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Nederlog

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crisis: Julian Assange, 'Crazy Nut Job', Poitras, Economy, Spiegel: Trump Must Go


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Sweden Withdraws Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, but He
     Still Faces Serious Legal Jeopardy

2. Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased
     Pressure From Investigation

3.
Director Laura Poitras: Julian Assange Is an
     ‘Equal-Opportunity’ Leaker (Audio)

4.
‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’: The Economic Voodoo That Seduces
     Americans to Vote Against Their Own Interest

5.
It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 20, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with five items and five dotted links: Item 1 is about the withdrawal of Assange's arrest warrant; item 2 is about a NYT article about Trump's qualification of Comey as "crazy, a real nut job"; item 3 is about Laura Poitras' latest movie Risk, which happens to be about Julian Assange; item 4 is about the American economy and the American "democracy"; and item 5 is about an article by the chief editor of Spiegel that I agree with.

And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for more than 1 1/2 years, though now only at one of my two sites:
May 20: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site was (of course) not on time today, probably because it is not Sunday, for that is the only time my site has a half-decent chance of being properly updated : It's still stuck on Sunday last (May 14).

They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most and without any problem, as indeed is the work of ISPs. Now this takes a full week, on average.

I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And what changed is that you have to refresh (and refresh and refresh and refresh) to get the latest, which is again NOT as it was before, from 1996 till 2015, and which for me this only serves to make it extremely difficult for naive users to get the latest from my site - that for them may seem to have stuck somewhere in 2016 or 2015.

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. Sweden Withdraws Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, but He Still Faces Serious Legal Jeopardy

The first article today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows (and I heard this first yesterday afternoon, after finishing and uploading my Nederlog):
Swedish prosecutors announced this morning that they were terminating their 7-year-old sex crimes investigation into Julian Assange and withdrawing their August 20, 2010, arrest warrant for him. The chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said at a news conference this morning (pictured below) that investigators had reached no conclusion about his guilt or innocence, but instead were withdrawing the warrant because “all prospects of pursuing the investigation under present circumstances are exhausted” and it is therefore “no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence.”
I say. Ms. Ny clearly has no sympathy for Assange, but - I take it - at least legally Julian Assange has been cleared from a case of rape.

Here is some more on the background:
Almost five years ago — in June 2012 — the U.K. Supreme Court rejected Assange’s last legal challenge to Sweden’s extradition request. Days later, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and two weeks later formally received asylum from the government of Ecuador. He has been in that small embassy ever since, under threat of immediate arrest from British police if he were to leave. For years, British police expended enormous sums to maintain a 24-hour presence outside the embassy, and though they reduced their presence in 2015, continued to make clear that he would be immediately arrested if he tried to leave.
Then there is this on the attitude of the Trump administration (after a discussion of Obama, that I skipped and that you can check out yourselves):

But the Trump administration — at least if one believes its multiple statements and threats — appears unconstrained by those concerns. They appear determined to prosecute WikiLeaks, which has published numerous secret CIA hacking documents this year.

Press freedom groups, along with the ACLU and some journalists, such as the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan, have warned of the grave dangers such a prosecution would pose to media outlets around the world. But that seems an unlikely impediment to an administration that has made clear that they regard the press as an enemy.
(..)
Trump’s leading candidate to replace James Comey as FBI director, Joe Lieberman, has long called for the prosecution not only of WikiLeaks but also possibly media outlets such as the New York Times that publish the same classified information. And anonymous sources recently claimed to the New York Times that when Trump met with Comey early on in his administration, the new U.S. president expressly inquired about the possibility of prosecuting news outlets.

The brief on press freedom and on the possible prosecution of "the New York Times that publish the same classified information" is that if papers are prosecuted for printing what the government disagrees with, then both press freedom and democracy have totally disappeared from the USA.

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

The termination of the Swedish investigation is, in one sense, good news for Assange. But it is unlikely to change his inability to leave the embassy any time soon. If anything, given the apparent determination of the Trump administration to put him in a U.S. prison cell for the “crime” of publishing documents, his freedom appears further away than it has since 2010, when the Swedish case began.

Yes, I agree. And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation

The second article is by Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman and Matthew Rosenberg on The New York Times:

This starts as follows:

WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

I say. It does seem as if these are the official words of the president of the USA: Comey is "crazy, a real nut job", in the words of the president. I must say that I am not amazed, but the reason I am not amazed is mainly that I believe (as do many  other psychologists and psychiatrists: see here), as now also does the chief editor of Spiegel, as shown below, that Trump is "crazy, a real nut job", and for that reason also quite dangerous to absolutely everyone alive, for he may decide to blow up the whole world with nuclear arms.

