March 27, 2019

Crisis: The Golan Heights, Trump & Collusion, Russiagate Fixation, Trump Contagion, Mueller Report

“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 27, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 27, 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 27, 2019:
1. Palestinians Call to Oppose Golan Heights Annexation
2. The Real Trump Scandal Was Never Collusion

3. Democrats' Russiagate Fixation Has Obscured Trump's True Crimes

4. The Trump Contagion

5. Don’t Believe Trump or Barr. The Investigations Are Just Beginning.
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. Palestinians Call to Oppose Golan Heights Annexation

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington on Monday to meet with President Trump, who signed an order officially recognizing Israel’s control of the Golan Heights in defiance of international law. We speak with Budour Hassan, a Palestinian writer and project coordinator for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, and Jehad Abusalim, scholar and policy analyst from Gaza. He runs the Gaza Unlocked campaign for the United States for the American Friends Service Committee.

Yes indeed, and in case you want some background information on the Golan Heights, this is a link. The introduction to this - fairly long - article ends thus:

As of 25 March 2019, the United States is the only country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the effectively annexed regions.

And you should keep this in mind reading the rest of this article. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: Budour Hassan, if you can start off by talking about what happened in Washington yesterday, President Trump signing, just before the Israeli elections, in which the embattled prime minister is running, though the attorney general of Israel says he’ll be indicting him—the significance of the annexation of the Golan—of the U.S. recognizing the annexation?

BUDOUR HASSAN: Yeah, by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, the United States has turned itself into a pariah state, blessing and glorifying the violation of human rights. It’s obviously significant that after decades of refusing to recognize sovereignty, Donald Trump has given this massive election boost to Netanyahu by recognizing the sovereignty of the Golan Heights.

And what’s missing, though, Amy, from the coverage of the whole saga of recognizing the Golan Heights is no one actually is talking about the people of the Golan Heights, what they want and what they seek. And the people of the—the Syrian people in the Golan Heights have reiterated, time and time again, that this, their land, is Syrian. It’s not a disputed land. It’s not a contested land. It’s a Syrian land.

Well... I am sorry, but Hassan speaks rhetorics rather than plain prose, for it surely is not the case that by this act - agreeing that the Golan Heights are part of Israel - the USA ¨has turned itself into a pariah state¨, except in the eyes of a few.

Also, it is not a miracle that ¨the Syrian people in the Golan Heights have reiterated, time and time again, that this, their land, is Syrian¨.

What is true is that - as far as I know - there is little interest in the Golan Heights from the point of view of the people who live there, and there are also few journalists active in the Golan Heights.

Here is one more bit by Hassan:

BUDOUR HASSAN: And Trump’s move recognizing, and signing this executive order, gives blessing to these continued violations and erases an entire people off the map. One friend in the Golan Heights had told me that it’s bizarre that a person who probably has never heard of the Golan Heights before that, he gives himself the right, entitles himself, to acknowledge Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. It’s neither Trump’s to recognize this sovereignty, and it’s neither Israel’s to take.
Obviously, people in the Golan will continue to resist and will continue to protest, as they’ve always done, but this is an extremely dangerous step. And this signals that the United States, again, doesn’t give any regard to human rights or to international law or to international humanitarian law.

Unfortunately, most of this is again rhetorics - which I think myself is a pity, for I am much more sympathetic to the people who live in the Golan Heights than to the Israelis.

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

JEHAD ABUSALIM: Well, unfortunately, we’re living in a global moment where there is rise of right-wing populism. There has been a decline in the ability of the international community, through the traditional institutions that have emerged after World War II, to at least exercise the minimum. And the minimum here, you know, we’re talking about condemnation. We’re talking about denouncing such steps. Unfortunately, the international community has been watching for a long time. And the inability of the international community to hold Israel accountable and to challenge the United States’ negative role, not only when it comes to the Palestinian issue—the Palestinian issue and the occupation of the Golan Heights is part of a larger package of how the United States behaves in the Middle East and how it exercises its foreign policy and what considerations inform that policy.

I think this is mostly correct, and this is a recommended article.

