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Nederlog

Jan 8, 2017
Crisis: NSA's Hacking, Election-Rigging, Impeach Trump, Media's Failures, Gitlin
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction   

1. What About the NSA’s Hacking of American Allies?

2. The Massive Election-Rigging Scandal the Media Ignored
3.
Let's Impeach Him Now: The Case for Preparing for the End of
    Trump's Presidency Before It Even Begins

4.
Signs Look Grim for Media Picking the Side of Liberty and
     Dissent

5. Welcome to the Vortex
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of January 8, 2017.

This is a
crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a review of an article by Juan Cole, with some radical conclusions of my own; item 2 is about how quite definite and interesting news about the American elections is ignored; item 3 is about impeaching Trump (I agree in principle: the sooner we're rid of that nut the better for everyone); item 4 is about the media, and not bad, but the writer doesn't seem to see that the American media are corrupt for quite a while; and item 5 is about Todd Gitlin, who is going to investigate "the media", but who (also) seems not well-informed that they have been quite corrupt for quite a while already.

1. What About the NSA’s Hacking of American Allies?

The
first item is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originallty on Informed Comment:
This starts as follows:

The hysteria about [alleged] Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee servers and the phishing scam run on Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, is short on evidence and high in self-righteousness. Much of the report issued Friday was old boilerplate about the Russia Today cable channel, which proves nothing.

My complaint is that American television news reports all this as if it is The First Time in History Anyone has Acted like This. But the head of the Republican Party in the early 1970s hired burglars to do the same thing– break into the Watergate building and get access to DNC documents in hopes of throwing an election. Dick Nixon even ordered a second break-in. And it took a long time for Republican members of Congress to come around to the idea that a crime had been committed; if it hadn’t been for the Supreme Court, Nixon might have served out his term.

Yes indeed. I have commented on "the hysteria about [alleged] Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee servers" before, and my own estimate - see here, from yesterday - is that it is all propaganda and bullshit.

Also, and considerably more serious as well, is that I think that (1) propaganda and bullshit is now in fact the main "news" one is offered on the mainstream media, of course also (2) without the mainstream media letting on in any way: what they tell is "the truth", also if it consists only of lies and propaganda.

I also think these two points will remain constants for the next four years (in the mainstream media).

Here is one more bit about the US state's terrorists (who call themselves NSA and who are completely free to plunder everyone's privacy and deceive them in all possible ways since 2001):

In the past decade and a half, the US National Security Agency has been deployed for hacking purposes not, as the cover story would have it, for counter-terrorism (there isn’t much evidence that they’re any good at that), but to gain political advantage over allies.

Yes indeed, but for me it seems considerably more important that the NSA is (1) effectively totally free to do as it pleases (in the deepest secret, and protected by special judges who approve anything, again normally in secret, for one popular - and true, until Snowden -  interpretation of "NSA" was "No Such Agency"), while (2) the NSA is gathering everything it can find on every person living anywhere, and especially (3) about every US citizen (which is incompatible with the Fourth Amendment).

For me, all these completely forbidden activities of the NSA have nothing to do with "counter-terrorism" and everything with laying the foundations of a new USA, that is no longer democratic but authoritarian, and no longer constitutional but oligarchic, and where the rich few have nearly all the power and abuse it almost only for themselves.

In case you doubt what I said, there is this in the article:

So, for instance, George W. Bush had German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s personal cell phone hacked to monitor his position on the Iraq War that Bush wanted to launch illegally.

Then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had Schroeder’s successor’s personal cell phone put under surveillance. Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone. An ally. It may just have been face-saving for President Obama, but the White House leaked that Obama was surprised and disturbed that her personal phone had been targeted. This leak tells us that Clapper and the NSA were acting without the president’s knowledge. Yet no one was fired over it. It makes you think maybe the US cyberspies are an authority unto themselves and this elected democracy thing is so eighteenth century.

Hm. Why would I believe Obama's information? Spread by a "White House leak"? I see no reason whatsoever.

