May 1, 2019

Crisis: On Venezuela, Trump as Dictator, "Wall Street Dems", VIPS on Assange,  Impeach Trump!

“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 May 1, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 1, 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 May 1, 2019:
1. Violence Rocks Venezuela as Guaido Urges Uprising
2. Trump Is Initiating His Most Dictatorial Move Yet

3. Wall Street Democrats are freaking out about the 2020 candidates

4. VIPS: Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All

5. Impeach His Sorry Ass Now
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. Violence Rocks Venezuela as Guaido Urges Uprising

This article is by Scott Smith and Christopher Torcia on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó took a bold step to revive his movement to seize power in Venezuela, taking to the streets Tuesday to call for a military uprising that drew quick support from the Trump administration and fierce resistance from forces loyal to embattled socialist Nicolas Maduro.

The violent street battles that erupted in parts of Caracas were the most serious challenge yet to Maduro’s rule. Still, the rebellion, dubbed “Operation Freedom,” seemed to have garnered only limited military support.

I say, for I did not know this. Also, I would not describe Juan Guaidó as "opposition leader" but that is a relatively minor point.

Here is some more:

A crowd that quickly swelled to a few thousand scurried for cover, reappearing later with Guaidó at a plaza a few blocks from the disturbances. A smaller group of masked youths stayed behind on the highway, lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails toward the air base and setting a government bus on fire.

Amid the mayhem, several armored utility vehicles careened over a berm and drove at full speed into the crowd. Two demonstrators, lying on the ground with their heads and legs bloodied, were rushed away on a motorcycle as the vehicles sped away dodging fireballs thrown by the demonstrators.

“It’s now or never,” said one of the young rebellious soldiers, his face covered in the blue bandanna worn by the few dozen insurgent soldiers.

Here is some more:

Flanked by top military commanders, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López condemned Guaido’s move as a “terrorist” act and “coup attempt” that was bound to fail like past uprisings.

“Those who try to take Miraflores with violence will be met with violence,” he said on national television, referring to the presidential palace where hundreds of government supporters, some of them brandishing firearms, had gathered in response to a call to defend Maduro.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the “right-wing extremists” would not succeed in fracturing the armed forces, which have largely stood with the socialist leader throughout the months of turmoil.

Well... I also do not know whether to believe Arreaze, indeed mostly because he is a minister of the government, who would say what he did say regardless of what he believes.

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

As events unfolded, governments from around the world expressed support for Guaidó while reiterating calls to avoid violent confrontation.

Bolton declined to discuss possible actions — military or otherwise — but reiterated that “all options” are on the table as President Donald J. Trump monitors developments “minute by minute.”

I note that the first quoted paragraph is very close to a contradiction, for it is extremely difficult or indeed logically quite impossible to support an armed resurrection while insisting that armed resurrection should "avoid violent confrontation".

Anyway... more to follow, undoubtedly, and this is a recommended article.

2. Trump Is Initiating His Most Dictatorial Move Yet

This article is by Robert Reich on Truthdig and originally on Reich's site. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

On Sunday, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee threatened to subpoena Attorney General William P. Barr if he refuses to testify this week about the Mueller report.

But a subpoena is unlikely to elicit Barr’s cooperation. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” says the president of the United States.

In other words, according to Donald Trump, there is to be no congressional oversight of this administration: No questioning the attorney general about the Mueller report. No questioning a Trump adviser about immigration policy.

No questioning a former White House security director about issuances of security clearances. No questioning anyone about presidential tax returns.

Such a blanket edict fits a dictator of a banana republic, not the president of a constitutional republic founded on separation of powers.

Yes indeed: I completely agree, which is also why I wrote (in earlier reviews in earlier Nederlogs) that I think the House should get the full report, without all inkings away that Barr or his menials seem to have indulged in.

Here is Reich's argument:

If Congress cannot question the people who are making policy, or obtain critical documents, Congress cannot function as a coequal branch of government.

