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Nederlog

April 20, 2018

Crisis: Clinton Prosecuted, Dumb Americans, Trump´s End?, Third Party? Agaist Torture


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 20, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 20, 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 20, 2018
1. Will Media Suppress the Call for Criminal Prosecution of Clinton, Comey
     and Others?

2. Here Are 16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe -- And the
     Right-Wing Lies Behind Them
3. These Are the Four Paths to the End of Trump's Presidency

4. A Third Party? How Not To Settle For The Lesser Of Two Evils

5. A 'Defining Moment' to Stand Against Torture as Human Rights Groups
     Demand Senate Reject Gina Haspel for CIA

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. Will Media Suppress the Call for Criminal Prosecution of Clinton, Comey and Others?

This article is by Ray McGovern on Truthdig and originally on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

Wednesday’s criminal referral by 11 House Republicans of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as several former and serving top FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials is a giant step toward a Constitutional crisis.

Named in the referral to the DOJ for possible violations of federal law are: Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey; former Attorney General Loretta Lynch; former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe; FBI Agent Peter Strzok; FBI Counsel Lisa Page; and those DOJ and FBI personnel “connected to” work on the “Steele Dossier,” including former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.

I say, which I do (i) because I had no idea of this and (ii) because this means that Clinton, Comey, Lynch, McCabe etc. may end up in prison, although this indeed will take time and considerable publicity.

Here is more:

This is no law-school case-study exercise, no arcane disputation over the fine points of this or that law. Rather, as we say in the inner-city, “It has now hit the fan.” Criminal referrals can lead to serious jail time. Granted, the upper-crust luminaries criminally “referred” enjoy very powerful support. And that will come especially from the mainstream media, which will find it hard to retool and switch from Russia-gate to the much more delicate and much less welcome “FBI-gate.”

As of this writing, a full day has gone by since the letter/referral was reported, with total silence so far from The New York Times and The Washington Post and other big media as they grapple with how to spin this major development. News of the criminal referral also slipped by Amy Goodman’s non-mainstream Democracy Now!, as well as many alternative websites.

These are two paragraphs. On the first, I have few comments, most of which I will repress, except for saying that in my eyes ¨Facebook-gate¨ is better than ¨FBI-gate¨ (for Facebook enabled that Cambridge Analytica could get 87 million personal data sets, that seem to be mostly American, and may have been used to switch the elections to Trump, which I consider a far more likely explanation than ¨Russia-gate¨).

On the second: Yes indeed! I had not noticed it, simply because I did not know it, but McGovern is certainly right that it is very odd to see a ¨total silence so far from The New York Times and The Washington Post and other big media¨: Surely, this news is quite important.

Then there is this bit, of which I only print the first sentence:

The media will be key to whether this Constitutional issue is resolved.

I don´t print the rest of the paragraph, simply because its meaning is unclear to me. As to what I quoted: Yes indeed - and especially if the mainstream media choose not to report it. Then again, although I know they have done so often before, I do not think so they will do so now.

Here is another bit from this quite interesting article that I quote:

None of the leaking, unmasking, surveillance, “opposition research,” or other activities directed against the Trump campaign can be properly understood, if one does not bear in mind that it was considered a sure thing that Secretary Clinton would become President, at which point illegal and extralegal activities undertaken to help her win would garner praise, not prison. The activities were hardly considered high-risk, because candidate Clinton was sure to win.

But she lost.

I am rather certain that McGovern´s point is that - indeed - Clinton´s camp undertook quite a lot of ¨illegal and extralegal activities¨ that would have been waived away if she had won, but that now will be subject of an inquiry by the Department of Justice.

We shall see what happens. Also, here is the last bit that I quote, which I quote for a reason:

I think it can be said that readers of Consortiumnews.com may be unusually well equipped to understand the anatomy of FBI-gate as well as Russia-gate. Listed below chronologically are several links that might be viewed as a kind of “whiteboard” to refresh memories. You may wish to refer them to any friends who may still be confused.

My reason is that below this no less than 13 articles on Consortiumnews are named and linked (of which I reviewed at least 6 in Nederlog), all of which are warmly recommended. And the present article is strongly recommended.


