Crisis: On Erik Prince, Impeaching Trump, Cohen´s Dangers, Trump´s Authoritarism, Chris Hedges  



March 15, 2019

Crisis: On Erik Prince, Impeaching Trump, Cohen´s Dangers, Trump´s Authoritarism, Chris Hedges

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 15, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 15, 2019.

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 three 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 March 15, 2019:
1. Erik Prince, Perjury, and the Secret Trump Tower Meeting
2. Impeaching Trump: Pelosi Says It’s “Not Worth It”

3. Why Cohen should fear for his life

4. 'Major Rebuke of Trump's Authoritarianism'

5. Chris Hedges: Democrats may well lose to Trump again
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Erik Prince, Perjury, and the Secret Trump Tower Meeting

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Erik Prince, the founder and CEO of the world’s most notorious mercenary company, Blackwater, landed in hot water during a recent interview with Mehdi Hasan at the Oxford Union in the U.K. Prince repeatedly claimed to have disclosed an August 2016 meeting at Trump Tower to the House Intelligence Committee—a claim not backed up by the official transcripts of his testimony before Congress. On this week’s show, Mehdi Hasan speaks with Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” about Prince’s career and possible future plans. Mehdi also speaks with Rep. Joaquin Castro, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, about the possible fallout from Prince’s contradictory statements. The two also discuss Castro’s bill to cancel Trump’s emergency declaration, which will be taken up by the Senate this week.

Yes indeed, but the text of this article is too long to properly excerpt in Nederlog. Therefore I will quote three bits from the beginning of the article, and leave it to my readers to read the rest.

Also, I strongly dislike Erik Prince and Blackwater (now called Academi): I think Prince is a major ciminal, and I think Blackwater was a criminal military organization. Then again, I refer you to the above two Wikipedia references for more.

Here is more from the article:

MH: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. This week the founder and former boss of the private security firm Blackwater — the controversial super mercenary and hardcore Trump supporter Erik Prince was back in the news after a rather lively interview that I did with him for my Al Jazeera English TV show. He could now be in a lot of trouble as my guest today, Congressman Joaquin Castro explains.

Joaquin Castro: Erik Prince like at least a few other witnesses, I think, were not fully honest with the House Intelligence Committee and perhaps other committees in the Congress. After I saw your interview, I do have to wonder what the legal consequences could be for Erik Prince.

MH: My Intercept colleague Jeremy Scahill also joins me on Deconstructed to unpack Prince’s ties to the Trump administration and to explain to us why all of this matters so much.

Jeremy Scahill: Erik Prince is a guy who has operated forces that have committed war crimes. And I think it would be a step forward to get him in any way you can into the crosshairs of prosecutors.

Yes, I agree with the above. Here is some more:

MH: It’s been a bit of a crazy few days for me. I did an interview with Erik Prince, founder and former CEO of the world’s most notorious mercenary company, Blackwater; brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos; and big Trump donor. He spent something like a quarter of a million dollars helping get Trump elected in 2016. It’s an interview which has since landed Prince in some hot water, both politically and legally. Because he’s not just friends with Trump and Steve Bannon and others in that circle, but also with the Emiratis and the Saudis. And Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel in the Russia investigation has interviewed Prince, and gone through his cellphones and laptop, while the House Intelligence Committee took testimony from the former Blackwater boss in November 2017 — testimony at which he admitted to a secret meeting in the Seychelles, organized by the United Arab Emirates, with a close pal of Vladimir Putin’s, just nine days before Trump’s inauguration.

What he didn’t tell them was that before that, he had another secret meeting, at Trump Tower, on August 3rd, 2016, in the middle of the election campaign, three months before election day, a secret meeting (...)

I take it this is quite right, not because I know, but because the above is strongly supported by Prince´s own testimony, though this seems also partially false (as Hasan pointed out).

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

MH: So, why does all of this matter? Well, number one, as Schiff pointed out there, Bob Mueller could charge Prince with perjury — lying to Congress under oath is a crime. And it does look like Prince lied to Congress, and then, of course lied to me about not lying to Congress. Though of course lying to me isn’t a crime. It’s just rude.

Number two, why is it that all of these Trump people keep getting caught lying about meetings with foreign governments, with Russians and the rest? Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, and now, perhaps, Erik Prince. Why the lies? What do they have to hide?

And number three, we often talk about collusion in the context only of Russia — but the Erik Prince meetings, at Trump Tower and in the Seychelles, they show, Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were as keen as the Russians to see a Trump, not a Clinton, presidency in 2016. Why? Many would say it’s because they want a war with Iran – and Prince told me that they were discussing “Iran policy,” him and Don Jr. and a representative of the Emiratis and the Saudis, in Trump Tower that day. Which is kinda scary.

