Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Crisis: Trial & Terror, Toxic Houston, Nuclear War, Trump Empire, Neofascist Publishing

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 6, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 6, 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 [1] 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 (usually) 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 September 6, 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:

In fact, this is a ¨database of terrorism prosecutions and sentencing information¨ that was prepared by the staff of The Intercept. This covers the years since 9/11/2001, is updated till September 5, 2017, and is well worth looking at. It starts with a summary:

The U.S. government has prosecuted 810 people for terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Most of them never even got close to committing an act of violence.

Here is part of the text (bold in the original):

The U.S. government segregates terrorism cases into two categories — domestic and international. This database contains cases classified as international terrorism, though many of the people charged never left the United States or communicated with anyone outside the country.

Since the 9/11 attacks, most of the 810
terrorism defendants prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice have been charged with material support for terrorism, criminal conspiracy, immigration violations, or making false statements — vague, nonviolent offenses that give prosecutors wide latitude for scoring quick convictions or plea bargains.

530 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges, while the courts found 176 guilty at trial. Just 2 have been acquitted and 3 have seen their charges dropped or dismissed, giving the Justice Department a near-perfect record of conviction in terrorism cases.

Today, 355 people charged with terrorism-related offenses are in custody in the United States, including 62 defendants who are awaiting trial and remain innocent until proven guilty.

Very few terrorism defendants had the means or opportunity to commit an act of violence. The majority had no direct connection to terrorist organizations. Many were caught up in FBI stings, in which an informant or undercover agent posed as a member of a terrorist organization. The U.S. government nevertheless defines such cases as international terrorism.

420 terrorism defendants have been released from custody, often with no provision for supervision or ongoing surveillance, suggesting that the government does not regard them as imminent threats to the homeland.

This means - I´d say - that there was about one supposed terrorist arrested approximately each week since 9/11, of whom around half have been convicted, although
¨ The majority had no direct connection to terrorist organizations. Many were caught up in FBI stings, in which an informant or undercover agent posed as a member of a terrorist organization. ¨
Near the end there are two links: Explore the database, which gives access to a nice database, and Read the stories, which assembles links and pictures to many articles.

This is a recommended article:

It shows that in 16 years of daily - indeed in Holland hourly: almost every radio news mentions ¨terrorism¨ and/or ¨terrorists - propaganda since the war that opened on 9/11, in which at least 500.000 Iraqis and at least three countries (Iraq, Syria, Yemen) were destroyed by US military violence, and in spite of constant universal spying on everyone, somewhat over 350 people are in custody in the United States for terrorism...

I say.

2. Petro Metro: A Toxic Tour of Houston from Refineries to Superfund Sites in Wake of Harvey

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! This starts with the following introduction (and may be soon followed by news about an even more destructive hurricane):
In Texas, the devastation from Hurricane Harvey continues. At least 63 people have died, more than 40,000 homes have been lost, and as many 1 million cars have been destroyed. Meanwhile, the long-term environmental impact of the storm is just beginning to be felt. The Center for Biological Diversity reports flooded oil refineries and chemical plants released as much as 5 million pounds of pollutants into the air during the storm. On Friday night, another large fire broke out at the flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Then, on Sunday, authorities set fire to six remaining containers of chemicals in what was described as a controlled burn. The company continues to refuse to inform local residents of what chemicals burned at the site. For more, Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, Renée Feltz and Hany Massoud take a "toxic tour" of Houston's fenceline communities, led by environmental justice organizer Bryan Parras.
This is here in part because of the above sketched situation that the Texan ¨authorities set fire to six remaining containers of chemicals in what was described as a controlled burn. The company continues to refuse to inform local residents of what chemicals burned at the site¨ and indeed of any other relevant information, as reported yesterday.

Here is some more:
Well, this weekend, Democracy Now! headed to Texas. I went there with Democracy Now!'s Renée Feltz and Hany Massoud—both are from Houston. We went to get a closer look at the environmental and public health impact of Hurricane Harvey and related flooding. Houston, the Petro Metro, is home to a quarter of the petroleum refining capacity in the United States; include the entire Gulf Coast, and the percentage increases to half. Some of the major refineries in the region are run by ExxonMobil, Valero and the Saudi-owned Motiva. This weekend, we took a "toxic tour" of the facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, where plants spewed toxins into the air of nearby neighborhoods, so often poor communities of color.
There is a lot more in the interviews that follow. This is a recommended article.