2. Here Are 16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe -- And the
Right-Wing Lies Behind Them


This article is by Sarah Seltzer on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
Americans are often misinformed, occasionally downright dumb, and easily misled by juicy-sounding rumors. But while the right wing is taking full advantage of this reality, the Left worries that calling out lies is "rude."
Precisely - or almost so, for my experiences with the (extreme) ¨Left¨ in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam taught me that at least the extreme ¨Left¨ in the ¨U¨vA (who had the power in that ¨University¨ between 1971 and 1995) was quite as prone as the Right to lie and deceive and did so much of the time. Then again, these are my personal experiences in an academic environment.

Then there is this:
It feels like no one with a loud enough megaphone has the courage to call a spade a spade, or more accurately a lie a lie.

We’ve gone far beyond Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” into a more “truth-be-damned” environment; what Rick Perlstein described in the Daily Beast as a “mendocracy. As in, rule by liars.”

I completely agree, but have another personal remark:

My fundamental opposition to the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam started on August 25, 1978 (40 years ago this year) because I and everyone who was listening was told by the sick liar and neofascist professor Brandt, who was chosen to open the academic year 1978-1979 in a public lecture, the utterly sick strongly neofascistic total lie that (literally, apart form my translation):
  • Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist.
Note this was in a university (originally) dedicated to science and rationality! According to Brandt, in 1978, there was no truth, there was no science, there were only tales, and the most convincing one would win, just as in advertisement and other kinds of stark and utter lying.

Then again, that ¨
Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist¨ was THE teaching that ruled almost the complete ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1978 and 1995. And I know - because I started a student party, that was the only party with a scientific and rational program in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1971 and 1995, and that party got as much as 5% of the votes of the students, because the vast majority of the students were not interested in science nor in rationality: They were interested in political leftist propaganda and in the easiest possible academic degrees. (And I gave up after experiencing that outcome.)

Back to the article:
Just as the election season began heating up earlier this year, Newsweek published a list of “Dumb Things Americans Believe.” While some of them are garden-variety lunacy, a surprising number are lies that were fed to Americans by our leaders on the far-Right. This demonstrates that media-fed lies can easily become ingrained in the collective memory if they’re not countered quickly and surely.
In fact, the last link is to an article of 2010, so something is not quite correct here, but in any case I will quote about half of the list that Seltzer gives:
  • Nearly one-fifth of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. Thanks, Fox news, for acting like this was a matter of opinion, not fact.
  • 25 percent of Americans don’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution while less than 40 percent do. Consider the fact that several of our newly elected officials, specifically newly elected Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, share that belief.
  • Earlier this year, nearly 40 percent of Americans still believed the Sarah Palin-supported lie about "death panels" being included in health care
    reform.
  • As of just a few years ago, about half of Americans still suspected a connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11, a lie that was reinforced by none other than Dick Cheney.
  • While a hefty amount of this demonstrable cluelessness gets better as the respondents get younger, all is not well in the below-30 demographic. A majority of “young Americans” cannot identify Iraq or Afghanistan--the places their peers are fighting and dying--on a map.
  • Two out of five Americans, despite the whole separation of church and state being a foundation of our democracy thing, think teachers should be able to lead prayer in classrooms. So it seems those right-wingers clamoring to tear down the wall between church and state aren’t the only ones who don’t know their constitutional principles.
  • Many Americans still believe in witchcraft, ESP and other supernatural phenomena.
And if I say that many Americans are stupid or ignorant I mean items like the above seven utter idiocies. (As I said, Seltzer lists quite a few more.)

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

We’ve entered a bizzarro world in which calling out lies is considered rude, says Perlstein, so liars are allowed to sit tight and dominate the discourse. This gels with Bill Maher’s critique of the Rally for Sanity, that calling for “balance for balance’s sake” ignores two important aspects of news reporting: facts and evidence.

Blaming Americans for being ignorant unwashed masses--or taking potshots at an education system that doesn’t teach critical thinking-- would be the easy answer to this conundrum. 

But the reality is that if messaging has such a big effect on Americans, then messaging matters. Folks on our end have to counter the lies with well-told, unabashed unironic, truth-telling. And we have to demand that our media, and our politicians, call out the other side.
No, not quite.

As for
“balance for balance’s sake”: This leads directly to: You say 2+2=4. And he says 2+2=22. Well, we split the difference - 2+2=13 - because we “balance for balance’s sake”. (In other words: Truth comes first; balancing only applies in fairly rare cases.)

As to ¨
being ignorant (..) masses¨ and ¨taking pot shots" at the education system: Possibly this is ¨the easy answer¨ - but what if it is true, that is: Many more Americans are ignorant because the education they received was quite bad? (And I think this is true.)

As to the third paragraph: If the ¨messaging¨ means I have to become a member of Facebook or Twitter, I say: No, thank you very much, but for me these are neofascistic corporations that are out to destroy democracy, honesty, rationality and fair and honest discussions and communi- cations, and besides: Those who still are members of Facebook or Twitter apparently either are morons or want to be morons, and I give them up.

Anyway. Apart from this last bit this is a quite decent article and is recommended.


3. These Are the Four Paths to the End of Trump's Presidency

This article is by Lucian Truscott IV on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
The next time you walk out to your car, or head down the street to the subway, or cross the parking lot on your way to the grocery store, look up and squint your eyes, and you’ll be able to see the end of the Trump presidency. It’s still a moving target, kept out of reach and out of focus by Trump’s chaotic daily delivery of distractions and dissembling, but it’s out there, and at this point it’s coming toward us, rather than headed in the other direction.
I say, in part because either I do not think so or else because I am less optimistic than Truscott is. But I am willing to listen, and here is some more:

So how might the end game play itself out? There are at least four possible scenarios.

The first scenario is that Mueller will come up with enough evidence that Trump has committed crimes, whether obstruction of justice or conspiracy with the Russians to steal the election, and will indict the president in office.
I think this is less likely because - after 1 1/2 years - there still is no good evidence (at all, in fact, to the best of my knowledge) that Trump entered into a ¨conspiracy with the Russians to steal the election¨. (He may have, with Stephen Bannon, using the Cambridge Analytica materials, but the Cambridge Analytica folks are not Russians, and seem to have worked for rich Americans).

Here is more:
The second scenario is that Mueller could issue a finding that Trump had committed crimes while in office without indicting him. In this case, Mueller’s report would be forwarded to the United States Congress and the House of Representatives would be faced with the decision whether or not to impeach him. In this scenario, much would depend on the 2018 elections. Democrats may retake the House, and many are predicting they will. In that case, a vote to impeach Trump would seem assured, although conviction in the Senate would be less than a sure thing.
I agree with this (but this depends mostly on the outcome of the elections of 2018).

Here is more:
The third scenario is that Mueller’s investigation would lead to indictments of people close to Trump, such as Michael Cohen, or even Jared Kushner and/or Donald Trump Jr. Trump could preemptively pardon these individuals (or anyone else charged, for that matter) (...)

A pardon of a man like Michael Cohen might save Trump from the possibility that Cohen would flip and testify against him rather than face trial. But an argument could be made that having been granted a pardon would relieve Cohen of his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, and he could still be compelled to testify against Trump. So Trump may not be able to pardon his way out of trouble in a showdown with Mueller after all.
I do not know enough about American law to pronounce on this.

And here is more:

Which brings us to scenario number four. This one is based on the belief among many long-time Trump watchers that the only thing that really matters to Trump is his personal fortune. In this scenario, Trump will do anything to protect his business and his lifestyle once he leaves office. He may yet face charges that would follow him after he leaves the presidency. Federal and state charges could threaten not only to send him to prison, but lay siege to his empire.

Possibly so, but how does Trump leave office?

Here is the ending of the article:

History books have always talked about men being “elevated” to the presidency, but when descended that escalator in Trump Tower in 2015, he dragged us into his pit of scandal, disgrace and criminality when he assumed office. But the end game is coming. Squint your eyes and tell me if you don’t see an escalator out there ahead of us. It’s going up.
Well... I squinted my eyes, but did not see an escalator. Then again, I began this review by saying I am probably less optimistic than Truscott, and this is a recommended article.


4. A Third Party? How Not To Settle For The Lesser Of Two Evils

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Are you happy with the electoral choices provided you by the two major parties? If not, should you vote for a third party candidate?

Not so fast. Remember what happened in 2016, when Libertarian Gary Johnson got 3.2 percent of the popular vote and Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1.06 percent. Enough votes that, had they gone to Hillary Clinton, she’d have won the Electoral College, and Donald Trump wouldn’t be in the White House.

