9} http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/08/politics/amnesty-international-isis-weapons-u-s-/

{10} http://www.businessinsider.com/military-government-secret-experiments-biological-chemical-weapons-2016-9

{11} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyberweapons-specialreport-idUSBRE9490EL20130510

{12} http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/opinion/the-bush-white-house-was-deaf-to-9-11-warnings.html

{13} http://www.ditext.com/johnson-c/blowback.html

{14} https://www.amazon.com/Battlefield-America-War-American-People/dp/1590793099

{15} https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/14/us/confederate-statue-protests-virginia.html

{16} https://www.thenation.com/article/blowback/

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/americas_bloody_reign_of_terror_a_nation_reaps_what_it_sows

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-05-16/americas-reign-terror-nation-reaps-what-it-sows

Categories: Uncategorized

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble for Trump

by Eric Margolis

https://ericmargolis.com (May 20 2017)

 

 

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

– The witches in Macbeth

 

President Trump’s administration is now at a high boil as he faces intense heat from all sides. The Republican Party has backed away from their embattled president. US intelligence agencies are baying for his blood. The US media plays the role of the witches in “Macbeth” as it plots against Trump.

One increasingly hears whispers about impeachment or the wonderful 1964 film about a military coup in Washington, “Seven Days in May”.

As in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Trump stands almost alone on a blasted heath, howling that he has been betrayed. The world watches on in dismay and shock.

One thing is clear: the US presidency has become too powerful when far-fetched talk of possibly Russian involvement in Trump’s campaign could send world financial markets into a crash dive. And when Trump’s ill informed, off the cuff remarks can endanger the fragile global balance of power.

Trump has made this huge mess and must now live with it. Yes, he is being treated unfairly by appointment of a special prosecutor when the titanic sleaze of the Clintons was never investigated. But that’s what happens when you are widely detested. No mercy for Trump, a man without any mercy for others.

Trump is not a Manchurian candidate put into office by Moscow though his bungling aides and iffy financial deals often made it appear so. His choice of the fanatical Islamophobe General Michael Flynn was an awful blunder. Flynn was revealed to have taken money from Turkey to alter US Mideast policy. Who else paid off Flynn? Disgraceful.

But what about all the politicians and officials who took and take money from the Saudis and Gulf emirates, or Sheldon Adelson, the ardent advocate of Greater Israel? What about political payoffs to the flat-earth Republicans who now act as Israel’s amen chorus in Washington?

The growing scandals that are engulfing Trump’s presidency seem likely to delay if not defeat the president’s laudatory proposals to lower taxes, prune the bureaucracy, clean up intelligence, end America’s foreign wars, and impose some sort of peace in the Mideast.

By recklessly proposing these reforms at the same time, Trump earned the hatred of the media, federal government, all intelligence agencies, and the Israel lobby, not to mention ecologists, free-thinkers, cultured people, academia and just about everyone else who does not raise cotton or abuse animals for a living.

No wonder Trump stands almost alone, like Rome’s Horatio at the Bridge. One increasingly hears in Washington “what Trump needs is a little war”.

That would quickly wrong-foot his critics and force the neocon media – Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CNN – to back him. We already saw this happen when Trump fired salvos of cruise missiles at Syria. It would also provide welcome distraction from the investigations of Trump that are beginning.

Trump has appeared to be pawing the ground in a desire to attack naughty North Korea or Syria, and maybe even Yemen, Somalia or Sudan. A war against any of these small nations would allow the president to don military gear and beat his chest – as did the dunce George W Bush. Bomb the usual Arabs!

The Pentagon wants 50,000 more troops for Afghanistan. US warplanes are buzzing angry North Korea. In Syria, the US and Russia are a falafel’s length from open clashes. Now is the time for extreme caution, but an enraged President Trump, who avoided military service in his youth, is ready to lash out.

For Trump, next week’s visit to the Mideast should prove a welcome respite after the madness of Washington. But isolated and besieged as Trump is, he may have to depend more on support from Israel and its American partisans rather than forcing a Mideast peace settlement. Israel insists there be no change to the status quo that leaves Palestine an open air prison.

America has not so far become great again.

Copyright Eric S Margolis 2017

https://ericmargolis.com/2017/05/fire-burn-and-cauldron-bubble-for-trump/

Categories: Uncategorized

The Assault on Trump

by Paul Craig Roberts

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org (May 18 2017)

 

We are witnessing an assault by the national security state and its liberal media on a President of the United States that is unprecedented.