3. On the Brink of Nuclear War

This - quite long - article is by William R. Polk (<-Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews.
It starts with the following summary:

Special Report: As nuclear war looms in Korea, the life-or-death question is whether President Trump and his team can somehow marshal the skill and strength of President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis, writes historian William R. Polk.

In fact, this article is 256.6 Kbs and I think it is too long. Also, while I do not like discrimination for age, William Polk is from 1929, which means that he is around 88.

He evidently does recall a lot of the Kennedy-days, but he does not make the relevance of those days to these days quite clear, apart from the facts that Kennedy and Khrushchev were more competent and informed than Trump and Kim, which I think is obvious anyway.

And he also writes things like these:

Now I want to undertake a refinement of the record I have laid out. I want first to show how our perception, the interpretation we place on the events that swirl past us, adds a new and formative element to them. Whether consciously or not, we tend to put events into a pattern. So the pattern itself becomes part of the problem we face in trying to understand events. Staking out a path – an interpretation or a theory of what random bits and pieces mean or how they will be interpreted and acted upon by others — is a complex and contentious task.

Getting it wrong can lead us astray or even be very dangerous. So the interpreter, the strategist, must always be tested to see if his interpretation makes sense and the path he lays out is the one we want to travel. I will make this explicit below.

I´m sorry but this is completely obvious (almost everything is patterned in many ways) and it is also quite misleading in what follows after ¨So¨: Most of the patterns we see (hear, read, believe) are not problematic for us, indeed rightly or wrongly.

So in reviewing this I have to pick out some bits here and there from a flood of 256 Kb of information. Here is the first bit:

I will speculate below on how the actual events of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the result of the war game might apply to the current conflict in Korea. Here let me anticipate by saying that we have no reason to believe that the men who will decide the issue are of the caliber of Kennedy and Khrushchev.

I agree. I also tend to agree with the following bit:

I see no evidence that Mr. Trump knows what a nuclear war would actually do. Indeed, he is quoted as saying, “what is the point of having nuclear weapons if you don’t use them?” He will find advisers who will tell him that they must be used.

Probably so, although there also is this bit on a meanwhile ousted (former) collaborator of Trump:

As Steven Bannon, President Trump’s former “Chief Strategist” is quoted as saying,There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

I think Bannon had this right - and the ¨ten million people in Seoul¨ who will very probably die if the conflict becomes nuclear may also very well be the first ten million of many millions or tens of millions deads to come in that case.

Here is a conclusion of Polk:

I am convinced that it will not be possible in the foreseeable future to get Kim Jong Un or any conceivable successor to give up deliverable nuclear weapons. Thus, there can be no “success,” as described in current policy statements by the Trump administration. But, arrangements can be created – by enlisting China and Russia as partners in negotiations and by renouncing threats and such damaging (and ineffective) policies as sanctions – to gradually create an atmosphere in which North Korea can be accepted as a partner in the nuclear “club.”

Quite possibly so, at least in principle, and - at least - for the coming 5 or 10 years, is my guess (after which Kim may have atomic weapons that are capable of blowing up major parts of the USA). Also, 10 years will tide humanity past Trump, though indeed only if he does not blast up human civilization before that.

Here is Polk´s ending (after 256 Kb of mostly text):

As I have suggested, Mr. Trump has shown no comprehension of the costs of war in a nuclear context. Nor has the general public. The pictures of children on Guam being told not to look at the flash of the fireball reminds one of the ridiculous advice to school children in America in the Cold War to take refuge under their desks.

The reality of a modern war must be explained and taught. I do not know if Korean children are so taught, but their parents or grandparents knew it firsthand. This generation of Americans has never seen war up-close in America although some of their fathers saw it in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, memories fade and Americans today do not want to be informed of the danger of a new war. Escapism is one of the great dangers we face.

In the American tradition, the President is the nation’s teacher. We must
insist he perform that task or we could pay the supreme price of falling off the edge into the dark void of nuclear war.
I more or less agree with the first two paragraphs, but not with the last: Clearly, Trump is incapable of being ¨the teacher¨ of the USA.

And all in all I think this was too much historical text for too little original content.

4. 'Toxic to Democracy': New Project Reveals Corrupting Web of Trump Empire

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts with the following summary:

"The information in this report should provide a clarion call to Congress to require him to disclose his taxes and to establish prohibitions on Trump using his office to enrich himself."

Yes indeed, and this is above a picture of Trump amidst his many existing business connections.

The text starts as follows:

Public Citizen on Tuesday launched a new project aimed at documenting President Donald Trump's vast entanglement of business interests and highlighting "the urgent need for the president to disclose his tax returns so Americans can determine the extent of his business holdings and how they may be affecting his policy decisions."

