Nov 30, 2016

Crisis: Church Committee, Sanders, Olbermann, Warren, Yves Smith
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Watergate-Era Church Committee Staffers Urge
     Leniency for Snowden

2. Democracy Now! Special: Bernie Sanders on Trump's
     Victory & the Need to Rebuild the Democratic Party

3. A Surprisingly Easy, Little-Known, Totally Constitutional
     Plan to Fire President Trump

4. 'Enough to Make Me Gag': Warren and Sanders Decry
     Latest Big Pharma Giveaway

5. We’re Under Attack

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 6 dotted links and it consists (mostly) of some further deliberations on the meanings of Trump's election as president of the USA:

Item 1 is an interesting letter to Obama by members of the Church Committee (from the 1970ies) that pleads for "leniency" to Snowden (and I don't think Obama will do as he was asked, but the pleading is quite right); item 2 is about a special by Democracy Now! on Bernie Sanders (and contains a whole lot more than I treat here); item 3 is about a rather interesting idea by Keith Olbermann that appeals to a law that allows the deposition of a president of the USA (but I think it will not be heeded now, though it might be considered later, if Trump keeps behaving as crazily as president as he did as candidate); item 4 is about Warren's and Sanders' objections to a health-bill (I think they are right, but I also think most members of the House and of Congress are far too much beholden to big money); and item 5 is by Yves Smith, who reacts to a - completely unmotivated and unresearched - attack on the non-mainstream media (and I think she is right, and there will be more such attacks, for it would be so very nice for the very rich and their supporters if they could manipulate all the news).

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days. And it still does (on 11 - 17.xi.2016). 18.xi. was correct as
was 19.xi. 20.xi again was a stinking mess, as was 21.xi and 22.xi. It was correct on 25.xi. And horrible on 26.xi and 27.xi.

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This worked correctly on 11 and 12 xi.2016, but not the day before nor on 13.xi.2016. It was OK on 14.xi.2016 and on 15.xi.2016. But not on 16 and 17.xi.
18.xi. was correct as were 19, 20, 21 and 22.xi. This also was
correct on
25, 26 and 27.xi.

And I think now this happens intentionally on both my sites, for this did not happen for 20 years on the one, nor for 12 years on the other. (And this is not "automatic": it changes from day to day.)

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. Watergate-Era Church Committee Staffers Urge Leniency for Snowden

The first item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Fifteen staff members who worked on a well-known bipartisan intelligence watchdog committee wrote to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday requesting the administration negotiate a plea agreement with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“There is no question that Edward Snowden’s disclosures led to public awareness which stimulated reform,” wrote the staffers who served on the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities — called the Church Committee, after its chairman, Idaho Sen. Frank Church.

“Whether or not these clear benefits to the country merit a pardon, they surely do counsel for leniency,” the authors continued.

I say. And I immediately add that I don't think these members of the Church Committee (<-Wikipedia) will succeed, for they are asking for something that
Obama will very probably not give and may not even answer, but I like the initiative.

There is a link to the Church Committee in the previous paragraph, and here is some more:

In the 1970s, the Church Committee conducted an unprecedented investigation that uncovered abuses by the intelligence community and led to reforms. Schwarz recalled, during a recorded interview with the Brennan Center’s Michael German, being involved in the first and “most comprehensive” investigation into the intelligence community, which was aimed at being “open and rigorous” — challenging senators who willfully turned a blind eye to the nation’s spies and their misdeeds.

The climate at the time, wracked with scandals like Watergate and leaks like the Pentagon Papers, “led to a pent up interest in what the secret government had been doing,” he said.

The committee uncovered the NSA’s practice of retaining copies of telegrams sent overseas, the CIA’s experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs and use of domestic surveillance, and the FBI’s widely discredited program under J. Edgar Hoover, called COINTELPRO, involving the monitoring of constitutionally protected activities.

