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Nederlog

September 18, 2018

Crisis: Hate & Religion, Spying on Journalists, Kavanaugh, Bolton & War  Criminals, Cooked Books


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 18, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 18, 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 September 18, 2018:
1. The Culture of Hate
2. Government Can Spy on Journalists in the U.S. Using Invasive Foreign
     Intelligence Process

3. Kavanaugh Assaulted Ford: Will Senate Repeat Mistakes Made with
     Anita Hill?

4. John Bolton Escalates Blackmail to Shield U.S. War Criminals
5. Cooking the Books in the Trump Universe
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. The Culture of Hate

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. This time it is an excerpt from Hedges' new book "America: The Farewell Tour". This is from near its beginning, and consists of some quotes from the Koran (there are more similar quotes in the original):
KORAN 2:191 ‘Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.’
KORAN 3:28 ‘Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.’
KORAN 3:85 ‘Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.’
KORAN 5:33 ‘Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam.’
KORAN 8:12 ‘Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Koran.’
KORAN 8:60 ‘Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels.’
KORAN 8:65 ‘The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.’
Well... as I have said quite a few times in Nederlog - that together with its precursor exists 14 years now - I have been raised completely without any religion, and after that studied philosophy and psychology, none of which changed anything: I am still a complete atheist.

The above - totalitarian, but not according to the Wikipedia - immoralities are not at all characteristic for the Koran, but also for the Christians, and indeed also for many other religions, though Hedges does not treat those:
There are far more calls by the God of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Book of Revelation for holy war, genocide, and savage ethnic cleansing than in the Koran, from the killing of the firstborns in Egypt to the wholesale annihilation of the Canaanites. God repeatedly demands the Israelites wage wars of annihilation against unbelievers in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and the Book of Revelation. Everyone, including women, children, and the elderly, along with their livestock, are to be killed. Moses ordered the Israelites to carry out the “complete destruction” of all cities in the Promised Land and slaughter all the inhabitants, making sure to show “no mercy.”
     (...)
Whole books of the Bible celebrate divinely sanctioned genocide. The Koran doesn’t come close. The willful blindness by these self‐proclaimed Christian warriors about their own holy book is breathtaking.
Yes indeed, except for the last sentence, to which I will come below:

I first read the Bible (for the most part, and for the first time) when I was 21 or 22, and I found it frighteningly aggressive, totalitarian, and murderous at many places. Then again - unlike Hedges, who is, among other things, also a Christian minister - I am not one to pronounce confidently on a comparison of the Koran and the Bible, for whereas I read part of the Koran as well, also several decades ago, I have always rejected both books as religious myths sanctioned with cruelty.

As to the above quoted last sentence - "
The willful blindness by these self‐proclaimed Christian warriors about their own holy book is breathtaking" - I think Hedges is mistaken, and he is mistaken for the following reason:

Both Christian and Islamic - fanatic - believers believe that (1) their own religious faith is The Truth, and The Only Religious Truth, and that (2) all other religions are false, and also are often
spread by lies.

And while it is also true these two - utterly nonsensical, from a scientific point of view - religious beliefs are more true of fanatic believers than of all believers, it is also true that many "Christian warriors" believe these falsehoods, which again imply that most of the "religious truths" of other faiths (there are over 3000 in the world) are utterly false and often intentionally harmful.

Finally, there is a lot more in this article, but mostly it is more or less personal, and I shall skip it. The article is recommended.

2. Government Can Spy on Journalists in the U.S. Using Invasive Foreign Intelligence Process

This article is by Cora Currier on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

The U.S. government can monitor journalists under a foreign intelligence law that allows invasive spying and operates outside the traditional court system, according to newly released documents.

Targeting members of the press under the law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requires approval from the Justice Department’s highest-ranking officials, the documents show.

In two 2015 memos for the FBI, the attorney general spells out “procedures for processing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications targeting known media entities or known members of the media.” The guidelines say the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, or their delegate must sign off before the bureau can bring an application to the secretive panel of judges who approves monitoring under the 1978 act, which governs intelligence-related wiretapping and other surveillance carried out domestically and against U.S. persons abroad.

I say! Well... for me any "law" that "operates outside the traditional court system" is not a law but an illegal abuse of force: All real laws must be part of some traditional court system, simply because without this there is only force and not law that is applied.

Here is some more:

The high level of supervision points to the controversy around targeting members of the media at all. Prior to the release of these documents, little was known about the use of FISA court orders against journalists. Previous attention had been focused on the use of National Security Letters against members of the press; the letters are administrative orders with which the FBI can obtain certain phone and financial records without a judge’s oversight. FISA court orders can authorize much more invasive searches and collection, including the content of communications, and do so through hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of adversarial judicial process that allows journalists and other targets of regular criminal warrants to eventually challenge their validity.

