February 25, 2018

Crisis: On "Russia-gate", On Trump, On Mueller, On U.S. Mental Health, The Coming War(s)


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 25, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, February 25, 2018.

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 25, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Did a Russian Troll Farm’s Inflammatory Posts Really Sway the 2016
     Election for Trump?

2. Could Donald Trump Cancel the Midterm Elections?
3. The Mueller Indictments: The Day the Music Died
4. The GOP’s mental health hypocrisy
5. The Coming Wars to End All Wars
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. Did a Russian Troll Farm’s Inflammatory Posts Really Sway the 2016 Election for Trump?

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The Justice Department recently indicted 13 Russians and three companies in connection with efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. The indicted are accused of orchestrating an online propaganda effort to undermine the U.S. election system. The indictment claims the Russians spread negative information online about Hillary Clinton and supportive information about Donald Trump, as well as Bernie Sanders—but some are warning against overstating what Russia accomplished. For more, we speak with award-winning Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, a longtime critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her recent piece for The New Yorker is titled “The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments.”
Yes, and I say that I have not believed what I read about Russia-gate (in the mainstream media, to be sure) since the end of 2016. More precisely, I have never doubted that the Russians did some things, but never that they did all or most of the things - especially - the Democrats have said about them (in the mainstream media).

Also, I have written extensively about "Russia-gate" (check the indexes with that title if you care) and repeatedly about Masha Gessen. And here she is:

MASHA GESSEN: So, you know, for somebody who actually has read the indictment in its entirety, and, actually, the Russian reporting that is almost entirely repeated in the indictment, it’s really hard to square that with the way that it’s been portrayed as, you know, a sophisticated, bold effort. I think H.R. McMaster is correct in saying, yes, there’s “incontrovertible” evidence of Russian meddling, but to call it bold, to call it sophisticated and to imply that we now know that it actually had an influence on the outcome of the election is absurd. It was not bold. It was not sophisticated. And it—we don’t know, and probably never will know, whether it had any impact.

Yes, this is more or less what I think as well. She gives her own reasons below as to the amount of money that was spend, and here about the content of the messages:

AMY GOODMAN: So, Masha Gessen, talk about what you found in reading the indictment, looking at how people are responding in Russia and here.

MASHA GESSEN: So, I am really fascinated with what it tells us about our imagination about the Russian imagination. So, Russia imagines America and the American political system as like this unassailable monolith that they are throwing stuff at just to try to make a dent, whereas the United States is starting increasingly to imagine Russia as all-powerful, as incredibly sophisticated, as capable of, you know, sending out some really absurd tweets, in sub-literate English, and somehow changing the outcome of the election. And that projects such a belief in the fragility of the system and the basic instability of it and in the gullibility of voters who read something that’s not even comprehensible English and suddenly change their vote.
Yes, indeed - and there also seems to be extremely little American awareness that Russia is not socialistic anymore, the last 27 years: It is thoroughly capitalistic.

Here is the ending of Masha Gessen's interview:

MASHA GESSEN: So, I mean, the answer is we don’t know. We don’t know how significant it was. From the information that is publicly available right now, if you look at what they were doing, if you look at how effective what they were doing was—and what I mean is, you know, how effective in sort of social network metrics terms, right?—most of their posts and ads got fewer than average views, because they weren’t very good. They had a couple of runaway successes, but, basically, most of their money was wasted, by social network standards, right? We’re talking, according to the indictment, about a budget of a little over a million dollars a month, right? So, let’s say they did this for a year. They spent—let’s say, you know, they spent $15 million—in a campaign in which one side spent a billion dollars, right? What do we have to imagine to say, with the kind of certainty with which we’ve been saying it, that Russians swayed the election? I mean, granted, the election was won by 77,000 votes in three counties, and so anything, you know, the weather, could have swayed the election. But to point the blame at Russia specifically, I think, is misleading. And again, it just detracts from the conversation we should be having, which is about how Americans elected Trump.
Yes indeed: I completely agree, and this is a recommended article in which there is considerably more.

2. Could Donald Trump Cancel the Midterm Elections?

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
In his 2017 New York Times bestselling book "On Tyranny," Yale historian Timothy Snyder warned that the American people only had one year to stop Donald Trump from causing serious and perhaps irreversible harm to our democracy, as well as other social and political institutions.

Snyder's concerns were centered on how the rule of law, reality and truth, civil and human rights, and the ways Americans interact with each other as members of a shared community would come under assault by Trump and his allies' agenda. He also sounded the alarm about the possibility that the Trump administration could stage its own version of Nazi Germany's "Reichstag fire" as a way of declaring a national emergency in order to consolidate power.