In fact, here is a quotation from Senator Frank Church (<-Wikipedia) from August 17, 1975 (!!) that I have given several times before, simply because I think it is very good and clearminded:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. (...)

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

I think the abyss has been crossed, probably already in the early 2000s but certainly with the arrival of Donald Trump as the next president of the USA.
Will there be no return? This will have to be found out.

Here is more in the article about what Snowden did:

If Snowden hadn’t come forward, Americans might never have known about the abuses taking place, the authors argue. “We know first hand that lack of disclosure can cause just as many, if not more, harms to the nation than disclosure,” they wrote. “When intelligence agencies operate in the dark, they often have gone too far in trampling on the legitimate rights of law-abiding Americans and damaging our reputation internationally.”

Yes indeed: I think it is very likely that "Americans might never have known about the abuses taking place", and indeed I have argued from the first day that I knew about Snowdent that he is an extra-ordinary man.

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

Notably, the former Church Committee staffers did not advocate for a pardon, something President Obama has rejected as a possibility. Instead, they urged the government to consider offering Snowden a deal.

“Under current law, the only way to weigh the public benefits of Snowden’s leaks and account for his aim to help America is for the government to mitigate the charges through settlement discussions,” they concluded.

“I felt a flat pardon as opposed to what we call for, a negotiation with leniency, was very unlikely to happen,” Schwarz explained.

I note first that this is in fact a concession to Obama, who rejected the possibility of a pardon. And I also note again that I do not think Obama will
do as he was asked. I hope I am mistaken, but fear I am not.

This is a recommended article.

2. Democracy Now! Special: Bernie Sanders on Trump's Victory & the Need to Rebuild the Democratic Party

The second item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

In a Democracy Now! special, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sat down with Amy Goodman at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Monday night in his most extensive broadcast interview since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton two weeks ago. He began by speaking about Donald Trump’s election night victory and the need to rebuild the Democratic Party.

This is a good idea, and I should start this fairly brief review by saying that Amy Goodman has split up the interview into seven bits. You can find them all here, on Democracy Now! and I think they are all interesting.

Here is some more on Bernie Sanders:

AMY GOODMAN: Today, in a Democracy Now! special, we spend the hour with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in his most extensive broadcast interview since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton two weeks ago. In the wake of the election, Sanders has emerged as one of the most powerful voices in Washington. During the Democratic primary, the independent, the self-identified socialist shocked the nation by winning 22 states and about 45 percent of pledged delegates, while challenging Hillary Clinton, who began her campaign with the support of the entire Democratic Party establishment. Many Sanders supporters now wonder if he would have been the stronger candidate to face Donald Trump in the general election.
Meanwhile, some of Sanders’ top campaign staffers have launched a new political action organization called Our Revolution to fight for progressive change. Our Revolution is also the name of Bernie Sanders’ new best-selling book.

I only note about this that I agree with "[m]any Sanders supporters" that Sanders "would have been the stronger candidate". And while I do not know
"Our Revolution", I usually support Bernie Sanders.

Here is Sanders - quite correct - assessment of the present situation for the Democrats:

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: (..) Right now in the United States, as you know, Mr. Trump will be inaugurated. Right now, the Republicans control the U.S. Senate. Democrats, I had hoped—we thought we had a better than even chance of gaining control. We did not. We’ll end up with 49 seats. Democrats picked up a few seats in the House, but the Republicans will continue to control the House. Not only that, in about two-thirds of the states in this country, there are Republican governors. And in the last eight or so years, Democrats have lost some 900 legislative seats in state capitols all over this country. So I think any independent assessment, without casting any blame, says the current approach has failed.

I agree. I do not know whether money-in-politics can be beaten (without a major economical collapse), but one certainly must try.

This is a recommended article, and as I said there are six more interviews listed on Democracy Now!.