Oh, and anyone remember what happened in 2000, when the votes that went to Ralph Nader all but sealed the fate of Al Gore, and gave us George W. Bush.
I say: Not so fast, Robert Reich! The real underlying points about the present American system of elections seem to me to be these:

(1) the system itself is very dishonest and not democratic (winner-take-all);
(2) the candidates of both parties are extremely heavily financed by the rich; and
(3) all the above examples may show is that a quite dishonest, quite undemocratic system may
     get even more dishonest and undemocratic if some smaller party or parties enter the race.

And I do not think this system is honest or democratic, and especially not as most people who get elected get quickly corrupted.

Then there is this:
You see the problem? In a winner-take-all system like ours, votes for third party candidates siphon away votes from the major party candidate whose views are closest to that third-party candidate. So by not voting for the lesser of two evils, if that’s what you want to call them, you end up with the worse of two evils.
Of course I see the problem. But (i) I reject this system of undemocratic voting (especially with the enormous corruptions of politicians that have now become ¨legal¨), and (ii) I really don´t trust either the Republicans or the Democrats.

I agree with Reich when an extra-ordinarily bad candidate like Trump offers himself for elections, but then again I should remind him that the vast majority expected that Clinton would win (which again makes voting for a third party candidate a lot more acceptable).

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

You don’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils. But in order to get the candidates you want elected you need to get involved, now. In the primaries. And in changing your state to ranked-choice voting.

It’s our democracy. Whether it works, is up to us.
I more or less agree with Reich, although my own reasons are not his but these: Trump is a horrible president and a horrible candidate, and must be stopped, at least, from getting a second term, and while at present I agree with Reich because of Trump, I do not know what I will think if a third party candidate offers himself (Sanders?), who has a lot of money.

5. A 'Defining Moment' to Stand Against Torture as Human Rights Groups Demand Senate Reject Gina Haspel for CIA

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's pick to head the CIA, continues to face intense scrutiny over her "central" role in the Bush administration's torture regime ahead of her May 9 Senate hearing, more than 40 national human rights and civil liberties organizations sent a letter (pdf) to every U.S. senator on Thursday demanding that they refuse to confirm an author of "one of the darkest chapters in American history."

"Ms. Haspel chose to embrace a program that, as she knew better than most, was brutally dismantling other human beings both physically and psychologically," observes the coalition of groups, which includes CodePink, the Arab American Institute, and Peace Action.
I completely agree: Haspels is an obscene choice (probably most loved by the most sadistic Senators - of which there seem to this psychologist to be currently quite a few).

Here is more:

The letter goes on to note that Trump "has openly advocated for torture on multiple occasions," signalling his willingness to resurrect the CIA program, which remains shrouded in secrecy years after it was officially shut down.

Despite this secrecy, extensive reporting and accounts from former CIA officials
indicate that, as an intelligence officer, Haspel played a key role in the torture program and later destruction of evidence.

"To the best of my understanding, she ran the interrogation program," one former CIA official told The Daily Beast. "Her becoming director absolutely terrifies me. Once I heard her name, I immediately thought, 'Oh, God.'"

Again I completely agree.

And this is the last bit that I quote, namely from the letter mentioned above (in the first bit I quoted):

Senators deserve comprehensive information about Ms. Haspel’s background and should refuse to take a vote on her nomination without it. But until the CIA declassifies such an exhaustive record, and unless that record proves Ms. Haspel played no role in the torture program—which former CIA General Counsel John Rizzo describes her as having “run”—we believe she is unfit to serve as the public-facing director for one of the government’s most powerful and secretive agencies. That she reportedly advocated for, and contributed to, destroying videotape evidence that captured the brutal reality of what “enhanced interrogation” really meant only further tarnishes her candidacy.

Some answer these grave concerns by claiming Ms. Haspel is a decorated intelligence professional, experienced, and well-respected at the CIA. That may all be true. But responsibility for torture is an extraordinary moral offense that ordinary kinds of qualifications simply cannot overcome.

I completely agree, and this is a strongly recommended article.

----
P.S. April 21, 2018: For some reason the links fell out. I (re-)inserted them today.


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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