May 8, 2018

Crisis: On Haspels, Trump´s Riches, Trump´s Friends, On News Suppression, On Dying


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 8, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 8, 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.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files (today four + one non-crisis file) that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 8, 2018
1. CIA Nominee Gina Haspel May Testify for First Time in Public About Her
     Role in Torture at Black Site

2. The Giuliani News No One Is Talking About
3. The Financial Hardships of Trump’s Friends
4. Systematic News Suppression in Today’s U.S.
5. Scientists Reanimate Disembodied Pigs’ Brains – But For a Human Mind,
     It Could Be a Living Hell
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. CIA Nominee Gina Haspel May Testify for First Time in Public About Her Role in Torture at Black Site

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The Trump administration’s push to install the CIA’s controversial deputy director, Gina Haspel, as the agency’s new director faces mounting scrutiny as Haspel is set to begin a Senate confirmation hearing this Wednesday. The Washington Post reports the hearing almost didn’t happen, after Haspel attempted to withdraw her name from consideration over opposition to her role in the CIA’s torture program under George W. Bush. Wednesday’s hearing will mark the first time Haspel has been forced to speak publicly about her role in the U.S. torture program and the destruction of CIA tapes documenting the torture. Haspel’s nomination as CIA director has been “sold like a box of cereal” by the agency, says John Prados, senior fellow at the National Security Archive, but with no transparency about her record. As of now, says Prados, there’s no public document listing Haspel’s duties in her more than 30 years at the CIA.
I say, for although I wrote about Haspel before, I did not know that ¨there’s no public document listing Haspel’s duties in her more than 30 years at the CIA¨. And my own position on Haspel is that (i) somebody about whom there are ¨no public document listing [her] duties¨ for more than 30 years is completely unqualified to head the CIA, while also (ii) somebody who is known to have tortured (which is illegal) is (and to have disappeared evidence about it) indeed merely for that reason is totally unqualified to head the CIA.

Then again, these are my opinions. Here is more from the article:

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the Trump administration’s push to install the CIA’s controversial deputy director, Gina Haspel, as the CIA’s new director. Haspel is set to begin a Senate confirmation hearing this Wednesday. But according to The Washington Post, the hearing almost didn’t happen. The paper reported Sunday Haspel attempted to withdraw her name from consideration over opposition to her role in the CIA’s torture program under George W. Bush. Haspel was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, where one prisoner was waterboarded 83 times and tortured in other ways. The former acting director of the CIA confirmed that in 2005 Haspel personally oversaw the destruction of videotapes showing torture at the black site.
Also Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, “There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA
veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite,” Sanders tweeted.
John Prados, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you begin by talking about Gina Haspel’s record?

JOHN PRADOS: Well, that’s the problem—isn’t it?—is that no one knows Gina Haspel’s record. And everyone is asking the agency to release this information for the purpose of her nomination. And that’s actually one of the basic problems in this whole situation.

The above gives some of the backgrounds. And Prados is quite right that you cannot rationally make someone the head of the CIA without knowing her record. (And that is also quite independent of whether she did torture, though indeed I suppose she did.)

Here is some evidence of John Kiriakou, who was imprisoned because he was the first member of the CIA who stepped forward publicly to reveal that the CIA did use waterboarding (known as torture at least since the early 1600s):

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Kiriakou personally knew Haspel when he worked at the CIA. This is what he said.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: We did call her Bloody Gina. Gina was always very quick and very willing to use force. You know, there was a group of officers in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, when I was—when I was serving there, who—I hate to even make the accusation out loud, but I’m going to say it: who enjoyed using force. Yeah, everybody knew that torture didn’t work. That’s not even the issue. Lots of different things work. Was it moral, and was it ethical, and was it legal? I think the answers to those questions are very clearly no. But Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.

I think this very well may be true, in part because I know (after 40 years of illness that until March of this year was systematically denied to be a ¨serious chronic disease¨, in spite of the fact that it was, all these 40 years) that there are far more sadists (i.a. amongst bureaucrats, politicians, CEOs and also medical doctors) that admit there are.

And here is more by Prados:
JOHN PRADOS: (..) In any case, I want to also add to the conversation about the director of the CIA being sold, actually, like a box of cereal. For example, to this day, this morning, there is no publicly available document that even tells you what were Gina Haspel’s duty stations during her 30-year career at the CIA. We know the things that we talked about earlier in the program, and that’s almost the only open information that exists. There was actually a CIA release that gave some details about Ms. Haspel’s career. But if you went to the CIA’s website, you could not find that document. That’s how open the agency’s approach to informing the American public on this is.
I agree, and this is a recommended article.
2. The Giuliani News No One Is Talking About

This article is by David Cay Johnston on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Was Donald Trump starved for cash in fall 2016, when 62 million voters cast ballots for a candidate who told them repeatedly that he was “rich—really, really rich”?

The way that Trump “funneled” hush money to a porn actress just 11 days before the election sure makes it look that way. This would be consistent with four decades of Trump claiming vast wealth, but not being able to pay his bills as they come due.

