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Nederlog

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Crisis: Chelsea Manning, Trump Times, Kiriakou, Noam Chomsky, U.K. Labour Party


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Military Whistleblower Chelsea Manning Free After Seven
     Years in Prison

2. Dangerous Times for Trump and the Nation
3.
CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou: We Should Be Considering
     Impeachment If Trump Obstructed FBI Probe

4.
Noam Chomsky Looks at How the System Is Rigged to Ensure
     That Corporations Always Win
5.
U.K. Labour Party’s ‘Most Left-Wing Program’ in 30 Years
     Would Be Paid For by Taxing the Rich

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisislog with five items and five dotted links: Item 1 is about the release - after seven years imprisonment - of Chelsea Manning; item 2 is about an article in the NYT on dangerous times for Trump and the USA; item 3 is about an interview with John Kiriakou, who thinks impeaching Trump may be a good idea; item 4 is about the latest book by Noam Chomsky, and item 5 is about the election plans of the British Labour Party, that after some 20 years of Blatcherist (<-Wikipedia) Toryism at long last turn Left again.

Incidentally, I am glad that today there is only one article about Trump. (I can choose, but I do so generally from a sense of political importance, which made me select more
about Trump than I would have liked otherwise.)

And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for more than 1 1/2 years, though now only at one of my two sites:
May 18: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site was (of course) not on time today, probably because it is not Sunday, for that is the only time my site has a half-decent chance of beinh properly updated : It's still stuck on Sunday last.

They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most and without any problem, as indeed is the work of ISPs.

I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And what changed is that you have to refresh (and refresh and refresh and refresh) to get the latest, which is again NOT as it was before, from 1996 till 2015, and which for me this only serves to make it extremely difficult for naive users to get the latest from my site - that for them may seem to have stuck somewhere in 2016 or 2015.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Military Whistleblower Chelsea Manning Free After Seven Years in Prison

The first article today is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Chelsea Manning, the Army private whose 35-year prison sentence for passing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks was commuted in January by President Obama, was finally released Wednesday from a Kansas military detention center. 

Manning was arrested in May 2010 for leaking hundreds of thousands of disclosures, including a video called “Collateral Murder,” showing how a U.S. military attack on Baghdad took the lives of several civilians and journalists. It is considered the largest classified leak in U.S. history.

In prison, Manning suffered many injustices, including being punished with solitary confinement after she attempted suicide.

This is one from quite a few reports on the release of Chelsea Manning (<-Wikipedia). Here is a quotation from The Guardian:

Manning walked out to freedom after 2,545 days in military captivity. ... Speaking from her prison cell as she prepared for release last week, Manning said: “I’m looking forward to breathing the warm spring air again.

“I want that indescribable feeling of connection with people and nature again, without razor wire or a visitation booth. I want to be able to hug my family and friends again. And swimming – I want to go swimming!”

Obama’s decision to release the soldier early leaves her with legal challenges still hanging over her. Foremost of those is the fact that her sentence from 2013 under the Espionage Act remains in full force – a fact that her lawyers regard as ominous given the current incumbent of the White House.

Yes, indeed: That seems very unfair, after having been locked up for seven years.
And this is from an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept (also quoted in this article):

As courageous as that original whistle-blowing was, Manning’s heroism has only multiplied since then, become more multi-faceted and consequential. As a result, she has inspired countless people around the world. At this point, one could almost say that her 2010 leaking to WikiLeaks has faded in the background when assessing her true impact as a human being. Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: it was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity and inspiration.

This is a recommended article.

2. Dangerous Times for Trump and the Nation

The second article is by Nicholas Kristof on the New York Times:
This starts as follows:

The Trump presidency may now be disintegrating, tumbling toward entropy.

By firing James Comey as F.B.I. director, President Trump set in motion the appointment Wednesday evening of Robert Mueller as special counsel. Mueller is a Trump nightmare: a pro who ran the F.B.I. for 12 years and is broadly respected by both parties in Washington for his competence and integrity. If Trump thought he was removing a thorn by firing Comey, he now faces a grove of thistles.

One crucial lesson here: Pressure matters. It was public opinion that stalled the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare, and it is public opinion in part that will ensure the integrity of this investigation.

While the Justice Department didn’t precisely cave to polls, it truly does matter that a majority of Americans want this cloud over our presidency investigated and removed; legal decisions unfold in a political context. Keep up that pressure, for the coming months may be particularly dangerous.