3. A Surprisingly Easy, Little-Known, Totally Constitutional Plan to Fire President Trump

The third item is b
y Alexandra Rosenmann on AlterNet:

This starts as follows and is about Keith Olbermann, about whom there is some more in recent Nederlog. The last one is here.
As Green Party nominee Jill Stein pushes for election recounts and activists urge Electoral College to buck their state's choice, Keith Olbermann has been devising an even better plan to strip Trump of power.
Well... it certainly is a possibility I wasn't aware of, but the main problem is that it takes two-thirds of the vote in the House and the Senate, which requires the support of at least 1 in 6 Republicans. [2]

I do not think that is likely now, but here is an outline of Olbermann's proposal:
In roughly three weeks, a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and written agreement from the vice president and the President's cabinet "results in the president remaining in office with the title but without the power," Oberman explained
"So it's a crazy-man clause, right? In the case of Trump, it presumes he behaves as president as he is behaving as president-elect," he offered, pointing to the mounting evidence that Trump will be "unable to discharge his duties," as the Consitution states. 

"For my money, he's nuts — couldn't pass a sanity test, open book," Olbermann continued. "But of course, Section Four of the 25th Amendment here does not say 'nuts' — or impaired, or erratic or unbalanced or unhealthy or bipolar or narcissist or sociopath or psychopath. It only says 'that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

While Olbermann believes that sounds "kind of vague,"he thinks it's worth looking into.

I agree (and I am a psychologist) that Trump is not sane (and have said so from March 14 onwards), and Olbermann is also right that the laws he quotes does not mention sanity or health at all.

Here is Olbermann himself on video (that takes slightly over 10 minutes, and that is rather clear):

As I said, this may sound "surprisingly easy", but it does require a 2/3rd majority and a "written agreement from the vice president and the President's cabinet". I think neither will be forthcoming now.

Then again - and mostly because I really think Trump is not sane and will continue to behave as crazily as president as he did as a candidate - I think there may be more support for this in a few months time.

This is a recommended article with a recommended video.

4. 'Enough to Make Me Gag': Warren and Sanders Decry Latest Big Pharma Giveaway

The fourth item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have come out swinging against a heavily lobbied healthcare bill they say has been "hijacked" by Big Pharma.

The 21st Century Cures Act, poised to pass the House on Wednesday and the Senate soon after, would ostensibly advance medical innovation with increased funding for initiatives like Vice President Joe Biden's cancer "moonshot" and Alzheimer's research as well as provisions to accelerate the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval process.

I think Sanders and Warren are right, but it probably will be very difficult to find a majority for their position. Here are the reasons:

Despite skepticism (pdf) from some liberal advocacy and labor groups, the bill is "expected to win support from other Democrats, who have been negotiating with Republicans for months," The Hill reported Tuesday.

But in a floor speech Monday evening, Warren said the legislation is an example of how lawmakers are beholden to big-moneyed special interests.

"And when American voters say Congress is owned by big companies, this bill is exactly what they are talking about," she said. "Now, we face a choice. Will this Congress say that yes, we're bought and paid for, or will we stand up and work for the American people?" 

She decried the bill's bipartisan support as based on false promises—and charged that in fact, Democrats have been victims of "extortion."

The reason I think Warren's initiative will probably fail (I hope not but I am a realist) is that I think both the House and Congress are mostly bought - somehow - by "big-moneyed special interests".

Also, there are some further problems:

"I support most of these proposals," she said. "I've worked on many of them for years. I even wrote several of them myself. If this bill becomes law, there is no question it will contain some real legislative accomplishments."

"But I cannot vote for this bill," she continued. "I will fight it because I know the difference between compromise and extortion."

Warren declared:

Compromise is putting together common-sense health proposals supported by Democrats, by Republicans, and by most of the American people, and passing them into law. Extortion is holding those exact same proposals hostage unless everyone agrees to special favors for campaign donors and giveaways to the richest drug companies in the world.

This means that while some of the legislative proposals are quite good, they also come with added legal favors to "the richest drug companies in the world".