As you read what follows keep two thoughts in mind:

  • First, would any billionaire need months to pay a $130,000 bill?
  • Second, there is not now and never has been a shred of verifiable evidence that Trump is or ever was a billionaire, a myth I first demolished using his own net worth statement prepared for a lawsuit in spring 1990.

Trump called me a liar back then for four months until he had to put into the public record his bankers’ assessment of his riches. The bankers calculated that Trump was worth a negative $295 million.

In case you don´t know who Johnston is, read the above link: He is a specialist on - among other things - Donald Trump, whom he has known for 30 years.

And as to Trump´s wealth: Almost all that I know about Trump is that he is a major liar. And since he has refused to give any proof of his financial worth, I think it is a fair assumption that one of the very many things Trump lies about are his finances.

Here is more:

Rudy Giuliani revived the issue of whether Trump merely poses as a billionaire during his Wednesday night chat with Fox entertainer Sean Hannity. No doubt that was not what he intended.

During a rambling chat full of legal nonsense, meandering syntax and ludicrous assertions that captivated reporters and pundits, Giuliani also revealed that Trump took four months or more to pay the hush money to Stephanie Clifford, better known as the porn star Stormy Daniels. The news focused on the admission that Trump did pay the hush money, showing that the president and the White House lied earlier.

But the more significant revelation came when Giuliani said that it took Trump four months or more to pay the bill.
Well... I agree this is evidence, but I do not regard this as strong, among other things because I have heard from several sides that Trump is a very slow payer anyway.

Here is the last bit by Johnston:

As readers of DCReport know, Trump last year claimed to be worth just $1.4 billion. That figure, attested to by Trump under penalty of perjury, is a nearly 90 percent reduction from the more than $10 billion he touted on the campaign trail.

Even that much reduced net worth figure is grossly inflated.
Federal ethics laws are so riddled with loopholes that we have no idea how deeply Trump is in debt. Debts owed via partnerships are not reported, for example.

From the unreported debts we do know about, thanks to the diligence of New York Times reporters, we can report that Trump’s net worth is significantly less than $1 billion.

But this is decent evidence, I think. And this is a recommended article.

3. The Financial Hardships of Trump’s Friends

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

The Environmental Protection Agency recently granted to an oil refinery owned by Carl Icahn a so-called “financial hardship” waiver. The exemption allows the refinery to avoid clean air laws, potentially saving Icahn millions of dollars.

Icahn is not exactly a hardship case. According to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, his net worth is $21.8 billion. Over the last four decades as a corporate raider, Icahn has pushed CEOs to cut payrolls, abandon their communities, and outsource jobs abroad in order to generate more money for him and other investors. 

In 1985, after winning control of the now-defunct Trans World Airlines, Icahn stripped its assets, pocketed nearly $500 million in profits, and left the airline more than $500 million in debt. Former TWA chair C.E. Meyer Jr. called Icahn “one of the greediest men on earth.”

In brief, Icahn - who seems to own over $20 billion - is one of the least needy Americans, but under Trump´s government nevertheless gets subsidies that make him millions.

Here is some on the real needy:

Meanwhile, real financial hardships are bearing down on Americans who are getting no help at all. Flint’s water is still unsafe. Much of Puerto Rico is still in the dark. Last week, HUD Secretary Ben “Poverty-Is-A-State-Of-Mind” Carson proposed large rent increases for families receiving housing assistance, explaining that help to the poor “creates perverse consequences, such as discouraging these families from earning more money.”

Rubbish. Low-income Americans are already working hard, many paying half their monthly incomes in rent.

I agree with Reich that (very probably) most low-income Americans are working hard, but I add that Ben Carson (who seems to be a madman, in my psychologist´s eyes) is intentionally slandering the poor (as indeed many rich do, and seem to like).

Here is more:

Trump and his enablers on Capitol Hill are proposing that people receiving food stamp work at least twenty hours a week. Yet over 40 million Americans – including many children and disabled – are already struggling with hunger, and food stamps average only $1.40 per person per meal. 

In contrast to their argument that the poor need less help in order to work harder, Trump and his enablers justify regulatory and tax handouts to Carl Icahn and his ilk by arguing the rich need more in order to work harder.

Yes indeed, and this is very sick. Here is Reich´s ending:

We are rapidly becoming a nation of just two groups. The first are those without any voice, vulnerable to real financial hardship, who are losing whatever meager assistance they had. This includes many white working-class Trump supporters. 

The second are those like Carl Icahn – powerful enough to extract benefits from Trump and the GOP by claiming they need such incentives in order to invest. But their neediness is a hoax, and the only significant investments they’re making are pay-offs to politicians.

Far more Americans belong to the first group than to the second. The question is when they will realize it, and vote accordingly.

I agree with Reich - and having seen that almost half of those who voted in the presidential elections voted for Trump, my own inference is that many of these do not realize how they have been frauded and abused by Trump. And this is a recommended article. 