Wild and unsupported accusations of treasonous or illegal Russian connections have been the mainstay of the news since Trump’s campaign for president. These accusations have reached the point that there is an impeachment movement driven by the national security state and its liberal media and endorsed by Democrats, the American left wing which has turned against the working class as “Trump deplorables”, and luminaries such as Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe. The Washington Post, which was not present at the meeting of President Trump with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, purports to know that Trump gave Lavrov US national security information.

The Russian government has offered the presstitute media a transcript of the meeting, but, of course, the presstitutes are not interested.

The latest story is that Trump tried to bribe FBI Director Comey, before he fired him, not to investigate Trump as part of the “Russian investigation”. Clearly, there is no intelligence left in the American media. The President doesn’t need to bribe someone he can fire.

What we are witnessing is the determination of the national security state to keep their prized “Russian Threat” in its assigned role as the Number One Threat to the US. The liberal media, owned by the CIA since the 1950s is in accord with this goal.

The American media is so accustomed to its enslavement by the national security state that it does not think of the consequences. But Professor Stephen Cohen does. I agree with him that the greatest threat to national security “is this assault on President Trump”: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/47076.htm

Cohen said that there is a fourth branch of government, the intelligence community, which obstructs the management of American foreign affairs by the executive branch and Congress.

As an example, he reminded us that:

 

 

In 2016, President Obama worked out a deal with Russian President Putin for military cooperation in Syria. He said he was going to share intelligence with Russia, just like Trump and the Russians were supposed to do the other day. Our department of defense said it wouldn’t share intelligence. And a few days later, they killed Syrian soldiers, violating the agreement, and that was the end of that. So, we can ask, who is making our foreign policy in Washington today?

 

 

In the 1960s, President John F Kennedy thought he was in charge, and he was assassinated for his belief. JFK blocked an invasion of Cuba, the Northwoods project, a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, and spoke of ending the Cold War.

In the 1970s President Nixon was driven from office because he thought he was in charge of foreign policy. Like Kennedy, Nixon was a threat to the national security state. Nixon pushed through SALT 1 and the anti-ABM Treaty, and he opened to China, defusing those tensions as well. The military/security complex saw its budget dwindling as the threat dwindled. Nixon also determined to withdraw from Vietnam, but was constrained by the national security state. Nixon, the most knowledgeable president about foreign affairs, was forced from office because his efforts in behalf of peace constituted a threat to the power and profit of the military/security complex.

It is important to understand that there is no evidence whatsoever against Nixon in The Washington Post “investigation”. The Post’s reporters simply put together a collection of innuendoes that cast aspersion on Nixon, whose “crime” was to say that he learned of the Watergate burglary at a later date than he actually did. Nixon kept the burglary quiet until after his reelection because he knew that the CIA’s Washington Post would use it in an effort to prevent his reelection.

The “crime” for which Nixon was really removed was his success in establishing more peaceful and stable relations with Russia and China.

Trump, being in real estate and entertainment, was unaware of the landmines on which he was stepping when he said it was time to normalize relations with Russia and to rethink the purpose of Nato.

The US military/security complex sits on a budget extracted from very hard-pressed American taxpayers of $1,000 billion dollars annually. By threatening to normalize relations with the enemy which was created in order to justify this vast budget, Trump presented the major threat to the American National Security State’s power and profit.

This is why Trump will be broken and/or removed as President of the United States.

Once again democracy in American is proving to be powerless. There is no one in Washington who can help Trump. Those who could help him, such as myself, cannot be confirmed by the US Senate, which is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the military/security complex, Wall Street, and the Israel Lobby.

Trump tried to connect the suffering American people to their government, an act of treason against the oligarchy, who are making an example of Trump that will dissuade politicians in the future from making populist appeals to the people.

Copyright (c) 2016 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/05/18/the-assault-on-trump/

Categories: Uncategorized

Technology is the Master of Modern Slavery

by Tom Chtham

Project Chesapeake (May 13 2017)

Zero Hedge (May 19 2017)

The recent cyber attack on computers worldwide is just the latest wake-up call to the future we are blindly building for ourselves. The vast majority of humanity embraces technology like it is their next breath of air. Without it, they feel like they will die.

Technology is a double-edged sword that we wield that must be handled with care, less we cut off one of our own limbs. Technology allows us to be more productive and work faster than without it but as we embrace more technology to relieve us of many manual tasks we must not let it rule our very existence.

Technology must be used as a lever, not a crutch. When we give up our ability to function in daily life and allow technology to rule our every move, we ultimately give up our freedom. To allow technology to dictate what we can do and when we can do it is to reduce ourselves to nothing more than compliant slaves to it.

When a hospital cannot perform operations or even see patients because their computers are down or we cannot communicate or travel because of computer hacking, we have allowed technology to become a crutch that prevents us from falling on our faces in its absence. When we cannot buy food or fuel or depend on electrical power for basic needs we have become too dependent on the technology we invented to assist us.