I'm sorry that I don't know how something can be "tumbling toward entropy" (and yes, I know what entropy (<-Wikipedia) is), but I suppose Kristof means "disorder", and that may be true. The rest is probably correct.

Here is the other bit that I'll quote from this article:

Yet there are dangers ahead. One is that America will be incapacitated and paralyzed by Mueller’s investigation and the suspicions — this partly explains the stock market’s big fall on Wednesday — and foreign powers may take advantage of this to undertake their own mischief. I would worry about Russia in both Ukraine and the Baltic countries, and we must make clear that we will work with allies to respond in kind.

Another danger is the risk of an erratic, embattled, paranoid leader at home who feels that he may be going down the tubes anyway. In domestic policy, presidents are constrained by Congress and the courts about what damage they can cause, but in foreign policy a president has a largely free hand — and the ability to launch nuclear strikes that would pretty much destroy the world.

In 1974, as Richard Nixon’s presidency was collapsing, he was drinking heavily and aides worried that he was becoming unstable. Fearing what might go wrong, Nixon’s defense secretary, James Schlesinger, secretly instructed the military not to carry out any White House order to use nuclear weapons unless confirmed by him or Henry Kissinger.

I say. Here are my comments on these three paragraphs.

The first paragraph seems to me to be mostly nonsense, especially the ending: How "we" - presumably: the readers of the New York Times - "
must make clear that we will work with allies to respond in kind" is a complete riddle to me. (But OK: "we" is so vague as to mean virtually anything.)

The second paragraph is partially speculation, but seems correct (in my eyes) in saying Trump is "an erratic, embattled, paranoid leader" who - nevertheless - has "the ability to launch nuclear strikes that would pretty much destroy the world".

And I found the third paragraph quite interesting: I agree with what Schlesinger did, and would say that Trump's mental condition does not seem to me any better than Nixon's.

This is a recommended article.

3. CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou: We Should Be Considering Impeachment If Trump Obstructed FBI Probe

The third article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following introduction:
President Trump is facing yet another major scandal. The New York Times is reporting Trump personally asked FBI Director James Comey to end the agency’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The New York Times reports President Trump made the extraordinary request to James Comey during an Oval Office meeting on February 14—one day after Trump fired Flynn for lying both publicly and privately about his contacts with Russian officials. Trump reportedly asked Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room before making the request to Comey. After the meeting, Comey wrote a memo quoting the president saying, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." We speak to John Kiriakou, who spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer. He was jailed for 23 months after he became the first CIA official to confirm publicly the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding.
I note that (in my understanding) the real underlying problem with Trump's asking Comey "to end the agency’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser" is that Trump seems to have very little real understanding of the crucial differences (in a democracy, at least) between the legislative powers (of the courts) and the executive powers (of the president and the government).

And here is Amy Goodman with some political background:

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in San Diego, California.

President Trump is facing yet another major scandal. The New York Times is reporting Trump personally asked FBI Director James Comey to end the agency’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. On Tuesday night, Republican Senator John McCain said the Trump scandals are reaching "Watergate size and scale." 

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale and a couple of other scandals that you and I have seen. It’s the centipede that the shoe continues to drop. And every couple of days, there’s a new aspect of this really unhappy situation.

As I started my review, the misdemeanor or misunderstanding on Trump's part is his (apparent or real) misunderstanding of the powers of the president and the government.

And while the references to Watergate may not be quite correct, I think McCain is saying that he may be close to supporting an impeachment procedure, which - if he does so - will probably carry some other Republican Senators.

And here is John Kiriakou (<-Wikipedia):

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks so much for joining us. Can you respond to this latest scandal at the White House?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I’m very, very, even gravely, concerned about the path that this scandal seems to be taking. It’s more like an onion than it is one single scandal. Every time we peel one layer off the onion, there’s another scandal underneath it. And now we have members of Congress talking about impeachment. I think impeachment, frankly, is something that is a real possibility, something we ought to be discussing. I think that it’s—it’s pretty clear that the president has committed obstruction of justice. And let’s face it. Director Comey is a player in Washington. He’s been around the block. Do we really think that he released the most explosive memo he has, knowing that he wrote memos every time he spoke with President Trump? My guess is, there’s a lot more explosive information out there waiting to be released.

Yes, quite possibly so. And - also see item 2 - it would seem as if the deep state, in the present case in the person of former FBI chief Robert Mueller, is moving in on Trump.