I don't believe myself that either the obtainment of "certain phone and financial records without a judge’s oversight" or "hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of adversarial judicial process" are legal.

Here is some more:

The memos discussing FISA are dated in early 2015, and both are directed at the FBI’s National Security Division. The documents are on the same subject and outline some of the same steps for FISA approvals, but one is unclassified and mostly unredacted, while the other is marked secret and largely redacted. The rules apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or, in some cases, are of interest under the broader standard that they possess foreign intelligence information.

But to say that "journalists (..) are thought to be agents of a foreign government" is to make an accusation that is almost always without proof, and something similar is true for the claim that they may "possess foreign intelligence information" (and indeed: what if the information is true? what if these truths accuse some member of the government?).

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

The guidelines, at least in the unredacted portions, do not say how to handle the information that is gathered or how to mitigate the risk of exposing journalists’ sources and sensitive information unrelated to an investigation (although they would be subject to minimization procedures if they pertained to a U.S. person, Dempsey noted). There is no requirement that the journalist be notified that their records were sought. The unredacted guidelines also do not discuss the scenario in which a journalist themselves might not be the target, but where surveillance is likely to reveal journalists’ communications with a target.

“Journalists merely by being contacted by a FISA target might be subject to monitoring — these guidelines, as far as we can tell, don’t contemplate that situation or add any additional protections,” said Krishnan.

As I have indicated, to me this sounds as if mostly totally uncontrolled force will be abused to make American journalists keep silent about abuses of the law. And this is a recommended article.


3. Kavanaugh Assaulted Ford: Will Senate Repeat Mistakes Made with Anita Hill?

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has come forward to accuse President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape, throwing his nomination into question in the days before the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on it. Blasey Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University in California and says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. She at first expected her story to be kept confidential, but changed her mind after it leaked. She now says she is willing to testify about her experience. In an interview published Sunday by The Washington Post, Ford said that in the early 1980s Kavanaugh and a friend were “stumbling drunk” when they pushed her into a bedroom. The Post reports, “While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.” We get a response from Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com, whose latest piece is headlined “Our System Is Too Broken to Assess the Sexual Assault Claim Against Kavanaugh.”
I say. Also, I have repeatedly reviewed articles dealing with Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court judge, and the last was yesterday.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (...) Well, for more, we’re joined in our New York studio by Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com. She’s their senior legal correspondent and Supreme Court reporter, hosts the podcast Amicus. Her latest story is headlined “Our System Is Too Broken to Assess the Sexual Assault Claim Against Kavanaugh.”

Do you still feel that way as Dr. Blasey has come forward? She has been very clear in this letter, though this letter was not made clear to Democrats or Republicans on the committee until it was leaked by The Intercept and then a series of developments unfolded.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: I think I still feel that way. I feel pretty strongly that neither journalism nor high, high, high-intensity Senate confirmation hearings are the appropriate fact-finding, reason-based enterprises to come to the bottom of this. And I think I probably still feel, as I felt when I wrote the piece, that the cost of forcing somebody into this system, to have this conversation under the klieg lights of a Senate hearing, where nobody is willing to be persuaded because the battle lines have been drawn, is the very, very worst way, if what you really want to do is have a truth-seeking enterprise. This is not the way to do it.

Well... I agree with Lithwick in principle, but unfortunately principles in politics are often inapplicable, as is the case here.

And I also think that in Kavanaugh's case, the evidence is clear enough, and indeed not only about his possible attempt to rape Dr. Ford in the early 1980ies, but also about the fact that something like 90% of Kavanaugh's documents were withheld both from the public and from the Judiciary Committee - and Lithwick agrees:

DAHLIA LITHWICK: It seems to me this materially changes the game. What you’ll hear from the Republican senators in terms of pushback isn’t “I don’t believe her.” It isn’t that she doesn’t have a name and a face, because now she does have a name and a face. So all we’re hearing is “It’s too late. It’s too late. These hearings that we rushed along—we refused to disclose tens and thousands of pages of documents—”

AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain that a little further for people who haven’t been following this.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Well, I think this entire thing was entirely corroded by the fact that for the first time in history, 90 percent of Kavanaugh’s documents were withheld from the public, from the Judiciary Committee. They were being vetted not by the National Archives, as documents have traditionally been vetted; they were being vetted by a Republican lawyer who had worked with Judge Kavanaugh in an earlier life.

Yes indeed - and as I have said before, I think Kavanaugh should not be nominated as a Supreme Court judge. This is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more than I quoted.


4. John Bolton Escalates Blackmail to Shield U.S. War Criminals

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truthdig and originally on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Once again, the United States is blackmailing countries that would send Americans to face justice in the International Criminal Court. Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton is leading the charge to shield US and Israeli war criminals from legal accountability.

