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Nederlog

August 25, 2018

Crisis: James Risen, ¨Anti-Semitism¨, Annulling Trump, American Fascism, Noam Chomsky



Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 25, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, August 25, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from August 25, 2018:
1. James Risen on Prosecuting the President & Why Press Needs to Fight
     Back

2. Being Pro-Palestinian Doesn’t Make Jeremy Corbyn an Anti-Semite
3. Don’t Impeach Trump. Annul His Presidency
4. Why American-Made Fascism Puts Democracy at Risk
5. Noam Chomsky: Hopes and Anxieties in the Age of Trump
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. James Risen on Prosecuting the President & Why Press Needs to Fight Back

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
In the wake of President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen’s plea deal and former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s guilty verdict, many are advocating for Trump’s impeachment. We speak with The Intercept’s James Risen, who says lawmakers should indict Trump and prosecute him in a federal court.
Yes indeed, and I have reviewed Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort in previous Nederlogs of the last few days. One important problem for non-Trumpists (to which I belong) is: How to remove Trump from the presidency?

Here is James Risen (and indeed further on, in a later review, there is also Robert Reich: see here):

AMY GOODMAN: (..) You just wrote a piece this week called “Is Donald Trump Above the Law?” Explain. And talk about your call for a Trump Project.

JAMES RISEN: Yeah, I wrote in this latest piece that, you know, there’s this long-standing tradition, based partly on legal opinions issued by the Justice Department over the last few decades, in which it’s believed that the Justice Department cannot indict and prosecute a sitting president and that the only available option is impeachment in Congress. But it’s clear now that the Republicans in Congress are not going to ever go along with an impeachment, no matter what Robert Mueller and the special counsel find. Even if the Democrats retake the House, and even if they retook the Senate, it’s highly unlikely they would have the votes in the Senate for a conviction on an impeachment. And so, the only real avenue, I believe, to deal with the criminality of Donald Trump is to indict him and prosecute him in a federal court. And I think that the prosecutors, both in New York, who have dealt with the Cohen matter, and Mueller’s special counsel office, should both consider indicting him for what are very obviously criminal activity, criminal matters.
I agree with Risen that it is quite unlikely that the present Congress will impeach Trump. As to prosecuting Trump in a federal court ¨to deal with the criminality of Donald Trump¨: I agree that Trump is a criminal president, but I simply do not know enough of American law to pronounce on this possibility. (Besides, even if there would be a conviction, Trump probably will pardon himself, whether that is legal or not.)

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: And you think the most obvious part of the criminal matters are what? What do you think is criminal?

JAMES RISEN: Well, I think this week what we got was Donald Trump’s former lawyer, personal lawyer, revealing, admitting in court, that the felony he just pled guilty to was a conspiracy that he—that was coordinated and directed by Donald Trump. He said that in court. That makes it—I mean, how does a federal prosecutor—when you have just prosecuted the man’s personal lawyer, and that personal lawyer has admitted that Trump directed him to do the thing that you just prosecuted him for, how do you then ignore that as a prosecutor? Do you just—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it could well be whether a sitting president can be indicted would go to the Supreme Court. And it’s a very serious question about what it would mean—

JAMES RISEN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —if Brett Kavanaugh were sitting on that Supreme Court.

Yes, I agree with both Risen and Goodman, though I add that it seems to me that there is a clear legal answer to the question (bolding added) ¨whether a sitting president can be indicted¨: Of course he can, simply because the executionary part of the government (the government) is independent of the legal part of the state (the courts, judges etc.)

Then again, Goodman is right that if these legal questions are in the end to be decided by a mostly conservative Supreme Court, then Trump may be protected against decisions against Trump by federal courts.

Here is another project by Risen:

AMY GOODMAN: The Trump Project, Jim?

JAMES RISEN: Yeah, I wrote another piece about a week ago about the—you know, when the American editorial pages were all writing about the need for press freedom in America, I said that we should really go further than just having a series of editorials. We need to have investigative reporters come together in a joint project to investigate Trump, much the way that investigative reporters came together back in the 1970s in Arizona after investigative reporter Don Bolles was murdered in a car bombing by the Mob. About 38 investigative reporters came from all over the country to jointly investigate what Bolles had been investigating, and then wrote a series of stories about it. I think that’s what we need with Donald Trump, is to have investigative reporters from every major news organization getting together and writing jointly a comprehensive investigation of Trump, that could be published jointly throughout the country, as a sign of how strong press freedom and investigative reporting still is, despite Trump.

I think this may be a good idea. And this is a recommended article.