And there is also this:

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Well, it was fascinating to me, Amy, that Director Comey declined to testify in a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee but said that he was willing to testify in an open session. That’s potentially explosive. I think what many congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill expect is that Director Comey is going to reveal the possibility that other crimes were committed, either by the president or by those around him.

Quite possibly so. And this is a recommended article.

4. Noam Chomsky Looks at How the System Is Rigged to Ensure That Corporations Always Win

The fourth article today is by Noam Chomsky on Truthdig:
This starts with the following introduction:

Noam Chomsky’s new book, “Requiem for the American Dream: The Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power,” based on the film of the same name, is a primer in Chomsky’s analysis of the faults of the American political and economic system. Taking as its backbone the idea that “a significant part of the American Dream is class mobility: You’re born poor, you work hard, you get rich,” Chomsky systematically documents the many ways the system is rigged from top to bottom to ensure that corporations always win.

As Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges notes in a blurb for the book, “Its power to write its own laws and regulations, Chomsky points out, has ultimately created a mafia economic system and a mafia political system that is exemplified in the rise to power of the demagogue Donald Trump.

I like Noam Chomsky, and I think his latest book may be quite interesting, and the rest of this article is a quotation from the book, which you can read by clicking the last of the above dotted links, but I do want to make one point about two causes for the many ways in which the capitalist "system is rigged from top to bottom to ensure that corporations always win" that are rarely mentioned, while I think they are very important.

And I'll put it in an if-then statement:

If indeed it is true - as I have seen many times repeated, the last five years or more - that 2 out of 3 of all adult Americans cannot even name the three main powers, which are explained here by a quote from the Wikipedia:
In political systems based on the principle of separation of powers, authority is distributed among several branches (executive, legislative, judicial) — an attempt to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people. In such a system, the executive does not pass laws (the role of the legislature) or interpret them (the role of the judiciary). Instead, the executive enforces the law as written by the legislature and interpreted by the judiciary. The executive can be the source of certain types of law, such as a decree or executive order.
then it is also true (it seems to me) that a very important cause for the arisal of a political system that is "rigged from top to bottom to ensure that corporations always win" (which I think is quite correct), must be the stupidity and/or the ignorance of at
least 66% of all American adults (that indeed also are manufactured by the TV and by
the very indifferent "education" most Americans get).

I haven't read Chomsky's book, and I don't know whether he mentions these two causes but they certainly are important in my eyes.


5. U.K. Labour Party’s ‘Most Left-Wing Program’ in 30 Years Would Be Paid For by Taxing the Rich

The fifth and last article today is by Natasha Hakimi on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

According to the new manifesto officially launched Tuesday by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, the British opposition party plans to raise taxes only on wealthy individuals and corporations to finance a plan that includes getting rid of university tuition.

Corbyn’s party is campaigning for the June 8 snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May, a member of the Conservative Party (aka Tory Party). Although the Tory Party is ahead in the polls, Labour has been steadily gaining traction, and its proposed policies are popular.

I say, which I do because I agree with Corbyn, and because I did not know that "Labour has been steadily gaining traction, and its proposed policies are popular".

Here is a survey from the New York Times on Corbyn's program:

On domestic issues, voters face a stark choice. While many of Labour’s policies are popular — among them, renationalizing some rail, energy and utility companies — the party faces difficult questions about how it plans to fulfill its pledges without large increases in taxes and government borrowing.

Its response was to say that 95 percent of earners would pay no more tax, but that the burden would start to rise on earnings of more than 80,000 pounds, about $103,000 at current exchange rates, and in corporate taxes. There would also be a “fat cat” tax that companies would pay on salaries above 330,000, or about $425,000.

Earnings of more than 80,000 would be taxed at 45 percent, while those of over 123,000, or $159,000, would face a 50 percent rate. Companies would pay a 2.5 percent tax on salaries paid above 330,000 and 5 percent on those above 500,000, about $645,000. And the corporate tax rate would rise to 26 percent by 2020 from 19 percent.

Those increases aimed to cover $62.7 billion in spending pledges and underlined the ideological shift Labour has made since the Blair years, when one of the prime minister’s closest aides, Peter Mandelson, said that Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes.” ... Britain, Mr. Corbyn said at his manifesto announcement at the University of Bradford, had been “run for the rich, the elite and the vested interests,” adding: “They have benefited from tax cuts and bumper salaries while millions have struggled.”

I quite agree with Corbyn, and indeed also think Tony Blair was a horrible fraud, as was Peter Mandelson (and both are millionaires now, which they got to be by cheating their public).

And this is a recommended article.

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