Also, I see considerably more than Cole sees (or says he sees). What I see is this:

(1) propaganda and bullshit are now in fact the main "news" one is offered on the
       mainstream media
, of course also
(2) without the mainstream media letting on in any way: what they tell is "the
     truth", also if it consists only of lies and propaganda. Also
(3) the NSA is effectively totally free to do as it pleases and is
(4) gathering everything it can find on every person living anywhere, and especially
(5) about every US citizen (which is illegal by the Fourth Amendment (<-Wikipedia)).


I think all five asumptions I made just now are very probably quite true. Also, they imply democracy is quite dead in the USA, for democracy requires voters who are being informed of the truth, and not of systematic lies, deceptions and propaganda.

2. The Massive Election-Rigging Scandal the Media Ignored

The second item is by Thom Hartmann and Richard Greene on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

The election of 2016 may well have been stolen—or to use Donald Trump's oft-repeated phrase—"rigged," and nobody in the media seems willing to discuss it.

The rigging was a pretty simple process, in fact: in 27 Republican- controlled states (including critical swing states) hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of people showed up to vote, but were mysteriously blocked from voting for allegedly being registered with the intent to vote in multiple states.

Yes, indeed. I have repeatedly written about this in Nederlog, and I think it is very likely true, although I do not know what difference it made in the actual counts. But the differences may have been quite appreciable:

Greg Palast, an award-winning investigative journalist, writes a stinging piece in the highly respected Rolling Stone magazine (August 2016 edition), predicting that the November 8, 2016 presidential election had already been decided: "The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters." He also wrote and produced a brilliant documentary on this exact subject that was released well before the election, titled The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

He said a program called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck had been quietly put together in Kansas and was being used by Republican secretaries of state in 27 states to suppress and purge African American, Asian and Hispanic votes in what would almost certainly be the swing states of the 2016 election.

I say. Here are Palast's estimates of how many voters may have been denied the right to vote by this Crosscheck program:

Turns out, according to Palast, that a total of 7 million voters—including up to 344,000 in Pennsylvania, 589,000 in North Carolina and up to 449,000 in Michigan (based on available Crosscheck data from 2014)—may have been denied the right to have their votes counted under this little known but enormously potent Crosscheck program.

Yes, that's way more than enough votes to swing the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. But no one seems to care.

Yes indeed. Again, I do not know whether Palast's estimates are correct, but I do know his research was serious. And I want to answer the question why "no one seems to care" and especially not the Democrats (who are insisting the Russians did it).

There seem to be three reasons: (i) Palast's failures are American, not Russian, and it is much more pleasant to accuse the enemy than oneself; (ii) Hillary Clinton has insisted (and insists) it are the Russians who stole her elections (without presenting any convincing evidence), while (iii) all the mainstream media repeat the lies they published before rather than reporting on alternative explanations (that are not liked by neither the Republicans nor the Democrats).

Here is the sum-up:

What we do know is that there is a program called Crosscheck implemented in 27 states that serves to disqualify voters who are not qualified to vote, trying to vote multiple times, or trying to defraud the electoral system. And if Palast's reporting (and interview of Kobach) is accurate, that system is primarily being used to disenfranchise large numbers of African American, Hispanic and Asian voters.

I agree, and this ought to be researched, but probably will not be, for the usual bullshit reasons.

3. Let's Impeach Him Now: The Case for Preparing for the End of Trump's Presidency Before It Even Begins

The
third item is by Heather Digby Parton on Salon:
This starts as follows:

If anyone thought that the new Congress might be a moderating force on the Donald Trump wrecking crew, the latest news from Capitol Hill isn’t reassuring. This headline for a story by David Weigel in the Washington Post says it all:  Claiming mandate, GOP Congress lays plans to propel sweeping conservative agenda.

When the 115th Congress begins this week, with Republicans firmly in charge of the House and Senate, much of that legislation will form the basis of the most ambitious conservative policy agenda since the 1920s. And rather than a Democratic president standing in the way, a soon-to-be-inaugurated Donald Trump seems ready to sign much of it into law.