2. The Real Trump Scandal Was Never Collusion

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

We may never know for sure whether Donald Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to obtain Russia’s help in the 2016 election, in return for, say, Trump’s help in weakening NATO and not interfering against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Trump and his propaganda machine at Fox News have repeatedly conjured up a “witch hunt” and maintained a drumbeat of “no collusion,” which already has mired Robert Mueller’s report in a fog of alt-interpretation and epistemological confusion.

What’s “collusion?” What’s illegal? Has Trump obstructed justice? Has he been vindicated? What did Mueller conclude, exactly? What did he mean?

Well... for me the main point is that the questions with which the above quotation ends are only rationally answerable (in context) if the Mueller report is given to the public, and this has not happened so far, and may never happen.

Here is more by Reich:

An American president is not just the chief executive of the United States, and the office he (eventually she) holds is not just a bully pulpit to advance policy ideas. He is also a moral leader, and the office is a moral pulpit invested with meaning about the common good.

A president’s most fundamental responsibility is to protect our system of government. Trump has weakened that system.

As George Washington’s biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, explained, the first president believed he had been entrusted with something of immense intrinsic worth, and that his duty was to uphold it for its own sake and over the long term. He led by moral example.

Few of our subsequent presidents have come close to the example Washington set, but none to date has been as far from that standard as Trump.

Well... in the first place, I´d like to know where it is written that (speaking about the USA)
A president’s most fundamental responsibility is to protect our system of government¨.

And in the second place, while I certainly do not know much of most presidents of the USA, I think it is fairly certain that only a few were ¨
a moral leader¨ who exercised an office that was ¨a moral pulpit invested with meaning about the common good¨.

Also, I think such a task would be a large task for people who have been politicians most of their lives, as have been many American presidents.

Here is some more:

Trump sent another message by refusing to reveal his tax returns during the campaign or even when he took office, or to put his businesses into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest, and by his overt willingness to make money off his presidency by having foreign diplomats stay at his Washington hotel, and promoting his various golf clubs.

These were not just ethical lapses. They directly undermined the common good by reducing the public’s trust in the office of the president.

A president’s most fundamental responsibility is to uphold and protect our system of government. Trump has weakened that system.

I agree with Reich that what´s said in the first of the above quoted paragraphs were (at least) ethical lapses, although I think it is more correct if Reich had said that these ethical lapses (which may also have been legal lapses) reduced a part of the public´s trust in the office of this president.

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

This is the essence of Trump’s failure—not that he has chosen one set of policies over another, or has divided rather than united Americans, or even that he has behaved in childish and vindictive ways unbecoming a president.

It is that he has sacrificed the processes and institutions of American democracy to achieve his goals.

By saying and doing whatever it takes to win, he has abused the trust we place in a president to preserve and protect the nation’s capacity for self-government.

Controversy over the Mueller report must not obscure this basic reality.

No, I am sorry: Even though I am a philosopher, I think the above is too philosophical i.e. too vaguely grandiose. 

3. Democrats' Russiagate Fixation Has Obscured Trump's True Crimes

This article is by Paul Jay on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

So the Mueller report has been handed over to the attorney general, who handed over his memo to Congress. And we’re expecting, sooner or later, some real parts of the Mueller report will be handed over to the Congress. Of course, they’re asking for everything. But as everyone knows by now, the report found no collusion with the Russians and the interference in the elections.

Yes. Here is some more:

GERALD HORNE: And now, of course, some, in particular in the media, are left with egg on their face. I’d like to recommend the words of Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who points the finger of accusation particularly at MSNBC and their multimillion dollar journalists, including Rachel Maddow, who made quite a living by beating the drums about Russia’s alleged interference in the internal affairs of the United States while downplaying not only Mr. Trump’s corruption, but also the fact that the United States has interfered in the internal affairs of virtually every nation on planet Earth.

I think that is basically correct. Here is some more:

JEFF COHEN: Yeah, I think Gerald has hit on something in that there’s been this emphasis in the mainstream media, especially MSNBC and CNN that are allied with the corporate Democratic Party leadership. And it’s been this obsessive focus on Russiagate to the exclusion of issues that might actually resonate with the U.S. voting public, like Trump’s corruption.

