1. Will the U.S. Confront Saudi Leaders About Their
Country’s Role in 9/11?
2. The Best Reporting on Bernie Sanders Over the Years
Bill Moyers: How Our Stone-Age Brains Get in the Way
of Having a Smart Democracy
4. Is Hillary Clinton Above the Law?
5. This Article Is Not
About Donald Trump
This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 18,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item
1 is about Saudi Arabia: I made little out of it, and think that is
- mainly - not my fault; item 2 purports to list
"The Best Reporting" about Bernie Sanders: I don't think it did very
well; item 3 is about "Our Stone-Age Brains": I am
sorry, but this philosopher and psychologist is not a historian
and think this is bulllshit; item 4
is about Hillary Clinton's mailserver problems: I suppose the most
probable conclusion is that she is, in this respect at least, above the
law; and item 5 is and isn't about Donald Trump,
and indeed is mostly
about the - lack of - qualities of the current TV news in the USA: I
believe it is mostly correct about the news (and give my own
precisifications), but I have to admit I am one of the very few
who doesn't have a TV since 1970. (It didn't harm me...)
1. Will the U.S. Confront
Saudi Leaders About Their Country’s Role in 9/11?
So all in all - to make a summary judgement on the whole Nederlog -
this Nederlog is a bit disappointing. That is not my
fault (I comment on what is on offer, and almost always try to select
the best), but then again yesterday was -
in my opinion - quite good (and therefore I commented
first item is by Common Dreams Staff on Truthdig
(and originally on Common Dreams):
This starts as follows:
The Saudi Arabian government has
threatened to sell of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of
American assets should Congress pass a bi-partisan bill led by U.S.
Senator Chuck Schumer that could hold the kingdom responsible for any
role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The New York Times reported Friday.
Of the 22 co-sponsors of the measure,
known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, 12 are
Republicans and 10 are Democrats. The Obama administration has lobbied
Congress to block the bill’s passage and the Saudi threats have been
the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers
and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon.
I say. I had no idea, but then I also am not
following Saudi Arabia. And though I have been following the
USA, quite well also, or so I think (see the crisis index for one reason), while I meanwhile also know quite a few
things about 9/11, I must admit that I don't really get the
import of "a bi-partisan bill" "that could hold
the kingdom responsible for any
role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks".
But I have not read the bill either. Here
is some more on it:
The administration, which argues the
legislation will put Americans at legal risk overseas, has been
lobbying so intently against the bill that some lawmakers and families
of September 11 victims are infuriated.
In their view, the Obama administration
has consistently sided with the kingdom and has thwarted their efforts
to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi
officials have played in the terror plot.
I don't trust the Obama administration
(either), but - I take it, and I know by now quite a bit about 9/11 - I
missed (?) the evidence that "some lawmakers and
of September 11 victims" may have had in mind.
So this is not very conclusive or clear either.
Finally - to end this review - here is
Bernie Sanders' reaction:
Asked about reports that Saudi Arabia
would sell American assets if Congress approves a bill allowing victims
of 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi government, Sanders said the U.S.
“can’t be blackmailed.”
Sanders said, “I have said throughout
this campaign we are not taking a hard enough look at Saudi Arabia and
it’s not only the people who came from Saudi Arabia and participated in
9/11. The evidence is pretty clear. Saudi Arabia is one of the most
powerful and wealthiest families of the world. That’s why they can
threaten to withdraw hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy.
The evidence is quite clear that sections of that very large royal
family have funded a Wahhabism; this extremely right-wing
fundamentalist ideology, which is what ISIS is about, which is what Al
Qaeda’s about. There are schools all over this world that are—where
children are being educated in this anti-—this horrific fundamentalist
I must admit I did not find that very
cogent either. First - as the lobbying of Obama's administration seems
to show - the USA can
be "blackmailed". Second, I agree with Sanders that Saudi-Arabia is
quite backward, and I also don't like Wahhabism - but then that is
itself no evidence for the thesis that some Saudi Arabians were
involved in 9/11 - which, incidentally, may be the
So all in all I haven't learned much from this item, and I don't think
my fault either.