2. Being Pro-Palestinian Doesn’t Make Jeremy Corbyn an Anti-Semite

This article is by As´ad AbuKhalil on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
In the last few decades, public opinion in the West has shifted from the early, post- World War II period. Support for Israel has declined while support for the Palestinians has increased. This shift has been particularly pronounced among youth, especially those who are liberals or leftists.

The view was much different when Israel established its occupation of Palestine in 1948. But Israel has committed too many massacres and perpetrated too many invasions to maintain the status quo. Its war crimes have been televised too often for the world not to notice and popular opinion not to change. Mainstream print media no longer can control the narrative and mold the coverage of Israel and its offenses like it once did.

Still, while the base of the Socialist Party in France or the Labour Party in the United Kingdom has shifted in a more pro-Palestinian direction, much of the leadership of those parties continues to uphold Israeli dogmas.
Yes, I mostly agree with the above. Here is more on Corbyn´s position:
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is the exception. Unlike Francois Hollande of France, Corbyn represents the progressive, youthful base of the his party on domestic and foreign policies.

His political rise poses a real problem for Israel. Therefore Tel Aviv’s latest target is Corbyn.  Israel finds his stance worrisome because if he were to be elected prime minister, a real possibility, his views could influence a major shift in the foreign policies of other European ruling parties.
Possibly so. Then again, from my own point of view (which is pretty well informed) I think it is crazy to accuse Corbyn of anti-Semitism.

But here is how it goes, more or less:

Corbyn’s repeated denunciations of anti-Semitism haven’t been sufficient because this is not really about anti-Semitism and its repugnance. The beef that British Zionists (and other Zionists especially in Israel) have with Corbyn is with his views on Palestine. He was asked to accept—without hesitation or equivocation—an Israeli definition of anti-Semitism, which was provided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Insistence on accepting this definition is an attempt to force Corbyn to tailor his statements and beliefs on the Arab-Israeli question to the Israeli position. The Israeli establishment wants to prevent grass-roots views on Palestine among British progressives from being reflected in the stances of party leaders.
That is to say (or so it seems): Corbyn is an anti-Semite because Corbyn is pro-Palestinian. Which is utter boloney.

Here is the ending of this article, in which there is considerably more:

The war on Corbyn is a prominent part of Israel’s war on free speech in the U.K. and elsewhere.

Corbyn and other politicians should be expected to never resort to anti-Semitic expressions. But so far only evidence of his pro-Palestinian statements have been found and that should never be confused with the scourge of genuine anti-Semitism.
Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.

3. Don’t Impeach Trump. Annul His Presidency

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

The only way I see the end of Trump is if there’s overwhelming evidence he rigged the 2016 election. In which case impeachment isn’t an adequate remedy. His presidency should be annulled.

Let me explain. Many people are convinced we’re already witnessing the beginning of the end of Trump.

In their view, bombshell admissions from Trump insiders with immunity from prosecution, combined with whatever evidence Mueller uncovers about Trump’s obstruction of justice and his aide’s collusion with the Russians, will all tip the scales.

Democrats will take back the House and begin an impeachment, and the evidence of impeachable offenses will put enough pressure on Republican senators to send Trump packing.

I don’t believe this for a moment.

I agree with Reich on the chances of impeachment of Trump: They are very low as long as the Republicans have both the House and the Senate, and indeed not much better if they loose the majority in the House but keep a majority in the Senate.

Then again, I am quite uninformed about annulling Trump´s presidency. Here is more by Reich on the possibilities of impeachment:

First, the Senate has never in history convicted a president of impeachment.

Second, even if Democrats flip the House in November, Republicans will almost certainly remain in control of the Senate – and so far they’ve displayed the integrity of lizards.

Third, Fox News and the rest of the right-wing sleaze media will continue to distort and cover up whatever the evidence shows – convincing 35 to 40 percent of Americans, along with most Republicans, that Trump is the innocent victim of a plot to remove him.

Finally, Trump himself will never voluntarily resign, as did Nixon. He’ll lie and claim a conspiracy to unseat him.

Yes, I basically agree - and like to add that, in my psychologist´s opinion, Trump is not sane, which in itself ought to be a sufficient reason to remove him as president.

Here is more:

He’s proven himself a superb conman, an entertainer-demagogue capable of sowing so much confusion and instigating so much hate and paranoia that he has already survived outrages that would have broken any garden-variety loathsome president – Helsinki, Charlottesville, children locked in cages at the border, firings and cover-ups, racist slurs, clear corruption.

In all likelihood, we’ll have him for another two and a half years.

