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Nederlog

April 17, 2018

Crisis: Michael Cohen, Democrats & Wars, Public Schools, Trump´s Mob Rule, Comey´s Talk


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 17, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, April 17, 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 April 17, 2018
1. What's in Those Seized Records? Trump's Biggest New Worry
2. Democrats Love Trump's Wars, Too
3. The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out
     Public Schools

4.
Mob Rule at the White House
5. Transcript: James Comey's interview with ABC News chief anchor
     George Stephanopoulos

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. What's in Those Seized Records? Trump's Biggest New Worry

This article is by Jonathan Lemire and Catherine Lucey on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
President Trump and his allies have hit a new level of anxiety after the raid on his personal attorney’s office, fearful of deeper exposure for Trump, his inner circle and his adult children — and more than concerned that they don’t know exactly what is in those records and electronic devices seized last week.

There is also some worry that Michael Cohen, the self-described legal fixer who helped make bad stories go away and took a leading role in Trump Organization projects in foreign outposts, may strike a deal with prosecutors out of concern about his own prospects.

“I think it’s a huge minefield for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization,” said trial attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represented Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton. “I think this is on its own track and this train is coming down the track with brute force.”

I say. I know a little about this, but not much. Here is some more on Michael Cohen:

The federal raid, carried out a week ago in New York City, sought bank records, information on Cohen’s dealing in the taxi industry, Cohen’s communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments he made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and to Daniels, both of whom allege relationships with Trump. The court proceedings Monday dealt with who gets to look at Cohen’s seized documents and devices before they are turned over to prosecutors.

And this is about Mueller and ¨Russia-gate¨:

Many in the White House view the aftershocks of the Cohen raid as potentially more threatening than Mueller’s Russia probe, fearful of what skeletons may be in the lawyer’s closets, according to five officials and outside allies who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

“I agree with the consensus forming that it’s very dangerous for the president, probably the most serious thing yet,” said Sol Wisenberg, a defense attorney who was a deputy independent counsel during the Starr special counsel investigation into Clinton.
I think I agree with Wisenberg, but I have no idea what may have been found on Cohen´s computers. And I should add that (i) I never believed in ¨Russia-gate¨ (and not because I believe the Russians are incapable of it, but because there still is no evidence, after 1 1/4 years), but (ii) I do believe that the Cambridge Analytica facts - who took at least 87 million private dossiers from Facebook, it seems mostly from Americans - may be quite important for the elections of 2016.

But I don´t know, and am curious to find out, especially about Facebook + Cambridge Analytica.
There will probably more later on Michael Cohen´s records, and meanwhile this is a recommended article.

2. Democrats Love Trump's Wars, Too

This article is by Adam H. Johnson on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

American politicians on both sides of the aisle love war. On Monday, an In These Times survey found that 92 percent of U.S. Democratic and Independent senators did not mount meaningful opposition to Donald Trump’s April 13 air strikes against the Syrian government. The primary point of contention that Democrats—and most of the partisan Democratic media—leveled were vague legal or constitutional meta-objections that Trump did not have the “authority” or should consult Congress. But the bulk of the “resistance” did not raise meaningful objections to the strikes themselves.

Only a handful of Democrats—Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.—opposed the air strikes on substance. The vast majority, instead, relied on process demands that Trump get congressional approval—without saying if the strikes themselves were good or bad.

I say, which I do because I did not know that there are - it seems - precisely three Democrats and one Independent (Sanders) - who really objected, in fact on excellent legal grounds, to the recent air strikes against Syria (which may have been triggered by propaganda), which are contrary to Trump´s lacking the authority to order air strikes, and who also did so before verifying that there really was a gas attack in Syria.

Here is why the Democrats are not doing their jobs (and - I add - may have been bought):

Process critiques over legality are useful as far as they go, but untethered to normative critiques on the substance of that which is being called to a vote, they amount to little more than busy work, a way of looking anti-Trump without the mess of opposing air strikes that the Democratic establishment—including former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her primary messaging apparatus, Center for American Progress—have been backing for years. It amounts to little more than vacuous hall monitor-ism: Bomb away, but make sure you follow the rules.

Yes, I think this is entirely correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

This is consistent with congressional Democrats’ total lack of substantive opposition to former President Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s so-called war on ISIS—a war that Trump has ratcheted up, matching Obama’s civilian death toll in only his first seven months in office. Just as with Trump’s manifestly illegal air strikes on the Syrian regime, Democrats in Congress and the broader liberal media have little to no substantive objection to Trump’s unsanctioned wars abroad against ISIS and al-Qaida, both still authorized by a one-page law passed three days after 9/11.

