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Nederlog

Saturday, Apr 22, 2017

Crisis: Republicans, Greenwald, Deep State, Wall Street, Health Professionals, Facebook


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Republicans Sell Access to Congressional Staffers, Flouting
     Cardinal Ethics Rule

2.
Glenn Greenwald Says Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press
     Freedom for All

3. Is the Deep State Our Only Control Over Trump?
4.
In Latest Populist Betrayal, Trump Executive Order Unchains
     Wall Street Greed

5. Group of Mental Health Professionals Warn Trump's State
     'Putting Country in Danger

6. A New Study Confirms What You've Long Suspected: Facebook
     Is Making People Crazy

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday
, April 22, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with six items and six links: Item 1 is about one of the key corruptions practiced by the Republicans: They sell access to Congressional staffers; item 2 is about Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange's reaction to the threat that Wikileaks will be prosecuted; item 3 is about an article by Robert Kuttner about the deep state and Trump, but my problem is that I get no evidence to
support his opinions; item 4 is about Trump's unchaining Wall Streets greed (which is very bad, in my opinion, but also may lead to another economical collapse, which is probably good); item 5 is about psychiatric health professionals who seem to be a little confused by the APA; and item 6 is about something long suspected (according to Kevin Drum): Facebook makes people crazy. (I tend to agree, but then I did not visit Facebook the last 6 years or so, and never was a member, and never will be a member: I am not a moron and I don't hand over my privacy to Facebook.)
April 22: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site - of course! - is still stuck on April 15. These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them.)

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Republicans Sell Access to Congressional Staffers, Flouting Cardinal Ethics Rule

The first article today is
by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Congressional Republicans are baldly enticing donors with the promise of meetings with senior legislative staff, effectively placing access to congressional employees up for sale to professional influence peddlers and other well-heeled interests.

Documents obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy show that the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are both telling donors that in exchange for campaign contributions, they will receive invitations to special events to meet with congressional staff including chiefs of staff, leadership staffers, and committee staffers.

In fact, this seems to be one of the essences of systematic corruption: Selling congressional employees to professional influence peddlers: "You pay, and we invite you to the places you may use further money to get what you desire."

In fact, this happened before, but not on this scale:

While selling donors access to senators and representatives and their campaign staff is nothing new, the open effort to sell access to their legislative staff — the taxpayer-funded government employees who work behind the scenes to write legislation, handle investigations, and organize committee hearings — appears to be in violation of ethics rules that prohibit campaigns from using House and Senate resources in any way.

Yes, for otherwise you just as well can leave lawmaking to those who will profit from it - which in fact seems to be what the Trumpian government wants.

There is also this:

It’s arguably the last fig leaf left when it comes to giving the appearance that campaign contributions are not directly linked to official acts.

“You can’t use resources that are paid for by the taxpayer to service campaign donors. That’s blatantly illegal,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the former chief of staff to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Precisely. And there is this:

“This takes money buying access to a new level,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor and ethics expert at Loyola Law School. “This means that people with money can buy, in a very concrete sense, a meeting with important staffers.”

Again precisely (and these staffers they then know and can try to buy). There's a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

2. Glenn Greenwald Says Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press Freedom for All

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

This starts with the following introduction:

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald responds to reports that the Trump administration has prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the report at a news conference Thursday. Last week, CIA chief Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service," in a stark reversal from his previous praise for the group. Pompeo made the remarks last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in his first public address as CIA director. Pompeo went on to accuse WikiLeaks of instructing Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to steal information. He also likened Julian Assange to a "demon" and suggested Assange is not protected under the First Amendment. It’s been nearly five years since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London seeking political asylum, fearing a Swedish arrest warrant could lead to his extradition to the United States. Greenwald’s story for The Intercept is "Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms."

I checked but did not review that article from Greenwald. Here is some more on Pompeo:

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, CIA chief Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a, quote, "hostile intelligence service," in a stark reversal from his previous praise for the group. Pompeo made the remarks last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in his first public address as CIA director.

MIKE POMPEO: It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. ... In reality, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is clickbait, their moral compass nonexistent. Their mission, personal self-aggrandizement through destruction of Western values.

I say. Why does this remind me so much of Trump? I'd say because Trump champions nothing but his own celebrity and profits; because his currency is clickbait; because his moral compass is non-existent, and because his mission seems to be personal self- aggrandizement through destruction of the Western values that protect the non-rich from being mercilessly exploited by the rich.