If Congress cannot get information about the executive branch, there is no longer any separation of powers, as sanctified in the U.S. Constitution.

There is only one power—the power of the president to rule as he wishes. Which is what Trump has sought all along.

The only relevant question is how to stop this dictatorial move.

Yes indeed: Quite so. Here is the ending of this article:

But in a case that grew out of the Teapot Dome scandal in 1927, the court held that the investigative power of Congress is at its peak when lawmakers look into fraud or maladministration in another government department.

Decades later, when Richard Nixon tried to block the release of incriminating recordings of his discussions with aides, the Supreme Court decided that a claim of executive privilege did not protect information relevant to the investigation of potential crimes.

Trump’s contempt for the inherent power of Congress cannot stand. It is the most dictatorial move he has initiated since becoming president.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

3. Wall Street Democrats are freaking out about the 2020 candidates

This article is by Anonymous (unstated) on AlterNet and originally on Daily Kos. This is from near to its beginning:

Debenedetti writes that in early April these Wall Street Dems (..) met to discuss the 2020 Democratic aspirants. According to Debenedetti, “there’s tremendous fear” among this set.

Here’s what was really freaking them out:

Nearly everyone else in the field, the financiers felt, was being pulled leftward by Bernie Sanders (the preposterously well-funded contender they considered too crazy to even imagine in the White House) and Elizabeth Warren (less crazy, Democrats on Wall Street think, and way more competent). “She would torture them,” one banker told me. “Warren strikes fear in their hearts,” explained a New York executive close to banking leaders from both parties — so much fear that such investors often speak of the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, a former law professor and consumer advocate, as a co-front-runner with Sanders. “How do we come up with an alternative?” asked one person at the dinner.

I say and I like this. Besides, while I am convinced that many (most? all?) of the "Wall Street Dems" are corrupt, I would like considerably more evidence of this, but this is indeed a side affair in this review.

Here is more:

Now, before you all go ripping on me for sowing disunity, perhaps you should redirect your complaints towards some of the donors in this piece.

“They’re too far left! They’re too far left!” said Alex Sanchez, CEO of the Florida Bankers Association. “I mean, honestly, if it’s Bernie versus Trump, I have no fucking idea what I’m going to do,” one Democratic hedge funder told me. “Maybe I won’t vote.”


“The anti-corporate, anti–Wall Street direction of the Democratic Party is driving Democrats into the Trump camp, which is, in most cases, the last place they want to be,” said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, the business group that counts among its members all of the city’s major financial institutions.

Well... in the first place, I definitely distrust Wylde, and in the second place I think it would be good if quite a few of the "Wall Street Dems" would move "into the Trumo camp", because that is where they belong, and it also would bring some clarity on what and who the "Wall Street Dems" really are.

Here is some more from this article:

This is the last gasp of the old order that people in the US and all over the world are rebelling against. Americans across the political spectrum believe big money donors have too much influence over the system and want to curtail the donations they use to influence the process. In the past they knew that Democratic politicians might pay lip service to challenging their power and wealth, but ultimately because of the power of their donations such politicians wouldn’t do anything to seriously challenge their privilege.

Yes, I completely agree - and indeed where the article says "because of the power of their donations such politicians wouldn’t do anything to seriously challenge their privilege" I would more simply speak of corruption (as in "because of the corruption of such politicians [they] wouldn’t do anything to seriously challenge their privilege").

This is the ending of this article:

It’s not those like me who are pointing out the entitlement and privilege of the big donors who’ve gamed the system for so long to their advantage and our disadvantage.

No, it’s the big money donors themselves, the ones people like me have been saying Democrats should abandon because those donors don’t have the best intentions for average Americans at heart. You know, the average Americans who Democrats are supposed to stand for.

It's not very well expressed, but I agree and this is a recommended article.

4. VIPS: Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All

This article is by the VIPS on Consortium News. It has a subtitle that follows:
Retaliation against Julian Assange over the past decade plus replicates a pattern of ruthless political retaliation against whistleblowers, in particular those who reveal truths hidden by illegal secrecy, VIPS says.
Yes indeed, and the link to "illegal secrecy" is a good one (and long and not easy). Also, thois is the only link you are going to get in this review, basically because the html of Consortium News is quite crazy.

Anyway. Here is more from the article:
On April 11, London police forcibly removed WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange from the embassy of Ecuador after that country’s president, Lenin Moreno, abruptly revoked his predecessor’s grant of asylum. The United States government immediately requested Assange’s extradition for prosecution under a charge of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

Former U.S. Government officials promptly appeared in popular media offering soothing assurances that Assange’s arrest threatens neither constitutional rights nor the practice of journalism, and major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post fell into line.

Not So Fast

Others found reason for concern in the details of the indictment. Carie DeCel, a staff attorney for the Knight First Amendment Institute, noted that the indictment goes beyond simply stating the computer intrusion charge and “includes many more allegations that reach more broadly into typical journalistic practices, including communication with a source, encouraging a source to share information, and protecting a source.”
Yes indeed, and besides there may be made many more allegations by the U.S. government about Assange later or after he has been flown to the USA.

Here is more:
The indictment’s implied threat thus reaches beyond Assange and even beyond journalists. The threat to journalists and others does not vanish if they subsequently avoid practices identified in the government’s indictment. The NSA’s big bag of past communications offers abundant material from which to spin an indictment years later, and even circumstantial evidence can produce a conviction. Moreover, the secret landscape—a recent and arbitrary development—continually expands, making ever more of government off limits to public view.
Yes indeed. Here is more:
Opinions of Julian Assange’s character and methods vary wildly but what is relevant to First Amendment freedoms is how the U.S. government perceives him. The big picture reveals that Assange, a publisher of whistleblower disclosures, is viewed the same way as whistleblowers: unwelcome lights shining on official wrongdoing who must be dimmed, deflected and shut off. What government bodies are doing to Assange they routinely have done to whistleblowers— Thomas Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, Thomas Tamm, William Binney, Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and others—who disclosed for public benefit information the government finds politically troublesome.

Once the government develops animus toward a truth teller, it fishes indefinitely until it finds some means to retaliate—some pretext to punish that individual.
Yes, I agree. Also, perhaps I ought to precisify that the difference between Thomas Drake etc. and Julian Assange is that Assange did not steal any documents, while the others did. Assange only published them (as very many editors of papers do).

Here is some on what the NSA may do to persons:
A pattern of retaliation against high-profile national security whistleblowers includes the following tactics:
  1.     relentless campaigns of character assassination and misinformation about facts of the case;
  2.     hostile, lengthy government investigations, often for minor, never proven or circumstantial offenses;
  3.     terrorization of the whistleblower and associates with threats (see here and here), solitary confinement and armed home invasions for non-violent, alleged offenses;
  4.     pre-trial declarations of guilt from influential officials, such as Barack Obama’s declaration (as the military’s Commander-in-Chief) that Army Private Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning “broke the law” — potentially influencing the Army court that heard her case.
  5.     a Balkanized judicial process that restricts most such cases to one judicial venue cherry-picked by prosecutors for speedy deference to government, a venue sealed off from public scrutiny and, some say, justice;
  6.     prosecution under the Espionage Act, a “vague” and “draconian” law, similar in those respects to the CFAA;
  7.     continuing persecution—isolation, marginalization, blacklisting, and more—after time has been served (see here and here) or after charges are dropped.
Reportedly, British and U.S. intelligence are interrogating Assange, possibly employing torture tactics, without access to legal counsel at a prison reserved for terrorists. U.S. officials apparently charged Assange as “a terrorist” in order to dodge the problem of the statute of limitations for conspiracy or computer intrusion by extending (via the Patriot Act and/or other terrorism laws) the normal statute of limitations from 5 to 8 years.
Quite so, and several of the VIPS speak of their own experiences. Besides, to the best of my knowledge the NSA has tons of materials on virtually everyone with an internet- computer, which again is why I think the internet was and is the best move towards neofascism that there ever has been.

Here is some more:
Even if charges against a whistleblower are later dropped, governments still win because the tactics used damage the truth teller professionally, financially, socially and psychologically, and foreseeably chill other whistleblowers.

Importantly, virtually all of the retaliatory actions described above are carried out or instigated by the elite political establishment—current and former political appointees and elected officials. Equally important is the fact that tactics used against whistleblowers are rarely if ever applied to political insiders who fail to protect classified information. Even actual spies who give or sell secrets directly to foreign governments have fared better than some well-meaning whistleblowers. In contrast to whistleblowers, political insiders who mistreat government secrets are publicly praised by the establishment, face lesser charges (if any), are treated with dignity by investigators, receive presidential pardons and move on to prestigious and lucrative positions
Yes, the above seems also true. Here is the ending of this article:
This extension of a whistleblower reprisal regime onto a publisher of disclosures poses an existential threat to all journalists and to the right of all people to speak and hear important truths. The U.S. indictment of Julian Assange tests our ability to perceive a direct threat to free speech, and tests our will to oppose that threat.Without freedom of press and the right and willingness to publish, whistleblowers even disclosing issues of grave, life and death public safety, will be like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.

The great American writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak and one to hear.” Today, it takes three to speak the truth–one to speak, one to hear, and one to defend the first two in court. If the U.S. Government has its way, there will be no defense, no truth.
Yes, and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Impeach His Sorry Ass Now

This article is by Michael Winship on Common Dreams. This is from near its beginning:

So Congress, have you met Donald Trump? By now, you of all legislative bodies should know that nothing you do or say makes much difference to him, that whatever he will or won’t do is based not on policy or philosophy or your stated preferences but on whim, ego and a feral sense of self-preservation.

Thus we have our own celebrity brat-in-chief, a thuggish tot whose response to every attempt to uphold the Constitution and to maintain the balance of power among the three equal branches of government is a childish but deeply dangerous, “I don’t wanna.”

I usually like the ideas of Michael Winship, but I do have a somewhat higher opinion of Trump's intelligence, because I think he is a neofascist. What is a neofascist? Here is my definition of neofascism (which is a good definition):
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
This has 10 marks of neofascists, and I would say - and did so in 2016 - that Trump, rather obviously also, satisfies all ten of them.

Anyway. Here is some more:

That there should be checks and balances in government chafes Trump. He’s a control freak who brooks no criticism and wants total dictatorial power.  "Trump is not inventing executive intransigence out of whole cloth," Heidi Kitrosser, author of "Reclaiming Accountability: Transparency, Executive Power, and the U.S. Constitution” told Jonathan Allen at NBC News. "At the same time, this is not same-old, same-old. He is taking longstanding pathologies in terms of an increasingly imperial executive branch and ratcheting it up many times over."

What’s more, his party is letting him move ever closer to such authoritarianism with barely a whisper of opposition. “Trump’s brazenness is the natural result of his party’s refusal to defend the rule of law,” conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writes at the Washington Post. “They indulge him, his conduct gets worse and the cycle repeats.”

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

Impeachment by the House won’t actually do it—unless convicted by the Senate, the president stays in place—but the impeachment process itself has much to recommend it, even more so than various, extended congressional investigations of his assorted frauds and betrayals of country.

I have thought about this a lot and weighed the pros and cons.

Well... so have I and I am less certain than Winship. But here are my two main reasons to desire impeachment: Trump is insane and Trump is a neofascist, and neither insane persons (and I am a psychologist) nor neofascist persons should be presidents of the USA. And here is my main reason not to desire impeachment: I am afraid that it would give Trump much more time on TV to plead his own cause.

But I am not certain either way 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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