2. The Best Reporting on Bernie
Sanders Over the Years
is by Sarah Smith on Truthdig and
originally on ProPublica:
This starts as follows, and is here
because of the title:
Bernie Sanders became the first
socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and ran successfully as an
Independent for the House of Representatives and then the Senate. Now,
the Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton has young voters “feeling
The political career of Bernie Sanders
nearly ended before it began. In the early 1970s, he lost
his first four races — two for the Senate and two for governor —
running on the ticket of Vermont’s radical Liberty Union Party, while
espousing positions such as ending the Vietnam War and abolishing
the CIA. But when he ran as an Independent for mayor of Burlington
in 1981, the socialist Sanders beat
the five-term Democratic incumbent.
Hm, hm. This is not a large
article, and I believe it is faintly praising and not so very subtly
criticizing Sanders, while at the same time pretending to be about "the
best reporting" about him, and to do so from a somewhat leftish middle
the road point of view.
I grant I may be mistaken, so here is another selection:
Sanders was elected to the House
of Representatives by a 17-point margin in 1990, after Vermont
Democrats either endorsed him or stepped aside to clear his path. In
Washington, Sanders caucused with the Democrats, but didn’t win many
friends among them when he called Congress “impotent” and said
he wouldn’t mind if 80 percent of its members lost their bids for
re-election. He voted against the pro-gun-control Brady
bill (which has led to attacks
on his record in the 2016 race) and opposed the North
American Free Trade Agreement. Sanders led a 2000 effort to allow more
imports of low-cost prescription drugs (it was killed by President
Bill Clinton) and failed
again in 2001.
It tastes the same - some faint good will,
some faint ill will, middle of the road.
Ah well... she may have tried
honorably, but I do not think this was "the best
reporting" about Bernie Sanders.
Moyers: How Our Stone-Age Brains Get in the Way of Having a Smart
The third item is by
Bill Moyers (<-Wikipedia) on
This starts as follows:
I say?!?! I like Bill Moyers, but this is
- and I am sorry but at 65 as a degreed psychologist and philosopher I
am also quite qualified to make these judgements.
The historian Rick Shenkman is editor
and publisher of the indispensable website History News
Network. I’m a fan and recently had the pleasure of reading his
latest book, Political Animals: How Our Stone-age Brain Gets in
the Way of Smart Politics.
Shenkman himself possesses quite a highly
evolved brain, but he nonetheless admits he has his own share of
stone-age brain cells. However, there is no club in his hand at the
moment, just this book, which frankly, packs all the wallop he needs.
If you want to know why this is the year of Trump, you’ve got to read
it. If you want to know why millions of Republicans still believe
Barack Obama is a Muslim, you’ve got to read it. Even if you want to
hold on and remain an optimist, you’ve got to read it.
And my judgement is that this is just bullshit:
A historian who hasn't a lemma on Wikipedia has dived back into Sixties
stuff about "our stone-age brain" and regurgitates that as if a tired
and silly metaphor of that kind could shed any rational light on the
problems of democracy.
Here is some more - and no, it doesn't get better:
Bill Moyers: Greetings.
This is Bill Moyers. And I’m here to see if we can step out of our
stone-age brain for a few minutes while we talk about politics. What’s
that? You’re insulted? You don’t have a stone-age brain? That’s what
you think. As you’re about to hear, part of us is perpetually
Pleistocene. Our roots wind back two and a half million years to
hairy-faced ancestors with thick hands and short stubby fingers wrapped
around big clubs that will carry them from the cave as they head out
for another day of hunting and gathering. It’s true, there’s a little
bit of the primitive in all of us; and more than a little bit in many
O Lord! If I am insulted it is because this
metaphorical rot gets offered as if it were a rational explanation.
Finally, here is the historian, with some "up to date" "biological"
"information" on how "your stone age brain" may keep you from being a
stone-age brain speaking. So the stone-age brain is the brain that
developed during the Pleistocene. The Pleistocene is the long ice age,
it lasted two and a half million years, and that’s when the human brain
was mainly evolving. We’re still evolving as human beings. We haven’t
stopped evolving, we’re continuing to evolve. But it was during that
period that we mainly evolved. And we evolved to address the problems
of hunter-gatherers who lived during that period.
I am sorry. I like Bill Moyers. But this
is just utter bullshit. (And yes, I have read the whole article, but the
given quotations match its level.)
