Sunday, July 30, 2017

Crisis: GOP Presidents, US Top Spy, Duterte, Life On Earth, Apple Helps Chinese Government

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from July 30, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, July 30, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 30, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Past 5 GOP Presidents Have Used Fraud and Treason to Steer Themselves to Electoral Victory

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. This starts as follows:

People are wondering out loud about the parallels between today’s Republican Party and organized crime, and whether “Teflon Don” Trump will remain unscathed through his many scandals, ranging from interactions with foreign oligarchs to killing tens of thousands of Americans by denying them healthcare to stepping up the destruction of our environment and public lands.  

History suggests – even if treason can be demonstrated – that, as long as he holds onto the Republican Party (and Fox News), he’ll survive it intact. And he won’t be the first Republican president to commit high crimes to get and stay in office.  

In fact, Eisenhower was the last legitimately elected Republican president we’ve had in this country.

Since Dwight Eisenhower left the presidency in 1961, six different Republicans have occupied the Oval Office.

And every single one of them - from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump - have been illegitimate - ascending to the highest office in the land not through small-D democratic elections - but instead through fraud and treason.

(And today’s GOP-controlled Congress is arguably just as corrupt and illegitimate, acting almost entirely within the boundaries set by an organized group of billionaires.)
Yes, indeed, and the argument that follows on the (im)moral character and the dishonesties and frauds perpetrated by the last six Republican presidents is well laid out.

And here is one other bit from near the ending (after the outline of the corruptions of the last six Republican presidents):

This raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the modern Republican Party itself. 

They work hand-in-glove with a group of right-wing billionaires and billionaire-owned or dominated media outlets like Fox and “conservative” TV and radio outlets across the nation, along with a very well-funded network of rightwing websites.  

The Koch Network’s various groups, for example, have more money, more offices, and more staff than the Republican Party itself. Three times more employees and twice the budget, in fact. Which raises the question: which is the dog, and which is the tail?

Clearly, you go by the money each group controls, and that means that the Republican Party at present is the tail that is wagged by the Koch Network.

And incidentally: I think a similar argument, of major corruption, holds against the Democrats, who are the tail wagged by Goldman Sachs, that itself is so powerful that it also controls large parts of Trump's government.

Democracy is dead in the USA, and this is a recommended article.

2. Leak: Internal Documents Show How the Nation’s Top Spy Is Instructed to Talk About Trump

This article is by Mattathias Schwarz on Mother Jones and originally on Pro Publica. This is from near the beginning of the article:

ProPublica has obtained internal talking points, apparently written by one of Coats’ aides, anticipating questions that Holt was likely to ask. They offer a window into the euphemisms and evasions necessary to handle a pressing issue for Coats: how to lead the intelligence community at a time when the president has insulted it on Twitter and denigrated its work while questions about Russian influence consume ever more time and attention in Washington. Sixteen of the 26 questions addressed by the talking points concerned internal White House politics, the Russia investigation, or the president himself. One question put the challenges facing Coats this way: “How can you work as DNI for a president that undermines your work?”

DNI spokesman Brian Hale told ProPublica that the 17-page document was a small, unclassified part of “a thick binder” of preparation documents for Coats’ interview.
Prepared questions and answers—talking points—have long been standard procedure in Washington for officials facing a major interview or public testimony. In this instance, the document anticipated far sterner questions than Holt posed in the actual interview and Coats, an experienced official, often departed from the script.

In the talking points, Coats was advised to say that he and the president have “a trusted relationship,” framing any disagreements as constructive ones. “We may not always agree,” the document stated. “We must maintain an open dialogue … the relationship portrayed in the media between the president and the intelligence community is a far cry from what I have personally experienced and witnessed … there is a healthy dialogue and a good back and forth discussion.”

There is quite a bit more and I found this rather interesting, though indeed more or less as I expected it. And by the way: Unless Trump blows up the world, the intelligence services will outlast Trump. Also, Trump and the intelligence services may not have identical plans, but they are quite similar.