The use of technology is a good thing that allows us to move forward and build things we never dreamed of before but when it becomes a weakness, we need to reexamine our use of it. If we become so dependant on technology that we cannot function without it, we are preparing ourselves for a doomsday scenario when it eventually fails and we are helpless to care for ourselves.

It is only logical to have backup systems to utilize in the event our technology fails for some reason. This is the whole reason we have people to warn us before hand such as the EMP Commission to tell us we are in danger if certain events happen. Technology provides us with many good things but it also leaves us susceptible to many bad things as well if we ignore our responsibility to use it wisely and not become too dependent on it.

Many people today can actually have withdrawal symptoms if they lose access to their technology for any length of time. This should be an alarm to society but most just brush it off as fear mongering. When the loss of technology causes a business to completely stop operations, that should be an indication they do not have sufficient backup systems to fall back on.

One of the prime tenants of the prepper movement is that they have multiple backup systems to rely on if technology stops working. This is just a logical step taken by people that have taken the time to analyze the threats posed by the loss our technology and determine action is warranted for the preservation of life following certain events. The less technology you require to take care of daily activities, the more freedom you have to live a normal life.

Most people still do not take the threat of technological disruptions to society seriously. They think that if something happens, someone will fix it and life will go on as normal. What they refuse to contemplate is if something happens and nobody can fix it. As society moves along this technological road they become more dependent on it and the risk to their lives increases as they lose the ability to do basic tasks. Hopefully, this latest cyber attack will instill in people the need to have backup systems in place to continue their daily activities and live life as a free person and not be a slave to the technology they so eagerly seek.

https://projectchesapeake.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/technology-is-the-master-of-modern-slavery/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-05-19/technology-master-modern-slavery

Categories: Uncategorized

Seth Rich, Craig Murray and …

… the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (May 19 2017)


Photo by Obama-Biden Transition | CC BY 2.0

Why is it a “conspiracy theory” to think that a disgruntled Democratic National Committee staffer gave WikiLeaks the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) emails, but not a conspiracy theory to think the emails were provided by Russia?

Why?

Which is the more likely scenario: That a frustrated employee leaked damaging emails to embarrass his bosses or a that foreign government hacked DNC computers for some still-unknown reason?

That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

Former-DNC employee, Seth Rich, not only had access to the emails, but also a motive. He was pissed about the way the Clinton crowd was “sandbagging” Bernie Sanders. In contrast, there’s neither evidence nor motive connecting Russia to the emails. On top of that, WikiLeaks founder, Julien Assange (a man of impeccable integrity) has repeatedly denied that Russia gave him the emails which suggests the government investigation is completely misdirected. The logical course of action, would be to pursue the leads that are most likely to bear fruit, not those that originate from one’s own political bias. But, of course, logic has nothing to do with the current investigation, it’s all about politics and geopolitics.

We don’t know who killed Seth Rich and we’re not going to speculate on the matter here. But we find it very strange that neither the media nor the FBI have pursued leads in the case that challenge the prevailing narrative on the Russia hacking issue. Why is that? Why is the media so eager to blame Russia when Rich looks like the much more probable suspect?

And why have the mainstream news organizations put so much energy into discrediting the latest Fox News report, when – for the last ten months – they’ve showed absolutely zero interest in Rich’s death at all?

According to Fox News:

 

 

The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, DC street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of DNC staffer Seth Rich’s computer generated within 96 hours after his murder, said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time …

Rod Wheeler, a retired Washington homicide detective and Fox News contributor investigating the case on behalf of the Rich family, made the WikiLeaks claim, which was corroborated by a federal investigator who spoke to Fox News …

“I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks”, the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department. {1}

Okay, so where’s the computer? Who’s got Rich’s computer? Let’s do the forensic work and get on with it.

But The Washington Post and the other bogus news organizations aren’t interested in such matters because it doesn’t fit with their political agenda. They’d rather take pot-shots at Fox for running an article that doesn’t square with their goofy Russia hacking story. This is a statement on the abysmal condition of journalism today. Headline news has become the province of perception mandarins who use the venue to shape information to their own malign specifications, and any facts that conflict with their dubious storyline, are savagely attacked and discredited. Journalists are no longer investigators that keep the public informed, but paid assassins who liquidate views that veer from the party-line.

WikiLeaks never divulges the names of the people who provide them with information. Even so, Assange has not only shown an active interest in the Seth Rich case, but also offered a $20,000 reward for anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of Rich’s murder. Why? And why did he post a link to the Fox News article on his Twitter account on Tuesday?

