February 17, 2018

Crisis:  On Traitors, On Ramaphosa, On Wall Street, On Nuclear Arms, Mueller Charges


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 17, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 17, 2018. There also is another Nederlog of today, but it is in Dutch. In case you read Dutch, you can read it here.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from February 17, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Is Donald Trump a Traitor?
2. Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s New President, Known for Moving
     Profits to Offshore Tax Havens

3. A Good Day on Wall Street Is a Bad Day for Most Americans
4. Russians Spooked by Nukes-Against-Cyber-Attack Policy
5. Mueller Charges 13 Russians With Interfering in the 2016 Presidential

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. Is Donald Trump a Traitor?

This article is by James Risen on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.

It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.

At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)

What more can I add?

Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.

Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?

Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.

I say, for I find this at least a little bit odd.

Here is my explanation, with references to the above paragraphs:

Paragraph 2: I think that it mostly correct (but it is all - mostly - a matter of values, not of facts).

Paragraph 3: I don't think so (and I do know who Father Coughlin was) and for a simple reason: Neither came close to being a president of the USA.

Paragraph 5: I agree (and I like the lettering of "president", which happens to be mine as well).

Paragraph 6: I certainly do not think so, and indeed am rather amazed why James Risen can insist that "the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?":

Is this about the same man who was a bit earlier described as: a racist, a misogynist, an unbalanced narcissist, a two-bit identity demagogue, and an unstable egomaniac - and the only question you want to consider about a man like that is ... whether he is (also) a traitor? And not - for example - how such a man could mislead 60 million Americans to vote for him? Because all or most of the 60 million were - somehow: ask the NSA for details - given false information by the (secret) Russians that convinced them to vote for - the racist, misogynist, narcissist, and two-bit identity demagogue?!?!

I am sorry, but I find that rather odd....

Paragraph 8: ... and the more so as Risen himself insists (here, at the beginning of his fairly long article) that "it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power".

I agree with this last part, but from the rest of the article it seems as if Risen got (more or less) convinced by the FBI, the CIA and the NSA that their story is (more or less) correct.

Anyway... here is more from the article:

But if a presidential candidate or his lieutenants secretly work with a foreign government that is a longtime adversary of the United States to manipulate and then win a presidential election, that is almost a textbook definition of treason.

In Article 3, Section 3, the U.S. Constitution states that “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Based on that provision in the Constitution, U.S. law – 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – states that “[w]hoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere” is guilty of treason.  Those found guilty of this high crime “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

I am thankful for the clarification of how treason is punished in the USA, but in fact that is not the point.

The question at issue is whether Trump "or his lieutenants secretly work with a foreign government that is a longtime adversary of the United States to manipulate and then win a presidential election".

And so far, and since the end of 2016 (!!!) I have not seen any good evidence that this is the case. This does not mean it is false: it means what I say it means, namely that there is no good evidence this is so. As James Risen himself said so, in the beginning of this article.

Besides, there is one thing that seems odd to me, viz. the description of Russia and of Putin as longtime adversaries of the United States:

In my opinion - and that is not just an opinion - the Russians turned capitalist in the early 1990ies, and indeed were helped a great amount by the Americans, both with political help and with money, to make the transition from socialism (or: centralized authoritarian state- capitalism) to capitalism (or: a non-centralized state where the rich are in command).

But Risen seems to agree that the Russians really are as anti-American as they were before 1990, though he does not give any evidence.

Here is some more:

On May 17, 2017, Rosenstein issued a letter stating that he was appointing a special counsel to “ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” He added that Mueller’s mandate was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Rosenstein noted that “[i]f the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

How closely aligned is Mueller’s mandate with the legal definition of treason? That boils down to the rhetorical differences between giving “aid and comfort, in the United States or elsewhere” to “enemies” of the United States and “any links and/or coordination” between the Russian government and Trump campaign aides related to “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

I think that is all correct, but it is not evidence. Then again, according to Risen it is, and in fact Risen concludes this:

Given all this, it seems increasingly likely that the Russians have pulled off the most consequential covert action operation since Germany put Lenin on a train back to Petrograd in 1917.

I am sorry, but without any evidence I qualify this as bullshit - and I am sorry to do so, but this is what I think.

Here is Risen's plan for three more articles in The Intercept:

There are four important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

This, my first column for The Intercept, will focus on the first track of the Trump-Russia narrative. I will devote separate columns to each of the other tracks in turn.

Well... I shall look at them, but I don't agree with the following estimate:

The evidence that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win is already compelling, and it grows stronger by the day.

And as I pointed out, in the beginning of this article Risen's position is rather different than at the end.

2. Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s New President, Known for Moving Profits to Offshore Tax Havens

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts as follows:
African National Congress leader Cyril Ramaphosa has been confirmed as the new president of South Africa, after the former leader, Jacob Zuma, resigned from office abruptly on Wednesday night amid a series of corruption scandals. Ramaphosa once led the National Union of Mineworkers under apartheid in the 1980s. He later built a business empire that encompassed mining interests—including the Marikana platinum mine, where police killed 34 workers during a strike in 2012. Ramaphosa is now one of Africa’s wealthiest men, with a net worth of about $450 million. Now, activists are talking about Ramaphosa’s ties to tax havens during his time in the corporate sector. We go to Johannesburg to speak with activist Koketso Moeti, founder of the community advocacy organization Her recent piece for News24 is headlined “The rich can’t steal, right?”
I say! Well... I disliked Zuma, and it seems Ramaphosa is no better:

AMY GOODMAN: The new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, once led the National Union of Mineworkers during apartheid in the '80s, a famous anti-apartheid leader. He would later build a business empire that included mining interests, including the Marikana platinum mine, where police killed 34 workers during a strike in 2012. Now Ramaphosa is one of Africa's wealthiest men, with a net worth of nearly what? Half a billion dollars. Can you talk about who he is?

KOKETSO MOETI: Yeah. So, Cyril Ramaphosa, part of the anti-apartheid movement, a strong leader in the ANC, a long tradition of trade unionism, he stepped down from formal politics in the early '90s. And since then, he's been involved in the corporate sector. During his time there, in the corporate sector, there’s been a bit of a series of scandals that have happened. And it’s an interesting pattern of behavior.

So, what we have is, in 2012, he was on the Lonmin board of directors. And during this time, there was an explosive report that was received—that was released by the Alternative Information and Development Centre, that found that Lonmin could have, in fact, afforded a living wage for the mine workers who were brutally gunned down, if they had not been shifting profits. So there was a strong allegation of profit shifting. And then an investigative journalism organization called amaBhungane did an investigation in 2015, where they found that during the years that Cyril Ramaphosa was the chairperson of the MTN board, MTN had been shifting billions in profit from the continent to outside.
If these are the facts, I think Ramaphosa is as bad as Zuma, for the simple reason that you do not become half a billionaire without considerable corruption and dishonesty.

Here is Moeti's concluding judgement (whom I am more inclined to believe than the major and very rich capitalist Ramaphosa):
KOKETSO MOETI: (..) I think we should be deeply concerned, and we should be just as vigilant as we were in the time that we had President Jacob Zuma, if not more so.
I think she is probably correct.

3. A Good Day on Wall Street Is a Bad Day for Most Americans

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The stock market recently had one of its worst single-day plunges in history: 1,600 points at one point. All the corporate media heads ran around telling you everything will be OK and not to panic because your bichon frisé puppy still will be able to afford his mani-pedi. But the mainstream media are careful to avoid telling you the censored side of this story.

They’re not telling you that we have an economy that, at its core, is based on death, misery and hardship. It’s not based on health and happiness and life. When it’s humming along, that means our obliteration of the planet is running full steam ahead, and average workers are being appropriately repressed and held down, hoping to collect enough food stamps to papier-mâché a cast on their broken arm. In fact, The Washington Post admitted it this week—but acted surprised when they said it: “Many analysts pointed to a seemingly unusual cause for the turbulence: rising wages.”

Yes, I agree with this. And I have two - broad - reasons to do so:

First, about 80% of all Americans own no or very little stocks. Stocks are bought almost only by the richest 20% of all Americans (and indeed the richer the more stocks tend to be bought and traded).

And second, Camp is right that (i) the wages most people get (around 80 to 90%) have not risen (in real terms) since 1980 (!!) and that (ii) the main break on the profits that the rich make are the wages they pay - and the rich paid fewer and fewer wages (proportionally) since 1980, and got richer and richer.

As to the richest Americans:

According to Time magazine, “The Richest 10% of Americans Now Own 84% of All Stocks.” We’re told to all celebrate how well the market is doing, but it’s just the rich further enriching themselves by playing games with the lives of everyone else. It’s like Monopoly (...)

I agree with this as well, though I also agree that the values expressed are probably not the values of all.

Here is more on the rich Americans:

A leaked 2005 internal Citigroup memo, the parent company of Citibank, read: “The world is divided into two blocs – the Plutonomy and the rest … plutonomies are economies powered by the wealthy.” Ajay Kapur, lead author of the report, said powered by the wealthy, but he means exploited by the wealthy. The memo continued: “In a plutonomy there is no such animal as ‘the U.S. consumer’ or ‘the UK consumer,’ or indeed the ‘Russian consumer.’ There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the ‘non-rich’, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.”

Well... yes and no.

First, this is meanwhile 13 years ago. Second, the only reason I can think of why the authors of the report avoided the term "plutocrats" is that they thought it was not sympathetic enough to the plutocrats (for the term means: the rich rulers). And third, what the authors of this report do not say is that what once were the citizens of the USA, meanwhile have been changed, mostly through an unending series of lies and propaganda, into willing consumers of the USA, now are being again changed from consumers of the USA to consumers anywhere, namely where the few rich make the biggest profits on the consuming many.