Don’t bet the house on him losing in 2020, either. A malignant bullying megalomaniac who lies like most people breathe, and who’s able to suck the oxygen out of every news cycle, might pulverize any Democratic opponent.

Yes, I agree again: Trump is a ¨malignant bullying megalomaniac¨ (and see the link!), and I think Reich is probably also right that Trump might win another presidency in 2020. My own arguments for the latter possibility are (i) that I think it is a fact that - anyway - most (more than half) of all Americans is stupid or ignorant (which I strongly dislike but is a fact), and (ii) that Fox + Facebook ¨inform¨ at least 40% of all Americans.

Here is more Reich:

Suppose, just suppose, Robert Mueller finds overwhelming and indisputable evidence that Trump conspired with Putin to rig the 2016 election, and the rigging determined the election’s outcome.

In other words, Trump’s presidency is not authorized under the United States Constitution.

Well...no: In the first place, I think it is very unlikely that ¨Robert Mueller finds overwhelming and indisputable evidence that Trump conspired with Putin to rig the 2016 election¨. And in the second place, I think an annulment of Trump´s presidency (or anyone´s presidency) is very unlikely.

I grant that my second opinion is a bit weakened by the fact that I do not know anything about what the annulment of of a president would legally involve, but ¨Trump´s decisions¨ or ¨Trump´s government´s decisions¨ are not just sanctioned by them, but also - in so far as they became law - by the majority of the Senate and the House. Would these also be annulled?!

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

The only response to an unconstitutional presidency is to annul it. Annulment would repeal all of an unconstitutional president’s appointments and executive actions, and would eliminate the official record of the presidency.

Annulment would recognize that all such appointments, actions, and records were made without constitutional authority.

The Constitution does not specifically provide for annulment of an unconstitutional presidency. But read as a whole, the Constitution leads to the logical conclusion that annulment is the appropriate remedy for one.

I remain quite skeptical (though I strongly desire Trump´s removal), and knowing that the Constitution does not explicitly provide for an ¨annulment of an unconstitutional presidency¨ strengthens my skepticism. But this is a recommended article.


4. Why American-Made Fascism Puts Democracy at Risk

This article is by Timothy Denevi on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Earlier this month, I attended the Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, DC -- a gathering of white nationalists to mark the anniversary of last year's horrific violence in Charlottesville.
    (...)
I found myself thinking about a quote by the late David Foster Wallace: "How do you promote democracy when you know that a majority of people will, if given the chance, vote for an end to democratic voting?"
    (...)
This is America in 2018. The United States is being led by someone who openly defends white supremacists. Who calls the free press "the enemy of the people." Who abuses the power of his office to attack and silence his critics. Already, his campaign machinery for the next presidential election is kicking into gear. We're about to come face-to-face with Wallace's complication: To support Trump and similar politicians could very well amount to casting a ballot in favor of dismantling the core electoral safeguards that allow such votes to be cast in the first place.
 
The rally itself turned out to be a flop.
Yes. As to Wallace´s quotation: I do not take it very serious, simply because I know that I am for democracy also when I know that quite a few of the decisions taken with a majority are not right in my opinion, and also because I know that many democratic decisions are not taken on the basis of rational and reasonable arguments. (And see toleration.)

Next, the main organizer of the ¨
Unite the Right 2 rally¨is Jason Kessler:
Jason Kessler is not a victim. Instead, in his convoluted play for legitimacy, he openly threatens the rights of American citizens he believes inferior. To put it bluntly: Any individuals who advocate for white supremacy in the mainstream media -- seeking, in the process, to pervert our longstanding, if flawed, presumption of a shared objective reality into a blatantly false equivalency -- are openly and knowingly participating in the destruction of democracy itself.
 
 I know that sounds extreme, and fair enough. But let's not split hairs. The overthrow of participatory democracy has been the overt goal of white supremacy from the very start. As such, for anyone advocating that ideology, racism is as much a means as an end, since it's only when the inherent rights of minority citizens are completely revoked -- to a degree more extreme than Jim Crow or even slavery -- that America will finally become an autocratic government powerful enough to enforce the uncompromising purity these supremacists so desperately seek.
I agree for the most part (and stress the above is about extremists and racists). Here is some more:
What we're talking about now is really just another version of the quote from Wallace's essay on Borges: that deep-seated contradiction that our slavery-condoning participatory democracy was intentionally founded upon, a gap between reality and idealism in which the necessary rationales for the Republic's beginning and end—for its existence and destruction—have, over the last two centuries, managed to simultaneously reside.
 
