May 16, 2019

   Three Crisis Articles + Dr. Johnson

“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 16, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 16, 2019.

I bought a computer on May 9 with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE and am for the coming months (at least) "between two computers".  I shall continue - for the time being - to write and upload my files from 16.04 LTS (that is: from the old computer, that I bought in 2012) because that is easier right now and the old computer still works (and may continue to work for another two years or more, although I do not know that).

Also, and in any case, I decided to write less on the crisis (I did review over 10,000 files since 2013), in part because it makes no difference and in part because I am 69.

But I'll continue Nederlog. At present this is in a midway position between the old style (five reviews each day) and some new style, that I do not know yet, and that for the time being I fix on three or four reviews each day (but that may change and probably will).

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

A. Selections from May 16, 2019:

The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:
1. Redactions Aren't Just Hurting Democracy—They're
     Destroying It
2. The House Now Has A Constitutional Duty to Impeach

3. Why Everyone in the U.S. Who Counts Wants Julian
     Assange Dead

3. Other Files from May 16, 2019:
4. Big Talkers

1. Redactions Aren't Just Hurting Democracy—They're Destroying It

This article is by Karen Greenberg on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. This is from near its beginning:

In the Soviet Union, (..) photographic airbrushing became a political art form. Today, however, when it comes to repeated acts meant to erase reality’s record and memory, it wouldn’t be Eastern Europe or Russia that came to mind but the United States. With the release of the Mueller report, the word “redaction” is once again in the news, though for those of us who follow such things, it seems but an echo of so many other redactions, airbrushings, and disappearances from history that have become a way of life in Washington since the onset of the Global War on Terror.

Yes indeed. As to Stalin's Soviet Union where very many photographs were doctored, here is one bit on Nikolai Yezhov, who was for two years the head of Stalin's NKVD and therefore the chief of Stalin's torturers.

As to the Mueller report, there is this:

In the 448 pages of the Mueller report, there are nearly 1,000 redactions. They appear on 40% of its pages, some adding up to only a few words (or possibly names), others blacking out whole pages. Attorney General William Barr warned House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler about the need to classify parts of the report and when Barr released it, the Wall Street Journal suggested that the thousand unreadable passages included “few major redactions.” On the other hand, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey was typical of congressional Democrats in suggesting that the speed — less than 48 hours — of Barr’s initial review of the document was “more suspicious than impressive.” Still, on the whole, while there was some fierce criticism of the redacted nature of the report, it proved less than might have been anticipated, perhaps because in this century Americans have grown used to living in an age of redactions.

Such complacency should be cause for concern. For while redactions can be necessary and classification is undoubtedly a part of modern government life, the aura of secrecy that invariably accompanies such acts inevitably redacts democracy as well.

Yes, I agree and I do so for the simple reason that the more of a government's actions are secret, the less democratic that government is.

This is about the governmental secrecy in the current USA:

Consider, for instance, the 28 pages about Saudi Arabia that were totally blacked out of the December 2002 report of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the failure to prevent al-Qaeda’s attacks that fateful day. Similarly, the 2005 Robb-Silberman Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction, classified — and therefore redacted –entire chapters, as well as parts of its chief takeaway, its 74 recommendations, six of which were completely excised.

Infamously enough, the numerous military reports on the well-photographed abuses that American military personnel committed at Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison, came out with substantial redactions. So, too, have the reports and books on the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques on war on terror detainees held at its “black sites.”
And the nearly 400-page executive summary of the extensive Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report was partially redacted, too, even though it was already a carefully chosen version of a more than 6,700-page report that was not given a public airing.
My own conclusion, which is not based on just the redacting that is the subject of this article, is that democracy is mostly dead in the USA.

Here is more on the redactions of the U.S.'s government:

It’s worth noting that such acts of redaction have taken place in an era in which information has been removed from the public domain and classified at unprecedented levels — and unacceptable ones for a democracy. In the first 19 years of this century, the number of government documents being classified has expanded exponentially, initially accelerating in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Between 2001 and 2005, for instance, the number of government documents classified per year doubled. Even former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, chairmanof the 9/11 Commission, pushed back against the growing urge of the national security state to excessively classify — that is, after a fashion, redact — almost any kind of information.