And here is Bernie Sanders on the same subject:

Echoing some of Warren's concerns, Sanders added in a statement on Tuesday, "[a]t a time when Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, this bill provides absolutely no relief for soaring drug prices. The greed of the pharmaceutical industry has no limit, and this bill includes numerous corporate giveaways that will make drug companies even richer."

I agree with Sanders and Warren, but since I also think that the House and Congress are mostly bought by "big-moneyed special interests", I fear they will be defeated. 

5. We’re Under Attack

The fifth and last item today is by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism (<-Wikipedia):

This starts as follows:

After our very successful fundraiser, we thought the most we’d need to do at this point in the year was send a pleasant, grateful follow-up e-mail to our mailing list. Instead, we’ve become the target of a full-bore McCarthyite attack.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Washington Post legitimated a thin, amateurish site whose principals have libeled not only Naked Capitalism but also Ron Paul’s institute, former Reagan Administration officials David Stockman and Paul Craig Roberts, well-respected progressive stalwarts, such as Counterpunch, Truthout, TruthDig, and Black Agenda Report, as supposed Russian propaganda outlets with foreign “coordinators.” Moreover, with no supporting evidence whatsoever, this site called for everyone on its list to be investigated by the FBI and DoJ for Espionage Act violations.

The common denominator for all these websites seems to be skepticism about the failed Clinton coronation.

I wrote about this two days ago, here, and ended that by saying that

(..) this may well be the start of a campaign to forbid any of these - which will be the end of alternative media in the USA. Is this possible? Quite.

Here is some more by Yves Smith:

This is intimidation of the most crass sort. Make no mistake: this isn’t about media, it’s about a wholesale attack by the Democratic establishment on anything they don’t like, which includes the Naked Capitalism community. This version is a lunatic conspiracy theory, that the election was stolen by Putin, and no different from the ones the ones peddled by the right, like birtherism and climate change denial.

In fact, I do not know whether this is "a wholesale attack by the Democratic establishment", for to me it seems (and I quote myself again, from two days ago) a totally anonymous publication that spread

totally untested and completely unverified bullshit (which is bullshit for that reason: anybody can lie, and anybody anonymous can say anything without the least personal responsibility) by the Washington Post, that seems to turn into a neofascist (see [2]) publication.

Incidentally, this said "by the Washington Post" because it insisted on spreading this bullshit, and in case you object to my statement that was neofascism (by the Washington Post) all I say is that you very probably know a lot less about fascism, neofascism and history than I do (and I use my own, carefully considered definitions). And no, no decent paper spreads untested baloney, but the Washington Post did.

Here is some more:

Matt Taibbi also weighed in, pointing out that the Post had not bother to contact us, Chris Hedges of TruthDig or presumably anyone else and added:

This is the ultimate in stupidity and self-annihilating behavior. The power of the press comes from its independence from politicians. Jump into bed with them and you not only won’t ever be able to get out, but you’ll win nothing but a loss of real influence and the undying loathing of audiences.

Helping Beltway politicos mass-label a huge portion of dissenting media as “useful idiots” for foreign enemies in this sense is an extraordinarily self-destructive act. Maybe the Post doesn’t care and thinks it’s doing the right thing. In that case, at least do the damn work.

Given the rash of recent stories about “fake news,” the Post’s article looks to be part of a push to get certain sites designated as purveyors of “fake news” and to have links to them banned on Facebook and Twitter, delegitimating them and cutting their revenues.

Yes indeed: At the very least, the Washington Post should have checked and verified the baloney it spread. They did not and therefore they spread bullshit.

And no, I do not think this will be the last attack on the non-mainstream media.

This is a recommended article.

[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] This - "at least 1 in 6 of the Republicans" - is calculated by noting that the Democrats have roughly (not quite) half of the House and half of Congress, which equals 3/6=1/2 (supposing - rather optimistically - that all Democrats support this), which needs the support of at least 1 in 6 Republicans (and probably a bit more) to make it 4/6=2/3.

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