Yes indeed: All of this seems quite correct. One pertinent question one might ask at this point is: How much can the Democratic Party do against this? Here is Parton's answer:
So what are Democrats to do with this? It’s already going to be an overwhelming task to fight off Trump’s worst nominees, battle back legislation that’s coming from 20 different directions and expose the mountain of scandals that are quickly piling up. The Trump train wreck is already creating a chain reaction of one explosion after another.
I think that is correct. So, what can be done? Here is Robert Kuttner's (<-Wikipedia) answer, quoted from the Huffington Post:

There is only one constitutional way to remove a president, and that is via impeachment. What’s needed is a citizens’ impeachment inquiry, to begin on Trump’s first day in office.

The inquiry should keep a running dossier, and forward updates at least weekly to the House Judiciary Committee. There will be no lack of evidence. The materials should be made public via a website. The inquiry should be conducted by a distinguished panel whose high-mindedness and credentials are, well, unimpeachable.

There needs to be a parallel public campaign, pressing for an official investigation. For those appalled by Trump, who wonder where to focus their efforts, here is something concrete ― and more realistic than it may seem.

I think that is a reasonable idea, were it only because I think - as a psychologist - that Trump is not sane and is a major danger to everybody who is alive. That is my major ground, but others think about Trump's impeachable offenses:

Some people are reflexively opposed to making such a strong statement so early in the administration. But Trump is already committing impeachable offenses, and dealing with someone like this requires being well prepared to take advantage of any openings to stop him. It is certainly what the Republicans would do if the shoe were on the other foot. In fact, it is exactly what they were planning to do.

In fact, I don't care much: Any process that impeaches Trump as soon as possible has my support, again because I think (as a psychologist) that Trump is not sane and is a major danger to everybody who is alive.

4. Signs Look Grim for Media Picking the Side of Liberty and Dissent

The
fourth item is by Janine Jackson on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

This is a kind of “which side are you on?” moment for journalists. Will they defend the rights and liberties of the many communities under threat—Muslims, women, those reliant on government assistance? Will they keep alive a space for dissent and critical questioning in the face of a White House that declares itself indifferent to rules about conflicts of interest, among many other things, and that threatens revenge on those it calls “enemies”?

Let’s just say: Signs bode poorly.

In fact, I've stated my position as five points in item 1 (and the last link refers you to that). Also, I think most journalists and most editors in the mainstream media have had their “which side are you on?” moment and have, somewhere in the first 10 years of the 2000s, decided they are on the side of those who pay the most (and not - in the mainstream media - on the side of reporting the truth [1]).

Then again, I am aware that the decisions I just made are my personal decisions; that my personal decisions may be mistaken; and in fact that everybody's position on politics are mostly probabilistic only, so I don't mind a review.

And I agree with Janine Jackson that the "Signs" that the mainstream journalists are interested in reporting the truth "bode poorly".

Indeed, here is one such mainstream medium with its mainstream editor:

One sign: The editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker, told Meet the Press (1/1/17) that it wouldn’t be “objective” to use the word “lie” to refer to patently false statements from Donald Trump. That would imply “a deliberate intent to mislead,” Baker explained, and that’s lacking, in his view, in things like Trump’s claim that “thousands and thousands” of Muslim Americans “celebrated” the attacks of September 11, 2001. It’s “up to the reader,” he contended, to weigh that statement against the fact that nobody has ever found any evidence of it whatsoever.

I wrote about this as well in Nederlog (see e.g. here and here) and concluded in fact that Baker pretends that Trump's evident lies and deceptions are not lies and deceptions because he - Baker - pretends to believe that (i) these lies and deceptions of Trump are not lies and deceptions but are Trump's fantasies while Baker also pretends to believe that (ii) Trump believes his fantasies, which again - Baker pretends - make it impossible to say that Trump lied (?!?!?!).

There are - among other things - three things wrong with this approach: First, Baker is willing to pretend what he pretends only about people who are much stronger than he is, but not at all about ordinary others (and see below). And second, someone who lies about 70% of the time that his statements are checked, but who must be not accused of lying, seems to be thoroughly insane. Third, Baker will probably also deny both the first and the second point.