Yes indeed: These are good questions. And there is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

2. Impeaching Trump: Pelosi Says It’s “Not Worth It”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to push for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking out against impeachment in an interview earlier this week. Impeachment rumors have been swirling since the Democrats regained control of the House in January. Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said last week that she will formally introduce articles of impeachment this month. We speak with John Bonifaz, an attorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights. He is the co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment.

Quite so - and I normally copy the introductions to the interviews on Democracy Now! that I review, simply because they are good summaries.

Here is more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: (..) Pelosi told The Washington Post Monday she is not planning on launching impeachment proceedings against Trump, saying, quote, “He’s just not worth it,” and that it was too divisive. She called Trump “ethically and intellectually unfit” for the presidency, but said Congress would require an overwhelming and bipartisan reason for impeachment.

But some Democratic lawmakers have pushed back on Pelosi’s comments. Washington congressmember and Progressive Caucus co-chair, Pramila Jayapal, said that congressional investigations should determine the appropriate course of action and that evidence of a, quote, “consistent pattern of abuse of power, [or] of obstruction of justice,” would be grounds for impeachment. Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said that she would continue with plans to formally introduce articles of impeachment this month.

Yes, and I agree with Jayapal and Tlaib, indeed because I think that if you agree, as Pelosi did, that your current president is ¨“ethically and intellectually unfit” for the presidency¨ I think he should be removed - and besides, I am a psychologist who thinks since more than three years that Trump is insane, and also see the next item.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by John Bonifaz, attorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights; co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment; co-author, with Ron Fein and Ben Clements, of The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.
JOHN BONIFAZ: Amy, thanks for having me. The president is a direct and serious threat to our republic. He is, almost on a daily basis, attacking our Constitution, our democracy and the rule of law, and he has created a constitutional crisis through this conduct. So, for Speaker Pelosi to say that we’re not going to focus on impeachment, in the midst of this constitutional crisis, is a real abdication of her responsibility, the oath she took to defend and protect our Constitution as a member of Congress. The Framers placed the impeachment power in the Constitution precisely to address this kind of constitutional crisis we face today. And it is not a question of waiting for an election to deal with that crisis, when you have a present threat to the republic. When you have a president who so defies the rule of law, and the multiple impeachable offenses he has committed, Congress must address that crisis now through the impeachment process.

Yes, I completely agree with Bonifaz, whose arguments also may be strengthened by (i) the convictions of currently some 70,000 psychologists and psychiatrists that indeed Trump is not sane, and I am a psychologist who agrees, and by (ii) that it is - indeed - a matter of responsibility to try to impeach a madman, and not a matter of mere calculation whether you will win such an impeachment procedure.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: And Nancy Pelosi saying you just don’t have the numbers, we would not do this unless it was bipartisan? Do you think she has good cause here to be opposed to impeachment at this moment?

JOHN BONIFAZ: I mean, what’s happening here, Amy, is that Speaker Pelosi is completely ignoring history. If the bipartisan requirement had been placed in 1973 before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee by the House leadership at that time in investigating whether or not President Richard Nixon should face impeachment, there never would have been any impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Less than 30 percent, in polling, supported impeachment proceedings against President Nixon at that time, and yet the House Judiciary Committee moved forward and started Judiciary Committee proceedings. Further, there was no evidence whatsoever at that time that 67 senators would vote to convict President Nixon.

Yes, I agree with Bonifaz, although he cannot say with certainty that what happened in 1973 will happen again in - say - 2020. Also, I refer to my above two arguments, to which I can add a third: Since I am a psychologist who thinks that Trump is insane, I think he is much more dangerous than other Republicans who may have a similar set of policies or priorities as Trump has, but who are not insane. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Why Cohen should fear for his life

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. I abbreviated the title.
It starts as follows:

Last weekend, Donald Trump delivered a big speech at the annual CPAC political carnival. It was the longest and perhaps the most memorable of his entire political career. It was also a delusional, nightmarish monologue, full of lies and violent images, manifestly the work of someone who lives in his own reality.

Trump’s audience at CPAC, and around the country, was enthralled. This is one of the most prominent attributes of a political cult: Its members worship their leader and are bound together with him in a state of collective pathology and mass psychosis. The cult leader also promises safety and salvation. Donald Trump did this as well last Saturday when, near the conclusion of his speech, he said, “I’ll protect you.”

Yes, I mostly agree but not quite. I agree that Trump´s speechs was ¨a delusional, nightmarish monologue, full of lies and violent images, manifestly the work of someone who lives in his own reality¨ (and this last point implies he is not sane), but I do not quite agree with the second quoted paragraph, which I don´t because I am a psychologist:

I do not think that the around 60 million American followers of Trump, who indeed may be fairly said to believe in a kind of political cult also are (60 million of them, give or take a few millions) ¨
in a state of collective pathology and mass psychosis¨, and I do so for two reaons:

First, I am a psychologist (and not a psychiatrist) who simply does not believe that there tens of millions people living
¨in a state of collective pathology and mass psychosis¨ (psychiatrists may well believe so), and secondly there is a much better explanation: Most of the followers of Trump are stupid and/or ignorant, which I think is correct.