And again I say: Quite so. And this is a recommended article.

3. The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out Public Schools

This article is by Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet and originally on the Institute for New Economic Thinking. It starts as follows:

It was the strike heard ‘round the country.

West Virginia’s public school teachers had endured years of low pay, inadequate insurance, giant class sizes, and increasingly unlivable conditions—including attempts to force them to record private details of their health daily on a wellness app. Their governor, billionaire coal baron Jim Justice, pledged to allow them no more than an annual 1% raise—effectively a pay cut considering inflation—in a state where teacher salaries ranked 48th lowest out of 50 states. In February 2018, they finally revolted: In a tense, four-day work stoppage, they managed to wrest a 5% pay increase from the state. Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have now revolted in similar protests.

It’s the latest battle in a contest between two countervailing forces: one bent on reengineering America for the benefit of the wealthy, the other struggling to preserve dignity and security for ordinary people.

I think this is more or less correct. Here is more on the background - and Lafer and Temin are professors who were finding out about ¨reengineering America for the benefit of the wealthy¨:

In state after state, a pattern was emerging of highly coordinated campaigns to smash unions, shrink taxes for the wealthy, and cut public services. Headlines blamed globalization and technology for the squeeze on the majority of the population, but Lafer began to see something far more deliberate working behind the scenes: a hidden force that was well-funded, laser-focused, and astonishingly effective.

Lafer pored over the activities of business lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – funded by giant corporations including Walmart, Amazon.com, and Bank of America—that produces “model legislation” in areas its conservative members use to promote privatization.

I think this also may be more or less correct. And here is Lafer´s conclusions:

After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.  

The grand plan was even more ambitious. These titans of business wished to completely change the way Americans and their children viewed their life potential. Transforming education was the key.

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


4. Mob Rule at the White House

This article is by Michael Winship on Common Dreams. This is from near the beginning:
Comey lists similarities between the current White House and the Mob: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” And in his ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday night, Comey—with extensive past experience prosecuting the Gambino family and John Gotti—said Trump was “morally unfit to be president.”
Yes indeed - and in case you are are interested: Item 5 is the transcript of Stephanopoulos´s interview with James Comey.

Here is more from this article:
At The New Yorker, journalist Adam Davidson discusses Trump’s “long history of links to New York Mafia figures and other financial irregularities,” and writes:
I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the FBI is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.
I did not know any of these brief specifications, although I am aware for a long time that Donald Trump and his family have been connected by various persons to the Mafia.

Here is some more on Mueller´s investigation:
The investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller reaches further than ever and increasingly zeroes in not only on Russia and obstruction of justice but also allegations of widespread financial dirty tricks such as those outlined above. Add to Trump’s troubles the defections from his legal team and his lack of a single competent criminal lawyer to make his case, plus the increasingly tangled role of fixer-wannabe Michael Cohen, whose dedication to non-disclosure agreements on behalf of his bosom buddy Trump (and Trump donor, financier Elliott Broidy) takes sycophancy to new depths.
Yes indeed. Here is the ending of this article:
But while we may not be at the extraction point yet, increasingly there are those who think the endgame for this administration is nigh—and indeed, that would be the righteous outcome. As Tony Soprano would say, we’re sorry it had to come to this, Donald, but you brought it on yourself. No man is above— or in your case, below—the law.
Yes, I think this is right (and were are not yet ¨at the extraction point¨ because no one knows what is on Michael Cohen´s computers). And this is a recommended article.

5. Transcript: James Comey's interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos

This article is by ABC News. It starts with this introduction:
ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos’ interviewed former FBI director James Comey for a special edition of “20/20” that aired on Sunday, April 15, 2018 ahead of the release of Comey's book, "A Higher Loyalty." The following is the transcript of the interview:
I have said already that I did not see the interview George Stephanopoulos did with James Comey for the simple reason that I detest watching most interviews. Then again, when I found the present transcript, I decided to read through all of it, because it is fairly important.

And I did. What I found is the following - and I am sorry if you have read this before in other jpournalistic reports.

First, here is Comey on fairness, integrity and truth:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You lay out qualities of an ethical leader. What are they?