It's something that Charles P. Pierce, reflecting on the anniversary of Charlottesville, summed up perfectly: "I am so free that I insist that my freedom includes the freedom to deny you yours."
As to the American ¨slavery-condoning participatory democracy [that] was intentionally founded upon, a gap between reality and idealism¨: That is quite correct, for ¨being free and equal¨ was utter moonshine at least until 1865, because of racism and legally tolerated and protected slavery of black people.

And as to Pierce´s quotation: It is obvious nonsense in my eyes (and very probably also in Pierce´s eyes), and I like to balance it with a quotation of Karl Popper (which I quote from memory): ¨We are to be tolerant of the tolerant, and intolerant of the intolerant¨. I do not know whether this is literal, but it is what Popper meant, and I agree with it - and see my entry on toleration, which is pertinent.

Here is the ending of this article:

And now, as his standing worsens and the multiple investigations into his possible crimes accelerate, Donald Trump is running out of options. Can the American Idea survive the onslaught of racial demagoguery he's likely to unleash, in the coming weeks and months, as a last-ditch effort to rally together the worst among us and save himself?
 
Whether we like it or not, Donald Trump is steering the country into the future. And as the rest of us watch on in disbelief, the odds that he'll somehow avert disaster and keep his wandering hands to himself grow slimmer and slimmer with each passing day.
Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.

5. Noam Chomsky: Hopes and Anxieties in the Age of Trump

This article is by Saul Isaacson on Truthout. It starts as follows:
For over half a century, Noam Chomsky, celebrated linguist and current Laureate Professor of Linguistics and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair at the University of Arizona, has provided intellectual and moral leadership to critics of American foreign policy. In the interview below, conducted in his office at the University of Arizona on August 7, 2018, Chomsky discusses the American obsession with Iran, and why the Trump administration seems ready for a confrontation. He also addresses the disappointing trends in two Latin American nations, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Above all, Chomsky expresses his concerns over nuclear weapons, especially in the unpredictable hands of Donald Trump. Reprinted below is the entire text of the interview.
Yes. And this is a fairly long and quite good interview of which I will only review two bits that concern me most:

Speaking of bombs and missiles, I recently read The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg. I found it riveting.

It’s a very important book.

Yeah. And he [Ellsberg] talks about key transition points and what is acceptable barbarism in war. He starts with the traditional notion that soldiers kill only soldiers, and then the bombing of civilians, and the way “Bomber” Harris worked it down to a science, and then the incineration of cities was the next step, and then the atomic bomb, and the savagery of Curtis LeMay; it’s really a beautifully-written book, very moving. But it made me think about Trump. Are we at another one of those key pivotal moments [featuring] a president with a trigger finger, and more and more nations with nuclear weapons?

Well, you know, Trump is a deviation from standard political history. He doesn’t give a shit about geostrategic issues. He doesn’t care what the hell he’s doing. If he smashes up the international economy, fine. If he throws out NATO, who cares? The only thing he cares about is himself, literally, and everything he’s doing follows from just the recognition that he’s a narcissistic megalomaniac who wants to make sure that, you know, he’s on top. He wins everything. And he has to keep his base under control. And he’s very good at it. He knows exactly what buttons to push to keep angry people — angry for good reasons, for the most part — to keep them sort of following him. He’s shafting them at every turn.
Yes, I agree with everything and also like to stress that I am a psychologist (with considerable experience in the treatment of an insane person) who thoroughly agrees that Trump is ¨a narcissistic megalomaniac¨, and who insists that Trump´s insanity should be one of the main reasons to remove him as president of the USA, indeed also because I think Trump lacks the responsibility not to use atomic weapons at some point, especially if this suits his narcissistic megalomania.

And here is Chomsky on Trump and nuclear weapons:

Do you think Trump is more likely to use tactical nuclear weapons than other presidents?

Well, I think the danger with Trump and nuclear weapons is something else. If this Mueller investigation ever comes up with something, which I doubt very much, but if it comes up with something that implicates Trump, everybody’s in trouble because he’s going to react like a maniac. Might try to start a war in the United States. He might start nuking people. He might do anything. Anything that goes after him personally is very dangerous. So, again, I think the liberals are out of their minds on this. What they want to do is implicate Trump, you know, threaten to impeach him, at which point he could go crazy. And he has a lot of power.
Yes, I tend to agree with Chomsky (including about Mueller´s investigation), although I also think it is fairly crazy not to prosecute Trump because he might get angry and ¨might start nuking people¨. Then again, I have been saying for 2 1/2 years now that Trump is insane. And this is a strongly recommended article in which there is considerably more.

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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