Back to the article:

Several days before Trump’s CPAC speech, Donald Trump’s personal fixer and former attorney of many years, Michael Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee. During his testimony, Cohen explained that Donald Trump acts like a Mafia boss, using threats, violence and intimidation to get his way and control his underlings. Cohen also provided evidence of Trump’s likely criminal behavior in the form of a personal check used by Donald Trump to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels. In total, Cohen offered a personal account of Donald Trump as a man who is an impulsive pathological liar, a con artist and a threat to American democracy and public safety.

Yes, and while I also do not trust Cohen, I think the above is a fair sketch of Donald Trump.

I recently spoke with Dr. Justin Frank, a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and a physician with more than 40 years of experience in psychoanalysis. He is the author of the bestselling books “Bush on the Couch” and “Obama on the Couch.” His most recent book is “Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President.”

Actually, I do not think that Frank is much of ¨a physician¨, apart from having a B.A. in medicine, although I do not know this.

And for a psychologist like I am, who was taught in Holland (like most Dutch psychologists educated in the 1980ies or 1990ies) that psychiatry is not a real science: I simply agree. (You may disbelieve that, but not without reading my
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis")

This is also why I can - more or less - work with diagnoses in observational terms (which is what the DSMs deliver), but usually not with psychiatric theories (of which I know quite a large number, of quite a number of schools).

Anyway, here is more by Frank:

What were you thinking when Michael Cohen told Congress that Donald Trump will not peacefully leave the presidency?

He is right. Donald Trump will not leave easily, if at all. If Trump does have to leave the White House he will do very destructive things afterwards. Donald Trump is not trustworthy, and should be forced to wear an ankle monitor like a person who is on parole. Luckily, Trump cannot remember all the secrets he now knows because his memory is impaired. But Donald Trump is a danger to our country.

Well... Frank is a radical, it seems, at least in judging or diagnosing Trump. I agree with some of what he says, but I do not think that what he says can be deduced from psychiatry.

Here is more by Frank:

[Justin Frank:](..) Donald Trump is more than a sociopath.  Donald Trump is a narcissist, liar, sociopath, racist, sexist, adulterer, baby, hypocrite, tax cheat, outlaw, psychopath, paranoid, fraud, ignorant, vengeful, delusional, arrogant, greedy, contemptuous, unsympathetic, without empathy, learning-disabled, cruel, obstructer of justice, threat to the Constitution, a traitor.

That is who Donald Trump is. He is untreatable. Until people understand that this situation is not normal and that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is not manageable or treatable unless he’s quarantined or marginalized to make him not dangerous, there is really nothing to be done.

I think the first of the above paragraphs again contain many (dis)qualifications of Trump that do not follow from psychiatry (in any - more or less - rational sense).

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

If Cohen reached out to you for advice what would you tell him?

I would tell Michael Cohen that he has every reason to be scared. Cohen should make it a condition of his providing testimony and other evidence that he receives protection while in prison. Michael Cohen is not safe. He has been called a “rat” too many times. Likewise, the United States is not safe under Donald Trump.

Perhaps. I think myself that the chances that something will happen to Cohen in prison are larger than 50%, but I cannot rationally say more. Anyway, this is a recommended article (although I would not want to be psychiatrized by Frank).

4. 'Major Rebuke of Trump's Authoritarianism'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Rights groups celebrated a "historic rebuke" of an unconstitutional power grab Thursday after the Senate voted to terminate President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration by an overwhelming bipartisan margin.

"Today's vote is a major blow to President Donald Trump's autocratic ambitions," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "The American people don't want a racist border wall, and by overwhelming numbers they oppose Trump's emergency declaration. They rose up and made their voices clear."

The final vote count was 59-41, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to pass the resolution of disapproval.

I more or less agree with the above, in my case mostly because this happened in the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans.

Next, Trump tweeted the next day that he would veto the Democrat inspired resolution. Here is one reaction:

In a statement, campaign director Emma Einhorn said Trump's veto promise means the fight against his power-grab is far from over.

"Trump has already shown, in so many ways, his complete disregard for the law and the will of the American people," Einhorn concluded. "If Trump vetoes this legislation, we call on Congress to override it, and to do everything in its power to defund hate by cutting agents, detention beds, and demilitarizing our border in the 2020 budget fight."

I agree with Einhorn, I think, and this is a recommended article.

5. Chris Hedges: Democrats may well lose to Trump again

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

America is a country beset by junk politics. This is one of the main reasons Donald Trump is president. Junk politics is many things. It is an obsession with the "horse race" of campaigns and elections, rather than  a substantive discussion of the real issues that affect the lives of the average American and the country as a whole. Junk politics is a form heavily defined by spectacle, distraction, superficiality and novelty. It is not a space for serious, sustained, and in depth discussion of serious matters of public concern. Junk politics is personality-driven and its preferred mode of communication is short slogans and sound bites.

Twitter offers a pre-eminent example of how literacy has been gutted by that platform's arbitrary limit of 280 characters or less.

Yes, I agree with all of the above, although junk politics depend on several factors, of which one is the practice of the mainstream aka corporatist media to indulge in junk politics if they do politics, and one other is the fact that many Americans are either stupid or ignorant or uneducated.

There is more to say about junk politics, but I also strongly agree with DeVega´s diagnosis of Twitter: For me you must be insane, or stupid, or else quite blind to want ¨to communicate¨ in a form where you can only use 280 characters, which again means that you cannot argue rationally at all, and are almost certainly bound ¨to communicate¨ in slogans or sound bites.

Here is more:

In this wide-ranging conversation, I spoke with Chris Hedges about America's junk politics. He is the author of numerous award winning and bestselling books including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle," "Death of a Liberal Class," "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" and "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt."

Hedges has also written for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and NPR.

I think Hedges is quite intelligent (unlike most journalists) and a good writer (again unlike most journalists), and I often agree with him (more or less), which is the reason I quote some more from this good and interesting interview than I would have done in another case.

Here is more:

The casual disregard Trump, Cohen and the Republican Party have for the rule of law is obvious.

I would say that is also true of the Democrats as well. The difference is that Trump and his administration are just a naked kleptocracy. The Democrats did it with more finesse. The Clintons are con artists and crooks too -- they are just classier versions of it with Ivy League pedigrees.

I think this is the great failing on the part of the Democratic Party. The Democrats do not grasp the very legitimate rage in this country.

The followers want the cult leader to be omnipotent. You want them to be able to break all the rules, because you identify with them to such an extent that their increase in power is an increase of your own power. You believe that that fealty to the cult leader means that you are protected.

That's what Trump has going for him. I don't think people have quite figured it out

Well... I agree with Hedges on the Democrats, and indeed also think like him that the Democrats are somewhat less objectionable than the Republicans because there are a few honest Democrats and because the theories of the Democrats are not as insane as Trump´s theories.

As to cults, first see above. Here is some more on cults:

All cults are personality cults. All cults are really extensions of whoever the cult leader is. So, whatever the prejudices, the worldview and the ideas of the cult leader are they will be chanted back at him by the crowd. Until massive social and economic inequality as well as the betrayal of the country by the elite are confronted and remedied, this yearning for a cult leader will not go away. Desperate people are looking for somebody to save them.

I agree with this (but I tend to explain most - though not all - cults im terms of stupidity, ignorance or mental blindness rather than madness or insanity).

Here is more:

Trump is not the instigator. He clung on to a very dangerous social phenomenon that has been building up over the last three decades. These Christian right-wing fascists have been organizing to take power.

And they now have power with Trump. They are rapidly filling the ideological vacuum created by Trump -- a man who has no real ideology of his own. The Christian right is filling that vacuum. Kavanaugh is the perfect example. The whole reason Kavanaugh was put on the Supreme Court is because they know he would overturn Roe v Wade. Other senior people in Trump's White House such as Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson and others all come out of the Christian right.

I more or less agree with Hedges, and you can find out more about Hedges and Christian fascism here: Crisis: Christian Fascism, Criminology, Intel Vets, Food & Drugs, TiSA (in the first item).

Here is more:

There are gradations, of course, to the rich. But they are bred with a sense of entitlement, they believe that they are above the law. They're devoid of empathy. They're utterly self-absorbed, narcissistic. The wealth among the super-rich, as you point out, encourages behaviors that are pathological -- and now they have uncontested power. They are reconfiguring the society using their power, privilege and wealth to amass more power and to accrue even more wealth.

The fraternity of the super-rich do not understand the norms of society. There's no restraint. They don't understand limits. And because they're so unplugged from reality, they live in artificial bubbles. This class of people will push and push and push until society collapses -- which is what they're doing.

I very probably know fewer rich persons than Hedges, but I think I more or less agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

I think that Bernie is mistaken. I think he's very naive. There's no way the Democratic Party will allow him to be the nominee because the Democratic Party is funded by the same retrograde corporate interests that fund the Republican Party.

People like Pelosi and Schumer hold power because they are the conduit of that money to the anointed Democratic candidates. And every once in a while we'll see Ocasio-Cortez or others rise up as insurgents. I don't think that Bernie Sanders is corrupt like most of the other potential candidates.

I think it is considerably more likely than not that Hedges is correct, and I appreciate and agree with Hedges that Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are not corrupt.

And this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is considerably more than I quoted.

[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 3 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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