And what’s concerned me all along as a political analyst is the Democratic leadership, whenever anyone over the last two years would bring up impeachment–and there are so many provable, in light of day, done in public actions by Trump against sectors of the U.S. public, against the Constitution, against democratic process, whether it’s his refusal to divest his business interests which leads to financial conflicts of interest, that’s unconstitutional, the Muslim ban, you can’t discriminate against people based on religion, abuse of the pardon power with Joe Arpaio, politicizing federal prosecutions, attacks on the media coupled with threatening to use federal agencies to go after journalists that you don’t like. This kind of thing is unprecedented in modern presidential history and goes beyond Nixon.

And yet, all you got from Pelosi and other leaders when they were asked about these abuses and “what about impeachment,” they’d say, “We’re waiting for the Mueller report.”

I have a remark on each of the quoted three paragraphs:

First paragraph. What Cohen does not mention is that Mueller´s task was to investigate ¨Russiagate¨ rather than Trump´s corruption, which is real.

Second paragraph. I agree with this.

Third paragraph: Yes, but Pelosi and most of the Democrats probably feared an impeachment procedure, especially with both the Senate and the House in Republican hands. Also, I think impeachment is probably now off the political table, although I think Trump may be still impeached, namely for being insane (which I think he is, and I am a psychologist, who also thinks that no insane person has the right to be president of the USA).

Anyway. Here is some more:

GERALD HORNE: (..) What they didn’t count on is that the Republican Party base, 63 million strong, is not necessarily concerned with ideological consistency. They’re concerned with maintaining power, domination, and hegemony by any means necessary. And if that means consorting with a candidate such as Donald J. Trump who conflicts, allegedly, with their moral compass in terms of being a profane, obscene, thrice married billionaire, well they’ll change their policies, they’ll change their principles. As the comedian Groucho Marx says, “If you don’t like these principles, don’t worry, I have others.”

This seems mostly correcty to me, although it seems nonsense to me to speak of ¨the Republican Party base, 63 million strong¨: That´s confusing Trump´s voters with Republicans, and these in turn with ¨the Republican Party base¨.

Here is some more:

JEFF COHEN: Yeah, it’s bad strategy. I mean, in November, there were exit polls November 2018, and they found that virtually no voters cast their vote based on the Russia investigation. However, if the Democrats and MSNBC, which was all the while Russiagate, imagine if they had focused on Trump’s greed and self-interest and self-dealing and violations of the Constitution’s clauses that you can’t accept a financial benefit if you’re in office, if you’re the president. So it turns out to be a bad strategy.

Well... perhaps, but then again none of the things Cohen mentions were part of Mueller´s task.

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

PAUL JAY: (..) The collusion was secondary. The real issue was the Russophobia. Because even if the Russians did any of what they’re accused of doing–and I think what’s in the public domain, one can still remain skeptical of that. But even if they did, this is just normal stuff that big competitive countries do with each other. And I mean, the United States, we know, interferes in every election on Earth, as Gerald said.

Yes, I think that is basically true and this is a recommended article.
4. The Trump Contagion

This article is by Jeffrey Sachs, Bandy X. Lee and Ruth Ben-Giat on Common Dreams and originally on Project Syndicate. It starts as follows:

Mental health professionals and others have been trying to warn the public about the dangers of US President Donald Trump since his election. Trump’s extreme narcissism, sadism, lack of empathy, and admiration for despots are on daily display. Some may wish to see him as a self-absorbed clown, but he is a clear and present danger to the world who must be prevented from leading (or misleading) it to disaster.

With the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the dangers have greatly multiplied. While we have not seen the actual text – only a version of it rendered by the president’s political ally, US Attorney General William Barr – Mueller’s purported conclusion that Trump did not collude with Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely embolden Trump to attack. What makes the Mueller claim especially disastrous is the reality of tacit collusion staring us in the face. Trump ran his 2016 campaign while secretly trying to score a real-estate mega-deal in Moscow (and, as usual, lying about it to the public). He publicly opined on canceling sanctions against Russia while pursuing this deal.

Trump will feel enabled in his vindictiveness and delusions of grandeur.

Yes indeed. As to the writers of this article: Ruth Ben-Giat is a historian; Jeffrey Sachs is a prominent American economist; and Bandy Lee is a psychiatrist, about whom I have reviewed several articles, all on Trump´s lack of sanity, on which I agree (as a psychologist) with Lee, although I am not at all an admirer of current psychiatry.