Besides, there is something else that is quite relevant, but
that does not seem at all discussed by Shenkman (whose book I
admit not having read, and that I also will not read):
One of the things I am definitely sure about is that there are many
Americans (not: all, thank you) who are remarkably stupid and ignorant and
who also are credulous to a nearly incredible extent (for
example: 60% of all Americans seem to believe in the literal
truth of Noah's Arch story...), and while that is a highly
relevant fact for the elections and their outcome, none of this is
in any plausible sense due to our supposed "stone-age
brain (..) that
developed during the Pleistocene".
What this widespread stupidity and ignorance are
due to are (to a considerably lesser extent) native inabilities in some
(who may have an IQ of 80 or so) and
(to a much larger extent) the extra-ordinary badness that has
American education in its grip at least since the early '90ies.
That deserves discussion, and that explains a lot
about the arisal of Trump. But please forget about our "stone-age
brain": That is just bullshit, if only - and I am a philosopher and a psychologist -
because there is absolutely no one alive who does know
how the brain manufactures the experiences, ideas and values we all
have. And that includes Rick Shenkman.
For more, see the end of item 5.
Is Hillary Clinton Above the Law?
The fourth item is by Ray McGovern on
This starts as follows:
“Enough of the emails,” said Sen. Bernie
Sanders in Brooklyn-ese, while turning to Secretary Hillary Clinton
during their first debate on Oct. 13, 2015. Sanders won loud
applause for what seemed a gentlemanly gesture in withholding criticism
for her use of a private email server for classified information.
But when Sanders said “The American
people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” I had a
flashback to a House hearing three decades ago on large liberties taken
with the law during the Iran-Contra affair under President Ronald
Reagan. Beginning his testimony, then-Secretary of State George
Shultz made the mistake of saying, in effect, who cares about laws
being violated: “The American people are tired of hearing about
Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, was quick
to respond: “Mr. Secretary, I did not take an oath to uphold and defend
the Constitution of the United States until I got tired.”
OK, point to Obey (though I must admit I
rather liked Shultz, which may have been because there wasn't
internet then: I thought he usually tried to be honest, unlike
most others in Reagan's government).
The following is a lot more relevant, and I added a Wikipedia link to
I accept most of that, but not the
last conclusion, for - unless I am mistaken - there is no
evidence that Clinton's mailserver was cracked. The last
For technical commentary on this issue,
I turned to a specialist VIPS colleague named William Binney
[<-Wikipedia - by MM],
who worked for NSA for 36 years. Binney co-founded NSA’s SIGINT
(Signals Intelligence) Automation Research Center, and retired from NSA
as Technical Director. He said he shares my very strong feelings on the
issue. He told me the following:
“The email issue with Secretary Clinton
is one of the most severe compromises of security I have ever known.
After all, if the Chinese, Russians and other hackers can penetrate the
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) servers and take the records of
over 21 million U.S. citizens that over the years have applied for
security clearances, then penetrating Hillary Clinton’s private server
would be a piece of cake. Such penetration would yield insight into
decision making at the highest level of the U.S. government, including
what might be revealed in emails with the President.
“This is worse that the compromise of
predominantly lower-level data by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and
gives insight into planning at the highest levels in Washington –
something that even all the torrent of data exposed by Edward Snowden
could not provide. Reports that Clinton instructed subordinates to
delete the security classification line on sensitive reports and email
them to her, suggests a total disregard for the need to protect
classified information and arrogance in deeming herself above lawful
regulations governing the handling such data.
“We might as well have had an in-place mole
at the highest level of our government."
needs such evidence, or so I think.
Here is one of Ray McGovern's conclusions:
I agree with that. I think Manning's
trial was grossly unfair, as was Petraeus' "punishment". And
for that reason, I guess that the most likely answer to
For leaking mostly low-level
classified information to the public so the people could know
about illegal or questionable acts by the government – none of the data
top secret, the level that some Clinton emails have now been stamped –
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
But it seems that the applicable legal
standard — or double standard — is that the more sensitive the
security breach and the higher the status of the offender the lighter
the punishment. For instance, Gen. David Petraeus divulged
top-secret/code-word information to his biographer/mistress and lied to
the FBI about it, but received only a misdemeanor citation (a fine and
probation but no jail time) for mishandling classified material.
the question the title poses is "Yes, Hillary Clinton is above the
law", in this
respect, perhaps indeed rather like David Petraeus.