And as to presidential lying, there is this (from long after the evident presidential liar Richard Nixon):

Note that this isn’t a new thing. In 2005, FAIR reported a talk in which the New York Times‘ Elizabeth Bumiller and Susan Page of USA Today detailed how they construct absurd word salads to avoid breaking what they present as a firm rule: In Bumiller’s words, “You can’t say the president is lying.”

Bumiller elaborated: “You can say Mr. Bush’s statement was not factually accurate. You can’t say the president is lying—that’s a judgement call.” Over the increasingly outraged murmurs of the audience of journalism students, Page underscored the idea, adding, “I think it’s much more powerful to say, ‘However, the president’s statement did not reflect the record.'”

Keep in mind, both outlets are comfortable saying other people are lying—it’s only when it comes to some of the most powerful people on the planet that the rules change.

Yes indeed. And my own additional consideration is that a country in which one "can’t say the president is lying" (as Page and Bumiller insisted in 2005) is not a democratic country, and is probably either a dictatorship or developing into a dictatorship.

5. Welcome to the Vortex

The
fifth and last item of today is by Todd Gitlin (<-Wikipedia) on Common Dreams,  and originally on BillMoyers.com:

This starts as follows:
I spent most of 2016 doing my duty as citizen, writer and educator aghast at the favors done for the unprincipled, incoherent, vicious, dangerous ignoramus Donald Trump by the business known as “the media,” formerly known as “the press” — an enterprise accorded privileges by the US Constitution on the quaint 18th-century belief that if the people are informed, they will make better judgments than if they are less so.
Yes indeed (allowing for the obvious irony: without a press that prints the truth, there is no democracy), and incidentally Todd Gitlin is an interesting man (of whom
I saw videos in reports about the Sixties).

Also, I like Gitlin's distinction between "the media" (who work for profit, regardless of the means, like most corporations these days) and "the press" (who work to print the truth, but have disappeared from the - mainstream - media), although I think the distinction mainstream media vs. non-mainstream media is as clear.

Here is more on Trump's career, and how this was much helped by "the media":
The media licensed the mountebank for his latest star turn, upgraded him, credited His Fraudulence with a talent for lying when they were not marveling at his blunt originality. They presidentialized him, accorded him their most fulsome praise (interesting!), oo-ed and ah-ed at the spectacle of his shiny performances, surely (you have to admit!) a little bit different from the boring same-old-same-old policy proposals (and wasn’t that refreshing!). There were the favors of commission, like granting him a wad of unpaid broadcast time greater than that received by all the other candidates put together; the puffball “interviews” which he deigned to phone in to slavering “news” personnel; their fascination with his appearances even as their cameras showed — Breaking News! — crowds staring at empty platforms.
Yes indeed, all of this happened, as did the following:
There were also, of course, the favors of omission, especially TV’s shunting aside the seamier side of Trump’s background, his dreadful reputation in New York’s real estate world, his mafia ties, his thuggish ways with investors and contractors, his government subsidies and so on.
Again I agree. Then there is this, with which I - more or less - halfly agree:
There were of course exceptional reporters and editors. They deserve celebration — I’ve done some of it myself — and, God willing, there will be more to celebrate in time. But the big story is that it’s the regulars who failed bigger-time — the professionals, the so-called “press corps,” the preening paragons of the First Amendment — who, in the face of the Nov. 8 disaster deposited upon the United States of America, stroked their beards and wondered what went wrong with their polls and how they had missed white rage (which they mistakenly assumed to be, centrally, operatively, white working-class rage), not how they had let this trickster and fraudster climb to the head of the pack before they realized he had run rings around them and the truth, by which time it was too late to vote him off the island. In the face of so-called “conservative media” eroding their audience, they caved.
I "halfly agree" (at best) because in fact I think the mainstream media did not cave in after "the Nov. 8 disaster" but caved in a whole lot earlier, namely between 2001 and 2005 (or indeed before, but 9/11/01 is a good marker [1]).