Here is some more:

Trump’s growing rages may partly be the result of cognitive decline. Over time, for example, his ability to form complete sentences, use complex words, and maintain a coherent train of thought appears to have eroded. There is documented history of his father’s dementia.

What is certain is that Trump is putting the world at risk. He has now withdrawn from two nuclear treaties, one with Iran that was agreed to by the entire UN Security Council, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, in place since 1988. His absurdly incompetent diplomacy with North Korea lies in tatters, with that country now warning of a new round of nuclear tests.

Yes, I think that is mostly correct, especially the second paragraph. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

This assessment – and Trump’s own behavior – implies five steps that should be taken without delay.

First, the House of Representatives should start impeachment hearings. Trump is responsible for the same campaign finance illegalities that are sending his erstwhile lawyer, Michael Cohen, to prison.
Second, Congress should urgently reclaim the clear and unambiguous constitutional right to declare war. Sadly, Congress has effectively ceded this authority to the executive branch. Yet the authority to launch a war, especially in the case of a nuclear-armed power, must never be entrusted to only one person. That would be true even if the US had a sane president.
Third, mental health experts must fulfill their responsibility to protect society’s health and safety by explain publicly, where necessary, that Trump is not just a conniving politician, or a forceful leader, but a mentally unstable individual capable of creating widespread harm.
Fourth, the media needs to go beyond covering Trump’s mood of the day to covering his mental instability. The real story is not just that Trump lies relentlessly, or that he is cruel and bigoted, but that he is a threat to others.
Lastly, Americans need to organize politically to prevent another election debacle in 2020 (..)

There is considerably more in the original, that is here indicated by ¨(..)¨s, but I wanted to cover all five points, about which I also have five brief remarks.

First, I agree Trump should be impeached, but not because he did similar things as Cohen did but because Trump is not sane.

Second, Congress still has ¨the clear and unambiguous constitutional right to declare war¨ but I agree it should insist a lot more that this is the case. (And I like it that the writers do all say that they think that Trump is not sane.)

Third, I think that is fairly useless: I am a psychologist, and one of the things I certainly know is that few journalists understand much about psychology or psychiatry. Also ¨mental health experts¨ are listened to by few.

Fourth, ¨the media¨ will not do so, I am pretty certain.

Fifth, maybe if the left, the liberals and the progressives in the USA succeed in better working together than they have done, Trump might be voted away in 2020, which I certainly hope.

Anyway... this is a recommended article.

5. Don’t Believe Trump or Barr. The Investigations Are Just Beginning.

This article is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Well, that didn’t take long.

The ink wasn’t dry on Attorney General William Barr’s laughably porous  “summary” of the Mueller report before Donald Trump and his allies
declared war on all who have displeased them. This included a demand from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) that Bill Clinton be investigated for his 2016 airport tarmac meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, demands for an investigation into the investigators, demands for an investigation into how the whole thing is Barack Obama’s fault, demands for a whole separate investigation into how the whole thing is actually Hillary Clinton’s fault, an enemies list sent to media outlets naming people who should be banned from the airways and, of course, a wholesale assault on the news media itself.

Well... yes, but who would have expected something else, given the outcome that - according to Mueller - Trump did not collude with the Russians, and given the lack of rationality and reasonability of virtually all Republican representatives?

Here is some more from this article:

Meanwhile, loud questions about the Mueller report itself – specifically regarding the counterintelligence portion dealing with various contacts between Trump’s people and Russian agents – will only be answered if and when the full report is made public. House Democrats have set a deadline of April 2 for its release, which Barr is unlikely (and probably unwilling) to meet.

“[William Barr] put a little lipstick on something that might’ve been fairly ugly,” John Dean, former White House counsel to Nixon and expert on rogue presidents, told CNN’s Don Lemon. “We haven’t really seen the underlying report, but I have some suspicions that the reason he boiled this down the way he did is because it’s not very attractive, Don. [Mueller’s] words are very different than Barr’s, I suspect.”

I agree that Mueller´s whole report should be made public. And this is a recommended article.

[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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