3. New Film Shows the Brutality of Duterte’s Murderous Drug War in the Philippines

This is by Alex Emmons on The Intercept. This starts as follows:

President Donald Trump attracted bipartisan criticism in April for enthusiastically endorsing one of the world’s most brazen human rights catastrophes: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drug campaign. Since Duterte took office last June, police and vigilante death squads have killed more than 7,000 people, and devastated poor in communities in cities across the country.

Now, a new film shows the human toll of Duterte’s campaign. “Duterte’s Hell,” by Aaron Goodman and Luis Liwanag and produced with the documentary unit Field of Vision, shows graphic images of Philippine police examining and carting off dead bodies, and grieving communities struggling to cope with the government-sanctioned murders.

In 2016, Duterte campaigned on a policy of mass extermination for anyone involved in the drug trade — not only drug traffickers, but addicts as well. “Hitler massacred three million Jews,” Duterte said in September. “Now there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

In April, Trump stunned observers of the crisis by placing what his aides described as a “very friendly” call to Duterte, inviting the Philipine president to the White House. Weeks later, The Intercept, in partnership with the Philipine news site Rappler, obtained and published a transcript of that call, showing that Trump heaping praise on the drug campaign. “I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” he told Duterte.

I can't say I am much amazed by the fact that Donald Trump, whom I identified a year ago as a neofascist, supports someone who wants to exterminate three million persons.

There is more in the article, which is recommended.

4. When Life on Earth Was Nearly Extinguished

This is by Peter Brannen on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It has been called the “Great Dying.”

The planet’s most profound catastrophe struck 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, killing 90 percent of life in the ocean and 75 percent on land. The fossil record nearly goes silent and remains startlingly impoverished for millions of years: trees disappear, bacteria replace coral reefs, insects hush. What looks like fungus spikes in the fossil record, perhaps the sepulchral rot of a dying world.

It was as close as earth has ever come to being sterilized altogether, and would take 10 million years for the planet to fully recover, setting the stage for the eventual rise of the dinosaurs.

“The End-Permian mass extinction is unique in earth history,” said Seth Burgess, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey. “Nothing else is as severe, and it’s not even close.”

A growing body of evidence suggests that this ancient apocalypse was brought on, in large part, by gigantic emissions of carbon dioxide from volcanoes that erupted across a vast swath of Siberia. Today the consequence of quickly injecting huge pulses of carbon dioxide into the air is discussed as if the threat exists only in the speculative output of computer models. But, as scientists have discovered, this has happened many times before, and sometimes the results were catastrophic.

And this ends as follows:

Though the Great Dying was truly extreme, and likely included some stresses beyond the scope of humanity’s armamentarium, we have emerged as a formidable geological force in our own right as we continue to tweak and warp the complex earth systems that sustain life.

“The rate at which we’re injecting CO2 into the atmosphere today, according to our best estimates, is 10 times faster than it was during the End-Permian,” the paleoclimatologist Lee Kump, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, told me. “And rates matter. So today we’re creating a very difficult environment for life to adapt, and we’re imposing that change maybe 10 times faster than the worst events in earth’s history.”

I say. And this is a recommended article.

5. Apple Removes Apps From China Store That Help Internet Users Evade Censorship

This is by Paul Mozul on The New York Times. It shows you how pro-democracy and how pro individual freedom Apple Corporation is, and it starts as follows:

China appears to have received help on Saturday from an unlikely source in its fight against tools that help users evade its Great Firewall of internet censorship: Apple.

Software made by foreign companies to help users skirt the country’s system of internet filters has vanished from Apple’s app store on the mainland.

One company, ExpressVPN, posted a letter it had received from Apple saying that its app had been taken down “because it includes content that is illegal in China.”

Another tweeted from its official account that its app had been removed.

A search on Saturday showed that a number of the most popular foreign virtual-private networks, also known as VPNs, which give users access to the unfiltered internet in China, were no longer accessible on the company’s app store there.

ExpressVPN wrote in its blog that the removal was “surprising and unfortunate.”

It added, “We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts.”

There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

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