This supports what I said above. Here is some more, that is also redacting, but this time of the books former members of government may want to write:

Another government tactic that, as with former FBI agent Soufan’s book, has given redaction a place of pride in Washington is the ongoing strict pre-publication review process now in place. Former public servants who worked in intelligence and other positions requiring security clearances (including former contractors) and then wrote books about their time in office must undergo it.

One may have some understanding for this, but the general conclusion of Greenberg is this:

[D]emocracy itself can, in the end, be redacted if the culture of blacking-out key information becomes Washington’s accepted paradigm. And with such redactions goes, of course, the redaction of the very idea of an informed citizenry, which lies at the heart of the democratic way of life.

Quite so. And incidentally, my conclusion that democracy is mostly dead in the current USA is in part based on the fact that the government redacts very much of what it does, and in part on the fact that ordinary American people's wishes, thoughts and values have hardly any role on the government, the House or the Senate. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The House Now Has A Constitutional Duty to Impeach Trump

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

Donald Trump is causing a constitutional crisis with his blanket refusal to respond to any subpoenas.

So what happens now? An impeachment inquiry in the House won’t send him packing before election day 2020 because Senate Republicans won’t convict him of impeachment.

So the practical political question is whether a House impeachment inquiry helps send him packing after election day. That seems unlikely.
Besides, the inquiry probably wouldn’t reveal much that’s not already known, because House subpoenas will get tangled up in the courts for the remainder of Trump’s term (even though courts give more deference to subpoenas in an impeachment inquiry).

Worse yet is the chance that an impeachment inquiry plays into Trump’s hands by convincing some wavering voters that Democrats and the “deep state” are out to get Trump, thereby giving him more votes than he’d otherwise get.

Does this mean House Democrats should avoid taking the political risk of impeaching Trump? Not at all.

I say, for this appears to be based on honest knowledge what is going on in the current USA. Here is some more:

Every child in America is supposed to learn about the Constitution’s basic principles of separation of powers, and checks and balances.

But these days, every child and every adult in America is learning from Donald Trump that these principles are bunk.

By issuing a blanket refusal to respond to any congressional subpoena, Trump is saying Congress has no constitutional authority to oversee the executive branch. He’s telling America that Congress is a subordinate branch of government rather than a co-equal branch. Forget separation of powers.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

By unilaterally shuttering the government in order to get his way, Trump has said he has the constitutional right not to execute the laws whenever it suits him. Farewell, Congress.

By directing the attorney general, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Secretary of the Treasury to act in his own personal interest rather than in the interests of the American people, Trump is saying that a president can run the government on his own. Adios, Constitution.

Yes indeed. And here is some more:

By doing whatever he could to stop an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including firing the head of the FBI, Trump has told America it’s OK for a president to obstruct justice. Goodbye, law.

The core purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent tyranny. That’s why the framers of the Constitution distributed power among the president, Congress and the judiciary. That’s why each of the three branches was designed to limit the powers of the other two.

In other words, the framers anticipated the possibility of a Donald Trump.

Yes, I agree. This article ends as follows:

Trump surely appears to be usurping the powers of the other branches. Under these circumstances, the Constitution mandates that the House undertake an impeachment inquiry and present evidence to the Senate.

This may not be the practical political thing to do. But it is the right thing to do.

Well... I agree with the argument, although I also think it may be too late now, and that basically for three reasons: (i) Trump's government has been destroying democracy (what remained of it) since the beginning of 2017; (ii) the Senate is Republican and very probably will not want to impeach Trump; and also (iii) it is quite possible that the reaction of most editors for TV is to give Trump - once again, as in 2016 - very much free TV-time "to defend himself".

Then again I do think this is a good argument in favor of impeaching Trump, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Why Everyone in the U.S. Who Counts Wants Julian Assange Dead

This article is by Thomas Neuburger on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Below is a full video version of Collateral Murder, the 2007 war footage that was leaked in 2010 to Wikileaks by Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. This version was posted to the Wikileaks YouTube channel with subtitles. It will only take about 15 minutes of your life to view it.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

It's brutal to watch, but I challenge you to do it anyway. It shows not just murder, but a special kind of murder — murder from the safety of the air, murder by men with heavy machine guns slowly circling their targets in helicopters like hunters with shotguns who walk the edges of a trout pond, shooting at will, waiting, walking, then shooting again, till all the fish are dead.