Here is some more on Trump and Comey:

The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that the president dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.

The comments represented an extraordinary moment in the investigation, which centers in part on the administration’s contacts with Russian officials: A day after firing the man leading that inquiry, Mr. Trump disparaged him — to Russian officials.

The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting.
And this is what I meant by saying that the rest of the White House does not deny he said these words, and indeed circulated them "as the official account of the meeting".

I don't think Comey will feel thankful or kind, but will leave that to him (and while I dislike him a lot, I do not think he is crazy or a nut job).

There is also this, on Robert Mueller III, to whose appointment I paid yesterday considerable attention:

Many Democrats, and some Republicans, have said that the president may have tried to obstruct justice by firing Mr. Comey. The Justice Department’s newly appointed special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was given the authority to investigate not only potential collusion, but also related allegations, which would include obstruction of justice.

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

The F.B.I.’s investigation has bedeviled the Trump administration, and the president personally. Mr. Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the inquiry in March, telling Congress that his agents were investigating Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had assisted in the Russian efforts. Mr. Trump has denied any collusion and called the case a waste of money and time. Former officials have testified that they have so far seen no evidence of collusion.

I make two remarks on this bit:

First, it is at least a bit strange that the "F.B.I.’s investigation has bedeviled the Trump administration, and the president personally", especially if Trump is right that there is nothing to find.

And second, I think the following is still - after nearly half a year - a fact: "Former officials have testified that they have so far seen no evidence of collusion." This means - in my opinion, at least - that it is unlikely that Mueller or the FBI will present "evidence of collusion" but then it also seems fairly certain that Trump has broken his
oath of office.

There is quite a lot more in the article, that I leave to your interests.

3. Director Laura Poitras: Julian Assange Is an ‘Equal-Opportunity’ Leaker (Audio)

The third article is by Emma Niles on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The subject matter of Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras’ new film “Risk” could not be more timely: controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“I absolutely defend what WikiLeaks published,” Poitras tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence” on KCRW. “It’s crucial journalism.”

Poitras, director of “The Oath” and “Citizenfour,” and Scheer discuss Assange’s role as a publisher and the effect WikiLeaks had on the 2016 presidential election. Their conversation comes just as Assange is back in the headlines: Early Friday, news broke that Sweden has dropped a rape investigation directed at the leaker.

Indeed (and see above). And I agree - of course - with Poitras: If the government is to decide what journalists can and cannot publish, then the government is a police state or a dictatorship.

There are also some disagreements with Poitras and Assange:

“I don’t agree with all of Julian’s decisions. I don’t agree with his decision to not redact certain information—I think that if something is personal information, and it’s not newsworthy, it should be redacted,” Poitras explains. “But those are differences of opinion, not differences of his right to publish.”

I think I agree with Poitras. Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
The two go on to discuss U.S. relations with Russia and media “redbaiting,” and the evolution of honest documentary filmmaking. “These are disturbing times,” Poitras tells Scheer.

The interview concludes with a discussion about whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, who was freed this week after serving seven years of a 35-year prison term.

“You asked at the beginning of this interview, ‘Why aren’t there more whistleblowers?’ ” Poitras says to Scheer. “I’m not sure that that’s the right question, because the price that Chelsea Manning has paid, or that Edward Snowden has paid, is so enormous. I think that the real question is, ‘Why aren’t our elected officials informing the public?’ in terms of what this country is doing, and ‘Why aren’t people who commit acts of violence in other countries held accountable?’ ”

I do not know whether I agree with Poitras: I agree that the price that Manning and Snowden have paid was very large, but on the other hand what they are talking about (especially Snowden) is of extreme importance to everyone: Whether it is decent, moral, democratic or desirable that a set of professional spies may spy on absolutely everyone to prevent terrorism.

And I say - as did Frank Church: See here - that it is indecent, immoral, undermocratic and extremely undesirable, for at the same time dossiers are compiled, in secret, by the secret services, that will enable any government to hold on to power by destroying its enemies as their spies see fit. That is not a democracy: it is a dictatorship.

4. ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’: The Economic Voodoo That Seduces Americans to Vote Against Their Own Interest

The fourth article today is by Cory Dolgon on AlterNet:

In fact, this article is a quotation from the following book:

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new book Kill It to Save It: An Autopsy of Capitalism's Triumph over Democracy by Corey Dolgon (Policy Press, 2017)

And the text starts as follows:

It's the Political Economy, Stupid

“I give them all money and they do what I want. The system is broken … but I will make you rich.” (Donald Trump, Republican Presidential Debate, August 6, 2015)

“It is profitable to let the world go to hell.” (Jorgen Randers, The Limits to Growth)

“It’s the economy, stupid.” (James Carville, Bill Clinton’s Political Advisor in The War Room)

James Carville’s now-famous quote was never meant to expose his or Bill Clinton’s dour economic determinism. The true meaning of the phrase rests on the ambiguous pronoun. What is the “it” that is “the economy?” We know Carville’s campaign mantra (the one he spouted in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary The War Room): “Don’t complicate the simple.” But perhaps the opposite is true—“It’s the economy, stupid” simplifies something incredibly complicated and painfully raw. “It” represents a profoundly cynical sense of democracy and the structures and people that perversely control it. “It” stands for “what will convince the majority of poor, working- and middle-class Americans to vote for our candidates, despite the candidates themselves being bought and sold by wealthy oligarchs.”
I more or less agree, but have to add two remarks.

First, I am not sure whether "It" carries the implications Dolgon attributes to the two letters, but then again I agree with the implication - and see yesterday's item 5 - that the "
poor, working- and middle-class Americans" are systematically misled by the mainstream media, that do not anymore defend their interests, but the interests of the very rich, and do so quite dishonestly.

And second, there also lies behind these many lies about the economy, that do and did work very well for the rich, the broader but these days hardly acknowledged problem about capitalism: How honest, decent, fair and justifiable is the capitalist mode of production, where several tens or several hundreds of billionaires own nearly everything and can gather most profits, while the great majority has very little?

I leavet this for the moment. Then there is this on the Republicans and the Democrats, especially since Reagan (who started in 1980):
The Republican Party has—certainly since Reagan, and really since Hoover—been the party of corporate America. During this same period, the Democratic Party represented a slightly wider net of capitalist interests, but espoused a more inclusive, classically liberal (almost European) style of social welfare capitalism. Thus, Roosevelt’s attempt to create a welfare state to “save capitalism” from itself intensified a division within capital. On the one side were those who supported government as the primary source for creating and distributing a modicum of collective goods and services (such as education, health care, and housing). On the other side were those who would strip these subsidies and use government primarily to protect private profits and economic expansion by managing discontent at home and deploying military power to control foreign markets.
I think this moves a bit rapidly, for I think that (i) Keynes (<- Wikipedia) and his economical principles did dominate most of the economies of the West between 1946 and 1980, and both Keynes and Roosevelt were for "government as the primary source for creating and distributing a modicum of collective goods and services (such as education, health care, and housing)", which (ii) is one of the main principles of a democracy (that is also founded on legal rights and personal freedoms, and both were also capitalists, though  (iii) not of the Trumpian, Rubinesque, Summersian kind, which is well summed up by Trump's statement (quoted above) that "The system is broken … but I will make you rich." And the "you" there are the few very rich, not the many non-rich.

And the very rich won, and won a whole lot, ever since Reagan, because both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in fact were also for the rich, and especially the bankers.

Then there is this about democracy, government and corporate interests:
To talk about the monetization of democracy in the wake of Citizens United would not shatter any illusions to the contrary—there are none anymore. Democracy—once the purview of patrician gentleman and liberal and conservative do-gooders—would eventually be usurped by experts, media pundits, and barely hidden large corporate interests. But now our government is almost completely owned and operated by blustery plutocrats. According to a recent series in The New York Times, 158 families and the companies they own dominated early 2016 campaign phases, donating over one quarter of all campaign money contributed to both parties through June 2015. In the 2012 elections, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson alone gave close to US$150 million to Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates. The Koch brothers committed to spending almost US$1 billion on the 2016 elections. In the end, these billionaires simply elected one of their own, Donald Trump, cutting out the middleman.
Yes, I think that may be mostly correct. There is more in the article, and a lot more in the book, and this is a recommended article.

5. It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump


The fifth and last article today is by the editor of Spiegel (German) Klaus Brinkbšumer:
This starts as follows:

Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

I say! And I do, because I almost completely agree, and because my nearly complete agreement is with the chief editor of one of the most important European magazines.

O, and what I do not agree with is the bit of political correctness that I see in "
I feel ashamed to use these words" - namely: a liar, a racist and a cheat - "as sharp and loud as they are." It is evident there are many liars, racists and cheats all through human history, and I totally fail to see why it would be inappropriate to use these terms to describe a character like Trump.

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

Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other - and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.

The first is Trump's resignation, which won't happen. The second is that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which would be justified by the president's proven obstruction of justice, but won't happen because of the Republicans' thirst for power, which they won't willingly give it up. The third possible solution is the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That isn't particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option two, impeachment. Fifth: the international community wakes up and finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn't directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary - and possible.

I agree again. And this is a recommended article.

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