Anyway... Here is Glenn Greenwald:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Your response to this latest news that the U.S. government, that the Justice Department, is preparing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange?

GLENN GREENWALD: What’s interesting is, the Justice Department under President Obama experimented with this idea for a long time. They impaneled a grand jury to criminally investigate WikiLeaks and Assange. They wanted to prosecute them for publishing the trove of documents back in 2011 relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. And what they found, the Obama Justice Department found, was that it is impossible to prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing secret documents, without also prosecuting media organizations that regularly do the same thing. The New York Times, The Guardian, many other news organizations also published huge troves of the documents provided by Chelsea Manning. So it was too much of a threat to press freedom, even for the Obama administration, to try and create a theory under which WikiLeaks could be prosecuted.
(..)
And the Trump administration obviously believes that they can now safely, politically, prosecute WikiLeaks. And the danger, of course, is that this is an administration that has already said, the President himself has said, the U.S. media is the enemy of the American people. And this is a prosecution that would enable them not only to prosecute and imprison Julian Assange, but a whole variety of other journalists and media outlets that also routinely publish classified information from the U.S. government.

I think all of that is correct. And here is Julian Assange:

JULIAN ASSANGE: Pompeo said explicitly that he was going to redefine the legal parameters of the First Amendment to define publishers like WikiLeaks in such a manner that the First Amendment would not apply to them. What the hell is going on? This is the head of the largest intelligence service in the world, the intelligence service of the United States. He doesn’t get to make proclamations on interpretation of the law. That’s a responsibility for the courts, it’s a responsibility for Congress, and perhaps it’s a responsibility for the attorney general. It’s way out of line to usurp the roles of those entities that are formally engaged in defining the interpretations of the First Amendment. For any—frankly, any other group to pronounce themselves, but for the head of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries are of reporting and not reporting is a very disturbing precedent. This is not how the First Amendment works. It’s just—it’s just legally wrong.

Actually, I don't know. First, here is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second, while I think Assange is mostly correct about interpreting the First Amendment, there is a related question he doesn't ask: To what extent does this American law apply to an Australian (like Assange), or a Dutchman, or a German or a Norwegian?

I am asking because I meanwhile learned that the protections the Fourth Amendment does offer for mail, e-mails and privacy (as I read it), do not apply to me, because I
am not an American: The American secret services can simply steal from me (and every non-American) what they like.

And I'd say the First Amendment does not apply to an Australian or a Dutchman, although the fact that Wikileaks also is involved does probably make some legal difference (for "the freedom of the press" is mentioned in the First Amendment).

Here is some more by Glenn Greenwald on the freedom of speech:

GLENN GREENWALD: I think the key point here to understand is the way in which governments typically try and abridge core freedoms, because what they know is that if they target a group that is popular or a particular idea that people agree with, there will be an uprising against the attempt to abridge freedom. So what they always do, for example, when governments try and abridge freedom of speech, is they pick somebody who they know is hated in society or who expresses an idea that most people find repellent, and they try and abridge freedom of speech in that case, so that most people will let their hatred for the person being targeted override the principle involved, and they will sanction or at least acquiesce to the attack on freedom because they hate the person being attacked.
(..)
And so, what Jeff Sessions is hoping, and probably with a good amount of validity, is that Democrats, who should be the resistance to these sorts of attacks, will actually cheer for the Trump administration while they prosecute WikiLeaks, because they hate WikiLeaks so much, and that U.S. media outlets, which also hate WikiLeaks, won’t raise much of a fuss. And that way, this very dangerous precedent of allowing the CIA and the Trump Justice Department to decide who is and who is not a journalist, what types of journalism are protected by the First Amendment and what types aren’t, will be entrenched as precedent.

I think that is correct again, and this is a recommended article in which there is considerably more than I quoted.

3. Is the Deep State Our Only Control Over Trump?

The third article is by Robert Kuttner (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet, and originally on The American Prospect:

This has the following:

Steve Bannon was basically right about the deep state—otherwise known as the U.S. Constitution and the permanent establishment.

Once Michael Flynn self-destructed, leaders like National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis also began injecting an overdue dose of reality into the Trump presidency.

The defense establishment is part of the Deep State. So are the courts. So is the reality of separation of powers.

Likewise the fact that the FBI and the CIA, whatever their other missteps, are not about to become Trump’s private secret police. They are part of the deep state, too.