In many ways, Snyder's "On Tyranny" has proven eerily prescient.
Yes, I agree partially, for the simple reason that Snyder also was - perhaps understandably - somewhat exaggerating the speed with which Trump and the Republicans work.

In the quotations that follow, it is always Snyder who is speaking. Here is his judgement on the past year:

I think what people have done in the last year has made a tremendous difference. Things are bad and they're going to get worse before they get better, but if it weren't for the marches, local activists, lawyers defending people's civil rights, citizens calling their representatives and investigative journalists doing their jobs. things could be a lot worse than they are. As a whole, America has not done a great job of reacting to Trump, but some Americans have done a great job. If we all get tired and say we can't do it anymore, then things will go south very quickly. So yes, things are bad, but we have stopped them from being much worse.
I think this is probably correct. Here is more, and this is about Trump's political plans, and about his domestic policy:
If you're a Trump-style authoritarian you are not trying to make a big powerful state. What you're trying to do is make the state dysfunctional and then at the end of the crumbling, you and your friends are at the top.  (..) Insofar as Mr. Trump has a domestic policy it involves shaking people's belief in reality and the facts, because if you do that then everybody just has their own opinion. Money will be the only thing that matters in terms of "the truth." In the end the Trump-style authoritarian who creates the greatest spectacle is going to win.
I fear that is also mostly correct. And this is about The Leader Trump, economic inequality and "the information environment":
What's changing is that the United States has not had a leader like Trump before. Another thing that has changed is how economic inequality hasn't been this bad for 90 years, since 1929. Those things make the whole system shudder. Then there's the information environment which has radically changed so that it's very hard to have a sensible conversation, which makes it harder to hold up the system as a whole.
I take it Snyder refers to the more than two billion mostly anonymous morons on Facebook and Twitter, who now all can say and publish what they like, but I am not quite sure.

There is this about Mueller's investigation:

This investigation is also about whether the president is above the law or below the law. We know where this president's instincts are. He believes that he is above the law. The law is going to need some defenders. If Mueller is fired, those people are going to have to protest because such an outcome will just hasten a larger breakdown in the rule of law.
In fact, I hope he is correct (and I have mostly seen Mueller's investigation presented as if it is about the huge crimes and dangers of the Russians, which mostly is baloney in my eyes).

Here is the end of this article:
We are still in the early stages of an authoritarian regime change. We still have an aspiring authoritarian leader. Many people have gotten to the point where I was a year ago, which is recognizing that this situation is uncertain and the outcome depends upon us. Matters are not hopeless but they are dire. The stakes are very high.
Yes, I think that is mostly correct, and this is a recommended article.

3. The Mueller Indictments: The Day the Music Died

This article is by Daniel Lazare on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
After dominating the news for more than a year, the scandal may have at last reached a tipping point with last week’s indictment of thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian corporations on charges of illegal interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.  But the indictment landed with a decided thud for three reasons:

—  It failed to connect the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the alleged St. Petersburg troll factory accused of political meddling, with Vladimir Putin, the all-purpose evil-doer who the corporate media say is out to destroy American democracy.

—  It similarly failed to establish a connection with the Trump campaign and indeed went out of its way to describe contacts with the Russians as “unwitting.”

—  It described the meddling itself as even more inept and amateurish than many had suspected.

After nine months of labor, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller thus brought forth a mouse.  Even if all the charges are true – something we’ll probably never know since it’s unlikely that any of the accused will be brought to trial – the indictment tells us virtually nothing that’s new.

Yes indeed. And as pointed out in item 1, what the Democrats ask you to believe (since the end of 2016) is that while the Russians may have spend $15 million dollars (and in considerable part on extremely stupid propaganda) they also managed to upset the American elections - in which either side spent about $1 billion dollars.

Here is the other bit that I quote from this article:

Not that this has stopped the media from whipping itself into a frenzy.  “Russia is at war with our democracy,” screamed a headline in the Washington Post.  “Trump is ignoring the worst attack on America since 9/11,” blared another.  “…Russia is engaged in a virtual war against the United States through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda,” declared the New York Times, while Daily Beast columnist Jonathan Alter tweeted that the IRA’s activities amounted to nothing less than a “tech Pearl Harbor.”

All of which merely demonstrates, in proper backhanded fashion, how grievously Mueller has fallen short.

Yes, I think the conclusion is quite justified, though I fear it won't stop the blaring and the propaganda. This is a recommended article.

4. The GOP’s mental health hypocrisy

This article is by David Masciotara on Salon. This is from near the beginning:
Republicans are correct that there is a mental health care crisis in America, but it is one that they helped to create, continue to aggravate and insist, through their actual policies — not their rhetoric — on doing absolutely nothing to address.
Yes, I think that is mainly correct, although - being a psychologist - I have some doubts about the supposed "mental health care crisis in America", that comes to this: I agree there is something like a crisis of that kind, but I probably disagree with Masciotara on what it is.