On September 10, Bolton told the right-wing Federalist Society that the United States would punish the ICC if it mounts a full investigation of Americans for war crimes committed in Afghanistan or of Israelis for human rights violations committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Being a psychologist, I was rapidly convinced in 2016 that Donald Trump has megalomania aka narcissistic personality disorder indeed in considerable part because the criterions for making that judgement are observational, and because there were many videos of Trump that showed these observations.

I have no such evidence about John Bolton, but I do conclude that either he is a fanatic or mad in some sense, and quite possibly both.

Here is part of my reasons - and this is about the ICC, which is the International Criminal Court, of which there are at present 123 states that are members of the ICC:

Last fall, Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC, recommended to the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber that it open a full investigation into the possible commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by parties to the war in Afghanistan, including US persons.

In 2016, Bensouda’s preliminary examination found reason to believe, “at a minimum,” that members of the US military “subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity,” and CIA personnel “subjected at least 27 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape.”

Torture and inhuman treatment constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.

Quite so. Here is more:

After Bensouda determined an official investigation was warranted, Bolton wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The ICC constitutes a direct assault on the concept of national sovereignty, especially that of constitutional, representative governments like the United States.”

The countries of the world, including the United States, spent 50 years developing an international court to try genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. However, in 1998, when the world’s countries voted on the Rome Statute to establish the court, the United States was one of only seven countries that voted against it. There are 123 member states that are parties to the Rome Statute.

Yes indeed - and as to Bolton's quoted statement: it is utter boloney. Here is how Bolton and Bush Jr. tried to ruin the ICC's standards applied to the USA:

At Bolton’s behest, the Bush administration then extracted bilateral immunity agreements from 100 countries, in which the US government threatened to withhold foreign aid if they turned over US persons to the ICC.

Bolton told the Federalist Society that his mission to “prevent other countries from delivering US personnel to the ICC” was “one of my proudest achievements.”

Now the United States is escalating its threats against the ICC.

Yes indeed. And here are some of the tortures Bolton wants to continue (and make worse):

The executive summary states that the CIA utilized “rectal feeding,” in which a mixture of pureed hummus, pasta and sauce, nuts and raisins was forced into the rectum of one detainee. “Rectal rehydration” was used to establish the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.”

Other examples of “enhanced interrogation techniques” documented in the summary include slamming into walls, hanging from the ceiling, being kept in total darkness, being deprived of sleep — sometimes with forced standing — for up to seven-and-a-half days, being forced to stand on broken limbs for hours, being threatened with mock execution, being confined in a coffin-like box for 11 days, as well as being bathed in ice water and dressed in diapers.

I think all of that list is both extremely cruel and personally very demeaning, and since Bolton thinks furthering these cruelties was “one of my proudest achievements” I think he is, at least, a sadist. And this is a recommended article.


5. Cooking the Books in the Trump Universe

This article is by Nomi Prins on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:
Once upon a time, there was a little-known energy company called Enron. In its 16-year life, it went from being dubbed America’s most innovative company by Fortune Magazine to being the poster child of American corporate deceit. Using a classic recipe for book-cooking, Enron ended up in bankruptcy with jail time for those involved. Its shareholders lost $74 billion in the four years leading up to its bankruptcy in 2001.
    (...)
Now, here’s a question for you as we head for the November midterm elections, sure to be seen as a referendum on the president: Could Donald Trump be a one-man version of either Enron or Lehman Brothers, someone who cooked “the books” until, well, he imploded?
Well... for all I know, and indeed for all almost anybody knows, Donald Trump may very well be "someone who cooked “the books”" to his own advantage.

The problem with that last statement is that Donald Trump made it impossible to check:

Since we’ve never seen his tax returns, right now we really don’t know. What we do know is that he’s been dodging bullets ever since the Justice Department accused him of violating the Fair Housing Act in his operation of 39 buildings in New York City in 1973. Unlike famed 1920s mob boss Al Capone, he may never get done in by something as simple as tax evasion, but time will tell.

Rest assured of one thing though: he won’t go down easily, even if he is already the subject of multiple investigations and a plethora of legal slings and arrows.
Yes indeed. Also, and by the way: Why would a (supposed) billionaire who became president of the USA be one of the few who did not disclose his tax returns?

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In 2016, Trump became the first candidate since President Richard Nixon not to disclose his tax returns. During the campaign, he insisted that those returns were undergoing an IRS audit and that he would not release them until it was completed. (No one at the IRS has ever confirmed that being audited in any way prohibits the release of tax information.) The president’s pledge to do so remains unfulfilled and last year counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway noted that the White House was “not going to release his tax returns,” adding -- undoubtedly thinking about his base -- “people didn’t care.”
I say. And my own conclusion is that until Trump discloses his tax returns, the probability is that he is hiding something. This is a recommended article.

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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