I don’t know, but if I worked for the FBI or The Washington Post, I’d sure as hell be beating the bushes to find out. And not just because it might help in Rich’s murder investigation, but also, because it could shed light on the Russia fiasco which is being used to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings. So any information that challenges the government version of events, could actually change the course of history.

Have you ever heard of Craig Murray?

Murray should be the government’s star witness in the DNC hacking scandal, instead, no one even knows who he is. But if we trust what Murray has to say, then we can see that the Russia hacking story is baloney. The emails were “leaked” by insiders not “hacked” by a foreign government. Here’s the scoop from Robert Parry at Consortium News:

 

 

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, has suggested that the DNC leak came from a “disgruntled” Democrat upset with the DNC’s sandbagging of the Sanders campaign and that the Podesta leak came from the US intelligence community … He (Murray) appears to have undertaken a mission for WikiLeaks to contact one of the sources (or a representative) during a September 25 visit to Washington where he says he met with a person in a wooded area of American University …

Though Murray has declined to say exactly what the meeting in the woods was about, he may have been passing along messages about ways to protect the source from possible retaliation, maybe even an extraction plan if the source was in some legal or physical danger … Murray also suggested that the DNC leak and the Podesta leak came from two different sources, neither of them the Russian government.

“The Podesta emails and the DNC emails are, of course, two separate things and we shouldn’t conclude that they both have the same source”, Murray said. “In both cases we’re talking of a leak, not a hack, in that the person who was responsible for getting that information out had legal access to that information …

Scott Horton then asked, “Is it fair to say that you’re saying that the Podesta leak came from inside the intelligence services, NSA [the electronic spying National Security Agency] or another agency?”

“I think what I said was certainly compatible with that kind of interpretation, yeah”, Murray responded. “In both cases they are leaks by Americans”. {2}

With all the hullabaloo surrounding the Russia hacking case, you’d think that Murray’s eyewitness account would be headline news, but not in Homeland Amerika where the truth is kept as far from the front page as humanly possible.

Bottom line: The government has a reliable witness (Murray) who can positively identify the person who hacked the DNC emails and, so far, they’ve showed no interest in his testimony at all. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit weird?

Did you know that after a ten-month-long investigation, there’s still no hard evidence that Russia hacked the 2016 elections? In fact, when the Intelligence agencies were pressed on the matter, they promised to release a report that would provide iron-clad proof of Russian meddling. On January 6 2017, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, released that report. It was called The Intelligence Community Assessment (“ICA”). Unfortunately, the report fell far-short of the public’s expectations. Instead of a smoking gun, Clapper produced a tedious 25-page compilation of speculation, hearsay, innuendo and gobbledygook. Here’s how veteran journalist Robert Parry summed it up:

 

 

The report contained no direct evidence that Russia delivered hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta to WikiLeaks … The DNI report … as presented, is one-sided and lacks any actual proof. Further, the continued use of the word “assesses” … suggests that the underlying classified information also may be less than conclusive because, in intelligence-world-speak, “assesses” often means “guesses”. {3}

Repeat: “the report contained no direct evidence”, no “actual proof”, and a heckuva a lot of “guessing”. That’s some “smoking gun”, eh?

If this “thin gruel” sounds like insufficient grounds for removing a sitting president and his administration, that’s because it is. But the situation is even worse than it looks, mainly because the information in the assessment is not reliable. The ICA was corrupted by higher-ups in the Intelligence food-chain who selected particular analysts who could be trusted to produce a document that served their broader political agenda. Think I’m kidding? Take a look at this excerpt from an article at Fox News:

 

 

On January 6 2017, the US Intelligence Community issued an Intelligence Community Assessment (“ICA”) that found Russia deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump’s candidacy … (but) there are compelling reasons to believe this ICA was actually a politicized analysis that violated normal rules for crafting intelligence assessments … to ensure this one reached the bottom line conclusion that the Obama administration was looking for …

… Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained in his testimony that two dozen or so “seasoned experts” were “handpicked” from the contributing agencies and drafted the ICA “under the aegis of his former office” … While Clapper claimed these analysts were given “complete independence” to reach their findings, he added that their conclusions “were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me”.

This process drastically differed from the Intelligence Community’s normal procedures. Hand-picking a handful of analysts from just three intelligence agencies to write such a controversial assessment went against standing rules to vet such analyses throughout the Intelligence Community within its existing structure. The idea of using hand-picked intelligence analysts selected through some unknown process to write an assessment on such a politically sensitive topic carries a strong stench of politicization …

A major problem with this process is that it gave John Brennan, CIA’s hyper-partisan former director, enormous influence over the drafting of the ICA. Given Brennan’s scathing criticism of Mr Trump before and after the election, he should have had no role whatsoever in the drafting of this assessment. Instead, Brennan probably selected the CIA analysts who worked on the ICA and reviewed and approved their conclusions …

The unusual way that the January 6 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment was drafted raises major questions as to whether it was rigged by the Obama administration to produce conclusions that would discredit the election outcome and Mr Trump’s presidency. {4}

Repeat: “A politicized analysis that violated normal rules for crafting intelligence assessments”. That says it all, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a minute and review the main points in the article:

1. Was the Intelligence Community Assessment the summary work of all seventeen US Intelligence Agencies?

No, it was not. “In his May 8 testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Clapper confirmed … (that) the ICA reflected the views of only three intelligence agencies – CIA, NSA and FBI – not all seventeen”.

2. Did any of the analysts challenge the findings in the ICA?

No, the document failed to acknowledge any dissenting views, which suggests that the analysts were screened in order to create consensus.

3. Were particular analysts chosen to produce the ICA?

Yes, they were “handpicked from the contributing agencies” and drafted the ICA “under the aegis of his former office” (the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.)

4. Was their collaborative work released to the public in its original form?

No, their conclusions “were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me” (Clapper). This of course suggests that the document was political in nature and crafted to deliver a particular message.

5. Were Clapper’s methods “normal” by Intelligence agency standards?

Definitely not. “This process drastically differed from the Intelligence Community’s normal procedures”.

6. Are Clapper and Brennan partisans who have expressed their opposition to Trump many times in the past calling into question their ability to be objective in executing their duties as heads of their respective agencies?

Absolutely. Check out this clip from Monday’s ArkansasOnline:

 

 

“I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally – and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system”, said James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. “I think as well our institutions are under assault internally”.

When he was asked, “Internally, from the president?” Clapper said, “Exactly”. {5}

 

 

Brennan has made numerous similar statements. (Note: It is particularly jarring that Clapper – who oversaw the implementation of the modern surveillance police state – feels free to talk about “the assault on our institutions”)

7. Does the ICA prove that anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with Russia or that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections?

No, it doesn’t. What it shows is that – even while Clapper and Brennan may have been trying to produce an assessment that would “kill two birds with one stone” (incriminate Russia and smear Trump at the same time), the ICA achieved neither. So far, there’s no proof of anything. Now take a look at this list I found in an article at The American Thinker:

 

 

Twelve prominent public statements by those on both sides of the aisle who reviewed the evidence or been briefed on it confirmed there was no evidence of Russia trying to help Trump in the election or colluding with him:

The New York Times (Nov 1, 2016);
House Speaker Paul Ryan (Feb, 26, 2017);
Former DNI James Clapper , March 5, 2017);
Devin Nunes Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017);
James Comey, March 20, 2017;
Rep. Chris Stewart, House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017;
Rep. Adam Schiff, House Intelligence committee, April 2, 2017);
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee, May 3, 2017);
Sen. Joe Manchin Senate Intelligence Committee, May 8, 2017;
James Clapper (again) (May 8, 2017);
Rep. Maxine Waters, May 9, 2017);
President Donald Trump,(May 9, 2017).
Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, indicated that his briefing confirmed Dianne Feinstein’s view that the President was not under investigation for colluding with the Russians. {6}

Keep in mind, this is a list of the people who actually “reviewed the evidence”, and even they are not convinced. It just goes to show that the media blitz is not based on any compelling proof, but on the determination of behind-the-scenes elites who want to destroy their political rivals. Isn’t that what’s really going on?

How does former FBI Director James Comey fit into all this?

First of all, we need to set the record straight on Comey so readers don’t get the impression that he’s the devoted civil servant and all-around stand-up guy he’s made out to be in the media. Here’s a short clip from an article by Human Rights First that will help to put things into perspective:

 

 

Five former FBI agents … raised concerns about his (Comey’s) support for a legal memorandum justifying torture and his defense of holding an American citizen indefinitely without charge. They note that Comey concurred with a May 10 2005, Office of Legal Counsel opinion that authorized torture. While the agents credited Comey for opposing torture tactics in combination and on policy grounds, they note that Comey still approved the legal basis for use of specific torture tactics.

“These techniques include cramped confinement, wall-standing, water dousing, extended sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, all of which constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in contravention of domestic and international law”, the letter states.

Those signing the letter to the committee also objected to Comey’s defense of detaining Americans without charge or trial and observed, “Further, Mr Comey vigorously defended the Bush administration’s decision to hold Jose Padilla, a United States citizen apprehended on US soil, indefinitely without charge or trial for years in a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina.” {7}

Get the picture?

Comey is a vicious political opportunist who doesn’t mind breaking a few legs if it’ll advance his career plans. I wouldn’t trust the man as far as I could throw him. Which isn’t far.

American Thinker’s Clarice Feldman explains why Comey launched his counter-intel investigation in July 2016 but failed to notify Congress until March 2017, a full eight months later. Here’s what she said:

 

 

There is only one reasonable explanation for FBI Director James Comey to be launching a counter-intel investigation in July 2016, notifying the White House and Clapper, and keeping it under wraps from congress. Comey was a participant in the intelligence gathering for political purposes – wittingly, or unwittingly. {8}

 

 

Are we suggesting that the heads of the so called Intelligence Community are at war with the Trump Administration and paving the way for impeachment proceedings?

Yep, we sure are. The Russia hacking fiasco is a regime change operation no different than the CIA’s fifty-or-so other oustings in the last seventy years. The only difference is that this operation is on the home field which is why everyone is so flustered. These things are only suppose to happen in those “other” countries.

Does this analysis make me a Donald Trump supporter?

Never. The idea is ridiculous. Trump might be the worst US president of all time, in fact, he probably is. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other nefarious forces at work behind the smokescreen of democratic government. There are. In fact, this whole flap suggests that there’s an alternate power-structure that operates completely off the public’s radar and has the elected-government in its death-grip. This largely invisible group of elites controls the likes of Brennan, Clapper and Comey. And, apparently, they have enough influence to challenge and maybe even remove an elected president from office. (We’ll see.)

And what’s more surprising, is that the Democrats have aligned themselves with these deep state puppetmasters. They’ve cast their lot with the sinister stewards of the national security state and hopped on the impeachment bandwagon. But is that a wise choice for the Dems?

Author Michael J Glennon doesn’t think so. Here’s what he says in the May edition of Harper’s Magazine:

 

 

Those who would counter the illiberalism of Trump with the illiberalism of unfettered bureaucrats would do well to contemplate the precedent their victory would set …

American history is not silent about the proclivities of unchecked security forces, a short list of which includes the Palmer Raids, the FBI’s blackmailing of civil rights leaders, Army surveillance of the antiwar movement, the NSA’s watch lists, and the CIA’s waterboarding … Who would trust the authors of past episodes of repression as a reliable safeguard against future repression? {9}

 

 

“Who?”

The Democrats, that’s who.

Links:

{1} http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/16/slain-dnc-staffer-had-contact-with-wikileaks-investigator-says.html

{2} https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/18/a-spy-coup-in-america

{3} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/07/us-report-still-lacks-proof-on-russia-hack/

{4} http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/05/12/more-indications-intel-assessment-russian-interference-in-election-was-rigged.html

{5} http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/may/15/clapper-calls-trump-democracy-assailant/

{6} http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/05/russian_hacking_and_collusion_put_the_cards_on_the_table_.html

{7} http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/fbi-agents-urge-senate-judiciary-committee-question-comey-torture-indefinite-detention

{8} http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/05/russian_hacking_and_collusion_put_the_cards_on_the_table_.html

{9} https://harpers.org/archive/2017/06/security-breach/3/
http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/19/seth-rich-craig-murray-and-the-sinister-stewards-of-the-national-security-state/

Categories: Uncategorized

The Decline of the West Revisited

by Pepe Escobar

CounterPunch (May 12 2017)

Europa, in Greek mythology, was a Phoenician princess abducted by Zeus and carried off to Crete. In time, Europe was meant to designate the western extreme of Eurasia. Europe, essentially, was the quite provincial Western seed that then sprouted an octopus: the global West.

Over five centuries after the Age of Discovery, we all know a long historical cycle is ending. The Decline of the West is shorthand for a tangle of immense complexity – directly proportional to the ascent of the century of Eurasia integration, driven by China’s New Silk Roads.

Every time I dig deeper into the Decline of the West, I have to go back to the roots. And that means – echoes of Stendhal, Keats, Nietzsche – a Journey to Italy. I had recently engaged in an extended dialogue with Machiavelli in Florence {1}. This time, the French presidential election was looming – widely billed as the “civilized” West facing a crucial crossroads.

I set out after reading Decadence, by the explosive philosopher and founder of the Popular University of Caen, Michel Onfray. His thesis is devastating; Judeo-Christian civilization, thus the West, was built on a fiction, “that of a Jesus never having an existence other than allegorical, metaphorical, symbolic and mythological”. Over a thousand years of art history had conferred him “the body of a white man, with blond hair and a thin beard” (where better to examine it than through Renaissance art?). And “nothing that constitutes this emblematic portrait, finds justification in a single verse of the New Testament”.

Thus, Onfray writes, “our whole civilization is based on the attempt to give a body to this being that had only a conceptual existence”. Jesus of Nazareth, “who did not exist historically”, becomes the “Christ Pantocrator” (meaning, in Greek, “ruler of all”), “crystallizing under his name almost two thousand years of a Western history saturated by him”.

Saint Paul Laughed out of the Agora

So here was the road map for the journey: Christianity as the official history of the West – in an almost perpetual clash with ancient Greek philosophy. And then once more to retrace the steps of how humanism – and the Enlightenment – briefly lifted the human spirit until the slaughterhouse of the twentieth century led the way to the current, end of ideology, Age of Anger {3}.

I started in Turin over dinner with the great Gianni Vattimo {4}, one of the last, towering European intellectuals. Frail but still sharp, Vattimo is like a living embodiment of a dying world. I paid my ritual homage to Nietzsche (“there are no facts, only interpretations”), a fierce admirer of the pre-Socratics, at the house where he wrote Ecce Homo before succumbing to folly. In Milan, I saw the Silk Road in reverse at Porta Nuova as the city increasingly reinforces its myriad links with China.

As I moved south towards Florence, I could not stop thinking – in a Nietzschean mode – about Saint Paul, among his countless pilgrimages to Ephesus, Antioch, Corinth, Pergamon, Tyr, meeting Pythagoreans, Platonists, Epicureans, Stoics, Cynics in agoras where they taught their art de vivre according to reason, always mingling with the local merchants, weavers, fishermen.

Paul hated philosophers. The New Testament refers to Paul at the agora in Athens, which once harbored the prized dialogues between Socrates and Plato, Plato and Aristotle, and many a Neoplatonist debate. Paul was horrified by this city full of “idols”. He was preaching the “resurrection of the flesh”, the abolition of paganism and a multiplicity of tolerant gods, replaced by a one and only, intolerant God. Talk about delirium; that could not but send partisans of Zeno or Epicurus into roars of laughter.

Then there was Helen, mother of emperor Constantine, turning the Cross into a major political business. Helen invented not only the pilgrimage to the Holy Land but also the Crusades – that extended historical instance of Christian jihad.

Constantine, a cynical, opportunist strategist, understood that to halt the political fragmentation of the Roman Empire and domesticate popular anger the best way was to adopt a minor, quirky Jewish sect whereby the poor must remain poor (it’s God’s will) and power exists because God conferred it to those who possess it (parallels to American exceptionalism, anyone?)

When in May 22 337 Constantine converts himself to Christianity, he converts the whole empire; he kills Rome as the center of the world (we should not forget that Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire, was a devout disciple of pagan Apollo); he creates Judeo-Christian civilization; and he opens the way to what will become the West.

Onfray synthesizes it; Rome lived for eleven centuries. But then “the She-wolf was eaten by the Lamb”; that was “the inaugural feast of our Judeo-Christian civilization”.

Epicurus Does Tuscany

Cynics – and Epicureans – privilege other modes of feasting. By then I had reached Tuscany, armed with a pocket edition of the Letters of Epicurus. Ahead was the sublime countryside in Val d’Orcia, worthy of a Renaissance masterpiece; Bacchus springing up from the perfect bottle of Brunello at the fortress in Montalcino; the simple magic of water and flour savored in a pici from Siena.

And as a sideshow, in a revised pagan Rome register, I was catching up with remembrances of La Dolce Vita. How Luchino Visconti ruled Cine Citta. How Antonioni pictured the eclipse of sentiment by transposing his life with Monica Vitti to the screen. How Fellini was arrested by the New York Police Department in the black Cadillac of his producer Dino de Laurentiis just to be honored by the cops as a living God.

Epicurus teaches in his Letters a radical antinomy to Christianity. All that exists is nothing but atoms that fall on the void (so no more resurrection of the flesh); serenity is obtained by the knowledge of atomist physics (thus no government of men under the fear of God); and most subversively, pleasure is the origin of good, residing in the satisfaction of natural and necessary desires (thus no Christian asceticism, penitence, original sin – and interminable expiation of the sin).

No wonder, for centuries, Christianity had to suffocate this hedonist, sensualist philosophy. Three Epicurus letters survived the Christian Inquisitor because they were included in a third-century volume by philosophy historian Diogenes Laertius. And then Epicureanism reappeared in the 7415 verses of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura {5}. What an extraordinary historical twist; the Christian destruction of the work by Epicurus the Greek was to a great extent saved by an immense poem written by Lucretius the Roman.

De Rerum Natura was discovered by Poggio Bracciolini in January 1417 in a German monastery. The first edition is published in Brescia in 1473. Enthusiastic readers include Erasmus, Montaigne, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Pascal, Galileo, Newton. Europe really comes alive when humanism oversteps Christianity.