Article Is Not About Donald Trump
The fifth and last item is by Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch:
This has a subtitle that you might have
(And If You
Believe That, You’ll Believe Anything)
This does not start as follows -
for what follows comes after a sum-up, which it summarizes:
I don't doubt that "the
news" on the main TV-media looks (rather a lot) as it was described
Now, let me try to sum up that week in
American “news” glimpsed in passing at the gym and then watched as it
repeated itself at dinner time and other moments. Here goes:
Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Ted
Cruz. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald
Trump. (Bernie Sanders.) The previous week, it would, of
course, have been Brussels, Brussels, Brussels, Donald Trump, Brussels,
Brussels, Brussels, Donald Trump, etc., etc.
There. Satisfied? Now, turn
off that TV, put
down that screen in your hand, I’ve got something to tell you about the
But then I should also say that it did not look much
better in the 1960ies (!!),
which is part of the reasons that I do not have a TV since 1970.
Really! (And I also don't have and don't want a cell-phone.)
The main reasons why I banned TV from my house(s) are that I hardly
ever learned anything from it, whereas I had to view far
too much propaganda
and far too many advertisements.
And I like learning things, while I hate and despise propaganda and
Also, I do not think I missed much of "the news", and indeed I did
read a daily paper every
day (except Sunday) from 1970 till the end of 2010, which I then gave
up because it had been made into something that was too superficial,
too "amusing" and too dishonest for me to read daily. And at present
and since 2011 I have been getting by (while still believing I don't
miss much, though this does happen occasionally) mostly by reading
English and American media, with a smattering of Dutch.
But I admit I must be one of the very few who has hardly
seen any television for 46 years, and that I am
So here is some more on what typical people (99/100) do watch,
mostly every day:
I say - and I am (once again) very
glad for not owning a TV since 1970. And while the above was a
summary of the current news (that most Americans do watch), here is
(after considerably more that I leave to your interests) an analysis
of the news:
Here’s what often dominates the news
zone these days:
* The Donald, The Hillary, and the
others crisscrossing the country, shouting at and insulting each other,
and giving more or less the same speeches (or, in the case of Trump,
* Blood-curdling accounts of the latest
terror attacks in Europe or the U.S.
* Photogenically weepy or stoic
Americans bemoaning the loss of houses, schools, and lives in what the
news now regularly refers to as “extreme
weather” (without a hint -- 99% of the time -- of why that weather
might be increasingly extreme).
* And let’s not forget those remarkably
ever-present American “lone wolf” killers
who take out their fellow citizens with numbing
regularity in workplaces,
All of this and more, of course, becomes
the essential adrenalizing fodder of the 24/7 attention machine.
I suppose I must agree with
the first three points (but I never saw any full American news)
which leads me to the conclusion that this cannot be the news,
even though it is "the news". I explain my distinction:
The news -- no matter your screen of
choice -- increasingly does several things:
* It creates its own heightened, insular
world to replace the world we actually live in.
* At its most effective, it’s like a
recurrent floodtide washing over you.
* It has an obsessional quality, with
single stories engulfing everything else, inducing a deeply skewed view
of the world, no matter what event or events are being followed.
Who can doubt that the Internet, social
media, email, and the rest of the package are the signature addictive
activities of our age?
The news (if it were real) consists mainly of factually
correct reports on the things that most people (including both
highly educated and not highly educated people) think are important. Real
news is not sensational, it is not propaganda,
and it tries to be honest and impartial. Also, real news is not ideologically
motivated, and it does not give interpretations, but only the facts.
Given the above summary and description of "the news", I must conclude
that there is no real news in the United States, at
least not on TV, and indeed that
seems to be the case, albeit with a few exceptions, like The Real
News Network (<-Wikipedia), and - at an earlier time - Breaking The Set
(<- Wikipedia) (and I did watch some of both last named
institutions or programs, and liked most of what I saw).
In contrast, what the Americans do have, quite plentifully
also, is the "news":
The "news", in contrast to the news, consists mainly of
factually incorrect or at best partially correct reports
on things ordinary
people think important; the "news" tends to be quite sensational,
and much of it is propaganda, that also does not try to be honest or impartial,
and indeed it isn't. It seems to be on TV in the USA every day,
in many somewhat different
forms, that yet all manage to conform more to the "news" than to the
I take it the above is mostly factually adequate. If so, it does
explain some about the stupidity and ignorance that
seem widespread under ordinary Americans, indeed of every kind. (And
see item 3.)
It also doesn't promise well for "the democracy" this is taking place
in, simply because a real democracy requires a real
free and really varied press and media.