The film also shows war crimes that implicate the entire structure of the U.S. military, as everyone involved was acting under orders, seeking permission to fire, waiting, then getting it before once more blasting away. The publication of this video, plus all the Wikileaks publications that followed, comprise the whole reason everyone in the U.S. who matters, everyone with power, wants Julian Assange dead.

They also want him hated. Generating that hate is the process we're watching today.

I suppose this is mostly true. Here is some more:

"Everyone" in this case includes every major newspaper that published and received awards for publishing Wikileaks material; all major U.S. televised media outlets; and all "respectable" U.S. politicians — including, of course, Hillary Clinton, who was rumored (though unverifiably) to have said, "Can't we just drone this guy?"

Yes, Julian Assange the person can be a giant jerk even to his supporters, as this exchange reported by Intercept writer Micah Lee attests. Nevertheless, it's not for being a jerk that the Establishment state wants him dead; that state breeds, harbors and honors the very worst criminal jerks everywhere in the world. They want him dead for publishing videos like these.

I suppose this is also mostly true. This article ends as follows:

The Wikileaks page for the video is here. A transcript is here.

This was done in our name, to "keep us safe." This continues to be done every day that we and our allies are at "war" in the Middle East.

Bodies pile on bodies as this continues. The least we can do, literally the least, is to witness and acknowledge their deaths.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Big Talkers

This article is by Jenny Uglow on The New York Review of Books. This is not a crisis file but a review of "The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age".

I review this article basically because, while I have not read "The Club:" I have read most of Boswell and much of Dr. Johnson, while I am also fairly well-read in 18th Century English literature.

My main reasons for doing so is that I like the 18th Century English literature and that I like Dr. Johnson and Boswell, though I am not much like either.

This article starts as follows:

The Literary Club, known simply as “The Club,” was established in early 1764 after the portrait painter Joshua Reynolds became worried about his friend Samuel Johnson, who was sinking into a black depression. An old Oxford friend, William Adams, had visited Johnson the previous autumn and “found him in a deplorable state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself, and restlessly walking from room to room.” Johnson told Adams, “I would consent to have a limb amputated to recover my spirits.” An evening of talk with friends, Reynolds suggested, was a less drastic remedy.

This was an age of clubs, when men met in inns, coffeehouses, and homes, sharing interests ranging from scientific experiments to glee singing—and drink, which played an important part in the Club’s weekly meetings. These took place every Friday in a private room at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Gerrard Street, in Soho. In addition to Johnson and Reynolds, the nine founding members of the new Literary Club included Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, and the magistrate and historian of music Sir John Hawkins (who left after a quarrel with Burke), as well as Burke’s father-in-law, Christopher Nugent, a stockbroker, Anthony Chamier, and two other friends, Topham Beauclerk and Bennet Langton.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

At Club meetings the talk ranged widely. In one session recorded by Boswell in 1778, topics swung from a statue of Alcibiades’ dog to the price of sculpture (and, thereby, the relationship of cost to value), emigration to the colonies, the way travel revealed different sides of human nature, and the degree of guilt one might feel after exposing another to temptation, like laying a purse of guineas before a servant.

By this time, the membership had swelled. New members had to be elected unanimously, and existing members could blackball names they did not like (the musicologist Charles Burney was sore for years after being blackballed by Hawkins, who was writing a rival history of music), but by 1775, a decade after it was founded, there were twenty-three men in the Club. Among recently elected members were David Garrick, Adam Smith, Edward Gibbon, the philologist Sir William Jones, and the politician Charles James Fox.

Yes indeed, and incidentally many members of the Club were leading intellectuals in 18th Century England.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article

These powerful individuals could indeed, in their different spheres, be seen as men who shaped their age. But the Club had no shared agenda, and in his engaging and illuminating The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age, Leo Damrosch makes no attempt to describe it as a coherent entity, or to follow its development and endow it with a specific part in “shaping an age.” Instead, he uses the Club to give a fresh slant to the more familiar story of the friendship between Johnson and Boswell.

As I said, I did not read "The Club", but it sounds like an interesting book from this review, which is well-written and informed. There also is a lot more in it that I did not quote, and it is a strongly 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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail