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Nederlog

November 30, 2018

Crisis: Cohen Lied, U.S. Senate & War, U.S. Voter Turnout, "The Whole Internet", On The Pentagon


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 30, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, November 30, 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 November 30, 2018:
1. Cohen Lied. Here’s Why It Matters
2. Senate Advances Bill to End U.S. Support for Illegal War in Yemen
3. American Voter Turnout Is Shameful
4. 'The Whole Internet Is Watching'
5. It's Time. We Must Jam the 'Demonic, Destructive Suction Tube'
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. Cohen Lied. Here’s Why It Matters

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

When all is said and done, the April raids by federal prosecutors targeting Michael Cohen’s office and other premises in Manhattan may be seen as a turning point for Donald Trump’s presidency.

Those raids — and Mr. Cohen’s own malfeasance — opened the door for Robert Mueller, on Thursday, to convict President Trump’s longtime loyalist and personal lawyer of lying to Congress. What the special counsel has gathered since the raids provides the clearest proof yet to the American public that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry — derided by the president and his allies as an aimless fishing expedition — is rooted in the law and facts. To those critics, this latest move was surely meant to send another message as well: He’s not about to back down.

Well... I think The New York Times is going a bit far:

First, saying that Cohen's arrest etc. "may be seen as a turning point for Donald Trump’s presidency" does appear to me - at this point in time - a bit of an overstatement, which also happens to be of the kind that it will be forgotten if it is false.

And second, to say that "Mr. Mueller’s inquiry — derided by the president and his allies as an aimless fishing expedition — is rooted in the law and facts" seems also a bit misleading, for as I understood it, Mueller is supposed to investigate Russia's help in Trump's winning of the American presidential elections, whereas the Cohen's admitted malfeasance is about building a Trump tower in Russia.

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

Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea, filed in the same federal courthouse where he already faces a steep sentence for orchestrating campaign-finance and other crimes, brings Mr. Mueller’s operation to New York, the heart of the president’s business empire and the self-made myth that propels it. If there’s anything that plea exposes, it’s that Mr. Trump’s mind never strayed far from his business dealings and how to further enrich himself and his family, even as he was campaigning for the nation’s highest office.

The facts to which Mr. Cohen admitted on Thursday don’t establish that Mr. Trump conspired with Russian efforts to win him the election, but they refute Mr. Trump’s frequent, vehement claim that he had nothing to do with Russia as he sought the White House. It was that falsehood that Mr. Cohen sought to protect by lying himself. “I made these statements to be consistent with” Mr. Trump’s “political messaging,” he said in court.
I think the first paragraph in the above quote is correct in saying that "Mr. Trump’s mind never strayed far from his business dealings and how to further enrich himself and his family, even as he was campaigning for the nation’s highest office".

And the second paragraph is correct in saying that "
The facts to which Mr. Cohen admitted on Thursday don’t establish that Mr. Trump conspired with Russian efforts to win him the election".

It is probably also correct in the rest it says, but I do not myself think that "
Mr. Trump conspired with Russian efforts to win him the election" - and I followed that argument fairly closely for more than two years now, and there still is no real evidence that these "Russian efforts" were more than fairly minimal. (See "Russia-gate" in the indexes since 2016.)

2. Senate Advances Bill to End U.S. Support for Illegal War in Yemen

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:
The Senate voted Wednesday to advance a resolution to end military support for the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the Senate has voted to advance a bill to withdraw military forces from an unauthorized war using the War Powers Resolution Act. Wednesday’s vote sets the stage for a possible final vote on the measure within days, and has been seen as a rebuke of President Trump’s handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Just hours before the vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis held a closed-door briefing with U.S. senators, urging them to vote against the resolution. Administration officials warned senators not to compromise ties with Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi and said U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen is necessary to counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East. We speak with Shireen Al-Adeimi, Yemeni scholar, activist, and an assistant professor at Michigan State University.
I say, and the most important bit in the above quotation is that (after 15 years of continuous wars) "This marks the first time in U.S. history that the Senate has voted to advance a bill to withdraw military forces from an unauthorized war using the War Powers Resolution Act".

And I agree that is quite important, as is the fact that the Senate did not support Trump.

Here is more:
NERMEEN SHAIKH: (..) In a bipartisan effort, the Senate voted Wednesday to advance a resolution to end military support for the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen.

SEN. CORY GARDNER: Are there any Senators in the chamber wishing to change their vote? If not, the yeas are 63, the nays are 37. The motion is agreed to.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This marks the first time in U.S. history the Senate has voted to advance a bill to withdraw military forces from an unauthorized war using the War Resolutions Act. Wednesday’s vote sets the stage for a possible final vote on the measure within days.
Yes - and 63 against 37 seems quite good. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: The Senate bill is cosponsored by Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Utah Republican Mike Lee. This is Senator Sanders speaking from the Senate floor.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It is a vote to demand that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen be addressed. It is a vote that will tell the despotic dictatorship in Saudi Arabia that we will no longer be part of their destructive military adventurism. And it is a vote, as Senator Lee just mentioned, that says that the United States Senate respects the Constitution of the United States and understands that the issue of war-making, of going to war, of putting our young men and women’s lives at stake, is something determined by the U.S. Congress, not the president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Wednesday’s vote came after more than 50 prominent figures and former officials, including two former U.S. ambassadors to Yemen, signed a letter urging Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to end America’s involvement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, saying it would “spell the likely end to the broader conflict.”

I say, and what Sanders said - who now does pronounce on the U.S. military, incidentally - is quite correct and quite legal, though these legalities have been largely not practiced the last 15 years in the USA. This is a recommended article.


3. American Voter Turnout Is Shameful

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

History was made in the U.S. midterm elections, most notably the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. An unprecedented 100 women were elected to serve in Congress, among them Native American, Muslim, African-American, Latina and LGBTQ firsts.

But what is also true, less than half of eligible voters voted: 47 percent. Even though it represents the highest midterm voter turnout in half a century, it is shameful.
Yes, I agree - and I don't agree because I think voting is important in general, for I think it isn't, but because I think voting in 2016 (in the USA) was important. And 47 percent is shameful, even though it constitutes "the highest midterm voter turnout in half a century", because it is less than half of all voters: More than half did not vote, even though the vote of 2016 was important.

Then again, this was not merely due to negligence or lack of interest, for it was also due to voter suppression:
Chief among the reasons is the Republican Party’s aggressive voter suppression efforts that it has successfully pursued for decades, primarily in states where Republicans have control of the state legislature and the governor’s office. People are organizing against this wholesale disenfranchisement, with two major lessons immediately apparent from the midterms: First, grassroots organizing gets results; and second, there is a huge amount of work yet to be done to ensure a fair, representative democracy with an engaged and empowered electorate.
Yes, this seems all quite correct to me - and if a "representative democracy" means a democracy where those voted in are voted in on the basis of being truly representative, indeed a "huge amount of work" remains to be done, for it is very unrepresentative (in terms of the numbers voters) that California (a large state) and (for example) Wyoming each vote in two senators.

Anyway. This is a recommended article.

4. 'The Whole Internet Is Watching'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
With the Dec. 10 deadline for the House of Representatives to reverse the FCC's deeply unpopular repeal of net neutrality rapidly approaching, a coalition of websites, prominent celebrity activists, and advocacy groups representing millions of Americans are participating in an internet-wide day of action on Thursday to pressure members of Congress to back the legislative effort to restore net neutrality protections before it's too late.

During the day of action and in the week leading up to the final deadline, advocacy groups are urging supporters of the free internet to flood the phone lines of their representatives and sign on to their open letter to Congress demanding that they act to save net neutrality.
Well... the late Gore Vidal said in 2008 that he expected that "a free internet", that comprises net neutrality, would be over in 10 years, and I must say that so far he seems remarkably correct.

And while I hope he is mistaken, I guess he may well have been correct. Here is more:

"Net neutrality is not dead yet. Not even close," Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (FFTF), said in a statement. "But as the clock runs out for this Congress to act, we have an opportunity to show the entire world which elected officials are willing to fight for net neutrality, and which ones decide to sit on their hands and let big telecom companies take control over what we can see and do on the internet."

According to FFTF, 18 House Democrats still haven't signed on to the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would restore net neutrality protections—and one possible explanation is that they are major recipients of telecom cash.

I don't think Greer is correct, although he probably also has the majority of the Democrats in the House in mind (which starts next January). And this might make a difference.

As to the Democrats who did not sign the "resolution that would restore net neutrality protections": I quite agree with Johnson, and indeed also believe this may remain a major difficulty from next January onwards.

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

"The whole internet is watching you," the net neutrality backers' open letter to Congress declares. "The deadline is fast approaching. You have less than a month to make a decision that will impact the future of humanity: will you vote to restore net neutrality and help save the free and open Internet? Or will you go down in history as one of the politicians who helped hasten its death?"

In fact, "the whole internet" is not "watching you" although it should. Also, if "the free and open Internet" is not saved, what remains of the internet is (i) an enormous spying faculty that spies on absolutely everyone with a computer, while breaking all privacy rules, and (ii) an enormous advertising faculty, that is mainly operated by Amazone, Google and Apple, it seems, with extremely little freedoms for everyone who is not personally quite important.

Also, as I have been saying from 2012 onwards - see here - in fact this seems to me to be why the DARPA developed the internet: To spy on absolutely everyone (and give the very few in power all the knowledge to repress anyone who might oppose them). And this is a strongly recommended article.


5. It's Time. We Must Jam the 'Demonic, Destructive Suction Tube'

This article is by Robert C. Koehler on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Suddenly America’s political cauldron bubbles with hope and possibility — not just because the Democrats have won races across the country, but because voters pushed back in record numbers against the forces of Trump and racism and the long-standing lies of entrenched wealth.

Now the work begins: to hold our political leadership accountable for real change —the sort of change that is too easily ducked by the powerful. The time has come to change who we are as a nation, to transform the national identity.

Here’s a simpler way to put it: “Will the new House Democrats take on the war lobby?”

This question is the headline of a Common Dreams op-ed by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies earlier this week, and it touches the furious heart of who we are. I would put it this way: As long as 60 percent or so of our discretionary spending is diverted to militarism; as long as there is no official acknowledgment of the horrific and pointless hell our wars have created, with no benefits even to our “national interests”; as long as we refuse to face our own history of genocidal behavior and our addiction to “conquest” . . . we will not change, we will not grow, we will not survive.

Yes indeed: I quite agree with Koehler, and indeed I am not optimistic - which may have to do with my age: I am looking at politics for about 55 years now, and one of the things I learned in these years is that my values are rarely served by politicians of any kind.

Also, I missed the article by Benjamin and Davies.

And I quite agree with Koehler's sum-up at the end of his second paragraph. Here is more:

Benjamin and Davies quote Martin Luther King’s iconic Riverside Church address in 1967, in which he notes the collapse of the country’s anti-poverty efforts: “Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”

The demonic suction tube! Nothing much has changed in 50 years. The tube is still sucking resources and spewing fear. And it still owns the media.

Yes indeed - and "the demonic suction tube" is in fact the Pentagon or perhaps the military- industrial complex, while indeed the war in Vietnam was continuing until the early 1970ies.

Here is more on the "60 percent or so of" the USA's "discretionary spending" that "is diverted to militarism":

The commission, unchallenged in the Post story, is calling for an increase in the already bloated, out-of-control defense budget that could mean, according to William Hartung’s analysis in The Nation, “an annual Pentagon budget of an astonishing $972 billion by 2024.”

This is psychological. This is insane. This is what Philip Zimbardo has called “the Lucifer Effect”: the corruption of consciousness caused by having overwhelming power over others. Zimbardo famously conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, creating a simulated prison environment in which some college-student volunteers acted as guards and others acted as prisoners. The experiment had to be called off after five days, well ahead of schedule, because the abuse of power had gotten so seriously out of hand. The “prisoners” started having emotional breakdowns, the situation had deteriorated so badly.

Turns out that global defense strategizing, if you are the world’s greatest military power, may have the same effect on the human beings designated as “the guards,” protecting America’s borders and its interests, including with nuclear weapons. This is the point, at any rate, that Daniel Ellsberg makes in his book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner: When you’re caught up in this this sort of thinking, you lose a human perspective and are able to imagine waging — indeed, “winning” — a nuclear war.
Yes, and while Hartung's analysis is speculative, Zimbardo's analysis is not, for his experiment was done, and had to be terminated. In fact, I have several times reviewed Zimbardo's experiment (and Milgram's previous experiment) in Nederlog, but I am quite tired and Nederlog in fact is going on since 2004 or 2006, and I could only find this article (after searching for 10 minutes).

In fact, that article is quite interesting, and I only quote its ending (and this is my text from 2015):
What was the Stanford Prison Experiment about?

Basically, to test the ideas of Milgram and the Milgram Experiment, that predicted similar things as Zimbardo found: The solid majority of ordinary men, also if these are - fairly intelligent - students at Stanford, follow - what they perceive as - authorities, also in doing things they privately disagree with. (See also Christopher Browning's "Ordinary Men", about how ordinary men acted under Hitler.)

There is a lot to say about this, but I did so already several times in Nederlog and also in my Philosophical Dictionary, so for the moment I refer those who are interested to the last linked item. See e.g. Role, Group, Groupthinking, Person, Hypocrisy, Character, Self, Self-Deception, Conformism and Society.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Despite the hope and possibility bubbling from the big Dem midterm wins, transformative change — challenging the war lobby — will not happen today or tomorrow or anytime soon, and certainly not without serious public pressure. Benjamin and Davies suggest one place to start: signing a petition calling on “all Democrats who aspire to chair Congressional committees in the new Congress to return campaign contributions from the arms industry and stop accepting them from now on.”

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly 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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