JAMES COMEY: First and foremost, it's someone who realizes that lasting values have to be at the center of their leadership. Whether they're in government or in the private sector or leading a university, they have to focus on things like fairness and integrity and, most of all, the truth. That the truth matters.

Yes, I agree, although I doubt whether many leaders in the private sector (that according to Milton Friedman has precisely one moral duty: to make a profit) and indeed in the universities would - privately, at least - agree with Comey.

And besides, while I agree with what Comey is saying here, I doubt his honesty (though very probably rather less than my distrusting Trump´s honesty).

Then there is this about the title of Comey´s book:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And-- and why the title, “A Higher Loyalty?”

JAMES COMEY: Well, in part, the title comes from a bizarre conversation I had with the president in dinner at the White House in January of last year, where he asked for my loyalty personally as the F.B.I. director. My loyalty's supposed to be to the American people and to the institution.
Yes, that seems correct.

Then there is this about Comey´s comparing Trump to a mob boss (and see item 4):

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How strange is it for you to sit here and compare the president to a mob boss?

JAMES COMEY: Very strange. And I don't do it lightly. I-- and I'm not trying to that, by the way, suggest that President Trump is out breaking legs and-- you know, shaking down shopkeepers. But instead, what I'm talking about is that leadership culture constantly comes back to me when I think about my experience with the Trump administration.

The-- the loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant center of everything, it's all about how do you serve the boss, what's in the boss' interests. It's the family, the family, the family, the family. That's why it reminds me so much and not, "So what's the right thing for the country and what are the values of the institutions that we're dealing with?" It's all about here.

I think Comey is correct about this as well (and I might add that Trump never had any political position in his life).

Then there is this about Trump´s assertions and monologues:

JAMES COMEY: (..) It was him talking almost the entire time, which I've discovered is something he frequently does. And so it would be monologue in this direction, monologue in that direction, monologue in a different direction. And a constant series of assertions that-- about the inauguration crowd, about how great my inauguration speech was, about all the free media-- earned media, I think was his term, that I got during the campaign.

On and on and on and on. Everyone agrees, everyone agrees, I did this, the-- I never assaulted these women, I never made fun of a reporter. And-- I'm sure you're wondering what question did I ask that would prompt those? None, zero. I didn't ask any questions that I recall.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You call them baffling, unnecessary lies.

In fact, Stephanopoulos is quite right, but he is (again) not a psychologist, and I am, and therefore I add that it were precisely what Comey called Trump´s (boldings added) ¨baffling, unnecessary lies¨ that convinced me rapidly, now more than two years ago, that there was something quite wrong with Trump: Healthy people are far from honest, but they do NOT need to tell - and what´s more: again, and again, and again - the kinds of (extremely flattering) lies Trump tells about himself.

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

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You write that President Trump is unethical, untethered to the truth. Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?

JAMES COMEY: Yes. But not in the way m-- I often hear people talk about it. I don't buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who's tracking conversations and knows what's going on. I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president.

A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person's not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds. And that's not a policy statement. Again, I don't care what your views are on guns or immigration or taxes

And I say to this, as a psychologist (with considerable experience with seriously disturbed persons) that I agree with Comey that ¨Donald [is] Trump unfit to be president¨ but I disagree with his reasons.

Let me spell this out a little:

I agree with Comey that Trump is not in the ¨
early stages of dementia¨; that he is ¨above average intelligence¨ (but he is not brilliant and certainly not a genius, though I fear he may think the last); and that he is medically fit (bodily) to be president.

Also, I know that people may be quite intelligent and yet be wholly mad. But I also think that somebody ¨
who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it¨ is definitely quite abnormal, and having seen, considered, and thought over the nine criterions which allow psychiatrists and psychologists to conclude that someone who satisfies 5 out of these criterions may be classified as a narcissist (aka megalomaniac), and having seen that Trump satisfies 9 out 9, I concluded Trump is a megalomaniac/narcissist, and for that reason should not be president of any country.

In fact, here are the nine observational criterions that psychiatrists and psychologists use to decide whether someone is a narcissist/megalomaniac:
¨1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements
    and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate
    achievements)

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or
    ideal love.

3. Believe that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or
    should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration
5. Has a sense of entitlement
6. Is interpersonally exploitative
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs
    of others

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes."
I think all of these are true of Donald Trump - and in case I am mistaken about 9 out of 9, I think I am correct about (at least) 5 out of 9.

Finally, this is a recommended article (though it is quite long).


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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