But that is a side issue, and here is what the Republicans did for people with mental health problems:

Conservative folk hero Ronald Reagan completed the deinstitutionalization of California's state mental health residents in 1967, causing an explosion of homelessness in his state and opening a fatal gap in mental health services for those too poor or isolated to obtain treatment, medicine, therapy and supervision through private means. Because of California’s size and Reagan’s popularity, the destructive move exerted an influence on many smaller states. It was not too long until the catastrophe of untreated mental illness spread around the country.

Nothing if not consistent in his cruelty, once elected President, Reagan quickly repealed President Jimmy Carter’s Mental Health Systems Act. (...) Many federal mental health hospitals, as a result, shut their doors.

I think that is correct - and this happened over 50 and around 40 years ago, since when mental health care has been steadily collapsing in the USA.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, which is about the present:
Far from altruistic and responsible, Republicans are dousing the forest with gasoline while giving a lecture on fire safety. Their budget reduces funding for Medicaid, which will make mental health services even harder to acquire for countless people, and Trump’s latest health care proposals allows for insurance companies to offer plans that do not cover mental health.
Yes indeed. And - I have asked the question before - what is Trump's advice to the poor, the ill and the elderly? I haven't seen it yet, but it seems to be little different from: You all can buy a gun and commit suicide, for there is no place for people lilke you in Our Great USA.

5. The Coming Wars to End All Wars

This article is by Edward Curtin on the Off-Guardian and originally on the Greanville Post. It starts as follows:
The Trump and Netanyahu governments have a problem: How to start a greatly expanded Middle-Eastern war without having a justifiable reason for one. No doubt they are working hard to solve this urgent problem. If they can’t find a “justification” (which they can’t), they will have to create one (which they will).
I suppose so, but the following is considerably more interesting:
This has happened as the Russia-gate claims have fallen to pieces, as former CIA analyst Raymond McGovern, the late Robert Parry, Paul Craig Roberts, and others have documented so assiduously. All across the media spectrum, from the big name corporate stenographers like The New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, The Washington Post to The Atlantic and Nation magazines and other “leftist” publications such as Mother Jones and Who What Why, the Russia and Putin bashing has become hysterical in tone, joined as it is with an anti-Trump obsession, as if Trump were a dear friend of Putin and Russia and wasn’t closely allied with the Netanyahu government in its plans for the Middle-East.
Quite so, and I have reviewed texts by all of the personal names in the first sentence, and I also share Curtin's astonishment abput "“leftist” publications such as Mother Jones" that indeed also follows the lead of The New York Times and The Washington Post, and does so since a long time, but indeed without good evidence.

Here is more:
And of course Trump has said, “The U.S. has great strength and patience but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Totally destroy 26 million human beings. While his bully buddy in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently said at the Munich Security Conference that Iran is “the greatest threat to the world,” compared it to Nazi Germany, and claimed it was developing ballistic missiles to strike deep into the United States. “Iran seeks to dominate our region, the Middle East, and seeks to dominate the world through aggression and terror,” he said.
Yes, indeed - and "26 million human beings" is probably too low (if the point is total destruction) for South Korea immediately borders North Korea. Supposing the "26 million human beings", here are the number of allied deaths in World War II: Around 61 million, mostly civilians, to which one may add the circa 12 million the Axis powers (Germany and Italy, mainly) had: 73 million in all, in 6 years, to be sure.

Here is some on - very plain - military facts:
[T]he U.S. has surrounded Russia with US/NATO troops and bases armed with anti-ballistic missiles that can, as Putin rightly says to Stone, be converted in hours to regular offensive nuclear missile aimed at Russia. This is a factual and true statement that should make any fair-minded person stand up in horror. If Russia had such missiles encircling the United States from Cuba, Mexico, and Canada, what American would find it tolerable? What would CNN and The New York Times have to say? Yet these same people readily find it impossible to see the legitimacy in Russia’s position, resorting to name calling and illogical rhetoric.
Quite so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:
We are moving toward a global war that will become nuclear if an international ant[i]-war movement doesn’t quickly arise to stop it. Most people bemoan the thought of such a war to end all wars, but refuse to analyze the factors leading to it. It happens step-by-step, and many steps have already been taken with more coming soon. It’s so obvious that most can’t see it, or don’t want to. The corporate main stream media are enemies of the truth (..)
I mostly agree, especially with a madman like Trump. And this is a recommended article.


[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 (!!).

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