4. Systematic News Suppression in Today’s U.S.

This article is by Eric Zuesse on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990, and in the 1980s chaired the National Intelligence Estimates and prepared the President’s Daily Brief. But now retired, he’s a critic of the very same government he had spent his career representing, and especially of its virtually fully controlled press, which he claims misrepresents systematically, as if it were owned outright by the controlling owners of the very same mega-corporations that manufacture and sell weapons to the Pentagon and to its allied militaries in Europe and the Middle East. Basically as a “military-industrial complex” scam upon the public, but really as a military-industrial-media complex, which is even more powerful than the more limited type that Eisenhower had warned against.
This was a hesitant review because I dislike Zuesse and like McGovern. It was resolved by noting that the above bit by Zuesse seems all correct, while the other two bits I use from this article are quotes by McGovern.

Here is the first bit of McGovern:

I’m thinking that Chuck Schumer [..] said, No, no. Arms control, no, no. We’re making the devil incarnate Vladimir Putin. Don’t mention arms control talks.

So that’s the reality in the mainstream media. When Trump had the audacity to say, You know, Putin won the election, he’s going to be around for six more years. Probably I’ll send him a congratulatory telegram [..]. His staff says, No, no, no, don’t congratulate him. No, no, no, don’t congratulate him. Well, he not only congratulates him but he says, You know, the situation is such that we ought to get together sooner rather than later, and we ought to talk about arms control.

In case you don´t know about Chuck Schumer, this was a link. But this is the bit that made me review this article:

What I’m trying to say here is that the only conclusion here is the old, hackneyed military-industrial-Congressional-intelligence-media complex. You ran a conference on the fiftieth anniversary of Eisenhower’s speech on the military-industrial complex. Well, it’s gotten worse, astronomically worse. And the people who make the arms, the people who sell arms, the people that Pope Francis, to his credit, before Congress two and a half years ago called “the blood-drenched arms traders,” those are the people that are running the show.

I think I completely agree. As to the military-industrial complex, this is a link to what it meant around 1960 (nearly 60 years ago) - and here are Eisenhower´s words from January 1961:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together. [emphasis added]

And I fear Ray McGovern is quite right in saying that the present ¨military-industrial- Congressional-intelligence-media complex¨ is (bolding added) ¨astronomically worse¨ (and also very much more powerful) than the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned against. This is a recommended article.

5. Scientists Reanimate Disembodied Pigs’ Brains – But For a Human Mind, It Could Be a Living Hell

This article is by Benjamin Curtis on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It also does not belong to the crisis series, but I am a philosopher and a psychologist, and the theme of surviving death interests me, somewhat.

This article starts as follows:

In a recent meeting at the National Institutes of Health, Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan revealed that his team has successfully reanimated the brains of dead pigs recovered from a slaughterhouse. By pumping them with artificial blood using a system called BrainEx, they were able to bring them back to “life” for up to 36 hours.

Admittedly, the pigs’ brains did not regain consciousness, but Sestan acknowledged that restoring awareness is a possibility. Crucially, he also disclosed that the technique could work on primate brains (which includes humans), and that the brains could be kept alive indefinitely.

But could you really survive the death of your body? And would such an existence be worthwhile anyway? In fact, the answers to these questions are far from clear.

I had missed this, but I have meanwhile read (I think since the 1990-ies, in fact) rather a lot about dead people who let themselves (or their brains) be frozen, so as to enable future scientists
to reanimate them. (It seems Marvin Minsky - who died some two years ago - is one of them.)

In any case, I agree with Curtis (a lecturer in philosophy) that ¨
the answers to these questions¨ - namely: about what one´s mind would be like if it were reanimated - ¨are far from clear¨.

Here is some more:

Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied “brain in a bucket”, locked away inside your own mind without access to the senses that allow us to experience and interact with the world and the inputs that our brains so crave. The knowledge and technology needed to implant your brain into a new body may be decades, if not centuries, away.

So in the best case scenario, you would be spending your life with only your own thoughts for company. Some have argued that even with a fully functional body, immortality would be tedious. With absolutely no contact with external reality, it might just be a living hell.

Actually, I have myself no idea at all of what this kind of ¨survival¨ (between quotes, because even if there is something like you when you are reanimated, this is only a small percentage of what was your body) would be like.

And - speaking for myself - I have no desire whatsoever to be reanimated (and I want to be burned after I have died), while I also think that, at least for now, the chances that one will be reanimated (successfully, and more or less as one was before one died) are quite small.

Besides, only very few have been prepared, so far, to be reanimated at some time in the future (if and when this is possible); these very few had to be quite wealthy; and they are also attempting to do what no living thing ever did (outside of religious fantasies), namely to die and then to be reanimated.

I will not discuss ethical questions here, but I do say that for my part I was not there before I was born, and I hope (and believe) I will not be there after I have died, and I have no problems with these (supposed) facts whatsoever.


[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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