But I do not know whether Camp disagrees with me, and he certainly is right that the large masses have little to spend compared to the rich few.

Here is more on Obama, who was a fraud (I agree, and have said so since the end of 2009):

Citigroup is saying that the levers of the state cannot stop us, the rich, from doing whatever we want, because we own the government. They’re our gimps on a chain in the basement. In case you’ve forgotten, WikiLeaks emails revealed that Citigroup chose nearly all of Barack Obama’s 2008 cabinet. They told him exactly whom to pick before he even became president. And Trump also has surrounded himself with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs affiliates.

I think this is probably quite correct. Then there is this on relative riches and the minimum wage - and recall what I said above on the wages:

Right about now you’re thinking, “But Lee, when the stock market goes down, it hurts productivity. It hurts the GDP.” Well, first of all, average Americans are not benefiting from the productivity gains. In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.60. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after 1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012. … If minimum-wage workers received only half of the productivity gains over the period, the federal minimum would be $15.34.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “In 2007, average annual incomes of the top 1 percent of households were 42 times greater than incomes of the bottom 90 percent (up from 14 times greater in 1979), and incomes of the 0.1 percent were 220 times greater (up from 47 times greater in 1979).”

In fact, the minimum wage in the USA in 2018 is $7.25 - which explains why the top 1 percent got 42 times more than 90% in 2007 (which is three times as much as they got in 1979).

In very brief terms, here is "the secret" of the American economy:

The gains. Go. To. The. Top.

I agree. The article ends as follows:

One percent of America is celebrating. It’s time to do things differently.

Well... maybe it is ten percent who are celebrating, possibly even twenty percent, though not more, for the remaining 80% got hardly anything more since 1980.

And I do not care how many are rejoicing as long as it is a considerable minority. I agree with this article, but I concede my agreement is basically on values. This is a recommended article.

4. Russians Spooked by Nukes-Against-Cyber-Attack Policy

This article is by Ray McGovern and William Binney on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Moscow is showing understandable concern over the lowering of the threshold for employing nuclear weapons to include retaliation for cyber-attacks, a change announced on Feb. 2 in the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

Explaining the shift in U.S. doctrine on first-use, the NPR cites the efforts of potential adversaries “to design and use cyber weapons” and explains the change as a “hedge” against non-nuclear threats. In response, Russia described the move as an “attempt to shift onto others one’s own responsibility” for the deteriorating security situation.

Moscow’s concern goes beyond rhetoric. Cyber-attacks are notoriously difficult to trace to the actual perpetrator and can be pinned easily on others in what we call “false-flag” operations.
Yes, I think this is probably quite correct. It also suggests one way in which Trump and his government or indeed the FBI, CIA and NSA, may want to start a nuclear war with Russia:
It accuses them of a cyber-attack, and then attacks them with nuclear arms

How probable is this? I have no idea, but I agree the present time is a more dangerous time, in nuclear terms, than any I have lived through in my 67 years, with the exception of the Cuban missile crisis (when I was 12).

Here is one more bit from this article:

Last October CIA Director Mike Pompeo invited one of us (Binney) into his office to discuss Russian hacking. Binney told Pompeo his analysts had lied and that he could prove it.

In retrospect, the Pompeo-Binney meeting appears to have been a shot across the bow of those cyber warriors in the CIA, FBI, and NSA with the means and incentive to adduce “just discovered” evidence of Russian hacking.
Yes, thay is probably correct. Then again, while I agree that the text of this article supports its title, I would have liked to hear more about Binney and McGovern's opinion about James Risen's article, that I reviewed as item 1.

5. Mueller Charges 13 Russians With Interfering in the 2016 Presidential Election

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office on Friday announced federal indictments
(pdf) against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities—including a state-supported "troll farm"—for conspiring to interfere "with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016." "Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities," the 37-page indictment reads. "Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities."

The indictments are being characterized as one of the most significant moments of Mueller's Russia probe, which has thus far elicited charges against four Americans who played a role in President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

I think this is a fair summary. Here is some more:

The Russians named in Mueller's indictment stand accused of deploying a wide variety of tactics in an effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in President Donald Trump's favor, including attempting to suppress minority turnout and staging political rallies.

Yes, I think this is also correct.

However, the rest of this article is taken up by two tweets from some degenerate who calls himself or herself "Public Citizen", and I simply refuse to copy anonymous bullshit from Twitter, and I also simply refuse to review articles which contain more than three Tweets:

I think Tweets are carefully considered attempts to force anybody using them to express themselves only in slogans, but with their name and alias always published twice in every goddamned Tweet, and I think they are the postmodern neofascistic norm for "communication".

And I think all Tweets stink. And if you can't smell it, there is something wrong with your intelligence. [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 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 do, and besides there are now more and more "articles", both on AlterNet and on Common Dreams, that contain just a few lines of text, together with a selection of often anonymous Tweets. I will NOT review this: If I wanted to review anonynous Tweets, I'd be a member of Facebook.

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