I say. If you check out Robert Kuttner (<- Wikipedia), you'll find he is a 74-year old journalist and writer with a liberal background. I do not know anything he wrote about the deep state, but he seems to be very much informed about it.

Then again, I am also a bit doubtful.

First, I don't believe that "the deep state" is "otherwise known as the U.S. Constitution and the permanent establishment". I don't think it has much to do with the Constitution, and indeed many policies of the deep state (in my understanding, which - I think - is fairly good since I first started reading about it 1 1/2 years ago) are in contradiction with any fair reading of the Constitution.

And second, I am a bit amazed by the certainty with which Kuttner asserts that

"The defense establishment is part of the Deep State. So are the courts. So is the reality of separation of powers. Likewise (..) the FBI and the CIA (..)"
Note I am not saying "Yes" or "No": In fact, I am asking for evidence, that is wholly absent in this article.

And note please that the whole concept of "the deep state" is still rejected by many, while others ask what it does consist of. And I think there very probably is a deep state, but indeed would like to know what it consists of, besides some of the leading military and some of the leading industrialists, that were already there in Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex",
(<-Wikipedia) that seems to be the best known forerunner of the concept of "the deep state" (<-Wikipedia) - and as you will see in the last link, the concept of the deep state (still) gets "translated" by Wikipedia to "state within a state".

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

So, the good news/bad news net-net looks something like this:

Good news: Reality and the deep state stop Trump well short of fascism.

Bad news: We have, instead, a conventional, far-right Republican presidency, led by a stunningly incompetent sociopath.

Good news: The Republican Party keeps fragmenting—into Tea Party and Main Street factions on domestic policy, Putin-apologist and Putin-abhoring factions on foreign policy, and white nationalist factions and Wall Street globalist factions on economics. That can only weaken Trump.

Bad news: Despite Trump’s faux populism, the Wall Street lock on the political economy has never been stronger. One face of fascism is political dictatorship; the other is a corporate state.

Good news and bad news: Nothing that Trump is likely to do will change the economic situation of the downtrodden middle- and working-class Americans who voted for Trump out of disgust with the status quo.

Quite possibly so, but (i) I would like so see evidence and (ii) at least the initial statement quoted above, namely "Reality and the deep state stop Trump well short of fascism" is extremely vague: "the deep state" is wholly undefined; while I agree with Kuttner that reality exists, there are very many different versions of what this involves; and "fascism" does also not seem to be quite the correct term to describe Trump, and anyway has at least 21 different definitions (outlined and criticized in my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions).

4. In Latest Populist Betrayal, Trump Executive Order Unchains Wall Street Greed

The fourth article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In yet another Wall Street giveaway, President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon took executive action to chip away at Dodd-Frank financial regulations and roll back rules aimed at reducing corporate tax avoidance.

Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for watchdog group Public Citizen, described the orders signed Friday at the Treasury Department as "nothing more than special favors for the same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy in 2008 and put millions of Americans out of work."
Yes, I think Lisa Gilbert is quite right. Here is some more:

"Republican Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson conceived the Financial Stability Oversight Council as a forum for catching financial risks that fall through the cracks between the various regulatory agencies," said Public Citizen financial policy advocate Bartlett Naylor on Friday. "The biggest bailout in the financial crash went to insurance firm AIG, which fell through one such crack. An executive order that questions this oversight can signal to firms intent on high-risk financial ventures that playtime is back."

Trump previously signed an order directing a roll-back of Dodd-Frank overall.

As I said, I agree with Gilbert, though I admit to a considerable bi-valence here,
that again is mostly fed by - what seems to me - the corruption of many members
of the Senate and the House:

If the
Senate and the House are not capable of creating a decent economy for all,
but instead go on with creating a corrupt economy for the rich, all I can hope for is that the American economy gets blown up again, as in 2008 or worse, and indeed Trump's decision also considerably increased the likelihood of that.

But Gilbert is right that until that moment arises, Trump's decision will put "
put millions of Americans out of work".
 
5. Group of Mental Health Professionals Warn Trump's State 'Putting Country in Danger

The fifth article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

A group of mental health professionals gathered at Yale University Thursday to discuss what they believe is their duty to warn the public of the "danger" posed by President Donald Trump.

The "Duty to Warn" event was attended by roughly two dozen people and was organized Dr. Bandy Lee, assistant clinical professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, the CTPost writes. Lee called the mental health of the president "the elephant in the room," and said: "Colleagues are concerned about the repercussions of speaking."