Poggio Bracciolini traveled all over Europe as much as Petrarca, who had searched for Greek and Roman manuscripts since the 1330s. When Poggio rediscovers Lucretius, he builds intellectual Europe; the vision of the world that puts man at the center where, after a millennium, Christianity had installed the Christ. Rhetoric, history, poetry, philosophy, letters, architecture, all those disciplines that have shone before Christ – and then nourished those ghastly Christian auto-da-fes – are finally set free.

Nowhere better than Florence to retrace the steps of humanists who created Europe without Christianity. Take Niccolo Niccoli {6}; when he dies in 1437, he had amassed 800 manuscripts, the most spectacular collection in Florence. And he single-handedly invents the modern concept of the public library, where you can borrow any book you want.

Onfray frames it beautifully: “Constantine and his followers made ancient thought leave through the door, Petrarca, Niccoli, and Poggio made it re-enter by the window”.

Boy, You’re Gonna Carry that Weight

And nowhere better than in Tuscany may we revive how Christian mythology was sold to the masses – in contrast with eulogies of Greek paganism. The aesthetic perfection of Donatello’s spectacularly insolent, adolescent David, Botticelli’s Neoplatonist Spring, or Giambologna’s Mercury shines as much as Leonardo’s Annunciation and most of all the unfinished Adoration of the Magi, meticulously restored with state of the art technology.

And then we are knocked out by a breathless Franciscan masterpiece; the Legend of the True Cross {7} by Piero Della Francesca at the Saint Francis Basilica in Arezzo.

Saint Francis absolutely venerated the symbol of the Passion. The whole saga is pictured in a sort of Renaissance cinemascope 4K series of frescoes – also meticulously restored. Piero based them on legends related to the wood of the cross where Christ was crucified, included in the Apocryphal Gospels originated in Asia and known as the Golden Legend.

The symbolism is unmistakable; God always intervenes; He is the guarantor of redemption; and in the end, the forces of Evil will be defeated.

No wonder the Golden Legend enjoyed an immense success during the Crusades; one of the chapters, the profanation of the Holy Land by infidels, was used as effective propaganda for military conquest.

But Piero, with his unmatched formal rigor, transcends it, turns it into an epic, a “less is more” modernist aesthetic orgasm even as the message remains a myth; Piero’s Annunciation – arguably the highlight of the fresco cycle – symbolizes a rite of passage for man; condemned by the original sin, from Adam to Christ, he finally enters the age of Christianity, where faith in salvation, possible by the sacrifice of the Redemptor, signals hope.

Yet way over a century before Piero, the Ambrogio Lorenzetti cycle of frescoes painted between 1338 and 1339 at the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena was hinting at something way more revolutionary; the triumph of sensible, human – not divine – politics.

This meticulous intervention of man building an ethic-aesthetic conception of civil society still blows our minds away. In his Allegory of Good Government {8}, Lorenzetti depicted nothing less than the effects of good government in a sort of utopia of reality; a solar, serene, laborious medieval city in a symbiotic relationship with a productive countryside. Something that the West has lost – perhaps forever.

Throughout history, the West was enshrined as a fable; imagined to death; celebrated as the fountain of civilization; deeply religious, sentimental, paragon of secularism, imperial, colonial, political. It’s easy to forget that for those Christians “discovering” the new world, the West was not the antithesis of the East but a Divine successor. Now the pendulum swings back.

On the way back to Paris, through Epicurean Bologna – home of the definitive tortellini – I had time to revive a last modernist yell, via a bilingual pocket edition of Pound’s Pisan Cantos {9}, a sort of pre-requiem for the Decline of the West. Pull down thy vanity, repeated as an incantation in canto LXXXI, reads like a poignant message to two millennia of Christianity. And then, riding on the TGV, I saw the new French pharaoh, Ramses Macron, studiously and cinematically walking towards his pyramid at the Louvre to celebrate yet one more Western triumph towards a Brave New Neoliberal World.

Links:

{1} http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-01-140114.html

{2} http://michelonfray.com/

{3} http://www.atimes.com/article/look-back-anger-unplugged/

{4} http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/christianity-truth-and-weakening-faith-a-dialogue/

{5} http://classics.mit.edu/Carus/nature_things.html

{6} https://www.britannica.com/biography/Niccolo-Niccoli

{7} http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/pierodellafrancesca2.htm

{8} http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/ambrogiolorenzetti/goodandbadovernment.htm

{9} https://duckduckgo.com/?t=lm&q=Pound%E2%80%99s+Pisan+Cantos&ia=about

_____

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (2007), Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge (2009), Obama Does Globalistan (2009) and Empire of Chaos (2014). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/12/the-decline-of-the-west-revisited/

Categories: Uncategorized