And I think this is also a mistake of Gitlin, although I agree with him that it are "
the professionals, the so-called “press corps,” the preening paragons of the First Amendment", that is, mostly: the mainstream media who chose to go for profits for themselves rather than for speaking the truth to their own public.

The following again is true:
It cannot be said too many times that the mainstream media rolled out the blood-red carpet on which Trump strutted to center stage to assume his throne amid the ruins of American democracy.
Yes indeed - or to put it otherwise: This is also how I see it, and not merely on the basis of my fantasies and my feelings, but on the basis of eight years of systematic enquiries into the crisis that started in 2008, that meanwhile resulted in over 1445 articles in these eight years:

The mainstream media rolled out the carpet for Trump, mostly because they were far more interested in profits for themselves than in telling their readers or their viewers the truth, and in doing so they destroyed the foundations for democracy.

Here is Todd Gitlin's plan for the coming year (2017):
I want to go back where the swamp starts. (Not that I have anything against swamps, which are, after all, good ecosystems. But I’m working with the metaphor du jour.) So I’ve decided to devote myself this coming year to an effort to take seriously the far-flung warp-world, the force-field of distortion and derangement that generates and circulates propaganda, fabrications, sloppy thinking and straight-out nihilism which dominates the beliefs, if we can use that word, of the Republican Party, and which large numbers of Americans have come to accept as a baseline for what they call reality. What bent world do the purveyors live in? What’s the method to their legacy? Can we say anything to clarify what they’re on about?
In fact, I have been doing that the last eight years, and produced more than 1445 articles doing so, and indeed have arrived at some rather probable conclusions, some of which I will repeat now (with some internal repeats for clarity's sake):

(1) the mainstream media, when reporting the news, mostly report lies, propaganda
     and deceptions for the benefits of the rich, much rather than (probable) truths and
     honesty for the benefit of the ordinary voters;
(2) they do so because they are now much more interested in profits for themselves
     than in being the bulwark on which democracy stands;
(3) the mainstream media do accept the beliefs of the rich these days, viz. that all that
     matters for a corporation are the profits it makes, and they are quite happy to
     work exclusively to help the rich (while pretending to be 'objective' [2]);
(4)
the mainstream media work to increase their own profits and the profits of the rich;
(5) and do so by spreading their lies, deceptions and propaganda as if it were the truth,
     which they can do mostly because very many of their readers and viewers are quite
     stupid and/or very ignorant and thus are very easy do deceive. [3]

That is what I think (and have concluded as the most probable, on the basis of over 1445 articles I wrote, mostly about the beliefs or policies of others).

Here is some more on what Gitlin sets out to do:
So I am going to call the totality of this enterprise The Vortex, which stands for: VOices of RT-wing EXtremism. “Vortex” conveys linkage and “Voices” conveys multiplicity.
And Gitlin ends as follows:
So I will be exploring the Vortex this year, taking this as my resolution: We may not be interested in right-wing lunacy, but it’s interested in us, our republic and our capacity to know the truth. So we must know it to someday, somehow, set ourselves free.
I will be interested in knowing Gitlin's results, though as I said, I have been researching this now since 2008 by myself, and I have reached some probable conclusions.
----
Notes
[1] I think the mainstream media - both TV and the printed press - chose for profits and lies somewhere between 9/11/01 and 2005, and they did so for two fairly important reasons: (1) the profits they did have (especially the printed press) had fallen a great amount because of the rise of the internet, and (2) there was - at least according to Bush Jr and his government - a "War Against Terror" going on.

I do not know which factor has the most weight, and there may be others, but 9/11/01 seems a good marker for when this started happening on a large scale.

[2] In fact, according to Milton Friedman making (maximal) profits is the only moral norm that applies to any corporation, while see item 4 for 'objective': In the mouths of some journalists this means: 'lying for the president, to prevent that He may be called a liar'.

[3] Again I insist on something extremely few journalists even mention: The major importance of stupidity and ignorance.

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