Hm. I think this is rather ambiguous between (i) protesting against the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and (ii) warning the public of the danger posed by president Donald Trump.

Clearly, quite a few psychologist and psychiatrists have felt it their duty to warn against the danger posed by president Donald Trump, and so have I (who is a Dutch
psychologist). Indeed some did so, publicly, and here is a link.

But then - if they are American psychiatrists, if also they are members of the APA - there may be repercussions of speaking. Here is the explanation of Andrea Germanos:

Yale did not sponsor the event, and said that conference-goers were expected to follow the Goldwater Rule. Enacted in 1973, it bars psychiatrists from giving their professional opinion on the mental health of a person they have not met. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) last month reaffirmed its support for the rule. In fact, the Duty to Warn group "has drawn considerable criticism from the psychiatric establishment" for flouting the rule, the Associated Press writes.

"Basically, one cannot speak of public figures under any circumstance," Lee said, according to NPR member station WSHU. "And to do that under this current climate of grave concern is, in my mind, is actually a political statement.”

I agree with Lee, but I also understand the point of view of the American Psychiatric Association: They believe it is far better that Trump should blow up the world, than that anyone who is a member of their association should be allowed to say that a person like Trump appreciably increases that risk.

It so happens that I am a psychologist (and a philosopher) who thinks that psychiatry is not a real science, and indeed I also did not study it. My advice to American psychiatrists is simple (but I do not know how much this would lessen or improve their personal chances of employment): Leave the APA.

Here indeed is the voice of an American psychologist:

"We do believe that Donald Trump's mental illness is putting the entire country, and indeed the entire world, in danger," argued Dr. John Gartner, a psychologist who used to teach at Johns Hopkins University, local WTNH writes. "As health professionals we have an ethical duty to warn the public about that danger," he said.

"Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President. If Donald Trump really believes he had the largest crowd size in history, that's delusional," Gartner added.

Yes, I think that is correct. And I agree with the following:

Gartner founded Duty to Warn and also started a Change.org petition which states that "Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States" and should therefore be removed from office. As of this writing, the petition has gathered over 42,000 signatures.

In a letter to the editors of the New York Times earlier this year, a separate group of over 30 mental health professionals also warned of Trump's "grave emotional instability" and said of the Goldwater Rule: "this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer."

"Mr. Trump's speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists)," they wrote.

Indeed. But meanwhile the American Psychiatric Association believes it is far better that Trump should blow up the world, than that anyone who is a member of their association should be allowed to say that a person like Trump appreciably increases that risk.

I'd say: And that is modern psychiatry for you (and be assured that meanwhile, until Trump does blow up the world, psychiatrists will continue to make a lot of money for themselves).

6. A New Study Confirms What You've Long Suspected: Facebook Is Making People Crazy

The sixth and last article today is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:

Matt Yglesias says Mark Zuckerberg could do the world a favor by deep-sixing Facebook:

He bases his call to action on research like this:

Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.

First of all, who is Matt Yglesias? (I didn't know.) The last link is to Wikipedia, that explains he is a 35 year old "liberal" (between quotes because the American meaning of "liberal" is rather different from the English and the European meanings of the same term).

Second, I was interested in "
research like this" and quote one bit of it:
Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison. Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others.
Hm. I am a psychologist, and this sounds too much like psychology to me ("may", "can", "it is possible") for me to take it very seriously, but I do agree that - self- evidently - engaging in Facebook does detract "from face-to-face relationships"
while I also think this does not mention at all the one feature of the "social media"
that I dislike a lot, namely their anonymity.

Then again, I dislike Facebook so much that I have no fair idea whatsoever about how many are anonymous on it (for I totally avoid it).

And here is Kevin Drum:

But I'm totally willing to believe that Facebook is evil even without hard evidence. The casually brutal insults almost certainly outweigh the praise for a lot of people. It instills a sense of always needing to keep up with things every minute of the day. It interferes with real-life relationships. It takes time away from more concentrated activities that are probably more rewarding in the long run.

This doesn't apply to all Facebook users. In fact, I'd guess that it applies to only 10-15 percent of them. But that's enough.

I agree with the first paragraph and have no idea about the second paragraph. My advice to intelligent people is to avoid it completely, and not so much because it
might upset you, but because Facebook makes its profit by stealing (or "stealing":
I also do not know what they make you sign) much of the privacy of their users,
whom they "reward" by sending them "personal advertisements". I say!

If you want that, you must be very stupid (in my metrics) but it seems many are.

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