"Our current president has two jobs: leader of the free world and owner of hundreds of business entities worldwide. That combination is toxic for democracy," Michael Tanglis, a senior researcher for Public Citizen's Congress Watch division who coordinated the project, said in a statement.

Ahem. I agree that Trump must disclose his tax returns, but I do like to remark that his position as the ¨leader of the free world¨ seems too propagandistic, at least in my eyes.

Here is more by Tanglis:

"The risk of self-dealing, conflicts, and corruption is just as great as if there were no separation at all," Tanglis notes.

An interactive map and a downloadable dataset, both released alongside the new report, show the complexity of Trump's business ties, revealing the vast number of potential conflicts of interest.

"The knowledge that [Trump] is still ultimately in control of his businesses alone is enough to invite corruption," Tanglis adds. "It's a recipe for disaster."

Well... Trump may insist that he handed his business to his sons, but in the end it simply is true that (i) the chances of corruption with a president who also is (directly or indirectly) doing business are far too large, and (ii) previous presidents have declared their taxes.

This article ends as follows:

As Common Dreams has reported, Trump is currently facing several lawsuits that allege he has used the office of the presidency to turn a profit.

Tanglis observes at the close of his report that while Trump may be an "unprecedented" case as the first president with "a global business empire," he is nonetheless a "natural culmination of the decades-long stranglehold wealthy individuals and corporations have had on public policy."

"For far too long, they have achieved an outsized influence on public policy by filling the coffers of elected officials who in turn craft policy to their benefit," Tanglis concludes.

Yes indeed - although I also think again that Tanglis´s own description of Trump as the ¨leader of the free world¨ is too propagandistic.

5. What Are Impeachable Offenses?

This article - a review of two books - is by Noah Feldman and Jacob Weisberg on The New York Books Exchange. This starts as follows:
As more and more evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia has come to light, the analogy to Watergate has grown ever stronger. In both cases, a burglary of the Democratic National Committee, undertaken to influence the outcome of an election, ignited a burgeoning scandal. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and warnings to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller conjure President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Trump echoes Nixon in raging against leaks and decrying the investigation of his office as a “witch hunt.”
Because it has been used so rarely, and because it is a power entrusted to Congress, not the courts, impeachment as a legal process is poorly understood. There are no judicial opinions that create precedents for how and when to proceed with it. Past cases are subject to competing and often contradictory interpretations.
The legal limits of the impeachment power are subject to debate. Yet it is clear both historically and logically that impeachment was designed to deal with abuses committed while in office, not prior crimes. Any wrongdoing of Trump’s before he assumed the presidency must be considered separately from offenses he…
And then (and only then) I get to read this:
This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Print Subscription — $79.95
Online Subscription — $69.00
One-Week Access — $4.99
Well... to me it is an impeachable offense to trick your readers like this.

I do not have the money to pay $25 dollars a day ($750 a month) in order to review (for free) a few articles that I think are helpful in considering the political and the human world, and to have to be tricked into reading and then stopped because I have to pay 5 dollars to continue reading an article is sick and sickening in my eyes, and also completely contrary to - at least - the traditions of internet.

For me this is just one bit of the neofascism that seems to be the real intent behind internet (as designed) - and see here for more:
Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968 and here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions.

It´s sick. It´s sickening. It´s morally degenerate. I also agree it is very common - The Guardian, Huffington Post, the NRC Handelsblad and quite a few more do (almost) precisely the same: They give up informing their readers, and only want to make a profit of them, and exclude them from reading or from copying without being able - each and everyone - to make a profit on anyone: You can only contribute to political discussions by paying, paying, paying and paying those who are supposed to bring you the news and the necessary information.

Well... for me these are signs neofascism is coming, and these former printed papers are a part of its instruments and its tools, indeed whether they know this or not (and they are knowingly greedy, greedy, greedy, greedy).

And I am glad I am 67 rather than 17, for I lived most of my life without universal surveillance and without being a mere and totally expendable commodity for the very rich.

I am quite afraid that those who are 50 years younger than I am cannot avoid it. [2]


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] I realize there probably are some who think that I am exaggerating. Well... you are free to think what you please, but (i) you very probably know a lot less about fascism and neofascism than I do, and (ii) the few things I complained about are in fact from a long list of many things (not just the news, or journalism) that disappeared for me since 2002 (such as: decent shopping, a good health-insurance, a somewhat decent education, a radio I could listen to, personal freedom without universal surveillance, and many more things: all are gone for me, and indeed for everyone who is not rich).
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